Taking your friends shooting for the first time….We all have been there at one time or another since we became gun owners. Every office or shop has the one person who has always been interested in firearms but for one reason or another they have never owned one. Maybe it was a fear of firearms that has been painted by the liberal media, or a terrible experience at a gun shop. Whatever the reason we often end up having a healthy conversation about firearms or about a recent range trip with out friends.
This begins the double edged sword that can be introducing people to the shooting sports. On one hand we have what I consider to be our civic duty as shooters and gun owners, and that is introducing people to the shooting sports and teaching new shooters how to shoot. Some of these experiences can be the most memorable and positively life altering experiences in a persons life. Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to share that sort of experience with my 13 year old nephew. My brother in law and I got to teach him how to shoot my 70+ year old M1 Carbine and he was hooked. The bad part of this is that he, like many other new shooters had zero idea that the .30 carbine ammunition is very expensive and if it wasn’t for a generous gift from Armscor I wouldn’t have 300 rounds for him to blow through.
WHERE TO START ?
So you decided to take the new guy or gal shooting, but where do we start ? The instant way to turn any prospective new shooter away from the shooting sports is to ruin the experience for them. How do we as gun chaperones minimize that possibility ? That can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it, me I like things that are easier so i practice a principal that is time tested; Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.). I will not include some rambling statements on gun safety, you as the chaperone and facilitator of the event should always inform the new shooters of the rules of firearm safety and the manual of arms for any weapons you are introducing them to.
1.) START SMALL
If someone is a total novice when it comes to shooting guns the best place you can start them is with something small and simple. In the line of firearms themselves I would say start with a smaller rifle or pistol, something not overly complicated. Rifles like the Ruger 10/22 or CZ 455 would be excellent if you have them, nothing overly fancy with little to no kick. When it comes to pistols its hard to beat the old reliables like the Browning Buckmark or Ruger MkII/III pistols, little recoil, easy to use sights and controls work best.
In my opinion once the new shooters are comfortable with 22’s I would move them into full size pistols that are 9mm or similar. Full size guns are less intimidating and will be heavier which as well all know usually translates to easier to control guns with less perceived recoil. This is not the time to pull the classic dickhead move of loading up a .44 Magnum with your custom bear hunting loads and having the unsuspecting person touch off a round in your favorite hand cannon. Doing things like that are a sure way to turn the perspective shooter off to shooting sports completely. The progression doesn’t have to be to a 9mm but I think a full size pistol would be best, the caliber is up to you. Again opinions are like bellybuttons, everyone has one. If you have a compact 9mm that would also work in place of a full sized pistol, but you get the idea I hope.
2.) KEEP IT LIGHT
Putting too much pressure on a new shooter when they are already bound to have some level of anxiety is another time tested way to ruin a range session. This may sound stupid to some reading this but remember back to before you could field strip your AR-15 and recite all the specifications of your latest purchase. You once were a greenhorn and hardly knew which end of the gun to hold or how to operate the safety. This person is in the same boat you were, a little talking and reassuring the person goes along way to helping develop their shooting skills. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT talk to them like a Drill Sgt or bark at them. Being loud and dominating is the exact opposite of keeping the range session light.
Part of keeping the shooting session light and relaxed can be offering the shooter a variety of targets and experiences when they are with you. I always ask the shooter what they thought of each gun they have fired and if there is a particular rifle or pistol they enjoy shooting just let them continue with it. Allowing the shooter to enjoy themselves is a central theme that I keep coming back to and there is a reason for that. I asked my wife who enjoys shooting now what she didn’t like about shooting as a child. Her response was the same one I had heard many times before “It just stressed me out too much, not the guns but the fear of doing something wrong and getting yelled at.”
I mentioned about target selection when taking a new shooter out for the first time. If you are taking a child out I would suggest balloons or soda bottles full of colored water if your range allows. People love instant feedback that they can see or hear, that is why I love shooting steel targets or soda bottles, its just a ridiculous amount of fun. You can also use the popular zombie themed targets or even just simple Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-See targets. If you are cost conscious and want to just print out different styles of targets there are several websites that allow you to download and print targets from your printer at home.
3.) COVER THE COST
This is 100% totally my position when it comes to taking a new shooter out, I generally cover the cost of the ammo. Now there are some people losing their minds right now but to me its an investment in the shooting sports and its a chance to make a new range buddy. Now I’m not talking about taking a total stranger shooting, but someone that you generally get along with and consider a friend. Now the caveat to that scenario is if the person asks if they should pick up ammo I will tell them sure and write down what they should get and tell them to just get a box or two. That has a two fold benefit, it lets the new person get an idea of what various types of ammo costs and it will force them to shoot up all their ammo and they are less likely to quit. It does differ by situation, now if I know the person can’t afford the ammo then I will tell them to not worry about it.
4.) NO AWKWARD PRESSURE
The final step in this whole evolution is the “No Pressure” stage. It’s pretty simple but it’s as important as the other steps. You have to assume that your previously non gun knowledgeable friend will now be in a weird spot possibly. They may want to shoot more, they may now want to try to buy their first gun, BUT they may also decide that owning or shooting a gun isn’t their thing after trying it. It might be a cost issue, or just a general disinterest in the shooting sports once they have tried it. Sometimes I’m guilty of pressure and crowding people to make a decision, and I know I have to guard myself against that tendency to get overly excited about someone wanting to get into shooting. Let the new person come to you and ask more questions or talk about it, you will know if they person has awaken to the wonderful world of gun ownership or not.
That concludes out quick look into introducing new shooters to the world of firearms. If you have any tips you want to pass along to other shooters or to the staff just drop us a comment in the section below. We want to take this time to say that we are actively looking for writers for the site, so if you think this is easy and want to try your hand at writing send us an email or contact us on the Facebook page. You don’t have to be a Veteran to write for us, or even a member of the law enforcement world. If you have something worth while to say we want to be the platform to help you share it. We look forward to hearing from you soon.