Introducing A New Shooter To Firearms
with Julie Golob
There’s more to taking a new shooter to the range than just pulling the trigger. The best approach involves a step-by-step process that will not only teach your newcomer essential shooting skills but will also set the stage for future range time fun.
First and foremost is always safety. Before you even schedule a time to shoot, make sure your newcomer knows and understands the four rules of firearm safety. Print out the rules or even send them in a text or email in advance. Take the time to explain why the rules are important and how they keep us in check in order to be safe when handling firearms.
If at all possible, schedule your own one-on-one “classroom” session. Reserve a room at the range or you can even do it at home. It’s a great opportunity to fit eye and ear protection to your new shooter off the range and answer any questions they may have. Avoid doing “too much” by bringing out every firearm you own. Start with just one gun, preferably in .22 caliber. Even if your student can handle a larger caliber, rimfire pistols and rifles allow shooters to learn the fundamentals without the distraction of recoil. They are also a lot of fun!
Take It Slow
If you know or sense your student is tense or even scared, take things slowly. Explain how the firearm works and assemble and disassemble it for them. I find that those who are nervous about guns feel better when they can see how a gun is a tool or machine.
This is also an excellent time to walk your student through the basics of grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger control in this quiet and controlled environment. You’ll be able to start your new shooter out with all the right habits. This hands on approach off the range with minimal distractions will make your range time session much more productive. Most of all, it allows you to take the time necessary to ensure safety, proper use, and will help your shooter feel more confident.
Head to the Range with a Plan
Once you’ve completed this legwork, its time to set a date and time to shoot. Avoid peak times on the range whenever possible. You want your student to be comfortable and focused. If an indoor range is the only option, try to choose a lane away from others and double up on hearing protection using both earplugs and muffs. Finally, a quick recap of firearm safety before you begin is always helpful.
Be ready to shoot a lot or very little. Let your student dictate the pace. Most of all, be patient and encouraging! Use large targets up close at first. Targets like Caldwell’s 12” Peel and Stick Bullseye targets are ideal for those first shots. Your shooter will be able to see exactly where they are hitting. If you are outdoors, steel can be a lot of fun too. The audio feedback is very rewarding but keep in mind steel targets must be set at safe distances. It’s always best to start on paper when learning and transition to steel targets only when you are sure your newcomer is capable. This helps keep frustration and nerves at bay.
Have Some Fun
Increase target distance or use smaller targets like Caldwell’s Self-Healing Targets that bounce, roll, spin, and even flip when hit for some extra fun. I suggest ending on a positive note and wrap things up with an easier target and successful shot. This will encourage your newcomer to come back for more.
Finally, when you step off the range, be sure you both wash your hands and face with cold soapy water. It’s an important step and habit to get into. Ask them how they feel, what they liked best, and most of all, when you can do it all again.