Over the past year I’ve observed some interesting comments on social media. The comments concerned some of the tragic shootings that have taken place both in Montana and in other U.S. cities. I have some thoughts about the coverage of those shootings that I will offer to you in an upcoming column, but for now I’m going to comment on what was a common theme in those posts. Many people talked of how their first and sometimes only experience shooting a firearm was “frightening, awful, loud, painful, and one who said, “… it scared the beejezzes out of me.” Many spoke of how a family member or friend had them mount a gun, fire it, and then laughed at the terror the shooter felt when the recoil and noise left them trembling. Incidents like this are no way to introduce others to firearms; they only reinforce the stereotypes offered by those hell bent on trampling 2nd Amendment rights.
Here’s a short primer on how I introduce people of all ages to firearms. First; go slow, take the time to fully explain how the gun works, what each part (e.g. hammer, trigger, lever, bolt, barrel, grip, etc.) does. Young children’s curiosity varies with the individual; some want to know about everything, others might show little interest. Try to satisfy that interest by answering their questions and making sure they understand those answers and that they know guns are tools for older people, not toys for children. Don’t tell them they are bad or evil; children, like adults, carry first impressions for a lifetime.
When the time comes for a new or novice shooter to actually fire a gun, be sure that safety is the foremost topic. Eye and ear protection are mandatory. Have them practice with the gun unloaded and only when they are comfortable, prepare for live fire. Choose a gun in a caliber that offers low recoil and noise. Be sure you have a gun that fairly well fits the shooter; a ten pound trap gun for an eleven year old is not at all appropriate. Air guns and rimfires are excellent choices for new shooters of any age. Don’t stuff a .44 Magnum revolver into the hands of a new shooter, it is cruel and might forever ruin that person’s potential enjoyment of the shooting sports.
Give your new shooter a chance to succeed. Place your target at a range where they can hit it. I start my pistol students at 5 yards, sometimes closer. They get quite excited when they see the holes appear in the target. Another great tool for new shooters are the laser guns and reactive targets from Laserlyte. I have one of these trainers. New shooters love it; no noise, no recoil, a great tool that allows for skill development. I often use it myself. And as always, I strongly suggest instruction from a certified instructor.
Remember, you are opening the world of firearms to someone. Be patient, offer constructive suggestions, don’t belittle or ridicule, find something positive to say about your new shooter’s efforts. Showing you care will go a long way to having another pro-gun citizen on our side.
Be safe and good shooting.