Over the last few months I’ve been bringing my kids to the range with me more often and have been teaching them to shoot. In this post I’d like to discuss what I think are some of the most important elements in teaching kids to shoot.
Of course there’s no substitute for a fundamental NRA gun safety class. I myself have gone through so many gun courses I could probably get certified to teach one if I had the time. And I have schooled my kids myself in gun safety long before I even started taking them to the rage. However I still think it’s a good idea to have youngsters take a course that’s taught by someone other than their parent. I just think hearing all the details again from someone they see as a “professional” helps things to really sink in. Safety first.
I don’t want to go through all of the fundamentals of teaching stance, grip, sighting, et cetera… I’d much rather talk about some of the more abstract points of teaching kids to shoot which I think can help them to learn faster and ensure they have fun and advance in the sport.
In bringing my kids to the range the first thing I noticed is how they reacted to the noise. Gun ranges are freaking loud. Those of us who have been shooting for years and years tend to forget this but it takes a long time to get used to the constant assault on your ears. For kids this can take the fun out of learning to shoot before they even get to fire a round. I have my kids double up with earplugs as well as electronic ear muffs. This does make it a little harder to communicate with them but the electronic muffs help in that department and it certainly makes it more comfortable for the child. After one shooting session with my son where someone was firing a .308 just a few stations down from us he said, “I wish they had gun ranges that were .22 only”. Perhaps in some areas they do but unfortunately not around where I live. Ideally I would have a piece of land big enough to just head out into the woods and set up some cans and other targets and not have to worry about the sound from other shooters but I just don’t have that kind of space.
Choosing the right gun for a kid to learn on is important as well. There are lots of options but I myself took the following approach. First of all I wanted my kids to learn to shoot with plain old iron sights. This is the most basic technique and even though these days everyone loves to cover their rifles with all manner of scope and laser I still think starting out with iron sights is the way to go. I picked up a beautiful Browning BL-22 Micro Midas lever action cowboy gun for this purpose. This is a really nice gun for a kid to learn on. It’s light, has a nice length for a young shooter, and is accurate and fun to shoot.
Now even though I just went on and on about my strong belief in iron sights I recognize that my son plays a lot of video games that include very realistic versions of some of today’s coolest automatic weapons. So, as an added treat after he practices with his Browning I let him shoot my Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22 which I have equipped with a red dot sight and a bipod. This is a really cool little gun and the military look and feel really get the little guy amped up.
For pistol shooting I really like the Walther P22. This is a small semi-auto in .22 that is just perfect for the smaller hands of a kid. I know lots of people have their own opinions on .22 auto pistols and which is best so I won’t go down that road. The one thing I will mention though is how I teach my kids to clear jams and rounds that fail to eject. After spending enough time with the pistol to become fairly proficient I start to introduce ammo that I know will tend to cause problems. At first I load just one round that I know isn’t strong enough to fully cycle and I show the kids the correct way to eject that shell. Then I’ll move on to a few rounds in a clip that are likely to cause a small issue. Finally I mix up great CCI ammo that I very rarely have a problem with with some low velocity stuff that I know won’t cycle. This has taught my kids not to panic when they have an issue and how to deal with it quickly and safely. Some might ask why I would do that. Well, guns jam occasionally and once in a while you get a bum round that doesn’t fire. I believe it’s best to plan and train for these situations and this is a good way to do it.
Finally I make sure that my kids are properly introduced to all of the range officers and I let the RO’s know that if they see my kids making mistakes they should feel free to correct them.