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Bringing New Shooters Into the Fold

Know someone who asks you a lot of questions about shooting and guns but doesn't shoot? Take them to the range and show them what it's like.

There is always that one person in all our lives that shows some interest in guns but has never actually been out shooting before. A co-worker, next door neighbor, a cousin, a friend. It could be your significant other or even your parents.

They listen intently to your stories and range exploits. They may even ask some well thought out questions about laws or theory. But for various reasons, they have never handled or shot firearms before. This is a great opportunity to introduce someone to your chosen hobby and sport. You may even win over a new supporter of gun rights and ownership.

When talking with potential new shooters, keep in mind there are many reasons they may have never shot before. They didn't want to, they never grew up around guns, or their parents or grandparents never hunted. They may even just be downright scared of guns. Breaking through the barrier of why is an important step to teaching someone new to the hobby. If they know you understand why they have never shot, it helps them to feel more comfortable with you and make them more receptive to learning from you.

Remember, this is a full-on learning experience for the new shooter. They are walking into a situation that they have never experienced before and will be very, very nervous. There will be loud noises all around them. So you need to slowly work up to taking them to the range.

Before even taking a trip to the range to let new shooters send lead downrange, take some baby steps to get them familiar with guns. I have found that when working with new shooters, there are some steps that help. Here is what I do.

  • First and foremost, I explain the 4 Universal Rules of Gun Safety. There are reasons why we follow those rules, and someone new needs to know about them upfront to keep themselves and others safe.
  • Next, I take some time to show them how a gun works and let them hold it see what it feels like. I demonstrate how to operate it, how to make sure it's safe and unloaded and then let them try to pull the trigger and dry fire. This allows them to see how the machine works, on a basic level, before letting them do it for real. I let them take as much time as they want to look at the gun and work it. I don't worry so much about grip and stance at this point, as this is a time to let them get used to the firearm. Let them ask questions. Let them touch and hold different guns, and get over any uncomfortableness before even loading them.
  • I then explain the rules of the range and range etiquette. This is important, again for safety and to have fun.

You don't want a new shooter to be scared or feel silly when trying a gun for the first time. After they are comfortable with everything, it's time to go to the range.

After arriving at the range, I again remind them of the 4 Universal Rules of Gun Safety and range etiquette and any additional rules the specific range may have. Then I get them set up with eye and ear protection and take them to the bench. I demonstrate proper grip and stance and work with them to hold the gun correctly. I also show them how to load the gun and place a target.

Then I stand back and let the magic happen. The look on someones face when they pull the trigger for the first time is a treat. You know the one I am talking about. That "AH HA! I can do this!" moment. After the first shot, they usually turn around and look at me with a big grin on their face. It's then I know I have hooked someone new on the hobby.

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I always start new shooters on a small caliber. .22 or 9mm. In fact, one of my pet peeves is giving a newbie too much gun. One of the quickest ways to scare someone off of guns forever is to give them a firearm that is too large for them to handle. I know some people think this is funny, but it really isn't. If you learn with a heavy and powerful gun, you'll be able to shoot anything, they say. Actually, I think it's not safe and could truly make someone not want to shoot again.

I will allow someone shooting for the first time to shoot a big bore handgun if they want to, but only if they ask to and they have shot .22 or 9mm first.

Introducing new shooters to the hobby can be the most rewarding experience and the most fun time you could have shooting. Just make sure you do it safely and properly. You may have made a shooting buddy for life.

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Bringing New Shooters Into the Fold