Make them feel at home and comfortable at the range with these helpful tips.
Many people have had a bad range experience, and unfortunately, many of those have been their one and only range experience. So often, we hear horror stories of new shooters being handed a .45 ACP handgun or 12 gauge shotgun and told to pull the trigger with no basic firearms education or fundamentals. Having a gun recoil so much that it breaks your grip or having your shoulder kicked in can really turn new shooters off to firearms. So how can we as a gun community do better?
Learn From a Pro
For starters, and this one may be hard to hear, it’s always better to have a new shooter take a basic firearms class from a professional and learn from someone who isn’t their spouse, significant other, parent, or guardian. Teens and young adults rarely listen to their parents as is, and when it comes to gun safety, this can be a big issue. Find a credentialed instructor who practices what they preach and can demonstrate proper gun handling. It is crucial to find an instructor who will not be condescending towards younger students and who is patient with them.
The absolute best way to learn is by separating yourself from your spouse, significant other, or gun friend “who knows everything.” When couples or friends attend a class together, the instructor is almost never given a chance to really teach either one of them. Why is that? It is a challenge for some people to check their egos at the door and come into the room with the possibility that they don’t know everything. The newer shooter can feel intimidated and not know any better than to listen to who they came to class with so they will ignore any information that differs from what their classmate taught them. Lastly, you paid for the class! Why are you not allowing the instructor to correct your grip, your stance, or show you a better way to shoot a gun? You don’t want to be the reason your friend, spouse, or significant other has a bad range experience.
Teach Rules of Firearm Safety & Shooting Fundamentals
Firearm safety rules and going over the fundamentals of how to shoot a gun can be boring, but without them, shooting can be deadly. Before ever loading up a gun and putting it into a new shooter’s hands, go over the 4 rules of firearm safety. Give yourself a refresher course in the process.
The basic shooting fundamentals create a stable and comfortable shooting position, having a proper grip on the gun (no tea cupping), sight alignment and sight picture, trigger control, and follow-through. These fundamentals are crucial to making an accurate shot and managing recoil. It is best for new shooters to learn shooting fundamentals from a professional so they never form bad habits they have to fix later on.
Start New Shooters on .22 Guns
There are loads of folks who can shoot a 50 cal or a Smith & Wesson 500 and enjoy it, but I doubt many would want either of those to be their first time shooting a gun. The recoil from a large caliber or losing control of a handgun, for example, can be so frightening that they’ll always remember it as a bad range experience and not want to come back. Many new shooters can handle .45 ACP or 12 gauge, but let them work their way up to it and start them off with a .22 firearm. Once they establish the basics and master the fundamentals, they’ll be ready to move up in caliber and manage recoil.
Forcing = Bad Range Experience
We get it. You’re excited to bring someone new to the range and have them share your passion, but going about it the wrong way will have the opposite effect. Demonstrate shooting a specific gun and always ask them with some encouragement if they’d be willing to give it at least one shot. If they say no, then no means no.
One bad range experience can scar someone for life and in this day and age, we need all the gun enthusiasts we can get. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something and to ask for outside help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting, and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to concealed carry and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment.
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