Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Teach your Kids how to Shoot

This topic was brought up over at the Modern Survivalist Forum and I think it’s a good idea to go over it some for you parents considering taking your kids to the range for the first time.

Shooting is more than a valuable life skill. Of course its important from a strict defensive point of view but besides that there are two aspects you may want to keep in mind as well. First, shooting teaches responsibility and builds up character. There’s no goofing around, no breaking the safety rules and no joking while shooting. We all understand how deadly serious it is (literally!) and it teaches kids how to handle such responsibility.
Second, and probably the best excuse no matter what ends up happening in life, shooting with Dad is without a doubt one of the fondest memories a kid will ever have. Going to the range you and Dad alone for that Father-Son time, the joy of hitting your target and that pat on your back after a particularly good shot leaves an impression in a person. I remember when I went shooting with my own father and now I’m taking my own son to the range. The main objective at least for now is shooting safely and having lots of fun. Groups tighten up on their own in due time. ;-)

When to Start

Every instructor has his age but I go more for responsibility rather than age. Last year at age seven, my son didn’t pay as much attention as it would have been desired for safe gun handling. This year though at age eight he’s clearly more mature and more responsible. I can trust him with certain jobs and assignments around the house that I didn’t use to. I can leave a loaded gun by his side and trust that excitement won´t get the best of him, he won’t be touching it unless I say so and he can follow orders. There’s parents that take much younger kids shooting, kids that sometimes can’t even hold the gun they are firing but the father feels good just by letting him pull the trigger. As I said before it’s up to each one to tell how mature your child is. My simple advice here will be the following: If in doubt, just hold on for another year. There’s no sense in rushing into this.

How to do it

Start with a 22LR.  It has little blast and recoil and will work towards improving accuracy. Its cheap too! Shotgun? There are 410 shotguns that a child could use but I’d rather have the minimum blast of a 22LR. A carbine would be a wise choice but you can also use a handgun. The carbine has the advantage though of having a longer barrel that is easier to control by the overseeing adult. The handgun being smaller can be turned in the wrong direction in a fraction of a second so if you’re using a handgun watch every single move your kid makes like an eagle.
My son likes a small Bersa 22 pistol which is nicely customized. The trigger is soft and the small gun fits his eight year old hand very well.

Start shooting at close range with the target just three or four yards away.  I first placed it a bit further and the groups spread, anxiety grew and both of us were getting frustrated. Then I went with the closer approach and noticed much better general results. Of course he was shooting better at closer range, but the most important part was that he gained a lot of confidence and I noticed that his trigger control was much better. Even at such close range shooting the “X” off the target isn’t easy for a kid, so its still a challenge.  I had some hard Aguila ammo and in this gun 1 out of 10 would require a second strike. This proved to be an excellent opportunity to check his finger control. I was very pleased when I noticed that the gun didn’t fire but he didn’t move a millimeter when the hammer dropped. Perfectly still. You can’t ask for much more. I placed a small bit of tape for him to aim at and soon we had a small quarter sized cluster of rounds all over it. This is exactly what you want.

As soon as he looked a bit tired we ended the session leaving him wanting for a quick trip back to the range. We then go to the gunclub’s cafeteria for some hot chocolate and sandwiches and some talking on how great he did!
Take care folks!

Join the forum discussion on this post


Ed from Europe said...

I like the way you prefer maturity and growing confidence over actually having good scores and starting as early as possible.

It's all about those two things when parenting, I believe.

Anonymous said...

This is something that cannot be rushed. I was shooting my Dad's Ruger .22 revolver when I was four, but I was not allowed to even carry it holstered until I was eight - unloaded. This for about a year, which really frustrated me.

He made sure I was ready and only until he was satisfied did he allow me to carry a loaded gun. I carried a pellet rifle and he always reminded me of safe carrying procedures.

Anonymous said...

As a rifle instructor I fully concur with starting them with a twenty two rifle. Age depends on the youngster although 10 seems like a general number. I recommend that parents give some thought to having help from a third party. sometimes kids do better that way. People in the U.S. should consider the Appleseed project as a great resource for this.


k said...

I would recommend starting with pellet guns and not firearms. The rules of safety are the same. Pellets are less likely to people than bullets. Pellet guns are also good for killing vermin and for hunting very small game.

Anonymous said...

agreed. three things i learned when
teaching children to do anything:
1. make the first time 'super' easy.
2. 30 minutes is the upper limit.
3. have food at the end.

Keith C. said...

We are a "shooting family" and my children have come to the range (as spectators) since their heads were big enough for ear pro. My daughter has been reciting the safety rules and helping me seat bullets when reloading since she was about three :). When she turned five last year, I offered to let her shoot for the first time. The smallest rifle I had was a Ruger 10/22 carbine. she enjoyed the experience but it was like she was trying to fire an AT-4, it was still so long for her!

We ended up buying her a "Crickett" - single-shot, bolt-action, manually-cocked .22 that is specifically designed for children of her frame (also bought another to put up for her now-two-year-old brother's eventual use - he might not want his sister's pink one). I even tell my adult students, "There are no targets too large or too close to miss.", yet I made the same mistake in setting the target too far and saw that same frustration you described. We moved in to about five yards and she was doing much better and is much more confident and eager to practice.

Great topic and, yes, great memories as well as skills to build with your children.

hsu said...

My range has a youth club, designed to teach youngsters the art of shooting, and the minimum age for the club is 10, because too few 9 year old kids seem ready for it.

In addition, it seems that a large minority of 10 year old kids are not mature enough, so those children have to wait another year.

Anonymous said...

I started hunting squirrel at about age 8 with a 12ga a cousine lent me. I don't remember when I started shooting, but it was probably that summer. The first pheasent was with a .22. We sorta of raised ourselves. a

Anonymous said...

All my children started on a Beretta 950 .22short pistol and worked their way through the gun cabinet. I started them off with ballons, cheap, buy two sizes and you can adjust them from a couple of inches to a foot or better. The kids don't mind picking up the bits because you staple the to a backer draw a target on it and shoot some more. We always picniced at our shooting spot, it was a most of the day affair.