Friday, January 13, 2012

Introducing the novice to shooting

One of the best ways to overcome anti-gun bias is to take someone shooting. But the person who's doing the introduction may want to follow some simple steps to make the newcomer's experience as positive as possible.

I'd like to offer some suggestions to those who want to give others an introduction to shooting:
Give some friendly coaching prior to going to the gun range. In a safe, quiet location, using an unloaded gun (show how to check this, and explain the importance), demonstrate some of firearm's basic functions. Go over other safety rules. Explain range etiquette. It's much easier to do these things where it's quiet rather than wait until the racket of the range creates distractions. 
Choose the right gun. Pick something of an appropriate size and caliber for a first time out or other early shooting experiences. A downsized .22 rifle is perfect for a child. A .22 pistol (or something else with low recoil) is a good option for novice handgun shooters. Stay away from heavy artillery the first time out. A too heavy gun or a punishing recoil can be a turn off to the first time shooter. Over time, as confidence and proficiency grows, you can bump things up. 
Build early confidence. Place targets at an appropriate close-in distance. Another confidence builder is to allow a new rifle shooter to use a bench rest to assist in hitting the target. Nothing elates new shooter like a center-of-target hit. And nothing dulls a new shooter's interest like repeated misses. 
Pick a good venue. Commercial or public shooting ranges can be crowded and they are noisy. Indoor ranges are especially loud. Even with proper ear protection, this can be intimidating to the novice. If you must use an  indoor or other public range, try to pick an off-peak time where distractions from others will be an a minimum. 
If you are lucky enough to have access to private property that can accommodate shooting, do so only with permission. And be sure to explain steps that are taken to ensure safety. Be sure there's a proper backstop (man-made or natural terrain) to prevent bullets from flying off the property. Also take time to point out the direction of any nearby neighbors or populated areas (and the importance of not pointing guns in those directions).  
Making a new shooter's experience a positive one helps them see guns can be fun and safe. Do what you can to make someone's first time out a good one, otherwise they may not want to give it a second chance.

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