Teaching Your Kids To Shoot
September 1, 2015
The absolute best way to keep your children safe around guns is to teach them about guns. We keep our guns locked in a gun safe, but we have also taught our children, and now our grandchildren, how to use guns.
They know that if a friend displays a gun or even talks about having a gun, they are to go immediately to a responsible adult and let them know. This is not tattling - it's saving a life.
I wouldn't let my granddaughter use my table saw without teaching her the safety rules and overseeing her closely, and the same goes with all potentially dangerous tools - including guns. And, just as using power tools can be fun, so can shooting. Target shooting is a great family sport that anyone can participate in. In fact, you may find that your kids shoot better than you do!
'All Guns Are Loaded'
From the time they are small, children should be taught that all guns are to be treated as though they are loaded. This is a rule that adults need to remember as well. I've heard of too many gun "experts" who have shot holes in the ceiling, or even worse, in themselves, with "empty" guns. So rule number one is "all guns are always loaded."
I also teach them that they should never allow the muzzle of a gun to point at anything they aren't willing to destroy. This is actually the rule that I repeat to them until they are pretty much sick of hearing it, but I still keep saying it. Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction all the time will prevent accidents. Even if you "know" the gun is empty, keep it pointed in a safe direction. Drill this into your kids.
Hold That Finger!
Another rule that I found myself having to repeat over and over is "keep your finger away from the trigger until you're ready to shoot." For some reason, my granddaughters love to keep their fingers in the trigger guard. Boy, that took some persistence to get rid of! Make sure you keep an eye on that. If the gun is not actually pointed at a safe target, their finger should not even be inside the trigger guard.
When my kids are holding a gun, I want them focused on that gun. Don't let them get distracted. If your child seems to be taking the whole situation too lightly, lock all the guns away and tell him or her you'll try some other time when he or she can give it their full attention.
The same goes for you. If you find your mind wandering and realize you're not giving things your full attention, either snap to it or go home.
An Indoor Range Is Ideal
An indoor range like Shooter's World is an ideal place for a kid to learn to shoot. Make sure you've thoroughly covered the safety rules before you get there. Depending on your child's age, you'll have to do much of the actual loading and unloading yourself. The most fun targets for kids are the splatter targets that make a nice big mark when you hit them. This gives a kid instant feedback on where his or her shot is going.
I've always liked to let kids learn with a .22 pistol because they aren't too loud, they don't kick, and they're just plain fun. Both my granddaughters now own their own .22 pistols, and they are both crack shots.
Before you let the kid shoot, grab a pencil and draw a rough sketch of how it should look when he aims at the target. Show him how to hold the gun so that the front site is between the notches on the rear site, and teach him that they should be the same height. If he lines up the sites right and places the target on top, he should hit the target with no problem.
Here is another tip: Before you let a kid shoot the pistol, try it yourself and make sure it's accurate and not picky. Emily's SR22 was a little picky about ammo the first few times, and something like that can ruin a kid's day. You don't want the gun jamming or failing to feed on her first time out!
Finally, especially when your kid is a beginner, go slow. It seems like second nature to you, but it's all new to them and just a little scary. Show them the correct stance (this stuff was in a previous issue), the right way to hold the gun, and the right way to pull the trigger.
That's right – the right way to pull the trigger. A trigger should be squeezed with a steady pressure, not jerked. A jerked trigger will make you miss the target every time. If necessary, load one round at a time. Most newer pistols won't fire without a magazine in place, but you can load one round, teach your girl how to rack it, and let her fire it. Then do it over again.
I learned on a single-shot .22 myself. It teaches you to be more intent when you shoot. It's easy to blast away when you've got ten rounds loaded up.
Both my granddaughters had BB guns when they were very small, and those are great because you can shoot at a target on a piece of plywood right in the back yard. They can learn how to line up the sites and all of that stuff with virtually no noise and no kick at all. The girls always loved those BB guns, and it made the transition to the .22's easier because they had already had the safety rules drilled into them for years.
It's A Legacy
My dad taught me to shoot, and his dad taught him to shoot. I've enjoyed teaching my sons and granddaughters how to shoot, and it's a sport we can all enjoy together. The girls would have a fit if we went to the range without them, and I like knowing that they are comfortable and competent with firearms.
If you are not a shooter, or you don't feel qualified to teach your kids, go to a shooting range and ask about instruction, or go to the Arizona Game and Fish Web site at azgfd.gov. They have totally free shooting classes for beginners. They'll teach you how to enjoy the sport safely, and you'll learn indoors in the cool AC with calm teachers and no pressure. What's stopping you?