A Refreshing Experience; Working With 1st Time Shooters
Guns can be intimidating; Proper firearm instruction can go a long way…
Often as a trainer, I get the great opportunity to work with people who have never shot much before and would be categorized as a first-time shooter. At the request of a local shooting range, I recently contacted a young mother who wanted her daughter to learn how to shoot from someone other than her parents. At eight years old, she isn’t very tall, but had her own Cricket .22 bolt-action rifle. Her mother mentioned she had done some informal shooting, and that Mom had served in the army. The young lady was attentive to safety and knew how to operate her rifle. We spent some time in a classroom setting going over basics so I could see where she was in skill level, then we moved to the firing point inside the range. As often happens when first introduced to the loud sounds of full-power firearms, she was frightened and needed some reassurance from her Mom.
With a double set of hearing protection applied, she put on a brave face, and started work from a rested position, firing at about 15 feet. A couple of shots to get the feel of things, and she started regularly smacking the center of the target. With a few minor adjustments from the instructor, she shot until she got tired and we called it a day. The big grin and high five afterwards were all the reward I needed. Her mother then asked if I would help with a group of interested youth who were putting together a junior shooting club.
At their first meeting, four young people attended with parents and other adults who would act as coaches on the firing line. Three boys and our eight-year old young lady made up the group. The young men were mostly shy about shooting, trying and then using the different positions of rifle shooting dry-fire in the classroom. One boy, the oldest, acted like he already knew what to do and declined trying the positions in class and ignored the master-eye test. He was left-eye dominant and when firing did NOT want to try the better position of firing from the left shoulder. He kept leaning his head across the stock to see the sights, which caused his accuracy to suffer. The other boys followed the instruction, and helped by their coaches, shot pretty well. The young lady in the group smoked all three boys with the best and most correct shooting positions and the smallest groups of the day. There is something to be said about females and shooting. They usually out shoot the males. I’ve witnessed this repeatedly in Hunter Education classes, concealed carry permit courses and elsewhere. Now I regularly inform the men that the girls are going to beat them. The girls then proceed to do just that!
Working in a recent concealed carry class, a woman was struggling with her trigger control and asked for some help. I asked her to grip her handgun and place her finger on the trigger. I looked to see how she was holding it, which was fine, then asked her to press off a shot. The hit was well out of the center. She then said her husband had been teaching her to shoot and told her to use just the TIP of her finger to press the trigger. Well, as you can probably imagine, her smaller hand, shorter fingers and gun size all came together creating a bad hit. When I got her finger in the correct position, pad on the face of the trigger with a straight-to-the-rear press, the hits went center-target. It has been pointed out before that training with a qualified instructor is very effective in improving skills.
As a firearms trainer I personally go to other courses to keep my skills fresh and to see what new things and techniques are being taught. In the case of the lady in the CFP course, her husband, while meaning well, did not know what the fundamentals are and gave some poor information. I do hope that he did not do as another husband did after his wife had received some correction and immediately told her to “Listen to ME, not him (the instructor). That usually backfires and the woman does not shoot anymore. I’ve also seen Hubby give Wifey the .44 Magnum revolver with full power loads, give no instruction, then says, “Try it Hun, it’s fun!” He has prevented another woman from being a shooting partner and maybe she will never shoot again. On the other hand, some men are not intimidated by good-shooting women. At a range where I was Range Master, a couple would come and spend a lunch break shooting once a week. Their bet to make the time more interesting, was that the loser had to clean the guns afterwards. The husband finally started to ask his wife for pointers after several losses in a row! I can hear the ladies thinking “smart man!” at this point.
It is very refreshing to work with first time or new shooters. I consider it a clean slate with no bad habits to break. I encourage you to introduce someone to shooting. Make it a fun and pleasant experience and they will want to do it more. I believe that benefits all of us. Take the time, seek competent instruction and learn a new and challenging skill that will be a life-long pursuit. It is good for you and good for our country.
Good luck and Safe Shooting!