Getting kids (or anyone else) started with shooting

I have helped a lot of people, including my own kids to get started with shooting.

I like to get people started the same way: with a bolt action .22 rifle. Why do I teach kids? There are several reasons. The first of which is that I teach gun safety. The next reason is to take the curiosity and natural wonder of guns out of the picture. I think people that know about guns and how to handle them are far less likely to have an accident should they stumble upon one in a neighbor’s house or anywhere else. Lastly it is fun and a great sport that just about anyone can participate in.

So why get started with a .22 bolt action rifle? Again, several reasons:

  • .22 rifles are inexpensive.
  • .22 ammunition is cheap.
  • Using a bolt action, you can really spread out the ammo you have over an afternoon, one shot at a time.
  • .22 rifles don’t recoil or ‘kick’ that much.
  • They aren’t very loud. Kids don’t fear the noise and the chance of developing a flinch when they shoot is avoided.
  • The .22LR round is not very fast… that means it spends more time in the barrel than a high-powered round. It is more susceptible to wind and magnifies bad shooting habits. So as you learn and practice with a .22, the good skills you learn getting that tiny little round on target will translate to good shooting habits with any rifle.
  • There’s just something about learning on a bolt action .22 that ties marksman together.

This is the rifle my kids learned on. It’s a Mossberg 44. It’s old, but there are still plenty of .22 bolt action rifles to choose from. The ‘Cricket’ is a popular single-shot kids rifle you can find at just about any gun show or gun store.

There are several rules and mindsets with gun safety, but they are mostly all common sense: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_safety
In addition, wearing eye and ear protection is a MUST when handling any firearm.

Once my charges are clear on gun safety, the range rules, are are calm and ready to accept direction, we get started. I make sure they keep the basics in mind: Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, breathing calmly,  lining up the sights or scope and gently squeezing the trigger until the shot just about surprises the shooter and flies downrange toward the target.

I have a regimen that I use for all beginning shooters. First, on a bench with a front support like a sandbag only, practice until you can get bull’s-eyes at 25M. Then do the same in the prone position, then sitting, then standing. Once they have that down, start over at 50M, then 75, then 100M. Of course getting all bull’s-eyes at 100M is a stretch, but it sets the shooter up to be able to evaluate and tune their shooting skills in a nice measurable manner.

(Image found on web years ago)

For pistols, I also like a .22 pistol. I prefer a revolver at first but a semi-automatic is fine once they demonstrate proper safety and firearms handling. For kids, I like to have them use a little sandbag to get the feel for shooting the pistol before holding it freehand. I have seen too many people’s first shots scare them and they drop the pistol. With a little .22 and bag, they can learn the operation and feel of the gun in a much safer manner.

If you are interested in getting your kids or anyone else interested in shooting, I think you will find this method very rewarding for both the student and teacher.

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