Teaching New Shooters Before Heading to the Range

With the growing popularity of shooting and an increase in the desire for self defense brought about by the growth in concealed carry, it is little wonder than any time I head to the range, I see new shooters out for their first time. Usually they are with a friend or family member who is showing the novice how to shoot.

This is a wonderful thing to see so many people taking an interest in shooting. However, from what I have observed, it is often a more traumatic experience for the new shooter than it needs to be. Trying to explain to a person how to operate a pistol is difficult when the person has on hearing protection that makes it necessary to yell instructions at them while they are surrounded by experienced shooters.

It is my humble opinion that before ever heading out to the range, there should be some preparation in a more comfortable environment. Make sure the new shooter has an opportunity to hear the basics and ask questions before they ever use live ammunition.

First, cover all of the basic safety rules including:
– Keep the muzzle pointed down range.
– Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
– Know your target and what is beyond the target.
– Wear eye and hearing protection

After the safety rules, cover the basic operation of the specific firearm:
– How to load a magazine
– How to check the gun is clear and safe
– Controls such as safeties, slide release, decocking levers, etc.
– Racking the slide

Basic marksmanship:
– Stance
– Grip
– Sight alignment and sight picture
– Trigger control

Make sure the person knows the safety rules and the basic operation of the gun before you ever go to the range that first time. They will be more comfortable and certainly more safe.

Ideally, a shooter’s first experience is with a .22 but that isn’t always possible if you don’t have one available. Try to keep a new shooter from developing a flinch by starting them off with the lightest recoil you can. Load a .38 Special instead of a .357 Magnum for example. Or a 9mm instead of a .40 S&W or .45 ACP.

Load only one round for the first several shots attempted. This helps you ensure they don’t forget those safety rules about where to point the muzzle or where to put their finger after that first BANG! Load ONE round at a time for at least the first several shots. This not only helps practice the loading steps but is best for the safety of everyone.

I also see a lot of people calling out to the shooter things like “miss” or “high” or “low left.” I don’t know that is terribly helpful to a novice. What specific behavior does he or she need to change to correct their point of impact? Instead of telling them that they missed, suggest things they can try to get better. The sooner that a new shooter can get hits on target, the more likely they will enjoy shooting. Everyone enjoys things that they are good at. Help them get better. Remain positive and as long as the safety disciplines are in place, the rest can come with practice.

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