Thursday, September 8, 2016

5 Basics When Teaching New Shooters

This article came across my news feed a couple weeks ago.  While the situation was sad all the way around, and I have no idea what the range's protocols and procedures are, there appeared to be many things that weren't done correctly when it came to instructing new shooters at the range.  Here's some tips if you are working with new shooters:

  1. Explain everything.  After being a shooter for many years, we often forget to explain the basics because they are such ingrained habits.  How to stand, how to hold the gun, repeated reminders to keep the business end of the weapon pointed down range, what a hot range is, how to safely un-jam a weapon, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, ascertaining what is behind your target each and every time you shoot, etc.  New shooters don't know these things yet every bit of this knowledge is critical for the safety of the shooter and everyone else at the range.
  2. Always insist on safety.  Eye and ear protection anytime a shooter is on a hot line is a no-brainer.  Showing new shooters how to safely bring their weapon to the line, going over the four rules of gun safety, showing how (and when) to safely reload their weapon and how to correct their aim if they are shooting over the berm, not allowing people to shoot if they appear to be intoxicated or under the influence, not allowing any horse-play at the range, etc.  There is no excuse to not take safety extremely seriously when deadly weapons are involved.
  3. When instructing new shooters the instructor should always be within arm's length of the person's body/shooting arm.  I've seen some people give new shooters a gun then wonder off while they are shooting.  I've also seen plenty of new shooters get so excited about hitting the target they swing around with their firearm, covering everyone on the firing line, saying "see what I did!" as everyone else is ducking and weaving to get out of range of the weapon.  The instructor should be able to firmly and carefully re-point the shooter's arm (and weapon) down range immediately if this should happen.  This is also effective if there should be recoil which startles the shooter or knocks them backwards.
  4. Start small.  You wouldn't give a chainsaw to someone who had zero knowledge of even the most basic tools, likewise you shouldn't give big guns to someone who has never held a weapon before.  Whether the new shooter is a nine year old girl or a 29 year old linebacker, everyone should start with a firearm that is "fun", easy to shoot, and easy to control.  This may mean a BB gun for a five year old or a .22 rifle for most other shooters.  Save the Desert Eagle .50 for more experienced shooters and for God's sake, if you are teaching a new shooter to use a full auto rifle, DO NOT give them a full 30-round magazine and tell them to have fun.  Mostly it is a waste of ammo, but, as shown in the article, it causes the weapon's recoil to be quite different than what people who have never shot a full-auto weapon expect.  Three or four rounds in the magazine to start is a better way to do it.
  5. Pay attention.  When you take a new shooter to the range, your entire focus should be on them.  When you do shoot, it will only be to show the person what they should be doing (how to load the weapon, how to hold it, how to fire, etc).  An experienced shooter will be paying attention to everything that is happening and is more likely to see (and stop) problems or potential safety risks immediately (which won't happen if you are also on the line concentrating on your own shooting).
The school of hard knocks teaches us quite a few things but when deadly weapons are involved, this is not the way to learn.  For more tips on working with new shooters, check out this and this.

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