Over the weekend, I was musing on Mike’s post on picking a gun for a new shooter. In the comments on my original link, Tam used her +5 wit to get me thinking about why exactly we spend so many pixels and so much text trying to find out what the best gun is for a “woman” new shooter as opposed to a male. It’s nonsense when you really think about it. You’ve got a 12 year old boy and a 12 year old girl that both want to learn to shoot; the gender doesn’t matter they’re both getting small .22s or an air rifle. I personally would go the air rifle route, but that’s just a preference on my part.
The same thing applies of your scenario is “a 35 year old male and a 35 year old female both want to learn to shoot, what kind of gun should they get?” The answer in either circumstance is “a .22″. We can then debate endlessly about whether it should be a DA revolver, an SA revolver, or a semi-auto, but I really have started to believe that if you give a new shooter anything other than a .22 for their first range experience, you’re hurting the odds that they’re ever going to come back.
Of course, then you run into the problem that shoot a .22 at paper targets is boring. I love .22s, and I could shoot a .22 at paper targets all day long, but that’s because I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of precision accuracy that you can get with a .22. I started my competitive shooting on the US Coast Guard Academy’s pistol team, which means for a year I shot almost nothing but 10m air pistol – accuracy is my favorite part of the sport. Not everyone has that background though; so for a brand new shooter they may want something that provides a skosh more feedback than just hitting a bullseye. There are many options for this, but honestly I’d recommend talking to the person before you hit the range to find out what they like to do in their spare time. If you’re going to an indoor range, you’re going to be limited in what you can do to provide feedback; but there are some options.
The final thing that I’d say is once they’ve shot a .22, don’t be afraid to give them something different. Anecdote from my own experience: this last Friday I shot a single stage Tactical Rifle practice match at an indoor range. On my way out of the range, I was running a few remaining rounds through my Colt Match Target, and a friend had brought his wife and daughter to the range heard the obscene muzzle blast that Miculek style brake on that gun puts out and were curious. Now, for those of you that have shot an M4 set up with a serious brake on it, you know that it’s loud, but when you’re behind the gun it’s a ton of fun to shoot. My M4 Match Target is set up with a Crimson Trace foregrip, making it about as user friendly as I possibly can. Two new shooters shot the M4, and both left with the same ear to ear grin on their face after running a few rounds through it. The moral of the story is “give them a .22 to start, but don’t be afraid to give them something else”. AR15 pattern rifles are easy to shoot, and a ton of fun to shoot as well; so when you’re setting up your kit for a new shooter, throw a black rifle in there.
But remember, don’t make weird selections based on gender. New shooters are new shooters, regardless of what type of pants they wear.