Introducing Someone to Firearms and Shooting

The following article comes to you courtesy of JP from Desert Defender

Looking back on all the things I’ve done over the years, and especially as a child; the thing I cherish most is my time with my father and grandfather, shooting firearms. Whether it was just plinking away at soda cans, target shooting, or hunting; they are all some of my fondest memories. Both of those men have instilled in me a great respect for firearms, as well as a great fondness for them. They both taught me how to use them, how to maintain them; and gave me an immense amount of general knowledge concerning them.

Now, as an adult I have made it a goal of mine to pass the knowledge and respect on to whomever has been willing to take it in. I cannot count the number of people I have taken out to one of my favorite shooting spots, or to the range and given them their first experience with a firearm. Every one of them has left the firing line with a smile on their face and a new fond memory to look back on.

I’ve had my share of folks who had been initially opposed to the idea and only came along because I convinced them with my “don’t knock it till you try it” speech. Even they left with a smile on their face, and a few of them eventually became gun owners.

I don’t think I really need to tell you Gun Nuts how to introduce someone to the shooting sports, but just in case a new shooter finds this and wishes to eventually introduce other people; I’d like to give you some tips on making the first impression and experience a good one. Heck, even if you are a veteran shooter and have introduced people before, maybe you’ll find something here that can help you.

The most important thing from an instruction standpoint is patience. If you are anything like me, this can be the hardest hurdle as an instructor to get over. If the person you are teaching has never held a firearm before, they will be overwhelmed. For them, firearms often seem very complex and intimidating. What might be seemingly simple and second nature for you will not be the case for the new learner. Take your time with them, and answer any questions they might have.

The other most important thing is safety. This cannot be stressed enough to your newbie. You all know the four rules of gun safety:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. (Make sure they know this. Check your weapon. Is it unloaded? Good, check it again!)
  2. Do not point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy or kill. (Keep it pointed at the ground or down range. Don’t muzzle sweep across people)
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. (Outside the trigger guard, never put your finger on the trigger until the gun is pointed downrange and you are committed to firing)
  4. Be sure of your target, and what is behind it. (You need a backstop to catch your bullets. They will go through the target and possibly destroy what is behind it)

Don’t take someone to the range until they can recite the four rules from memory, and display proper handling with an unloaded firearm.

Another important thing concerns your gear. Make sure you have some firearms on hand that are suitable for instruction. Sure, your padawan might be really interested in your .500SW and might express interest that, that is what they want to try first – but you are not going to let them. Over the course of the last 10 years, I’ve introduced people using various firearms – whatever I had at the time. I found the best is the .22.

A new person will most likely be afraid of the recoil and afraid of the sound, no matter what they say contradictory to that. By starting off small, you will give them time to experience shooting while naturally building up their shooting habits. It is here where they will learn to not flinch and not jerk the trigger. The most important lesson my dad ever taught me: “Squeeeeeeze the trigger.” I pass that on.

Another thing I follow is no optics the first time out. I’ve seen too many people get frustrated because they are using a scope or holosight because they believe it should make them shoot better. The first time out, I only bring stuff with iron sights. I teach them sight picture. Make them focus on learning with no optical aids. And, if like me – use this time to do the same for yourself.

Once you have them comfortably shooting the .22 on their own, sit back and enjoy watching them shoot or sit down at the bench next to them and put some down range – just make sure you are available for help/questions.

Following these ideas, you will likely have a new range buddy after this first outing. (Just make sure that your offer to supply ammo is only for the first outing or two!)


  1. Thanks for the reminder – and the encouragement.

    I’ve been meaning to pursue an NRA instructor’s certificate – so I can get involved in shooting programs sponsored by the Scouts. Need to get busy…

  2. #3 Keep your booger hook off the bang switch of the boom stick. This seems to stick in the mind of the younger generation better!

  3. After much thought, I’ve decided I really don’t like the “keep your booger hook off the bang switch” phrase for teaching young shooters for the same reasons I don’t like using words like “wee-wee” to refer to male anatomical parts. Kids are often a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and they deserve to be taught the correct terminology. I worry that if we make things cutesy we run the risk of losing technical understanding.

  4. I don’t mind the “booger hook” phrase if you are using it to remind an adult they are being unsafe/stupid.

    I’ve never taught a kid, but I would imagine that I would prefer to teach them proper language as well as proper usage/handling.

  5. +1 to “booger hook” for adults but not for kids.

    Bit of a rambling anecdote to back it up: I’m younger (mid 20’s) and RO for a pistol club where the shooters range from 16 to 75.

    I have parity with the younger end of the spectrum and get a better response when I treat them equally. Which means when I call out potential problems, I’m talking to an equal. So, “FINGER!” or “Trigger guard!” work well.

    For the older guys “booger hook!” works better because they aren’t used to the term and have to process what I’m telling them. Theres also the subliminal implication that I’m talking down to them just a little bit. They really pay attention then.

    I certainly don’t intend to be rude, but I need them to react and get their finger off the trigger while clearing or holstering so I use what works. Off the firing line, I’m as polite as possible and learn with my peers and from the more experienced. On the firing line, I have to use the language that gets the reaction I want.

  6. With new shooters, I find that reactive targets (clays, balloons, water bottles, over-ripefruits and vegetables, water jugs, etc.) are MUCH more fun and inspire much greater efforts toward accuracy, especially with kids.

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