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How to introduce new people to firearms safely

Introducing new people to the art of shooting can be quite a daunting task. A lot of people don’t have any sort of background in firearms besides seeing them on television or in movies. Introducing them properly to firearms and shooting sports in general is essential to keep gun culture alive and thriving in America.

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The first thing you need to do with them before shooting or even picking up a gun is go over the basic safety rules.

Basic gun safety rules

    There are four basic gun safety rules that everyone should have engrained on the back of their eyelids:
  1. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded, even if you are “sure” it isn’t. This principle is paramount to all others and lays the foundation for all the other rules.
  2. Always point the gun in a safe direction. This rule goes off the idea of rule number one: treat all guns as if they were loaded.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are absolutely ready to fire, again building off rule number one and the idea that we should treat all guns as if they were loaded at all times.
  4. Lastly, you need to be 100% sure of your target and what lies beyond that target, as bullets often pass through objects and continue to travel at a high rate of speed. Once you pull that trigger there are no mulligans.
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Basic firearm handling

Once you have gone over the basic safety rules with the future would be shooter, I suggest you do a simple gun handling demonstration before you head to the actual range. We wrote an in depth article on common handgun mistakes and how to overcome them. Take a look here: How to overcome common handgun hang-ups.

The safe handling demonstration should consist of you first giving a visual demonstration while you talk them through the process and answer any questions they might have. This demonstration doesn’t have to be a complete field strip but should cover the basics such as operating the safety, racking the slide and using the magazine release.

Snap caps work great for these dry test runs but if none are available just do the process with an unloaded firearm, never do it with live ammunition. After you have shown them how to operate the different firearms you will be shooting it is time to pass on the reigns and let them try for themselves. Depending on the person and number of firearms available this whole process can take anywhere from a short 10 minutes or less to upwards of an hour. The new shooter should be able to adequately operate the firearm in a safe manner, meaning finger off the trigger and pointed in a safe direction at all times before moving on.

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Practice at the gun range

After the initial safety rules and demonstrations are taken care of it is time to head to the range! If you are able to shoot in your backyard, that’s great and makes the process that much easier but most of us need to travel to an established shooting range. Before you head out to the range it's important to bring all the gun range essentials, take a look at what we recommend to bring along here: Gun range essentials to bring with you.

Whether you are shooting on an official range or in your backyard it is a good idea to have the proper attire. Closed toed shoes are a must for avoiding hot brass and I strongly recommend wearing long pants and a full-sleeve shirt if possible.

You will also need to setup your new shooter with ear and eye protection and these should be worn at all times while shooting by everyone no matter what. Hearing loss isn’t a laughing matter and neither is taking metal shards in the eyeball.

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Besides safety, choosing what firearm to put into the hands of a new shooter should be of utmost importance. My personal preference for introducing new shooters to firearms is the .22LR round. The low recoil, low cost and high accuracy make it the perfect round for introducing someone to firearms. Even with the “ammo shortage” and price increase you can still get a brick of .22LR online for about $50 bucks. No matter how you look at it, 500 rounds of .22LR for $50 bucks is cheaper then 50 rounds of 9mm for $15 bucks.

Not everyone has a .22LR available to them (but they really should) for introducing new people to shooting. Some other handgun calibers that will do the job are .25ACP, .32ACP and .380ACP. You should avoid super compact or light pistols and stick to full-size models if possible for recoil purposes.

Rifle calibers that can take place of a .22LR are the .17HMR, .22short, .22WMR, and even the .223Remington/5.56x45mm and 7.63x39mm. Surprisingly, the AR15 platform is great for advancing shooters who want to step up from the .22LR caliber to the next level as it has less recoil then most shotguns and bolt-action rifles.

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One of my pet peeves and I cannot stress this enough is seeing someone new to shooting sports get handed a large-bore firearm their first time out on the range. This approach is the perfect way to discourage new shooters from picking up a firearm ever again. No matter if they are a full grown man, women or child, starting off on a small caliber and gradually increasing once they get comfortable is the best way to introduce a person to shooting.

Overall, introducing new people to firearms and the shooting sports can be a rewarding experience for both parties involved if done properly. New shooters need to not only be safe but have fun and enjoy themselves in the process so they will want to shoot again.

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About The Author

Travis Box is currently a college student studying American history with a concentration on the Constitution, Revolutionary War, politics and legislation. As an active hunter for 5 years and a recreational marksman for over a decade, his writing brings with it years of real world experience from both the field and the range.