Teaching Your Kids to Shoot

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I’m a firm believer in teaching kids to shoot. There are two distinctly different reasons why I feel this way. The first is that shooting is a skill we all should learn, so that we are able to defend ourselves. Children, like women, are at a disadvantage when dealing with a full-grown man. Teaching them to shoot gives them a fair chance at surviving, if your home is invaded.

The second reason is that children who know how to shoot guns are safe with guns. All those accidents you hear about one kid picking up a gun they didn’t know was loaded and shooting a friend or sibling happen with children who don’t understand guns. They’re curious, especially after seeing them so much on television; but they don’t know beans about gun safety. That’s a dangerous combination.

My mother absolutely hates guns. Nevertheless, she had enough wisdom to insist that my dad taught us kids to shoot. She understood exactly what I said as my second reason and insisted that if my dad was going to keep guns in the house, that he make sure we were safe around those guns.

My first experience shooting was when I was about 7. We had just moved from New Jersey to Colorado and my dad bought a .22LR revolver. He took us out to an old rock quarry that people used as a shooting range and taught us gun safety and how to shoot. I don’t remember how I did, but I probably missed everything I shot at. Even so, I came away with a healthy respect for guns and gun safety.

So, the big question that people ask is when to start teaching a child to shoot? What’s the appropriate age? That’s a difficult question to answer, because it depends a lot on the child. How responsible is that child? Are they the kind to show off with the gun or joke around with it? Or are they the kind to listen to directions and take it seriously? That’s the child who is ready to learn.

I’d recommend doing things a bit differently than by dad did, although I started all my kids on a .22 as well. My reason was that I didn’t have a pistol to use, because we were in and out of Mexico a lot and you can’t take guns into Mexico. But if I were to do it again, I’d change things a little.

First of all, I’d start out with a pellet rifle, not a pistol. Rifles are easier to shoot than pistols, even though the same principles of shooting apply. But I wouldn’t keep them on the rifle for long, I’d step them up to a pellet pistol, as soon as they were comfortable shooting the rifle and could at least hit the target.

Besides being less dangerous (pellet guns can still be dangerous), the big advantage of using pellet guns for firearms training is that it can be done in the backyard, rather than having to go to the shooting range. That saves money, as well as eliminating the need to deal with the rules of the range. Safety should still be of primary concern, but with nobody else around, you won’t have to worry about your kid pulling the trigger when the gun is pointed in the wrong direction.

Shooting at home allows you the opportunity to give your child plenty of experience before stepping them up to something using gunpowder. Going out to the backyard is quick and easy, allowing you and your child the opportunity to shoot a few rounds every day, after work, rather than having to wait for enough time to go to the range. So their skills should improve rapidly, making it possible to step up to the real thing.

As for what real thing, I always start out with a .22LR, although mine is semi-automatic, instead of the revolver that my dad uses. A .22 is a great training gun, without much recoil and not making all that much noise. It’s also an inexpensive gun to shoot, which can be helpful if you have more than one child to teach.

As their skills improve, I’d step the child up through all the calibers you have, which they are strong enough to shoot. The idea that some people have of getting a laugh out of having someone knocked on their backside, shooting a 20 gauge shotgun for the first time, is absurd and dangerous.

Whenever teaching someone, you have to maintain safety. That’s your job, as the instructor, not theirs. In practical terms, that means always positioning yourself where you can grab the gun, should they turn it away from downrange. It’s also a good idea to be in a position to support them and keep them from falling, the first time they shoot a new, higher caliber, with a stronger kick.

Don’t let up on the training until they are competent shooters, whatever that means to you. You don’t want to leave them in the position of knowing enough that they’ll grab a gun to defend themselves, but not being good enough to do so. That’s just asking for trouble.

Then, in addition to keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand, you can teach them to do the same, following in your footsteps.

Dr. Rich

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