Teaching Your Kids to Shoot

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I grew up in a mixed home. It wasn’t the typical sort of mixed home, with parents who had different skin colors. Rather, it was a mixed home on the subject of firearms. My dad, who had grown up in Colorado, was a hunter, outdoorsman and a man who appreciated a good gun. On the other hand, my mom was so afraid of guns that she’d close her eyes if they showed up on the television screen.

My mother still hates guns to this day, perhaps even more than back then, as my nephew was shot to death. But that didn’t stop her from using wisdom in regards to having guns in the home. She insisted that if my dad was going to have guns, he was going to teach my brother and I how to shoot.

While she hated guns, she understood one truth about them; that is, children who understand guns, the inherent danger in not using them correctly and gun safety are not going to be showing those guns off to their friends. They’re not going to dig around in dad’s closet looking for them. They will understand that guns are not toys; but rather tools that need to be treated with respect.

That made my first experience with a gun when I was seven or eight years old. My dad bought a .22 caliber six-shooter and took my brother and I out to the gravel pit where he and his buddies practiced. While that gun was no great self-defense gun, it was enough to familiarize us with guns, gun safety and teach us how to shoot. When I turned 12, I was one of the first in Colorado to receive my hunter’s safety certificate.

I started my children out even younger than that; partially because I started them out with a pellet rifle. We could shoot that in the backyard without risk, making shooting more of a family activity. Still, even though it was a pellet gun, I instilled in them the rules of safety and insisted that they treat that gun as if it was as dangerous as any of my “real” guns.

How young one starts their children out with guns is one of those hotly debated questions in the firearms community. Part of that is that there is no “one size fits all” answer to that question. A lot depends on the children to be trained. What is their personal responsibility like? How well do they follow directions? How obedient are they? (Those last two aren’t the same thing) How good are their fine motor skills? Are they hyperactive? Are they afraid of guns?

Overall, my stance is to start a child out with guns as young as possible for that individual child. In the case of my own kids, they all learned to shoot with that pellet rifle by the time they were seven. But they didn’t move up to pistols or shooting anything with gunpowder, until I felt they had some mastery in controlling the air rifle and in handling it safely.

From there, the next step for all my children was into .22LR territory, probably the number one training round in the country. While the .22 can still be dangerous, it is low enough powered that there isn’t much recoil for the kids to deal with. That allows them to focus on shooting, not overcoming recoil.

Let me say something important here. You’ve probably never done it; but you’ve probably seen videos of people giving a 12 gauge shotgun or high-powered hunting rifle to someone who had never shot before, so that they could watch them get knocked on their butts. As I’m sure you know, that’s dangerous; it’s dangerous enough that it has led to more than one death. Yet people still do it. Obviously, that’s not a good way to train anyone.

It wasn’t until my kids were teens that any of them handled anything more powerful than a .22 LR. But by then, they were ready to shoot them. They had enough experience with firearms, that they could handle them safely and correctly, as well as having enough physical strength to handle the recoil. I never gave any of them anything to shoot, where I wasn’t sure they could handle the recoil. They all shot .45 ACP and they’ve all shot 12 gauge shotguns, before they were adults.

Taking it step by step, I was able to teach my children safely. To be honest, none of them are great shots; perhaps because none of them have ever spent enough time on the range to develop their shooting skills. But they know how to handle guns and they know how to handle them safely. That was my main goal. How good they become is up to them. Hopefully, they’ll remember my other lessons as well; like keeping their powder dry and their survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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