Question of the Day: Shooting Skills. Nurture or Nature?

After Mikeb30200’s QOTD about teaching his son about guns, I got to wondering: do some people have a natural predilection towards shooting? His seven-year-old was attracted to guns at a shooting gallery and did well when he finally shot them. I have a similar story . . .

Although I’m former career military (i.e. a cranky military retiree), I never owned a gun or had one in the house when my son was growing up. He never had any toy guns, not because we didn’t want him to have them, but because he never showed any interest in them.

Then one Thanksgiving when he was in his early teens, we were at my parents house and my brothers brought out their guns to do some target shooting. He tagged along with them and in a little while they all came back amazed at how well he’d done. It turned out when he was offered a chance to shoot and given a short tutorial, he had shot more accurately than either of my brothers, both of whom have been shooting for years. He’s now in his 20’s, owns several pistols and rifles and enjoys (and is quite good at) target shooting.

So my question for the Armed Intelligentsia is this: Does shooting come naturally to some people? Is there a “gun gene” similar to the “car gene” some guys claim to have? Or is there something else there that makes someone who never picked up a gun a natural shooter?

comments

  1. avatar Roy Hilll says:

    I am a certified rifle coach and a handgun instructor.

    As to your question, is it “nurture or nature” I would emphatically answer “yes.”

    I’ve seen folks who have shot little or none in the past, who can shot very well after just a little instruction.

    I’ve seen folks who have been shooting for years, who learned all sorts of bad habits and techniques, who can’t shoot very well at all.

    I’ve also seen many folks who are the reverse of the above…no experience who can’t pick it up at all, and lots of experience, who get better and better as they practice.

    So the answer is “yes.”

  2. avatar TTACer says:

    I think it is like an athletic endeavor, you need to hold your body a certain way, you need to control your breathing, and good eyesight helps. Some people can naturally hit a baseball or put a basketball through a hoop better than others, but everyone needs to train.

  3. avatar HAVE GUN says:

    I imagine everybody are born with certain talents.

    My experience is I have a good talent, but will never be a Top Shot no matter how much I train. At some point we get as good as we ever will be. Some much better than most.

    Seems to me that is the same with any endeavor.

  4. avatar NR says:

    There are a lot of things that go into shooting, and many of them are natural, or can be learned doing things other than shooting.

    Personally, I’m a natural when it comes to breaking clay birds. The second time I ever handled a gun, I took third place in an (admittedly very small-time) competition. I’ve got good eyesight and reflexes, fast hands, and good stances come naturally to me (martial arts helps) so I routinely break 19 out of 20 or better. This isn’t something I had to learn how to do.

    Rifle and pistol shooting, not so much. I don’t have the steadiest hand in the world, and a smooth trigger pull is something I really have to work on. It just doesn’t come automatically.

  5. avatar Ben Eli says:

    I grew up with a mother who hated firearms and a father you had healthy respect for firearms. While risk seeking behavior or attachment to adrenalin boosting behavior has been linked to biological roots (low production of adrenalin), the choice of behavior has not been linked to any biological sources. Is this why we shoot? Don’t know, won’t say. However it is important to know that deciding between nature and nurture is similar to asking this question. Which is more important to the area of a rectangle, the length or the width?

  6. avatar Scott says:

    IMHO, there are clearly some people with some sort of genetic predisposition to this sport. I’ve also seen some people who train to a pretty accomplished level but there’s always that person who just does it a little better and more fluidly.

  7. Depends on the specific shooting sport in question. Imho, precision pistol and rifle sports are more of a mental game than physical. I’m not familiar enough with tactical or run n gun sports to comment on those.

    Also, your first teacher is critical.

  8. avatar Chaz says:

    I’ve taken my college student nephew and his roommate to the range. The roommate who is from Brazil had never shot a handgun. He is however an excellent student and violinist (his major). After introductory instruction on aligning iron sights, making a good grip, performing a clean trigger pull, etc. he was shooting more accurately than some of my OFWG contemporaries. Maybe the highly trained hand and arm motor skills of violin playing are useful for pistol shooting.

  9. avatar Jason says:

    Anyone who can pay attention to instruction and relax will do very well right away. It’s funny how some of the people who talk most about how zen they are, how at one with the universe, turn out to be huge control freaks when they get a gun in their hand. And that messes them up every time. An attitude of relaxed concentration will take you far.

  10. avatar Leo says:

    To be a good shot you have to have certain skills that are not necessarily learned through shooting. For example someone who plays FPS video games with time will learn and develop good hands to eye coordination and because of the intricate controls might also achieve manual dexterity, not necessarily born with those skills but develop thought the use of other items.

  11. avatar Don Curton says:

    From the very first time I picked up a gun, I had a natural ability to put lead on target. Not competitively, more like “hey, aim at the beer can over there and see if you can hit it … Damn! nice shot”. This put me well ahead of the game over other amateurs. Unfortunately, this also reduced any perceived need to actually, you know, train, thus I never really improved beyond that. Same with archery, now that I think about it. I enjoy shooting tremendously, but it’s all informal with no real improvement to my abilities.

  12. avatar Aaron says:

    I shot air rifles and pistols from the age of 7. Didn’t pick up a real firearm until I was 22, and did pretty well the first time. Next experience with a gun was three years later when I passed through Vegas and shot a bunch of rental guns. While there, I followed the standard advice I’d been reading for years of starting with .22 handguns, working my way that afternoon up to a full-auto Thompson. I performed fairly well with everything I shot, including a 1911 in .45 ACP. Before that day, I had a Softair 1911 (predecessor of Airsoft), and a Collector’s Armory Replica – both duplicated enough of the functions of the weapon they were imitating so that I was fairly comfortable with handling it.
    One thing I could never fully articulate is why I like guns and shooting so much. Perhaps an “affinity” for them can’t be anything but natural, but the skill may or may not be (I think it’s a combo of both).
    I also think that the extensive trigger time I put in with airguns helped, as well as the administrative practice I got with the replicas.
    Book learning shouldn’t be discounted, either. To this day I find myself doing things at the range that I read about in gun magazines, books and yes, on the Internet.

  13. avatar Nate says:

    Some people have a natural inclination to be good at it. That said, nothing is a replacement for actual training and experience.

  14. avatar wade says:

    I believe that many folks interpret subconscious learning towards guns as being nature, while it’s actually subtle nurturing. For example, I do some volunteer work with a group that takes fatherless kids hunting, fishing, and camping. I work with the hunting part, and I’ve noticed that the girls are much better shots than the boys, right off the bat. The only thing I can think of is that boys have misconceptions about guns from video games and movies, and the girls are pretty much sterile to guns until they are taken to the range before going hunting.

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    Most of the great shooters I’ve seen — and there aren’t too many of those — were scary-good when they were kids. Most of the good shooters I’ve seen — there are plenty of those — got that way from practicing. So I guess that many are called, but few are chosen.

  16. avatar Kerry says:

    I’m fairly certain it is the gun doing all the teaching; good thing you used one of the neutral and not one of the evil, ‘designed only to kill’ ones.

  17. avatar Katrina says:

    The first time I ever shot a rifle I was 13 years old at an all girls sleep away camp with very ‘hands off’ instructors (they taught us how to hold, load and positioning but aside from that it was all you). I had never shot before in my life and the first bullet was a perfect bullseye. From that point forward I would repeatedly shoot only in the 8-10 range and even though I only shot maybe 8 times a year (only during my time at summer camp) I always came back to camp and still had it (and eventually was deemed the best shot in my entire camp). This was actually really funny as many of the girls I went to camp with were ‘expert hunters’ and did not expect ‘just some pretty girl from Miami’ to outshoot them. So I think there’s definitely a natural talent behind it, it helps that my grandfather and uncle were federal agents and were known to be great shots. From my own experience I have come to believe that while shooting is a skill that can be acquired and nurtured, nothing beats that natural sniper blood. 😉

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