P320 Entry: Seven Tips for Getting Your Daughter Into Guns

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By Eric L.

How do you get your little girl to shoot…and enjoy it? As a father of a 5-year old girl, I’ve been making mistakes since the very day she was born and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way trying to cultivate her appreciation for shooting.

1) Set and communicate simple yet attainable goals: Seems obvious enough. Yet it’s so easy to forget. The first time I took my daughter I didn’t have any goal in mind…none…it was just get out there. But what I thought was carefree fun quickly spiraled into chaos . . .

I couldn’t communicate because I didn’t have a clear objective in mind, so it was naturally easy to get frustrated as we tried to accomplish whatever was in the moment. My failure to set and communicate a simple yet attainable goal made the very first outing quite dismal. We hopped from safe handling, to sight alignment, to trigger control, to eye dominance, to muzzle awareness…in the first 10 minutes. In hindsight, I would have made the very first outing focused solely on safe handling at the bench and following range commands only…which would mean not worrying about shooting or hitting a target. Pending a successful visit, the next outing would build on a logical add-on like sight alignment, then a separate session on trigger control, and so on. It’s equally important to communicate those goals so your daughter understands the purpose of the range visit before she gets there.

2) Rehearse at home what you’ll do at the range: One of the things I did right was to rehearse the range commands and practice the basic loading/unloading process with my child at home with an empty gun. It was always done seriously, safely, and methodically so she could practice repeatedly in a controlled and quiet environment. I’d estimate about two dozen practice sessions before we ever set foot at the range. The practice gave her confidence, let her work out the sequence of activities, and provided her a safe environment to ask questions.

3) Reward accomplishment and make it special: Despite a disastrous first visit and her not getting even a single hit on paper we did manage to get ourselves to a Wendy’s restaurant after the range time and reflect on what she did accomplish. The act of setting aside a special lunch to reward her for the effort helped re-establish a positive spin on the event. When she finally did manage on a subsequent outing to hit the bullseye she got another treat. All this to say positive reinforcement keeps your child engaged. Go big with the verbal praise! Finally, we posted her most recent target up in her bedroom and she gets to show it off to her friends. I’m planning to take a day off from work for the next range trip and she’s already asking me when that’ll be.

4) Get on paper first…then get on target: I was a real idiot on the first trip…I set the target at 50 yards…a 3 inch or so red bullseye on a circular black background. That was too far to see easily and too difficult to hit. So she ended not hitting the paper at all and being disappointed. Instead, I should have set her up at the pistol range – say 15 yards max – and start with the attainable objective of HITTING THE PAPER…yes, just aim center of a clean sheet (back of a target for example). When we did that, she was able to quickly dial in on paper then started tightening up her groups so that 5 shots all stayed inside the 8 inch target. The next time we’ll start at 15 yards again then move the target out to 25 yards. It’s also a good idea to consider what target you use. The black background made seeing the blued front sight and blued rear aperture almost impossible. When we switched to a popular white background with orange accents, her shots got closer and closer to the bull.

5) Personalize so it’s all hers: The Crickett .22LR single shot she shoots is entirely her choice. It’s pink since at the time pink was her favorite color. She’ll be collecting stickers that she’ll want to adorn it with. Personalization makes it, well, personal. You start to own it when it’s an expression of you. I admit it was quite awkward sighting in a pee-wee pink .22LR but I’d do it in a heartbeat even now. She picked out her eye protection and hearing protection as part of the ownership process too.

6) Suppressors are a girl’s best friend: It’s not a coincidence that suppressor ownership in the US is taking off. However, less noise and less recoil are great reasons to own a rimfire suppressor for your daughter to use. If your daughter is particularly sensitive to noise, try to get range time during a weekday session rather than during a busy weekend. It also helps if you can setup on one end of the range rather than in the middle. The best is if you can arrange for her to shoot on private land so she doesn’t have to contend with noisy range neighbors. I found that excessive noise really bothered my daughter and was the one thing I needed to consider high priority.

7) Enjoy it yourself: Clearly, if she sees you’re enthusiastic and speaking highly about your shooting experience, all the more reason she’ll enjoy it. On the contrary, if you’re being a grump and you don’t seem to be having fun – or at least don’t speak about it positively – don’t blame her if she’s hating it.

I hope these 7 things give you some food for thought. It’s no secret that women are the fastest growing segment of the shooting and gun owning/gun buying public. All the more reason to get our “young women” started early and on the right track.

comments

  1. avatar Paul G. says:

    Easy….just tell her shooting is for boys.

  2. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    Good idea’s. Make it fun for her so she will want to go again, and be proud of her shooting no matter what.

  3. avatar Heretical Politik says:

    Off topic: Is anyone else’s browser showing ttag as a Google reported attack page?

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      Yes, it started around 6PM Central. It’s been reported to TTAG’s email address.

      See the bus thread for more discussion about it.

  4. avatar btroll says:

    Yes, my chrome mobile said malware.

  5. avatar former water walker says:

    Good advice. No daughters-3 granddaughters. Dad won’t have guns in his home. I’m sure he wouldn’t take kindly to grandad taking his girls shooting-& they live 600 miles away. BTW fix your site

    1. avatar ChrisB. says:

      You got to give the Dad his space on that. His reason might be irrational, he may have some deep seated fear or reaction. If he otherwise treats your daughter and grandkids well, be happy and respect his decision.

      Keep up your health and when your grand daughters are adults give it a try.

      In the meantime perhaps archery, which is a similar skill set and which can transition easily

  6. avatar DJ9 says:

    On the noise issue, if the youngster is shooting a .22, try to locate some CCI brand CB Shorts or CB Longs. They have a lighter bullet and very small powder charge, and are much quieter than regular .22 LR ammo (or even high-speed .22 Shorts). The longer the barrel, the lower the noise, so in a handgun, they are still pretty loud.

    In a long-barreled .22 rifle, the CB Shorts or CB Longs make it sound like a modern airgun. But they are still dangerous, so the same cautions and safety distances should be used.

    1. avatar ChrisB. says:

      I started my daughter at 11 years old on a 22 bolt action with Aguila “super colibri” 20 grain primier only 22s.

      We fired two 500 round bricks of super colibri through the rifle with no problems at all and they are quieter than a cap gun. They are not spec’ed for rifle, but lots of people do it with zero problems. No elevation problems at 50′

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    These rules are great for any newbie shooter.

  8. avatar Jim Jones says:

    Learn to embrace the pink. Whatever helps. It was definitely helpful for me.

    1. avatar ChrisB. says:

      Don’t assume pink is helpful with all girls. What is helpful is literature about tough self sufficient girls/young women, and seeing slightly older female and male peers shoot.

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        My gf /loathes/ the color pink and always has. Purple on the other hand…

        1. avatar Robert W. says:

          It’s Green for mine. Not that ugly Zombie green mind you, just a regular shade. I have the slide for her Glock 19 out for a green Ceracoating.

    2. avatar Jim Jones says:

      Like I said, it was helpful to me, although buying pink and purple guns and related accessories was a little foreign to me. Once she saw those colors, she was all in. I certainly didn’t fight it.

  9. avatar David says:

    I start newbies off at 3-5 yds. with a scoped 597. Adults included. Once they are comfortable I move it back to 10 yds. Once I see the smile break out on their face it goes back to 15 and then 25. The positive feedback of hitting the center of the target makes it easier to teach them. I also put electronic ear muffs on the trainee so I don’t have to shout for them to hear me and there is no stress in my face and I talk in a normal conversational tone.

  10. avatar Al says:

    You started her at 5? I was planning for closer to 10 for my girls… how common is it to take them at that age? And, how’d it go?

    1. avatar Gene says:

      I stared my boy off using snap caps and a Chipmunk at age 3 or 4. Really stressed safety rules and dry firing and made it available whenever he asked. Kid’s attention spans are pretty short, so 10 minutes at a time and they’re happy. To him, he’s been around guns his whole life and there’s no mystery to it. Right now, he seems to be more interested in the 20 gauge pump, but it’s a little too heavy for him at age 8. I give him a lot of credit for shooting it. I am not looking forward to shooting skeet with him in the back field when he’s a little older. He’ll most likely do pretty well (well, better than me) and then the smack talk will never stop.

  11. avatar jon says:

    Lol, you need to “convert” her to guns.

    Personally, I think you should give them the choice, it shouldn’t be anything that’s forced onto them or they feel obliged to do.

    1. avatar Skyler says:

      Agreed. This sounds a lot like a father who wishes he had a son. There’s nothing wrong with girls and women shooting, but many girls just won’t be interested and that’s that.

      1. avatar Steven says:

        Not necessarily true. I have 2 young daughters. They want to help both mommy and daddy with everything AND they want to do everything with us. My 4 year old has seen my guns, we’ve discussed safety, and she’s shown an interest in shooting once I deem her ready (capable of listening to and following directions mostly). And I can’t wait!

        If mommy or daddy do it, then they are probably interested. No force needed.

  12. avatar Barstow Cowboy says:

    I can’t take her seriously until she gets an AK-47, sorry. Kidding. I’m going to review this when it’s time to get my youngest some trigger time.

  13. avatar Richard In WA says:

    My 5 y/o is already interested in guns, we talk about them and she’s seen and touched all the ones I have. Any time she has questions or wants to see them it’s no trouble. We’ve gone over the rules and she has been very diligent about following them thus far. She doesn’t have a strong enough attention span yet to actually handle a firearm yet. Any tips for getting started?

    I was thinking starting with Nerf and treating them as real, still following the 4 rules and keeping them under lock and key. My thought is to never treat any of them as toys because it will be hard to unlearn that when it comes to the real ones. Graduate to BB gun, pellet, 22 as skills, attention, and responsibility increase.

    FWIW, we took a friend’s 7 y/o daughter out shooting in the woods, she did great, handled everything we brought except the Mosin (with a little support on the heavier ones, mostly 5.56 and 9mm offerings).

    Any thoughts on my starter plan or alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Too many stages. Skip the Nerf and the pellet gun, the BB gun is a great tool, especially with fiber optic sights and a target range of 10-15 yards. The “getting on paper” is a great idea as it offers instant rewards even with minimal skills. Can plinking is tried and true–both of my kids started with a pellet rifle and a lot of cans, and they increased the range themselves as their accuracy improved. Next up was a bolt action .22lr rifle. Many go with the 10/22, but the “traditionalists” among us feels that this rifle encourages mag dumps and banging away without regard to fundamentals of shooting, thus ingraining bad habits. Cans (or other small targets) at 100 yards are great with a .22 plinker, and much more satisfying than paper targets where you cannot see what or where you are hitting.

  14. avatar Kevin says:

    Nice article. Wife and I are expecting our first child, a girl, at the end of August. Since learning of this upcoming event, not a day goes by that I don’t think about this exact topic. I introduced my wife to firearms while we were dating and made similar mistakes as outlined in #1, that fortunately my wife was smart enough to over come my short comings. I never told her, but I felt ashamed for a long time about it and swore I wouldn’t let it happen again. Thanks for the article.

  15. avatar Escaped from Illinois says:

    When I take new shooters out I get a pack of paper plates. Gives them a good sized target and reduced their stress by not making them try to hit a bullseye. That and they are cheap. Of they want a bullseye to shot for, a dot in the center made with a shape works well.

  16. avatar Skyler says:

    She will like it or she won’t like it. You won’t have much to say about that. If she likes it then you don’t need to worry about too much, if she doesn’t like it, you won’t change her mind.

  17. avatar ChrisB. says:

    My daughter was caught up in the Hunger Games books spike in archery interest among young girls. She started compound at 9, and at 11 had a diamond elite. She is excellent with the bow and understands range, windage and elevation. She expressed her own interest in riflery by 11. She is small for her age and I got her a savage rascal which I HIGHLY recommend. She loves it.

    I recently got her an SR22 which is also perfect for her.

    She will NOT have anything pink. Don’t assume pink is helpful with girls. What is helpful is literature about tough self sufficient girls/young women, and seeing slightly older female and male peers shoot.

  18. avatar Doc_Samson says:

    As the father of two daughters and, having approached their introduction to firearms in much the same way, I think that all of those are great ideas! It took me a little longer to figure some of them out but I make sure that we finish on a high note and that positive reinforcement is in place. Adding reactive targets has been a great addition in keeping their interest piqued.

  19. avatar dwb says:

    Wish there was a like button on these posts.

    I started my daughter on a pellet gun. What motivated her the most honestly was proving to a boy we were camping with she could do it as good as he could.

    1. avatar Dennis says:

      +1 <– Here's your like button!

  20. avatar dave says:

    Attempted to start my daughter with a .22 LR, in the peace and quiet of our backyard (that was 180 acre backyard mind you). She hated it, period, afraid of the rifle crack, too heavy, you name the excuse, so that ended it for a while. After the boys moved up to clay pigeons and scatterguns, she watched for weeks and thought she’d like to try that, I found her a single shot .410 by New England Arms, two shots and she was done…..for years. So I just left it be.

    5 years later, she asked if I still had all the clay pigeon stuff and ‘her’ shotgun, she wanted to try again. Afraid I would drag everything out just to put it away two shots later, I ALMOST drug my heels a bit. Sure glad I didn’t, a few minutes of safety drills and she was knocking those clays out of the sky. Shot up a few boxes of ammo and two cases of clays. She’s a natural, hitting 9 for 10 consistently. I’m a pretty fair shot on pigeons, not great, but she could kick my ass with a .410! A clay pigeon flying at 50-75 yards or so and she would bring them down. I was (and still am) impressed and proud.

    Now she’s married and moved on with life, but recently asked if I would teach her to shoot pistols….

    Some times they take right to it, and others not so much. Give them the time and when they are ready……………..be ready!

  21. avatar Wayniac says:

    Got a little pink Daisy bb gun for my, then 5 now 6 yr old daughter. She couldn’t get her finger on the trigger and when she did she couldn’t even pull the trigger. I tried and thought “damn, that is the worst trigger i have ever felt”. Has to be a 20lbs or better.
    So that went into the back closet and I got her an Umarex AR patterned co2 bb gun. She loves it!
    The way i started her out was at about 10 yards shooting at those red plastic picnic cups and a few 2 liter coke bottles. I find its the most fun when they shoot at reactive targets rather than paper. She simply tries to knock the cups off of the saw horse and she wins!
    Plus, at least where I am, we can shoot any air gun in our back yard so no range fees or driving and set up etc.

  22. avatar Viro says:

    Get 2 5′ sections of 1/4 inch PVC pipe.

    Drill holes through the pipe every 5-6 inches or so.

    Push wooden kebab skewers through the holes, so that there is 2-3″ of wood on each side.

    Head to WalMart and get a bag of party balloons and a bag of clothespins.

    Figure a way to attach the pipes to your range’s target stands. At 340 Defense, they have wooden base stands with 1/2″x1″ boards for attaching targets. I use plastic zip-ties to tie the pvc pipe to the boards.

    Attach a balloon to each section of skewer with the clothespins.

    Watch everyone else’s inner-child light up when you set up the target and your daughter starts popping balloons.

    1. avatar Wayniac says:

      Great idea. I’m stealing this one. 😉

  23. avatar IdahoPete says:

    “I couldn’t communicate because I didn’t have a clear objective in mind, so it was naturally easy to get frustrated as we tried to accomplish whatever was in the moment.”

    Excellent point in an excellent post – reminds me of the key point in a week-long class I took on “how to teach a specific short subject”: Define the objective of the class in two clear, short sentences, with emphasis on very specific measurable goals.

  24. avatar cmeat says:

    to teach a child to love fishing, make sure they catch fish.
    pellet guns are great the first time out. and forever after.
    attainable goals means a pop can at 10 feet. new shooters will be on target instinctively and will delight in the results. increased distance comes immediately.
    then .22’s outside with earmuffs.
    nothin’ wrong with pink camo.

  25. avatar John says:

    My daughter is three months old but I already have a green 10/22 for her, with yellow trim.

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