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By Troy:
For any experienced shooter, the question will probably come up from new and novice shooters (lovingly called “Noobs” for this article), “Hey! Will you take me shooting?” Hopefully, your answer is a resounding, “Yes!” I have found that these questions usually occur around a time when people take off of work (Christmas, summer, etc.) or there is an epiphany the world can be dangerous (birth of a child, tragic mass shooting). For whatever reason, it’s always good when you are able to properly educate a Noob in the proper safe and responsible method of handling firearms.

Here are some important things that should be followed with Noobs that I have found work well. Mind you, these are not for a professional or state mandated course. Just an experienced shooter trying to pass along his or her passion for firearms.

Don’t be a Jerk

Don’t be a jerk, jokester, or irresponsible gun owner. There’s nothing worse than handing a Noob something like a 500 Magnum solely for your entertainment purposes.

Got that out of your system? No? Wait for it…Yes? Good! Let’s move on.

Don’t be a Phony, Know-It-All

Were you in SEAL Team 6? Delta Force? The 75th Ranger Regiment? If the answer is “No,” then please don’t act like you were. I really don’t want to say, “Keep it real!” Don’t be a pretender or phony! (Poser)

I have not been a participant in armed combat at the time of this writing. Therefore, I do NOT say things like, “When rounds are flying down rage at you…” Noobs are people too! They can see through the malarkey. Just be calm and honest.

Also, don’t give a Noob an overly long monologue on the complexities of Weaver vs Isosceles. Just show them what your stance is and move on. The Noob wants to shoot and nobody likes a Know-It-All (said the guy writing a How-To article).

The 4 Basic Firearms Rules

Remember, the first things a Noob needs to know:

1. Always treat the firearm as if it is loaded.
2. Never point the firearm at something you are not willing to shoot.
3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot (front sight is in focus, etc.).
4. Always know what your target is and what is behind it.

Why? Mostly so they don’t shoot you! And it’s the responsible thing to do. Also, you want to go back to that range. But mostly, so they don’t shoot you!

Be A Decent Shooter

Bad shooters breed more bad shooters. If your 9mm grouping at 7 yards looks like a 9 pellet 12 gauge grouping at 15 yards, maybe hold off on showing someone else how to shoot. The best way you can teach is if you know. I was shooting for years before I was comfortable teaching someone else to handle a firearm.

How can you teach proper grip, sight alignment, stance, follow up, trigger pull, or even basic manipulations of the controls if you don’t have them down?

The Right Gun for a New Shooter

This is where rentals are key. (Or arsenals, just in case you believe owning is better.) I always start brand new shooters with a Ruger MK III (or IV) and Ruger 22/45, especially for a female shooter. It builds the basics and confidence. As important, it’s less expensive.

The other thing it does is shows the new shooter which grip angle is best for them. True story: I took a husband and wife to the range and started them on a Ruger MK III Target pistol. I did not have a Ruger 22/45 at the time. The husband was shooting Ruger MK III well and quickly moved up to a Glock 23 and S&W M&P 40. (I have since come to my senses and changed to 9mm. Don’t judge me!) He shot the Glock 23 well, but could not shoot the M&P 40 very well at all. He actually shot the M&P so poorly he thought the sights were off. They were not.

The wife was a different story. She could NOT hit anything with the MK III. She wanted to shoot the M&P 40. So I let her shoot it. Lo and behold, she started hitting the bull’s-eye! Why? How?

Answer: Grip angle! Grip angle! Grip angle! For some reason, some shooters are better with Glock and European style grip angles. Some are better with a 1911 style grip angle. It just happens. I don’t control it.

As far as calibers, I’ll stick with what I said earlier, start with .22 lr. I have also learned to only move a Noob up to 9x19mm and not anything higher. Why? I have never taught a Noob to shoot and they end up becoming as enthusiastic about firearms as I am. Most Noobs mostly just want to buy their first pistol, maybe get a conceal carry permit, and go to the range every once in a while. That mentality is another discussion all together.

That said, most Noobs can handle the 9x19mm for a defensive pistol. My personal opinion is that .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 357 Sig, etc. are for more advanced shooters. If the new shooter is really into revolvers, .38 Special will work.

Ultimately, it’s always good to give a Noob a few of the more popular options to shoot.

Your Preferences Are Just That – Yours

I shoot a Glock 19! It’s my favorite pistol! At least 50% of the Noobs I have taken to the range cannot shoot the Glock 19 as well as they can an M&P 9 or a Sig Sauer P320.

If you want to carry a $5,000 custom 1911, you shouldn’t try to push that onto a Noob. Let the Noob figure out what they want to purchase and ultimately carry (more about that later). That said, explain your preferences, but don’t assume your preferences are gospel for everyone else. Gun sales persons (however they self-identify) usually push their preferences to the point of annoyance! Don’t add to that.

Be Patient

Shooting can be a very intimidating thing for a new shooter. If you are at a crowded indoor range, the noise and potential shockwaves can become stressful for a Noob who has never been there. (It also never fails that the lane next to you has someone rapid firing a rifle with an obnoxious muzzle brake and still misses!) Outdoor ranges pose different problems. For instance, if you live in Arizona, South Florida, or Texas and take a Noob to your favorite outdoor range in August, be prepared to leave early.

Locations aside, new shooters can require a lot of repetitive instruction. I have found myself saying, “Keep your finger off the trigger” dozens of times to Noobs. It happens. There are a lot of things a Noob trying to remember. Be firm but gentle.

A Noob’s First Purchase

The greatest amount of patience you will need is when a Noob asks your advice for buying their first pistol. Hopefully, you will know what type of gun they will shoot best. If a Noob is like my friend who could shoot a Glock, but not an M&P, the answer is easy. Glock! If the Noob shoots a 1911 style grip angle better, he or she has more options.

The most frustrating part is the sticker shock. You and I know how much firearms cost! The Noob does not! Take a friend of mine for instance. He wanted a new double stack 9mm, sub-compact pistol for less than $400. And it had to be good! I suggested an M&P Shield. Nope! Double stack! Well then, it probably doesn’t exist!

Then this question, “If I have a friend who is a police officer standing next to me at the gun shop, will they give me the police discount?” No, they won’t.

“But what if my friend the cop buys it first?” Nope! That’s a straw purchaser. Also called a felony! (Unless you’re the ATF in Fast and Furious.)

“But can’t I get a better deal at a gun show?” Legitimate question. The answer is still no.

And on and on and on it goes. You suddenly put your expertise in the USA’s firearms laws to use by answering all of a Noob’s questions. Online gun sales, waiting periods, the NFA, magazine restrictions, etc. All of these pieces of information quickly become important to the Noob. If nothing else, you can explain what “Shall not be infringed” really means.

Go Forth and Have Fun

There you have it. Some basic principles you can use when your Noob friends and family come up and ask, “Hey! Will you take me shooting?” It’s actually quite rewarding to see someone go from scared of handling a firearm to hitting the 10 ring, even if at just 5 yards. Ultimately, go out and have fun. Share your passion of firearms. Maybe the Noob won’t be a Noob forever. Hopefully, you will be part of creation of a new firearms enthusiast.

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20 Responses to Teaching a New Shooter, a Few Basic Points – Content Contest

  1. Nice job. This was the best of all the reader – submitted articles I have read here. That isn’t a slap at the others, many are quite good!

    Few things are as gratifying as getting a new shooter involved in firearms. Well done; and you might not be able to select a topic that can be a bigger positive impact. I hope all who read this blog actively sell (not for money, you know what i mean) what we all love!

  2. That’s all well and good for handguns, but I prefer to start new shooters on long guns. Handguns are easier for a novice to point in the wrong direction just by getting distracted. Plus they don’t have to worry about slide bite or the cylinder-barrel gap.

    • Circa 1960 I was 14 and hangin’ with my parents in Japan, which was and is totally disarmed. I had a new Winchester model 77, semiauto .22, in my case box fed. I was on the cliff and my Dad was below, fishing and tossing out targets in the water. I very rapidly attracted an audience of Japanese kids about my age, who spoke almost exactly as much English as I spoke Japanese. None. They were absolutely CRAZY that I was firing an actual gun, with a scope, no less. Eventually I let one kid who was so excited he couldn’t stand it hold the rifle, and eventually to fire it once. Don’t even ask how many laws I was breaking. He worked up to it agonizingly slowly, then when he finally broke the shot, he let out a whoop and swung around to shout to his friends, swinging the rifle right along with him, with zero warning. Finger on the trigger, and yes the gun was loaded, I didn’t have enough sense to load with one shot only. Due to juvenile bladder control I did not piss myself, managed to get the gun clear of him with no one shot. But just because it’s a long gun, don’t assume you can let your guard down.

      • I assume nothing, just pointing out at least it takes a great deal more than a careless twist of the wrist.

  3. Well done, Troy.

    I have come to the conclusion that the safety briefing needs to happen before you get to the range, and before they lay their hands on a real gun. Sit them down in the garage or your living room or wherever and have them watch gun safety videos on youtube. Then go over the gun safety rules again and explain what they should do on the range if the gun doesn’t function. Have them practice keeping their finger out of the trigger guard while holding a toy gun or water gun.

    I agree with what you said about the finger on the trigger. Thanks to Hollywood, it’s like instinct when they pick up a gun to stick their finger in there, and hard to un-train.

  4. Nice job Troy. I’m pretty lenient with my pistols too; and have a few. One thing I believe is there is a gun out there for anyone. Shoot a bunch of em and find yours. There are things at play I don’t understand. But I like that small group and big grin when one is discovered.

  5. New shooters should have ears and eyes drilled into them alongside the four rules. Only reason they aren’t part is that they can be discarded in an emergency

  6. Great list!

    When I go to the range, I see poor stances. New shooters (and a few seasoned) seem to like arching their back away from the firearm as if it will help. Getting them to change their center of mass over the balls of their feet, instead of their heels (or worse!) is big.

    Also, if you have them, suppressors are WONDERFUL for new shooters. Let’s face it, noise is obnoxious, and for some, it can be a turn-off, especially if the person in the next stall is blasting with a muzzle break’d 5.56, or a Dirty Harry .44 magnum. It’s not trying to be all tactical SEAL Team 6/Delta Force, or showing off. It doesn’t take long for someone to understand the benefit.

    Lastly, if you are at an outdoor range that permits it, use reactive targets where possible. This can be steel, or soda cans/milk jugs, or clay pigeons on the backstop.

  7. In .22’s I use a Ruger American & 10/22 take down rifles; SR22, Mk III & Single Ten handguns. If they do well, a Ruger LC9S, SR9C & 9E in 9mm. For .38 Special, Ruger SP101, GP100 & LCR (all are .357 Magnum guns). There is also a Ruger 77/357 rifle. For people looking at .380 ACP a Ruger LCP Custom. Get to shoot what they want at my own range at no charge for anything (reasonable limits on ammo). Love to see new people get involved and women are the best students & shooters.

  8. If you’ll allow me to engage in outrageous douchebaggery for a second…

    “Newb” is the shortened form of “newbie,” i.e. someone who is new to a subject. A “noob” is someone who is hopelessly unskilled and will never amount to anything. You’re only a newb for a little while, but you can be a noob for life. 😀

  9. That’s really great, Troy! I’ve been a certified instructor for ten years, and I couldn’t improve on that course for new shooters. I can add a lot, sure, but if they don’t learn the basics in a non-threatening set up, they are not apt to get to the rest of it. Congratulations!

  10. Make sure you emphasize “combat accuracy”. New folks have no idea how hard it is to drive tacks with a handgun. A good target has the center cut out of it so this eliminates the shooter looking for hits. New shooters have a bad habit of when they hit low, they aim higher next shot then miss high. They start chasing holes around the paper and this makes for a sloppy group and focuses on results before fundamentals are achieved.

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