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By James M.

One of the biggest issues facing gun owners today is building support amongst those neutral on (or at least not ardently clamoring for more) gun control. They are the ones we need in order to swing elections and put pressure on politicians. Those who truly believe in civilian disarmament, regardless of why they do, cannot and will not be swayed. We can talk endlessly about our rights, we can pull up as many statistics as we want about DGUs, we can offer alternatives to address crime, and none of it means a damn thing when it comes to the Feinsteins and Bradys of the world. We need to accept that and focus on the middle. What’s the best way to do that? . . .


Discussions about rights and statistics are important but they’re also dry and forgettable. The experience of actually shooting for the first time? We all know damn well that isn’t. It’s a lesson that’ll stick, and it’ll help kill the myth of gun owners all being angry old men itching for a second revolution when they get to the range and see that it’s just people who want to have a good time, be capable of protecting their families, or both.

When you take someone new to the range for the first time, keep in mind that you have two goals:

  1. Demonstrate that gun-owners are just like everyone else – we’re not all crazy militia preppers or high-strung nutjobs. We’re a community that comes from all walks of life, and that message needs to get out there.
  2. Demonstrate that guns aren’t scary. An AR-15 is just an object, it is not the demon sword Drach’nyen that hungers for the blood of the innocent and turns the wielder into a monster. The “high-powered assault weapon too dangerous for civilian use” rhetoric becomes a lot less effective once someone has actually held and fired one.

That’s it. You are not trying to get them to join the NRA or write letters to their Congresscritters or hand out pamphlets. You are just showing them that, contrary to what Bloomberg says, most gun owners are safe, responsible adults enjoying a hobby.

I’ve already done this once: I converted my wife from completely unconcerned with guns to active supporter with a single trip to the range. When we first met she had never held a gun before and didn’t care strongly one way or the other about the right to bear arms – she was a bit nervous around them but content to just let firearms be my thing. I started her off slowly with just how to handle one safely.

When my friends and I were cleaning our guns after a shooting trip we showed her all the pieces and how they worked. After some gentle prodding I finally got her to agree to go with me to our local range. I brought my .22lr rifle, a 9mm pistol, and a .380 pistol. I refreshed her on the 4 rules of safety, showed her how to load the .22, and let her go. Next thing you know we’ve blown through all the ammo I brought and she’s eagerly asking when we can go again.

It wasn’t facts and figures that sold her on firearms.
It wasn’t a philosophical discussion of rights and freedom.
It was putting a gun into her hands and letting her experience it for herself. That’s how you convert people – experience.

I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Find someone in your life – family member, friend, co-worker, whatever – who has never shot before but seems open to the idea and take them to the range. Just remember:

  1. Safety first. I really shouldn’t need to say this but please do go over the rules of firearm safety before letting a new shooter handle a weapon. Nothing is going to ruin the day faster (and hurt the cause more) than a negligent discharge.
  2. Take no for an answer. If they don’t want to go, don’t press them on it. You don’t win friends and allies by being a pushy asshole.
  3. Start them off easy. That means .22lr, or maybe .223/5.56 (if you’re giving them a rifle) or 9×19(if you’re giving them a pistol). You’re not being funny by handing someone a .50 BMG for their first time, you’re being a dick.
  4. Leave the politics at home. No lecturing, no preaching, none of that – and I don’t just mean about guns. I don’t care if Obama’s a secret Kenyan Muslim socialist lizard-person. I don’t care if the Republicans are going to disenfranchise women and put minorities back in chains. None of that is important – your only goal is to show your guest a good time at the range by being a positive example of the community.

The surest way we can protect our rights is to increase the number of people who care about them. When it comes to gun rights, the surest way we can do that is to get more people shooting.

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  1. That must have been a posed picture with a demilled AK. Or else everybody in the area would have been killed. We all know those EBRs are possesed of evil spirits that drive good people to mass murder.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. Show people it’s no different than going on a hike, driving go-karts, or any other weekend fun trip. It’s just a fun time. I would add only that you make it as fun as you possibly can.

  3. Yes, I agree. Going to the range is fun. Also agree about the safety comments. Make sure everyone knows and follow the safety procedures and then have fun. I also think that rational discussions about guns, gun safety, guns as a defensive weapon and so on can be a good way to get through to SOME people. Not the hard core gun haters but those on the fence. You don’t need to be obnoxious about it. In fact, I think keeping calm and showing a different viewpoint can be effective over time. Once another person realizes that you are and OK person that is OK with guns then you may gain their confidence and make them realize that the guns are NOT the problem but the people that occasionally misuse them.

  4. Great post! TOTALLY agree. I’ve helped convert least 2 people who were ‘on the fence’ into gun owners by taking them to the range. One of them is now a greenhorn shooting buddy of mine and something of a budding POTG like myself (he asks me all the cringy questions of a rook, but is a good learner and always very safety conscious) – and the other (a female) just bought her first gun (a PPQ) and is a ‘casual’ range-goer now too, and definitely sees things a bit differently as she admits. The first time I took her to the range, I could see the curious smile on her face when she saw that she was one of several women on the range that day – and there were couples too!

  5. Thank you! This is what I’ve been saying. Invite people to the range! Invite people you don’t normally hang out with. Invite coworkers. Invite family. Invite acquaintances. The more people that realize the truth about guns, the more secure our rights will be by extension.

  6. Judging by the comments to some of these posts, a lot of us ARE crazy, high-strung nutjobs itching for a second revolution. It’s this contingent’s paranoid vitriol that sometimes makes this site virtually unreadable.

    • Meh, not itching for it, just suspect that it’s inevitable given global and domestic political developments and trends – but you can keep asserting that it’s a wet dream if you wish.

      • Follow the Weimar money trail as the government keeps insisting that 2 +2 =10 and trying to force people to believe it. It will all turn out as in the book Atlas Shrugged. Just look at Venezuela for inspiration.

  7. Good post, however I would say that many, if not most folks shooting for the first time, would get more kick from watching a tin can fly up in the are, than a tiny hole in a target.
    Of course to many, there are no options, except the indoor ranges, unless you want to drive fifty to a hundred miles.

    • Good point, but a lot of newbies might find the order and structure of an indoor range reassuring, especially if they think that shooting is inherently dangerous.

      • On the other hand, the bullet marks on all the lane dividers, floors, and ceiling panels (all indoor ranges seem to have these scars) might not be reassuring to some folks… 🙂

    • Hot, sweaty and mosquito bitten is no way to go through time at the range. In hot areas of the country, take them to the air conditioned ranges for their first time.

    • Indoor? Outdoor? When taking a newb guest, pick whichever one is likely to be less crowded. You’ll need to communicate. A lot. About safety. I hate indoor ranges because they’re so noisy, but being by yourself at an indoor range is better than a crowded outdoor range.

  8. Each year, I take a non-tradition person shooting (gratis). Usually non-white women who I work with or I am friends with.

    I do an hour long training and familiarization session in their or my home. We talk about the history of the second amendment and why its important to a free people. I then talk about not pointing the gun at people and keeping their fingers off the trigger. What is going to happen in the range. Then we go over stance and aiming and then let them handle the guns. Only when they feel really good, do we go to the range.

    At the range, I load mags and load the gun. All they need to do is shoot. I start them with a 10/22, then when they are ready move up to a ruger mark ii, then to a 9mm Steyr. By then, they are done. 🙂

    This year, I trained a female co-worker and her 2 kids (boy and girl) from Japan.

    Honestly, training people who would never get a chance to handle a gun is the best thing I do all year. I’m still walking on cloud 9 that I did something so special.

    • My AR’s name is “Not”

      That way, when people ask me “what’s in the case?” I say
      “It’s ‘Not’, an assault rifle, and this is it’s brother ‘Nunya’ “

      • Nunya, it has been a while since I heard that. My sister at 2 was just realizing phones and my step father got a call “Who’s that” “Nunya” “I wanna talk to Nunya” very funny coming from a 2 year old.

  9. Just found this forum a few months ago, so I’m a bit of a lurker and a first time poster. Some brief history: I’m Black. With the way the cops are handling my people, at the ripe old age of 32, I’ve decided I want to join the gun culture. Eventually, I want to carry, but for now, I’m going to Ac*a*mY tomorrow after I get off work and purchase my first handgun. I can only afford an SD9VE but I’ve researched it THOROUGHLY and determined it’s the best bang for my ever diminishing American dollar. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen enough news reports to know that the police have no disregard for civilian life (at least not in the Atlanta area) but because of what’s going on in the world, I’d like to know I’ve some line of defense. Not necessarily against the police (I know at least two non minority cops and several civies that hate what the media is portraying the police to be), but I want to protect the family that I hope to have some day (no kids…yet). This blog has been very VERY informative, to the point that I look for the “newbie gun owners” posts regularly. I’ve only shot a pistol once, but I was hooked after that. To the bloggers that maintain this site, kudos. To the commenters that post regularly (outside of the crazies) keep up the good work.

    • S&W is a good one (don’t want to talk you out of it) but saw an ad today for an online sales lunk on TTAG for a carry Taurus for $198 !
      I can’t swing another pistol purchase for a while but i was like hmmmm.

      • Thanks, Joe. But I’ve got my heart set on it. Plus, I just want to get my feet wet. My research (will, hopefully) validates that its the best tool for the job. I maybe completely wrong, but if it is, I’ll just give it the good ole Apex trigger job and save till I can afford the M&P. Thanks again for the feed back!

        • Have owned as well, and they are solid and worth every penny. Just like guns so much I hate hearing about people having to scrape and save to get them. If I could, I’d send ya a gift card. ?

        • @Champ_Ion Congrats on becoming a new gun owner. Sucks not being able to just walk in the gun store and plop down pleanty cash for whatever you want, but being a new gun owner doesn’t mean you have to be a “new gun” owner. Out of the half dozen handguns I own half were bought new and half were either in the used gun case or from a gun show. Since for some reason everyone everywhere compares guns to cars just think of it that way, nothing wrong with preowned. Just ask a milsurp collector.

      • Joe, was that $198 Taurus the PT-111 G2? If so, it’s a great gun. It’s an even better gun when you factor in the ridiculously low $200 price. I picked one up a few months back when Cabela’s had them on sale for that price, and I’ve put a few hundred rounds through mine so far without a single hiccup. Every review I’ve seen has been positive. For only $50 more than a Hi-Point, it’s probably one of the best pistol values out there right now. Taurus has a spotty reputation, but it seems like this particular model is one that they got right.

        • Thanks, good to know, and good mini-review. Throw in ergonomics, a little ballistcs, and a price point and you could win the OP contest. ? (it would be sweet to be pulling down test guns from mfrs once or twice a year ?)

    • Welcome to the club, friend! Always remember and follow the Four Rule of Gun Handling Safety and you will never have a problem.

      You’ve picked a great starter pistol. In my book, if it shoots when it needs to, it’s the perfect gun. As with any hobby, people will argue your ears off over brands and models, but when the chips are down, as long as it does what it needs to do, then there really isn’t much else you could ask for.

      And the M&P is a great goal. My wife chose the M&P9 as her first gun and has trouble getting me to put it down at the range.

      The gun community for the most part is very welcoming to new shooters, even if you don’t fit the OFWG stereotype. A lot of us may bicker on politics that don’t directly connect to guns, but we’re all united as People of the Gun. And now you are too.

      • Thanks Stink,

        You guys are a welcoming bunch. But then again, after reading so many articles (and the comments from you guys) I shouldn’t have expected less!

        • Hey Champ,

          Hurry up and write up a post, submit by tonight and you will have a chance to double your gun collection.

    • Good, solid choice. There might be better pistols out there but the one in your hand is the one matters. Don’t forget to have fun. Sure guns are serious defensive tools but they’re fun too.

    • Got a better idea dude: get the F out of Atlanta. In that place you’re probably more likely to get shot by your own than a cop, but if that’s the rationale that makes you feel better about your first gun purchase, go with it.

    • Champ, welcome! Hope you enjoy your first pistol. My advice for cheap training: get a bb gun that is as similar as possible, and use that for low cost practice of fundamentals at home. It is more fun and educational than simple dry fire and less expensive than ammo and range fees. One good option might be a bb gun version of an S&W M&P, I think the ergonomics look very similar to the SD9.

      • Airsoft dealers have exact replicas that you can rack the slide, change mags, unholster and shoot.
        A big cooking pot with a sheet of press-n-seal plastic wrap over the top of it with a target drawn on it (and propped on its side or a slight angle) makes a a nice retention trap taget. 6mm rounds will penetrate and make a steel sound without denting the cheepest of pots. The wrap retains the rounds (in the pot) and indicates the hits.

    • Welcome!

      Keep hanging out here and you’ll learn more than you might want to know about holsters, carrying and all manners of gun-related fun.

      Since you’re planning to buy your first gun, one thing you’ll want to do right away is Google “gun laws ” to learn the ins and outs of what’s legal and what isn’t. You’ll quickly discover that gun laws are wildly inconsistent and often don’t make any sense. It’s good to know where carrying is permitted and whether No Guns signs carry force of law, for example.

      It also may be a good idea to take an intro to handguns class. Check local ranges or gun shops for options. I took one with my wife and we both enjoyed it. You’ll learn about safety (the 4 Rules are paramount), shooting techniques, cleaning and maintenance, etc. Classes like that are a good place to ask newbie questions and pick up some fundamentals that will help you be a better shooter. Think of it as an investment towards wasting less ammo figuring things out for yourself.

      Finally, a word of caution: nobody warned me how these guns like to multiply, but expect to acquire several more after the first. 😀

  10. Makes me want yo go shooting ?
    Everybody get in the truck.

    Dont forget eyes and ears for new people. Foam plugs & Mickey Mouse ears.

    I like .22 for new people. If you get a box of powderless Aguilla .22 they will be asking gor the ‘real thing’ in about ~ 3 rounds.

    Let’s go to the range! Follow me! ?

  11. I took an entire family of first timers last weekend. I reserved the entire range and showed them a great time shooting pistols rifles shotguns and even a cannon. We brought everything from black powder rifles and cannon, MSR’s, magnum rifles, bolt action .223,.308,7BR, .45Cinderblock, .45acp, .45super, .38spl, .357mag, .22lr, .30carb, shotguns, mil-surp ’06’s and more. None had ever fired a gun before and we had them all hitting 500m targets. They were a great family and I think they’re going to want to go again.

  12. I’ve been advocating and doing exactly this for a couple years now. I’ve taken friends, family and coworkers shooting. It’s a great thing to witness new shooters experience the thrill for the first time.

    A few pointers to add:

    1. Not all newbies are comfortable with the idea of shooting. As an alternative, I also offer to take them on a field trip to a gun show. It’s an interesting cultural experience and a great way to get exposure to a huge variety of firearms without requiring them to handle, shoot or be around guns being fired. It’s also a great environment for them to ask questions and observe things like the normalcy of buying 1000 rounds at a time.

    2. Invest in extra eye and ear pro for your guests. I picked up a couple extra sets of Howard Leight electronic ears last Black Friday; these are really helpful for on-the-line instructions and encouragement when the range goes hot.

    3. Bring fun targets. The “reactive” bullseyes are nice because they’re easy to see, and they’re available in bulk on Amazon. Write names and dates on the targets and let your new shooters take them home as souvenirs.

    4. Tailor the experience to your shooters. Ask them what they’d like to shoot and be as accommodating as you can. My neighbor loved my Ruger six-shooter. My Xbox buddy and his family all enjoyed my 1911. My wife’s friend wanted to shoot an AR. Different people have different tastes, and the more you can do to make their first shooting experience fun, the better.

    5. As for politics and lectures, I do make a point to bring up absurd laws in a factual manner–like how barrel lengths and vertical grips can make the difference between A-OK and a felony. I will discuss politics insofar as my guests broach the subject, but I rigidly stick to talking about my own opinions as my own opinions (e.g., “I’m not in favor of UBCs because….”). Above all, I absolutely respect that my guests will form their own opinions. As far as I’m concerned, even if they end up disliking guns, if I’ve helped them to become more informed then I’ve done my job. I’m fully confident that the merits of guns stand up on their own to anyone willing to investigate them with an open mind, and I believe that the action of allowing them to be self-reliant in the formation of their opinions speaks louder than any words I might use to sway them to my way of thinking. On the whole I’ve found this to be a very good bet.

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