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By Brandon N.

For my birthday my wife got me a membership to the local range. It has been fantastic.  Not only do I get a free lane but taking a buddy with me only costs an extra $4. I’ve been using the opportunity to bring friends and family with me that have never been and would never go on their own.  Even though my wife was willing to get me the membership she wasn’t really thrilled about the idea of going with me (she told me it was nothing personal).  She grew up in a house where firearms ensured certain death. Just having one locked up in a safe in the house sent her mother through the roof. These are scary, scary things . . .

The fact that I bought one of those frightening black AR machine gun-looking things didn’t help my case. Now, my wife is thoroughly addicted and instead of questioning my purchases has started her own little collection. My friends were the same way. I live in California so firearms are taboo in general. Single-shot shotguns are all you need if you even need that.

One trip to the range, though, and they are hooked. My wife wants to take her sister and so we sat down and talked about a couple of the things I did right and wrong that helped her feel more comfortable and I thought I would right them down.

Things to do before going to the range: (The range is loud and intense.  Don’t wait until you get to the range to start talking about firearms.)

  1. Talk about the 4 rules and then nicely go over them again. Don’t beat them over the head with it. They are already afraid of the gun. There is no need to explain how they’re dangerous.  Explain what they can do to make sure they aren’t as dangerous.
  2. Show them how to inspect the firearm to ensure it is unloaded. Practice loading, unloading, and checking to ensure it is clear.  Firearms can be scary for people unfamiliar with them. The more you can ease the tension before the range, the more fun they will have when they get there.
  3. Teach them how to aim with the gun you are going to take to the range at home and unloaded. Aiming seemed like common sense to me, but I grew up with GI Joe’s and cap guns. My wife, not so much.
  4. Pack extra gear. Your buddy may not have eye and ear protection or just may plumb forget. I always keep a 50 pack of soft foam earplugs in my bag and bring extra glasses and ear muffs. Don’t make them go shopping. If you can afford ammo you can afford a pair of earplugs.
  5. Schedule around them. My wife wanted to make a day of it and go out to dinner afterward. My buddy is busy and only had time to go after work. You’re doing this with them in mind.  Give them some control.

At the range:

  1. Bring something in a small caliber. Yes, I laugh at the YouTube video of the person shooting a huge gun when they don’t know what they are doing, but you actually want this person to come back. Start with a .22 and let them work up to that Smith and Wesson 500.
  2. The first time they shoot, only put one round in the gun. I know some people are afraid they are going to drop or throw the gun as soon as it fires. This way they don’t have to worry. Also, I’ve seen people drop the gun with rounds in the chamber and this way you won’t have to worry either.
  3. Watch them carefully but don’t lean over them. You want to ensure they are being careful and they don’t want you to give them a gun and walk away. That doesn’t mean they want to feel you breathing on their neck while they try to aim.
  4. Don’t rush them.  If that first shot takes a couple of minutes, so be it. Ten minutes for a ten round magazine, so what? Let them dictate the pace.
  5. Let them shoot. Sure take turns, but don’t make them watch you all afternoon.  Hopefully they are getting excited about what they just did. Give them the opportunity to build off that.

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    • I had a friend send some Gun Powder & Primers to Sun City,Az from Montana with a relative,( save on shipping & hazederous charge)
      So i drove from lake Havasu Az with my wife to pick it up.
      We stopped at Cabella’s and my wife fell in love with a Ruger Bearcat 22 revolver. So much for saving the shipping charges…
      John F
      PS,she owns a 25 cal Browning Brownie, she purchased in 1960.

  1. One comment that someone made to me on my first time which helped, “Let it surprise you.” Instead of worrying about the recoil and attempting to over anticipate and over compensate for something you have yet to feel, let that first shot surprise you (obviously while still being safe) and then let whet you felt dictate how you proceed.

    And on the note of only loading one round, I’ll admit, that was how I handled my first time with a shotgun. I put the one round in, did my best to brace for it without over doing it, fired and then proceeded to load another five and go to town.

  2. I’ll add one of my newbie-inducting secrets:

    Start with Nerf guns in a non-range environment. The practical application of every gun-safety principle can be demonstrated with a Nerf Maverick.

    If you want to really make it realistic, attach a laser pointer with an on/off switch to the aforementioned Nerf gun. That laser dot is amazingly helpful at reminding the newbie where the gun is pointed at all times.

  3. Nice article. We need more of this than another article on statistics.
    Making friends (who vote) before the next election/gun-scare 🙂

  4. For absolute beginners, I generally start with dry fire practice, and only load live ammo after they have figured out sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger press. It’s great to get them started with a non-flinching trigger manipulation, which hopefully continues as you work up through more powerful calibers.

  5. There was an article here awhile back that mentioned shooting paper plates and other decent sized targets without bullseyes. I liked that advice as the new shooter isn’t perpetually missing the tiny bullseye or only a couple inches off.

  6. My brother-in-law and I just took my 7-year-old niece shooting for the first time on Tuesday. After an instructional video at the range, and then a lecture from me on the cardinal rules of gun safety and the three fundamentals of marksmanship, she got behind a Savage Rascal and never missed her target. I calmly coached her on sight picture, breath control, and trigger control. Her first 5-shot group (at an encourage-the-new-shooter distance of ten yards) measured about 2″ and made for a proud papa and proud uncle!

  7. For #2 before the range, having some dummy rounds / snap caps is really handy I find. A lot people have issues loading rounds into magazines, or learning how to properly seat a magazine (especially if you’re trying to teach them to shoot an AK).

  8. “Just having one locked up in a safe in the house sent her mother through the roof.”

    Lucky bastard – could never come up with anything to keep my mother-in-law away.

    Other than that, you’ve done your English teacher proud. A nice bit of penmanship!

  9. The paper plates at close range (5 yds for pistol is quite reasonable) is a good idea. I usually will just use a piece of typing paper. (I can print targets on them, and use either side, but generally I just grab a bunch of sheets.)

  10. This is pretty much exactly how I was introduced to guns and I’m a full on addict now. Guns were never around in my house, had never even seen one in person but was eased into it perfectly and loved it ever since. I always like the make a newbies first time my treat. It’s a privilege to teach someone to shoot and I don’t want them to be thinking about money every time they pull the trigger.

  11. DO:
    Ask questions! There are NO silly questions. We’ve heard them before. We may raise an eyebrow but we will give you and honest answer. In our club we have over a thousand years of collective experience. This is the best resource you will ever have.

    If there is a problem, raise your hand and stay still.

    Be honest with us. If you have no experience, this makes things easier as we don’t have to break bad habits.

    Have fun!

    DON’T try to impress us by saying what you used or did elsewhere. We know blowhards and can identify them quickly.

    DON’T turn around if there is a stoppage! Raise your hand and wait for a safety officer or your guide.

    DON’T worry about not completing the course. Everyone has to start sometime and we can give you extra time.

  12. I missed the briefing so would someone up-date me on what the “FSN-9” refers to? Is it perchance a Federal Stock Number?

  13. Great suggestions! I would add never hand a new shooter a gun that is going to be uncomfortable to shoot. A .22 pistol with 3″ barrel is going to have milder recoil, less muzzle flip, less boom, better sight picture, easier slide. Also for targets suggest using Reactive Splatter Targets, for instant feed back. Make it FUN (and safe) to shoot!
    My sister-in-law, who been a shooter for years, has her CHL loves to borrow my Ruger SR .22 while I’m shooting a Bersa .380 I used for CHL range test

  14. All good suggestions when dealing with the Significant Other. But for those of us who occasionally need to remind her that “just because I’m your husband doesn’t mean I’m stupid”: Find a beginners’ shooting class taught by someone of similar gender to the spouse. My wife actually listened when that someone else told her.


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