Growing up as the youngest daughter to an outspoken NRA member, avid hunter, weekly trap shooter and hunter safety instructor, I was no stranger to shooting sports and the time-honored tradition of conservation through hunting. While my kids have (obviously) grown up with the outspoken offspring of my gun-toting father, they haven’t always been hugely into firearms. Partly because I am so adamant about gun safety, partly because when I’m shooting it’s usually for work.
In any event, over the past few years, my kids have been more open to going shooting with me. Last summer, when my (then) 10-year-old daughter was nervous about going into middle school, I suggested we get outside with a few SIG SAUER air guns, some splatter and spinner targets and work on her self-esteem.
It took her a bit to get comfortable with her stance and grip, but I tell you, once she got herself dialed in and saw those targets EXPLODE, her confidence soared. She woke me up the next morning at 5:45am asking if we could go back outside and shoot some more.
This summer, I had the opportunity to bring both of my daughters with me to Brownells HQ in Iowa to shoot the promotional video for their new BRN 22 line of Retro Rifles (look for them soon!!) and after assembling their own .22 rifles and shooting them on the range (and maybe getting to ‘dump a mag’ for some slow-motion action), they were both open to the opportunity to shoot more guns.
So, what’s a Mom to do? Get them out shooting!
Admittedly, I’m a bit spoiled to have my amazing collection of firearms – handguns, rifles, AR’s, shotguns, airsoft, etc. – from friends and colleagues in the industry and thankfully, my daughters were open to testing a lot of them. My 13-year-old Katie actually outshot me with my Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 on steel targets!!! (I swear, the wind took two of my shots – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
While Katie enjoyed shooting an AR for the first time and experiencing the difference between my Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm and their new 380 EZ Pistol, the point she really lit up was when my dad and I started slinging clay.
I have to admit, I love shooting trap. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching that saucer burst in the air. Aside from the fact that I’m an avid pheasant hunter, I genuinely enjoy taking my shotgun out and busting some clays.
But shooting trap and handling a shotgun on your shoulder after shooting an AR from a bench is difficult for beginners. So when we brought Katie out with my new Mossberg 590A1 and a few boxes of Winchester ammo, I was just hoping she’d take a few shots to experience it for herself.
I let her run the clay target trap for my dad first to get her used to what would be happening on that end of the process. Then I stepped up and walked her through everything, showing her how to shoulder a shotgun, stance and follow through – just the basics – as I took a few shots myself.
When she felt comfortable, she stepped up and into the hot seat. Getting used to the weight of the shotgun was a challenge for her as was learning to follow through on the moving targets, but after taking her first shot at a static target, she felt she was ready for a clay pigeon.
Shot one: not so good, but it got her acclimated to how she needed to be following through and she quickly reloaded to try again.
Shot two: BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!! Exploding target!! Excited teenager!! High-fives all around!!
Katie stuck with it, taking a few more shots and improving with each one. She even asked if we have a facility near us where we could train throughout the summer!
“The AR was easier to shoot,” she told me. “But it was way more fun shooting trap!”
So seriously, if you want to get your kids interested in shooting sports, there’s no shortage of options for you. Pop Packs, airsoft guns, Battleship splatter targets, lightweight AR-15’s and 10’s – they’re all great and great fun but if you want to get back to basics and really get them hooked for life, take them trap shooting.
As for me, I’m just thrilled to have another pheasant hunter and trap shooter in my camp.