Hard-Won Lessons: 7 Tips for Getting Your Daughter Interested in Shooting

Gun Save Life youth kids nra camp

Courtesy Guns Save Life

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 — many the hard way — while trying to cultivate her appreciation for shooting.

1) Set and communicate simple, attainable goals

Seems obvious enough, yet it’s so easy to forget. The first time I took my daughter shooting I didn’t have any specific goal in mind…none…it was just get out there. But what I thought would be 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 gun 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. 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 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 accomplished. 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 managed on a subsequent outing to hit the bullseye she got another treat. All this is 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 will 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 up not hitting the paper at all and being disappointed.

Instead, I should have set her up at the pistol range — say 15 yards maximum — 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 it so it’s all hers

The Crickett .22LR single shot rifle 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 a little awkward sighting in a pee-wee pink .22LR but I’d do it again 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 is so popular. Less noise and less recoil are great reasons to own a rimfire suppressor for your daughter to use, too. 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 set up 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 a high priority.

7) Enjoy it yourself

Clearly, if she sees you’re enthusiastic and speaking highly about your shooting experience, that all the more reason she’ll want to do it and will likely enjoy it, too. 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 hates it.

I hope these seven 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.

 

This post was originally published in 2014.

comments

  1. avatar Hush says:

    Excellent advise. Starting slow, one step at a time, is the best and most productive policy. Making corrections as calmly as possible is the best policy too. One has to remember they are children

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Good advice which I will use with my son when he hopefully starts next month, mum and range operations permitting. My son knows he will be starting prone and off the bipod, and on a 4-foot target with rings. His first goal will be to hit the target in the black zone, which covers the bullseye and inner rings.

      As for the firearms, a .22 Ruger Precision Rimfire for up to 100m, and a Ruger Scout in .223 for 200 and 300m.

  2. avatar Armando Ramirez-Hinnershitz says:

    My daughter is naturally competitive, she begs to go shooting.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Armando,

      You bring up a good point: some children will naturally want to learn and go shooting and others will not.

      I have children in both categories. The child who wants to learn and shoot is easy to train and take out shooting of course. The other child is blasé and thankfully agreed to learning/shooting mainly just to please me.

      If your child is blasé about learning to shoot, I recommend stressing three mindsets to him/her:

      1) Encourage him/her to try all sorts of new activities, even activities that do not seem very appealing because they might end up really liking an activity that they never expected to like. In other words, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” This applies to shooting as well.

      2) Learning to shoot is a critical self-defense skill. Their very life may be in jeopardy some day and surviving an attack with minimal physical injuries may come down to whether or not they have a firearm and can use it competently.

      3) Let your child know that you will respect their desire to NOT go shooting frequently if they genuinely try it and still do not like it. I said this to my child who isn’t excited about shooting and I meant it. My child tried it, demonstrated acceptable competency and accuracy, and still is not excited about it. I respect that and we only go out once every 12 months or so for a short range visit to ensure that my child’s competency and accuracy are still up to acceptable standards.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      Mine too. If her younger brother was going to shoot, well, she wanted to shoot too. she tells me she shoots her FNX 45 better with her left hand than her right (she is right handed). She went shooting with a guy from work who thought he was a great shot, and apparently thought he was going to teach her a thing or two. When she out shot him, he slunk away to find some other female he could impress with his “skilz.” She will gladly shoot anything, but other than the .50 DE she got to shoot, she hasn’t been introduced to any hard calibers.

  3. avatar former water walker says:

    Well I got into this gun thing late in life. NONE of my 4 son’s seems to have any interest in shooting. And one is an ex-military guy(45yearold) who carried guns in the mideast. Quite the fudd now. One is an ex-con . 2 live with us. My wife likes guns. I can’t manufacture interest…I try!

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      sounds like they don’t play video shoot ’em ups. seems like a natural progression from there…

  4. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    My daughter had no interest in shooting. None.
    She wanted to hunt. Shooting being a part of hunting was a challenge. After doing the minimum amount of shooting to be able to make an ethical shot she harvested her first deer, after that the amount of shooting increased.

    I started her out with a pink cricket then switched her to a 300 blackout AR.

  5. avatar SoCalJack says:

    Great article, thanks! Went shooting with a buddy and his kids 6 months ago. The youngest was his 13 old daughter. This was her 2nd time shooting. She did not care for the snappy 22LR subcompact (the warm up gun), thought the glock 17 was OK, loved the 22LR lever action, but the dad insisted she try the AR15, she was not ready or prepped for the recoil. She did not like it and it may have soured any future trips to the range. I’d consider these tips when it comes time for my kids to go shooting in a few years from now.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      SoCalJack,

      What recoil? Was the AR-15 chambered in .223 Remington / 5.56 x 45mm NATO? That platform generates very little recoil — certainly not enough recoil to be objectionable to a 13 year-old unless that 13 year-old was extremely small/thin/frail.

      I have to wonder if the 13 year-old simply hated the AR-15 because so many people have taught her to hate the infamous “scary black rifle”.

      The only other thing that I can possibly think of is that she wasn’t really holding on to the rifle, meaning that she did not have a firm grip. If your hands are basically resting on an AR-15 but not holding it firmly, it will kick against you ever so slightly (enough to startle you if you were not expecting it). If that is the case, it is a training error (on the part of the trainer) that is easy to commit — and easy to correct!

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        And this brings up another dimension to firearms training for young people: it may not be possible to make firearms training fun/exciting — nevertheless young people should learn it anyway and, in so doing, learn that not everything in life is going to be fun/exciting.

        For many people, learning how to review their checking account (and balance their check register, whether paper or electronic) is neither fun nor exciting. Does that mean that they should not learn how to do it?

      2. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

        Are you sure that 13 year old girl wasn’t really Gersh Kuntzman in disguise?

  6. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    most have a natural curiosity towards this. like fishing, it helps if they catch something the first time.
    the progression from nerf to airsoft, paintball, bb and pellet is an easy path. draw the 6o’clock site image, then let them knock over some tin cans or whatever with a pellet rifle.
    they’ll adapt to .22 and the rest easily enuff.

  7. avatar Michael in AK says:

    As a father of 5 girls, I introduced them to the various things I liked: Fishing, shooting, hunting, woodworking, golf, home repairs. They weren’t given a lot of choice at first, but I made it fun! They definitely wanted to spend time with me and they all enjoyed shooting, go figure….I also did tea parties, dress up and silly fun girls stuff so it wasn’t just a one way street.

    For shooting targets we had spinners and ballons, contests amongst us and ALWAYS lunch some place they wanted to go.
    Now they are adults and they always ask when we are headed to see them if I want to go shooting when I get there. Even grown girls like father/daughter time.

    1. avatar hawkeye says:

      Ditto on the two-way street. I got my toenails painted with watercolor markers a few times, but my daughter now enjoys popping spinners and clay pigeons (not aerial) with the Buck Mark, and will be shooting archery this fall in college. Hah! She also cracked one of my ribs once while whooping on me as a 3 year old spinach eating Popeye copycat. Have fun with your kids while you can, because they grow up too fast.

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Making things fun is great way to introduce kids to chores. My son wants to help me with gardening. Why? Tools and (controlled) destruction. He really likes trimming the hedge near the front door. He has also learned to use the lawn mower, line trimmer (whipper snipper to us), and other tools.

      He asked what would happen if he cut the hedge too much. I told him not to worry because it will grow back. I just tell which lines to cut on and he does the rest. He’s now big enough to use the trimming saw but his favourite tool is the parrot’s beak cutters.

  8. avatar mike werden says:

    15 yards for a first time shooter is toooo far. Good honest article. Great to see a guy own up to those anxious errors in breaking the ice in the shooting sports with a young child.

    1. avatar VicRattlehead says:

      Agreed
      1st time out I set up paper plates (about 8-9″ circle) at about 5yds. They’ll immediately get shots ‘on paper’ and that’ll get them excited. After I felt confident in their handling abilities we scooted back a bit and shot used pop cans filled with water. A good hit will have them laughing out loud as the can explodes in a shower of water. Kids LOVE reactive targets and it’s super easy to laugh and have a good time right along side them.

  9. avatar Roger J says:

    My SOT has a 14 year old daughter who only wants to go to the range when we shoot automatic weapons.

  10. avatar Dude says:

    So how do you get her to take that first shot? She’ll listen to instructions and gun safety, but has zero interest in actually shooting. She seems to think shooting will make her boyish or redneck.

  11. avatar Larry says:

    Daughter shoots and hunts a bit . I took her and her fiancé shooting yesterday, his first time , but he wants to get into it . After the four rules , how to operate the gun ( a .22 rifle ) and so on , I had him shoot from ten yards , first shot bullseye , followed by four more in a nice group . Over the two hours he, tried a 20ga, and two 9s . He had a great first time out .

  12. avatar JOLJ says:

    I just told her I would pay for her gun safety class set up by the NRA.
    She said okay & the rest is history.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      That was way too easy. Parenting is supposed to be hard. Maybe she didn’t get the memo.

  13. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    I raised mine shooting with me. She hunts and during her teen years the best talks we had were driving to and from pistol competition.

  14. avatar neiowa says:

    Appleseed is a great start. No starting expectation of mediocracy and everyone is treated as an adult (good for kids).

  15. avatar Docduracoat says:

    As others have said, I’ve taken my kids to do the things that I enjoy doing.
    So they know how to sail a boat and shoot a gun.
    None of them really enjoy sailing or target shooting.
    So they come when they want to please me and I insist on spending some time together doing what I want stead of always doing what they want.
    It’s funny with kids, you can raise them the right way, and point them to the right things, but they have to follow their bliss and find their own way in life

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