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My post on teaching my daughter to shoot her BB gun provoked a number of questions and I wanted to answer a few of them. But first, yes, her shoes were on the wrong feet. While she knows the difference between left and right, she still doesn’t always get her shoes on the right feet.We are working on it. I let her pick out her own clothing and shoes and dress herself because it makes her happy and unless it’s really hot or really cold, I try not to dictate too much what she wears. We were also not out in public that day, as we shot the BB gun at the house, so I let it go. It’s one of those “pick your battles” moments of parenthood . . .

The next question was about whether she’s able to work the lever. No, she cannot. I have to do it for her. The rules were, she applies the safety with the BB gun pointed at the dirt, then lifts the tip of the barrel up. I would work the lever, putting the BB in position. She would then re-align herself and the gun, followed by taking the safety off and shooting the gun herself. It’s of immense importance that she learn safety first, and I always always put the safety of the gun on, if it has one, before handing it to another person.

The hunting discussion will be addressed in a later article. I felt it warranted its own discussion because she’s a smart little cookie, and her questions actually floored me. She even initiated the discussion when we were done shooting. I asked her if she had any questions about her gun or the rules. She said she did – just one – and it was a hunting question. She knows we eat deer and elk frequently because my husband, her father, is an avid hunter. We eat everything he hunts. Neither of us are trophy hunters, although I have no issue with it, we prefer to use the meat and donate the hides.

A great side benefit of teaching her to shoot: her brother now wants to shoot now, too. Since he’s turning three this weekend, Christmas might be a good time for Santa to bring his first BB gun. He has a way to go, though, so for now he’s content helping me clean my EDC.

The bottom line for me in all of this is safety. At this age, the kids need to know how to act safely around a gun because we own many. They also need to know what to do should they find one at a friend’s house. Guns don’t shoot themselves and they need to understand that.

I am more than happy to answer any more questions about our experience teaching our kids to shoot. How did you teach yours?

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  1. I took my step-sons to the county sheriff’s training facility at age 12 when they passed the written test with 100% they then did hunter safety, rifle class. With that foundation I worked with them on shotguns then handgun. I wasn’t a certified instructor yet and didn’t want to pass on any bad habits.

  2. Because of my wife’s original reticence to spending good money on guns and a subsequent change of heart (the only good thing BHO ever did), my family came late to shooting as a family past time. However, when my wife did finally see the light, she went ‘full-hog’. Our armory went from one pistol and one rifle to a wide and varied assortment in just about two years. When he was 12, our youngest son (now 15) was the first to voice interest in learning to handle firearms but it soon became a family thing.

    The first step was classroom lecture covering safety rules, types of fire arms and actions, what can go wrong and other topics; followed by hands on in the classroom (with unloaded weapons); followed by a day at the range with actual fire arms handling and shooting. I didn’t get a lot of shooting in that day but everyone else had great fun.

    I’d have to say that my youngest son (who’s more avid a shooter than my wife or other son) has become a more safe shooter than I am. He’s constantly calling me out whenever I slip on safety. In deference to another article, he also is more accurate than I am (despite is desire to dump a full mag in under a minute).

  3. Introducing one thing at a time. Grading from a gross motor manipulation to fine motor. Learning, where is my body in space? If you live rural, the opportunities are greatly increased.

  4. No children, but I do keep the gun away from our dog so he doesn’t make it a chew toy.

    Sara, I like your columns. I’ve only been shooting for about four years and started after retirement, so I remember the feeling and thoughts of a newbie. Most of the columns here are written assuming experienced readers, so it’s good to read someone who talks basics. I think you are a great encouragement and role model for women and young mothers.

  5. Ruger Single Six with my 12 year old daughter and those of her friends whose parents were accepting (some parents have never handled a weapon).

    Started with Shorts, moved to LR. They weren’t too happy with the WMR’s. Full ears and eyes.

    Used the Four rules, I like working without a safety. Don’t want anyone relying on a mechanical safety; add that later on a rifle, pistol, or shotgun.

    Started my son earlier (he was more interested) also with the Single Six, rapidly progressed to carbine, auto, 20 gauge.

  6. Four rules first and always. I take an “as they show interest” approach, and they vary. My youngest boy, 6, likes to get some supervised BB plinking in whenever we shoot in the back yard. My girl, 11, makes occasional range trips with me and enjoys my Single Six. My oldest boy, 13, will shoot every chance he can get. Among his first merit badges were Archery, Shotgun, and Rifle… and when he takes his time he can out shoot me with open sites on long guns, but my eyes are over 4 decades old!

  7. Cute kid, shoes and all. Good job.
    My son started out with a BB gun, just like your daughter. He went goose and duck hunting with me starting at about 7 and got his first single shot 20 gauge at about 11. He is now an avid hunter and shooter.
    My daughter started a little later after she started showing interest. She started with a small gauge shotgun and is now a gun owner and enthusiastic Sporting Clays shooter.

    Keep up the good work, man.


  8. good work mom. picking your battles is a key component to happy kids and successful parenting. our job is to provide guidance where necessary, not rule every aspect of their childhood with an iron fist.

  9. Unfortunately for me, my daughter doesn’t like to shoot, but she wants to hunt. So I have to remind her she needs to practice. We are doing one last practice with the 300 blackout tomorrow as our youth season is next weekend. She is 11 now, and still ” believes” in Santa, her list was for a 20 Guage for turkey. Teaching her to shoot a cricket .22 was a nightmare. It has peep rear and post front. She shoots left handed and is right eye dominate. Threw a red dot on the blackout and she does great. That mossberg bantam under the tree is going to wear a red dot too.

    • Jeff, that bantam weight 20 ga. youth model is going to have ferocious recoil with anything heavier than trap and skeet loads. If you can get an effective add on recoil reducer it’ll help. My wife is not 11, but she’s only 5 feet tall.

      • My 500 in 12 guage with 3 inch turkey loads kicked like a mule, I figured let her do lots of shooting with low brass and 2&3/4 clay loads, let her set up for a big tom and I’ll have it zeroed for turkey loads, hopefully with adrenaline she won’t notice the recoil but thanks for the heads up, I’ll add one to the list. Wow sorry for the run on sentence.

        • Tell one on myself. I set up at the base of a tree while squirrel hunting. Trees are tall in WV and I was using 3 inch #4s. Big squirrel came out and I braced my 12 against my shoulder, which was braced against the tree. All while still seated. No recoil pad on the 12.

          Hurt like hell.

  10. An old Stevens 66 was my kids’ intro to shooting, then a 10/22. My older likes the AR now, but my younger still prefers working the action. He’s left-handed, so I have my eye on a Henry Golden Boy. For the children, of course!

  11. I taught mine with real guns at a proper range. My guns are not hidden from my kids and so they have grown up with the attitude that guns are just more stuff around the house. They’re not afraid of them, they know how to operate them and which end is the dangerous one. My kids wouldn’t feel any different finding a pistol on the kitchen counter at a friends house than finding a hammer there. They’d know neither should normally be found there, they’d leave it alone because it’s not theirs and they’d let the homeowner know that there’s a tool in the kitchen that probably goes somewhere else and let them know that it wasn’t moved in case it was put there for a reason.

  12. Both kids (daughter 8 1/2, son 41/2) know Eddie Eagle rules. Both have been exposed a lot to guns of all types so that the mystique and allure is gone – they’re interested, but they see them as normal and not exceptional. Except when my daughter sees an AR with pink on it, then her eyes light up. My daughter can (mostly) recite my modified “4 Rules” (I tweaked them while in the military). Safety first – treat all guns like they’re loaded, then think muzzle-trigger-safety-target. My son is just starting on the rules, but knows the Eddie Eagle rules real well. Both have their own 10/22 Compact, my daughter has shot hers once under very controlled circumstances. It was a crappy improvised range, so rather than ruin the experience she just got to make it go “bang!” a couple of times. She certainly wants more. I have since taken an old military BRM PowerPoint (I know, I know) and simplified it down to go over with my daughter. Kids these days are all about computers, so it should go over well. And just picked up some plastic .22LR snap caps for dry fire.

  13. I can’t remember exactly when I first introduced my kids to guns, but they were small. It started with the basics, I remember shooting a waterlemon to illustrate how dangerous guns are. One incident stands out. We had traveled to See the in-laws in Minnesota and arrived late at night. Some one decided to help us out, and when we got up, our bags were in the entry. My 9mm was in my bag on top, and my mother in-law was having a fit! I took out the gun, unloaded it, then handed it to the kids and told them there was a candy bar in it for them if they could rack the slide. I kept it with an empty chamber. The group, my two oldest, and three of their cousins were not able to work the slide.
    Before any of them shot, they learned how to disassemble and reassemble the guns.

  14. Eldest son 19. Daughter 10 and youngest son 8. All the same process. First the four rules while they accompany me to the range or shooting fowl. Getting them to endlessly reload magazines or wring necks and carry dead birds a few miles rapidly takes the holywood glam and TV induced lust for blood and guts out of the picture. In parallel, what to do if you see a gun lying around, either at home (never going to happen) or at a friend’s. First shot is a 12 gauge side by side, very assisted. That gives them a healthy respect for the power of these weapons and what it might feel like unassisted. Up to now, as you can all see, it’s about respect for the tool and acknowledging their limitations as children. With that in place, I teach them to actually shoot with the same air rifle I learnt with over 30 years ago. After the previous experiences, they just fall in love with that little rifle!! They just can’t get enough of it. They will go at targets alll afternoon. It’s also done wonders for their AD syndrome. They take all the time in the world to control their breathing, get on target, put their finger in the guard and on the trigger, and then gently squeeze. All this is supervised and I try to help them improve, but honestly, with the 10 and 8 year olds, I try to keep it hands off except for safety. I’ll only step in if they’re getting frustrated.

  15. I was actually thinking of starting on nerf guns, haha. Think it’d help allay the wife’s fears and get the foot in the door for the kiddos without any real chance of harm. I mean yeah a dart in the eyeball could hurt, but the risk is small.

    • Or maybe I’ll start with Eddie Eagle? I really need to win the wife over with safety first methinks. She’s pretty skittish of guns so far and assumes the kids will magicaly death ray themselves if they know they exist. Which isn’t entirely unfounded. I am more worried about teaching them proper gun safety so they will not end up as a statistic in someone else’s house.

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