Teaching Kids to Shoot

By Home Defense Gun Staffer BobTarget Practice

Teaching Kids to Shoot

Last hunting season my niece took her first elk. Now, I’ve always had a hard time admitting that she’s changing from the little girl in pigtails who makes her uncle attend tea parties and is approaching adulthood. The fact that her parents and the State Fish and Game Department both agree that she’s old enough to go around shooting elk with a rifle is kind of irrefutable evidence that Uncle Bob’s stubbornness isn’t enough to stop the passage of time, though, and I’ve realized that it is time to start teaching her how to use a handgun.

Obviously her father and I won’t be able to watch over her for her entire life; before I know it she’ll be twenty-five and wanting to go out on her first date, and then the next thing you know she’ll be thirty-five and wanting to get married. If that timeline sounds a little fast to the fathers out there, I should point out that uncles tend to be a little more easygoing about that stuff. At any rate, I want Paige to be able to take care of herself, and knowing how to properly use a handgun is a big step in the right direction when it comes to taking care of yourself.

Some of you might be wondering why Paige’s dad isn’t in charge of her shooting tutelage. Her father does play a role in it, but when it comes to teaching things like shooting Dad usually just isn’t the right choice. The simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t raise my niece so she likes me better — for now. Her father had to tell her to clean her room and brush her teeth and buckle down at school. Her Uncle Bob just ducked in for the tea parties and snowmen. Shooting is a discipline that requires a lot of time and coaching to master and when it comes to things like that it’s better if the teacher is a bit less familiar. I’m able to muster up more patience with the kid because I only have to muster it for short periods and she has more patience with me because I’m the dear old uncle who always had a cookie for her back in the day.

I was fortunate enough to have a similar opportunity when my grandmother taught me to shoot. Grandma was considered to be the best shot in the family but she was also a very patient lady who took the time to teach her two grandsons properly. My brother and I paid close attention to what Grandma had to teach and didn’t give her much trouble because of the respect we had for her.

When it came to teaching Paige the use of handguns I had to start by giving her a solid explanation of why it was important for her shooting with kidsto spend time learning about them. You can’t just tell a thirteen year old that something will be of use some day or that it’s a skill they have to learn. If you do, what you’re trying to teach them gets relegated to the level of verb conjunction, trigonometry and all of the other stuff they have to learn but secretly know they’ll never use. When it came to learning the rifle, the elk hunt had been the carrot for her to chase. In Montana, going big game hunting is a kind of rite of passage into being a grown up and Paige had really wanted that.

With handgun training I took a different tack: I more or less guilted her into it. I told her that self-defense was a very important skill to learn and that if she learned it I would feel a lot better and worry about her a lot less as the years went by, which is absolutely true. I also told her that if she preferred not to learn handgun shooting, that was fine. I would be happy to go with her when she leaves for college in a few years and keep an eye on her. Heck, I might even take a few classes, hang out with her friends, check of this disco thing the kids are so crazy about. It was more than enough to get her to focus.

To keep things fun Paige doesn’t spend a lot of time shooting at paper from a Weaver stance. You have to keep things moving with kids and you have to let them move around. This is actually preferable for my goals as well, because I don’t want Paige to be a great target shooter, what I’m trying for is more of a little blonde version of Sergeant York. We do a lot of combat drills where Paige can move from cover to cover, focus a lot on drawing from concealment, speed loading, anything that involves some action to keep the kid interested.

When she gets bored with that we take out the stopwatch and see who is quicker to add a little competition. Paige, like most thirteen year olds, has pretty good reflexes and good balance so she doesn’t need a lot of coaching, just a little nudging now and then. The occasional reminder about safe gun handling and a tip or two are all that is really required when you make shooting fun enough to hold a kid’s interest.

For now Paige mostly shoots .22 autos and revolvers. When her hands get a bit bigger we’ll move up to 9mm and 38 Special and might stop there, depending on how things develop. It’s important to let the size of the kid catch up with the caliber of firearm before moving on. If everything goes as planned she should be more than amply trained by the time she turns eighteen. Kind of a pity, really. I was sort of looking forward to going back to college.

Let us know in the comments how you teach your kids to shoot.

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