Recently, there has been a push among the firearms community to get new shooters out to the range so that we can share our passion with a wider audience. Usually, these range trips are an overwhelming success and everyone has a great time. That said, there are some important things to consider before taking any new shooters to the range.
- Limit the number of new shooters to a manageable group. It is extremely enticing to get as many people out to the range as possible. However, this can be a real safety hazard for you, your new shooters, and others at the range. Keep the group small so that you can effectively monitor all shooters on the line. I recommend groups no larger than 2 or 3 not including yourself. If you plan to take more, consider breaking the new shooters into two groups and inviting another experienced shooter along to help supervise. I speak from personal experience here when I say that anything above 4 shooters will be very difficult for a single person to keep in check, even if the novices are fairly responsible and mature.
- Bring a .22 caliber firearm that can serve as “batting practice” prior to letting someone behind a centerfire rifle/handgun. If you plan to shoot rifles exclusively, then any .22 rifle should be fine. However as we all know, handgun shooting is very different than rifle shooting and it will be important to also have a .22 handgun with you if the plan is to introduce the group to handgun shooting. I hope we as gun owners never again scare away a potential enthusiast as a result of jumping in too quickly.
- This probably should be number one on this list, but be sure to go over safety thoroughly before shooting. This may seem obvious, but a lot of new shooters will want to start blasting away as soon as the firearms are unpacked. Make sure they understand the firearm controls and sights prior to getting behind the firearm. Have them display an understanding of these controls with the gun unloaded prior to loading. As soon as shooting starts, monitor the new shooters’ points of impact to ensure that all rounds are landing safely and on target, or as close as possible. This too is why it is important to keep the group small. Also, provide eye and ear protection. Ear muffs are preferred as they are easier to take on and off.
- Bring steel or other reactionary targets. While these aren’t necessarily the best way to build skills, new shooters love the instant feedback of the steel and the targets will last forever if treated properly.
- Bring paper targets. This may seem somewhat contradictory to the above recommendation, but new shooters love to be able to see the holes they have punched. Let the shooters keep their targets and be sure to record the firearm type and distance on the target for them. It is also a good idea to let them keep an empty casing from each firearm they use as a token of the experience.
- Avoid tannerite. It is tons of fun no doubt. However, it sends the wrong message to new shooters and is likely to fuel some of their existing misconceptions. Leave the tannerite for Top Shot.
- Don’t go in expecting to put a lot of lead downrange yourself. Most of the trigger time in these settings needs to come from the new shooters. That said, it is not unreasonable to ask them to chip in on ammo and range costs.
- Don’t preach to them about politics. It is not a bad idea to explain the laws to them, but avoid going on rants. Offer to discuss the ins and outs of gun politics, but save the actual discussion for a later date. Nothing ruins the fun faster than getting worked up about politics.
- Clean up afterwards. Pick up empty casings and ammo boxes from your range area. This further reinforces the idea that gun owners are responsible people who do care about keeping the environment clean. For whatever reason, some people like to paint gun owners as anti-environment.
- Lastly, have fun! Don’t try to over teach. As long as the shooters are being safe and having a good time, it really doesn’t matter if they are shooting MOA groups at the end of the day. Don’t get too caught up in teaching the latest and greatest in stance. All this said, shooters are likely to have fun if they are doing well so it is best to gauge who will be most receptive to the teaching.
Feel free to share your recent new shooter range stories or additional tips in the comments here or on Facebook.
Thanks to ARFCOMMERs TechGal26, Stonerriflefan44, and tstanfield12 for the contributions!
Thanks to INGOer BE Mike for the contribution!