So, you shoot. You bought a handgun, bought ammo, and learned how to shoot. Maybe, you’ve taken a class or two at your local range. You are aware of and follow firearms safety. You can really run that gun of yours and that X-ring doesn’t stand a chance. Awesome! This article is for you. However this is not about training you. This article is about you training another shooter.
It is all too common. A person, man or woman, learns to shoot. Not only learns to shoot, but goes out of their way to develop their skills and becomes a truly good shooter. At that point, people come out of the woodwork to be taught by that person. Here is the problem that I have found. Not all good shooters are good trainers. It isn’t their fault, though. The usual training course is built around training the shooter to shoot, not train others.
So there you are. A “trained shooter,” very proficient with a firearm. Now a friend, male or female, has asked you to teach them how to shoot. It has happened to me many times. I remember what I thought the first time I was asked. “I’ll just take them with me and they can shoot whatever I bring.” Here is how that went… Before I became a firearms instructor, I took a buddy’s girlfriend to a local outdoor range. It was nice out and so all the other shooters were out too. I brought a 1911 chambered in .45 ACP and a Glock 22 .40S&W. I brought plenty of ammo and targets. I figured, “This will be great.” My buddy’s girlfriend was excited and nervous, as she had never shot a gun of any kind before. I quickly went through the function of the two handguns and began “showing her how it was done.” I shot a couple of magazines through each gun and let her loose. Disaster! I had not gone over any safety factors with her. She immediately loaded the gun and pointed at me when she asked if she had loaded it correctly. After my blood pressure lowered, I informed her that she shouldn’t point the muzzle at me or anyone else at the range. Strike one as a trainer.
Now she was super nervous- even more than before. Her hands were shaking and she couldn’t stop looking at everyone else at the range. I had her put the gun down and I asked her why she was so nervous. She said she was a little scared and that all the other shooters intimidated her. I assured her that she was going to be alright and that the other shooters wouldn’t notice her. Strike two. I put her in front of everyone on her first try.
Then she shot the 1911. Once. She hit the target, and almost smacked herself in the face with the pistol. She put the gun down and told me that I could shoot for a while. I shot the rest of the magazine and loaded the Glock. I had her shoot it. I went over stance with her and had her shoot again. She shot the five rounds I had loaded and asked for more ammo. Success! No! While I got her shooting, she later told me that every shot was slightly painful. The snap of the .40S&W round was just too much for her wrists. Strike three. She never asked for my help again.
Don’t do what I did back then. If you don’t really want to help someone, then let them know. Let them know that you are not comfortable teaching another shooter. If you halfheartedly train someone, you can send them away from the shooting sport or, even worse, create a bad or unsafe shooter. Today, this is how I teach new shooters, man and woman.
- We go to a range at a non-peak time. Fewer people, less stress for the new shooter.
- We go over the 4 basic firearms safety rules until I’m sure he or she knows and will follow them.
- We go over the firearms that we will be using that day. Nothing too in depth, just manipulation and safety factors. You want the shooter comfortable with the gun.
- I go over stance, grip, and sight alignment with the shooter. Television and movies have “taught” us that some crazy stuff is right. I show them the correct way before they even step up to the line.
- I make sure that the new shooter has quality hearing protection that fits. Guns are loud and they can really scare new shooters. Good ear protection is essential.
- Now we shoot a .22lr. All new shooters shoot .22 with me at first. A big man to a petite lady. You never know if they can handle a large caliber. Ease them into it. Once they show that they can handle and shoot the .22, move up to a 9mm and on. Be aware of who you are teaching with your firearms choices. Small hands and large frame handguns do not mate well.
- I make sure that the new shooter is having fun and is following the fundamentals that I’ve covered with them. Give them good feedback on their shooting improvement and let them know that it is a skill that must be built and practiced. Don’t discourage the shooter. If you shoot to demonstrate, hit what you aim at, but don’t gloat about how much better you are than them. (It happens.) Let them know how much you’ve practiced and trained to get to that point.
- Always maintain and preach safety. You can do it nicely, just make sure you are doing it.
Teaching another shooter is a big responsibility. If you can’t do it correctly, DON’T. There are plenty of trained and qualified firearms instructors that will teach that new shooter correctly. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are not an instructor. I wish I would have thought about that before I tried to teach that first time. Now that I am a trained firearms instructor, I still think back to the one that got away. To be honest, the one that I caused to run away. If you are going to teach, be a good teacher. We need more people like you in the shooting community.