Teach a person to shoot: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I promised several readers I’d address the subject of teaching people to shoot. We talked about teaching kids, but why limit it?

Determine the level of the budding shooter’s maturity
Maturity is more important than age when it comes to shooting. Since the shooter will ultimately have total control of a device that can kill, he or she must be worthy of that level of trust. Don’t make the mistake that because we are talking airguns that it makes a difference. It doesn’t. A person who can load and fire a pellet pistol can also load and fire a powerful firearm.

Observe the potential shooter’s actions
Whether the person is five or fifty makes no difference. If they cannot concentrate on what they are doing, or if they are prone to horseplay, don’t teach them to shoot. I have seen plenty of adults horse around with airguns, claiming that they are just BB guns, after all. Some of the guns they horsed around with were as powerful as .22 rimfires and, in a few cases, they were big bore air rifles capable of killing larger game. Do not waste time trying to teach these people anything.

Weed them out!
When I coached youth shooting teams, during the first through third meetings a small number of kids were eliminated from further participation. We always insisted that a parent or guardian be present during these early sessions. (I would NOT recommend an older sibling, because you don’t know whether THAT person is trustworthy, either.) If little Bobby couldn’t stop talking, running around or touching the guns when he wasn’t supposed to, we sent him home. The parents had already read and signed a contract that gave the coaches the power to do that, and we never had a single instance of a parent objecting to our decision. We didn’t do it very often, and we suffered a lot of misbehavior from Bobby before making the call, so the parent was prepared for what we had to do.

If you’re training a single person or your own children, you need to be just as attentive to their misbehavior. Don’t try to train a child to shoot in the false belief that it will somehow mature him/her. While learning a discipline, such as shooting, can increase maturity, there are some people who should not be permitted to participate – and finding them is the first prime duty of the instructor.

You must be able to trust the shooter
Before very long, a coach has to be able to trust the student with a loaded gun. Yes, it’s easier to control them when it’s one-on-one, but at some point every new shooter will be in complete control of the gun. You must be able to trust them entirely when that time comes.

First, train them on safety
While all this observation is taking place, you are training the new shooter(s) on safety. Start with gun safety and don’t advance until they know everything as well as you. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has developed numerous safety training programs that can help a shooting instructor. They even offer instructor training courses, which I highly recommend to anyone who is about to do a lot of firearms training. Their Airgun Shooting Sports Safety Guide, the first 10 pages of which are available on the internet, is an important resource for instructors.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss how to make the shooter as aware of safety as the instructor. I’ll also share tips on how to test a student without sounding like it’s a test.

15 thoughts on “Teach a person to shoot: Part 1

  1. excellent subject, B.B. … not every shooter has had the opportunity to learn this from military training … and I even saw some horseplay on Army ranges, even with the strict tower operator’s commands and environment of “do ONLY what we tell you to do WHEN we tell you, not BEFORE, and NOTHING EXTRA !” … those were some grey-hair-growing moments !!!

  2. Man, did you ever dredge up some memories!

    Army ranges! I was OIC of a pistol range with 25 shooters on line and five safety NCOs and I have seen dust rise three feet in front of a man shooting at a bullseye target 25 yards away!

    One of the worst (I had a lot of bad experiences because I ran a lot of ranges) experiences I had was at Hohenfels, while running an M203 grenade-launcher range for my company. We had briefed every shooter to use the 203’s high-angle quadrant sight located on the side of the gun and NOT the regular M16 sights, but old habits die hard, I guess.

    On a grenade-launcher range (at least on this one) each firing point was a prepared foxhole with a solid wood-braced berm at the front. The shooter would pop up and shoot from the foxhole, exposing himself just above the wood wall to his front. We had a safety NCO at every firing point because of the weapon’s danger and because, as tankers, were weren’t used to shooting the little 203.

    After a few minutes of shooting, a safety NCO popped out of his foxhole, quickly followed by the shooter. Then the NCOIC who saw them ran up and told me we had a “short round.” In artillery a short round means a shell that falls outside the expected impact area, and closer to the guns than desired. On an M203 range where the shooter shoots from a bermed foxhole, it meant something else.

    The dumb bunny had forgotten the briefing and used his rifle sights instead of the quadrant sight! Had he been shooting 5.56mm ammo, he would have hit the target 150 yards downrange, but the 40mm M203 grenade-launcher that hangs off the BOTTOM of the M16 needs to be pointed a little higher to go that far. He put the grenade straight into the berm, about a foot in front of him!

    Fortunately a 203 grenade has a spin safety incorporated into the shell. It has to spin X number of times, which means it will be downrange from the firer before it is armed.

    As range OIC, I got to pick up that crumpled grenade and toss it downrange as far as I could. The alternative would have been to call Hohenfels Range Control and let them handle it (and get into the Commanding General’s daily briefing the next morning).

    As I picked it up, with the rest of my company taking cover behind the control shack, I thanked the designers for inventing the spin safety and also wondered whether I was in the right line of business.

    I got a million like that!


  3. BB,

    I just bought a Shadow 1000 and it came with a all metal scope stop. Once I mounted my scope (that is made for spring pistons) and started sighting it in the scope started sliding up on the dovetail rail. So I ordered the nicer scope stop version from gamo and i was wondering were i should mount it on the rail once i get it.


  4. Shadow, you can put the scope-stop behind the forward scope-mount if using 2-piece mounts – that way some scopes are not forced to be a bit further forward than you would like. Just make sure the locking pin goes down into one of the recesses – screw that down AFTER tightening up the side-screw of the stopper… and then pull the scope-mount hard back against the Gamo stopper.
    I use an ordinary Gamo stopper that way on a Gamo 440 converted to gas-ram. Never any problem of the scope shifting.
    If you want to be doubly sure, use a pair of scope-mounts that include one with a locking pin – and screw that down into one of the rearward recesses in the scope rail.

  5. bb, i was reading a page after following a a few links. it described rabbit kill zones, and then came to a halt, with the alluring message of “next week i will post on how to approach landowners and where to find them” (or something like that). what is your advice?i certainly dont want to get chased away by an angry farmer with his 12 gauge waving in the air, though i’m shure they wont mind having a few pests “eliminated”. i hope my past post wasnt asking too much, as you didnt reply. i atleast want you to know i’m not waiting on you for awnsers, i just wanted some advice from seomeone who knows vastly more than i do.

  6. What if the M203 user had to engage a target with it 5 or even 6 feet away?

    I’ve seen pictures of operators from many countries using 40mm grenade launchers in place of a shotgun for room clearing. Is this air fin stabilization standard on all shells or can special shells be used that will produce a smaller explosive force than the std load? I know I’ve seen a buckshot 40mm shell and a Flare somewhere on the net..

  7. BB,

    would you advice to learn shooting with a scope or at first with iron sights?

    When I grew up, I had an old HW35 I could barely cock and a 8x scope with fine crosshairs. At military service I was shocked when I first time saw this iron sights; how can anybody hit the target with this crude setup?

    Maybe the other way is better. First learn to master the iron sights and then discover the exact accuracy of well made scopes. When you know how to avoid the common problems with open sights, using a scope will be much easier.


  8. yes,being an owner of powerfull airguns,I know that they should be treated with the same care as a fire arm,I am 15,so when I shoot em,my parents sit out back like a shooting range master,but I have earned my trust with it so they only sit out back because the supervision is required by law.What bothers me is so many at my age level that are careless with fire arms and air guns,even Adults can be too.

Leave a Reply