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.