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Teach a person to shoot: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Teach a person to shoot: Part 1

Making students aware of safety
How do you make a student as aware of gun safety as the instructor? You make a game of it. First, you teach the students the most basic safety rules, with the first one being Never point a gun at anything you do not intend shooting. That’s sometimes watered down to Always point a gun in a safe direction, but I have seen too many people (myself included) who cannot initially appreciate how far a bullet or pellet can reach out. That’s why I like the first way best. If you think it’s necessary, you might want to set up a few demonstrations of what it looks like when a pellet hits something. Rotten fruit is good for this, as are plastic milk jugs filled with water dyed red.

Make the students repeat the safety rules, and let THEM discuss what each rule means. To make sure every student participates in the discussion, to hold it in a setting that is as informal as possible, while still maintaining control over the class. Then, demonstrate what an infraction of the rule looks like. In the beginning, some students will get the idea right off, but some will require more processing time before they start responding to the infraction. The goal is for every shooter to respond to an unsafe act without thinking about it. For example, I have found myself shouting, “Cease fire” at airgun shows when someone dry-fires a gun indoors. I was as surprised as those around me, but the shooter got the message.

Testing without the formal structure
You can test the students on all the safety rules by committing infractions during the rest of the training. This is an old training tip, and it’s a far better method than a formal paper or memory regurgitation test. However, once again, your students will not all respond at the same speed. You’ll have a bright young girl who is as quick on the draw as Wyatt Earp, and there will be a quiet thoughtful boy who seems to be a half-second behind everyone else. You must find a way to test every student without embarrassing any of them.

Never stop testing the safety rules!
Continue to throw in a careless act from time to time during the rest of the training. The students will become so immersed in the shooting safety rules that they will surprise you someday. I have seen children shooters catching coaches and officials in unsafe acts at public events. I’ve been caught, myself. When the shooter knows the rules to that level, you have succeeded as an instructor.

Teaching shooters to use sights
This is the first lesson in training someone how to shoot. Guns are not required for this lesson, so you can even work it into a demonstration class held in a place that’s inappropriate for actual shooting! I learned this in the NRA introductory class I took almost 50 years ago, and we practiced it for three successive weeks before ever shooting a gun. As a result, all the bullets from the first-time shooters landed somewhere inside the black bullseye!

The triangulation method
This method uses a flat stick (such as a yardstick), a chair for the instructor to sit on, two cardboard boxes, a target, a piece of paper and a lead pencil. An instructor is needed for each student. First, a sturdy set of paper sights is attached to the flat stick. You can also use real sights taped to the stick, but the front sight may have to be raised up on a block to align properly.

The sight trainer is simple and inexpensive to make.

Notice that we made an aperture rear sight. The shooters in formal training programs will be shooting with aperture sights, so it’s important to not confuse them during training. Also, an aperture is MUCH more precise than any other open sight.

In the next lesson, I’ll tell you how this training method works.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

13 thoughts on “Teach a person to shoot: Part 2”

  1. B.B. sorry to always be off topic, but im considering mounting one of leapers barrel mounted bipods onto a gamo 1250. my 1250 has a leapers 3-9×50 scope so all in all, the gun weights quite alot. I have read both your articles on bipods and barrel harmonics ( which are really great by the way) so i know that it will be hard for you to comment unless u have tested this configuration but i thought that i would ask for any advise you had to offer.

    also i thought that i would mention that i resently returned from vacation in vienna and while there i went to the Arsenal military museum. while there i discovered that the museum had in its collection one of the original 1780 Windbuchse air rifles. I found the pump or compressor that charged the gun even more impressive for being designed and built in the late 1700’s!
    thanks for a great blog,
    scopestop guy

  2. bb, recently my parents read an article depicting the dangers of lead. for some reason, they belive lead somehow eveporates into the air. it a is a solid metal. their explaination? they pointed me in the direction of lead paint, which ages and chips, producing dust. they also seem to think that lead pellets partially disintegrate into dust when shot, which is inhaled. so long as you wash your hands afterwards, i dont see any danger in lead. am i correct? i need your input, as i am gathering information from various sources and you are one of the more trusted ones. if this escalates further, i may be reduced to shooting outdoors. that is a problem, because i live in a highly urbanized area, in an apartment. i wash my hands everytime i finish shooting. they even belive open tins of lead are harmful. as always, your input is greatly appreciated.

  3. Shooting safety is a subject which can never be revisited too often. I introduced a friend to a local club and have been astounded by his and the club’s relaxed attitude to safety now that he’s become accepted. He’s often to be found sitting on the bench behind the shooters and firing line using his rifle and scopes to call out the amount by which a target is missed. Nobody, except me, so far, has raised any objection to turning to see a rifle being pointed at the back of our heads! The general concensus appears, it’s only him, he’s safe!!!

  4. dm20,

    The lead scare is similar to many things that the media and schools have promoted.

    Lead paint was discovered to be a problem in ghettos where children were teething on window sills painted with it. The danger to a shooter is low, though not minimal. If you shoot indoors you have to be aware that lead dust is produced whenever a lead projectile strikes a hard surface at 700 f.p.s. or higher.

    However, to keep everyone happy, get a silent pellet trap from Pyramyd. They produce next to NO lead dust because of the construction.

    I have been a shooter all my life and I am also a reloader who casts lead bullets. I have shot close to a quarter of a million lead pellets and well over a million rounds of firearms ammunition. I was in combat arms in the Army and I shot full-auto arms all the time.

    After 6 decades, my blood lead levels register low for a 30 year old man. All I do that is exceptional is take 1000 mg of vitamin C every day. Vitamin C removes some heavy metals from the body.

    If your parents REALLY want to get concerned, they should look into the mercury fillings in teeth that are slowly leaching into the bodies of people with American dental fillings!


  5. Safety,

    They’ll say that until the accident happens. Then you’ll be surprised how many people speak up to say felt the same as you. They just don’t have the courage to speak up now, when it matters.

    Safety is the most important thing shooter can promote. You just noninated tomorrow’s blog.



  6. I nominated a blog! (blush) Thank you. BTW, since you kindly published the followup, I pointed a couple of members to your pages without making comment. It now seems my friend will be “spoken to” at the next meeting – result!

  7. bb,
    great post and aswers as always. really appreciate it.
    i hope u dont mind if i asked u something personal.
    in ur answer to dm20, you said that “After 6 decades, my blood lead levels register low for a 30 year old man.” isnt 6 decade means 60 years? i asked because english is not my mother tongue..

    btw, i’ve been reading ur blogs 4 more than 1 year now. and reading all ur answers to the comments, i feel very oblidged. i am sure not only me, but a lot of readers are curious juz what u look like…
    could u post a photo of you holding your favorite air gun?

    i hope i am not asking too much or offend you here. i mean tom gaylord post his photo. maybe u should too.


  8. BB,


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