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Education / Training Teach me to shoot: Part 1

Teach me to shoot: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This series will be different than any I’ve written. It’s a fictional guest report about a man teaching a woman how to shoot a gun. That’s everything you need to know. I intend for this series to be highly instructional.

Today’s report is written by one of our readers who was recently challenged to teach someone about guns and also how to shoot. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Jack who?
  • Oh, boy!
  • Teach me to shoot?
  • Her past experience
  • Lots to test
  • Are airguns okay?
  • Movin’ on up
  • Deluxe apartment in the sky
  • The rules
  • No accidents
  • Sight pictures
  • Time for dinner
  • “Hitch — what do I do?”

I have been a reader of this blog for many years, but this is the first time I have ever written anything. Three weeks ago I joined a Christian bible study group in my church. The study is run by one of the deacons and his wife at their house every Wednesday evening. About 12 people gather to discuss a passage or passages in the bible that the deacon has assigned to the group the week before. Most of the people are couples, but there is also one single woman in the group who looks a little younger than me. She is drop-dead gorgeous, and I was surprised that I never have seen her in church before. Believe me, I would have noticed her! She must attend a different service than I do.

Jack who?

Since this was my first time with the group they asked me to tell them a little about myself. I mentioned that I’m single and I work as a freelance artist, mostly doing illustrations for advertising firms. It sounds way better than it pays, believe me. I then told them something of my past, which is pretty boring and at the end for some reason I mentioned that I’m an airgunner. Several folks asked me what airguns were and I had to explain to them what all of you readers already know so well.

Oh, boy!

Then the evening’s discussion started and I was allowed to just sit and watch, since I hadn’t come prepared for this first session. After about an hour of discussion, we stopped for refreshments and I met most of the other members of the group. Then I got some cookies and a glass of lemonade and sat down to enjoy them. And the beautiful woman walked over and sat next to me. She told me her name is Jillian, but I could call her Jill. Then she asked me why I liked to shoot airguns. I told her about their relative safety and the quiet operation, but she kept pressing me for the real reason I wanted to shoot. So I compared it to throwing darts, which is something I suppose most folks like to do. You just want to see if you can hit what you aim at. I said airguns were just like darts, only you’re hitting the target out farther.

We made some other small talk that I am not normally comfortable doing — especially with attractive women. But she did most of the talking so it worked out okay. Then the group was called together and given our assignment for the coming week. We then said a group prayer and the bible study was over. As I left the house, Jill joined me on the sidewalk and asked me to walk her to her car. Heck, I would have crawled on broken glass and barked like a chicken (as B.B. once said) just to be with that woman a little longer!

Teach me to shoot?

We stopped at her car, which is a light-colored E-class Mercedes coupe (of course), and she asked me if I would teach her to shoot. I think you can guess my answer. She handed me her business card and asked me to please call her the next evening, after 6.

Well, this woman is a doctor! The card was just for her phone number, but you can bet I Googled her as soon as I got to my laptop. Turns out she is a respected surgeon at a very exclusive hospital in my city.

Her past experience

I called her the next evening and learned her story. Her husband had passed away from cancer two years before and she wanted to get a handgun for self-defense. But she had a very bad experience with guns growing up. Her family didn’t have any guns in the house, so she had no exposure to them until a college boyfriend took her to a local shooting range. He handed her his .357 magnum revolver and told her to hold it really tight because it kicks! Well, the first shot split the web of her right hand, causing blood to flow. It also raised a blood blister on her right thumb. For a soon-to-be-surgeon that is not good.

Are airguns okay?

So she dumped the boyfriend and forgot about shooting for the most part. But some desire still lingered in the back of her mind, and, now that she was single again, she wanted to learn to defend herself. Since I had mentioned that I shot airguns, she wondered whether they might be a less-painful way for her to learn to shoot.

I told her she had done the right thing, and that I would be pleased to teach her proper gun handling and also how to shoot. Airguns are perfect for starting out, because the basics apply to everything that shoots a projectile. I asked her when she had a free hour and she said we could start the coming Saturday evening at 5 p.m., if that was convenient. I told her the first session would take about an hour, because I didn’t want to overload her with information.

Then she asked what she could do for me, in return. Since we would be together Saturday evening anyway, I wondered if I could take her to dinner after our session. She asked me if I meant like a date and I said I guessed I did. I figured that would end everything, but she said okay — she just wanted to know.

Movin’ on up

On Saturday I learned that she lives in a downtown high-rise where you identify yourself at the guard/reception desk and they call up to see if you are okay. I was, so I was allowed in the elevator. I wondered what they would have thought if they knew I had a gun stuffed in my golf bag?

Deluxe apartment in the sky

Her suite is humongous! It’s two stories with a balcony along the second level that looks out through the two-story picture window in an open living room! There is a breathtaking view of the harbor. She has more space in that suite than my parents do in their entire ranch house, and it’s not that small!

We said hello and quickly found a place to set up. I told her she wasn’t going to shoot during this first session, which I think surprised her. My plan was to go over the basics of firearms etiquette, safe gun handling and sight pictures, so we could start shooting in the second session. I guess that satisfied her, so we got started.

The rules

I think she was surprised to learn there was so much to safe gun handling. Just so you’ll know, I covered the NRA’s 10 basic rules.

1. Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction
2. Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In Use
3. Don’t Rely On Your Gun’s “Safety”
4. Be Sure Of Your Target And What’s Beyond It
5. Use Correct Ammunition
6. If Your Gun Fails To Fire When The Trigger Is Pulled, Handle With Care!
7. Always Wear Eye And Ear Protection When Shooting
8. Be Sure The Barrel Is Clear Of Obstructions Before Shooting
9. Don’t Alter Or Modify Your Gun, And Have Guns Serviced Regularly
10. Learn The Mechanical And Handling Characteristics Of The Firearm You Are Using

I added to and modified some of those rules. For instance, I told her to never put her finger on the trigger until the gun was in position and she was ready to fire. I had a friend whose finger was always on the trigger until the day he put a pellet 6 inches up into his arm!

I told her we would not wear hearing protection for the first part of the training, because we didn’t need it. And I also told her about B.B.’s claim that there are no accidents with guns. There are only Stupidents.

No accidents

When I got to the part about no real accidents, she said surgeons say the same thing. So she understood about not pointing the muzzle in a direction in which you didn’t intend shooting and keeping your finger off the trigger until you were ready to fire the gun.

Then I covered gun etiquette, which frankly surprised her. She thought shooters just picked up guns whenever they wanted. She didn’t know that you should always ask permission to examine a gun that is not yours before touching it. And, when I told her that one shooter will examine a gun to make sure it is unloaded before handing it to another shooter who then goes through the same drill they have just witnessed, she was astounded! Each new person to touch the gun does exactly the same thing. She said hospitals have similar procedures when dealing with certain types of medicine that can kill if administered incorrectly. That is the moment that it clicked for her that we were talking about life-and-death situations when talking about handling guns. I think that resonated the deepest with her.

She told me that until then she had thought of all shooters as clumsy Bubbas, because that was how her college boyfriend had acted. I told her if she was ever around people who did not act the way I was describing, she should leave immediately, because it was unsafe.

Sight pictures

The last thing I covered was sight pictures. I had brought my Daisy Avanti Champion 499 along for the first part of the training, and I had to tell her why. She wanted to learn how to handle and shoot a handgun and I assured her we would get to that, but it is far safer to train a new shooter on a long gun first. The instructor can watch where the muzzle is pointing much easier with a long gun! And they can grab it when it moves too far. I also told her to hold her comments about the gun I brought. It might look like a Daisy Red Ryder, but it is about as similar to one as her Mercedes is similar to a Jeepney. I used that example because she had mentioned earlier taking a recent vacation to the Philippines.

I spent no small amount of time selecting the 499 for training this woman. Although she is about 5 foot 7 inches tall, she is very slender. She can’t weigh more than 105 lbs., if that. I wanted a long gun that wouldn’t be too heavy for her — a gun she could forget about in all aspects except safety. The 499, at 3.1 lbs., is certainly that. I also wanted a gun she could cock easily. She has very small hands with long, delicate fingers. She may be stronger than she looks, but I wanted the operation of the gun to become completely transparent for her — again aside from the safety aspect.

And I wanted a single shot. This woman is probably going to be a super-careful shooter, but I wanted no possibility for anything untoward to happen. One shot and it’s time to reload — it’s that simple.

The final criteria was the gun had to be accurate, which we all know the 499 is. I don’t want to spend time teaching someone to shoot, only to have them discouraged by a shot pattern that can’t hit a grapefruit at 20 feet. I told her about the Daisy National BB gun Championships and the pre-teen kids who can hit the period at the end of this sentence 9 times out of 10. That impressed her!

After that I showed her the proper sight picture that she will see with the 499 when we start shooting in the next session. Here’s what that looked like.

sight elements
These are the individual things the shooter will see when looking through the 499 sights.

sight picture

This is the correct sight picture. The important thing is to center the bullseye in the front aperture. The rear aperture takes care of itself automatically when you sight the gun.

She said this looked so simple and straightforward that she didn’t see how it was ever possible to miss the bullseye. I told her to hold that thought until our next session, but now it was time to go to dinner. I left the BB gun at her house so I wouldn’t have to lug it back and forth each week. Once we started shooting, she could practice on her own any time she wanted.

Time for dinner

We then went to the restaurant, which is one of the best in our city. I had shelled out $125 to have the cab of my pickup detailed, just to keep from offending her. I was surprised she didn’t suggest taking her car when she saw the beater I drive. But at least it was clean and she wouldn’t need a tetanus shot after getting out.

Dinner was great and I even had one glass of wine, but no more because I was driving. She had two. I told her then that wine was fine with dinner, but we would never have alcohol anywhere near where guns were being handled. That came as another surprise! She said she assumed beer and guns went together like burgers and fries. That college boyfriend had really messed with her mind!

That dinner set me back another bundle, but this lady was all dolled up and I wanted to show her off. How many chances will I ever get to go out with an angel?

When we returned to her building I suddenly panicked because this was our first date, after all. According to Alex Hitchens in the movie, Hitch, if the woman fiddles with her keys at the door she expects to get kissed. I was certainly looking forward to that, but her building wasn’t built that way. The doors weren’t locked. She was going to walk in past reception and take the elevator to her suite. The guard at the reception desk kept riffraff like me out unless he got a signal from a tenant.

“Hitch — what do I do?”

Fortunately for me, she stopped before we got to the door and turned to thank me for a wonderful first session and meal. I guessed that was my cue, so, just as Hitch advised, I got close and leaned in 90 percent of the way. She did the rest. When the kiss was over she told me I was a good kisser and said goodnight. Then she was through the front door and our training session/first date was over. I knew I would see her at the bible study group on the next Wednesday evening, but I decided to call her before that and see how things really went. And maybe she would have some questions about the first session.

Next time we start shooting. There’s a huge surprise coming!

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.

53 thoughts on “Teach me to shoot: Part 1”

  1. Congratulations on a successful first date!
    It’s been over 10 years since I’ve had a real date but it’s time again.
    The last woman I tried to kiss left a dust cloud reminiscent of the Road runner with wylie coyote hot on his tail or maybe it was more like Pepe le pew and that poor striped cat.
    That was a crying shame because she was a knockout but she was in the middle of a divorce and I guess it was either too soon or she just didn’t like me that way but she wouldn’t let me express my feelings so I took a leap of faith and swung for the fence trying to avoid another missed opportunity.
    Glad yours worked out better!

  2. BB
    Way over the top on today’s blog. Don’t know what you were thinking when you wrote it. Do you know how many people would read this today?

    Really I mean wow. I loved it. Very educational and exciting at that same time. I’m thinking to myself the whole time I was reading it. Is BB ok? Maybe that hospital medicine is working overtime?

    I don’t care what it is. Great, great write up today. I loved it. What can I say. A interested girl and learning to shoot a gun safely. More, more and more of this story needs to be told. Can’t wait to hear how they’re next Wednesday bible study went. And well afterwards you know.

    • GF1,

      Thanks. Your comment is just the sort of response I hoped for. I’m tired of just saying the same thing over and over, so I thought it might go better if I tried to make it more realistic.

      I find that I am waiting for the next part of this report like everyone else.


      • BB
        Well it was out of the ordinary and I think that’s what made it more interesting.

        Oh and I wonder how well of a shot the girl ends up being. And what kind of shooting that she likes to do. For sure waiting to see what happens. I like it.

          • BB
            That is true.

            Maybe she will end up liking feild target shooting. Or maybe even long range shooting. Bet she will like either one after she finds out what kind of instruments and the precision a air gun has.

            Or maybe she will have ideas of a new kind of air gun shooting to do that the guy teaching her will get blown away about and you know what I mean. He will just totaly be surprised about her shooting suggestion.This will be interesting to see the out come.

            • GF1,

              The other day we were talking about adjusting the front lens on (cheap) scopes to get better focus. One reader mentioned that the cross-hairs rotated as well. I thought that the cross-hairs were at the rear of the scope, not the front. I plan to try it this weekend, but thought I would ask first. We are talking a Daisy 4×15 on an 880,…..cheap as they get.

              • Chris USA
                I have had the reticle turn. But not from adjusting front objective lens. The scope broke from a springer and it was a cheap scope.

                The lens to adjust for parallax is the front lens. The one towards the muzzle end of the gun. Not the one you look through.

                And I’m betting you won’t have much luck getting that one to adjust right on parallax. 15 mm diameter front lens is awful small.

                • GF1,

                  The objective was the one I was going for, not the ocular. I asked because I thought perhaps the really cheap scopes were made different somehow.

                  Of course if it does break, a “dissection” will ensue shortly thereafter. Got to know what makes it “tick” after all, eh? We will find out.

  3. Sorry, I just don’t get it!
    As a surgeon she she would have seen the carnage that fire arms can do, and been horrified…….
    For personal protection, a decent dog is a much better option……
    Well at least her apartment should be big enough to set up an indoor 10 meter range.
    What does Hitch say about the 3rd date rule????


  4. Shades of Louis L’Amour !!
    I’m pretty good at predicting the end of a story and for some reason 5 rings come to mind ?

    Don’t feel too bad about the one that got away. A divorced friend of mine went to a family reunion and asked his son who that ‘Old lady’ was sitting next to his sister? “That’s Mom !! He sleeps better now…

  5. Great article today! Well written, tasteful, interesting. Looking forward to the next installment.

    I am an NRA Certified instructor for Rifle, Pistol, Shotgun, Personal Protection In The Home and Range Safety Officer. All that was part of the evolution to teach, and continue to teach, the BSA Riflery and Shotguning merit badges. Did that for 20 years or so. Somewhere along the way I also ended up teaching customers (I do industrial sales) and friends’ kids and wives how to shoot. It’s very rewarding. It’s also my way of fighting back against all the firearms BS that one sees in the mainstream media. I hope that I’ve played a part in perhaps saving someone else from personal injury and/or death.

    I strongly encourage any reader of this blog to learn how to teach people correctly, and then teach everyone you can find. Knowledgeable people are rarely afraid of guns…they respect them , but don’t have some irrational fear of the tool, just those that would mis-use the tool to commit a crime.

    Thanks again for writing this excellent article!

    St. Louis, MO

    • Motorman,

      I am asked for a series like this all the time. And I have actually done it a couple different ways in the past. This time, though, I thought I would do it more realistically — they way I have seen it unfold. I hope the series continues to educate and attract readers.


  6. Hi BB, I’m hooked, can’t wait for the next part(s) in this series! This is especially helpful since all my shooting info have been from the internet with trial and error…..never step by step from a pro! Thanks for writing this up!


    • peter,

      I find as I write it that it’s so much easier when I envision a person receiving the training. I can anticipate her questions and concerns and that allows me to bring out a lot more than I would by just writing from a curriculum.


      • Hi BB, yes, absolutely and her questions would most likely echo many of my questions as a new airgunner…..”all you want to know about shooting, but were afraid to ask” 🙂 A curriculum might not bring out the practical aspect of hands on as well as the questions that go with it. Also, what you’ve done makes enjoyable reading as well!


  7. Hi BB, in your sight picture graphic, you have the bull, front sight and rear peep as centered, concentric circles. I recall in another post you mentioned it was not as important to center the rear peep….as long as the front sight was centered and aligned to the bull. So, why are there micro adjustments in rear peep sights to get it perfectly centered?


    • Peter,

      You aren’t understanding the rear sight as I meant you to understand it. Your eye automatically centers the front sight and target in the rear peep, because they eye always goes for the greatest light. And the center of the rear peep is where the light is brightest.

      It isn’t that the rear sight doesn’t matter. It’s that you needn’t concern yourself with it. But if your hits are off, you move the rear sight so the brightest place will be centered on the target.

      I say it the way that I do because there are anal types who believe they have to work hard to center the front sight in the rear peep. In fact, it is almost impossible to not center it. They just need to look through it (the rear peep) and concentrate on the front sight and the target.


  8. Hi BB, ahha, clarity, I see the light now 🙂 Thanks for being patient with me and my questions. I’m glad folks like yourself are willing to share experience and mentor folks like me. Airgunning is such a fascinating and fun sport. I have so much more to learn!


    • Peter,

      I’m glad you understand what I am saying. This concept is very difficult to explain with just words. When I am personally teaching someone, I have the whole range of body language to get the point across, and it’s a lot easier.


  9. Hi BB, when you mentioned brightest place in the rear peep, it just clicked! I guess I subconsciously I do look for the center just because it’s easier to see from there! Is this also true for scopes? I notice when my eye is looking down a scope at center that’s where it’s brightest. If my eye was off center, even though the cross hair was still on target, the pellet was off. Thanks BB!


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