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Air Guns Teach me to shoot: Part 18

Teach me to shoot: Part 18

Part 17 — where you will find links to all past reports — 1-16

This report covers

  • Time
  • How long?
  • Be prepared
  • The begining
  • Short report

Today I turn the tables on you and address more real-world problems with teaching people to shoot. I’m doing this because I’m coming under pressure from my church to teach more people to shoot and I bet this same thing has happened to some of you.


It takes time to learn how to shoot. Most of you readers understand this. You appreciate that we are all in an ongoing learning process that never really ends. But the non-shooting world does not understand that — not even the I-recently-purchased-a-firearm-and-I’ve-already-been-to-the-range-twice crowd. These are the people who watch movies where the “sniper” holds the crosshairs of the scope perfectly still and never misses — unless he is the bad guy and has to miss once at the end of the movie for the hero to win.

How long?

How long should it take to teach someone to shoot? It takes as long as that person takes to overcome all their fears and misconceptions about shooting, plus to calm down and start doing things the correct way. I went back and re-read the first 8 Parts of this series. But I lived through the last half of Part 16, where I document me training some youngsters in the Royal Ranger program at my church how to shoot. When they shot for record at the end of the training several things became obvious —

1. It takes longer than six weeks to teach kids how to shoot. Even one-on-one, it still takes a long time.
2. Kids don’t listen. They are too wrapped up in their own little world.
3. Some children are too young to receive shooting training, BUT THEIR PARENTS REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT.

And, a shooting range I conducted for the men at my church a year later taught me —

4. Many adults don’t listen, either.
5. All males think their DNA guarantees they know how to shoot. I know it guarantees they know how to be unsafe!

During the shoot-for-record session with the Royal Rangers I had a young girl break down and cry because her mama insisted that she shoot for record. She knew better but mama apparently knew best! I resolved then and there to never again listen to parents when I teach their kids to shoot. When little Billy has a loaded gun in his hand is not the time to tell me that he’s slightly autistic and now he seems to have gone non-verbal!

Royal Ranger small
Some of the kids in my class were smaller than the Daisy 499. This does NOT work!

Royal Rangers offhand
This girl tried shooting offhand. She tried to shoot the 499 as you see in this picture. I mean this was her final offhand stance. Unless she has a periscope she will never see through the gun’s peep sights!

Be prepared

Shooting is serious business. I had the “guest blogger” Jack Cooper cover safety with Dr. Jill in their first Teach me to shoot sessions. I made her a surgeon so I could avoid all the nonsense many adults would bring to the table. I could have just as easily made her an airline pilot because that is another profession that pretty much weeds out the bad actors. But in the real world you’re going to get them and you must be prepared.

I get EXTREMELY concerned when I hand even a BB gun to someone whose shooting background I do not know. Please read this report from October of 2022, where I tell you how DANGEROUS some adult males are with guns!

Fortunately for me, the son of a friend of mine was there and, when he saw the problems I was having, he stayed by my side for the rest of the evening. He had recently been released from the Army and knew how to safely handle a gun. He also recognized that half the men coming up to shoot did not.

Oh, and if you read that report I asked you to read, the man who was too vain to wear glasses that evening has since gotten a prescription. I recently had him over to my house to shoot a tactical BB gun. With his glasses on he now shoots to the same place I do. Imagine that! And this guy is a retired cop!

The begining

There is a report that started the Teach me to shoot series. It was back in 2008 when I reported on how I taught my ex-father-in-law to shoot. It’s worth a read. It documents a case when I was training one-on-one and the new shooter listened to me.

Build a Custom Airgun

Short report

This was a very short report — but it’s also an extremely important one. My church is now asking me to train teenagers to shoot 10-meter rifles, but they only have three weeks in their program to allot to me. I think I will tell them that I will train all the teens that are either surgeons or airline pilots. What do you think?

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.

44 thoughts on “Teach me to shoot: Part 18”

  1. B.B.

    Make that Eagle Scouts! Otherwise, I have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything.
    Unfortunately, shooting a gun just requires knowing where the trigger is. Sounds dangerous because it is!


      • BB

        That is BARELY enough time to introduce them to the discipline (notice I didn’t say sport). If it were only one person you were trying to teach, it would be a failed enterprise from the start. 10 meter shooting is a damn sight more than a distance one stands from a target.

        Perhaps better to have a class for those in the church that proposed the idea.

        On the other hand.. if they wanted to have an ongoing instruction in 10 meter shooting, and you had the time to devote to it, it could be an immensely rewarding experience for the few who became engaged in it.


  2. “5. All males think their DNA guarantees they know how to shoot…”

    I concur 100 percent!
    My personal experience are that most young girls do not think that way, hence, they tend to listen more and absorb information more quickly.
    Granted, my sample size is much smaller than yours (about a dozen boys and girls).
    Yet overall, I would say it was much easier to teach the young girls to shoot since they had less pre-conceived expectations, and were more concerned with doing as I asked instead of (in the case of young boys) “trying to show me how much they already knew”…oy! 😉
    I give you a lot of credit for what you are doing for the Royal Rangers.
    You must have the patience of a saint. 🙂
    Blessings to you,

    • dave,

      The patience of a saint? I’d like to think so, but after listening to the parents who were behind me as the kids shot for record I think I just bit my tongue.


      • “I’d like to think so, but after listening to the parents…”

        LOL! I hear you, man!
        I told the parents,
        “I’ll teach your kids to shoot; no, I do not need your help; actually, it would be best if you’re not there.”
        Thankfully, they all agreed; and the parents NOT being there was a HUGE help! 🙂
        Blessings to you for all you do,

  3. B.B.,

    Provide a set of minimum standards in advance based on size, strength, minimum visual acuity (corrected) and minimum age.

    Provide them with NRA Safe Gun Handling Rules in advance to study.
    First session test them on the NRA rules if not 100% no training.
    Next hand them a gun if they flag you or anything else no training.
    Maintain the individuals right to Drop On Request as well as your right to terminate an individuals training NO Questions Asked.

    Harsh but needed these days!


  4. Oh LORD, please bless this man with the patience of Job in this task he has been given.

    At least you have a couple of things going for you.

    You have had experience in this before.
    They will be using a single shot airgun.
    Because they are teenagers, they have been exposed to video games like Call of Duty, and FortNite, so they MAY have a rudimentary concept of aiming. (But I wouldn’t bet money on it.)

    The main thing you gave going against you?

    They’re teenagers…..

    Good luck!


      • B.B.,

        Trends driven by shortages and forced retirements of qualified ATP Rated.

        Airline Pilots are an overated bunch these days. Very few of them are former military trained flyers these days…and it shows.
        Surgeons may be headed in the same direction with AI robotic surgeries becoming the norm in the very near future :^0


  5. Tom,

    Definitely a tough crowd. From the teenagers who think they are invincible and think they know everything, and seniors in the church asking you to do what Lucky McDaniel did with his instinctive shooting program but this time using 10-meter rifles. I do agree with Shootski’s recommendations in thinning the class down to a manageable size. Too many student’s and not enough time is a recipe for failure. Maybe somebody wants the program to fail? The seniors in the church who are promoting this should probably also define what they expect you to accomplish in teaching these teens in three weeks with 10-meter rifles. How big of a target do these guys expect the teens to shoot and how small do they expect these shot groups to be. Definitely not dime sized unless they are going to be shooting from a rest. Maybe they think 10-meter rifles are shot from a rest as only a few actively shoot offhand? Not making excuses but keeping expectations within reality should temper things.


      • Tom,

        The I-recently-purchased-a-firearm-and-I’ve-already-been-to-the-range-twice guy probably has no idea that the 10-meter discipline is shot standing offhand. With that as a background I think we can effectively lower the bar and keep the area safe. Limit the range to ten meters from the target shooting from the bench. This will enhance safety as that the muzzle will most of the time be pointed downrange (no idea what 10-meter rifles you are planning to use) and will instill confidence in the students as to how accurate their rifles can be. Next term will have them shooting from the sitting position without the bench. Best of luck in your task. Worst case scenario would be the guy insisting that they shoot offhand at which point you could point out that the equipment cost for the gloves, jacket and boots makes this something not for the faint of heart.


        • Totally agree with this. I’ve spent many hours teaching kids the basics at shooting shows. There’s no way you’ll get them shooting safety and proficiently unsupported in such a short time. Bench rested is good enough for them to understand the principles of sighting and trigger control without the additional risks of shots going astray. If any of them show a good aptitude for it then maybe a follow on class in unsupported could follow?

  6. Oh my daisy… each time I have adults in my basement and try to show them how to shoot it is disaster. People don’t listen and are unable to think first before doing something.
    I learned that you can’t give a pistol to beginner. It will be great danger.
    I also learned that you have like 50% chance for a beginner person to shoot somewhere else each time.
    Match trigger is no friend of beginners. It may end up with a pellet in the foot or a pellet somewhere else in someones body. Fortunately, I haven’t had such an experience… but I heard about it. First time match rifle in the hand and pellet needed to be removed from the foot… it happens.
    I think I would not be able to stay calm if I should be a professional trainer. First you need to conduct IQ test on each beginner 🙂

      • Yogi,

        In general very good option. Unfortunately springers may not be shot dry… and nobody wants to shot dry anyway 🙂 Some friends of mine are now able to aim and hit. One is even beeing consumed by this hobby after one visit where we shot “all of them”. 🙂 His wife hates me 😀

        • tomek,

          I am sure that B.B. is not stupid enough to use springer airguns!!! True 10M springers are heavy and collectable. I am sure that Tom will use either a SSP, MSP, PCP, of Co2. All of which can be dry fired.


  7. God help you Tom, you will need it.
    Training my friends son, one kid, was a dangerous nightmare. He had no attention span and keep pointing the airgun at everybody 10 seconds after being reminded not to do so. Training ended fast, airgun removed from his hands. He was too young and excited to pay attention.

    Shootski took the words out of my mouth. No passing a test on the rules of gun handling, no training. Their head is not in the right place yet.

    Forget 10-meter shooting and guns. Get light weight air rifles like the recently mentioned Daisy plinkers. A pound and a half.
    Prioritize safe handling and correct shooting positions. Shoot at large noisy plinking targets to stir interest and provide instant positive feedback for following instructions.
    Supply visual training aids like gun rules and sighting pictures and any printed easy to understand reasons for the rules with pictures.
    Get feedback from the kids on what others may have done wrong or right to test their participation and attention.
    Save accurate target shooting for those that comply with the preliminary safe handling instructions. One or two violations get a stern reminder, out on the third.
    Let them get comfortable and confident with the airgun and have some fun learning from the get-go. Then move on to serious target shooting.
    Just my thoughts as a trained instructor. ( Not specifically for guns )
    Try not to embarrass them in front of the class, give lots of positive feedback to those that do well.
    A ‘Training Certificate’ of some sorts would probably be a great idea.

    • Bob

      Trying to get all that compressed into 4 1/2 hours stretched over three sessions would be an exercise in futility. What BB is being asked to do is simply not possible. But unless those asking for this to happen are educated on just what it is they are demanding,, only hard feelings can be expected when they are refused.


      • Good point. I overlooked the time involved. Probably better off simply showing them, or their parents what to do as in an education class and avoid all hands-on involvement. Would it help much, who knows?

  8. Alex2no,
    That may well have been true. I hated to give my mom my garrison belt to Wack me across my butt.

    Not worth going to jail for child abuse these days. Especially with someone else’s child. BB may be putting himself in harm’s way if something goes wrong and he is held liable. He is in a very delicate situation. I would require another adult be present all the time if only to act as a witness to everything going on.

  9. Agree with instruction first and testing first to thin the herd, but then you will need some real pros like you who know what they are doing to help you. Like one for every 2 teens at first, just to keep an eye on them and keep things safe. I would enlist the advice and help of ROTC or other shooting team coaches.

  10. This makes me wish that I was one of the lucky students getting ready to attend Tom’s 10-meter rifle shooting class. The limited time frame seems unreasonable to me for accomplishing very much. However, just some instruction to help the kids get started on the right foot is better than nothing. Remind everyone involved, including parents, that airline pilots and surgeons receive extensive training before they become competent. And learning to shoot safely and well takes extensive training also. Good luck and God bless everyone involved.

  11. BB-

    I have been a youth (ages 9-18) rifle instructor for over 20 years, having personally taught hundreds of youth. Additionally, I am an instructor trainer, so by extension, that would mean thousands. In all of that experience there have been zero negligent (there is no such thing as an accidental) discharges.

    That said, kids are kids, and recognizing that goes a long way towards successful outcomes. Now in your particular situation:
    Teenagers- generally a plus as per physical size regarding gun handling but there can be outliers requiring accommodation. Emotional and intellectual maturity is usually also a plus with this age group. Not a plus- raging hormones.
    Ten meter air rifle- meh. I guess you have to use what you have. But I question why this parameter was chosen. Also, what is the intended long term goal?
    Time- 3x 1.5 hour sessions. Sounds about right, but I have a fairly clear idea of what ‘success’ will look like at the conclusion of session 3. Do the ‘Powers That Be’?

    I wish now that I had read the blog at 4am when I was first up. Lots more to cover to be helpful. Have to get on the road soon. Perhaps a guest blog is in order? Let me know if interested.

  12. BB,

    Think that you have been asked to do something unreasonable by someone who knows nothing about what needs to be taught. The first thing would be to educate the requester, teach that person (1 on 1) and have him be one of the trainers. That might give him a more realistic perspective.

    I’ve taught several dozen people to shoot more accurately. Most were adult males with years (decades) of experience using firearms with never having any instruction beyond being shown how to operate the rifle.

    The requests for training typically come after they see me hit tiny targets at extreme range, repeatedly. Truthfully, the targets are pretty big, not that far away and easy to hit by anyone who has done a bit of practice. (Checking the rifle once a year to see if it still works does not count as practice 😉 )

    When evaluating a trainee I have them set out tin cans at whatever distance they want (distance is usually dictated by their ego rather than the level of skill) and hand them a PCP and leave them to shoot for a while.

    When they confirm (to themselves) that they are shooting beyond their skill level I setup a large target at close range, sit the guy down at the bench and have him learn about shooting consistently, one bit at a time. The biggest step towards improving is to realize that the basics need to be learned first.

    Learning a skill depends on the student, their ability and their motivation. Trying to teach someone without focus is difficult and results are poor at best.

    If you choose to accept this mission impossible… good luck!


  13. I was most fortunate that I have taught very few to shoot, and they paid very close attention to what I taught them.

    I would say no. With as little time as you have, all you should be expected to do is teach them basic gun safety. Teach them 10-meter shooting? I have been shooting firearms and air arms for sixty-two years and still cannot do such proficiently, not to speak of competing.

    Teenagers?! Teenagers are immortal, invincible and know everything. What are you going to teach them?

    If you should be foolish enough to do this, I would first ask if any play shoot-’em-up video games. If any respond with a yes, they are eliminated from training. I would then ask if any identify as male. If any respond with a yes, they would also be eliminated from training. The next thing I would do is hand each candidate an air rifle. If they do not IMMEDIATELY check to see that it is loaded, I would take the air rifle from that person and eliminate that person from any further training.

    The most important thing you can teach anyone is you will not be involved in such.

  14. FM fears you have been given one of the labors of Hercules, Tom. He will keep you in thought and prayer. FM be no expert in teaching anyone how to shoot but when many moons ago his visually-impaired friend asked him to “learn” him to shoot the Casa FM Ruger 10-22, first thing FM did was to go over the 3 Basic Commandments of Safe Firearms Handling:

    1-Always assume the gun is loaded; check it thoroughly before even thinking about loading it.
    2-Never point the gun at anything, inanimate or not, unless you intend to shoot it.
    3-Take your time to “line up” your shot, relax, breathe steadily and squeeze – don’t jerk – the trigger.
    4-Practice, practice, practice BUT have fun and don’t get hung up on achieving Olympic-grade accuracy.

    He’s turned out to be a pretty good and SAFE shot, with the help of good optics and laser sights and not just with a 10-22. Methinks that’s not so much a reflection of FM’s training (dis)abilities but a reflection of his ability to LISTEN attentively, absorb information and act rationally. Maybe his visual challenges have enhanced his hearing/listening abilities. Maturity helps too. Heck, we’re both so mature now we’re going to fully ripen one of these days! 😉

    FM believes you’re going to have to approach this task by putting on your Soup Nazi and make it clear any unsafe gun handling and/or parental interference that makes things unsafe and unmanageable will result in terminating the offending party’s or parties’ participation in the training. The Church elders have to be onboard with that and have your back at all times when any conflict arises. Easy for FM to say, he’s not there in the trench with you, so take this well-meant advice and dump it in the Circular File container if you think it is not practical for your situation.

  15. I taught new employees to qualify for 20 years. The best students were females with no prior experience. No bad habits and they listened to instruction.


  16. BB

    Both you and readers have stated clear warnings so don’t agree to taking this on. Instead offer to do what you believe is right. No compromising.


  17. Friend Tom,

    A tall order indeed given the short time span.

    My, limited experience with adults and teenagers hoping to learn about shooting guns has taught me several things:

    1-not everyone learns at the same speed so keeping classes small is critical

    2-safety is number one

    3-an accurate gun at short distance is critical along with reactive targets is a must. Shoot n see, balloons, paint balls, etc., give immediate feedback that teenagers (and adults!) need to stay engaged

  18. BB, man what a tough spot to be in. Would still have to be a hard pass for me though in your shoes. I would just have to explain that while “I appreciate what you are trying to do, there simply is not enough time allowed for even the best teacher in the world to teach these kids to shoot safely in the time allowed and I am declining because it would actually make them less safe in the end by them thinking that they knew how to shoot when the class was over. I will not do that to them.”

    Sometimes a little bit of knowledge is more dangerous than none at all. this is likely one of those cases.


  19. The positive side of this is that if you get the young ones interested and engaged in safe gun handling and shooting, it will bring fresh blood into the sport or hobby. If our right to keep, bear and enjoy our arms is to survive – FM will say it again – we need to get the young ones interested and engaged. It will also help save their brains from “(anti)social media” and the addictive devices that zombiefy so many of them.

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