Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 6

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 6

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Well, today mom is going to start the kids shooting actual pellet guns. We did that in Part 4, but in Part 5 we got back to the schoolroom training again, so I’m going to pretend that the kids haven’t touched off a shot yet.

She decided on the Daisy 953 for her boys and each boy has his own rifle, so the sights can be left set where he needs them. She bought the separate Daisy 5899 receiver sight for each rifle, figuring that if the boys wanted to go farther with this she could always upgrade.

Since mom is by herself, she will let one boy at a time shoot, while the other boy stands behind the line and helps her. This will make the sessions last longer, but the benefit will be a more rapid development of responsibility in both boys. That’s because the non-shooting boy will have to learn to subordinate his thoughts and desires (and his talking) while his brother shoots. If mom can’t get cooperation like that, she can always end the session early.

These are seven-year-old boys (referring back to Part 1), which is a little young for this, but each parent will have to decide that for themselves. Children mature at different rates, and I can’t set an absolute limit; however, we’re on the young side of formal training. That’s not to say a parent can’t have a lot of fun with kids much younger than this; but in that case, the parent is in complete control all the time. In the formal teaching scenario, we start putting trust in the children.

Since these boys are so young, we’ll let them rest their rifles on a rest while they shoot. Maybe next year, they’ll be able to try some prone shots, but right now everything is off a rest. Mom will probably have to pump the rifle for them. That 20 lbs. of single-stroke pumping effort is a bit much for kids this young to handle.

Step one for each boy in turn will be to sight in his rifle. We will have them take three shots at the top sighter bull of an NRA-sanctioned AR 5/10 12-bull target. (They can also use the Birchwood Casey sight-in target.) Then, we’ll call a cold line and mom and both boys will go downrange to look at the target. They’ll decide where the center of the three-shot group is, then return to the firing line; and the shooter, once permission is given by mom, will adjust the rear sight to move the group to the center of the bull. Mom will call the range hot again, and the shooter will fire three more shots at the same bull. Next, she’ll call the range cold, and once, again, all three people will go downrange to the target.

If the sight corrections were applied correctly (i.e., moving the rear sight in the direction we want the center of the group to move), the second group should be closer to the center of the bull. If it isn’t, the sights may have some slack that needs to be taken up. In other words, the sight needs to be adjusted farther than indicated by how much the group needs to move. The shooter should be recording this in a small notebook that he keeps with his rifle.

If the group has moved in the wrong direction, the shooter will record that and write instructions in front of his notebook on how to adjust the rear sight to move the shot group correctly. With 7-year-old shooters, mom will probably have to help a lot with this. The other boy is watching everything his brother is doing, so when it’s his turn he won’t have to learn all this again. Then, the line goes hot and three more shots.

This is kept up until the group seems centered on the 10-ring, which (on this target) is a tiny dot about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. If the top bull gets shot up, shift to the lower sight-in bull and continue until the rifle is sighted in. Then the shooters will switch and the other boy will sight in his rifle in the same way. Sighting in two rifles this way will probably take at least an hour. When the second rifle is done, the session will end. Hopefully, both boys will have some impression of the trigger by the time they’ve fired 12-20 shots through their rifles.

The next time they have a training session, the first thing each shooter will do is confirm their zero with the top sighting bull. If mom wants to speed the session along, she can put a telescope or a pair of binoculars at the firing line so the shooter can see his target without going forward. In competition, each shooter will have a spotting scope at his or her position and will adjust it every time they change shooting positions. For now, we don’t need to be that formal.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Despite the title of this report, it’s actually written for anyone who’s trying to teach a new shooter, child or adult how to shoot. The age of the shooter is unimportant. The first four parts of this report have dealt with setting up the range, class discipline and how to conduct a shooting class. Today, we’ll get to the actual teaching.

The triangulation system
When I was a youngster, my mother enrolled me in an NRA-run course that taught me how to shoot. This was in the late 1950s, and the techniques used to teach us back then were those that had been popular both before and during World War II. I’ve researched both the modern U.S. Army and Marine Corps marksmanship syllabi and find that what I’m about to show you is, unfortunately, no longer taught — but it should be! Today’s lesson could turn out to be the most valuable teaching technique for training new shooters that you ever learn.

We’re going to teach the new shooter how to use sights through a method called triangulation. Although we’ll be using aperture sights, which are the easiest to learn and the most precise to use, any type of non-optical sight may be taught by this method. Read the entire report before asking any questions. This method will immediately reveal whether a student understands how to use sights, plus it will show the student’s level of skill in sighting — all without the use of a rifle.

Making a triangulation sighting bar
You can make a simple training aid to teach the student how to use the sights. It consists of a straight bar with open “sights” on each end. An 18″ strip of wood will suffice for the bar, and you can fashion the “sights” from paper index cards. If you’re the coach of a shooting club and plan to teach a lot of kids, it might be worth the effort to mount real sights to the bar, though that isn’t necessary. Simple card-stock sights taped to the bar as shown in the drawings will work great. If you cannot find a piece of wood to use for the bar, a long ruler works well as a substitute. The dimensions of this training aid are not precise and critical, as long as it’s made reasonably close to what’s described here.

Poke a small hole through the rear “sight” for the student to peer through. The front “sight” is just a square post. Fasten both front and rear sights so they cannot move during the exercise, as repeatability is important. Place the sighting bar on a box so the student can use the sights without touching or moving them.

The instructor stands or sits 33 feet away and holds a black bullseye target against a large white piece of paper that’s attached to a wall or a large box. In the center of the black bullseye, a small hole has been made for a lead pencil to poke through to mark on the white background paper.

Conduct of the exercise
The student looks through the sighting bar and tells the instructor how to move the bullseye target until it’s positioned perfectly against his sights for a 6 o’clock hold. It’s important that the sighting bar does not move during the exercise — only the target, as adjusted by the instructor. When the sight picture looks right, the student tells the instructor to mark the target and the instructor makes a mark on the white background paper by pressing his pencil through the hole in the center of the target.

Repeat this exercise three times and there will be three pencil marks on the white background paper. The closer these marks are to each other, the better the student has adjusted his sights. This gives both the student and the instructor an excellent idea of how well the student understands the sight picture.

The results you want
What you are looking for is three dots on the background paper in the form of a triangle. A good result is if the dots are all within one inch of each other. Don’t be surprised if they are within one-half-inch of each other. The closer they are, the better and more precise the student is seeing the sight picture.

But if the dots are several inches apart, the student is not yet seeing the sight picture correctly. They may not understand all that is required of them in the exercise, or they may not appreciate the precision they are expected to achieve. Also, this could be an indication of a vision problem. Once you determine the problem(s), you can run the exercise again until they get it right. When the student can place three dots close to each other, they will instinctively know how the rifle sights should look, and you can rule that out as a problem area.

A simpler, faster way to begin
You can avoid making the sighting bar if you want to by simply using the rifle itself. Simply rest it so the student can see through the sights without touching or moving the rifle. This will be more difficult because of the stock, which is why the bar was created, but it is possible. However, many people don’t like the idea of being downrange with a rifle pointed at them, and the sighting bar makes it unnecessary. I think the sighting bar is a much better training aid that takes only a few minutes to create.

Style of the sights doesn’t matter
Don’t worry if your rifle’s sights don’t look like the sights I’ve shown here. You can make them any kind of style you desire. Just cut them out of card stock and color them black to help the student define the sight picture. If you plan to use open sights with a rear notch, be sure to allow enough room behind the rear sight so it appears reasonably sharp to the student when aligned with the front sight. And remember to tell the student that the front sight is what they must focus on. Both the rear sight and the target will appear slightly out of focus when they sight correctly.

I have wanted to share this technique with my readers for years, but I always held back because I felt it might be too difficult to follow. I hope this report has made it clear and that this exercise helps your students learn how to use open sights as it once helped me. One week after completing this exercise successfully, I was shooting five-shot, dime-sized groups at 50 feet from the prone position, which was the first position the NRA taught.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

As we begin today’s report, remember that I’m doing this for a single mom with two young boys to teach. Everything I write is from that perspective.

Okay, you’ve had enough time to get everything together from the list I gave you in part 3. And I assume that you have chosen a safe place to shoot. That would be a place where the cat and dog cannot suddenly pop up downrange without your knowing about it, or a place that has no door downrange that can’t be locked so people don’t suddenly walk into the line of fire.

Your first session
Remember, this is supposed to be fun. So, enter it with that mindset. The first step is to get the pupils to pay attention. You talk to them about it and explain that on a firing range everyone listens to the rangemaster (range officer or whatever). Tell them you will be testing them on this from now on.

The line
Safety is the first briefing. No one touches a gun once it is on the line until the rangemaster instructs you to. Since these are children, “the line” is going to be special initially. Let me describe it now. The line is a table with rolled blankets (or whatever you can find) on which you can rest a single rifle. There’s a chair behind the table where the shooters are to sit.

No air pistols for initial training — they’re too dangerous for untrained people to handle. Since we’re teaching children and there’s only one of you, there will be only one rifle on the line at any time. That means one shooter, only, at any time. You can control the actions of one person, but not two. The rifle is oriented on its rest so that it is aimed downrange at a pellet trap.

There must be a command at which all students know to stop talking and start listening. In the Boy Scouts, the leader used to raise his hand with the three-fingered Boy Scout salute. The word quickly spread through the troop, “Sign’s up!” and everyone knew to go quiet and turn to watch the leader. You have to have the same control on your firing line because you’re teaching discipline. The rangemaster is important, the student is not. This is one of the hardest things to teach, and with some children it’s impossible. I have been involved with youth shooting programs. If we had a problem with certain children after working with them as long as we felt we could, they were discharged from the team for that year. They were welcome to return the next year to see if they had learned to calm down.

A single parent cannot discharge her children, but she certainly can stop a training session and explain the reason to both pupils. The next session she holds should (hopefully) show improvement. But do not proceed if you don’t have 100 percent control of all shooters. This is a sport with potential danger, and we’re working to cancel as much of it as possible.

Deputy rangemaster(s)
Since everyone learns the few simple rules, anyone can call a “cease fire” any time the range is hot and they see a safety violation. “Hot” means that active shooting is happening. A cold range is a safe range, and the rangemaster calls the range both hot and cold. I will tell you how to do that in the next installment. It’s important that the conduct of your home range follows an established pattern, because some day your children will be on other ranges and they need to learn the universal procedures of range conduct. But the point I’m making here is that everyone involved should feel bound by the same safety rules and know what to do when they’re violated. So, every shooter is a deputy rangemaster.

The rules

  • No one goes forward of the firing line when the range is hot.
  • When the range is cold, guns may be touched if the rangemaster allows it.
  • No one touches a gun when there are people downrange (on a cold range).
  • Guns on the line are opened with safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it), so the rangemaster can see they are not loaded (i.e., bolts open).
  • Shooters do not approach the firing line until told to do so by the rangemaster.
  • Guns are brought to the line and removed on the command of the rangemaster.
  • Behind the firing line there should be no handling of guns unless commanded by the rangemaster.
  • When off the line, guns are bolts open and safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it).
  • During breaks, no one handles rifles unless accompanied by the rangemaster.
  • The muzzle of the rifle on line is always pointed downrange. No one ever gets any part of their body in front of the muzzle of the gun on line.

It’s impossible to write every rule for a firing line, so common sense must be employed. So, everyone needs to keep this in mind and act on it. Any unsafe act is a safety violation. If the range is hot, a cease fire must be called and the violation pointed out and corrected.

Rapid training
Mom teaches these rules and requires the shooters to memorize them. Hint: if you begin with the basic safety concept, the rules are easier to remember. A verbal test (for younger children) is given, to verify they understand the basic safety requirements.

Here’s the rapid training part: Mom intentionally violates a rule while instructing to encourage the shooters to draw her attention to it. Once they get the hang of doing this, you’ll have the safe range you desire. Keep this up occasionally to keep the shooters sharp.

Next time, I’ll cover the range commands and teaching the shooters how to sight a rifle.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, we’re going on a shopping trip. We’re going to look at all the stuff (besides the gun) that you need to teach children to shoot. I talked about the different guns you could look at in part 2, so I’ll assume you have something in mind. The stuff I’m going to look at today is the stuff that husbands and boyfriends never think about until you’re ready to start the shooting session…and then they try to improvise. We’re not going to improvise. We’re going to have the right stuff at the beginning.

Safety is the stuff people tend to forget about. There’s not too much, but it’s darned important to the program, so let’s get it right the first time. The first thing we’ll look at is a backstop.

Don’t believe that you can stop pellets with a cardboard box filled with newspaper. If you try to do that, you’ll have holes in your wall before long. We’re going to spend a little money and buy exactly what you need.

First, let’s buy a pellet trap. For Cathy, the mom with twin boys, I recommend letting them shoot by turns so you need only one trap. When the shooter is on the line, he should have a dedicated trap that’s used only by him. Of course, when the next shooter comes up, he’ll use the same trap. The point is that when one person is shooting, there should be no sharing of traps. The trap should be located directly in front of the shooter at the appropriate distance. The ideal distance for our sport is 10 meters, which is 11 yards. If you don’t have that, use what you have. Twenty-five feet will work just fine.

I recommend the Crosman 850 trap, which suitable for all the guns I’ve recommended. I’ve actually tested this trap with much more powerful rifles, but I don’t recommend that you use it for anything above what we’re using in this program…a .177 cal. pellet rifle that doesn’t exceed 650 fps.

Safety glasses are another item you need. One pair for each person who’ll be in the area. My recommendation is to have one extra pair.

Don’t let anybody tell you that you can print out targets from the internet. Sure, you can do it…and you can also run your Cadillac on 87 octane gas for a while, but it’s a false economy. Bond paper tears and doesn’t give a good scoring hole, which you need for training. It IS possible to back up bond paper with cellophane tape, but don’t tell me you’re willing to do $10 worth of labor to save a nickel on a target. Buy targets from a reliable manufacturer. One of the best is National Target Company.

I recommend the 12-bull air rifle target. Since these are actually slightly larger than the pellet trap, let’s cut them in half so they fit. We don’t want anyone shooting outside the pellet trap.

Mom, you must be concerned about that pellet trap. I know that I would be. What if the kids missed the trap entirely when they’re just starting out? For safety’s sake, let’s put a plywood board behind the trap. A 4’x4’x1/2″ plywood board should be sufficient to stop any stray pellets. If you’re worried about the kids shooting below the trap, raise it against the plywood board with something stout, like bricks or a cinderblock. Your shooters should not miss an area that large, no matter what they do.

For training, you need to economize on pellets because you’re going to go through a lot of them. I recommend Gamo Match. Do not buy your pellets from Wal-Mart or any discount store, as they will not be as accurate as your shooters can shoot. Those discount pellets will be counterproductive to your program.

That’s the stuff you need to buy, but there are other things you’re going to need. A table for the beginning shooter to rest his gun. Some kind of cushion upon which to rest the gun when not shooting. Take a look at the Shooter’s Ridge Monkey Bag, which is just about ideal for what you need. The shooters will begin their training sitting in a chair behind the table and bag. As the lessons advance, we’ll teach them the shooting positions and do away with this setup. But, it’s always handy to have the table and bag because you may want to sight-in the guns from time to time. And, this is a stable way to do it.

The only other thing you need is a place to shoot. For that, you need to consider safety. There shouldn’t be any doors downrange through which people could materialize. Animals should be kept out of the range entirely. You need a strong light on the target, and just enough in the shooting area for the shooter to see. You can get a strong light at a home improvement center for under $10.

That’s it. That’s your list to complete; and when you have, you’re ready to start your lessons.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

In the case of one mom and two kids, it might be best if only one child shot at a time. Let the other child watch, but don’t let him touch his gun. That way, mom can concentrate on just one person. Younger kids are full of false moves, and you’ve got to know when it’s time to call an end to a session because of horsing around. It’s best to have this talk before shooting begins. Explain to the kids that safety is so important that if they violate a rule in any serious way they’ll end that day’s session. I said in part 1 that you want to use a long gun for training. Handguns are too short and their muzzles move too quickly to be good training tools for shooter education.

Since you’ll be using long guns, let them be on rests so the child doesn’t have to support the weight of the gun. These rests don’t have to be fancy. They can be rolled up towels or blankets…whatever you have that allows the rifle to rest without falling over.

There are two schools of thought on what comes next. Do you first teach the child how to use the sights in a separate lesson, or do you teach them how to sight while they’re shooting? Certainly, you point out all the parts of the sights to all your shooters so they understand the difference between the front and rear sights. When you talk about the rear sight notch, they’ll know what it looks like. I like training on the gun itself because I think the training sticks a little better.

If the sights are adjustable, then mom has to watch where the majority of the shots are falling. It may be necessary to make adjustments to the sights to bring the shots closer to center of the target.

Which gun to use?
Unless you plan on sending your kids to the Daisy International BB Gun Championship, I recommend starting with a pellet gun, not a BB gun. The 499 Champion is the only BB gun accurate enough for training. On the other hand, you have quite a choice of pellet rifles.

Daisy’s Powerline 953 TargetPro is a great youth training rifle.

No doubt this will stimulate many comments among our readers. Certainly, the Daisy 953 is one of the best training guns. But it’s a little large for a 7-year-old. Don’t overlook some of the sporting youth guns being sold by some other companies, like the Gamo Lady Recon, Ruger Explorer, Hammerli 490 Express and Crosman Raven. While these are not target rifles, they have everything necessary to train young shooters. And, their sizes are ideal.

If you want to spend a little more money and get something that’s quite a bit nicer, you might also consider the Bronco. It would be a little heavy for a 7-year-old, but they’re resting the rifles. The stock probably won’t be too long, and the sights and trigger are ideal for training.

There’s no caliber decision to consider. Buy .177 only. Unless you already own an airgun of another caliber, the .177 eclipses all the other calibers in the role of training and education.

Timing of the session
Your training sessions should not run for a long time. Perhaps, half an hour per student is maximum. So, with two students, the session runs an hour, with each getting half the training time. As time goes on and the kids mature, you can expand this, but you need to watch the kids in a training situation to see when they’re ready for it.

In part 1, I talked about the rules of safe gun handling. I mentioned that the instructor can also make a “mistake” that the students should catch and provide correction. I’ve seen classes of young shooters become so focused on safety infractions that it was difficult for the instruction to proceed with the class because the students were waiting for the next violation. They LOVE correcting adults. So, use this. It’s a powerful training tool.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom/B.B.: The doctor in charge of Tom’s case says he’s healthy enough to go home shortly. They’ll be tying up some loose ends over the next few days.

B.B. wrote today’s blog.

Today’s blog was inspired by a reader named Cathy, who asked for help in the comment section of video No. 4. She has twin 7-year-old boys who want to learn how to shoot. I wanted to answer her and all the other single moms who are in the same situation. However, the info I’m providing is applicable to anyone who wants to teach kids to shoot. There’s a lot to this, so this is going to be a multi-part series.

Before we launch into how to do this, let’s take a moment. You need to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. And, your kids do, too. What is there about shooting that interests you? Do you want your family to have a complete gun safety education? Are one or more of your children actually interested in shooting? Maybe another reason?

Shooting training cannot be over-estimated in value. The more education people have about guns in general, the safer they will be when handling them. Airguns make a wonderful entree into the world of shooting education. If one or more of your children are actually interested in learning to shoot, then you need to establish what kind of shooting they’re interested in because there are so many types. Target shooting is the most common and probably the one that brought them to this, but some kids want to learn to hunt. Each type of shooting requires a different type of education. And, in some cases, airguns may be entirely unsuited to training. For example, if your child wants to shoot international sporting clays, there’s no airgun that he can use for that endeavor. But, if you just want to put a hole in a piece of paper as close to the center as possible, then nothing is better than a pellet gun.

In many parts of the U.S., hunting is considered a really big deal. Some states make the opening day of the season an unofficial state holiday for schools. This has a tremendous attraction for teenage boys. And, if it’s the reason your child wants to shoot, then, once again, an airgun might be good to teach him safety and the basics, but you need to find a firearm instructor and get him enrolled in a hunter safety education course run by the NRA.

Once you establish why you want to shoot, you need to talk to your kids about the shooting sports. We talk so much about a driver’s license and the responsibility that it conveys upon a young person that gets one, but a firearm or airgun conveys similar responsibility with no age restrictions, and this is something that needs to be considered. Mistakes with firearms and airguns are simply not tolerable. There’s no going back when a mistake is made. Therefore, you, as the parent, will have to stay one step ahead of your kids during this education program.

There are so many kinds of safety to consider when shooting. But the main types with airguns are eye safety, range safety and gun-handling safety. For eye safety, everyone must wear approved safety glasses. The ones on Pyramyd Air’s website will do the job.

As far as range safety goes, I’ll describe in its entirety. And the same with gun-handling safety.

Range safety
A range is a place where you shoot. It can be formal or informal. It can have as few as one shooter or as many as several hundred. There’s no time to learn about range safety when you’re at the range. You have to know this before arrival.

Guns are always pointed down range, unless they’re unloaded and standing in approved gun racks at the rear of the range. Each firing point may have one gun that’s currently in use, and that gun has to be unloaded and pointed down range at all times until you start shooting. If the range has several people (and a parent with 2 kids would be 3 people), then there has to be someone in charge of the range. Everyone else using the range must follow the orders and instructions of the person running the range. However, every person on the range should be considered a deputy safety officer. Each of them being vigilant to keep the range safe at all times. Here are things to look for:

  1. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. This applies whether the gun is loaded or unloaded.
  2. Airguns unloaded and pointed down range.
  3. No handling of guns on the range while other people are forward of the firing line.
  4. Absolutely no clowning around.
  5. All ranges should follow the NRA’s basic 10 rules of gun-handling safety.

One final word on range safety. Long guns are much easier to control and monitor than handguns. So, if you have a handgun on the range, you need to be doubly aware of where it is at all times.

Something I like to do while training new shooters is to make them aware of the safety rules, deputize them as safety officers, and then violate a rule and see what they say. Most kids will figure out that this is a game and will really enjoy telling an adult what to do. If you can get them behind you like this, you’re going a long way toward safe gun handling.

Safe gun handling
This is the etiquette side of gun safety. The responsible shooter never picks up a gun without first asking permission of the owner. If they say NO for any reason, just back off and go somewhere else.

The first thing you do when picking up a gun is to unload it. If you don’t know how the gun works, ask the owner to unload it for you or to check that it’s unloaded. Next, be conscious of where the muzzle points at all times. Do not swing a gun or pass a gun in such a way that the muzzle would point at any person at any time.

What caliber is it?
This blog posting is getting very long yet it’s only part 1, and I’ve only skimmed the surface to get you started. But, this one last subject I have to get out. It probably doesn’t fit here, but I don’t know where else to put it.

When Edith worked at a large online sporting goods retailer, a common question for the tech dept. was, “I just bought this gun. What caliber is it and what ammunition do I need for it?”

For gosh sakes, if you’re going to shoot a pellet gun, find out what caliber it is, find out what gets shot in it and what kind of power source it uses. Don’t order airguns without knowing exactly what they need in terms of ammunition and power source. It takes a little research, but the info is on the website. In fact, you’ll find more than a little info to answer all your questions. And, when you can’t find what you need, you have this blog.