Take A Friend Shooting for the First Time

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on May 13, 2008 at 11:25 am
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There are a lot of misperceptions, bias, and misinformation out there about guns.  This can make even reasonable and intelligent people, who don’t have first hand experience with guns, believe that guns are somehow evil or are the cause of crime.   One great way to dispel these myths and let your anti-gun friends decide for themselves is to take them to shooting range.  My girlfriend and I recently did that just that, with a co-worker of mine and his wife.  Below are suggestions I have on how to make such an outing to the shooting range a success, along with our experience.

Suggestions for taking an anti-gun friend or coworker to the shooting range

  1. Politely offer to take the anti-gun friend or coworker to the range.  Be sure to follow up on this offer at a later time, just so that they know you were serious.
  2. Make sure that they know how to get to the range, and that you are there ahead of time to meet them.  Given the way that guns are portrayed in the media and the fact that being around guns will be a new experience for this person, removing the stress of finding the shooting range and/or walking in to a gun store alone can go a long way to putting your anti-gun friend at ease.
  3. Select a time when the range is not too busy, or better yet, rent a private room at the shooting range so that the only noise will be from your guns.  Again, since being around guns for the first time can be stressful, the last thing you want is to have your anti-gun friend exposed to the noise of a loud and “scary looking” gun being fired by another patron of the shooting range.  I learned this lesson when I took my girlfriend shooting the first time, only to have her wish to leave when the the gentleman next to us began firing his M1, complete with a muzzle brake.
  4. Bring or rent good ear protection for your friend.  Many people not yet accustomed to guns will be bothered by the noise.  Suggesting ear plugs under ear muffs can help with this.  Just make sure you speak loudly enough for your friend to hear you.
  5. Clearly explain the safety rules and operation of the guns, to the point of almost boring your friend.  It is better that they are bored but clear on the rules and operation of the gun, than they are nervous or unsafe.  Before you have your friend shoot, show them how it is done a couple times.  They will get used to the noise and operation of the gun.  Knowing exactly what will happen when the trigger is pulled will help put them at ease, so that they can focus on enjoying the guns rather then worrying about  them.
  6. Start with low recoiling handguns.  If you don’t have one, I would suggest renting a .22 revolver for your friend to fire.  The utter lack of felt recoil will put them at ease, as will the low amount of noise.  I have found that some beginners are nervous about having the stock of a shotgun/rifle near their face, so a handgun can be better as well.  Since a revolver won’t eject spent casings the way a pistol will, that is one less distraction for your friend.  One they are comfortable (and bored) with the .22 revolver, try an auto loading pistol.  I would recommend a relatively heavy pistol chambered for 9mm or .45, so that they can see what recoil is like, without being overwhelmed by it, as they might be with a shotgun.
  7. The first time you give the gun to the new shooter, load only one round.  That way, in the (very) unlikely event that they panic and start squeezing the trigger in an uncontrolled manner, they can’t inadvertently fire the gun again. Load one round at a time until they are comfortable and have demonstrated skill at safely handling the gun [Thanks for this suggestion goes to Booker!].
  8. Overall, make them feel at ease.  Accuracy and proper shooting stance is something that they can improve at a later date.  The important thing is that they safely get comfortable with guns.
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My experience taking a coworker and his wife to the range

My girlfriend and I recently took a coworker and his wife to the range.  I made the offer to do so at a company outing several months ago, and they decided to take me up on the offer recently.  We set up a convenient time, and met at the range.  My girlfriend and I got there about 1/2 hour early, to look at the Taurus Judge and to make sure that we could begin shooting right when they arrived.  In a surprising bit of luck, we were the *only* people using the range for the entire hour, which prevented the noise from other guns from complicating things.  I rented a .22 Revolver and a .45 ACP Springfield 1911.  After we got our rental guns, targets, and eye/ear protection on, we went into the shotting range area.

I explained the basic operation of the gun, including how the bullets come out the loud end, and that on the pistol, the slide will go back and forth.  I then demonstrated how the .22 revolver works, and turned it over to my coworker and his wife.  Once they had fired a couple dozen rounds, we switch to the .45.  They seemed to enjoy shooting, and by the end my coworker was enjoying the .45 more than the .22.  My girlfriend, who disliked the .45 the first time she fired it, was now finding the .45 to be fun, and the .22 to be “boring”.  After about an hour, when we ran out of ammo for the .45, we called it a day.

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At work on the following Monday, we discussed the visit to the shooting range.  My co-worker stated that he still did not have the desire to own a gun, but that he did enjoy shooting them.  He seemed to have softened his anti-gun stance as well, and even acknowledged that is is fine with him that I own gun (which is an improvement from his previous anti-gun position).  Although I would have preferred that he suddenly embrace guns as the best thing since sliced bread, I understand that it will take more than one enjoyable trip to the shooting range to undo anti-gun indoctrination, even in an intelligent person.  More importantly, this trip to range demonstrated to my coworker that guns are simply tools like any other, rather than sinister devices.

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  • booker

    Good post. May I add a few things..

    #5 and #6 are backwards.. should explain safety before starting with anything loaded. I’m sure your did, but the way you listed it in the description has it out of order. I’ve seen way too many experienced shooters take new shooters to the range, hand them a loaded weapon, and then start talking about safety!

    Also, I never give a beginner a weapon loaded with more than one round. If something happens and they panic, it’s an extra safety that they can’t inadvertantly discharge into you or somebody else. Load up one at a time until they are comfortable and have gotten the basics of finger off the trigger and muzzle control/barrel downrange at all times.

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com The LearnAboutGuns.com Author

    Thanks for the suggestion about 1 round at a time. I’ve done this with new shooters, but didn’t think to write it down here.

    You’re right on the order of #5 and #6 too. I didn’t intend them to be a chronological sequence of tips, but I like your suggestion and have reordered them.

  • booker

    Right on, and thank you for putting all this great information up.

    Took a female first time shooter to the range last night, I actually found your site when looking for some people’s stories about doing so. She did great! About 45 minutes of shooting and she didn’t make a single safety infraction. Had to remind her to not put her finger on the trigger until the moment she’s ready to shoot once, and only once. Started with the Ruger Mark III .22LR. Everything on the paper from 7yd to 25yd, and actually pretty decent groups for a first timer, she picked up on smooth trigger control immediately.

    I popped off two 10mm rounds for her to get a sense for it, although the guy in the next lane was dumping full mags of .45 so she was well prepared for the sound and blast. Loaded up one 10mm in the Glock 20 and let her take a rip. Firm grip, lean into it.. man she nailed the x-ring at 10 yards, dead center!

  • http://www.fennesclays.co.uk/ Clay Shooting

    Hi I am Angie and I have developed this recent frenzy about shooting. My first experience at the range was not good and worth mentioning but I had a very patient instructor who guided my abt body balance a lot for smart aiming . All the beginners should try it out as it it really matters

  • Lloyd

    I took my neighbor shooting. She never shot before, and found interest with the .380 ACP. At first, she failed to hit the target at 3-feet. With additional training and practice she started to improve. The next visit to the range she did much better. She started off again at 3-feet then backed off to 7-feet, she hit every time. I use small paper plates for targets, every shot hit the target. My neighbor is 60 years old and never shot a handgun. Hopefully, she never has the memory of needing a firearm for self defense.