Teaching children about firearms

Spring is now fully upon us. School will be out for the summer in less than a month. I could see the excitement on some of the grade school children’s faces when I saw them leave an Elkins grade school one day this week. The children are almost a year older than what they were when school started this past August.

Just about all of them are eager to try and do bigger things than what they did when they were off from school last year. This could be the time for parents or grandparents to consider teaching them how to shoot a firearm. How well I remember one year when school let out for the summer and the first day I wanted to go out in the country to do some target shooting.

Now just what is the right age to be teaching a grade school child about guns and gun safety largely depends on the mental and emotional maturity of the child. What may be just the right age for one child may not be the correct age for another.

I, like my dad and his father before him, have been around guns all my life. When I was preschool age, I was sternly told to stay away from the guns that were in the house. We did not have any handguns or shotguns, but we did have some rifles. It seemed like all I had to do was look in their direction or go near them, and I was going to be across dad’s knee, with his belt going across my rear.

I think that everyone will agree it is imperative that one of the first things to be taught to grade school children is gun safety. Having a firearms accident during a hands-on session is the last thing a shooting instructor would want.

While teaching adults how to shoot is enjoyable, there is nothing that equals watching a grade school student or even a teenager try it for the first time. I enjoy watching their faces light up when they hit a target. Teaching youth the proper way to handle and shoot a firearm is a pleasurable experience that is certainly in a class by itself.

When parents start out trying to achieve this endeavor, they should let the youngster’s interest in target shooting develop naturally. Therefore, they need to accompany them for the first few lessons. The instructor should want them to enjoy what they are doing. I have found that .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles are the best for beginning shooters.

For people who are avid adult shooters, the shooting range session with a novice could last from one hour to when it gets dark. Try not to overdo it. When the kids are out on a shooting range for the first time, the instructor needs to consider their attention span, along with their interest and comfort levels. If it is too cold or too hot, this alone could make this activity a one-time affair.

A good shooting instructor will want the learners to anticipate future hands-on shooting sessions.

Another factor to consider is trying to keep it fun. Set up what are considered junk targets like empty tin cans and try knocking them over with the .22 rifle. Kids will want to shoot what they consider fun and what they will be comfortable with.

This is something I enjoyed when I was learning, and I think most kids will still enjoy this today. When the shooting session is over, don’t forget to pick up the junk targets. Try to leave the shooting range as nice as it was found, if not better.

Adult target shooters may enjoy shooting their various handloaded rounds at a paper target and making notes about how certain loads group. This is just pure boredom for beginning youth shooters. They want to watch things splatter like apples, oranges, potatoes or a container full of water.

When adults go to shooting their heavy centerfire revolvers and rifles, they need to let the youngsters observe. Let their own curiosity decide if they want to try shooting something bigger. This way, the progress will advance at their interest and pace.

Always remember the basic fundamentals of gun safety. Keep the action open or the safety on and finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. Have the muzzle pointed downrange or in a safe direction at all times. Adults need to demonstrate the proper way to carry any firearm when approaching a range firing line and while hunting.

Firearm safety is something that cannot be over-emphasized to learning youth shooters. Here is where adults must set a good example for young people to follow.

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