Teach Your Children Well

The Non-Professional Family Instructor
; .

Even if you’re teaching your family to shoot, inexpensive formal
instruction can be found nearly everywhere and is valuable for
building well-rounded shooters.

As valuable as professional firearms training can be, it has never been the mainstay of firearms instruction — that remains the purview of the family. For as long as firearms have been used, proper use has been passed on from generation to generation within the family. Early on, even those going to war brought their own weapons and skills to the battlefield. Understanding this reality, if the job of training your own family falls on your shoulders, what do you need to know and do?

When instructing new shooters, take things slow and easy,
starting with safe gun handling and marksmanship. Later,
you can add more challenging subjects.

Who Needs Professional Training?

Truth is, Americans have been defending themselves, their family, and their homes without professional training since our country has existed. On the other hand, everyone can benefit from proper training. Simple, basic and practical training from a professional is something every gun owner should seek out.

We are not talking about the next tactical guru preparing for the zombie apocalypse. There is no need to waste thousands on the latest gadget-ridden social-media-driven firearm with a room full of useless equipment. All you need is a proven firearm, basic equipment and training in its maintenance, operation and application. Gunsite Academy is born of this philosophy. Taking a five-day class like the Gunsite 250 is an excellent start, but there are two- and three-day classes everywhere that can provide solid and useful training at little cost. Owning a race car does not make you a race car driver, it takes training — and firearms ownership is exactly the same.


Teaching your own family about firearms and safety is vastly rewarding
but the non-professional trainer should approach with insight and a plan.

So, What’s First?

Bring a firearm into the family and you need to make sure everyone who is capable knows how to safely handle it. Generally, if they are old enough to ask, it’s time to start even if it’s just to discuss and demonstrate. As kids get older you can progress, but basic handling skills are a must.

Start with the four basic rules: 1) All guns are always loaded; 2) Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not prepared to destroy; 3) Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target; 4) Be sure of your target and what’s beyond. Variations of these rules abound, but these have stood the test of time.

Everyone should know what “safe” is, and is not. Invest a few bucks in snap caps or dummy rounds so your demonstration is done safely, show them what loaded and unloaded looks like and how to do so while following those four basic rules. If that’s all they ever learn, it is an absolute must.

When ready, let them touch the gun and feel it. This removes the stigma, reduces curiosity and lessens the risk of unwanted access and in many cases the interest. If they want more, and you feel they are ready, then progress as needed but drive those basic rules home so they are second nature. It’s important to remember while children should never have access to firearms without an adult, life tells us it can and does happen. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s deadly.


Competition, as a family or against each other, is a great way
to push shooters to get better. Just make sure expectations
are appropriate to skill levels!

Range Day

Once family members can safely handle a firearm, you can move to usage. Range time is great, but consider dry-fire practice first. The basics are the same and it can remove some of the apprehension for first-time users. Having the basics in hand prior to stepping on the range can be a big help.

When you get to the range the first time, make it fun! Nothing turns off people to shooting more than a horrible first time on the range, so make it positive. The most critical thing to remember at this point is it’s not about you, it’s about your family. If they hate going to the range they never will, so try and make the first experience fun and interesting.

Intensive recoil, blast and flash is not fun for most first-time shooters — it’s not fun for me and I have been doing it for decades. Don’t hand your spouse or children the hard-recoiling rifle or pistol so they can “see” how it feels. If you can build them up with lower recoiling firearms, that’s the ticket. There is plenty of time to shoot the hand cannon or mule-kicking rifle. If they are afraid to shoot, they won’t. Keep it fun, positive and focus on the basics while managing expectations. If all they do is safely get impacts on a target at 5 yards, it’s a win and they will want to come back and move on from there.


Final Thoughts

These days, the possibilities for training are endless. Once someone knows how to safely handle and shoot a firearm, you can progress to realistic application. Presentation (draw), holstering, movement, multiple rounds and targets, shooting from concealment can all be introduced, but keep it simple and practical.

Competition is a huge driver of family firearms use. Having had my lunch handed to me at competitions by a 14-year-old has made this very clear. Competition can and does translate into actual use. Though tactics may be different the basics are the same and this is what’s most critical.

Perhaps the key factor to learn is your limitations, both as a shooter and trainer. Training family is not always the same as teaching others. Consider attending professional training on your own to build your skills. Train together, or at least understand when it’s time for them to seek training out on their own. Once you become a firearms family, training is critically important and if you can do it, that is fantastic. If not, find someone who can and learn together because that is the ultimate goal — learning, training and preparing as a family.

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