Teaching Someone New to Shoot?

I hear stories about it all the time. When people tell me about their first time shooting it’s almost never a positive experience. Inevitably the first thing someone shot was a magnum shotgun or a large bore rifle. Then I see videos like this and it makes me shake my head:

My wife tells this story of going shooting with her friends for the first time. They handed her a 12 gauge shotgun with a magnum round in it. It knocked her over. She didn’t shoot again for a long time. Why do people do this? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Besides being dangerous it’s a really cruel thing to do.

Then I read this blog on Haus of Guns. It reminded me of some very bad advice I had recently heard of starting new shooters on something small like a .380 or a 38 special. Just because it has a small caliber doesn’t mean it’s good to learn to shoot on. Huh? Let me break it down.

My tiny .380 Bodyguard. Kicks like a mule and is my least favorite gun to shoot
My tiny .380 Bodyguard. Kicks like a mule and is my least favorite gun to shoot

My .380 has more perceived recoil than most of my .45 ACPs. I would rather put a new shooter on my full size 1911 than my tiny .380. While yes the .45 is a more powerful round and would have more recoil in the same size/weight gun, it’s not the same size gun. Unfortunately the smaller calibers also come in smaller guns. It all comes down to physics, equal and opposite reactions, F=ma, inertia… The whole point is that the bigger gun is heavier and therefore has more inertia. Translated, this means it doesn’t want to move as much as the smaller gun. Less movement means less recoil.

Body guard vs. 9mm M&P
Body guard vs. 9mm M&P. The 9mm is only slightly more powerful but the gun is twice as big and three times as heavy.

What experience do new shooters have with firearms? They’ve seen them in the movies. Which means that they really know nothing about them. They don’t know what to expect. They’re scared. They know that firearms are dangerous and that’s about it. So wouldn’t you want to put something in their hands that would ease their fears not confirm them? Don’t you want someone that will want to go shooting with you again?

To me the perfect first time gun is a .22LR. Even in a handgun the recoil is minimal. In a rifle it’s almost nonexistent. Let them start with that, get comfortable with it, have some fun and then move them into larger calibers. If you don’t have a .22 then borrow one or ask someone who does to come along. If you’re going to give them something larger, shoot it first so they know what the noise and have an idea of what the recoil is going to be like.

You as a firearms enthusiast have the responsibility to practice safely and to promote our sport in a positive light. By handing an inexperienced person a gun that they are neither capable or prepared to handle does every other shooter and our sport a disservice. Also, you’ve also probably driven someone that was willing to learn away from the shooting sports. Please, please, please do not do this any more. It’s not funny.


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