I’ve heard a lot of excuses about why people do NOT want to try shooting activities or go to the gun range. Explanations range from lack of time or lack of interest to fear of the firearm or fear of failure. But the responsibly armed know that one of the best ways to ensure a supported and protected Second Amendment is to get new shooters involved in firearms safety, shooting sports and the concealed carry lifestyle. So what can we do to get the newbies involved with safe — and fun — firearms training? Here are a few tips to consider when introducing new shooters to the gun range.
Keep It Safe
Be sure to include welcoming, low-key training. Go over the safety rules deliberately and repeatedly, but don’t overdo the instruction. Cover the basics, share some expectations, provide a quick “how it works” and then move along. As long as our new guests are safe, let them shoot. You can worry about refining skills another day!
Keep It Simple
Your best friend’s neighbor’s uncle doesn’t have to know the Weaver stance right now (or possibly ever)! Fix any obvious problems that could hurt someone or hurt his or her shooting. But save the nitpicky stuff for another day. And remember that the guns should be simple too. Newbies don’t need you to “gunsplain” every last detail. And they likely don’t need to shoot the most fancy, complicated, unique or odd gun you have, especially the first time on the range. So go ahead and grab your Glock 17 and put the Boberg XR9-S aside!
Make It a Package Deal
For the newbie who possibly has little or nothing to bring to his or her first shooting experience, it’s a good idea to help out by covering all of the necessities. Help him or her out by providing eye and ear protection, targets, guns, ammunition and even travel. You can pick your pal up and drive him or her to the range with you. And you can prepare and share the tools in your range bag. Lack of experience may be one thing, but don’t let the lack of gear be an excuse for not participating.
Keep It Comfortable
If it’s too hot, cold or rainy (or out in the middle of nowhere), your newcomer or naysayer may not enjoy his or her first shot at target practice. Yes, you may have walked five miles uphill in the snow to get to the school bus, but let’s save that for another time. Get your friends and family members interested in the activity of shooting first. When they’re hooked, they won’t care as much about the ice or the bugs or the mud or the smell … or whatever other excuses may have turned an otherwise fun activity into a disaster that first time around.
Bribe Your New Shooters
OK, well, maybe it’s not exactly a bribe, but it might be nice to grab a snack or a meal before or after your shooting activity. Chat about the experiences and make the trip even more memorable and worthwhile. How about breakfast and bullets? Coffee and carbines? Pizza and pistols? Up to you! A little incentive can go a long way.
Make It Fun
Engage your new shooter with a themed event, maybe focused on a holiday, some black-light shooting or even a certain style or model of firearm. (AR-15 night, anyone?) Also, you can try using fun paper targets, such as zombies or fruit or even battleship games. Shoot at balloons, colorful plastic bottles or steel plates. Things that move, break or make noise offer some immediate feedback … and some immediate fun. You can even add in a little friendly competition. Challenge each new shooter to beat his or her best score or shoot with a shot timer. Just don’t press anyone to do something uncomfortable or beyond his or her skill level, especially at step one. For instance, don’t set the targets at 50 yards and yell “Booooo!” when the neophyte misses. We want that first shot to be a good one — literally and figuratively. Remember that the ultimate goal is for a new shooter to enjoy himself or herself, return to the range and try it again … and again!
Some people don’t need much convincing — if any — to take advantage of a chance to learn how to use a gun or how to improve shooting skills. But others may need that extra little push or perhaps a little incentive. Whatever it takes! Let’s get more people involved with safe and responsible shooting so we can ensure the future of our Second Amendment right!
*Looking for the perfect place to bring someone interested in shooting for the first time? Try the USCCA’s brand-new range finder tool!
About Beth Alcazar
Boasting several training certifications including TWAW, SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute and I.C.E. Training, Beth Alcazar is enthusiastic about safe and responsible firearms ownership. She has nearly two decades in the firearms industry and is a Certified Training Instructor and Senior Training Counselor for the USCCA and Training Counselor, Chief Range Safety Officer and Certified Instructor for the NRA. The associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, Beth also uses her experience and degrees in language arts, education and communication management to author the Pacifiers & Peacemakers column as well as Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals.