NO MATTER WHAT your goal or pleasure in life, you have to have a starting point. In each chosen endeavor, something has to motivate you to transition from thought to action. Desire and need are two motivational factors that provide this.

Desire might not be necessary to sustain life, but it gives us a sense of accomplishment and pleasure. Need, on the other hand, is related to survival (or at least in the manner in which we choose to live). In either case, the transition from thought to action is the starting point for a new adventure.

Recreational shooting can be defined in a myriad of ways. For millions, the stimulating factor is simply the desire to do something new and different that is enjoyable and fun.

A firearm is only dangerous from one direction — the muzzle — where the bullet emerges after the gun is loaded and fired.

Even though firearms in general are no secret in the United States, the vast majority of the population has had no real experience with a gun of any type. In fact, the news media and many political figures — elected, appointed or otherwise — discourage the use of or association with firearms. For some, this engenders a fear instilled through disinformation and believing that those in leadership positions must know what’s best for the rest of us. For others, this creates a curiosity, along with a bit of caution, when firearms are considered. In both cases, a little education and training can overcome the resistance to firearms and encourage their safe and successful use.

For the gun owner and user, the challenge is to change the thought process of those opposed to the ownership and use of firearms. Recreational shooting can be an excellent vehicle by which we can convince those on the fence and others not favorable to firearms to find some level of enjoyment in a new and safe pastime. In many cases, a little persuasion through sensible non-arguable dialog (followed by an invitation to participate in a little informal shooting) is all it takes.

Driver’s Ed

Analogizing a firearm with an automobile can be an opening to the discussion. Generally, very few people view automobiles as intrinsically dangerous mechanical devices. A simple comparison between the two as machines that do work only when fuel is available can get the conversation started. A car with no fuel is little more than a yard ornament with little likelihood of creating a danger to anyone or anything. A gun without ammunition poses no threat because, like the car, without fuel, it is an inanimate mechanical object that is incapable of performing work.

A further analysis between a car and a firearm would unveil the fact that a car can be twice as dangerous as a firearm in that with the addition of fuel, it has the potential to be dangerous to both the front and rear, as it is capable of moving in both directions. A firearm is only dangerous from one direction — the muzzle — where the bullet emerges after the gun is loaded and fired.

After you’ve established that the muzzle of a gun is where the real danger lies and that maintaining the direction in which it is pointed offers a high level of safety, the new shooter finds a new sense of confidence and comfort around firearms.

The second analogy with an automobile is the comparison of the gas pedal to the trigger of the gun. A car can be full of fuel and the engine can be running, but it is the gas pedal that really gets it moving forward. At the same time, if you just stomp the gas pedal to the floor, you will have a tough time controlling the vehicle.

But if you learn to operate the gas pedal smoothly, you will have a much greater level of control over that vehicle. The same is true with the trigger. The trigger is the connection between the shooter and the operation of the gun, just as the gas pedal is the connection between the driver and the car. Sure there are other elements involved, but the trigger, like the gas pedal, is the direct link to smooth, effective operation.

The key to getting a person started in accepting and enjoying the recreational use of firearms can be summed up in three words: safety, success and simplicity.

The premise is to promote the understanding that safely handling a firearm is a relatively simple process. After the simplicity of being safe with a firearm is established, additional information can be added to the equation to ensure the experience is fun and successful. “Success,” in this case, is simply defined as the new shooter hitting the intended target.

Again, the automobile analogy can be helpful in the shooter hitting the target. While driving on a highway, the objective is to keep the vehicle between the painted lines — not absolutely perfectly centered, per se, but within the lines. This relates to the sights on the gun and the target to be hit.

As long as the sights are aligned somewhere on the target when the trigger is operated, a successful hit will result. In order to keep the car moving efficiently between the painted lines on the road, the gas pedal must be operated in a smooth, fluid manner to maintain position. The same applies to operating the trigger of a sidearm pointed at a target: The trigger must be moved in a smooth, fluid movement while the sights are held on target until discharge, resulting in a successful hit.

There are not many more exhilarating experiences than feeling safe with a firearm and successfully using it to hit what you’re shooting at. The key to getting a person started in accepting and enjoying the recreational use of firearms can be summed up in three words: safety, success and simplicity. Each can be expounded on indefinitely, but the foundation has to be solid. It must make sense, it must not be arguable and, most of all, it must work when implemented.

Off and Running

After a recreational shooter has an initially positive experience, the possibilities for her and her newfound pastime are endless. Sharing her interests with family and friends is another way of bonding (as with any other sporting activity). Alone or with others, just going to a safe range and shooting at informal targets is a great way to spend an afternoon.

As confidence builds, many shooters find that they have a bit of a competitive nature and, as such, they might want to get involved in one or more of the competitive shooting sports. The old saw of “you get out of it what you put into it” factors greatly into all shooting activities; almost all of the shooting greats that I know got their starts in shooting for fun. Over time and with some effort, they cultivated their skills and put in the time to get where they are today.

Others will prefer to explore the challenge of combining their shooting skills with hunting wild game. Little is more satisfying for the hunter than to take a game animal by pitting his skills against the skills of the animal on its own turf, not to mention the nutrition brought to the table by a successful hunt.

Square 1

For some, several contributing factors can snowball into one big hurdle to getting started in recreational shooting. One of the best ways to get involved is to seek a class based on the foundational skills of safety, simplicity and success with an instructor who is knowledgeable and patient. Odds are, if the educator chosen makes a living teaching others, he or she is good at what he or she does and a good learning experience will be the result.

If possible, take a class or two at first and then periodically take others to maintain (and increase) skill levels. Much like continuing professional development in the workplace, it is always good to stay current, reinforce skills and learn new ones.

Why Shoot?

Most of all, shooting is fun. I have yet to introduce an individual to shooting who didn’t admit he or she had fun. From the other end of things, recreational shooting is a great way to expand the number of shooters and firearms enthusiasts who enjoy one of America’s greatest opportunities.

If you are new to shooting, what are you waiting for? Go for it! If you are an experienced shooter, take somebody new with you the next time you go to the range. In today’s environment, we need all the safe gun handlers and firearms enthusiasts we can get.