Meditations on shooting

In my earlier post, I made mention that a whole bunch of pink .22LR rifles are apparently being given as presents this year.

It is our duty to see that these new shooters enjoy our sport — and continue to enjoy the sport of shooting.

With this in mind, I’d like to do a bit of a riff concerning introducing New Shooters to Shooting.

Ladies and gentlemen, shooting should be fun. Further, I state to you that shooting must — must— be an enjoyable experience for the new shooter.

“Fun” and “enjoyable” are not always the same thing to a beginner as to an old hand.

As an example, I give you my own experience.

My Granda — Mom’s father — was a deacon at the Church of the Sub-MOA. That old gentleman truly delighted in one-hole groups at whatever distance he was shooting at.

When I was gifted with my first rifle — a Remington 552 that I still possess — Granda was the first person to take me shooting. Bear in mind that I may have been ten years old at the time. Although I don’t think so.

He took me to his favorite shooting grounds, thumb-tacked an NRA slow-fire paper target to the back-board, and then we spent the next couple of hours shooting three rounds, walking to the target, walking back to the rifle, shooting three rounds, walking … you get the point.

Once I got used to the crack of the rifle … I was shooting holes I couldn’t see in a paper target … whee. I was bored nigh unto tears.

If I had been left to that kind of shooting, I probably would never have picked up a firearm ever again.

Fortunately, Mom and Dad took me out the next weekend with a brick of .22’s and a sack of empty cat-food cans.

Dad set up a bodged-together two-by-four frame at about seven yards, put three cat-food cans on edge across the top and then came back to the line and we loaded the rifle.

I took aim, squeezed the trigger …

… and the can disappeared!

It was wonderful!

I spent the rest of that afternoon setting up cans and then knocking them back down until I was out of ammunition and light.

From that point on, I was hooked.

Don’t get me wrong: shooting paper targets can be gratifying — if you’re an experienced shooter.

If you’re taking a beginner out, leave the paper at home. Grab something that will instantly reward the new shooter.

Get something that will pop, or fall over, or explode, or disappear. Use targets that do something.

Tuna or cat-fishfood cans are good — and can be reused for about an afternoon. Be sure to pick them up afterwards.

Supermarkets can be cajoled into giving you their manky old fruit. Mealy apples explode quite gratifyingly when hit by a .22LR, as do oranges, grapefruits, etc. And the local critters will probably be rather grateful for the goodies after you depart.

El Cheapo charcoal briquets explode nicely into a puff of black dust, and mass packages of generic candy wafers, lollypops and cookies also explode nicely — and are a bit traditional.

Stay away from glass — nobody wants a shooting afternoon to be ruined by a trip to the ER for stitches. Especially if some other oik broke the bottles that cut you or your children.

Instead, use balloons — filled with water for the tyros.

Many shooting places sell knock-down-reset rimfire targets, and these are a blast to shoot.

Also remember that you are there for the new shooter. Not the other way around. You should not only make the targets fun, you should put them at a good distance. I wouldn’t put a target further than the ten yard berm for any new shooter. Seven yards is probably better.

Yes, I know that you can probably hit that charcoal lump at twenty or thirty yards — but it’s not about you, is it? It’s about your new shooter.

Make sure your new gunnie has good eye and ear protection. I suggest that you use both foam earplugs and earmuffs for your newbie.

If they get tired — pack it in. Don’t force a new shooter past the point of Fun and into Ordeal just for you. If your new shooter gets tired, take them home and then come back, if you’re not done yet.

Make it enjoyable for them, make it an experience they’ll want to enjoy again — and you’ll make a gun person.

Every new shooter you make keeps our gun rights that much safer.


Your very own pocket camel!

29 thoughts on “Meditations on shooting”

  1. Amen!!!

    When I was learning to shoot at age 8-10 years, it was food cans, plastic Coke bottles, Coke cans… I’ve shoot plenty of paper too, but now 25 years later, reactive targets like clay birds on the 100yd berm are still more fun. I tend to like the idea of starting someone off in a situation where either they see the clay bird explode out on the berm (not necessarily the 100yd though), or they see dirt fly so they can adjust their sight picture (not the sights; the way they’re lookin’ at ’em) and go again.

    mustanger98 on THR

  2. I loved shooting until the day my father tried to shoot my mother with a .12 gauge shotgun. I have not picked up a gun other than my sons .22 since, and I have only shot that once.
    My eldest loves shooting tho, so for his 17th birthday last week, we got him a clay pidgeon launcher and two cases of clay discs. He was in seventh heaven all afternoon shooting until his hands were numb from cold. He loves to hunt, and uses a .20 gauge and a muzzleloader. My youngest just got his safety course this fall, and also really enjoys shooting. I think it is a great passtime for kids, as long as they are taught safety and are supervised! Keep up the good work Lawdog!

  3. Well, put it like this… feral cats work well for some of us who have a problem with feral cats and aren’t strangers to killing. A knew shooter who’s also a kid may not be conditioned to the killing part yet. And if my Daddy ever had a problem with a cat and it required shooting, he always used a shotgun… usually both barrels and made sure. But hey, same goes for skunks.

    mustanger98, again.

  4. We have a friend who likes to freeze water in Dixie Cups, and use the ice as a target. It shatters like ice, but there’s no cleanup afterwards. Old bowling pins are also excellent targets, as they’ll take a number of hits before they’re completely demolished. Oh, and have you ever seen what a 12ga slug will do to a one-gallon can of stale-dated pizza sauce? 😉 (hint – do NOT place the target closer than 20 yards, unless you want to get splattered…)

  5. Good points lawdog. Thats how my love of shooting started.

    Sadly, in my town if you don’t own property or know someone who does plinking is non-existant

    I asked the local range owners about it and they tell me their insurance will not allow anything except paper and you must join a private pin shooting or steel plate club to do anything else.

    This doesn’t do my little ones any good .

    About the best I can do right now is buy the shoot N see targets that make a big green neon splatter hole when hit.

    I guess it’s better than nothing.

  6. Down the road a piece from me is a range that has metal targets of birds,hsmall animals,graduating up to deer and larger animals.

    Used to be that one of my favorite things to do while my housemate was siting in whatever weapon, or checking a load that he had created, was to run through a brick of .22 ammo with the .22 Ruger rifle and having the immediate gratification of hearing it go “ping” when it hit and thud when it didn’t. I got rather good at it.

    Being an opinionated woman, I feel that all children need appropriate exposure and training with firearms. Take the mystery out of the firearm and the child is less likely to try to find it and play with it.

  7. Dittos to Kyrakai’s thoughts: eliminate the mystery, and you no longer have the notion of guns as “forbidden fruit”.

    I have a distinct memory of firing a .22 rifle for the first time at the ripe old age of three. I still have that Mossberg M42C(m), by the way, and it’s been the traditional “first rifle” for all of my kids (four sons and one daughter).

    Since we believe in tailoring the gun education to the child, the “first rifle” experience has ranged from age four, to 12.

    Bro. Dawg, you might want to check with; they list a number of the pink Cricketts.

    I’m not especially impressed with the Cricketts, Keystones, or Henrys. For starters, they’re crude; secondly, the length of pull limits their usable life to one year, tops, before the kiddo outgrows it.

    I am very impressed with the Savage Cub, though; it’s very well made, has good sights, and a slick action. It’s sized for slightly older kids, from ages 8-12, and is of a size that can grow with them.

    Women and kids are the key to the future of shooting sports and gun rights in general.

    I think I’ll take my 16yo daughter to the range tomorrow, for some “rape prevention” education.

  8. WELL said, Dawg! BTW, you might have REno check out hte used market for a Rem 514. Nice single shot bolt 22-anything (LR,S, L etc). It’s not pretty & pink, but is fullsized and light enough. He could always cut down the stock to fit.

  9. We dont have kids just yet but my dad has the same .22 I learned with and my new niece and our kids will all learn on it.

    I just wish you could still get the cardboard Foremost milk containers that we used as targets.

  10. I completely agree on making the shooting experience fun for the beginner. I did this with my mother-in-law.
    For people who can only shoot paper due to range rules, try printing out fun targets and/or buying reactive paper targets. My wife and several of her friends love shooting the shoot-n-c groundhog targets.

  11. I like to take empty soda bottles & fill them with water. It’s rather fun to watch a 2 liter bottle explode from a .22LR from 70′ away.

    Empty tin cans are good too.

  12. KBCraig,

    Henrys crude?

    Are you sure you have tried one lately?

    The action on a Henry rifle (at least the lever actions) are TOP NOTCH to me.

    I own a Marlin and am famililar with Winchesters, and Pumas, but have found the Henry lever actions to be among the best out there.

    Maybe you were refering to their bolt action rifles, as to them I cannot say, I have never tried a Henry bolt action.

  13. Unfortunately, here in the People’s Republic of Washington State it’s hard to find a place to shoot black powder firearms.

    Darling hubby introduced me to shooting while he was stationed in IL and I had a blast the first time he took me to the range. He was a bit surprised how well I did for a beginner with his pistol, didn’t too well with the rifle (then again it’s about as tall as I am)

  14. Here’s another Amen from the congregation! My son loves shooting my Winchester 72A, just like I loved doing so years ago when it was my father’s gun. We’ve hit Coke cans, bowling pins, and our past-their-prime jack-o-lanterns.

    The gun’s a little big for him (a lot, really), so our answer? A CZ 452 Scout for Christmas. It’s sized just a bit larger than a Cricket, but is really versatile. It comes with a “single-shot adapter,” but you can also get 5 or 10 round magazines for it as the kiddo shows he has matured and can handle multiple rounds.

    I won’t reiterate all your other advice; I’ll just say that you couldn’t be more right. Keep it fun, folks!


  15. If you have access to a welder, you can fabricate a swinging metal silouhette with a piece of rebar, some pipe that fits over the rebar and a small piece of steel plate. Stick the contraption in the ground and fire at will. A can of paint is good to “refurbish” the exposed target.

    Thanks Lawdog. Your article reminds me of my brother taking my mother to the range to try out her 38 detective special. He was surprised by her shooting skills and accuracy.

  16. 1894c,

    I was only referring to the Henry kid’s rifle. Their other rifles and carbines are top notch, but the Mini Bolt doesn’t match the rest of the lineup.

    Reactive targets are great. Just be careful; my wife shot herself in the head. Sort of.

    Read about it by clicking on my link.

  17. When my son got bored with the single-shot Varner and paper targets, I switched him over to the (adult-sized) Henry lever gun and a set of “swinger” targets. He blew through the last 150 rounds we had before he’d go home. This was more than a few years ago. With him away at college, we don’t get to do this very often, but he’s already asked how the schedule looks for when he’s home at Christmas break. P.S. He and I are both wishing your Gram the best. OldeForce

  18. Potatos are another great reactive target. With .22’s you have a choice. Hit ’em with a round nosed slug and they’ll dance around / occasionally fragment. Hit ’em with a hollow point and they’ll go ‘poof!’ in a most satisfactory manner.

    Here in Missouri our local group is having our Christmas Party on Dec. 30th – at a range, of course. I’ve done some testing and a 9″ round balloon filled with helium will support about 6′ of string + 2 .22LR casings to the point that it will ‘walk’ along in a breeze. Turn on the fans at the range and we should have some fun moving targets. If any of the kids in attendence that get to shoot are just starting out then we’ll rig some balloons that stay in place for them.

    My take on starting a new shooter is that I’ll run one magazine (or equivalent) through each weapon first to make sure it’s working right but we’re not there for me to shoot.

  19. Yea, verily, and A-men. I like one gallon poly-plastic milk jugs full of water. It also give a means for teaching about the relative stopping power of different calibers…a 22 up through a standard 38 generally just punches a hole and lets the water leak out. A .357, .45, or a .30-’06 causes a whole different effect. It may not be scientific but it’s an eye-opener on the difference between stopping and not stopping an attacker…besides being just plain fun. Water jugs are second only to binary explosive targets (boomershoot, anyone?) in my book.
    doug in colorado

  20. wonderful points on how to introducing a child to anything. Make it fun and quit when they’re tired. If you’re good at this, they will pack your decoys when you’re old and feeble.

  21. Dawg, what the heck is a catfish can? Tuna, check – love the stuff. You guys got catfish in a can? Dang, I’m jealous !

    Al T.

  22. When they start finding that a little boring, graduate them to cue tip chalk cubes. Found the idea on another blog. Nice colored dust exposion when you hit it.

  23. Wow, Kimberly, never heard my home state of Washington put in league with CA/NJ, let alone by someone from Illinois.

    I always thought WA was the best ocean state around for gun laws

  24. Dawg, what the heck is a catfish can? Tuna, check – love the stuff. You guys got catfish in a can?

    My fingers overran my brain-box. Again.

  25. I’ve always found that kids like to see pictures of their shooting experience. They like to show them to their friends and some will take them to school for show and tell.And you know that the teacher will really appreciate it too!Digital cameras have really made this easier than it used to be.It also serves as a keepsake to have for remembering your first shooting experience which will one day likely to be priceless

  26. re guns and the rug rats.

    Walt and I did gun proofing very much along the lines of “Cornered Cat’s” ideas.

    If guns are just one more tool (like daddy’s power drill and mom’s big kitchen knife) that you can only touch with a grownup RIGHT THERE and with their permission, then the whole forbidden fruit thing is moot.

    I think we made a shooter and an archer with the first BB gun and half sized compound bow set LOL. One of our favorite family outings was a trip to one range or the other. The Marine!Goth was a Cub Scout at the time, so 8ish??? Maybe 7. Around there.

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