Training young shooters

I’m sure some people get the vapors at the mere thought of teaching children how to shoot a gun.

Well, would you rather children have education and knowledge? or ignorance?

Tim sent me this video over a year ago. Yeah, I’ve got a backlog….

First and foremost, when teaching anyone (kids or adults) how to use firearms, safety is the most important thing. It isn’t directly shown in the video, but you can see from the captions and the way the father and son are working, safety has certainly been discussed and remains emphasized.

Here’s some things I like about this man’s approach

Focus on one topic; no overload

Watch the first segment where he’s talking about grip. He focuses on talking about grip and what to do. He doesn’t use small words, he doesn’t talk down to his son, but he does keep it simple, straightforward, and presents in an appropriate manner.

Most of all, when introducing the new concept, he remains focused on talking about grip. Notice when the son tries out what Dad’s teaching? notice son’s finger’s end up inside the trigger guard? Dad doesn’t stop everything and correct the finger mistake. While that’s certainly a problem, to stop everything, change gears, correct the mistake, then switch back, it would be instructional overload. Focus is good.

Teach IN safety

Not just teaching about safety, but in safety too. Dad’s using a SIRT Pistol, which is basically a fancy laser pointer. There’s no chance of harm or risk of danger in using it. Another advantage is, there’s feedback. Yes, you really shouldn’t stare at the red dot, but again the kiddo is learning. He’ll learn well enough to focus on the front sight, but for now to see that dot down there while he initially practices, that’s good and positive feedback he’s doing right and well.

When they go live fire, the gun is essentially a single-shot. There’s no chance of excitement or nervousness leading to an unintentional discharge. Dad seems to be a reloader because he mentions the loads are so light they aren’t cycling the slide, but you can replicate this easily by loading only 1 round into the gun at a time or using a very light round/caliber like a .22LR.

Also notice that Dad is completely focused on son? He’s always right there, always watching, always being aware of what’s going on. I know you cannot see it, but I can tell from subtle cues that Dad’s paying a great deal of attention and is at the ready to ensure the session remains safe for everyone. No distractions. One-on-one.

What to do

Dad’s phrasing tends to be expressed in terms of what to do, not what not to do.

When you want someone to do something, you need to tell them what to do. If you say “don’t run” when you mean “walk”, well, don’t get upset if the person responds by skipping, because they did do what you said, which was to stop running. If you want them to walk say “walk”. This shouldn’t be confused with “positive” or “negative” wording, because saying “don’t touch the hot stove!” is the right and desired effect — it is what you want them to do.

Yes, sometimes you have to say “don’t do this”, but it should generally then be followed up by “do this”.


Redundancy fosters learning.

Dad uses the same phrasing and approaches every time. The whole “starfish and clam” thing works well to make the point, and he tests this every time son takes a grip on the pistol. I’m sure years from now when son is teaching his own kids how to shoot, he’ll be checking if the starfish can get into the clam.

Don’t Overdo It

“that’s good enough for now”. Later on, there’s some work, some refinement… no, not quite right, let’s start over and do it again. And then… well, that’s good enough for now”. That’s key. You need to stress those key things, but you can’t overstress them, else you overstress the kid. They won’t pick it up in a day, it will take many trips to the range. Make sure they want to keep coming back to the range. Keep it fun.


All in all, a nice video with lots of good tips for how to help introduce and instruct kids in shooting. There’s still a lot more to it, and frankly if you find yourself teaching enough people how to shoot, consider getting an NRA Instructor Certification. It doesn’t mean you have to teach for a living, but there’s a lot about teaching, what to teach, how to teach, etc. that comes from these classes. The formal training can only serve you well.

I’ll also send you over to Kathy Jackon’s website for some of the best “Kids & Guns” resources you could ever hope to find.