Editors note: We welcome columnist Julie Golob back to The WON. Julie will be writing a regular monthly column here, and we look forward to working with her, as well as following along with her adventures.
National Take Your Daughter to the Range Day was on June 15th and I was one proud mommy watching my daughter take her first shots. Once you make the decision your child is ready to try shooting, here are 7 helpful tips for taking your son or daughter to the range that will help make the experience a fun one.
1. Safety is ALWAYS first! Your child should have a good grasp of firearm safety before heading to the range. (Read the firearm safety rules.) It’s especially important they understand to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. Your child should also understand that she must keep her finger off the trigger until she is ready to shoot. Finally be sure to explain range commands like “Range is Safe” so that your child knows when it is OK to go downrange to check out their targets.
2. Protect those baby blues, greens, hazels or browns! Just don’t grab a pair of kid’s sunglasses for your child. Invest in eye protection that is ANSI rated for shooting (minimum Z87+). Make sure your young shooter’s glasses fit well enough so that your child’s eyes will be protected and that they can still see adequately.
3. Little noggins can make it tough for parents to fit appropriate hearing protection. Ear plugs can be very difficult (and frustrating) to insert into tiny ear canals and so I recommend looking for a small set of ear muffs or ones that fit very tightly. You want to make sure you have a good seal around the ears to protect your child’s hearing. An added benefit to muffs is that they can help that eye protection stay put, too!
4. Iron sights or optics? That is the question. Chances are, you want your little guy or gal to learn how to shoot successfully with iron sights, but this can be a challenging concept for some – not to mention if you’re using a rifle with peep sights and the length of pull is a bit too long for short arms. Explaining what proper sight picture looks like, using crosshairs or a dot, is a lot easier for young minds to grasp. If you have a low power optic or a red dot for the firearm, your child is more likely to hit their target and have a great time.
5. Create a solid foundation, literally! Use a tripod with a rest or sand bags to support the firearm. This way you can focus on shooting fundamentals without having your child get too tired trying to hold the firearm on target.
6. Start small, as in small caliber. This is not time to see what your child can handle for recoil. Begin a child’s shooting experience with soft shooting air guns or firearms chambered in .22 long rifle. The recoil is very light, plus the small caliber creates less noise and therefore is less likely to startle your child.
7. Keep it fun! Be firm with your child when it comes to safety and range commands, but you also want to make sure you all have a good time. For starting out, use big interactive targets. You can even use inexpensive items – like gallon or liter jugs filled with water, cans and balloons. Targets that swing, ding, fall or burst when hit provide instant gratification and if you have someone around to take photos, an equally exciting reaction to capture for you to cherish.
Important note: Before bringing anyone to the range to shoot, be sure that you follow local, state and federal laws, as well as any rules that the range has established.
About Julie Golob:
Julie Golob is one of the most accomplished professional shooters in the world and captain of Team Smith & Wesson. Over her 20-year shooting career, she has won more than 120 championship titles in international, national and regional marksmanship competitions in seven different shooting disciplines. A veteran of the elite U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Julie is also an author and her book, SHOOT, is available in print and ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. An avid hunter and foodie at heart, she has a passion for preparing wild game in new ways for the table, sharing recipes and hunting experiences on her website. Get useful shooting tips and insight on shooting sports from her blog and podcast. Follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Google+. Learn more about the champion, author, veteran and outdoor television personality at JulieGolob.com.