Marti Davis Afield: Marti shares ways to get young girls interested in shooting.
I grew up in a family that has always enjoyed the outdoors. To be honest, I can’t even remember my first time shooting. I can tell you this; it has been at least 30 plus years ago, probably closer to 35. My dad introduced me to shooting with a .22 rifle, target — plinking and coon hunting. He definitely didn’t push me into it, but then again he didn’t keep me from it. I always had the opportunity when I wanted to try shooting.
What age is the right age? That’s up to you and the youngster you’re introducing to shooting. Every child is different, only her parents can make that determination.
Below are 7 tips for introducing young girls to shooting. (They probably will work on boys, too!)
1. Don’t be pushy
Ask your child often if she wants to learn to shoot. If she turns you down, don’t give up. But, don’t push her, either. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, she will decide for one reason or another she wants to “give it a shot.”
A perfect example of this is Sara, my 8-year-old niece. She has been around hunting, shooting sports and the outdoors her entire life. She just usually prefers to spend her time at the mall. A while back, I asked her if she’d be interested in testing out a new Henry Repeating Arms “Muddy Girl” .22LR, youth rifle. After I described the hot pink, purple and black camo stock on this rifle, she decided she might like to try it. Once she saw the Muddy Girl she wanted to hit the range.
2. Safety, safety, safety
Follow the basic firearms safety rules. Be sure to emphasize muzzle control and how important it is to keep her finger off the trigger until she is ready to shoot. In case you need a refresher, below are the fundamental National Rifle Association’s rules.
-Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
-Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
-Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use
Some additional safety rules to teach a new shooter include the following:
-Treat all firearms as if they are loaded
-Know your target and what is beyond
-Know how to use the gun safely
-Be sure the gun is safe to operate
-Use the correct ammunition for your gun
-Always wear eye and ear protection
3. Choose your firearm
Choosing a caliber that has light recoil is good advice for anyone teaching a new shooter. It also is imperative to make sure the gun fits her. An ill-fitting gun with a heavy kick is one of the quickest ways to make a youngster flinch, and possibly not enjoy shooting.
A simple bolt-action .22 rifle, with open sights, is a great firearm to use while introducing a young one to shooting. Don’t put the target too far away. 7 to 10 yards is a good starting point.
4. How does it work
Go through all the parts and functions on the firearm. Don’t be too detailed, but inform the child of the basics. As you’re pointing out the parts and naming them, have the new shooter repeat the names. Then, make it a fun quiz by pointing to a part and having her name it.
5. Shooting fundamentals
Figure out the new shooter’s dominant eye and shooting hand. Go thru the steps of a good shooting foundation: position, grip, sight alignment, breath control, trigger squeeze and follow through. It would be best to use either an unloaded firearm, or even a dummy gun to go through all of this. Get the shooter familiar with it all before handing her a loaded firearm.
After going through the safety, function and fundamentals, demonstrate by shooting a few rounds out of the gun she will use. Have her stand near you, but in a safe place. Slowly go through the loading and unloading process, taking the safety on and off and how to place the gun down after she has fired her shots.
7. Make it fun
Don’t just shoot at paper targets, set up a fun arcade-style target range. Water bottles filled with colored water or even water balloons make for fun targets. Metal spinner targets or the newer rolling steel targets would be fun when her accuracy improves. Another great thing about these fun targets is that the shooter knows right away whether or not she hits her mark.
Bottom line … make this a fun learning experience. Take your time explaining and answering any questions your young shooter might have. If she doesn’t enjoy the experience, it could possibly be the last time she agrees to go to the range with you. And that would be a big loss – for both of you.
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