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Syren’s Tips on How to Find a Shotgun Instructor

I’ve recently moved to Easton, Maryland, from Atlanta, and so I’ve had to find new doctors, a new dentist and especially a new hair stylist. It can be daunting, but having some local connections has helped. My boss’ wife, Deirdre, has been great with giving me referrals for everyone that I need, and that’s a pretty easy ask.

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Looking for a new shotgun instructor is a bit more complex, though—especially if you want to go shooting and none of your friends are shooters. Or worse yet, if your friends would freak out if they knew that you wanted to go shooting so you can’t really ask them for help!

I’ve been shooting competitively since 1999. I’ve been to all types of gun clubs—some friendly and some not-so-friendly—and run into a few men that have been downright rude. But I put a smile on my face and persevered, and I’m so happy I did. I had my gun, and I had as much right to be there as they did. As a new shooter, going to a gun club is very intimidating, but while some people (a.k.a. mean old men) may never be friendly to women at a gun club, you’ll find plenty who are. So follow my number one favorite rule: Show up.

Shotgun Instructor

Kassidy Groeper giving a Syren Shotgun Overview.

Here are a few tips for beginner students looking for a shotgun instructor:

  1. If you already have your gun, find a local range. Most reputable ranges have a pro on staff that will give lessons. (If you don’t have a local range, I’ve included some links to shooting organizations after these tips; you should be able find an instructor through their sites.)
  2. Call the club and ask for the name of the pro, and his or her availability and cost. If there is an option to get a lesson from a woman, pick her. Not to say that there aren’t great male coaches, but I think female new shooters are much more comfortable with a female instructor.
  3. Take a deep breath, be brave and schedule a 2-hour appointment. If you’re brand new, there tends to be a lot of talking in between shots, and you’ll appreciate having the extra time for your first lesson.
  4. Go to your lesson. Listen and learn…and hit some targets!
  5. Bring cash (preferred) or a check. You can tip or not, but as with any service industry, it’s up to you to decide how much, if at all.
    1. Barbara Garney, Syren ProStaffer from Houston, Texas, suggests “As a student, I have been exposed to several ways to pay for lessons. There is always the pay-as-you-go plan, where each lesson is paid for at the end of the session. Tipping is optional. If the student “connects” with an instructor or coach, a predetermined number of lesson hours might be offered to the student, possibly involving discounts and requiring advance payment.”
  6. When you like the shotgun instructor and want to learn more, book a second lesson. If you didn’t like the shotgun instructor, you don’t have to go back…and you don’t have to feel guilty or bad about it! People click or don’t click with instructors, just like everyone else.
    1. Barbara says, “I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my Prince. Finding that instructor/coach that I could connect with and have confidence in, who made learning fun and instilled the desire to work hard, was critical.”
    2. Kassidy Groeper, Syren ProStaffer says, “When I first met my coach, we instantly meshed. I got extremely lucky by having my first coach be my forever coach.”
  7. At that point, if you like the club, see if it has a bulletin board advertising other coaches, or chat with the folks there about instructors. Often there are guest instructors who come to the club monthly and give lessons. And some clubs have a list of other local instructors.
  8. When you get a new referral—especially if it comes from one of the ladies at the club—call and book an appointment. Same instructions as before: If you like them, book more lessons. If you don’t, then don’t.
  9. Between lessons, be sure to practice what you learned. A lot of instructors won’t let you take your next lesson until you’ve gone and shot a certain amount of targets.

If you don’t already have a gun, see if you can find a range that has demo guns. I would, of course, recommend trying to find a Syren demo, since they are made to fit women, but I understand that that’s not always possible. We have several clubs across the country that have demo models, and we can most always ship demo guns to a rep or our dealer locations for you to try before you buy. That said, if there are rental guns available, try as many as you can. Just like trying on shoes at the store and walking around in them, it’s important to find a gun that fits and that you’re comfortable with.

Shotgun Instructor

Cynthia introducing a new Syren shooter to the Syren Waterfowler. (Courtney Nicholson photo)

Make sure that you have the right ammo for your lessons. If you find the right shotgun instructor, you’ll be shooting more than they’ll be talking, so get some shells that are ⅞ oz. or 1 oz. and 1,100 to 1,200 fps. Brand is less important than the specifications. Key phrases to look for are “extra-light target load,” “low recoil,” “feather-lights,” etc. Don’t get anything that says “handicap,” “super sporting,” “dove loads,” “game loads,” etc. Stay away from 1⅛ oz. and anything over 1,200 fps. The size of the shot, 7.5, 8 or 9, does not affect the recoil, but you can’t shoot anything lower than 7.5 at clay targets. You can figure out later if you want something “hotter,” but to start, low recoil is best for a good experience.

Shotgun Instructor

Christine Corkell providing instruction for a new Syren shooter.

What if you don’t have a range close by that you can go to?  These organizations can help you find an instructor.

The National Skeet Shooting Association and National Sporting Clays Association have websites that list all their Level I, II and III instructors by state. Barbara suggests: “I advise a beginner/novice shooter to book their lesson with a NSCA Level I or Level II instructor, because this instructor is well-versed in the proper sequence of instruction, ensuring the new student will get off to an exciting start. As a Level I instructor, I work mainly with women and teens. Our first few lessons cover gun safety, eye dominance, proper gun mount, stance…and hitting lots of targets! I allot time to shoot 25 to 50 easy target presentations.

The Amateur Trap Association has information on its site, as does the NSSF (the National Shooting Sports Foundation), which lists information on “Where to Shoot” on its website. (This includes rifle and pistol ranges, as well.)

And while it’s difficult to find an shotgun instructor when you’re new, it’s sometimes equally difficult to settle on just one when you have multiple options and everyone you know has a different favorite. That’s when you need to determine your goals in shotgun shooting. Do you want to learn to shoot just for fun, for annual hunting trips and maybe some charity shoots? Or have you been bitten by the “competition bug” and want to excel in your chosen shooting discipline?

Shotgun Instructor

Ashley Butcher giving instruction during a Syren Demo day.

A good shotgun instructor

Lots of the top shooters/instructors have a shooting method that works for them. Typically, an instructor will want you to shoot using his or her method. That’s great if that method works for you, but I would advise against totally changing the way you shoot. Over my 14 years of competition, I have heard so many shooters complain that their score was horrible because their new shotgun instructor changed the way they shot, and they were confused as to what to do to actually hit the targets.

Finding a coach that shoots in a similar way to you, and who will gently tweak your technique to improve your shooting is so important. Adjusting your hold point, break point, stance and gun fit are the basics, and making little improvements over time is much more valuable than making big ones all at once.

Kassidy was looking for a long-term coach for Bunker Trap: “When I first started one-on-one coaching, I didn’t know what to expect. My coach drilled me on certain target angles over and over, until I was comfortable with them. She also had me pick up a weight-training regimen to build my core strength. My coach has become one of my closest friends, and has been my rock throughout my shooting career. She has supported me through everything shooting-related as well as in life itself, and is one of the most influential people in my life.”

Shotgun Instructor

Barbara hosting Syren demo at Joshua Creek Ranch. (Nick Kohleffel photo)

Barbara says (and I totally agree), “We always learn something from every shotgun instructor with whom we cross paths, but if competition and winning is a new student’s long-term goal, finding the right coach is well worth the time and effort.” 

Barbara & Kassidy

Barbara Garney is based in Houston, Texas, and is president of the Lady Clay Shooters. They host several events each year, as well as an annual fundraiser for a Houston-area charity. She is a long-time sporting clays shooter and has also served on the board of the Texas Sporting Clays Association. She recently joined Syren as a ProStaff shooter, and we are so lucky to have her on board!

A recent high school graduate, Kassidy Groeper will be attending Lindenwood University in the fall and shooting on its shotgun team (which has National Championships in spades). She was very active in FFA and her primary discipline is Bunker Trap, but she will be shooting all disciplines for the college team.

Read Lynne’s other tips on shotguns here.

  • About Lynne Green

    Prior to becoming the Brand Manager for Syren, Lynne Green served as the Executive Director of Atlanta Charity Clays, disbursing more than $300,000 to local area children’s charities in 2016, bringing their total to over $4.3 million in 26 years. Most of her career has been spent as an IT Infrastructure Project Manager working on multi-million dollar projects such as merger/acquisitions, data center migrations, desktop deployments and outsourcing conversions for several Fortune 500 companies.

     

The Conversation

2 Comments
  • Theresa LaCasse says: July 26, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Shot 8 boxes of shells today getting used to my new Tempio! Loving that it fits me and now I no longer get a headache shooting. I could of shot 20 boxes and still felt great. Thanks