…can be undertaken for a number of reasons. You may want to learn how to shoot for self defense, for competition, for hunting, as required by your job, or just for fun. Whatever the reason, learning to shoot can usually be lots of fun; but you do need to think safety (see my first rant in this series), and you do need someone else to teach you how to safely handle and shoot firearms. Sure you can try to teach yourself, but that would be like a defendant in court who defends himself, he has a fool for a client.
I recommend that you arrange for someone to teach you who is not only knowledgeable in firearms safety, and how to shoot, but who has been in some manner certified or otherwise qualified to be a firearms instructor. The National Rifle Association (NRA) offers courses in firearms training through its network of NRA certified instructors. If you choose one of them to train you, shop around as I found that prices for such training can vary markedly. I imagine there are other organizations who certify firearms instructors to whom you could also go to seek out a person to train you.
Some of the reasons you want a certified instructor to train you is because they do this professionally, because they know or should know what needs to be taught to you, and they have been trained in how to train. In other words they are a whole lot more likely than the average Joe Shooter to train you properly without leaving something out, and without teaching you bad habits. Of course I am not saying that the average Joe Shooter could not sufficiently train you, but yes I am saying that proper firearms training is more likely to come from someone who has been taught by a professional as to how to train others.
Whoever trains you should begin with firearms safety and nomenclature. For example if they tell you to keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot, they should also be telling you what is a trigger. A good instructor does not assume that you know these things, or that common sense dictates anything about firearms and their use to you. In order to learn about firearms properly and safely, you need to be taught about them from step one, by a competent trainer, it is that simple.
As a student you need to resign yourself to the fact that the instructor probably knows more than do you, and this is often true even if you are an advanced shooter. You have to allow yourself to be taught. Do not enter a training situation with a hostile attitude toward the instructor, or with an attitude that you already know it all. This would be quite counterproductive and could wind up in loss of a life. Instead, go into the classroom with an open mind. Expect to learn new things or to get a refresher on things. If you are a new shooter, you will of course learn new things, but an old time shooter also needs to go into the classroom with an open mind. As you receive instruction, ask questions if there are things about which you are uncertain. Participate in the learning experience as much as practical. Make sure that you are satisfied that you understand what is being discussed or exhibited before you move on. Remember you are learning about something, that if done properly can be lots of fun, but if done improperly can result in needless injury or loss of life. While it can be fun, it is also deadly serious business.
While in the classroom pay attention not only to the instructor, but to the questions posed by other students. Make sure to attend all of the classes, always paying attention while in the classroom or at the range (which in fact could be the classroom so to speak). Study at home whatever handouts you are given in the classroom. If you already have one, don’t take out your firearm at home and start practicing anything you learned in the classroom until you have fully completed the classroom. Remember too, some things are never practical or safe to do at home with firearms.
When you take whatever written and practical shooting tests that you will be required to pass, always follow the instructions given to you by the person in charge of the class; and make sure you pay full attention to them before proceeding with anything, especially before handling a firearm. Don’t cheat on written tests, it really only goes to make you less proficient, and more unsafe, with firearms.
While handling a firearm in the classroom, or while on the range, never anticipate the commands of your firearms instructor. There are a couple of very important things to understand about the previous sentence. Yes the firearms instructor is in charge of the range and the people on the range. His instructions are to be taken as commands, and unless you want to be booted off of the range, you had better obey them. While you need to obey those commands, no you should never anticipate those commands. No matter how many times you go to the range for instruction, no matter how many times you have heard a command like “Ready on the left, ready on the right, commence firing” never anticipate something like that and start to shoot ahead of the actual command to do so. It could just be that the instructor says: Ready on the right, ready on the left, commence – CEASE FIRE” because he suddenly became aware of an unsafe condition.
Keep in mind that if the command CEASE FIRE is ever given, by anyone at the range, you stop firing and stop immediately. I will not, in this rant, go into more particulars about that in which you will be instructed because that will be up to your instructor, and because I need material for other future blogs.
As a new shooter, expect a class of at least three days in length, at least a few hours per day, before being qualified as a shooter who can go out on your own to shoot at a range or in the field. Some instructors may do this in one day, others in a week. Three days would be a good rule of thumb to cover the essential basics. After you might want to take more advanced training, or you may just want to shoot on your own. I recommend lots of practice in what you were taught by your instructor before you move onto a more advanced type of shooting. Spending one day a week at the range is a good goal to set, especially for newer shooters, but you may be able to maintain proficiency by practicing once a month, especially if you are an experienced shooter.
As to the type of gun with which you, as an adult, should learn to shoot, I recommend a firearm in just about any caliber you want, and for which your instructor is or has been certified with the exception of the really big calibers. Learning pistol or revolver shooting can be done with anything from a .22LR caliber up to a .45, but I would recommend a 9MM pistol, or .38 Special caliber revolver, each with at least a 3.5 to 6 inch barrel. I say this because of the less expense of shooting these, the availability of guns and ammo, the fairly easy recoil experienced by the shooter (enough to respect but not to fear), and the decent sight radius of guns with those barrel lengths. As for a rifle, you can learn to shoot with just about any caliber, but again recoil is a factor. Get one in something that is considered medium recoil when you first learn to shoot. Shotguns, relatively speaking, are much like rifles in the recoil regard, but you can use reduced recoil loads if you decide to get a larger gauged shotgun.
Of course, you can do all the same (except the shotgun stuff) with a .gun chambered in 22LR except for experiencing a decent amount of recoil; and guns chambered in .22LR are often relatively inexpensive, and the ammo is often very inexpensive. These are good guns for adults to use as first guns when shooting. Rifles, revolvers, and pistols in .22LR are great starter firearms for children. I would recommend a Bolt Action Rifle repeater (with box or tube magazine), chambered in .22LR, to start off any child in the world of shooting. This way when starting out you can use it as a single shot, and advance with the same rifle to using it as a repeater. Make sure the rifle fits the child, youth models are often available. I guess I should note that children 9on average in my opinion) as young as about 8 or 9 can be safely taught to handle and shoot firearms, but they require an added safety rule: NEVER HANDLE A FIREARM UNLESS MOM OR DAD OR YOUR FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR GIVES IT TO YOU TO HANDLE. Children shooters require competent adult supervision at all times.
There is plenty more to learn, but I leave it to your instructor to teach you in the real world, and to my future blogs to explain such in the virtual world. Of course, if you have questions, leave them in the comments section, and if I can answer them, I will do so.
Always follow the safety rules, and you will probably have years of fun shooting.
All the best,
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