I’ll never forget teaching my daughter to shoot.
We started her off with a BB gun. However, she didn’t enjoy punching holes in paper, so thinking back to my childhood days of shooting cans, I set up a small tower of cans for her to shoot.
She missed the first few times, but once she got dialed in, she loved making the cans fall over.
So I decided to step back and film her reaction. She connected and quickly turned around to ensure I was watching, pointing the BB gun in my direction.
That’s when we had a refresher on the most important gun safety rule, always point the gun in a safe direction.
Now that she’s older, we’ve stepped up to shoot larger guns, some of which are rifles. She’s come a long way since her first introduction to guns, as have I.
I’ve learned several critical tips regarding shooting with a minor from my granddad, dad, and on my own, which I’ll pass along below.
Safety is Vital
Growing up, I’d roll my eyes every time I received my dad’s “know where your barrel is pointed” speech on every duck hunt. It wasn’t that I or anyone else on those hunts were being dangerous; he just wanted to keep gun safety fresh in our minds.
It worked; we never had an accident but had many enjoyable hunts together.
I see why he repeated himself on so many occasions now that I shoot with my daughter.
Kids are forgetful; even though you tell them 100 times, it doesn’t hurt to tell them the 101st time.
When first teaching my daughter to shoot her BB gun, I told her not to point at anything she didn’t want to shoot. However, in the excitement of hitting her target, she quickly forgot all the gun safety rules, so I had to gently remind her again-
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire
- Always keep the gun unloaded until it’s ready to use
- Know your target and what’s beyond it
- Only use the correct ammunition
- Always wear hearing and eye protection
Minors tend to get a little nervous at public ranges, especially during shooting competitions, so reminding them of the basics, including gun safety basics, will help calm them and keep everyone safe.
Firearms deserve a healthy respect because they are dangerous when mishandled.
However, that doesn’t mean kids should be scared of them. If we want the next generation to continue supporting the beloved 2nd Amendment, we must teach them to be safe while having fun.
Fun is Foundational
I look back on the reason why I fell in love with shooting and it’s because I found it fun. My father and grandfather both found ways to make shooting fun and safe.
My dad often took me hunting, so I learned how to get meat for my family and had fun doing it. Those hunts are some of the best memories I have of my childhood.
My grandpa was always willing to buy new targets for us to test. He started with the self-healing targets that move when you hit them, and when we grew tired of those, he bought a steel shooting tree for us to compete against each other.
My dad and grandpa never hesitated to purchase the shooting gear we needed to keep it safe and exciting.
Now I try to do the same with my daughter.
While punching sub-MOA holes in paper with your 6.5 Creedmoor is fun for you, for a minor, it can quickly become tedious. After all, not much is happening.
That’s why I recommend switching up the target type once you notice your kid starts to lose interest.
Even when training for a long-range match, it doesn’t hurt to give them something different to look at through the scope for a few rounds before calling it a day.
Because I enjoy shooting so much, I often stay at the range longer than my daughter wants. It would be better for both of us if I left a little before she was ready; that way, she’s eager to return.
The two reasons she generally wants to leave are because she’s bored or uncomfortable. Most gun ranges aren’t designed with comfort in mind.
Comfort is Critical
I get irritated when I’m uncomfortable for too long, so why should I expect anything different from my kid?
My dad always had comfort in mind while in the duck blind. He bought me warm clothes and waders, brought hand warmers when it was cold, or let me go to the truck to warm up if we forgot them. He didn’t push me past my comfort limits, even when the hunting was good and costing him ducks.
My grandfather was the one who introduced me to long-range shooting, and once again, he always kept comfort as part of the equation.
First, he found a long-distance caliber I was comfortable with; then, he helped me build a portable shooting bench for our range on the back 40 acres of his property.
However, once I reached the proper age, they both pushed me a little to better myself so I didn’t get stuck in my comfort zone.
I’m now walking that delicate balance of keeping my daughter comfortable while we’re shooting and encouraging her to push herself and do more than she thinks she can do.
Growing up, I was blessed with great parents and grandparents willing to take the time to teach me how to handle firearms properly and have fun.
I now look forward to passing that blessing on to my daughter as I teach her to respect guns while keeping her interest peaked.
I do this by reminding myself-
- Safety is vital
- Fun is foundational
- Comfort is critical
Only time will tell if she will develop as deep a passion for firearms and shooting as I have evolved over the years, but I think I’m off to a great start.
Sam Jacobs is a 2nd amendment advocate, lead writer, and chief historian, at Ammo.
Growing up in New England, He practically lived outdoors: fishing, hunting, and camping. As a self-proclaimed outdoorsman, it’s his responsibility to use his knowledge and experience to educate others about ammunition, the outdoors, and conservation.