Normally when a first-time shooter asks to shoot one of your guns, they are kids. This is not always the case. There are more first time shooters buying guns, learning to shoot, and getting their concealed license, than ever before. Gun sales in America are through the roof! If you are in the gun business then you are busy. Sales are not just to men and the everyday hunter. Women are buying more guns than ever before. Twenty years ago, women made up less than 5% of the shooting and hunting community. Now day’s women make up more than 30% of all gun related sales. In my custom business about 30 % of the hunting rifles I build are for women or kids.
The other day my daughter in-law was over for the weekend and after watching a segment on the news about a robbery and murder, she said to me “I think I need to get a handgun and my license”. “Can you take me shooting and let me try some of your pistols”. I told her (with a smile on my face) we can go shooting in the morning and I would have several hand guns for her to shoot and have fun with. I put together a group of handguns which would make great carry guns and would also be fun to shoot. I had 2- 380 ACP pistols, 1- 22 caliber pistol, 1-38 Special revolver, a 17 HMR revolver and a 32 ACP pistol, along with plenty of light target ammunition to shoot. I asked my daughter and wife to join us to make it fun and easier for Christine to get comfortable with shooting the handguns.
Make it fun: Shooting should be fun, too much time can be spent on how powerful a gun is, how far it can shoot, or how accurate it is. Most shooters don’t care about these things at first. They just want to learn how to shoot safely and have fun doing it. Set up several different targets so the shooter doesn’t have to look for the holes as they shoot. Make a game out of your shooting experience. Tell the shooter to shoot two shots into the left target, two in the right target and one in the center target. It gets boring just shooting at the same bulls-eye, change it up and keep it exciting and uncomplicated.
Shoot close: If you are shooting handguns it is best to shoot at close range, about 7 to 10 yards is good. The most important is that new shooters hit the target. They want to see the hole in the target so they know where they hit. The marker target is a good way to make it more fun and easier to see your hits. You might be able to make shots at 25 or 50 yards but this is not about showing off how good you are, it is about having a good time with a first-time shooter.
Low recoil: I have been told hundreds of stories about how the father or boyfriend put a 12-gauge shotgun in the hands of a girl and watched her fall on her butt when she shot it. Then, they tell the story over and over and laugh about it, like it is real funny. Well, that is something the shooter will never forget! And what could have been a positive experience has turned into a negative and left that first-time shooter never wanting to be around guns again. Start with a small gun, a 22 is perfect. Prepare them for the recoil; let them know what is going to happen and how much recoil to expect. Move the shooter up slowly in caliber size as they want to try bigger guns. Most women can handle the recoil of a 45 ACP or 44 Mag if they know what it is going to feel like. In fact, my wife shoots a 454 Casull better than I do.
Watch the noise: The noise is the worst thing about shooting. Guns are loud and many times, the first-time shooter will have problems with the noise of the gun and not the recoil. Wear good hearing protection; try the foam earplugs and ear muffs together. You might want to wear noise cancelling headsets so you can hear the shooter ask a question yet not hurt your ears from the crack of the gun. Talk loud enough so the shooter can hear you tell them what to do. It’s not a good idea for them to take the hearing protection off when guns are going off around them.
Keep it safe: Safety is the first, second and final rule! Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. Never point the gun at any thing you don’t intend on shooting or killing. Don’t pick up or play with the guns during the cease fire. These are just a few of the safety things that you need to go over before you get to the range. Don’t be afraid to teach the shooter about the gun and the safeties on the gun, as well as, how it works and how to clean it. If it is interesting then they will be interested in how the gun works. Don’t get over technical, keep it simple.
Christine and the girls shot every gun I brought and went through 5 boxes of ammunition, and had hits all over the targets. They all had fun and learned a little about all the different handguns they shot. In the end, they all liked the Beretta 380 ACP the best. It fit their hand better, it weighed more so it had less recoil, and it holds 13 rounds of ammunition. None of the girls liked to reload the clips (fingernails got in the way) so I did lots of loading for them. Christine came away with a feeling that she can now shoot a pistol and hit the target, and that she could actually shoot a bigger gun than she first thought. Most important she had fun! My wife and daughter, who both shoot often, had fun shooting at the closer range and showing off a little. It was a good day for the entire family and a new beginning for a new shooter.