Kids and Guns: The Modern Approach
My brother called a few weeks ago, seeking a positive method for introducing a 10-year-old girl to shooting. I know as much about 10-year-old girls as I know about Indonesian currency. For those of you who don't receive sarcasm, that's not much. But I do know a little something about shooting and kids in the digital age. Twenty years ago, my advice would have been to use the traditional approach and get a bolt action with iron sights and start with the basic fundamentals of shooting. Since my kids are nearing shooting age, I've given this topic a lot of thought, and I no longer feel this is the best course.
Like it or not, kids have changed. Lying prone and shooting bullseyes was great stimulation when your alternative was throwing rocks at the creek or burning ants with a magnifying glass. Today, kids have a two-second attention span and want instant gratification. If it isn't fun right off, they will go back to their video games and phones. In fact, if they have an interest in guns or shooting at all, it's likely because of a video game. Skip some of the basics to provide the instant gratification these young minds demand. Safety has to be paramount, but teaching safety doesn't have to be a five-hour lecture. Some safety principles can be taught along the way.
The fastest way to provide instant gratification is by making success easy. Eliminate complicated principles such as sight picture and sight alignment. Use a red dot optic to help with this. Kid puts the dot on the target. Kid pulls the trigger. Kid hits the target. A shooter is born.
Another way to keep attention is by using a reactive target. Reactive targets can include: steel spinners, falling plates, clay birds, or inflated balloons. Teach shooting the same way you teach a kid to hit a baseball—the Bill Rogers way. He calls it positive instant recognition. The child's mind sees the target, sees the dot, pulls the trigger, and the target falls down. The brain forms a mental trace the same way that it does when a bat connects with the baseball. This ah-ha! moment is the only way to teach a hand-eye skill. Get them close enough that they're more likely to hit it than not. You can teach precision shooting skills after you have them hooked on shooting.
A .22LR is obviously the way to go here. Low cost, lack of recoil, and light muzzle blast make this cheap and easy to shoot. A suppressor/silencer takes this one step further. It virtually eliminates the overpressure blast that causes new shooters to flinch. A semi-auto keeps it fun and fast-paced and eliminates worrying about cocking the gun. Most importantly, it keeps their focus on making good shots. Guns like the Ruger 10/22 or Mk III pistol are ideal and make mounting optics simple and easy.
Forget how Grandpappy taught you to shoot. Those days are gone…and they aren't coming back. You were a different kid with far fewer distractions. Be smart in your approach, and embrace the technology; don't fight it. Video them knocking down targets so they can watch it later and show their friends. Make the experience as positive and as successful as possible, and you may have a shooting buddy for life—or at least until they hit puberty.