Kids and Guns: The Traditional Approach
Teaching kids about hunting and firearms can be tough. So there's something to be said for the modern approach to educating youth on firearms. While I agree with many of its methods, I go about things a bit differently.
These days, kids receive instant gratification in everything they do. When I give a lesson, fundamentals come before fun. Stance, grip, eye dominance, and everything else are covered before the first shot. Call me a traditionalist, but they're learning basic skills and gun safety before they ring a reactive target.
That may sound a bit harsh, but all of the good shooters I've produced stand as testimony.
When a kid begins a lesson, I ask, "Do you want to shoot just to shoot, or do you want to be good at shooting a gun?" No one wants to perform poorly. People are more likely to continue with it if they excel. I don't want them to shoot guns just because it gives them something to do. I want them to succeed. After all, they're our future Second Amendment supporters.
I cover all aspects of safe gun handling before beginning a lesson. Maintaining a safe muzzle direction and keeping fingers clear of the trigger are high on that list. Learning safe gun handling isn't fun, but it's necessary. My method is a little smoother than the way my ol' man taught me: Parents wouldn't appreciate me smacking their kids up side the head for a broken safety rule (no bruising occurred while teaching me how to shoot).
Two tools drastically reduce the learning curve: A Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger (SIRT) gun and snap caps. The SIRT gun looks and handles like a real gun, but it shoots laser beams instead of bullets. Initial pressure on the trigger causes one laser to hit the target. This laser shows movement that occurs while handling. When the shot breaks, a second laser beam launches and shows the virtual hit. I use this to show how bullet impact relates to sight alignment. My students do this several times before picking up a real gun. And I stress the importance of treating the SIRT gun as if it's real.
Understanding proper trigger control is vital, no matter what type of firearm you shoot. I can't tell you how many times a student's very first shot centered the bullseye, all upon learning this step. Once I feel they have the proper trigger squeeze down, we move on to the real thing.
A comfortable, low-recoiling gun is important for first time shooters. But here is the kicker: I only let them load one round at a time. Every time you chamber a round by racking a slide, cycling a bolt, shucking a pump, or whatever the case may be, you familiarize them with firearm functionality. Practicing these loading and firing steps in a small amount of time builds confidence. Once students master this, I let them load multiple rounds into the gun.
Sometimes, accuracy will start to suffer during the lesson. Fatigue and anticipation throw shots off the mark. This is where snap caps come into play. They show me when students flinch on the trigger and anticipate the blast.
A-zoom makes the best on the market. They are caliber specific, one-piece, machined aluminum.
They look like a complete painted cartridge, but without the bullet, powder, or primer. Instead of a primer, a piece of heavy-duty rubber absorbs strikes from the firing pin. They load, feed, and chamber like normal rounds. But they do not fire.
Load the magazine of the gun with a snap cap round somewhere in the magazine. Usually, shooters flinch when the trigger is pulled and the snap cap is chambered. To cure the flinch, have them dry fire the gun multiple times on a snap cap. Tell them to slowly squeeze the trigger until the firing pin drops.
Introducing kids to firearms in this manner is effective. Take things slow and teach them to be an accurate shot. It makes for a good time when you finally break out the reactive targets. It's not instant gratification, but it's a close second.