Introducing guns and shooting sports to family and friends can be both fun and rewarding. Maintaining a beginner’s interest for the longer term though can require a little planning.
In many households, not everyone may be an active participant in whatever the preferred shooting sport is. It could be hunting, competitive target shooting, tactical or just recreational range work. Whatever it may be, it is nice if more than one of you is getting out there.
We’ll assume that as responsible gun owners, you’ll have covered all of the basic safety practices and protocols that would apply with having guns in the household in general. Additionally, we’ll assume that specific gun handling safety has been well covered and/or some professional instruction has been provided. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised…
So how to spark that interest and move forward?
Make It Interesting, Relevant & Fun
When trying to generate enthusiasm for a new activity, it’s important to avoid the assumption that the new prospect (even a family member) may be interested in the same things that you are. Maybe the person has zero interest in hunting or shooting skeet. Finding out what motivates them is key. Trying out a few different disciplines can be a good way to see where their interest may lie. A force-fit likely won’t stick for the long term.
Teaching Newbies, and especially kids, can be challenging since attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Maintaining a good energy level and avoiding overly long lectures is important. You can also use anecdotes and dispel shooting myths to help keep things interesting and compelling.
Being aware of the modern sense of immediate gratification and reward that most people have, can also be used as tool when teaching. Make the activities fun and with attainable initial targets to help jump-start the process.
Unlike hitting free throws or a home run, shooting guns has more of a potential to put beginners off due to the nature of the action. Guns are loud, there’s recoil to consider and the experience can be intimidating overall. Matching the weapon to the size and strength of the new shooter is an important step in not scaring them off. Using an air gun, a .22 or even a 20 gauge to start can help, along with some realistic expectations of what they can hit. All of this can help to boost confidence right out of the gate.
Principles of Teaching & Learning
Each of us has a particular way in how we learn best, and matching that style can help with the overall enjoyment of the learning experience and the retention of the information provided. Applying principles that are auditory (tell me), visual (show me) or kinesthetic (let me try) cover all of the bases, in addition to explaining the ‘why’ of what each element of the shooting skills means. Be patient, supportive and remember that it’s a process that can take time. Also be aware that not everyone is great teacher and it’s good to know when to hand things over to someone else to get the best results.
Setting Up for Success
As we mentioned above, confidence with shooting is a key element in how much a new participant may enjoy the activity and want to continue. If a beginner starts with fear or apprehension, they will definitely resist the process (subconsciously or otherwise) and can also develop poor fundamentals and bad habits like flinching. Again, use a gun best suited for the individual and set up activities designed for success and reward. Keep targets close, start small and make the journey enjoyable.
Most everyone likes to improve on whatever skill they’ve undertaken, and by creating personal challenges, a new shooter can immediately see the results of their efforts. This could include obvious distance work, but could also involve the size and type of the targets or timed activities. Success feeds enthusiasm, and clear skill improvement through goal setting and achievement can help.
Keep the Momentum Going
Understand that sparking and maintaining an interest in shooting sports is not just a one-&-done deal. Proactively creating opportunities for further participation through outings with friends and family, clubs, competition or skill sharpening with a professional instructor can all work to positively reinforce the experience.
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