Safety and Training

Getting Your Kids Off the Internet and Out to the Range!

Teenager shooting targets at the gun range

I am a huge advocate for getting kids outdoors. With warmer weather now upon us, many of our kids are home for the summer. Too many pre-teens and teenagers find themselves inside on a beautiful day, either on the Internet or playing video games. Depending on their ages, there are a lot of outdoorsy ideas that can help get your kids outside this summer. It’s not only fun, it’s good for them!

Author Annette Doerr with her daughter at the gun range
Depending on their ages, there are a lot of outdoorsy ideas that can help get your kids outside this summer. It’s not only fun, it’s good for them!

A guest post written by Annette Doerr.

One of the initial reasons I joined my sportsmen’s club was because it listed a “Junior Rifle Club” on its website. Great, I thought, a way to get my girls involved and possibly into competitive shooting! I was so disappointed to find out after I joined, that the junior rifle club had not been running for several years—no leaders, no kids, no club.

Fast-forward several monthly meetings, and multiple inquiries later, and I was able to find a member who had his NRA Rifle Instructor Certification and was willing to help! Between the two of us, we were able to assemble a small team of knowledgeable and qualified volunteers. As it turned out, a few other members of my club had children they wanted involved. We opened membership to kids between the ages of 12 and 18, who had an NRA Junior Membership. Parents did not need to be members of our club; we were ready, willing and able to teach anyone interested (with parental permission of course). To top things off, we made it free! All parents who were not club members were required to stay for the safety lesson. We wanted them to know what we would be teaching and why. This also helped a few of our more nervous parents gain trust that we did indeed know what we were doing!

Sometimes when you see a need that is not being met, you have to roll up your sleeves, jump on in and figure out a way to make it happen. The junior club had been stagnant for years, yet seemingly, we had several members interested in getting their kids involved and plenty of well-qualified, competent volunteers. The simple fact of the matter was nobody had taken the reins in order to get things rolling again. Sadly, the kids were missing a wonderful opportunity.

If you’re not a member of a shooting club or don’t have access to a Junior Club in your area, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways you can get your kids to the range with you. You know your kids best; depending on their ages and maturity level, you might want to start with an Airsoft rifle. If you’re into the classics, every kid should have their own Red Ryder BB gun, just don’t shoot your eye out! Readily available across the country, bb guns and pellet guns can help you teach your children firearm safety and have some fun while you’re doing it. Always treat these types of firearms as real firearms. While some may consider them as “toys,” they are still a firearm.

Anytime you’re working with kids, you have to keep it fun! If you want them on the range with you, there are varieties of ways to keep things fresh, fun and interesting! Reactive targets are a great way to make things fun. Another way is to take a little notebook from the dollar store and turn it into a passport of sorts. Write some progressive goals on each page, and a reward on the reverse page. As an example, maybe the first few pages look like this:

  1. Hit a paper plate at 10 feet. Reward: Gold star.
  2. Hit a paper plate at 20 feet. Reward: Gold star and ice cream cone.

Keep the progression simple and get your kids excited about progressing with their shooting. The cost of an ice cream cone is well worth spending quality time with your kids outdoors on the range. Find a fun stamp to stamp their “passports” with as they achieve their goals.

Teenager shooting targets at the gun range
Anytime you’re working with kids, you have to keep it fun!

I’m a big fan of the NRA Winchester Marksmanship Program. The program is self-guided and makes a great way to work with your kids in a structured, fun program. Working individually, you and your kids can work your way up the various rankings. Rockers, patches, certificates and pins can all be ordered through the NRA Program Materials Center. Once your child has earned a ranking, you can reward them with some swag. The program works on a step-by-step basis with increasing difficulty as you progress. There are marksmanship programs for air gun rifles, air gun pistols, pistols, rifles and shotguns, so everyone in the family can gain competency while having fun.

Teaching our youth to safely and responsibly handle firearms should be a must for preparing for adulthood. If you’re not a certified instructor, or just don’t want to be the one teaching your kids to shoot, there are some great organizations out there that can help.

  • Boy Scouts of America —(Boys only) BSA has been teaching outdoor skills including shooting sports since its incorporation in February of 1910. Frequently Asked Questions about its shooting program can be found here.
  • 4-H —(Boys and girls) 4-H also has a wonderful program for kids. Included is a great shooting program. Click here for more information and to find a chapter near you.
  • Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation —Interested in clays? SSSF has you covered. SSSF is a leader in youth development shooting sports programs.

While these are just a few examples, there are many resources available for youths interested in shooting sports. A great general resource is the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Information on many of the available youth programs can be found on its site.

Our children are our future, and if we don’t make the time to get them involved in the things that matter, no one will. It is our responsibility as parents to help them gain the skills necessary to be well-rounded adults. There are plenty of ways today’s kids can be led astray and get into trouble. Giving them a great foundation and education in shooting sports is one way to combat that. Let’s get our kids off the Internet and outdoors. The lifelong skills they learn now, will serve them well into the future!

How do you get your children interested in the shooting sports? Share your ideas and strategies with others in the comment section.

Annette Doerr is a freelance writer, self-employed businesswoman, wife, mother, equestrian, and is active in Greyhound rescue. She and her husband Bob are avid shooters and are both NRA Certified Pistol Instructors and NRA Certified Range Safety Officers. You can read more of her writing on her blog, weshoot2.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. “Boy Scouts of America ÔÇö(Boys only)”

    This is incorrect now. BSA allows girls and has also dropped the “Boy” from the name. I’m sorry but both of these were dead wrong decisions by BSA. There are reasons in was Boy Scouts and was for boys only. They have the Girl Scouts and there are TWO co-ed BSA scouting groups, Venture Scouts and Sea Scouts. Too much PC cr@pola!

    Anyway…. I went all the way through Cub scouts and Boy scouts with my son. He learned to shoot shotgun and .22 and Archery while in the scouts. I bought him his own .22 and 20 gauge shotgun. He picked up skeet shooting like a natural! He didn’t pick up the archery as much, he more enjoyed the shooting sports. Now he is 22 years old and I bought him his first 12 gauge for his 22nd birthday. He is still involved in skeet – he loves it. When he was younger I took him deer hunting. I let him use my old winchester lever action 30-30 I started out with, while I used my .300 WIn-mag. I have used my AK-47 for deer hunting to. 7.82×39 rounds make great deer hunting rounds. And its not as loud as my .300 win-mag. My wife doesn’t like that one – she says “it’s too loud!”. Gotta love it!

  2. I never had an issue with my kids or granddaughters. My daughter and son always wanted to go with me to watch. When they were comfortable enough they asked to shoot. After a couple of more times of rules and dryfire, they took to it like their dad was an old special forces guy or something. The grandbabies were just born into it. I’ve bought them both their own Canik TP9SA, which are kept at my house until “shooting time”. We have a blast playing shooting games. The 14 yr old loves the 6.5 grendel, cuz its papa’s special rifle. I’m glad I’m a good shot, cuz it gives them something to (forgive the pun) shoot for. They’re creeping up on this old 60+ sniper, but I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.

  3. Love, love, love this article! I had really never thought about taking my daughter, almost 15. Absolutely brilliant! Thanks for the idea.

  4. In the area we live in Oklahoma there are not a lot of outdoor ranges. Being an avid outdoors person I wanted to have my grandchildren to know the joy of shooting and fishing. I bought each of the four children ages 12,10,6 & 5 Daisy BB guns. Before they could even take them from the box , they were quizzed on the proper rules for handling a fire arm. Daisy puts a pamphlet in each box. We would set a target in the back yard that they could shoot at. Next we went to cans and clay pigeons. All of the kids look forward to coming to Grandpa & Grandma’s house so they can be outside and shooting there guns. Even my son-in-law who had no opertunity to shoot when he was young except for the Boy Scouts has gotten into it, to the point he has gone and become a certified instructor for the scouts . It has become quite a family affair

  5. My son, whose birthday is today, making him 14 years old, already shot every gun that I have. He managed 45 ACP quite nicely 3-4 months ago. He shot 9mm when he was only 12, and .22 LR and .22 Magnum when he was 10. Now he is very cautious when it comes to handguns and rifles, since he has seen first hand what it does to a various types of targets we would set in the desert and shoot.

    He learned that if improperly handled, it could kill someone very easy. From his own mouth “I am not afraid of using any weapon now, it’s just that I am really never really comfortable, because I am afraid of those ricochets or someone suddenly come in my way of fire” That tells me he will be ready once he turns 18.

  6. As a former juvenile probation officer, i can tell you from experience, that one of the biggest factors in kids going bad is a lack of involvement by parents.

    I remember talking to a father whose son was in trouble once about being involved. When i asked if he did things with his kid, his response was, “But he doesn’t like anything I do.” My answer . . “Then you should take an interest on what he likes.”

  7. Yes this is a good idea for parents who have fire arms. It will teach how to handle a fire arm. But somebody will complain and the parents will get into trouble. Child endangerment To many busy bodies who have nothing better to do in life

  8. Boy Scouts of America allows co-ed participation. Their venture program admits ladies 16 years and older. My son was just shooting an air gun at a range, with the range officer being a 20 year old lady and avid pistol shooter in the local venture crew.

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