Preserve the Shooting Sports by Mentoring a New Shooter

rear view of girl shooting with gun in shooting gallery new shooter

There is nothing more rewarding than introducing existing shooters to new guns and new shooters to existing guns. Put together a day of introducing new guns to new shooters and you’ve really made my day. One such day that was on my calendar had an added twist — introducing shooters to the sport of skeet shooting, which was something none of them had tried.

Having recently acquired an American Tactical Milsport .410 AR platform shotgun, I put together a skeet shooting adventure for two of my sons, a grandson, and a friend who had never fired a gun. The gang questioned whether we would do well shooting skeet with a .410… smart boys!

Youngster with a shoulder shotgun aiming at a clay pigeon
Although our focus was to shoot the lighter recoiling .410 shotguns, the shooters enjoyed more success with the 20-gauge shotguns.

I considered that a challenge, especially since I had three really cool .410 shotguns. The .410s included a Henry lever-action, the American Tactical gun, and an ATI Cavalry Over/Under. The Henry and Cavalry are beautiful guns, and I must confess I’d been hesitant to shoot them for fear of getting them scratched.

Not only was I privileged to introduce a new shooter to the sport, three new guns were put to work. Just so we would have something to compare the .410 shotguns to, I included a few 20-gauge shotguns — a Baikal MP310 Over/Under, Browning A5 semi-auto, and JW2000 double-barrel coach gun. To toss the pigeons, I grabbed a Champion Manual Trap.

Prepping a New Shooter for Success

When working with a new shooter, I like to conduct a pre-shoot interview to determine the shooter’s level of interest. It’s important to know whether they really want to go shooting or they’re being pressured into it. If they don’t really want to do it, I’m reluctant to take them.

Another part of the pre-shoot interview is to go over the safety rules. Before heading to the range, explain what’s going to happen and what you will expect from the new shooter in the way of safe gun handling. I like to handle a few guns with the new shooter — without ammunition in the vicinity, of course. If I can get them operating the action comfortably without ammunition, it generally helps their comfort level when we go hot at the range.

Man shouldering a .410 shotgun
After a bit of instruction, the new skeet shooters started focusing on the leading edge of the target instead of “aiming” the shotgun.

I reviewed how to hold and mount a shotgun for shooting birds, whether feathered or made of clay. This was something new to all my perspective shooters. William, the new shooter, appeared to absorb every word of my briefing.

How to Make a New Shooter an Enthusiast

We had a couple cross-dominant eye issues to work out. Once detected, it was easy enough to make the corrections. Watching two shooters miss five clays apiece, I entered the match and busted two in a row. The shooters decided that if the old man in a wheelchair could do it, they could too. They hearkened back to what I had told them about how to hold the gun, mount it to their shoulder, and point at the target rather than trying to aim at it.

Quickly, the boys started busting clays. When shooting the lever-action Henry, they seemed to have more success with the orange flyers. That surprised me a bit, and I was not sure why. When a shooter consistently missed with the .410 Bore, I offered up one of the 20-gauges. All shooters enjoyed success with the 20-gauge shotguns. With the 20-gauge success increasing confidence, switching back to a .410 was still challenging but more productive.

After depleting our stock of clays, we patterned the .410s using Shoot-N-C targets to answer the question of how they would work as a home defense gun. We had some #2 shot, 00 Buck, and Winchester PDX-1 cartridges. It was a fun and educational afternoon. This was the first opportunity I had to take them shooting with shotguns.

Federal American Eagle .410/.45 Long Colt ammunition combo pack
Each Combo Pack includes American Eagle .45 Long Colt defensive ammunition and Premium Personal Defense 2-1/2″ 000 Buck .410 ammunition.

After running through the .410 shells on hand, we still had time, and the boys were far from ready to leave. I smiled at seeing my protégé at work. My grandson has an intimate knowledge of the guns in my safe. While selecting the shotguns for the outing, he was sure to include an assortment of revolvers ranging from .22s to .45s and a host of semi-automatics with examples in multiple calibers. I watched as he explained each gun to William and taught him how to load and operate it. He continually stressed the rules of gun safety. Could any mentor ask for more than a student who becomes a mentor to a new shooter?

After a little range time with the pistols, the boys gravitated to what boys naturally do — some friendly competition. Safety was observed at all times. I happily stepped back and acted as the safety officer to ensure while having fun, they also observed safe gun handling. At the end of the day, William took home some targets he could brag about. Here was a high school senior who had been shooting for the first time in his life, and now he’s positioned to enjoy the sport with friends and family members.

Post Range Time Follow-Up

Follow-up is important. On the way home from the range is OK. However, a day or two after an introduction to shooting gives the new shooter a chance to internalize how they felt about their day at the range. They will let you know whether they want to do it again. In my experience, the follow-up visit is where the roots of a shooter begin to take hold. If there is enthusiasm there, it’s important to act upon it with future shooting adventures.

20 semi-automatic handguns and revolvers on a camo cover shooting table
A big part of introducing new shooters to the sport is (if possible) giving them the option to pick the guns they would like to shoot.

There was a time when I owned a shooting school. The school taught basic pistol classes and the state-required course for obtaining a concealed handgun license. Every week, people who had never shot a gun showed up for the concealed handgun class. I never got tired of working with people who were anxious to learn.

Now that I’m no longer running a full-time school, I still seek the joy of working with new shooters. Almost everyone who knows me is aware of my penchant for sharing the many ways guns can be a regular part of someone’s life. I hope your friends can say as much about you.

It doesn’t have to always be about self-defense, though that’s a big part of it. Shooting together for competition or alone for self-improvement is rewarding. However, introducing someone to shooting sports and seeing their progress is just as fun, for many it is more enjoyable than a day alone at the range. Think about how you can introduce your friends, family members, or neighbors to the sport. Have fun and be careful!

Do you enjoy introducing new people to shooting sports or strengthening friendships while spending a bit of time on the range? Share your best mentoring or shooting stories in the comment section.

  • Henry .410 shotgun top, ATI Milsport and Cavalry over/under bottom
  • Two high school age young men holding a shotgun and semi-auto handgun after a great day of shooting new shooter
  • Youngster with a shoulder shotgun aiming at a clay pigeon
  • 20 semi-automatic handguns and revolvers on a camo cover shooting table
  • Man shouldering a .410 shotgun

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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!

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