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!
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.
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.
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.
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!