Introduction: How to Teach a Friend to Shoot

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This guide intends to be a barebones, basic introduction guide to firearms to be used as a brief overview for new shooters before taking them to the range. The goal is not thorough instruction, but simply to educate the new shooter in basic safety precautions, firearm-handling rules, shooting techniques and range etiquette for their first encounter.

To best take advantage of the content, rather than reading alone it should be narrated aloud by an experienced shooter alongside the guest in order to explain and expand on talking points, as well as answer any questions that they may have. It is particularly beneficial to let them safely handle and familiarize themselves with the weapons they will be shooting prior to arriving at the range. The readers should feel free to emphasize on any points that may not be clear, or skip others that are not relevant or of interest. The goal should be to teach the fundamentals included in this quick guide in about an hour. Keep in mind that for the sake of brevity, some generalizations or simplifications made may not be true in all cases. In case of any doubts, an accredited firearms instructor should always be consulted.

Finally, veteran shooters should remember that, as ambassadors to the firearms world, it is their responsibility to ensure a safe, comfortable and pleasant experience to any new shooter.


This guide was written to be used personally and informally by the author. It is exclusively for informative or entertainment purposes only. The author has made a reasonable, good-faith effort to assure all content herein is accurate and contains good advice, but the author does not claim, implicitly nor explicitly, to be an expert on the matter, nor should he be considered or treated as such. The author specifically disclaims and assumes no liability or responsibility for its use, reliance on its contents, or reliance on any updates whatsoever, nor does he assume any liability or responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, misinterpretations, opinions contained, or any inconsistency contained, and specifically disclaims all of such, as well as disclaiming any other possible liability premised upon reliance on or use of this document, or any updates, including liability for negligence or gross negligence. Likewise, the author disclaims all responsibility or liability for any damages or injuries of any kind, which may occur in connection to its use. It should never be exclusively relied upon or considered a substitute for face-to-face training with a competent, qualified firearms instructor. Prior to making any kind of use of this document, the reader must agree that it is fully under their own responsibility and assume all liability and risks associated.

If the reader does not understand or fully agree to the prior statements, or is unable to take full responsibility for their own actions or choices, please stop reading this.

Step 1: Download and Print Out the Guide

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This guide was written with the intention to print it out and bind it, for quick use as a teaching and reference tool. As such, it is much easier to go through printed out rather than viewed as a webpage. Attached you will find the PDF file attached, which I would recommend printing out in color and double-sided, and then coil binding at your local print shop or Office Depot. The cost of binding is typically in the 2-5$ range.

Also, the PDF version includes better images, better formatting and is more detailed. The following steps are simply to provide some context and incentive to download and save the file.

Step 2: Main Firearm Types and Components

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AUTOMATIC or FULLY AUTOMATIC – Type of firearm that will fire bullets continuously for as long as the trigger is pressed and there is ammunition in the magazine/chamber. These weapons are effectively illegal to the average citizen in the USA, save for the few that pass through the great expense and hassle of acquiring one legally.

BARREL – A gun’s barrel is the long metal tube though which the projectile is fired. The projectile is forced through the barrel and out of the muzzle by the forces of an expanding gas created by the chemical reaction of the burning propellant (gunpowder). Most, but not all, modern firearms have a “rifled” barrel, which are a series of spiral grooves inside the barrel which make the bullet spin, stabilizing its trajectory.

BORE – The bore is the inside cavity of the barrel through which the projectile travels when fired.

BREECH – The breech is the area of the firearm that contains the rear end of the barrel where the cartridge is inserted.

CHAMBER – The portion of the barrel or firing cylinder in which the cartridge is inserted before being fired.

CYLINDER – The cylinder is the part of a revolver that holds cartridges in separate chambers. It rotates each time the gun is cocked, bringing the sequential chambers into alignment with the barrel.

EJECTION PORT – Every time a shot is fired, a cartridge case is ejected from the firearm through the ejection port, and a fresh cartridge from the magazine is loaded.

EYE RELIEF – Only relevant with glass optics, it is the ideal distance range at which the eye should be placed from the eyepiece for a full viewing angle.

GRIP – The grip is the portion of a handgun that is used to hold the firearm.

HAMMER – The hammer is the part that strikes the firing pin or the cartridge primer directly, detonating it and discharging the firearm.

HANDGUNS – Term used to designate handheld short-barreled firearms.

MAGAZINE – It is the spring-operated container that can be either fixed or detachable to the firearm, and which holds cartridges for a repeating firearm. A magazine is not the same, nor should it be confused with a clip.

MUZZLE – The muzzle of a gun is the front end of the barrel where the projectile exits the firearm when discharged.

SAFETY – It is the mechanical mechanism that stops the firearm from being fired when activated. Not all weapons have them. Both Active and Passive safeties exist.

SEMI-AUTOMATIC – Type of firearm that will only fire one cartridge for every press of the trigger. This type of weapon accounts for the immense majority of civilian firearms in the USA.

SHOTGUNS – A type of firearm that fires shells containing either shot (small round pellets) or a slug (a solid projectile).

SLIDE – The topmost part of pistols, which reciprocates forward and back every time the pistol fires. “Racking the slide” is the process of cycling the action of the firearm by pulling back on the slide and then releasing it.

STOCK – The stock (or Handle) of the gun is composed of two pieces (the Butt and the fore-end), and in most cases is designed to be shouldered prior to firing.

RIFLE – Type of weapon that is shoulder-fired and has a spirally grooved bore.

TRIGGER – It is the lever that is pulled or squeezed to initiate the firing process. It should never be touched unless the firearm is already aimed at a target.

TRIGGER GUARD – It is the portion of a firearm that wraps around the trigger to provide both protection and safety.

Step 3: Cartridge Components

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A Cartridge or Round is the proper name for each complete ammunition package. Pictured above is a Rimfire cartridge on the left, and a Centerfire cartridge on the right. Both share the same basic components. That is: Case, Primer, Gunpowder, and Bullet.

CASE - The container that holds all the other ammunition components together. It's usually made of brass, steel, or copper.

PRIMER - An explosive chemical compound that ignites the gunpowder when struck by the percussive force of a firing pin. It’s location and type determines the type of cartridge. In Rimfire rounds, it is placed in the rim of the case, and with Centerfire, it is inserted in the center of the base.

GUNPOWDER - A chemical mixture that burns rapidly and converts in to an expanding gas when ignited, pushing the projectile with an explosive force.

BULLET or PROJECTILE - The object expelled from the barrel. A bullet is a projectile, usually containing lead or other dense materials. While commonly used interchangeably with the term “cartridge”, they should not be confused.

Bullet Types

There are many different types of bullets – The actual projectile fired out of the gun – to serve a variety of purposes. These include, but are not limited to, Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) for target practice, Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) for self-defense, Ballistic Tip Hollow Points for hunting or even Armored Piercing Incendiary (API) for military purposes. However, the main two types are Full Metal Jacket and Jacketed Hollow Points.

Note – Contrary to popular belief, Hollow Point Bullets are not illegal for civilian self-defense use, and are actually safer than the typical round nose bullets. Save for a proper justification, it is typically considered poor judgment by experienced gun owners to use FMJ bullets for self-defense, given their propensity to over-penetrate targets as well as barriers, including walls. This last aspect is particularly relevant in thin-walled apartment buildings.

JHP are designed to expand upon impact, remaining inside the target they hit and avoiding damage to any innocent bystanders that may be behind them. This makes them both more efficient and safer. Regarding criminal-stopping effectiveness, it is worth considering that from a Judge’s point of view, there is no such thing as a non-lethal use of a lethal weapon.

Step 4: Shooting Grip

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There are different methods and opinions on how to properly grip a handgun. Nonetheless, most instructors agree that the standard two-handed, thumbs-forward grip is among the best starting point for semi-automatic handgun shooting. The steps for a proper grip are:

1. Grab the firearm with your dominant hand, placing the web between the thumb and index finger as high as possible on its backstrap, without overriding the tang. The firearm’s shape should naturally guide you to this position, and there should be no space above your hand between it and the firearm. This is important to avoid the notorious beginner’s injury that is slide-bite.

2. Grab the firearm in such a way that your forearm is in line with the barrel of the gun. This improves accuracy, follow-up shot precision and reduces felt recoil. This is particularly relevant for cross-eye dominated shooters. However, if doing so impedes reaching the trigger or proper trigger pull, this suggestion may be flexible.

3. Place your Trigger Finger (Index finger) on the frame above the trigger guard. This is the resting position for your trigger finger. Your finger should never be inside the trigger guard unless you are consciously aiming at your target and ready to fire. If you are manipulating the controls, or have finished shooting, place your finger here.

4. Place the heel of your non-dominant hand in the exposed portion of the grip so that it completely fills the space.

5. Wrap your fingers around those from the dominant hand. Your support-hand fingers should be high, to the point of pressing against the bottom of the trigger guard. Do not put a finger around the front of the trigger guard. Regarding grip strength, think of it like your holding a small squirmy animal - you’re not trying to crush it, just keep it from getting away from you.

6. By default, both thumbs should be together and point forward. However, “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down” may be better suited depending on the shooter’s hand size, strength, preferences, weapon or the situation.

Shooting a Revolver

When shooting a revolver, the grip varies slightly. In all cases the fingers must stay away from the cylinder gap, therefore thumbs-forward is ill-advised. The default option is similar to the semi-automatic handgun grip, with the variation being the support-hand’s thumb anchored over the other by overlapping the distal knuckles.

A different, old-fashioned alternative is to rest the support-hand’s thumb in the fleshy “V” between the thumb and forefinger of the shooting hand, with the precaution that this grip must NEVER be used with semi-automatics due to slide bite.

Step 5: Sight Picture

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About the subject of properly aiming standard iron sights on a pistol, there are three main issues to pay attention to:

  • Which is the dominant eye – In order to find out, form a triangle shaped gap with your hands and, with both eyes open, look at a specific, distant point through it. Close one eye, then switch and close the other eye. When the dominant eye is open, the point should look centered. When the nondominant eye is the open eye, the point should be off center.
  • Whether to shoot with one or both eyes open – For novel shooters, closing one eye may be preferable as it comes more naturally, although veteran shooters typically aspire to shoot with both eyes open. This allows for better peripheral vision and depth perception.
  • How to form an accurate and repeatable sight picture – This point is arguably the most important. Reliably and consistently forming an accurate sight picture is an acquired skill, and may well vary between different firearms and their combination of sights. Most handguns are equipped from the factory with “Iron Sights”, which consist of two rear posts and one front post. Depending on the model and intended use, the post may have three white dots, fiber optics for daytime use, or even radioactive, glow-in-the-dark, tritium vials for nighttime use.

However, the basics are generally the same for most handgun sights. With the pistol fully extended, one should concentrate on focusing their dominant eye on the front sight post (not the target nor the rear sight). In practice, this helps steady the gun. For 3-dot iron sights, all three dots should be aligned horizontally, with the top edge of the front sight post just below the targeted spot (at close ranges).

Depending on the exact combination of firearm, cartridge and sights, the point of impact will change. Some sights are adjustable for windage (horizontal adjustment) or elevation (vertical adjustment) for this purpose.

Step 6: Shooting Stance

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There are the two main shooting stances: Isosceles and Weaver. While each expert has his or her own favorite, there is no universal consensus on which one is best.

Isosceles – This is the classic shooter’s stance, and tends to be the most natural stance for beginning shooters. The shooter stands squared off to the target (shoulders perpendicular to the direction to the target), with feet aligned (parallel to shoulders) about shoulder-width apart, and arms fully extended. There may be a slight bends in knees and arms, with elbows pointed downward.

Weaver – The Weaver is a “boxer-type” stance, whose main advantage is the front-to-back stability. The shooter faces the target at an angle with their feet staggered (one advanced respective to the other), about shoulder width apart. The leg on the side of the non-dominant hand should be positioned forward of the other, with the shooter leaning forward. The shooter’s nose should fall on the same imaginary vertical axis as the front foot’s toes. The dominant arm holding the weapon should be extended straight out (although not necessarily locked), with the supporting arm reaching to support it. The shooting hand “pushes” forward, while the support hand “pulls” back, strengthening the shooter’s front-to-rear grip on the pistol.

Either one or the other, or a modification thereof, tends to come naturally to most shooters depending on the combination of shooter and guns. Slimmer guns or more powerful rounds tend to favor Weaver, whereas thicker guns or light-kicking rounds tend to gravitate towards Isosceles. The main beginner’s error to avoid is to gradually lean back while shooting. This is never the correct way to shoot, and should always be observed and corrected.

Step 7: Firearm Malfunctions

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While rare when using quality weapons and ammunition, malfunctions are typically easy to spot and solve. Others may be catastrophic if not properly addressed. Here are the basic malfunctions you should be familiar with:

  • Failure to Fire – When the trigger is pressed, nothing happens. The firing pin falls but no detonation whatsoever takes place. This can be either a Missfire, where the round’s primer is defective and will not fire, or a Hangfire where there is a delay prior to detonation. If this happens the weapon should be kept pointed down range. The primer can be restriked, but if not simply rack the slide to discard the defective round in a safe place.
  • Failure to feed – Upon pressing the trigger nothing will happen and when checked the slide will be out of battery. In this case the round has not been properly fed into the chamber, either stopped by the chamber’s feed ramp/hood (Missfeed) or by a round already in the chamber (Double feed). The proper procedure is strip the magazine forcefully, rack the slide repeatedly, insert a new magazine firmly and rechamber a round.
  • Stovepipe / Failure to Eject – When an empty case fails to properly eject and is caught by the closing slide, frequently pointing up (hence the name). Slapping the case away with the non-dominant hand and racking the slide is proper procedure.
  • Squib Load – While the prior malfunctions tend to be simple inconveniences (in a range setting), a squib load is a highly dangerous malfunction, often with catastrophic results. Thankfully, it is rare. It occurs when the fired projectile does not have enough force behind it to exit the barrel, and thus becomes stuck inside the bore. While firing, if a muffled “poof” or light recoil is felt instead of a strong bang, STOP! Those are the indicative signs of one. Firing again into the back of the projectile may over-pressure the barrel causing the gun to explode. Inspect the barrel immediately before proceeding.

Step 8: Rifle Shooting

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For the most part, shooting a rifle is easier to use and has less recoil than most handguns. This is precisely why they are the primary choice of any professional who requires a weapon. However, there are a few caveats worth keeping in mind for the first time rifle shooter.

  • The Isosceles Stance is not very viable when shooting a rifle. Therefore, the Weaver Stance (detailed earlier) should be adopted.
  • Regardless of the shooter’s naturally dominant hand, the rifle’s grip should be held with the hand corresponding to their dominant eye, as well as shouldered on that side. The stabilizing hand, whose goal is to steady the front of the rifle, can be placed in a variety of places depending on the rifles furniture or the shooter’s preference.
  • A Cheek Weld (placing the cheek directly against the buttstock) is perfectly fine to do, as well as safe and recommended. This helps consistently acquire the correct eye position and Eye Relief, which may vary between rifles and scopes.
  • The rifle’s stock should be placed against the Shoulder Pocket, which is the pocket formed below your collarbone and above your armpit, to the left of your shoulder bone. The muscle there will help cushion the recoil when firing. Properly positioned, the rifle’s stock should not be touching any bone. The stock should be contacting this pocket prior to firing to avoid it slamming into the shoulder. The stock is there to help manage recoil. Use it.
  • Most modern sporting rifles have an adjustable stock, which allows tailoring the stock’s length to the shooter. Feel free to adjust it to your size if so.
  • Be careful with the rifle’s muzzle-blast, which may be dangerous or obnoxious if neglected, as it is much stronger than that of a handgun.

Step 9: Firearm Safety

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The Four Rules

1. The gun is always treated as if it were loaded, even when it isn’t. No excuses. Don’t do anything with an unloaded gun that you wouldn’t do with a loaded gun.

2. Never point the gun at something you are not willing to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are aimed and on target, and remove it after firing but before proceeding to lower the firearm. This is the number one rule that is always being broken by new shooters, and you can expect to get called on for this repeatedly the first time you visit a firing range. Do your best to avoid it.

4. Always be sure of your target and what is behind it. Bullets can and will go through, and beyond, your intended target. Making sure what is behind it is your responsibility.

Other Safety Rules and Points

1. Always check that any gun that is handed to you or that you pick up is empty, even if it is not yours. If you at least try to or ask how to check that the gun is empty, you will have earned the respect of veteran shooters.

2. Do not rely on any guns safety. Never place your finger on the trigger or inside the trigger guard regardless of the safety being on or off unless pointing at a suitable target.

3. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use. This includes when leaving them on the shooting table for whatever reason. And whenever possible, they should never be left unattended on the firing line.

4. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, or it’s recoil feels different, let someone know. Most firearm failures at the range are a simple inconvenience, but some can be catastrophic. If you are not sure of exactly what happened and how to fix it, ask.

5. Put on your Eye and Ear Protection before stepping on the range, and never take it off before leaving it. Even if no one is shooting. Firing may resume at any moment, and ricochet, ejected cases or other debris are always a hazard.

Step 10: Shooting Steps From Start to End

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1. Approach the firing line and assume proper foot stance.

2. Pick up the firearm with your dominant hand and assume a proper grip, keeping your finger off the trigger and the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

3. Verify that the firearm is unloaded. Then insert a loaded magazine with your non-dominant hand while keeping your dominant hand in the correct position.

4. Use your non-dominant hand to rack the slide in order to chamber a round. Do not ride the slide when doing so.

5. Place your non-dominant hand in the correct position.

6. Raise the firearm towards your target while assuming correct body position. If necessary, disengage safety now.

7. Aim the firearm at your target creating the proper sight picture.

8. Once the firearm is correctly aimed, slowly move your index finger from its resting point and place it on the trigger, without disrupting the sight picture.

9. Slowly pull the trigger until the round fires. Fire between breaths, without holding it. The trigger should be pulled slowly, without anticipating the shot, until it bottoms out. Ideally, the shot should surprise you. Follow through maintaining aim after firing. Then it should be let go slowly until the reset is felt.

10. Repeat the prior step and continue firing until satisfied or the magazine is empty. Between shots verify proper body positioning.

11. Once finished, remove your index finger from the trigger and place it at its resting point before taking the firearm off target.

12. Remove the magazine, check the chamber, and leave the firearm with its slide locked open before putting the firearm down.

Step 11: Range Etiquette and Tips

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1. Wear the right gear. Loose-fitting clothes is not recommended, and open-toed shoes are never allowed (due to hot brass). It is important to wear proper-fitting safety glasses (sunglasses or bare prescription eyewear are not recommended) and hearing protection. Preferably, bring your own. Earmuffs are preferable given that correctly using earplugs requires training. Sensitive shooters are recommended to wear both earplugs and earmuffs simultaneously. Also, at an outdoor range, remember to bring water, sunscreen and bug spray.

2. Obey all safety rules at all times, however unnecessary or inconvenient they may seem. Listen to the Range Safety Officers or veteran shooters and obey any instructions they may give. Both for your safety and theirs.

3. If you have any questions, ask. Most gun owners love answering questions. What they don’t like is unsafe firearm handling, or people at the firing range not enjoying themselves.

4. Regarding storage, when removing a weapon from its bag or putting one away, always reorient the bag so the muzzle is placed downrange first. Just remember that among the cardinal rules is to always keep all weapons pointing in a safe direction.

5. Ceasefires may take place either as a routine or for incidents, depending on the range. When called, remove the magazine from all visible weapons, remove any chambered rounds and leave them on the table with the action visibly open pointing downrange. Then, step away from the firing line. Do not approach it again until explicit permission is given.

6. Watch where your spent cases are being ejected and if your muzzle-blast is disrupting others. Sometimes a step forward or back makes things better for everyone.

7. Do not fire at posts, supports, rails or target frames. They are expensive and time-consuming to replace, and if caught you will be forced to cover that expense.

8. Do not try to make “Headshots” closer than 10 yards in indoor ranges. Doing so damages the roof of the range (because of the angle) and you will be asked to stop. Past 10 yards it is fine.

9. Shoot only range-approved targets. Depending on the range, some may or may not allow human silhouettes or other types of targets. Others oblige you to use targets purchased at that range.

10. Do not engage in rapid-fire. The vast majority of ranges prohibit it, and the few that do require testing with an instructor prior to allowing it. You will get called out if you try.

11. Do not bother other shooters while shooting, and never touch someone else’s firearm without permission. Also, while watching is fine, it is proper manners to ask before recording or taking pictures of other range visitors or their firearms.

12. Do not leave firearms unattended at the firing lane, and if doing so, however briefly, remove all ammunition from all visible weapons (magazine and chamber) and leave the slide visibly open while pointed downrange.

13. It is good etiquette to leave the range better than you found it. Please remove and throw away any targets, empty bullet boxes or other trash before leaving.

14. Clean your hands before leaving. Bullets are generally made with lead, which leaves a lead residue on hands and skin after shooting. Most bathrooms at firing ranges have De-leading Soap for this purpose. Use it. This is especially important prior to eating or drinking.

Step 12: Gun Myths That Won't Die

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  • Silencers make a gunshot undetectable. Not so. Especially when the sonic boom of a supersonic bullet takes place, which a silencer can’t avoid.
  • Ceramic guns are a thing, and Glocks or other plastic guns can pass through metal detectors. Just not true. At least not yet.
  • Shotguns don’t have to be aimed for home defense. The shot simply doesn’t have enough time to scatter at those distances. At room distances, it’s smaller than a baseball.
  • The gun show loophole exists, and anyone can legally buy guns online and have them shipped to your door, even criminals. In the vast, vast majority of cases, this is extremely illegal and you will go to jail for it. Save for limited exceptions, a background check must always be passed to legally purchase a firearm.
  • Concealed Carriers don’t stop crime or mass shootings. Mainly because when they stop them, they never happen and as such cannot be reported on. Plus, millions beg to differ.
  • Only the military should have “assault weapons”. The concept of assault weapons is as absurd as the concept of race-cars. For most uneducated citizens, it simply means “scary-looking black gun”. Even the semi-formal definition excludes 99.9% of legal firearms.
  • Only police officers train enough to use guns safely. Not on a public budget they don’t. Few departments can afford to supply large amounts of ammunition for training. Many officers don’t care for guns and shoot the bare minimum mandated, which isn’t odd to be around 100 rounds a year for many departments. That’s your average hobby-shooter’s monthly allowance.
  • Car doors are bulletproof. Most car doors are little more than sheet metal and plastic. Unless you’re being assaulted with a pellet gun, don’t count on it. Now the engine block on the other hand, that will stop just about anything you can throw at it.
  • Getting shot will throw you flying backwards and cause instant death. Nope. Over 50-75% of gunshot victims survive and some don’t even realize they have been hit for hours.

Step 13: Additional Notes

These are simply notes for the “instructor” to remember, and should be skipped over when reading with a novel shooter. They provide context, suggestions and tips in order to make this guide more effective. Preferably, they should be reviewed prior to meeting with the guest.

Casually teaching the material in this guide in an enjoyable and safe manner is something just about any experienced and competent gun owner can do. Make no mistake, if someone is shooting your guns and relying on you for the basics, YOU are the “instructor” for the day. No matter your background. However if you were not already familiar with virtually everything included in this guide, perhaps you might want to consider seeking a qualified trainer. Likewise, even if you are an IDPA champion whose experience is counted in decades (in which case I doubt you would be reading this), but you lack the patience or demeanor to walk a novice through the material without making it feel like a military drill, another person may be more suited for the job. Regardless, introducing new people to the sport is crucial to maintaining the strength of the 2nd amendment, and should be done as frequently as possible.

When dealing with first time shooters, it is most likely counterproductive to insist on perfect posture, trigger discipline and all the other things that the online Tacti-cool crowd obsesses over. While safety is always paramount, the main goal should be enjoying the experience and making firearms look like an interesting, accessible activity that is worth engaging in, even at the most basic levels. At the same time, don’t preach about politics or legality beyond what is interesting to the casual observer. Avoid rants only avid shooters can relate with. If the outcome is an anti-gun person turning gun-sympathetic, it’s a success. If the next conversation is about how to purchase a gun, it’s a momentous triumph.

To reach those goals, tailoring the content will probably be necessary depending on the time and firearms available as well as the person and the experience they have in mind. Far from being an elusive hobby, almost anyone can become a relatively competent shooter in almost no time. Some will “just want to shoot and that’s it”, while others will delve into the details. Admittedly, this author wrote this guide with the second type in mind, being himself of that type. Many aspects may be glossed over to keep the guests interest if necessary. However, even if they are uninterested in the whole package that competent gun use implies, if they fail to take the safety briefing seriously, act responsibly or pay attention to rules or instructions, stop right there and do not take them to the range. More harm than good will come. After all, idiot gun users regrettably end up representing the responsible majority more often than not.

The previous sections deal with a variety of information that new gun users should find both instructive and interesting. There are other issues that, while not necessarily being their concern, can be considered yours as the instructor. Of course, at the top of this list is safety, but besides that if the experience can be taken advantage of to help them be proficient at shooting, there isn’t any reason not to. After all, being good at a sport is a great reason to try it again.

Furthermore, there are other aspects that simply do not concern them, that you should take into account. Though far from exhaustive, some relevant points to keep in mind are:

  • The Firearm safety section was left further down the document to allow the guest time to familiarize themselves with firearm concepts and adopt a receptive mindset towards safety. Nonetheless, safety rules should be introduced to them at least informally, and continually, as soon as the topic of firearms is ever mentioned. Should the guest be anywhere near live ammunition and firearms, the segment on safety should be introduced prior to anything else.
  • Limit the number of new shooters to a manageable group. One or two is ideal. Anything above that is difficult for a single person to keep in check, even if the novices are fairly responsible and mature. This limits enjoyment for everyone involved.
  • Be wary of people who “know how to shoot” because they fired a pistol a few times years ago. Especially if those years are counted in double digits. Insist on a refresher course.
  • Verify that the guests have brought proper clothing, and caution them about any possible issues that may arise regarding loose clothing and hot brass. Check for open-toed shoes.
  • When the guest is a first time shooter (especially women, the sensitive, young or elderly), encourage them to double up on hearing protection and to wear both earplugs and earmuffs. This is especially true at indoor ranges where the repeated blasts can be particularly loud and unnerving. Earplugs are not recommended for new shooters due to the experience it takes to use them properly.
  • Before going to the range, discuss what the range costs, and who will be covering the cost of ammo.
  • Keep a First Aid Kit in your range bag (and know how to use it). Slide bite is irritatingly frequent among new shooters, and while hardly life threatening, the bleeding may be hard to stop or messy while on a firing line. Individually sealed units of hemostatic granules like WoundSeal Powder are particularly useful to avoid having to cut a range visit short.
  • Related to the previous point, be especially vigilant of proper grip use, and that no part of the shooters hand is behind the slide or near a revolver’s cylinder gap.
  • Make sure that the guest understands and agrees that you will stop them if they are about to do something unsafe. Advise the guest that if at any moment you command “Stop!” while they are shooting, they are to stop what they are doing immediately, remove their finger from inside the trigger guard, and stand still without turning around. They should keep the firearm pointed downrange and wait for you to instruct them on what to do next.
  • The first few shots should be made one at a time, with a single round in the firearm. Once proper confidence and safety discipline has been demonstrated, feel free to load magazines with more rounds.
  • Watch the shooters hands while they fire, not the target. Pay special attention to the trigger finger for issues such as jerking. Given how highly debated the use of the fingertip versus the finger joint for trigger control is, it is probably preferable to not suggest one or another. However it might be worth educating them on the topic if they show interest.
  • Check shooter for limp-wristing. This is a main cause for stovepipes or feeding issues. Make sure they use the proper grip and grip strength. The thumbs-down pistol grip may be preferable to thumbs-forward for those with grip issues. Small, young or elderly shooters may not even have the necessary strength to shoot larger calibers. In this case larger .22lr pistols or .223 rifles might be the best choice. Tea-cupping should be avoided as the non dominant hand provides no assistance with recoil control. Grasping the wrist or forearm of the firing hand with the support hand should not be done for the same reason. It is universally considered poor form (imagine a fisherman holding a pole one handed or tea-cupping). Given that about 60% of grip pressure should come from the non-dominant hand, using it for anything else than that is misusing it.
  • Do not expect to do a lot of firing yourself. Most of the trigger time as well as the decision on which gun to use or what to do next should come from the new shooter, whenever possible.
  • Suggest that the guest takes their first target home to keep as a souvenir. Write the date on it, and sign it as a witness. Offer to take them again on a concrete date, and let them know that you are available for any gun related questions in the future.

I hope that this guide has served the reader well, or even better, repeatedly. It may even be useful to the hobby shooter for simply brushing up on basic concepts from time to time. In any case, I appreciate the time taken to read though this information. Without further ado, the subject can satisfactorily be left as is for the moment. Happy shooting!

Step 14: Sources & Media


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