Tips on teaching a new shooter: a dilemna


March 31, 2005, 07:03 PM
I am not sure if this should go in General, Strategies, or Auto Handguns. I tried to find a thread that dealt with this, but couldn't.

I am taking a friend and a couple females shooting in a few days. My buddy has been a couple times, the gals haven't shot before. The last time I tried to teach someone to shoot, I ran into a problem.

#1 I go through the four rules.
#2 I show how to handle the weapons.
#3 Oops, one is a SIG P232, and another is a S&W model 28. No external safety. How does that reinforce rule #4? How can I convey these rules as gospel truth and then turn around and say, "But, that doesn't apply to this"?

Also, does anyone have any suggestions on instructing new shooters? I will have the SIG and a 1911 this time. (plus anything at the range they wanna rent.)

This is what I have so far:

The four safety rules, (With the DA/revolver caveat, I guess.)
Breath control,
Sight picture/sight alignment,
A basic idea of Iso vs Weaver, (The stances, not my preference, and real basic, I am no positional expert.)

Anything I am forgetting?

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March 31, 2005, 07:10 PM
The Four Rules:

1. All firearms are always loaded.
2. Always keep a firearm pointed in a safe direction.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
4. Always be sure of your target and know what is behind it.

How does the firearm having a external safety or not relate to rules 3 & 4? :confused:


March 31, 2005, 07:25 PM
teach them to use the manual safeties but remind them not to rely on them. the safety on each weapons is located in between the shooter's ears. make sure they understand that first.

for the new shooters, you might be best off to rent some .22's for them to get aquainted with first. they are less likely to develop a flinch with something a little smaller at first. plus .22's are not loud, intimidating or expensive to feed.

for their first time out, forget the iso vs. weaver stuff and just let them concentrate on hitting the target and having fun. i'd start with safety, then sight picture, and maybe breathing if they having a hard time hitting the target. for first time shooters it should be safety first, fun second and fun third. save the more technical stuff for later if they become more seriously interested in shooting.


March 31, 2005, 07:33 PM
I'd recommend a .22 revo also....and have them dry-fire it a few times for practice. This will help with trigger control without having to worry about a flinch. Don't forget ear/eye protection.

March 31, 2005, 07:34 PM
The FOUR rules - are you kidding - you are missing at least one very important one, if not a few if you only have 4 gun safety rules.

March 31, 2005, 07:45 PM
itgoesboom said...
How does the firearm having a external safety or not relate to rules 3 & 4?
Ah, there are at least three sets of the four rules, I see.

This is what I learned from the Corps:

1) Treat every weapon as if it is loaded.
2) Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to kill.
3) Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
4) Keep the weapon on safe until you are ready to fire.

Jeff Cooper's are essentally the same, but a little more wordy, and #3 and #4 are switched.

In yours, #2 and #4 are essentially the same thing, and the safety one is eliminated entirely. Interesting.

Bobarino said......forget the iso vs. weaver stuff...for first time shooters it should be safety first, fun second...
Well, I need to show them how to stand if they ask. Do you suggest saying something along the lines of "like this" while demonstrating it, rather than saying "This is an Isoceles, blah blah blah..."?

Moondoggie said...I'd recommend a .22 revo also...
But I don't have one. If we can rent one, that is one thing, but I would feel a little awkward giving instruction on a weapon I am not familiar with. Still, there is no doubt that .22LR is far preferable to learn on. Some people say the little SIG is more of a PITA to shoot than the .45 because the 1911 soaks up so much more than the little .380.

Moondoggie said......have them dry-fire it a few times for practice...
That's a damn good idea, and I just bought snap caps for the .380 and .45. And we are going to an indoor range, so the ears & eyes is a given.

Glenn Bartley said...The FOUR rules - are you kidding - you are missing at least one very important one, if not a few if you only have 4 gun safety rules.
I think the idea is to give the pupil a memetic device, if you will. They are absorbing a lot as it is. What would you reccommend I tell them?

Thanks so far for all the input, folks. Keep it coming.

March 31, 2005, 08:00 PM
that sounds good. or just let them form a stance that is comfortable for them. remember, the idea this time around is to just get them shooting and put a grin on their face. the stance doesn't have to be pretty, just functional for now. i'd be more concerned about proper grip with a semi-auto than stance. make sure they don't wrap their thumbs around the backstrap, push with the shooting hand, pull with the non-shooting hand, that kind of thing. of course the less technical stuff you feed to them, the more they can focus on safety and fun this time. good luck! i hope you get a couple new shooting buddies. or budettes as it were.


March 31, 2005, 08:22 PM
For first trip I would just do safety and let them have fun shooting, if they need help hitting the target, get into the more advanced basic stuff. Shooting should be fun, let them have safe fun their first time out. If they want to come back and shoot better, you can be sure they will call and ask you to take them again.

March 31, 2005, 08:32 PM
No brakes,

Yeah, there are different sets of rules. I think the reason why your #4 is left off from Cooper's rules that I posted above is that relying on a mechanical safety is probably not a good habit to be in. It leaves the shooter with a false sense of safety, and we all know that safetys can fail.

The FOUR rules - are you kidding - you are missing at least one very important one, if not a few if you only have 4 gun safety rules.


No, we are not kidding. 4 safety rules. Those 4 rules will keep you alive.

You may add additional rules as you see fit, but those are the most commonly seen rules. In fact, they are part of the THR library as well.

Click HERE (

The NRA shortens it to 3 rules. See HERE (

Now, as mentioned in previous threads about the rules, there are times where the rules don't fully apply. Some training schools will modify the rules. But for general use, these are the rules.

Rule #1 Treat all guns as if they are loaded. How many times have we heard the saying "but I didn't think it was loaded!!".

Rule #2 Always keep a firearm pointed in a safe direction. Some people say this differently, ie, don't point it at anything you aren't willing to destroy/kill/etc. Basically though, the initial point works well. Keep that muzzle facing a safe direction. This is important....if you neglect all other rules, this one will save your butt.

Rule #3Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. There are very few "accidental discharges", but there are many "negligent discharges". Keep your finger off the trigger, and the gun won't go bang.

Rule #4 Know your target and what is beyond it. This is almost interchangeable with #2, but I think this is really there to encourage you to look beyond your target or what you think is a safe backstop, and see if a shot can be a danger to anything/anyone downrange.

Now, there are other good rules out there. Listen to the RO, don't shoot when someone is downrange, etc.

But the 4 rules are the foundation of good firearm safety, not the end all / be all.


March 31, 2005, 09:03 PM
Ok, a bit more time now, so an answer more fitting to the original question.
Taking it for granted that keeping a safety on, until ready to fire, is one of the fundamental rules of gun safety I can say the following: there is no dilemma even if a gun does not have an external safety. In that event any internal safeties and the safe gun handling of the person touching the firearm is what keeps it on safe.

Now for a more important part of the discussion. The students you are teaching about firearms and about how to shoot NEED TO ABSORB CERTAIN INFORMATION BEFORE EVER TOUCHING A GUN OR SHOOTING IT.

You said this: I think the idea is to give the pupil a memetic device, if you will. They are absorbing a lot as it is. What would you reccommend I tell them?To which I will say this: if the potential shooters are not fully familiar with all of the rules of gun safety, they should not be picking up a gin at all. If you are bringing someone to the range to shoot and, you have not yet taught them all of the rules of gun safety making certain that they understand them all, then you are making a big time hurry up mistake that could cost a life. There should be absolutely no range time without first having assured that each of the people about to shoot are familiar with those rules.

Rules I would insist upon would be as follows (there are some others too but these are mandatory):

1) Alcohol, illicit drugs, many prescription and, many over the counter drugs do not mix with gunpowder. Make sure to impress upon your students (which is exactly what they will be) that they must be in full control of their mental and physical capabilities while handling firearms. It is a shame people do not always place this as rule number one.

2) Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

Side note on #1

a) You will need to explain that if someone picks one up, has one handed to them, to keep it pointed in a safe direction, then while keeping finger off of the trigger to check it to see if it is loaded before doing anything else with it. If they do not know how to check a particular gun, then have someone else do it and show them or, just do not touch it.

B) You need to show, then teach with hands on, someone how to check each gun they are about to fire - before they fire.

3) Whenever you handle a firearm make sure it is pointed in a safe direction (yes this actually includes when you are about to justifiably and legally shoot someone - think about that - a dilemma if ever there was one).

a) This will require some explanation as what some people think is a safe direction is asking for trouble. The safety of any direction in which a firearm is pointed depends on whatever scenario you are in at the time.

4) Keep your finger off of the trigger before you intend to fire.

a) This one really has to be hammered into their heads and yes there are exceptions to this rule such as when preparing to disassemble certain pistols and rifles. So you also have to tell them if they ever need to put the finger on the trigger for any reason other than shooting, they absolutely have to go to rules number 2 and 3.

5) Know your firearm and, know how to use it, before attempting to use it AND make certain it is in proper operating order before using it. (This always holds true except in emergency situations.) Also maintain your firearm in proper working order.

6) Make absolutely certain to use only the correct ammunition in your firearm. (Ammunition is varied, yet many are so similar they can fit into various guns; so I make this a separate point and do not blanket it in under 5.)

7) Use proper eye and ear protection except in an emergency. Make sure all others in the area are also wearing proper eye and ear protection if you are shooting for recreation.

8) Know you target, and be aware of what is beyond your target. Also be aware of anyone else in the area while shooting.


a) This last one is for old timers as well as new people. It needs to be drummed into new shooters as do all of the above rules. As a matter of fact it is a good idea to remind old timers of the rules now and then.

Every time you teach a new shooter, you should teach them these rules. This should take at least 45 minutes to an hour before any gun handling. Then comes some teaching about various types of firearms (typed by action and longarm versus handgun). Then some gun handling to see how they are handling the firearms and to give them some hands on info, feel and confidence about the gun(s) they will be firing. You should teach them hands on, about the particular gun(s) they will be shooting, before they shoot. Again, look to see how they handle the gun, how well they took in the gun safety lecture you just gave them and so on. look for accidents waiting to happen and correct them, also praise good habits in the making.

Now go out onto the range. Explain the layout to them. Explain range etiquette to them. Explain the regular range commands, explain the firing line and other range terms. Explain CEASAE FIRE and proper actions to take if this command is given. Explain what to do if they have a problem with a gun. For example they have a jam. Tell them to keep the gun pointed downrange (hopefully you explained terminology to them already), finger off of the trigger, then raise the off hand - just like a kid in school. Tell them never to turn around while on a range if there is a problem or if they need to ask a question, again remind them to raise their hands.

Just about ready to shoot. Keep in mind, you should not allow more than three of them (two is much more preferable and one is best) to shoot at one time per each instructor watching over them (each shooter on range positions set up right next to one another). In your case, I believe you said, you will be there with a fairly new shooter and two completely green potential shooters. You should have them standby and show them a few shots you take. Then have each one shoot a few shots, one person at a time while the others remain behind the firing line, and well behind you the instructor, as they watch. A few rounds each, maybe 5, then onto the next shooter. Then do this again another time or two for each of them. Then you will have the feel for them and they should have the feel for the instructor, rules, the guns and firing them. Then you can have all three shoot while you instruct from behind them. You should never, I SAID NEVER, shoot at the same time a brand new to fairly new shooter is shooting and you are the one instructing said shooter.

Teaching firearms safety and shooting to others is a big responsibility. Do it right, so they get it right.

These are along the lines of what I would do, what I have done, and how I learned to shoot from others who have taught me.

Best regards,
Glenn B

The Rabbi
March 31, 2005, 10:01 PM
No Brakes,
You could sit there and spout off a dozen or more rules and then what? You have impressed them with how much you know--BFD. The goal of instruction like that is to teach people the knowledge and skills necessary to operate a firearm safely. You are also there to make it an enjoyable experience. If you sound like Lee Ermey on the firing line you can kiss any instruction good bye.
Yes, the basics are the four rules (which the NRA also has btw) that were outlined.
Do you have a .22 anything? Use that. The lack of recoil lets shooters concentrate on sight picture and target rather than on controlling recoil. The SIG 230 is a terrific gun. I bought one for my wife. She doesnt shoot it well because of the recoil (lightweight) and the sights or ergonomics dont agree with her. She did like the HK P7. Not everyone can shoot revolvers well either. The double action pull is tough to manage.
My advice, emphasize the safe pointing of the gun above all else. Then the keeping the finger out of the trigger well. Make sure they know how the gun functions. teach one stance but mention there are others. Keep it free from jargon. Keep close tabs, load them up and have a blast.

the Rabbi
Certified NRA Instructor.

March 31, 2005, 10:14 PM
Lot's of good advice, here's mine.

Safety first, whichever set of the four rules you use will do fine. Just make sure they understand the importance of not shooting you.

Rent a .22 if you don't have one. You want the first experience to be fun. A .45 is no fun to any beginner.

Back up the safety lecture with application. No beginner handles a weapon, unsupervised so limit the number of weapons to the number of experienced shooters. Develop good habits from the start.

Stance is the foundation. A solid stance will result in better accuracy. Keep it simple. Face target, feet shoulder width apart. You can get fancy later.

Remember this is their shooting day, not yours. Remember to bring enough targets so everyone gets a souvenier.

April 1, 2005, 12:15 AM
MikeIsaj said...
A .45 is no fun to any beginner.
Without exception every single shooter I have introduced to handguns loved the 1911, and most said it was their favorite, first time out. My wife preferred the .45 to her SIG and to the Ruger Mark II we rented.

However, I agree with your point that I need to own/rent a .22LR for their first time.

The Rabbi said...
She doesnt shoot it well because of the recoil (lightweight)...
All the shooters disliked the snap of the SIG. Not really the best learning firearm. I could think of worse, though.

The Rabbi said...You could sit there and spout off a dozen or more rules and then what? You have impressed them with how much you know--BFD.
I really want to avoid that. I try pretty hard not to come off as patronizing.

April 1, 2005, 12:26 AM
I really want to avoid that. I try pretty hard not to come off as patronizing.

Thats probably best. Thats why it is best to stick to the 4 rules.

It is all well and good to have 10-12 rules, like another poster mentioned, but no-one is going to be able to remember those on demand while shooting for the first time.

Keep it simple, keep it safe, and they will do just fine.

One other thing that might help a new shooter, especially at an indoor range: Have them wear plugs and muff to further help them avoid the muzzle blast. That always seems to reduce the "percieved recoil", and helps prevent flinching.


April 1, 2005, 01:50 AM
Two things:

First, regarding stance, the ladies are going to lean back when they shoot. Don't let it bug you, and don't harp on them if they do that.

Second, I'm in San Diego, can I come play, too? (I have .22's!)

April 1, 2005, 08:23 AM
Newbies will have their minds flooded with stuff they've never seen or heard before. At some point sensory overload will kick in. My suggestion is to keep it safe and fun and simple.

My practice with newbies is to spend the first hour away from the firing line in a shed where we can talk without plugs or muffs. 4 rules out of the box and then use a discussion of the four rules as a way to get a handgun into everyone's hand. Mechanics of manipulation of a firearm is complicated particularly when combined with popular media BS about killing machines, etc. During the hour you can intro proper grip (keep your weak hand thumb away from your right hand or bad things will happen). Your objective should be limited to safety and fun. Then after about an hour head for the firing line and let 'em throw lead downrange.

If they had a good time session two will be quickly scheduled. You can then fine tune. Just make the first experience safe and fun.

Keep us posted.

April 1, 2005, 08:56 AM
There's a lot of good info above. I would like to add [? repeat?] that a lot of firearm safety is a certain set of good HABITS, not just knowledge, so a certain amount of practice is unfortunately necessary in order to get into the habit of pointing a gun in a safe direction all the time. Many years ago, when I had just two or three hours each to teach small groups of sailors to handle the 1911 safely, I found it necessary to spend an hour or so teaching them how the thing worked and what the safety rules were. before taking them to the range. Right from the beginning, I spent that time demonstrating and observing safe muzzle orientation. I let them know right from the beginning that I expected muzzle orientation to be just about good enough to keep an AD on the paper, and that I would immediately correct deviations from this. This way, when I corrected someone, he would not have to be embarrassed about an egregious safety violation, yet he would experience feedback as soon as his habit started to fail.

I had particularly good people who already were accustomed to obeying orders (I outranked them a paygrade or two). Therefore, I had one supervisor for every two or three shooters. Ordinarily, one on one is best. You should always know how you will have physical control of the weapon in your student's hand, particularly in the early stages, before you are quite sure that they have developed proper habits.


April 1, 2005, 01:08 PM
The first time to ever shoot any kind of firearm can be intimidating. My goals for the first session have always been (1) set a foundation for safety with the 4 Rules and (2) show the newbie how much fun shooting can be. After that, it's all technicalities. If you don't make it fun, you don't have to worry about the second trip.

Some of the details that I've found helpful:

Make sure the student has eye and ear protection as well as clothing that will protect them from hot brass, e.g., long-sleeved shirt, baseball cap.

Have the rules printed on an index card or at least a sheet of paper for them to read well before getting to the range.

The first target should be a BIG circle (12" or so), relatively close. I've found that about 5 yards is good. No numbered rings, just an easy target to get them used to the firearm without a lot of pressure. Then if you're at an outside range and can use them, some type of reactive target, plastic jugs of water, clay targets, tin cans, that will do something interesting when hit.

Yes, a .22LR is great for a first time but 9mm or .38 spl aren't bad. Depends on the individual. Your familiarity with the firearm is helpful but demonstrating the 4 Rules on a gun you don't know intimately can be a good demonstration for the newbie, since virtually any gun they pick up will be unfamiliar to them.

Most of all, have fun. The shooting sports have provided me immeasurable amounts of pleasure, satisfaction and reward and so many friendships that I can't imagine life without them. And sharing the sport with someone new to it is even more satisfying.

April 1, 2005, 01:58 PM
The good thing about the Four Rules is that seldom will breaking one of them cause injury or death . . . usually when you hear about a serious firearm "accident" it's really an act of negligence during which two or more of the rules were broken.

April 1, 2005, 02:55 PM
To The Rabbi,

You could sit there and spout off a dozen or more rules and then what? You have impressed them with how much you know--BFD. The BFD is that they would have the proper idea of how to safely handle any firearm under any condition, and they would not what it takes to remain firearms safety conscious regarding each aspect of shooting from gun care to actually shooting. That goes beyond four simplistic rules. Too bad you don't see the need for teaching someone the right way but rather have to resort to saying BFD. Actually it is a BFD if you want it done right, and with guns it should always be done right. Many organizations, such as the NRA would tell you so.

Then again, since you brought up the NRA, why not show me where they say there are only 4 rules of firearms safety. I cannot find it. What I did find was a web page from the NRA with about a total of 12 rules they say you should always follow when shooting.

I learned essentially these same rules about 40 years ago at summer camp. Then I learned them again about 30 years ago at a hunter safety course. Then I learned them again about 26 years ago in the US Border Patrol Academy. Then learned them again about 22 years ago in The US Customs Patrol Academy. Then again about 19 years ago when I was in training to become a US Customs Special Agent. Then again about 14 years ago when I was qualified by the NRA as a firearms instructor for my job with Customs. Then again when the Customs Service sent me to their own FI school.Then again when I became a sub-machine gun instructor. Then again when I recertified as a firearms instructor for Customs which was just over 5 years ago. Then again about 2-3 years ago when I attended a hunter safety course with my son. Maybe something has changed in the past 2-3 years that required shortening the safety rules down to 4 from the dozen or so that have always been taught to me and anyone else with whom I have shot but; I doubt it.

Yes there are more than just 4 rules of gun safety. You need to go beyond the so called 4 fundamental rules in order to teach anyone gun safety so that they will actually have an excellent chance of remaining safe. If you are too irresponsible to do that, you should not be teaching anyone about gun safety because you are cutting corners. If you don't teach them about gun safety, or at least check to see if they are knowledgeable about it, then you should never teach them anything about how to handle or fire a gun. To do otherwise would simply be irresponsible.

By the way, you mentioned the NRA and said they use the 4 safety rules, implying they don't use more than that. Youya re absolutely incorrect. As a matter of fact, let me give you a link to the NRA gun safety rules. Anyone could bring this up for a new shooter to read, should not take al of 5 minutes or maybe 10 minutes for a really slow reader. These are important things to impress on any shooter, anyone who does not want to bother should not bother teaching new shooters. Here is the link: NRA Gun Safety Rules (

Of course, if that is too much work for you, you could always let them read this condensed version at: Firearms & Hunter Safety ( I have seen lots of people at ranges taught by the experts of the 4 rles. Those are always the shooters to watch out for because they are the ones who did not learn right in the first place. Sad thing is it would take a 1/2 to hour to teach them all the necessary rules and maybe another to check to see if they sank in. A true professional would teach them all of these rules - and anyone can do it in the same amount of time. The thing is you would impress upon them the right way to do something. I guess the right way to do it in your mind is to cut corners, that is not the right way as I see it. Cutting corners will quite possibly lead to other corners being cut by that same shooter somewhere down, and those rules may go to 3 to 2 to 1 to none in no time. Maybe you will wind up getting shot by one of the people who decided that it was better to have less rules. I hope to prevent such, through my best ability, from ever happening so I teach em the longer version of the gun safety rules. having safe shooters out there is about the BFD I can think of when it comes to gun ownership, shooting sports, defemsive shooting and so on. It just makes good sense.

Since you are an NRA certified instructor, I would have thought the NRA would have taught you that, but maybe their teaching methods have been streamlined as of late. Though I have to say, they sure taught the longer version of the safety rules to me and, they still print it on their web site and in brochures. Go figure....

Best regards,
Glenn Bartley

April 1, 2005, 02:57 PM
To which I will say this: if the potential shooters are not fully familiar with all of the rules of gun safety, they should not be picking up a gin at all.

But tonic is fine! :D

April 1, 2005, 03:12 PM
Safety first and foremost and always.

That's the ideal. If you dump all your safety cookies in the lobby you run the risk of scaring the stuffin's out of a potential newbie. If the element of fun ain't there, no sense going any further. If the element of fun exists, then the real safety training can take place. :uhoh:

Control Group
April 1, 2005, 03:34 PM
The BFD is that they would have the proper idea of how to safely handle any firearm under any condition, and they would not what it takes to remain firearms safety conscious regarding each aspect of shooting from gun care to actually shooting
This is not the goal. They don't need to know how to safely handle any firearm under any condition, they need to know how to handle the firearms presented to them, and handle them on the range. Trying to overwhelm them with more rules than they can easily remember and that they don't need will only discourage them from going to the range. They don't need to think about what the definition of "safe" is on a range as opposed to in a life-or-death situation. For now, "safe" is "pointed downrange or at the floor."

Give them the four rules - which are sufficient to keep themselves and everyone else safe if followed - then get them shooting. They will not present a threat to anyone while supervised at the range if they don't know the difference between 9x19 and 9x18 ammunition. Once they know they want to do more of it, then you can get into the rules necessary for you to own, maintain, and operate a gun. Which rules do certainly number more than four.

The point is, the four rules are absolute. No one who does not know them and follow them should be handling a gun, period. They are sufficient to keep everyone safe in a supervised environment, and they're what should be focused on. It's what the NRA refers to as "the fundamental NRA rules for safe gun handling" (though they only list three rules (, I, personally, use essentially Jeff Cooper's four rules ( as the fundamentals of gun safety). You want him to prepare them right away for owning and using a gun unsupervised. This is a good goal, but not necessary for their first, supervised, range session.

This is in much the same fashion that you don't learn how to change your oil, fill your tank with gas, change a tire, etc. before getting behind the wheel with an instructor.

The Rabbi
April 1, 2005, 03:36 PM
Then again, since you brought up the NRA, why not show me where they say there are only 4 rules of firearms safety

No one said there are only 4 rules. NRA "Basics of Pistol Shooting" Chapter 3 P.21 gives just 3 fundamental rules: safe direction, finger off trigger, and gun unloaded.

But for your sake, Glenn Bartley, I think we need to add a few. Make sure your students practice these and can recite them in their sleep:

1) Never mistake a pistol for a rectal thermometer
2) Always be sure not to pull your gun when stopped by a police officer
3) When you have a misfire, do not look down the barrel and pull the trigger again to determine the source of malfunction
4) Do not beat live ammunition with a hammer to test it
5) Do not force any magazine into the gun with the bullets pointed towards you
6) Never shoot with someone fond of saying "hey getta load of this!"
7) When reloading, do not fill the case up all the way
8) Never pull the trigger with your thumb
9) Do not put your hand in front of the barrel to "feel the breeze"
and most important,
10) Do not get instruction from humorless range Nazis intent on showing their knowledge.

April 1, 2005, 04:36 PM
More interesting points.

Chut1st said...
as well as clothing that will protect them from hot brass, e.g., long-sleeved shirt,Damn, I never even though of that. Good point.

About the four rules, they sure are aren't perfect in any form, Cooper or DOD, but they have value as a mnemonic aid. Perhaps I don't know how to use the site's search feature, I am not sure how I missed this thread:

But there are good points there.

I think that since the 4 rules are not quite canon, I will not introduce them as such. I am definitely not going to cover eye/ear protection, as I said before that is range mandatory, and you get ears/eyes when you go in. Likewise, the "no drunk shooting" rule is totally a non-issue with these people. Certainly more important to remember muzzle awareness than to "remember" not to get wasted before going to the range. You either are or you aren't, no vigilence required. It should be a no-brainer, and it is simply not worth commiting to memory. This is suburbanites going to the indoor range, not bubba and the boys downing PBRs inbetween clays.

I plan to stress safe operation, muzzle/target awareness, and relaxation, (Which is not the same as complacence.) This is suburbanites going to the indor range, not bubba and the boys downing PBRs inbetween clays.

Someone mentioned not letting them fire unsupervised, or fire while they fire, and I had taken that as a given, but in reality, I can see where some might not. I very rarely shoot with another person simultaneosly, usually we coach or spot for each other on one lane, (That goes for just about every range, indoor-1000 yard. Especially with a new shooter, I obviously need to be there to ensure they don't do anything wrong, and to help them as much as I can.

Thanks again and keep it coming...

April 1, 2005, 05:01 PM
Glen Bartley,

First let me say that I am well impresed with your extensive credentials and magnificent training achievments. I am sure you are a fine federal officer and all that training is useful in your job. I am positive that all that knowledge is useful and important in a career where you can expect to encounter all sorts of weapons and have a need to take immediate safe custody of them. That said, LIGHTEN UP!

We're not talking about training customs agents here, we're talking about taking a few novices out for their first experience. Our goal isn't to teach them everything they could ever learn about firearms safety. When I take a newbie out, I just want them to have a good first day and not shoot me. This kind of overinflated preachiness is what sucks the life out of a beginner and turns people away from the sport.

In my years of federal service we were taught a simple rule for everything. Keep it simple!

Control Group
April 1, 2005, 05:08 PM
No Brakes, while no individual version of the 4 rules is universally accepted as canon, I don't think that means you shouldn't teach some version of the four rules as canon. Should your new shooters become avid fans, I'm sure they'll encounter different versions, and they can evaluate for themselves. But, in the name of keeping it super simple, I'd have to vote for present one set of rules as absolute, without implying that there's some disagreement amongst people as how well-written they are.

I say this because, in my mind, no matter what specific wording you use, the key to the four rules is mindset. All the objections I've seen to various wordings are lawyer-like intepretations of what are meant to be common sense rules, explaining that such-and-such a wording doesn't adequately cover such-and-such a situation. Of course not; no simple sentence can possibly address every conceivable situation perfectly.

This doesn't mean the sentence isn't valuable.

So, in my opinion, you should pick a version of the rules that you like, and teach that as absolute. Don't let them be violated without correction. There's plenty of time later to get into any ambiguities, subtle contradictions, gray areas, and so forth. The important thing to start out with is safety followed by fun, and I think the four rules provide the perfect framework for exactly those goals.

April 1, 2005, 06:17 PM
Control, I didn't mean I would abandon them all together, I just won't present them as the x# laws of shooting. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded is not even in the NRA version, and it goes with finger off the trigger. Weapon pointed downrange, target & what's behind it awareness, and anything you don't intend to kill could all be summed up in "Muzzle Awareness" That isn't to say I won't introduce all those points to them, but if I stress "Muzzle Awareness" repeatedly while pointing out what muzzle/target awareness is, it reduces a number of safety concerns into one.

I think I am just going to print out the NRA guidlines, as those distill it into 3 Main rules, and then cover a few more below. Also the reinforcement of reading/hearing/viewing/doing should help as well.

I had originally started forming the instruction with intent to show them how to do it on their own. The first two people I taught, (My wife, and then my buddy who got sent to Iraq without getting to famfire the weapons he would be using,) I taught because I wouldn't be there when they needed it. But that doesn't really apply to pleasure shooters at all. I could load the weapons for them, and that would remove one step of instruction from the process. (Still showing them how to do it, but reducing the amount of info they need to be taking in.) Neither of these two women is planning on buying a gun on Sunday, just "trying it out." At any rate, if they did want to get a HD weapon or get into target shooting I would advise them to take a class, since my knowledge is basic and useful, but by no means comprehensive or appropriate to their situation.

April 1, 2005, 06:24 PM
Glen, I've introduced 3 coworkers to the sport.1 has no interest, a second may get his carry permit, and a third one did get his permit, which is a big deal here in Ct. I learned as an adult myself and know how tough it can be for newcomers.

I think everybody is a little nervous. Guys worry more about looking foolish. Women worry about recoil more. So I try to simplify everything and make people more calm even before they start and they'll have a better time. I use the 4 rules version I learned here plus 2 extras. 1 If the gun does anything you don't expect lay it on the bench and 2 DON'T shoot me. Said with a smile.

I bring as many guns as I can carry because they may fit different people better or worse and I start with a 22. Once people realize the gun won't bite them and get comfortable I bring out all the others. Big targets close up are good and make sure you have them shoot a good clean target near the end for a momento to hang on a wall.

Ear protection that works is a must. I think that if the noise is louder people think the recoil is worse than it is. I feel hard ear muffs work the best against muzzle blast so I own 3 pair just to use for newbies. Glasses too are needed.

Good for you to bring new people into our ranks. Even if They don't become shooters they can see that we all aren't knuckle dragging morons that the antis portray us as.


April 1, 2005, 06:31 PM
peteinct said...
I use the 4 rules version I learned here plus 2 extras. 1 If the gun does anything you don't expect lay it on the bench and 2 DON'T shoot me. I am stealing those.

April 1, 2005, 06:44 PM
One thing I've done is explain to them that I will be up close and personal during their initial session. If I lay my hand on their should that is a clear message to ***freeze*** and don't twitch until I say so. It is a shor'nuf sign that something is bad wrong. Ear protection being what it is I feel it necessary to have alternative communications available.

April 1, 2005, 06:50 PM
No brakes,

Any of the 4 rules, or 3 rules, or however you learned them will be just fine.

The important thing is to teach safety first, and then make sure they have fun.

Good luck.


April 2, 2005, 03:14 AM
To the Rabbi,

My apology for getting personal and nasty. I do not appreciate when done to me and I am sure you do not either.
Glenn B

April 2, 2005, 08:05 PM

First let me say that I am well impresed with your extensive credentials and magnificent training achievments.My listing some of my training was not to impress anyone, I think maybe you missed my point. As a mater of fact, when i read this other thing you wrote:We're not talking about training customs agents here, we're talking about taking a few novices out for their first experience. Our goal isn't to teach them everything they could ever learn about firearms safety. When I take a newbie out, I just want them to have a good first day and not shoot me. This kind of overinflated preachiness is what sucks the life out of a beginner and turns people away from the sport. It is the goal of any responsible firearms instructor to teach each an every potential shooter about firearms safety before they ever handle a gun. That was my point, and was the point of my going over most of the firerms courses I have attended BECAUSE each and every time I was trained, the people who did the training found it important enough to cover all the safety ruules I mentioned. It is not just for law enforcement, it is for hunters, plinkers, and kids at summer camp - don't you see the point I was making - the really diligent professional instructors make it a point to train safety first. It would take all of a half hour to do a good job of it, maybe even only 15 minutes.

Would having each shooter read that NRA saferty brochure really be ove inflasted preachiness? I ahve trained plenty of new shooters, and retrained even more old timers. Each time I train someone for the first few times times, I cover gun safety as it was taught to me and as others keep on teaching it. I often remind old timers of it too. I have never, not even once, turned anyone off of shooting because I taught them proper gun safety.

With newbies, their knowing how to do it safely takes away a big fear factor, it makes them more comfortable, and more confident. It also makes them more confident in you. Why not try it sometime and see for yourself. If you teach them 4 rules in a short time, then how much longer would the other 8 rules take? Of course, you don't have to do it. But then the people you are teaching will not likely be as safe as those taught by someone else who taught all the rules right from the beginning.

I could not easily live with the aftermath of one of my shooters killing someone because I left out something important like know your target and what is beyond.

All I am trying to do is impress upon people that safety is more important than just having fun. Do the safety thing to the utmost then have safe fun, that way it is much more likely to stay fun instead of becoming tragedy.

Best regards,
Glenn B

rust collector
April 3, 2005, 11:24 AM
Different folks learn in different ways, and successful teaching/coaching is a skillful blend of methods. Young people commonly want to cut to the chase, and learning by doing is one of the most effective methods of acquiring knowledge as a general rule. Unfortunately, on the job training with firearms is too little too late, so we have to use other methods before we get that far.

A good resource for new shooters is the International Hunter Safety Association site at ( . There are segments of the online course that deal specifically with firearm safety, and someone who wants to learn more can pick up more information. Local hunter safety instructors or offices also have a raft of info in the form of manuals or handouts. I know you are dealing with casual shooters who probably don't want to invest in a protracted learning process, but online is accessible and it's a way to learn that travels at whatever speed the user is comfortable with. Then it's a matter of demonstration and dry firing in a relaxed venue (not the range at first).

Only when you're satisfied that the shooter is serious and knows basic functions and safety measures do you hit the range for a little light recreation. I know you will not be concerned about accuracy and will knock off after a brief session so as to leave them wanting more. Enjoy!

April 3, 2005, 03:00 PM
Glenn Bartley

I hope you understand I wasn't being sarcastic. I am truely impressed and glad that someone in your position is so well trained. I work in corrections as an officer and instructor. We have all encountered others in LEO who aren't what I would call well trained. They are usually the ones in the news for doing dumb things and making us all look bad.

When I take a new shooter to the range they always start with the safety lecture. After that I am the coach and am right behind the shooter on the line all the time reinforcing safety. They do not shoot on their own with me. What I didn't make clear is that when we finish I encourage them to take an NRA class if they are now interested in shooting on their own. I make it clear that what we did today by no means qualifies them to shoot on their own.

Many years ago I took flying lessons. My first flight was a familiarization flight. I was allowed to do some basic flying but by no means was I given enough instruction to fly on my own. It was the instructors job to make sure the plane didn't crash. That first flight gave perspective to the training that followed.

That's how I view a first shoting experience. It is a familiarization exercise that can tell the newbie if this is soomething they want to learn more about.

April 3, 2005, 04:49 PM

I guess I missed your point. I did not necessarily think you were being sarcastic but did think maybe you had thought I was trying to impress on people how much training I had. I was just trying to impress people with the fact that no matter where and when I got my various firearms training, safety was the number one thing, then came the fun stuff as the number 2 thing.

I guess because everyone who has trained me has insisted on safety being the most important aspect of firearms use, and because I have had enough guns pointed at me at the range, I insist on safety being number 1 whenever I train or shoot with someone. I don't know, maybe I push the point too hard, but I see no way to lighten up on firearms safety.

In over 40 years of shooting I have had one accidental discharge and that was one too many. It was absolutely my fault, a brain fart kind of thing when I was clearing a weapon prior to disassembly; I put one into the floor. Not so much because I disregarded any of the 4 fundamental safety rules. I had awakened on my sofa in front of the tube and realized I had left a loaded gun on a shelf. I figured I had better unload it. I was pretty positive I had just taken the mag out of the gun before I racked it and, then I took the one out of the chamber. I even looked in through the slide to make sure chamber was empty and thought I looked down enough to see the mag well and saw no bullets. I saw a dark hole, or so I thought, which I assumed was the side of the mag well but actually turned out to be the side of the slide or part of the frame forward of the mag. Wound up when I had picked up the gun, I had also picked up the extra mag, then went to another room where I started to unload. Somehow I guess it just registered that the extra mag, which was in my hand, was just taken out of the mag well by me!

I had that brain fart because I was groggy. I did all the checking like I should have but was faulty in doing it because I was about 1/4 asleep. It was enough to make me sure I will never do it again. Though, my accidental discharge is not why I preach firearms safety, it may have added a bit more punch to my lessons on the subject. My A/D was enough to have assured me that I will not lag on safety ever again and neither should anyone else. In my case I was lucky, I could have just as easily disregarded more than one rule about being in full control of yourself, for example I could also have pointed the gun in an unsafe direction, and I shudder to think I could have killed one of my family. Then again I could have been pointing it at myself.

I have no problem relating this story, and did it regularly in gun safety talks when I instructed. The students were never bored at al, most got a laugh out of it but all learned a lesson because I was probably one of the last people they ever expected to do something like that or tell about it. A bit ashamed of myself, yes. A bit embarrassed each time I tell it, yes. Learned a lesson from it, you bet. So I pass it on again and again along with the extended version of the safety rules. I make it serious fun, no "range Nazi" stuff at all (pardon the analogy I borrowed it from someone else). The thing is that nowhere in the 4 rules that people are talking about does it mention anything about not handling a firearm if you are not in full control of your mental and physical faculties. So I guess the example of my own stupid brain fart just goes to show you have to keep telling people those rules over and over again, all of them, not just 4. If you ever want to see a “range Nazi” though, all you have to do is see my reaction when a longtime shooter (I am very firm but pretty easy on newbies for the first offense but not easy at all on old time shooters) at the range points a gun at me; at that point Nazis have nothing on me!

I understand what everyone else is saying about getting out to shoot with a new guy or gal and wanting to have fun. I still think the extra 15 or 30 minutes to explain as much about gun safety as the NRA explains in that little brochure is a good thing and it better assures that fun will be the likely result. My apologies if my presentation here seemed to harsh.

Someone else also added a really good rule, I have heard it before and used it before myself. It went something like: whatever you shoot, don't shoot me!

best regards,
Glenn B

The Rabbi
April 3, 2005, 05:21 PM
I think everyone here agrees on two things. First, that safety should be the number one concern and that no one should handle a firearm without proper knowledge. Second, that the goal of the experience should be to make people want to come back for more.
That said I suspect we disagree on what countrs for proper knowledge. My take is that under the circumstances outlined by the first post, the most minimal knowledge would be OK because the instructor is supervising only two people in a very controlled environment. If he were teaching 20 people at once I would feel differently about it. Extensive safety discussion in the abstract is almost worthless because people will not remember all that and it puts up unnecessary (for that time) roadblocks to shooting. They will not want to come back if it seems excessively difficult. The minimal 3 (or 4) rules work well because one who follows them is not likely to do something wrong and if they do it wont cause major damage. People learn by doing. And they cant learn all the rules in 15 or even 40 minutes all at once.

April 3, 2005, 05:47 PM
Teach them that manual safeties are there.

And to NEVER trust them.

Remember those Remingtons a few years back?

April 3, 2005, 06:09 PM
1) Always point a firearm in a safe direction.

Be sure to explain what a safe direction is. I generally say "See that pile of dirt? That is the safe direction. I am not a safe drection. Your foot is not a safe direction."

It's humorous (mildly) so they will remember it, and it is simple.

Show them how to blade the target when manipulating the semis. Many women are not strong enough to manipulate the slide without having the barrel parallel to their bodies.

April 3, 2005, 11:26 PM
I guess none of you experts will ever want to go to the range with me, because half the handguns I take are 6 guns that don't have manual safeties, and with the 1911s I never use the safeties at the range. The safety is for when I'm wearing it, not when it's on the bench with no magazine in it and the slide locked back.

Here's a practical suggestion that seems to have been overlooked in the great trace to see who knows the most safety rules -- start the newbies off at close range, so they actually have a chance to hit the target. Don't start them off at 25 yards, where they'll have a hard time even getting on the paper, and if they do they won't be able to see it. It may seem silly, but 5 yards is 15 feet, which is larger than many average size rooms. Start 'em there.

Greg L
April 3, 2005, 11:54 PM
Glenn (going back a couple of days),

For comparison, would you (giving tax advice) give an 18 year old kid (living off by himself & working at McDonalds - no other complications, just getting up & going to work in the morning) the entire US Tax Code (all multiple 10,000 pages of it) and telling him to figure it out, or the 1040EZ form (which is all he really needs)?

There is a time & place for everything. If you are overwhelming somebody completely new with too much information, they will miss something important (Murphy's Law). All someone who is completely new needs to know is how to operate the weapon in a safe manner, I will be the judge/responsible person for the rest of it. If it seems that they are drunk/high then we won't be heading to the range. It is up to me to make sure that they aren't trying to jam .38s into a .22. Etc. After the initial range trip is over then we can get into the more advanced things such as loading magazines, dropping the slide, policing the brass, etc.

The two directives for the new person on their first range trip are 1) be safe & 2) have fun. Everything else is up to me, as the instructor, to provide for them so that they can concentrate on #s 1 & 2.

April 4, 2005, 12:32 AM
Well things went well, and no one got shot. I fumbled through a lecture that I thought was well prepared, and I handed them a sheet I had made up of the NRA's safety rules. We went over them, and then we handled the SIG P232 and the Colt Series 70 Mark IV with some dummy rounds. It was a lot to absorb as by the time we got to the range they had forgotten some of the less important things like where the mag release was. But everything went well, they set the weapons down when they encountered a problem, they didn't flag/sweep anyone, and we all had a good time.

After firing the SIG, we moved on the the Colt. The ladies both liked the Colt a lot more, despite it's heavy kick. They weren't as adept with one-handed operation of the slide release and thumb safety, but neither one of them has very big hands. My buddy and both gals both preferred the 1911, so I put the SIG away. It is odd that it is my wife's gun, (She picked it out, not me,) but the only person that really likes shooting it is me.

It wasn't too hard to tell they were new shooters, and halfway through shooting the .45, another shooter came up and he offered to let them try his 10" Ruger Mark II. They asked me if I thought they should, to which I responded that if I had one, they would have started on that. They enjoyed that enough that they rented the normal sized one the range had after the other shooter left. My buddy wanted to try a .44 wheelgun, but the only one the range had was a Ruger SRH that was for sale, so no firing. Instead he tried a 4" S&W in .357. We all shot it, but the ladies preferred the .45 again.

They shot pretty good, (Better than I did my first time.) After I shot a few times they asked why my groups were so much tighter, and how they could do that. I had already briefly explained sight picture/sight alignment, breath control, and point of focus, but I expanded a little more on breath control. They tried it out again, and they both shot even better. At 50 feet they had all 10 rounds inside the sillouette. After we got done, they said they had a lot of fun and they expressed interest in doing it again, as well as trying some longarms.

I am glad everything went well, and very glad that they had a good time. Thanks for all the advice, as there were things I might not have thought of if y'all hadn't brought them up.

I also tested my new Chip McCormick 10 round Power-Mag, and it fed 200 rounds with no FTF whatsoever. I am getting more of these.

Now my buddy wants to get a handgun. Any suggestions for an inexpensive reliable steel (No polymer,) pistol in 9mm or larger?

April 4, 2005, 12:47 AM
regarding stance, the ladies are going to lean back when they shoot. Don't let it bug you, and don't harp on them if they do that.
I think that depends on the shooter. Obviously, you don't want to say or do anything that will unduly stress a new shooter out or make them feel overwhelmed. But, IMO, leaning back tends to increase felt recoil. I've taken my girlfriend to the range 3 or 4 times trap shooting twice. Shooting my dad's S&W 910 (9mm 4" barrel) is much more comfortable for her when I remind her not to lean back, or even to lean forward slightly. The same goes for trap shooting. After showing/telling her to lean forward slightly her scores instantly went up and she was more comfortable. She's the second of three people I've taught to shoot and with all three of them I've been very careful to not be critical in giving instructions.

I'm also proud to say that one of them is well on his way to becoming a gun nut and wants to buy a Glock and my girlfriend's opinion of guns has gone from "I don't like guns" to "let's go trap shooting!" in the time that I've known her. The third person has been my best friend since I was 3 years old. We went to a local rifle range and shot my 10/22 and M77 in .270 from a bench. He thought it was fun but wouldn't want to spend a lot of money on it based on that experience. One of these days I'll get him out to the pistol or trap range. Those are both more exciting than a rifle range IMO.

The Rabbi
April 4, 2005, 09:55 AM
No Brkes,
Congratulations on what sounds like an excellent job. Just the results we all want from students. Everyone went home with everything intact and a desire to do it all again.
Its funny about the SIG 230--I'm the only one who likes to shoot my wife's too.

For your buddy, what about a Smith 3913? I think they are good guns in general. Nine milimeter is a good choice because the ammo is cheap and you have a lot of flexibility. If he would be willing to look at a polymer I would recommend the Steyr 9mm. I have shot the Glock and the HK USP9 and didnt like either one too much. The Steyr felt very different, not like apolymer at all. You would have to get over the odd look and grip angle. Both the Smiths and the Steyrs are pretty budget priced, especially in a used gun.

April 4, 2005, 10:24 AM
Thanks for the report, NoBrakes. Sounds like you started some new shooters on the high road. Most importantly, they know that guns aren't evil objects to be irrationally feared but tools to be safely used.

April 4, 2005, 11:50 AM
Actually my buddy might like polymers, I am just getting the feel from him that he won't. He had no interest in trying the Glocks or Ruger P series at the range. When he goes to look at pistols, I will encourage him to not overlook polymers.

I am still trying to figure out why 100% of the new shooters I have been around, preferred the 1911. The women had obvious ergo problems with the 1911, (they both said the SIG felt better until they fired it,) but they eagerly fired the .45 till all the ammo was gone.

April 4, 2005, 12:05 PM
I just want to thank Glenn Bartley and The Rabbi for saving me from an embarassing 911 call :p
1) Never mistake a pistol for a rectal thermometer

April 4, 2005, 02:37 PM
I don't know what it is about the 1911, but a good one just has a feel that I think even new shooters can appreciate, assuming they don't have a problem with recoil.

As for good, inexpensive guns, I've heard nothing but great things about the CZ 75 and have been meaning to try one.

April 4, 2005, 02:48 PM
Yeah, I have been itchin to try a CZ lately, and since it gets compared to the FN BHP, I want to try one of those, (Although they aren't as economical as CZs.)

The CZs have a nice look to them.

Walt Rauch
April 4, 2005, 05:48 PM
Now that there's been an overload of advice, I'll add one more;

Load only one round in the gun. Repeat, load only one round in the gun.
If there's only one round in the gun and they make a mistake or whatever, they will not be able to shoot you or themselves.

April 4, 2005, 06:41 PM
My dad suggests starting everyone off with a single shot 22LR rifle.

April 4, 2005, 10:16 PM
to quote Hoot in BLack hawk down.."this here's my safety sir" <referring to finger>.

i'm a frim believer that if you teach to olny point at what you are willing and ready to destroy, and keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to destroy it, you'll be ok.

April 5, 2005, 12:37 AM
Now my buddy wants to get a handgun. Any suggestions for an inexpensive reliable steel (No polymer,) pistol in 9mm or larger?
Springfield Armory 1911 Mil Spec.

April 5, 2005, 12:54 AM
Hawkmoon,that is a good lookin pistol, and this is the second time my friend has stated that he likes the 1911.

But what differences are there (Besides the sights) between the GI45 and the Mil-spec. Because the GI is a wee bit cheaper.

And how much difference is there between a Colt Series 70 and the SA1911s?

April 5, 2005, 12:56 AM
The Mil Spec also has a lowered ejection port and, according to springfield's web site, the same match barrel as in the Loaded models (but for all I know that could be the standard barrel in the GI too). I think it might also have a beveled mag well like the Loaded models but don't quote me on that.

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