When to let kids begin shooting?


November 29, 2005, 12:01 AM
I have 4 children ages 5, 8, 11, 14. I have taken the 11 and 14 year old to the range and they both love it. The 5 and 8 year old keep asking when they get to go. Like most parenting things I kind of answer my own question by how it feels with each child what level of maturity they are but wanted to see if any one has a guide they have used.


of course I teach gun safety as soon as they can talk. When they see me cleaning my guns etc. take the opportunity to teach

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November 29, 2005, 12:19 AM
let my son start this weekend at 7 with a A Mossberg Plinkster, liked it alot.

November 29, 2005, 12:26 AM
I started mine at age 10, before that my son seemed to lack the focus to stay safe or learn safety at a level where I felt comfortable. Some mature quicker and some later.

November 29, 2005, 12:36 AM
Provided that you ...

give 100% of your attention to watching what they are doing and keeping them safe (that means no shooting for you this trip!), and you
don't allow them to load more than a single round at a time, and you
always hover closely enough that you can grab and control the gun if the child forgets the rules, and you
immediately pack up and go home if the child misbehaves, or at the very instant the child is tired of shooting (not giving second chances, not giving the kid an opportunity to become bored, whiny, and sneakily rebellious), and you
never forget, even for a deci-second, that your child is not an adult and does not have an adult's attention span, common sense, or ability to anticipate cause and effect
... then you should be able to take even a very young child to the range. Just don't let your eyeballs or your mind or most especially your hands get too far away from what they are doing.


November 29, 2005, 12:58 AM
As soon as they want to, and can safely handle a firearm.

I was running around with a BB gun for as long as I can remember, started shooting .22's at probably 5. Never once had an accident.

November 29, 2005, 01:05 AM
I don't think you can put an age restriction on this. Some kids are "adult" enough to shoot at 5 or 6 years old. On the other hand, I know adults of 40 or 50 who I think are far too childish to be allowed anywhere near weapons! :eek:

November 29, 2005, 01:09 AM
Took the nine year old grand daughter this wekend,her first time.She was great,paid very close attention and picked up on the safety aspect right away.She got the hang of it pretty quickly,and seemed to really enjoy herself.
I'd say its' very individual,and a judgement call.
whatever you do don't start a kid off on a man-sized gun.It just don't work well.
I highly reccomend the larger,no huge,shoot n c targes for instant feedback.The g.daughter thought they were neat.

November 29, 2005, 01:31 AM

I think that of all of us, you are really the only one qualified to make the call. You and you alone know the maturity level of your kids.

November 29, 2005, 01:41 AM
Adding to pax's sage advice:

As soon as they're able to safely handle an airgun; depends on the child (my son and daughter both started at 4).

But wait until 6 for firearms, not because of maturity, but because prior to roughly six they're very (very) prone to hearing damage. Plugs and muffs aren't enough as the sound is transmitted through bones.

November 29, 2005, 01:44 AM
1. The kid's maturity and discipline.

2. The stability and discipline which the PARENTS maintain in the household.

I got my 1st gun (.22 rifle) at age 9, but that was long ago when (a) many young boys did, and (b) society, schools, and teachers did not demonize weapons as is now the trendy thing to do. Accordingly, a parent must be prepared to overcome all this... in addition to teaching a thorough Safety agenda.

Ala Dan
November 29, 2005, 02:49 AM

November 29, 2005, 03:26 AM
i started my daughter out at 6. she thoroughly enjoys shooting 22's.

my brother started his girls out at 10 and 12.

Steamship Trooper
November 29, 2005, 09:01 AM
I voted for "yonger than 10", but it DOES depend on the kid.

Friend of mine got his son a Cricket when kid was seven. Fast forward a few years, and his eight year old daughter has no interest.

Twin nieces, 5 years old. One LOVES to go shooting with Dad and Uncle, the other doesn't. Go figure.

And there are folks well into physical maturity that I wouldn't allow near anything more dangerous than a Nerf football. A small one.

Best answer is- "When they are ready"

November 29, 2005, 01:02 PM
Pax pretty much laid it out. My father started teaching me basic safety rules and proper handling with a cork gun (anyone else remember those?) when I was in kindergarten. He and a cousin of my mother's even took me along on hunts for quail and small game (in clement weather) up near Yreka, CA.

A couple of practical things from my own experience that've worked out well over the years:

The Four Rules are the first thing we cover. It is best made understood that these are Gospel. Deal with any lapse firmly, seriously, and at once. Make it known that a repeat will mean that the day is over, and follow through with the threat. Harsh as it may seem, it is necessary to instill that these are Absolutes.

Whatever you choose to start them out with, make sure it's in proper proportion to their size. It makes everything else go a lot smoother and more quickly if they don't have to cope with machinery way too big for them. $150 for a Cricket, Savage "Cub" or the like is money well spent.

Basic child-sized ear and eye protection is cheap and readily available. Get them, and always set a good example by using your own. Even if hearing protection isn't strictly necessary when using SV shorts or Colibris, it's good policy to get them into the habit of always using it.

Reactive targets help provide the kind of positive feedback to proper execution that captures and holds their interest in the earliest stages. The old shooting galleries had the right idea, and it's a real pity that they've pretty much passed into history. Once they've gotten the message that they can hit a target when they do things right, they usually want to learn how to do it better. That makes the move to paper targets where the positive reinforcement is less dramatic easier.

November 29, 2005, 01:25 PM
I would say start with a BB gun, or maybe even an air soft that you can do in the basement or garage at pop cans, pinwheels or domino's (my favorite) keep the sessions short and safe.

November 29, 2005, 07:37 PM
When you think they're ready. Some kids will be ready earlier than others and some later. Age is mostly irelevant.

November 29, 2005, 07:55 PM
My Daughter started at 8. Went to Hunt Safety Ed and her first Turkey hunt at 9.

My son got a Rossi Combo (.22LR and .410) for his fifth birthday. He can recite and explain the Four Rules.

November 29, 2005, 08:17 PM
9 years old for my daughter.

Holding a Marlin model 25 in .22lr was a bit tough for her at first, as was working the action on it. But after a few mags worth, she was gettingthe hang of it.

Pax had great advice. I'll only add that it's important to NOT GET FRUSTRATED with a kid who isn't performing or handling the firearm well. Patience goes a long way towards keeping it fun for the kid. And fun is what keeps them interested.

November 29, 2005, 08:21 PM
Depends on the child and the adult supervision. My daughter is 7 and is fine, but I never take my attention away from her while she handles a rifle and she never handles the rifle without my attention on her.

Pax's criteria are sound.

November 29, 2005, 08:47 PM
Good advice from all here. My older son went shooting the first time at age nine. My youngest didn't start until he was twelve. He has some ADHD issues and did not have the self control and attentiveness to give me a good feeling about taking him. I may have been wrong because he is an excellent shooter and needs very little correction of safety. Focus and concentration has improved through shooting.

You know your children best. I would recommend only one at a time. It is very hard to closely supervise more than one.

November 29, 2005, 09:26 PM
i was 7 when i shot my dad's .22 and was hooked from then on. same as my 3 brothers. whenever one of us 4 boys would shoot, whatever gun it was, it would always be one on one with pops, one at a time while the others watched.

thats how i taught my 4 kids, starting at age 5. total attention, one on one.

November 29, 2005, 10:36 PM
started me out on a .22.

It was that small Remington (?) pump, now being replicated by Taurus, I think. It was even cut down--but not enough for a five-year old.

By the time I was ten, I would hike the six blocks to our city's NG Armory carrying my (future) stepfather's .22 pump--cased, of course, and with ammo in my pocket. Alone.

But that was in Willmar, MN, in 1955--another time in more ways than one, of course.

November 30, 2005, 06:19 AM
Im itching to take my little guy to the range but hes just not mature enough to focus on anything yet.

I do already have him a few guns for when he can go. Picked up a beautiful old Winchester model 121 bolt action, single shot .22 for $64 - this thing looks like it was freshly plucked off the rack at the ole' general store.

From the same seller I gave $45 for a single shot .410........nothing left but to wait till he can be safe.

November 30, 2005, 11:03 AM
It is an individual decision, how mature is the child - and how reliable?

I started my sons when they were about four years old and ten years later they got really hooked. Now there is not much left I can still teach them.

November 30, 2005, 01:52 PM
While I had a BB gun at age 8, and my father allowed me to shoot his guns about the same time, I didn't get my own gun (Ruger 10/22) until my 10th birthday.

November 30, 2005, 05:13 PM
that varies by individual child. I had five children and a couple could listen and reliably follow directions as early as 4. Most did okay at 8-9 but one not until 10. Started with a BB gun first and then worked up.

November 30, 2005, 06:36 PM
When to let kids begin shooting?

When they can see the blue helmet.

November 30, 2005, 07:00 PM
It depends on the kid.

My daughter first went with me when she was 5 or 6 and had fun, she still likes to go and beginning next year she will get to carry a highpower rifle during deer season for the first time :)

I have also seen kids at the range that were so out of control and unsafe that I said a prayer for their safety, packed up and went home.

I have also seen kids that will just sit and wait patiently while dad shoots a few rounds and then leaves.

I have also seen adults wouldnt be safe around a butter knife let alone a firearm.

In summary, take the kids when YOU think they are ready to listen, pay attention and have fun.

You might even try a tag-along trip for them, just to see if they really are ready.

And lastly be SURE to use and be adimant that they use eye and ear protection, those two little items will go along way towards a fun and safe shooting adventure.

Have fun

Larry Ashcraft
November 30, 2005, 08:30 PM
My son started at age eight, my girls didn't have much interest at that time. The safety rules were something all three of them grew up with, sine my wife and I shot handgun silhouette when they were little.

Here's something I haven't seen mentioned though. When my kids were all old enough to understand cause and effect, I took them to the range and let them watch me shoot a watermelon with a 12 ga.

My youngest is 27 now and she still remembers the lesson.

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