When did/should you start your kids shooting?


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iamkris
June 24, 2003, 11:31 AM
At what age does it make sense to introduce kids to shooting?

First a bit about myself. I'm 38 and have been shooting seriously since I was 15 or 16. A buddy and I in high school started exploring the shooting sports (pistol, shotgun mostly and reloading) together, although no one in my family enjoyed the guns. My dad had the foresight to put me through hunter education when I was 12 and took me rabbit hunting a grand total of 2 times, but probably because I wanted to go...he never really enjoyed the sport.

Though I grew up on a farm, I now live in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I've "converted" my wife from a mild-anti to a mild-pro-gunner...although she still won't go shooting with me. When we had kids our agreement was that the guns could stay, but I have them in a locked room (my reloading "cave" in the basement) in a gun safe, with trigger locks (triple redundancy!).

We didn't mention guns to our kids (boy-6, girl-3, boy-2) but I noticed that my kids started coming home from school/daycare saying "guns are bad!". Those places will send your kids for psychological testing if they draw or make a pretend gun out of their finger.:what:

I immediately got agreement from my wife to openly talk about guns, have them out for cleaning and ordered the entire NRA Eddie Eagle gun safety package. They chant the "Stop, don't touch..." mantra when watching the video. We've agreed that carrying a gun in the field hunting can start around 12 (walk with me earlier.)

I want to intro my kids to shooting...in a controlled environment, .22 LR first. What has been your experience as to the right age where kids have the mental capacity to understand the safety rules and have the attention span to listen AND enjoy themselves?

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keyhole
June 24, 2003, 11:35 AM
Started mine out around 7 or 8. Controlled enviroment. Out of 3, I still have one that is interested in shooting, but at least they all know the safety.

Kinsman
June 24, 2003, 02:28 PM
Taught safety from day one ...well, as soon as they could talk anyway.

The oldest one is six, has his own bb gun which he now can take out (with my permission) anytime he wants. He shoots a .22 rifle well and has had one encounter with a pistola. He's still too young for a pistol but his rifle skills are safe and he is a good shot to boot.

The younger one is three and he wants to shoot....so we are teaching safety and waiting and watching.

Everybody's different. Teach safety and you'll know when they're ready.

pax
June 24, 2003, 03:37 PM
At what age does it make sense to introduce kids to shooting?
It depends entirely upon the child and his or her level of maturity and responsibility.

My own kids (all boys) are ages 13, 11, 9, 8 and 7 years old. The kids have had a BB gun from the time the oldest was about 9 years old, and received a .22 for Christmas 2 years ago. The older two have been shooting with me many times. The younger ones have come to the range with me a few times, but not nearly as many as their older brothers.

All of them can tell you the Four Rules and know that the most important rule is "don't touch, leave the room and tell a grownup" if they find a gun somewhere. We have role-played various scenarios with them and I feel as comfortable as possible with their trustworthiness to Do The Right Thing in any situation we have discussed.

The older two have shot the BB gun with minimal supervision (horrors!) at a trap set up in the yard. We have one BB gun rather than two or more, because that limits the possibility of horseplay down to almost nothing. We took the gun away from them for a full month one afternoon after one brother turned around and bumped the other one with the muzzle end of the BB gun. It was a complete accident, the gun was empty anyway, and no one was hurt -- but it was also careless gun handling and needed a firm lesson.

The younger ones have never shot the BB without constant and serious supervision, because we are using it to train them about gun safety.

None of the kids has ever shot the .22 without supervision, as we have no land and are not hunters. If we had land, I would perhaps be willing to trust both the 13 year old to hunt with the .22 by himself.

Since the 13 year old occasionally babysits his brothers for me, he also knows how to make safe every weapon that we own and what to do if one of his brothers finds a gun and tells him about it. We've also taught him one disarm that he is instructed never to use except under certain, very specific conditions.

Both the older boys have shot several different .22 pistols, a KelTec .32, and my 9mm Glock 26, as well as the .22 rifle and a 12 gauge. Both agreed the shotgun was "kind of kicky" and thought that maybe they'd wait awhile before shooting it again. Neither had any trouble with my 9mm and next time they ask they will be allowed to shoot a .45.

I have only had all of my kids with me on the range a couple of times. They are good, obedient kids who can absolutely be trusted to do what they are told on the range -- but there are five of them. We've taken them as "older two" and "younger three" which works pretty well -- but in all cases, I really feel as though young shooters absolutely need a one-to-one ratio with the responsible adults watching them. It only takes a second for a lifetime-long mistake to happen.

Part of the safety training my kids have received is that we have, several times, taken them up to the range to see what kind of damage a bullet can do to targets such as overripe vegetables, full pop cans, or jugs of water. After each of these, I've pointed out that while it is "cool" and "fun" to watch a zucchini explode or a jug of water spew all over the place, it would not be cool at all to watch that happen to a human being you know and love and that is why the safety rules are so important.

Basically, I think that every kid old enough to talk should know "stop, don't touch, leave the room, tell an adult." Any kid old enough to shoot a BB gun should be able to recite the Four Rules and tell you what they mean. And any child old enough to be left alone in the house should know how to unload any gun in the house and know what to do if a younger sibling gets ahold of a gun.

That's in an ideal world. In the real world, some kids are going to be ADD, ADHD, or just not trustworthy for one reason or another. Such kids should not be taken to the range until they have been taught a reasonable amount of obedience towards responsible adults, and should not be left alone in the house until they can be trusted with everything in the house.

pax

Remember, your basic assignment as a parent is to work yourself out of a job. -- Paul Lewis

ACP230
June 24, 2003, 04:51 PM
My wife and I started teaching gun safety/avoidance if no adult was present at two.
All the kids started shooting a pellet or BB rifle at six.
The two oldest had Hunter Safety Class at a local sportsmen's club at 12. My oldest son was a hunter and competitive shooter at 13.
My daugter lost interest when she started dance classes, but knows gun safety.
My oldest son is 20 now and busy with college in the school year and working in the summer.
The youngest, 11, shoots most now. He and I are competing in e-mail benchrest matches together now and he is impatient to hunt next year.

Matt1911
June 24, 2003, 05:03 PM
I started my son when he was 8,now at 17 he'd rather chase girls and play with cars.My daughter had no intrest intill last fall,when she decided to go pheasant hunting .Since then,she's claimed my ar(but it's just my size!),and just this weekend "stole" her granddads ruger 22/45!
All i can say,is "Thats my girl!":D

El Tejon
June 24, 2003, 05:33 PM
Matt, girls over guns. Man, what a tough choice!

My nephews are 5, 2, almost 1, and due in December. I can hardly wait! The oldest has a rubber band gun and an empty rifle stock.

From what I am told, it depends on the kid. Must wait for clearance from brother's wife--domestic bliss and all.:D

iamkris
June 24, 2003, 05:34 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful responses. We already chant the "Stop, Don't Touch, Leave the Area, Tell an Adult" song and I've impressed at least 2 of the Four Rules. I think I need to start planning the acquisition of a Red Ryder and trap for the basement for some supervised instruction. Thanks again.

Sgt
June 24, 2003, 06:36 PM
Kris,

It's really a matter of how well the child listens and follows instructions. I was very fortunate in that both my boys were totally wound up in wanting to shoot. I started them on gun safety, before they could walk and they actually started shooting, well at least pulling the trigger not long after. I used all sorts of demonstrations to show them what happens when bullets impact their targets. Fruit, full soda cans, gallon milk jugs filled with colored water, etc. Safety was always the primary subject of our shooting activities. On their 5th birthday, each received a Chipmunk .22 rifle and the training continued. By age 7, each was target shooting by themselves and by age 10, they were hunting alone. I have access to private property where this is acceptable and I didn't have to worry about their safety, so that made it much easier. Their was only one infraction of the rules between them in all these years. The oldest, at age 5 made the mistake of turning around and sweeping across his Grandfather with his rifle. The action was open and the weapon was unloaded, but I made a point of taking the rifle away for the remainder of the weekend and informed him that if he ever violated the rules again, he would lose his rifle permanently. As you can guess, he never made that mistake again and passed that piece of information along to his little brother :) They are now 15 and 18 and they have been added to the small group of hunting partners I truly trust. As with any other subject you are trying to teach, reward and punishment are very useful in driving the point of your lessons home. It's NEVER to early to teach gun safety, even if they are not going to be shooting. And while some would argue the point about having toy guns around as well as real ones in your home, I have this to say. I grew up around real firearms as did my sons. I also had every type of toy gun you can think of when I was a kid and watched every shoot 'em up Military and Cowboy Movie and Television program there was. We all played "Army" and "Cowboys and Indians" as well. The argument that children can confuse toys with real guns, is based on the ignorance, or lack of teaching by their parents. I must confess that I carried a rifle to high school every Wednesday morning, with at least 2 boxes of .22 LR ammo, because our school had a gun club and my metal shop teacher hauled us all out to the range after school. While if I tried that today, I would be surrounded by a SWAT Team in short order, the thought of ever shooting anyone, never occured to me or my fellow classmates. We knew better, because our Parents taught us better and trusted us to do the right thing. We had to earn that trust and it meant far too much to us, to ever violate it. Besides, we knew what a bullet could do....we had seen the results while hunting, etc.

Sorry to be so long winded, I guess maybe I'm hoping if your wife has any reservations, you might be able to use some of what I've described as an argument to help convince her that teaching your children to shoot is in their best interest. It was part of growing up for me and mine and an awful lot of us here on this forum. That responsibility my parents trusted me with was priceless to me and I've seen what it meant to my boys as well.

Good Luck and Semper Fi, Sgt

jsalcedo
June 24, 2003, 06:46 PM
A couple of years ago I saw a news item showing a 4 year old
afgani child shooting an AK.

Having a 4 year old myself I took him to the range with my SAR1.

The range was completely empty so I taught him the 4 rules
made him repeat them back and demonstrate.

I held into the rear of the stock and he shot a couple of 30 rounders into a 50 yard target.

I think he hit the paper a dozen times.

From that point he shoots my scoped 10/22 and does much better.

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