At what age should I introduce my son to firearms.


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jmresistance
July 21, 2011, 10:27 PM
I have a 3 year old and I would like some advice on when to introduce him to firearms safety, let him shoot my gun, buy him his own gun, etc. For now everything is in my safe or on my person and he knows not to touch daddy's guns. I think maybe 4 or 5 to sit him down and have a basic safety talk. I plan on buying him a .22 Cricket or something similar when he goes into kindergarten (it would stay in my safe).

Any thoughts?

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The-Reaver
July 21, 2011, 10:49 PM
I was introduced at 4 with safety and rules. Then I grew into shooting.
My son on the other hand didn't take to well to the rules, he still doesn't understand the concept of firearms being dangerous if not used properly. So I'm still waiting for him to mature a little bit more. He's 6 now, I may try again nearer to his 7 or 8 Birthday depending on how responsible he is.

X-JaVeN-X
July 21, 2011, 10:52 PM
I kind of started him on the gun safety with a couple nerf guns when he was 2. One has a magazine that drops out and has a scope and all. The other looks like a double barreled shotgun and has shells that you load in it and get ejected. I taught him basic safety using those. He got the same speech (and still gets) about not touching "daddy's guns". I got him a bb gun this past Christmas (he had just turned 4 a couple months earlier) and he can currently shoot a 20 oz. soda bottle of water from about 8-10 yards away with about a 50% hit rate. I have a little pump .22 rifle, but really...the issue with him and something like that currently isn't his apptitude for shooting it, but the fact that the gun is too long for him to control. I will probably be looking into something in a .22 caliber that is shorter in the next year or two...but for now the bb gun is plenty to keep him entertained and learning the fundamentals.

Oh, and for anyone looking....check out the Marlin Cowboy by crosman. It is pretty much direct competition to the Red Ryder bb guns, but I like it much better. Unlike the new red ryders that have a plastic cocking lever...the cowboy marlin is a metal lever and overall, imho, a much nicer "starter" bb gun.

A lot of folks may think 4 is too early, but I think it depends on the child's interest and aptitude for it. I don't actually remember learning to shoot...that's how young I was. My grandfather taught me and to this day, shooting a rifle is the only thing I do left handed. I was told that when I was being taught to shoot, I didn't have the dexterity to close my left eye and could only close my right eye (which was my strong eye) and so he taught me to shoot left handed so I could aim with my left eye. Now handguns I learned later and shoot them right handed.

Bubbles
July 21, 2011, 11:02 PM
It really depends on their maturity level. We never hid the guns from our daughter (she's six now) and if she wanted to look at one (unloaded, obviously), she could do so. Because we didn't make a big deal out of them, she's not any more curious about them than she was about a couch or a chair.

She started shooting last fall at the age of 5, single-shot .22LR and a suppressed .223 bolt gun after she could recite the safety rules. She's also been through Eddie Eagle and we make sure regularly that she knows what to do should she come across an unattended firearm.

http://www.extremefirepower.com/images/youthrifle2.jpg
Sniping... So easy, even a Kindergartener can do it.
;)

Ohio Gun Guy
July 21, 2011, 11:21 PM
I agree^^^ guns cant be these mythical creatures to be discussed, but never seen. If you have them (Guns & Kids) around, you need to teach safety, and take the curiocity out of them.

I started my son at 4, he saw me cleaning one, asked questions.... to my suprise he knew it was a gun & where and what the trigger was called. So if you think they don have a clue, dont be so sure. In addition to the basic rules of firearm safety I teach my kids the following:
1. Only touch guns with me or Grandpa - no one else!
2. If you want to see one, etc. ask me... We'll get it out. (Yes they are still stored properly)
3. If you are at a friends house and someone gets out a gun, come home right away, tell Mom or Dad.
4. The first thing we do is check to make sure it's unloaded and the safety is on. (He knows the red dot means the safety is off.)
5. never point them at yourself or others.
6. Keep your finger off the trigger.
7. They are not toys, but they can be fun, & we go shooting together :).
8. For now, I keep track of the other big rules with him on my own - know your target, proper ammo, Maintenance, etc.

Like others said, I started showing and teaching at 4. This summer (5.5 years old) we went to the range. He likes it. Brings a smile when he asks if we can go to the range. (Ive got a 22 henry and a 22 savage bolt action and they do well as trainers) Dont forget the earplugs & safety glasses (Good job above).

MICHAEL T
July 21, 2011, 11:41 PM
A 4 I took my out side (We live in country ) and shot a milk jug of water close up I wanter them to see the reaction of the jug and maybe get wet. I then told them that why you never touch a gun with out me or their mother present. Ay 6 BBgun and 8 we started on 22 's I have raised 5 now oldest is 29 and a Iraq vet makes living in middle east and asia in security. field Other 4 are all girls 26 down to 16 and we all still shoot on our side yard range..

Dentite
July 21, 2011, 11:49 PM
I took out my oldest boy at about 3 1/2 years old. I shot a water jug as an example of the power of a gun and why he's to never touch them without me holding the gun. He's shot .22LR rifle and .22LR pistol and most recently (he'll be four in 2 months) he shot my .38 special revolver. BUT when I saw he's shot I mean we both hold the gun and he pulls the trigger. He never has control over any loaded firearm. He gets some trigger time and lots of smiles and starting to learn the rules.

When will be able to shoot on his own? I don't know but maybe 5-6 with a rifle and me in reach of the rifle. Just my .02.

Bigphil54
July 22, 2011, 12:00 AM
I was introduced to guns as early as i remember (4 or 5). I was taught basic safety with BB guns and was not allowed to point my toy guns at people. Then when my father deemed me responsible enough with a BB gun i got moved up to a 22, one shot at a time. as i became more responsible I was allowed to use magazines in the 22. i was always taught to look behind my target for a good backstop and no possible casualties due to a bad shot or ricochet. There is proper "age" limit but rather a maturity limit and the ability to handle a gun safely.

Sam1911
July 22, 2011, 12:07 AM
My kids have always been mildly interested in shooting, and the two older ones were sitting in my lap pulling triggers at 3 years old. (Daddy doing ALL controling of the weapon. Junior just squinting and making it go bang.) That included AKs and 1911s for my daughter, but the middle guy didn't like the concussion of centerfire rifle rounds until a bit older. (We go heavy on all safety devices, of course, and even so, I minimized their exposure to rifles to a few rounds.)

This is my daughter, age SEVEN:
http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc184/sam1911/Teaching.jpg

With my 629 and my IDPA 200 gr. .44 Spc. loads.

By that point she had grip and stance principles down pretty well. Still working on sight alignment, but we really only do family range days a handful of times a year.

Now, my daughter is nine and does a fantastic job with the .22 single-shot Savage Cub.

Her younger brother, at six, is still just into making noise and enjoying being out with dad. And that's fine. Each kid will internalize the safety rules and develop their skills at a different rate.

SmokeJensen
July 22, 2011, 12:19 AM
I'm glad I ran across this thread. Just last night, my son, which is 2 1/2, asked me "Daddy when me shoot?" I didn't have the answer. I figure in a couple years but he is showing alot of interest and paying alot of attention. He sees some of the hunting shows on TV and it blows my mind how excited a 2 1/2 year old can get over a gun/deer/alligator.

I would definitely start him on a weak bb gun with me helping. The nerf gun is a good idea. I really can't wait until he is a shooter. I remember the fun I had when I was young and I wanna feel what its like with the tables turned.

SARDiver
July 22, 2011, 12:27 AM
My oldest was about 3 1/2 when she saw me cleaning my weapon for the first time. SHe asked to hold it. I went over the rules, cleared it, and helped her hold it.

I also told her that I would show her any of my guns whenever she asked. She took me up on it. Whenever she asked to see a gun, I stopped what I was doing and showed it to her. It was a bit of a pain for about 3 weeks, then it tapered off. We went over the rules each and every time we pulled one out. She could recite the safety rules before she was 5, and understood them well enough to practice them and remind me of them not long after.

She doesn't like to shoot (too loud for her), but is right where she should be, in my opinion, safety-wise.

As soon as they ask, it's the right time, in my opinion.

IBEWBULL
July 22, 2011, 12:35 AM
Great thread.
In addition to firearms safety, I hope many of us will add:
1. Some history lessons to the list.
2.Fire safety
3.First aid/CPR
The list goes on but I will not at this time.
I don't remember when our oldest son shot for the first time.
I do remember the test I gave all the kids.
I had an old junk .22 pellet pistol which would not work.
I left it on a chair in the living room to see what would happen next.
All three of the munchkins came running up stairs yelling, "Dad you left a gun out."
Thanks for telling me I replied and then I told them it was a test to see what they would do. I gave them all a buck as a reward.
Our oldest son is a BM-3 and has his CCW in Virginia now. Our youngest son hunts and is thinking of a .22 target pistol. Our daughter still has not taken her hunter safety class but enjoys target shooting with what ever she can get her hands on.
They all know more about safety , guns, CPR than most folks I know.

jmresistance
July 22, 2011, 01:15 AM
Thanks for all the advice. He has been asking about my guns and he is somewhat familiar with the mechanics involved from using his Nerf and other toy guns. He brings me his nerf gun and says"Cock it for me, daddy". He is familiar with terms like trigger, barrel, hammer, shell, bullet, etc. I guess that means it's time to start talking about safety.

I haven't been really strict about how he plays with his toy guns, so now I have to make sure he understands the difference. I grew up playing "Cowboys and Indians" and "Cops and Robbers" and we were constantly "shooting" at each other with our toy guns. I know that many parents discourage pointing toy guns at each other or don't allow them in the house at all. Schools will let a boy pretend he's a girl, but not pretend he has a gun... I feel like it's the parent's responsibility to make sure they understand the difference between a Nerf gun, a BB gun, and a "real" gun.

Grown-ups shoot each other with Paintball guns. What's the difference?

How do you all feel about that issue? Am I irresponsible for letting him pretend to shoot me with a toy gun?

SARDiver
July 22, 2011, 01:20 AM
A toy gun is a toy. An actual gun is not a toy. I think a simple, "You understand this is a pretend gun and not the kind that Daddy has, right? We don't point real guns at people," would suffice. Your example whenever you have a real gun out will be the biggest influence.

If it isn't a toy gun he points, it will be his finger. The important thing is that he's taught the difference between pretend and real. This is also where your controlled access to firearms comes in.

I had toy guns growing up. I understood the difference. Hell, if you give a 4 year old boy a doll, he will eventually try to fashion that doll into some form of weapon. That's how boys are. It's up to you to reinforce the rules.

Friendly, Don't Fire!
July 22, 2011, 01:25 AM
Around 6 years to introduce them and perhaps buying their first gun at about ten years (that is only to be used when an adult is present).

Onmilo
July 22, 2011, 01:30 AM
My kids were around and aware there were guns in the house by 2 or 3.
When they were 6 they were allowed to shoot airguns and if they showed enough interest, they were allowed to begin shooting cartridge firearms by age 9.
None of my kids have quite the same level of interest I have in firearms and that is OK.

mgmorden
July 22, 2011, 05:20 AM
This is always a personal decision, so it's up to you to decide what you think they're ready for and what you're comfortable. with.

Just personally, my own numbers would be to start the safety stuff as early as possible. Just for shooting in general, I'd probably say 8 or so. I fired my first gun when I was five, but that was more of a novelty thing where my dad was really holding it and let me pull the trigger. It wasn't until I was 8 or so until I was allowed to fire another one (though I did get my first gun of my own at that time too).

One thing that I did shoot a lot in the interim was my BB gun. Not sure, but it seems like the old BB gun is forgotten these days. IMHO, it's a great way to teach kids about muzzle control, and generally how to shoot and line up the sights. Plinking cans with my BB gun was a great pass-time as a young kid.

Just make sure that regardless, they're ready to handle a weapon. Doesn't matter of they're 6 or 25 years old - if they're not familiar with the safety rules then they shouldn't be handling it yet.

Sam1911
July 22, 2011, 07:16 AM
How do you all feel about that issue? Am I irresponsible for letting him pretend to shoot me with a toy gun?
We didn't do toy guns at our house for a long while (though I had plenty growing up). The kids are still strongly cautioned against "shooting" at each other with them. It does seem to be part of their nature, though. I don't worry about it, but I do take the time each time I see it to give a brief "never point a gun ..." lecture.

Grown-ups shoot each other with Paintball guns. What's the difference?
Eh... several things, and just my humble opinion. Paintball games have largely moved away from realistic looking weapons to appear closer to some kind of carpentry or automotive tool these days, which helps remove some of the association. Also, the sport is mostly played by much older kids and/or adults, so hopefully there is some maturing and discernment going on before the little ones are handed a "weapon" (actually now just called a "marker") and told to snipe their friends.

The other facet to this might be the airsoft genre. And I don't endorse the casual "battle" use of those much at all. Where I do feel they are appropriate is in very serious force-on-force scenario training environments (like Simunitions) and that's way above something a young child should be exposed to.

fallout mike
July 22, 2011, 07:19 AM
I bought my son a .22 rifle at 5. I put a red dot on it and he can shoot what he's aiming at out to 30 yards. He turns 6 next month and says he wants a "cowboy gun". So I guess I see a .22 revolver being bought in the very near future.

nortexeric
July 22, 2011, 08:02 AM
I was introduced to firearms when I was around 5 yrs old. My dad didn't own guns at the time, we lived on base and it was too much of a hassle. But my grandpa did, and every spring break, summer, and Christmas vacation we went to his farm and I got to shoot. It was something I looked forward to all year. I started with a pellet rifle the first few trips, and when I was about 8, I got to use my grandpa's .22 mag. Once my dad got out of the service, we returned to Texas, and when I was 12 we bought our first rifle, a .22 bolt action. We would go to the range, come home, clean it, he would watch me and make sure I was being safe with it the whole time, correcting me whenever I messed up. Firearm safety had already been drilled into my head, almost my entire family was military. When I was 14, I had proven to my dad that I was responsible, and had a high respect for guns, and therefore, for my birthday, I was given a 10/22. Talk about an upgrade! Magazine instead of tube loading, semi auto, and just smooth looking. Eventually as time went on my dad got more guns, and I got to learn more. I think my dad did a wonderful job teaching me, and I intend to follow his example once I have my own kids. Right now my cousin's daughter is 6 yrs old, and she has already proven not only to be a sponge when it comes absorbing safety instruction and information, but the possibility of being a marksmen. I won't be surprised if by the time she's a teenager she out shoots me with a rifle.

With all that said, there isn't a standard age of when you can introduce firearms, but I feel confident, with what I've seen in my family, that around the age of 5, after they get a firm understanding of gun safety and safe handling you can let them start shooting. Of course, don't forget to involve them in the cleaning and care of the guns, and in fact, that may be a way to start getting them involved. Also, someone earlier mentioned to teach the history of a gun. For me, that was a real big deal. Alot of people in my family had military surplus guns, M1 carbines, Garands, 1911, and even Colt SAA.

Anyways, as its already been shown so far in this thread, kids are capable of understanding and using firearm safety at a relatively young age. I think you're on the right track. And this is definitely something I look forward to once I have sons/daughters.

-Eric

zfk55
July 22, 2011, 09:04 AM
I think I may have posted this once before, but it's something my Father wrote. It's about my Sister and me and how we began. He wrote this maybe 10 or more years ago.

----------------------------------------------------------


Prologue:
By the age of 5 Tommy was convinced that his dad was hiding something very special in the closet on the top shelf. "Tommy, don't you ever go into that closet. Stay out! Something bad is in there".
At 5 Tommy was definitely afraid to go into that closet..... but Tommy didn't stay 5 years old. Tommy grew, and so did his curiosity. He had stood in front of that closet a number of times when his dad came into the room and sternly warned. "Tommy!! Don't you dare!!" And Tommy didn't dare..... at least not then. But that day did come.... at age 8.
Dad and mom were gone shopping. His Aunt was baby sitting and she was outside in the garden. Tommy was alone.
Dragging a kitchen chair to the closet, he opened it, pushed the chair inside, climbed up and stood on his tiptoes. Nothing there......... nothing but a shoebox. Could that be it?? He carefully removed the box from the shelf, climbed down from the chair, sat on the closet floor and opened the box.
*Wow! How cool! Its just like the cops use on TV!* He found that the cylinder rotated and made a clicking sound. The trigger was too hard to pull so he gave up trying, but..... the hammer! That thing at the back! He was able to pull it back. But now what? Looking at the muzzle of the pistol, he carefully squeezed the trigger. CLICK! *Wow! How cool* Click..... again.
A scream from his Aunt caused him to drop the revolver. "What are you doing!!?? Give me that!!" Tommy dropped the pistol in fear. What had he done? It couldn't be that bad.... besides it looked so cool!
Tommy's dad had made two serious mistakes. First and foremost..... Tommy knew nothing about the dangerous weapon he'd been holding. Secondly, and fortunately for Tommy....... it wasn't loaded.

__________________________________________________ _____________

She had just turned 4 years old, and I knew it was time. She knew there were firearms in the house because she'd seen them from the time she was aware of her surroundings, and they were always well out of reach, but her time had now come.
First came the simple explanation of how any of the firearms in the house could hurt her, or Mommy or Dad. Nodding her head she signified that she understood.......... but she didn't. Not at that age.
She followed me outside and thought the huge headset I put on her was pretty neat. I placed a milk jug full of water just 10 feet away. Donning my own ear protection, I put both of her hands around the grips on the huge .44 pistol. Covering both of her hands with mine, I held the pistol as far away from her little body as I could and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Despite the headsets the noise and concussion were horrendous, at least for that little girl they were. The milkjug exploded in a vapor of water leaving Rosemary wide eyed and trembling.
Not a word was said at that moment. I unloaded the pistol, took off her headset and we went to where the remenants of the shredded jug were. She looked up at me and I asked her if she understood how dangerous any of our firearms could be. She solemnly nodded her head and from that day until she received her own firearms she never went near any of them in the house.
The odd and surprising thing was when I heard her tell her visiting friends to "stay away from all the firearms in the house!!" And she kept a weather eye on any young visitors.
Fortunately all of her friends had parents who had provided an early education to their children as well.

Mystery provokes curiosity. Education removes mystery.


Among her peers and their families, we've never in our Family history heard of a child injured by a firearm in our area. Rosemary carrys a pistol with her wherever she goes, as does her Brother. We live a long way from town and in the past 10 years or so there are a lot of newcomers from the west coast cities, and with them comes their baggage, IE: crime.
Both of my children were required to read two books before owning their own pistols. "In the Gravest Extreme" , Masaad Ayoob and "No Second Place Winners", Bill Jordan. Books outling the seriousness of carrying, the legal implications involved and practicality in use.
Both of them were taught use and respect of both pistols and rifles. Both have their own pistols and rifles.
I'll go into their education another time, but rest assured that both of them were taught respect for firearms at a very early age.

Mystery provokes curiosity and potential disater. Education removes mystery and ingrains understanding. Think about this one with logic and practical application.

oneounceload
July 22, 2011, 09:28 AM
Both of my boys were started at age 6 with the Marlin Lil Buckaroo (15YN) single shot 22 - they were both "mature enough" for that age to understand gun safety, protocol, etc.

Only YOU can determine when your kids are at that stage of development - some are ready earlier, some later - not better or worse, just different

USAF_Vet
July 22, 2011, 09:29 AM
My step kids are 7 & 9, with upcoming birthdays. Last year, they both both bb guns. This year, they both get a 22. I'm starting them off with single shot's or maybe a bolt action. I want them to savor each round rather than blasting as many as they can as quick as they can with my semi-auto. I've taken them shooting, but before they even touch a gun, the recite the four rules no fewer than 3 times. Sometimes, I'll even quiz them on the four rules at random times.

I also teach them how to operate a gun. If they can't operate it safely, they don't shoot. They have to point out where the safety is, and be able to identify if it is on or off. They have to show me they know how to load it and how to make it ready to fire.

I try to make it an educational experience as much or more so than a fun experience.

The governor just signed off on a bill in Michigan that does away with the minimum hunting age, allowing a mentorship hunting program. I can take my soon-to-be 8 year old step son hunting to show him the ropes. He can even hunt with me (small game) on my hunting license.


I don't make any of my guns taboo. If they want to see them, all they have to do is ask. I'll clear it, show them it's not loaded, and hand it over. Neither are strong enough to work the action on most of my guns, but once they are, they will do a safety check on the guns, too.

Fred in Wisc
July 22, 2011, 10:00 AM
I totally agree with taking away the "mystery" about guns. If you make something mysterious and forbidden, they will want to get into it eventually.

My little girl has been aware that we have guns and "bullets" in the house since she was very small. She knows that she is not to touch them if Daddy is not with her, but anytime she asks, I will unlock the safe and she can see or handle whatever she wants. We have "Eddie Eagle" down pretty well, although she's busted me out with Momma a few times for empty brass in the laundry. Better a little too safe than not safe enough.

We stop down at the gun club from time to time, usually to just take a nice walk on the woods archery range, look for deer and squirrels, and pick wild flowers. She also occasionally comes to the club meetings (they are pretty short, she can sit quietly through one- and she gets to eat Cheetos, a big bonus for her) Her Mom thinks the gun club is populated by militia rednecks even though she's never met any of them, I don't want my daughter to grow up with that prejudice.

She'll will turn 5 next month and is by nature a cautious child. She just had her first range trip on Father's day. Shooting Super Colibris in a Cricket rifle, off Daddy's lap over a rest. That's going to be a great memory.

I've started my nieces and nephews shooting at 10-14 depending on their parent's advice regarding their readiness, but they come from non-shooting families. We review safety rules before breaking out the guns, and I have been reprimanded by the younger ones for not opening the action on a nerf gun when it was handed to me. (They set me up, but I'm glad they are that concious of the rules).

Mike1234567
July 22, 2011, 10:42 AM
A side story but...

I have a co-worker who has a 13-year-old son who has never fired a firearm. Three weeks ago two thugs tried to kick in their front door while the boy was home alone. They only ran when they saw the young man on the telephone and he yelled he was talking to 911... cops on the way. The father, who owns a 9mm pistol, tells me he's been thinking about teaching his son to shoot. But... hasn't yet.

USAF_Vet
July 22, 2011, 10:52 AM
I'm glad to hear the thugs ran away, but I'd get that kid some firearms education ASAP.

better to prepare for something that doesn't happen than be unprepared when it does.

Mike1234567
July 22, 2011, 10:57 AM
I'm glad to hear the thugs ran away, but I'd get that kid some firearms education ASAP.

better to prepare for something that doesn't happen than be unprepared when it does.
I agree and mention this to the father a couple times per week. He keeps saying he "intends to".....

MistWolf
July 22, 2011, 11:22 AM
Not long after my sons were brought home from the hospital, they were taught firearms are not toys. Although they couldn't fully understand at that time, it's what they grew up with and established as normal in our household. They have always treated firearms with respect and handling them without permission wasn't a problem

ADKWOODSMAN
July 22, 2011, 11:24 AM
My girls were born before the boys.

I wanted shooters and I have them.

When each was small and we were at the range--range is vacant most of the time-we set up a piece of 1X6 pine and we backed off about 6 feet and dad shot the board with 12 ga. #8's and showed the kids this type of wound couldn't be fixed. Never a safety problem with any of them!

It's extreme but a demonstrationis worth a 1000 words.

CoRoMo
July 22, 2011, 11:41 AM
Am I irresponsible for letting him pretend to shoot me with a toy gun?
I don't think so. My wife took the approach to treat toy guns, like water pistols, as if they were real firearms. Seriously, almost to the point of following the 4 rules with them. She told our boy to never point it at anyone, never shoot anyone, and that he could only shoot at the ground. Guess what? He didn't want to play with them then. That wasn't fun, so why bother.

I was reading a book by John Eldredge. You might or might not be interested in "Wild at Heart" or "The Way of the Wild Heart" or any of his books (they're all basically about the same subject). His life-study is the maturation of masculine development, and he goes in depth on the whole 'weapons play' part of a boy's growth. I couldn't possibly explain much of his thesis here and obviously it really only pertains to boys.

Anyway, I didn't want him missing out on some of the things I've been reading about, and I didn't want him having no interest in guns, so I explained the whole cowboys/indians-cops/robbers games that we played as kids and she let up. He can shoot me or the dogs all he wants. He can only shoot his sister or mom if he asks them first and they let him. He's definitely not at any point of interest in real guns and he definitely knows the difference. They are just too loud for him right now.

Just my 2. It's all up to the parents and what they think is best. Good luck.

hq
July 22, 2011, 11:46 AM
Well...

This may be a very touchy subject to some. Personally I've always thought that there's nothing wrong in teaching kids the basics of firearm safety as soon as they're beginning to understand what guns really are. Shooting is not that much different. My father taught me how to shoot when I was about 4 or 5 and that has become a bit of a family tradition. When kids think they're ready and want to try it, they're very receptive to any instructions and it's far better to have them learn about guns and shooting from their parents than from TV.

As a rule of the thumb, when kids are mature enough to understand the danger involved in improper handling of firearms, they're ready to try and pull the trigger themselves. Early exposure to guns and shooting gives kids a good perspective to firearms in general, just like education and first-hand experience always does, regardless of the subject.

dirtykid
July 22, 2011, 12:05 PM
MOST children cannot grasp the finality of death until about age 5-6,before those years most children envision "heaven" as just some-place else that their (grandparent,cat dog,goldfish) is that they cant see or travel to, so my opinion is no hands-on firearms until that age (depends on child maturity) I started my kids on air-soft guns shooting at empty pop-cans off the back deck around 6-7 years,, BUT NOT UNTIL they could tell me who "ANNA " was...
Always treat every gun as if it IS loaded
Never point the barrel at ANYTHING you dont want to kill
Never put your finger inside trigger guard until sights are aligned on target
Always know your target and whats behind it..
I still drill my kids on "Anna" EVERY time they are to handle a weapon (now that their in their teens they act like,Gosh dad im NOT stupid) but I INSIST on them reciting "Anna" to me ,,
Having said that IMO shooting airsoft was a great learning platform for them, they make just about every gun in airsoft as they do in firearms,(Pump-shotguns,bolt-action rifles,semi-auto handguns) so they get the mechanics of operation of each BEFORE they even put a "real " gun in their hands
Now that my kids are teens my oldest (17) only wants to shoot things that explode or blow apart (milk-jugs,old appliances) and is not content with punching paper My 15yr old girl dosent have ANY friends that shoot with their parents so it's just "not cool".
My 14-yr old boy however is a future "gun nut" LOVES to shoot everything i have from the 10/22 to my .243 but especially likes my .223 AR15 and would shoot it to death if i could afford to feed his habit as well as mine,, :-)
I use TV and movies to depict whats REAL and whats FAKE..
Fake meaning endless shootout's where the good/bad guys never run out of bullets,are perfectly calm under fire and never have to re-load
The best REAL depiction of what happens when you shoot someone i found to be the scene in "saving private ryan" where they overtake the German sniper nest and the youngest member of their squad gets hit in abdomen and essentially dies in some-one's arms calling for his "mama" ,,, very dramatic and realistic with their friends trying to save him,, Not for the younger-viewers as it may cause nightmares but when you feel they have a grasp on the finality of death in relation to firearms it drives the point home.
Hopefully this helps ,,

Ole Coot
July 22, 2011, 12:16 PM
Only thing I can add, don't measure a child by age. Maturity counts more and my son, now 45 and boys of his own were taught that anytime they wanted to see a firearm or shoot, just ask dad. I did this with my son, he did it with his boys. If they know they can they will ask. We didn't have to go far to shoot, the back yard worked fine with all my firearms.

Iramo94
July 22, 2011, 12:22 PM
I have a bit of a scary personal story, and I think it might convince OP that gun training is very necessary for little children. My father is very interested in guns, and he always kept a few scattered around the house. One in particular that i always liked was the S&W airweight on the top shelf of the closet that he used for CCW. (I think you can see where this is going.) Because of his career, he always had an irrational fear of me getting hurt with one of his guns, so he tried to hide them from me. Of course, hiding didn't work, because we all know five year olds are sneaky little buggers.
One day I decided to see the gun in the closet, so I got some boxes, books, chairs, etc. and made myself a little step ladder. I got to the gun down off of the shelf and pressed the button to release the cylinder by accident. It was nothing short of an act of God that the cylinder came loose, because I was about to pull the trigger. I had some idea of what the little silver things in the cylinder did, so I worked at getting them out for a good ten minutes. (I didn't know you could just press on the rod to take them out.) After that, I pulled the trigger and heard a click. So I pulled again. It was very entertaining. Then my father walked in.
Needless to say I got a helluva beating that day.
Something tells me that many children play with guns when their parents are not watching. I was one of the lucky ones that had seen the operation of a gun before and understood that bullets go bang. Other than that, I was completely untrained. The result could have been disastrous.
And so, my response is: Show them that bullets blow things up as soon as they can understand English, and then start teaching them proper safety and operation right away.

hermannr
July 22, 2011, 12:38 PM
Firearm safety should be taught starting when they first show interest. Actually firing a weapon is more dependent on physical size and ability. I got my first SS .22 when I was 12, but then I got Polio when I was 6 and spent a long time fighting through that. I don't know what age my dad would have taught me if I had not been incapable of walking for most of those years.

I taught our daughters (all 5 of them) at different ages (6-8). The older 3 are all big girls (5'8"-5'9") like their mom, the younger 2 are like my mom, (5'2"-5'3"). The physically bigger girls could all handle a gun much younger, just because of their size.

I am not sure that allowing them to fire a larger caliber handgun when quite young (6) is the best thing to do. None of our daughters like my 38 Colt, all of them like their mom's target .22's.

I would be of the opinion that a SS .22 rifle (or pellet gun) is a good place to start and that 6 is not too young. When they have the handling of the SS down, and can consistantly hit a target with it, then move them up to a small .22, say a Ruger Bearcat or something like that.

Disclaimer: Opinions are like behinds, everyone has one, and they all smell.

OH_Spartan
July 23, 2011, 08:26 AM
I love this thread. As the father of a 7 (boy), 5 (girl) and 4 (boy) year-old it is pertinent.

The reoccurring theme is discernment. When my oldest and his friends were about 4-5 they started playing star wars games shooting each other with pretend blasters, which were fastened frome everything from Legos to dolls. We allowed this game as harmless and pretend until my son started shooting people with his fingers anytime he got frustrated or angry. At the same time he desparately wanted to learn to shoot. I taught him basic gun safety rules and made the deal that when he stops shooting people for pretend, I will teach him to shoot for real. He is getting an air rifle for his birthday next month. I SOOOO proud of how he matured through the process and learned to control his anger. He is a future gun-nut.

Meanwhile my daughter has shown limited interest in guns. She never joins her brothers playing gun games. Occassionaly she will come down the hill to help me pick up my brass, but usually goes back to the house after 20-30 rounds. WELL....we were at the hunting store the other day and they had a rack of Crickets down at kid-level. She ran up to it, grabbed pinkest-of-pink ones, pretended to move the bolt, held it up to her shoulder and pointed it at me saying, "Look daddy, here's a gun I can shoot!" I realized then that I had mis-read her disinterest and been negligent in teaching her safety rules. I have since had two gun safety lessons with her.

VintovkaMosin
July 23, 2011, 11:40 AM
You really have to judge it based on maturity. I shot my first gun when I was 6, and in part b/c I grew up a pacifist, I didn't own a gun until I was 17. Now, I have 5 bolt guns and an SKS.

22-rimfire
July 23, 2011, 12:03 PM
I think you should start teaching your children when they are very young about basic fireamr safety, but especially by the time they might be visiting other kids in their homes. As far as shooting goes, I would start them when they show the interest. If they are interested, they will listen to you and try to learn. If no interest, I wouldn't bother teaching them much of anything beyond "don't touch" and basic safety. They need to be able to identify a real gun from a toy gun.

Coromo said... I don't think so. My wife took the approach to treat toy guns, like water pistols, as if they were real firearms. Seriously, almost to the point of following the 4 rules with them. She told our boy to never point it at anyone, never shoot anyone, and that he could only shoot at the ground. Guess what? He didn't want to play with them then. That wasn't fun, so why bother.

....Anyway, I didn't want him missing out on some of the things I've been reading about, and I didn't want him having no interest in guns, so I explained the whole cowboys/indians-cops/robbers games that we played as kids and she let up. He can shoot me or the dogs all he wants. He can only shoot his sister or mom if he asks them first and they let him. He's definitely not at any point of interest in real guns and he definitely knows the difference. They are just too loud for him right now.

It is a difficult subject when you have a spouse that is so protective of their children that they want to restrict their development. Firearms are part of life, especially in the country, and the sooner they learn the better. I knew more about guns than I did how babies are made when I was 12.

I have no set age, but I really wasn't comfortable beyond a BB gun until I was around 8 or 9. Let the kid's interest or lack of interest guide you in your choices.

USAF_Vet
July 23, 2011, 12:39 PM
My yard is infested with gophers, and my single shot 20 gauge has proved itself a fantastic 'gopher getter' I can usually get one or two every evening when it starts to cool off. The rest don't pop their heads up once they figure out Eugene isn't coming home. Yeah, I've named the gophers once they are dead.

Anyhow, my stepson has gotten mad at me because I didn't tell him I was going gopher gittin'. He's made me promise to let him know when I go out to shoot gophers so he can watch and learn. Since my gopher problem isn't going away anytime soon, and he is getting a .22 / .410 for his birthday, he can get some training before I let him take a few shots at gittin' some gophers of his own.

AlexanderA
July 23, 2011, 01:37 PM
It seems to me that the issue of introducing kids to real guns is closely related to the issue of allowing them to play with toy guns. Toy gun play, by its nature, involves the antithesis of safe gun-handling rules, and it negates the serious consequences of shooting real guns. If it were up to me (and I don't have kids, so I guess this is easier said than done), I'd take them to the range with me and let them handle real guns, under supervision, as soon as they were physically able, but I wouldn't let them play with toy guns at all. This is simply to prevent mixed messages from confusing their little minds. Now, there's a cultural conspiracy involving the entertainment media and the toy manufacturers (and peer pressure), so nixing toy guns in one's household may be an uphill, losing battle. I have to say that I had toy guns when I was a kid, and it didn't do any permanent damage, but then again we didn't have any real guns in the household at the same time (no overlap). So I was able to make a "clean graduation" from toy guns to real guns with no mixed messages.

USAF_Vet
July 23, 2011, 02:14 PM
I grew up with toy guns, but no real guns. The minute I laid hands on a real fire arm, I knew the difference, because I was told the difference. Don't make the mistake of thinking kids are not mentally aware enough to not know the difference. Playing with toy guns and action figures that have guns is a normal male thing when growing up. Watching tv and movies, even shows and movies gear toward kids, you'll see gun violence. It may be a laser gun against a computer animated robot, but a gun is a gun, regardless of it's depiction.

As long as the child is properly educated and supervised, and their curiosity is satisfied, I don't see the problem. Toy guns are not guns, they are toys. If they start treating real guns like toys, then you've already missed the boat.

Kliegl
July 23, 2011, 03:55 PM
I grew up with both. No issue discerning either. My old man kept most locked up, and, while I learned where the ammo cabinet key was, I didn't learn the safe key location until just a couple years ago.

To answer the earlier question, my old man took me to the woods to hunt with him around age 5 or 6. I learned to shoot BB guns and .22s. I remember shooting styrofoam coffee cups off a post with the BB gun, then he put a 2 liter full of water up there and blasted it with a model 97 Winchester. Hydrostatic forces blew that thing in half.

Moved from 22s up to a single shot 20 gauge and slew Bambi at age 9, then on a a 243 a couple years later, then a 30-06 when I was about 14 or so.

Secure the guns, secure the ammo. Separately. A shoebox in a closet is not secure. If they find a gun, it should be unloaded, and the ammo should not be readily available.

The adults at home should have access to a self defense gun, but the kids shouldn't, as long as they are still kids. Once they become young adults, then maybe knowing where one is would be good.

"Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man" is a quote, often altered, and this version may be as well, attributed to the Jesuits. So, before seven, but after 4, maybe 5 or so.

SARDiver
July 23, 2011, 04:58 PM
I don't think so. My wife took the approach to treat toy guns, like water pistols, as if they were real firearms. Seriously, almost to the point of following the 4 rules with them. She told our boy to never point it at anyone, never shoot anyone, and that he could only shoot at the ground. Guess what? He didn't want to play with them then. That wasn't fun, so why bother.

Absolutely no disrespect intended, but that seems a bit much. Must have sucked to get his ass kicked in every water gun fight. :)

BearGriz
July 23, 2011, 05:13 PM
LOL, my wife is paranoid of guns, but thankfully she lets me buy and shoot them. I think that 8 or so would be a good time (at least maybe by then I could convince her to let the kid try). But I might not get her to budge until later.

But the funny thing is just yesterday she asked her friend (whose husband is also into guns) when they are thinking of letting their 4 y.o. start. Her friend said that they started when their son was 2! Maybe I can use her friend to my advantage. :)

22-rimfire
July 23, 2011, 05:22 PM
Her friend said that they started when their son was 2.

Started what at age 2? They can barely walk well.

Gordon_Freeman
July 23, 2011, 07:36 PM
Interesting thread.
Iramo94, it should have been the other way around. You should not have gotten a beating. Your father left a loaded gun out not locked in a safe.

gibson_es
July 23, 2011, 08:52 PM
Im glad i found this thread, im soon to have little girl, and have been wondering all these things. My dad is not a gun guy, by that, he mean he only owns a .22 revolver and thats his HD gun. Get the idea? So ididnt really get any of that. He used to hunt, but dont know anothing abiut guns, go figure. Anyway... I dont have any real "well this is how my dad did it" experiance to go off of. My uncle taught us ( me and my cousins) the basic safetly rules and sometimes let us shoot a few rounds from his bb guns. but that was it. And we were 11-12 at the time. And i dont really have experiancebwith children at all, other then my brother in law who is 11, and not very mature at all. I wouldnt hand him a nerf gun. So i have no understand yet of what to expect, but i tell you abiut him for the sole teason of understanding that its maturity and not age that defines the proper time. At least IMHO. I also think maturity is both from a natural growth, being diferent in every child, and howbthere raised. My BIL for example, i believe his issue is how he is raised, he is the 4th and last child, and only male, almost 10 years younger then number 3. (My wife was there second child) and for what rver reason, they baby him way more then i think they did there other three. Last night i was over there and he was playing some game that was like grand theft auto but worse... At 11! Talking to me about how fun it is to shoot the hookers.

Maybe i need to teach this kid, honestly. Hebdoesnt have any real respect for fire arms. When he gets older i will for sure.

Kliegl
July 24, 2011, 12:02 AM
Don't get him Duke Nukem Forever then. Hooker shooting is part of one level.

twofifty
July 24, 2011, 01:03 AM
Lots of young kids running around the neighborhood playing with nerf guns, water pistols...shooting at each other.

Among them is an 8 y.o. boy whose father is not interested in doing stuff with him. I figured that the kid might benefit from some basic gun safety. Showed him how to keep his finger alongside the toy rifle's receiver unless he is about to take a shot...just like real soldiers and cops do unless they are about to take a shot.

Also said that if he learned this safety habit now, that when he got older the local hunters and shooters would welcome him at the local range.

That was 2 months ago. He is still running around with his finger off the trigger.

gibson_es
July 24, 2011, 01:33 AM
And just to clarify. Those games are fine for adults, and even older teens. But not for an 11 y/o IMHO.

jgiehl
July 25, 2011, 07:07 AM
One thing a lot of parents seemed to have lost their way on now days is that it's not only a parents job to protect, which a lot of parents have gone overboard on. Lots of kids are so protected they have no fun in life whatsoever.

The forgotten lesson in parenthood is education. It's not only my job to protect my children but to educate them as well. Not just in the way of books and school but also in the way of this world, how it operates, social situations, safety, hunting, fishing, girls (yes girls too).

I started teaching my kids not just about guns but also about safety when they came home. Sure enough when he picks up a firearm he checks to make sure it's unloaded not just visually but he'll shove his finger in the barrel too.

Never too early to learn nor is it ever too late, always room for learning.


Edit here:
You could also teach them that they're not just guns, firearms, gats, or heat.
But they are also tools, tools with an intended application.
And just like if you use a screwdriver for a pry bar BAD things begin to happen.

And my favorite:
In the right hands it's a useful tool.
In the wrong hands it becomes a dangerous weapon.

1894
July 25, 2011, 08:53 AM
My son is 8 now. When he wants to be, he's real smart. Nerf guns are a daily affirmation of manhood. He likes to wake me up in the morning by unloading his belt fed full auto Nerf Vulcan on me. (where the heck was this when I was 8?!?). He knows it's a toy.

By around 5 years old, I would grill him on the four rules. He still doesen't get 'em all verbatim/ in order - but he does know them all. In addition to the four, I also (every month or so) give him these questions:

What do you do if you see a gun? Run away and tell an adult.
What do you do if one of your friends shows you a gun? Run away as fast as you can and tell an adult.
What do you do if you want to handle a gun? Ask you Dad.

My thing is this: If he wants to see a gun, all he's got to do is ask. I drop what I'm doing and get the kind of gun he wants to see. I retain positive control at all times. He sits in my lap. I've never caught him hanging around the safe.

Christmas time a year ago I was given the opportunity by a friend to take my boy to shoot at a private outdoor range. On the way there we had a contest between my boy and my friend as to who knew the four rules. My boy won.

My friend had a 10/22 youth model that my boy shot that day. I have never seen my kid have so much fun, while also following absolutley everything I said to the letter, as I did that day. And yes, he kept his booger hook off the bang switch until he was ready to shoot.

The other day I did catch him playing with my bow case. I've never thought about the safety rules with it. Its a 70lb bow and he weighs 50 lbs so I'm not too concerned. But, the fact remains that guns aren't a mystery to him and the bow is...

CoRoMo
July 25, 2011, 09:59 AM
Absolutely no disrespect intended, but that seems a bit much.
I agree. I couldn't bare to see him emasculated like that, so I set things right.

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