Kids & Initial Firearms Exposure

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by 264swedmoor, Nov 30, 2021.

  1. 264swedmoor

    264swedmoor Member

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    All insight is welcome, especially from those who have actually taught children how to shoot.

    The question: assuming that a child demonstrates a reliably consistent ability to follow directions, (a) what is a good age to expose them to shooting and (b) what do you start them on?

    Background:
    My daughter is going to be six early next year and shows interest in mathematics, mechanical things, and horses (specifically rainbow unicorns). She's extremely curious, learns fast, and has a near-perfect memory...which she gets from my wife. She's somewhere >95th percentile for height which could make handling a low-recoil firearm a little easier, especially if benched.

    My wife and I both believe that instilling respect for firearms is vital and we want to demystify the idea of guns early so they are not tempted to discover them in an environment outside of our control (ex. at a friend's house). I want both of our kids to know what guns can do so they understand that they are very dangerous when handled carelessly. Also, knowing how to shoot is a skill in itself.

    I've showed my daughter a gun and ammunition and explained she must never touch either of them without express permission from us, not just "an adult". If she's at a friend's house and sees a gun or ammunition, she needs to leave the area and tell an adult. If there is no adult, she must come home immediately. To me, this seems like a message that guns are scary and should be feared. I want to convert that fear to respect. She knows "guns aren't bad, but they're dangerous" and I want her to understand that they can be used safely and that they need to be handled a certain way.

    I know how to teach and have provided technical instruction to adults so the idea of setting lesson objectives and continuous performance assessments is not a new thing to me. I don't want to mess everything up by starting her too early.
     
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  2. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    I started both my girls on BB guns at around 8 and graduated to .22 rifles by 10. By 13-14 they were building and shooting ARs.
     
  3. Bazoo

    Bazoo Member

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    My son is 2. I've already started. I show him my gun, and tell him he can look at it only with mommy or daddy. He watches me shoot sometimes. He likes to watch clay pigeons. Guns aren't taboo in our home. I always have my gun on, and it's as common to me as having my boots on.

    I'm interested with learning more about teaching my young'un.

    Ps, as part of looking at my gun, we also recite the 4 rules of firearms safety.
     
  4. Obturation

    Obturation Member

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    I'm interested too. My oldest is 4, has seen guns all her life and knows what they are and what they do. I got her a nerf gun last Christmas but I had to take it away because she kept shooting her little sister in the face . well start with bb guns in the next year or so and get her going a little but I think the key is to normalize firearms to them. Remove the mystery and let them learn without pressure.

    I'll be watching this thread for insight.
     
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  5. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    You know to teach adults. Your daughter is not different. Talk to her plainly. Explain everything.

    I started my 3 kids and 12 grandkids, when they were able to understand and communicate. (2-3) Talking about gun safety and watching me shoot.
    At 4, I had them standing in front of me (squatting). Showing them a .22LR cartridge, .44Mag and a .30-06. Loading a Single Actions .22, they held the gun. We discussed safety and operation. A gallon jug of water, 5 yards out front. They shot the jug.

    At 9yo, they received a pump shotgun. At 13, a deer rifle.

    Rule #1, don't treat them like them child. You want them to have respect, maturity, and understanding, to be aware of firearms power and use. Treat them as they are capable.

    I had a Mom (cousin of D-i-L, never fired a gun and scared to death) ask if I could show her 6yo son how to shoot. We were having a bbq and I had grandkids on our private range.
    8yo grandson was shooting cowboy loads in .357. We stood behind, watched and talked safety. His first shot ever was .357.
    After firing 5 rounds and emptying the cylinder of spent brass, checking to be sure all was empty. Hands me the gun and runs to Mom.
    After 30 minutes of his joy and rambling, she asked if she could try.

    Talk plain
    Go slow
    Make sure they understand
    Answer all questions, with respect
    MAKE IT FUN! Show them your excitement to have them there.
     
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  6. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

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    Buy her a pellet rifle and pay her $20 for every squirrel she shoots with the stipulation that you must observe the first 5 for safety, proper background, etc.

    And then as she grows, just ratchet it up from there. $100 for the first 25 in trap, etc. The rest (ethics, responsibility, etc. will work themselves out)
     
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  7. Bazoo

    Bazoo Member

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    I know a guy who's got a few guns. For a good while, guns weren't brought out to show until the kids went to bed.

    I think they are like 7-8 now and have shot a small amount.

    Part of it, with any kids, is discipline. Most folks now days parent in a style I dub "free range".
     
  8. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    I think this video has one of the most lucid discussions on the topic of kids and first guns, in the dual contexts of what age is appropriate and what guns will be actually interesting to them:



    Don't know whether this is any help, but in my case I grew up in a household that was split on the subject of firearms: dad was a country boy who used and liked them, mom was a city girl who considered guns to be tools of the devil. I can't recall now whether I was first exposed to firearms at a shooting gallery or at my grandparent's place in rural Nebraska, but it was a few years before I was old enough for the Boy Scouts. Grandpa and dad gave me some basic instruction and stayed alongside all the time I was shooting grandpa's .22 rifle at his farm. Along with driving a tractor, shooting was a casual initiation to manly activities for me, and without a lot of admonitions from these two adults I understood this was a privilege for a city boy of my age.

    I became hooked and never looked back. In my later teens dad finally showed me his small collection of three service rifles (No.4 Lee Enfield, M93 Spanish Mauser and postwar Czech Mauser K98k, still in their Interarmco boxes) that he'd hidden from the rest of the family the previous ten years. That was also a rite of passage -- it meant dad trusted me to keep my mouth shut to mom! A year later he rewarded that trust on my 16th birthday by relenting and buying me my first Marlin-Glenfield .22 rifle. I'm pretty confident mom never found out about that one either.
     
  9. 264swedmoor

    264swedmoor Member

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    I envy those who do not have to concern themselves with "city limits." And we don't have any squirrels. I like the approach though!
     
  10. chicharrones

    chicharrones needs more ammo

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    I started my youngest daughter on a pellet rifle when she was in elementary school and she advanced to a rimfire rifle while in middle school.

    My two stepdaughters didn't show interest until they were in high school, and that was with handguns. So, I started them on CO2 BB pistols, then moved them up to .22 autoloaders. One of them has fired centerfire pistols as an adult where she lives out of state.

    My stepson has shown no interest other than how guns relate to video games, so he has never had his hands on a loaded anything in my presence in his 24 years on this planet.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2021
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  11. DR505

    DR505 Member

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    Mom and I, both LE, explained our sidearms to our son the moment he asked about them (about 3 yrs old). Took all the mystery out of them. He knows they are tools and to leave them alone.

    Got him a BB gun at 6 and helped him learn to shoot.

    When he was 8 I took him to family day and took him to our range. The first time he shot a firearm was that day; an M1A1 Thompson SMG. He shot it full auto and had a great time.

    He is 11 now and has a .22 rifle and a .22 pistol. This Christmas he gets a 20 gauge shotgun. Of course I keep them locked in the safe and take them out when we go shoot together.
     
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  12. v8stang289

    v8stang289 Member

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    It definitely depends on the child, their attitude, how well they listen, learn, etc.
    I started my oldest on a BB gun around 4, and a Savage Rascal 22lr at 5. He's now 13, has shot most of the guns I own, and really enjoys shooting and hunting. He's always listened well and been very disciplined and mature.
    My youngest is 7 and has shot a BB gun a few times, but otherwise isn't ready to move to actual firearms. He isn't as mature, and tends to push the boundaries of things a bit more. I do still talk to him about guns and safe handling though.
    Use your best judgement to determine when they're ready.
     
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  13. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    I started shooting BB guns at 7, .22’s and .410 shotgun at 8. The gun cabinet was in the living room of the Ranch house, so there was no mystery or taboo. We could look at any gun in the cabinet as long as we asked first and showed it was clear to my Grandfather.

    My son started shooting his Red Ryder at 8, he got his first gun (Henry Youth .22) at 11. My daughter doesn’t have a gun yet (She’s into more expensive motorcycles) but she also starred shooting at 8.

    I’ve carried a gun on and off duty since looong before they were born, to them they’ve always been a part of our household. Again, I purposely made guns no mysterious or taboo object, they’ve all been exposed to them and shot with me several times. They’ve also been counseled to walk away and talk to an adult immediately if a friend pulls out a gun to show off at their house while on a visit.

    Stay safe.
     
  14. ECVMatt
    • Contributing Member

    ECVMatt Contributing Member

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    I started my kids as soon as they showed interest. My sons started around 4 with a CZ scout and CB caps and my daughter was about 5. Initially I was determined to teach my kids how to shoot with iron sights which quickly led to frustration on all sides and the kids wanting to stop shooting and do something else.

    Being a teacher by trade, I thought about how I was teaching them and realized that my learning goal for them was not appropriate for their age so I rethought things a bit. I realized that I wanted to teach my kids to love shooting as much as I did so we could shoot and hunt as a family. I could not compromise on safety, but if I wanted to reach my goal I needed to make the shooting part as easy and fun as possible. Kind of like learning the ABC's before learning how to spell words.

    I quickly put a red dot on the Scout and bought some big reactive steel targets and some shooting bags. I made it as easy and fun as possible for them to shoot and get the loud ping of steel. I also stopped as soon as they got bored and moved onto another outdoors activity so they would not associate shooting with boredom. This worked remarkably well and my kids were hooked in no time. I was also pleased to see that the natural desire for improvement translated over to shooting. As my youngest son improved his shooting he wanted to switch to sights like mine (iron sights on that particular gun). This led to the practice and understanding of iron sights.

    So from all this my main three takeaways are: safety, fun, and engagement. If you can create a safe environment, with fun shooting activities, and stop when they show the first signs of boredom, then you should be on the right path.

    I will also add the children mature at different ages and parents should not force children to do things they are not comfortable doing. Just relax, give it some time and things will eventually work out. I have seen too many children turn off of things they liked because of overbearing parents.

    Good luck and keep us posted on the progress.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2021
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  15. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    I like to explain to my 8 year old, same as my pa told me, “keep that action open after you fire!” This essentially turns your firearm into a harmless pipe. (Still point it in a safe direction.)
    I also have repeatedly explained how far a bullet can travel, so he can keep that in mind if he’s ever shooting up into a tree at a squirrel or grouse. Have fun with your kiddo!
     
  16. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I’m just gonna leave these here...

    2 years of age
    C854E8EF-3C88-4872-9E44-830900908663.jpeg

    2 years of age
    8B2D747A-3C46-4033-9489-025D87DBF5A8.jpeg

    3 years of age
    3FF29019-8195-4688-A8A0-1B2749F19307.jpeg

    4 years of age
    39DE1C36-E5A6-4E09-8772-57471C3BB724.jpeg

    6 years of age (at 800 yards)
    A0F65120-3EC7-4051-AFC7-3B5926EC3A20.jpeg

    6 years of age
    8084B9E2-99FF-493E-8D0F-54D3FC40D933.jpeg

    7 years of age (at 300yrds)
    833710C5-1859-4866-B8C9-EC264EDD203F.jpeg

    7 years of age
    6C0EB5F7-EC4B-476B-918C-9E32F4932951.jpeg

    7 years of age
    12695F1F-149E-4E03-B1FD-CA5FE4B5E0D4.jpeg

    7 years of age
    F1DA1740-7E61-440D-9428-4EB688335AB1.jpeg
     
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  17. armoredman

    armoredman Member

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    Is there a 4H shooting sports program in your area? They can accept members as young as 8, for rifle, pistol, shotgun and hunting programs.
     
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  18. wombat13

    wombat13 Member

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    I started my kids on archery at about 5 years old. They started with instinctive shooting and then moved to a front sight only and then added a peep sight in the string. ECVMatt is correct - very important to shoot with them as long as they are having fun and then no more. You don't want it to become a chore. At first I got frustrated with my oldest. It would take me 30 minutes to get things setup and then she would only want to shoot her bow for 10 minutes. Then I realized the problem was my expectations. So I setup the archery targets permanently so she could shoot however long or short and without it being a burden for me. The other benefit of archery for us, is that we can do it in our backyard, but can't with firearms. Also, this being NY, the local range only allows kids 12+ who have taken the hunter's safety course. That means we have to drive a ways to our hunting property for the kids to shoot guns.

    I still did all the stuff mentioned above regarding demystifying guns and teaching safety. Just the other day I told my son, again, that any time he wants to see any of my guns to just ask. I may not be able to show him that minute, but I'll make time before he goes to bed. You can also teach all the safety rules and marksmanship technique with archery. Once they know how to shoot the bow you can move up to a trigger style release which teaches them to keep their finger of the trigger til ready to shoot. Peep sight in string with front sight pin is just like a peep sight on a rifle. Moving to rifles isn't that hard after archery.
     
  19. jak67429

    jak67429 Member

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    My son started with a single shot 22 at age 5, by age 10 was competing by 12 was shooting highpower competitions out to 600 yards. my oldest granddaughter started at 4 with a pellet gun, gave her a 22 for her 6 birthday. at 8 was competing in steel challenge with a 22 rifle. now shoots 22 rifle 22 pistol iron sight 22 pistol optics and pcc. Middle gd is by far the best shot and easiest person I ever taught to shoot but does not like to compete, she will easily ring 300 yard 8" gong offhand with a 233 ar. my youngest is 6 and is not ready to start shooting way to flighty and does not concentrate.
     
  20. Skylerbone

    Skylerbone Member

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    Curiosity wanes the older most people get as we fill our lives with what will become routine so starting as early as possible IMO helps to shape that mentality about firearms.

    My kids started at 3 or 4 years of age, pint-size .22 rifles, helping flip primers and operating the reloading press by taking turns. They understand how ammunition works, that firearms command a healthy respect, and that they can be fun as well.

    As much as anything, your own enthusiasm serves as a child’s model for behavior meaning any time you engage with firearms you must be prepared to be positive. When things go wrong (rifle won’t shoot, sights are off, scope broke) remain calm and have a back up plan. Also, have an ice cream after for a job well done.
     
  21. webrx
    • Contributing Member

    webrx Contributing Member

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    Each child is different, some you can start early, some you can’t. I have taught many kids to shoot, including some groups of 8 year olds.

    Supervision, a single shot .22 rifle with a scope, yes a scope as you want them to be successful in hitting stuff. Iron sight can come later.

    Spinners are good or water filled jugs or soda cans.

    Check your background, never point at anything you are not going to shoot, finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, treat the gun like it is always loaded

    there is no respawn in real life.

    one shot at a time.

    Short sessions, if their attention wanders end the session on a good note but don’t push them if they can’t focus.

    I started my boys when they showed interest and I felt they could pay attention and follow the rules. Between 5 and 7 for my 4 boys.

    d
     
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  22. IdaD

    IdaD Member

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    Totally depends on the kid. My 11 almost 12 year old enjoys shooting 22 and AR rifles and has for a couple of years, and she's pretty good at it. My 9 year old hasn't really been interested to do much beyond shooting a BB gun a few times. My 6 year old...we'll get there. I have an 11 year old nephew that enjoys shooting but his responsibility level means heavy oversight and one round at a time.
     
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  23. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    I was at the range, a Dad shows up with his 2 girls (12 & 8).
    Greeted them and went "COLD". I had never seen them before. Talked a little, while setting up.He had just joined the club and wanted to get this girls interested.

    I was doing a ladder test and shooting very slow. So, I was watching him with his oldest.
    He had any old bolt action .22LR that was way too long for his daughter. She was trying to shoulder it, he was trying to explain sight picture. She fired 3 shots, all missed the Hong. She was drying and walked off. At down and was playing in her phone.
    The youngest walked up and he started explaining to her.

    I gathered up my 10/22, turned in the red dot, got a couple of banana mags and asked him if he would like for them to try it. It might fit them better.

    He takes the 10/22 and shoulders it, looks through the red dot and starts to explain it to his daughter. He has it nested in the sandbags, she shoulders it and looks at the red dot. Puts the dot on the Hong and squeezes the trigger. Pow / pink! THIS IS COOL!
    Pow / pink
    Pow / pink
    THIS IS SO COOL!
    Oldest looks up from her phone and walks over to the bench.
    Pow / pink
    Pow / pink
    Oldest, " let me try. "

    They shot a brick before leaving.
    We are good friend, now, also. Oldest graduated HS last May.

    Make it safe, but MAKE IT FUN!
     
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  24. Buzznrose

    Buzznrose Member

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    I agree that pellet/BB guns are the right way to start and progressing from there would be based on the child and mentor.

    Safety gear and safety rules stressed every outing. Maybe use a video prior to each session and discuss as necessary. May be some useful info in these videos:







    Don’t scare the kids (or other new shooters)…but fact based warnings are a must.

    Good luck. My grandson is 13 months…I’m already eager to get him started but we will proceed at HIS pace.
     
  25. trackskippy

    trackskippy Member

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    I think "you" setting the pace is the better way to go. They dont get a choice. The sooner you start working with them, the better too.

    Kids are learning sponges, arent stupid, and usually pick things up quickly, especially if youre constantly working with them, and that goes for everything, not just guns. The more you work with them, and show them the way, the smarter they are earlier and the better off everyone will be.

    The longer you wait, the more difficult it will get, and especially once they start getting bad outside influences, like TV, movies, games, friends, etc, which anymore, is fairly early.
     
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