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Making a Marksman - What is the Right Age?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by skt239, May 28, 2012.

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  1. skt239

    skt239 Member

    Dec 19, 2007

    Around 9 weeks ago my wife gave me the news I've waited my whole life to hear... There's a baby on the way. Since getting the news I've been on cloud 9 and while up there I've been doing a lot of thinking and planing.

    Being a gun nut, first and foremost is which gun to get he or she when the time comes. However, that's not much of an issue; (probably go with a Bear Cat to match dads New Vaquero) the real question is, what's a good age to get them started?

    I know each child is different in regards maturity and ability and that will certainly play a role in my choice. I'd like to get he or she started as early as possible but I'm not really sure what a good starting point is.

    So, to all the fathers out there, when did you start them off? What did you start them on? Lastly, any tips (and I mean ANY tips) are greatly appreciated.


  2. Old krow

    Old krow Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    MS Gulf Coast
    Congrats on the news!

    I started shooting around age 8 I think.
    I started my son shooting around that same age.
    My oldest nephew waited a little longer, maybe 10 or so.
    My youngest nephew was around 6.
  3. postalnut25

    postalnut25 Member

    Mar 8, 2010
    Colorful Colorado
    The oldest I started wa 8, and the youngest started shooting at 3. I have five kids, and the younger ones were easier to start than the older ones, because the older siblings could help out too.
  4. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    In a part of Utah that resembles Tattooine.
    Demystify from the beginning. Teach safety from the time they start handling. Let it stay fun to make sure they keep interest.

    I would think from 10-12, they are usually ready to learn how to hit things.
  5. ChileRelleno

    ChileRelleno Member

    Nov 14, 2009
    Deep in the Heart of Dixie
    Never too young to start teaching safety.
    Start'em young & start'em right!

    Starting them shooting is a bit more involved.

    When they know the four Golden Rules and can tell you How/Why they are important.
    When they have the appropriate level of maturity & discipline to exercise those rules and Range Safety/Etiquette.
    I started safety training my second boy from the time he could crawl.
    At four it was actively training to begin handling & shooting, the Golden Rules and a BB gun.
    At five he made his first range trip as a shooter.
    At six he received his first firearm, and is proving himself to be safer, more responsible and a better marksman than many adults.

    At some point they NEED to see the damage/consequences that a gun can cause.
    We hunt so seeing a live animal die, seeing the entry/exit wounds and the subsequent lectures about other people/animals and property filled that out.
    If you must take a toy or stuffed animal out and blow it away, make it memorable.

    Firearms need to be as everyday as bicycles, vacuum cleaners and meals.
    No mystery, no taboos, no curiosity... Let them know that if they want to handle a firearm all they have to do is ask.
    And then follow through with that , drop what your doing and teach them well, let them handle till they get bored with it.
    Before every firearms contact, go over the Golden Rules, have them recite them.

    Our 3yr'ol daughter is now showing serious interest, here we go again.

    My wife and I both EDC, we both enjoy range time, looks like two out of three of our kids do too.
    Problem! I have to buy guns/ammo for everybody.

    Last edited: May 28, 2012
  6. YankeeFlyr

    YankeeFlyr Member

    Apr 3, 2012
    Catonsville, MD
    Anyone who puts a firearm in the hands of a toddler should have child welfare services take a serious look at them.

    Youtube has numerous videos of small children being positioned to pull the trigger of a rifle by some "enthusiatic" so-called parent who is living some vicarious fantasy about the child enjoying the experience like Dad thinks he should. That's crazy. "Dad" has to hold the .22 for him and tell him what to do.

    Small children don't understand what they're doing, what the result is, what the resposibility is or even the purpose of discharging firearms. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves in a very, very big way.

    Cognitive development required to know what's fully going on in that situation starts at maybe 7 years old. I know, I know..."my kid is different".

    Right. A child with a gun. The world is full of anecdotes as to why this is OK, and even desirable.

    Wait 'til the kid is 10. Sorry.
  7. ChileRelleno

    ChileRelleno Member

    Nov 14, 2009
    Deep in the Heart of Dixie
    5-6 yrs'ol is hardly a toddler.
    And every kid IS different... I see plenty of 20-30yr'ol kids who shouldn't be handling firearms unattended.
    And every kid with a firearm needs supervision, and that supervision needs to be direct.
    The Range Safety officers/instructors seem to think my 6yr'ol is just fine, safer and more responsible than a lot of adults.
  8. ball3006

    ball3006 Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    As soon as they can hold a gun up AND, understand what they are doing.....chris3

    BADUNAME30 Member

    Mar 24, 2009
    Neshannock, Pa.
    Good question skt239

    I started my boys at 3, 4 and 4.
    One thing that worked VERY WELL in my home was there were no toy guns in our house.
    GUNS ARE NOT TOYS !!!!!!
    As others have stated.demystifiy guns right away.
    Get your kids familiar with the destruction that a bullet can and does cause.
    Our family was hunters so that part was easy.
    Shoot various pieces of fruit that 'explode' on impact.
    My sons' also learned guns inside and out and thier care.
    That also was easy because i was a gunsmith.
    They learned the components of ammo from watching me and eventualy learning to reload.
    Saftey safety safety safety.
    No 2nd chances.
    Infractions dealt with swiftly and harshly.
    Safety is not an option !!!
  10. CZ-100

    CZ-100 Member

    May 12, 2003
    Sourh FL/East TN
    For me it was somewhere after 5 yr old, I do not remember exactly, but I do remember my birthday present at 6, it was a bolt action .22, I shot the heck out of it, with Dad and granddad present, later I added a scope.

    Shot my first rabbit at 6, it was eating my garden, Dad showed me how to clean it, and many more times after that to make sure I did it correctly.

    I still have that .22, I taught my kids how to shoot with it, and hopefully will shoot it when the grand kids are ready. Hopefully in many yrs, Kids are only 20 and 17. :)

    Great Memories...
  11. skt239

    skt239 Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Thanks for the replies guys. I Feel like between 6 and 8 isn't a bad age. I believe I bought my youngest bro his P22 at age 8 and he had no problems understanding how to handle a pistil and be safe. Of course, the gun stayed with me and he only shot it in a very controlled environment.

    I agree, every kid is different. My wife and her brother grew up in a home full of guns that were never locked up. They both learned safety, shooting and hunting at a very young age. The family never once had an issue with either of them touching the guns unless they were with dad.
  12. jeepnik

    jeepnik Member

    Sep 25, 2011
    I was six when I received my Red Ryder for my birthday. At first only supervised, later I was allowed to "go it alone". I eight when I received my Winchester single shot .22. Again, supervised only until dad was sure of me, then I could take it out without any adults around. But truthfully, I remember shooting mostly with my dad or uncle. Could just be a memory thing but I always had a great time with them.

    My eldest started with his first Crossman at 5, his younger brother was almost 7. The difference was that at 5 my eldest was ready, his brother not til he was older. So, it comes down to the individual kid.

    Oh, and I think whether they are the oldest child, I was #3, or not makes a difference in "maturity" level.
  13. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    I've been helping out at my club's Jr .22 evenings for a little over a year now. I've seen a lot of younger kids coming in.

    Before the age of 6 to 7 they simply do not fit the guns. I don't see anything seriously wrong with letting them pull the trigger while dad holds and helps but it's not what I call seroiusly allowing them to shoot. It's more a case of letting them make some noise.

    Around 6 to 8 they are big enough that they can handle the youth model rifles and have enough focus, on good days, to deal with the resposibility.

    Note I said "on good days" above. We had an 8 to 9 year old that was fine one night and acting like a buffoon the next week. Realize that kid's have off days. When they are not prepared to act in a properly resposible manner and take the handling and safety seriously it's time to call it a day. Nothing you can do will alter that if they insist on acting up for whatever reason.

    On the other hand we've had a rather small 7 to 8 year old show up with his dad. Every time I've seen him he is very focused on doing everything right. Sadly he's still too young to fit the rifles we have in a useable manner yet.

    They all grow up at different rates and they all have good and bad days for maintaining focus and control. Recognize that and try to evaluate each in turn. It's tough to avoid the "little league parent" syndrome but for the sake of the child you need to work on it all the time. There life is their's to live. You're simply a guide to aid them in coming out the other end of childhood with enough guidance that they can make up their own minds and do so responsibly.
  14. Redlg155

    Redlg155 Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    NW Florida
    Instead of Dr. Suess and the Cat in the Hat, read ballistic tables to your baby while still in the womb. Graduate to reloading manuals and throw in the Shotgun News on occasion. While she is in labor, read "white feather" by Carlos Hathcock to her while wearing a full Ghillie suit.

    When is old enough? I think when you instill enough discipline where they won't run downrange when you turn your head and actually understand the principles of using open sights. Physical ability to shoulder and fire a rifle offhand is not a factor. Have them shoot from a bench. A child does not need to shoot offhand if you need to hold the rifle. Prior planning can set up the majority of shooting and hunting situations so you won't have to participate. Otherwise you are shooting and just using the child as a trigger pull device.
  15. ChileRelleno

    ChileRelleno Member

    Nov 14, 2009
    Deep in the Heart of Dixie
    Agree with BCRider ^^^

    With my boy, one mistake means an end to all his activity and taking a seat behind the line. Firearms are serious business.
  16. The-Reaver

    The-Reaver Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    I started with toy guns as soon as the baby was out.

    At about 3-4 I started with safety & it has been #1 priority always.

    At 5 I took him to the range. Not to shoot but to watch and learn and not be afraid of the sounds and other surroundings. Also to see that what guns shoot guns destroy.

    At 6 he shot. We go whenever we can he just kind of shoots not really paying attention to the sites. He picks out what he wants to shoot and kind of looks at it. Then pulls the trigger.

    His 7th birthday is coming up. And I keep telling him the burning of ammo isn't just going to happen anymore he's actually going to aim and destroy targets using the sites.

    He uses a Cricket YR .22LR BTW It used to be mine =)

    I love my little minion. =)
  17. ljnowell

    ljnowell Member

    Jun 21, 2008
    The Peoples Republic of IL
    I gave my son a BB gun when he was 4. We stepped up to him shooting my 22s (rifle and handgun) when he was 6. When he was 9 I bought him a mossberg bantam 20ga(youth conversion gun), he is a big kid and could handle the size. When he was 10 I got him a 22lr AR15. He also got a ruger single six convertible in there too. My son is turning 12 on the 3rd of next month and is safer than most of the adults I have shot with and can handle his own on the 25 yard pistol range. Nothing makes a dad more proud than seeing his boy work the action and load and unload a single action revolver.
  18. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    My kids all started with some level of "shooting" involvement when they were ~3 -- if they could recite the 4 rules and give some explanation. (And they could!)

    At that age "shooting" involved sitting in Dad's lap with Dad's hands on the gun, over the kid's hands, keeping muzzle discipline and guiding every twitch and movement.

    By 7, my daughter had moved up a bit and could demonstrate a decent stance:

    (629, .44 Specials)

    Each kid is very specific and some will want to be involved sooner/more and others later/less. Some will be READY for each next step sooner and some later. Some will have an attention span (ability to focus on SAFETY) that runs longer than others.

    Never PUSH a kid to do any shooting. Always leave them wanting more, and quit while you're still at the top of their enthusiasm and ability to focus.

    And, of course, safety, safety, SAFETY! There are very good kids' sized eye and ear protection available now, so no excuses about not protecting them!
  19. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    Frozen North
    When you start depends on the child and the trainer
    quality of marksman is MOSTLY a product of quality of instruction/training and practice, some have a natural talent, other take longer and have to work harder.
  20. deputy tom

    deputy tom Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    My son started shooting at age 5. He graduated the Police Academy in the top ten. He was the best shot in the class. When asked how did he learn to shoot that well he replied, "I learned from the best. My Dad." Made me very proud.I cried at his graduation. tom.:cool:
  21. BadaBing11

    BadaBing11 Member

    May 27, 2012
    My dad started me with a bb gun at 4. There was no such thing as a "toy" gun after that. I was taught all the rules of gun safety. If Dad saw me handling a toy gun incorrectly, he quickly reprimanded me. Needless to say, I learned the rules very quickly. By age 8, I was shooting .410 at clays. The same year I moved up t 12 Ga. I remember coming home with a black and blue shoulder, but I would go out the very next day if I could. I just loved it that much.

    Just some advice from experience; if you hunt, don't hurry your kid into that. My dad hunted and got me into it as soon as I started shooting shotgun. I was devastated when I killed my first animal. I kept going cause my Dad loved it and I wanted to be like him. I regretted ( and still do ) killing every animal I have shot.

    Point is, being a shooter isn't the same as being a hunter. If hunting is right for your son, let him come to that on his own. Please understand, I am not anti hunting. It just is not right for me.

    Congratulations on your baby!

    Best regards,

  22. JonathanE

    JonathanE Member

    Apr 27, 2012
    For young and small shooters (way too young for Yankee Flyr's approval!), I really like the Rossi Tuffy. LOP seems about 2"shorter than with the other youth models (Cricket etc).
    Two positions that work well for us: Prone, lying on top of the bench with her little backpack for a rest. I can cock the hammer and have complete control, while to her she feels like she's in charge of the rifle.
    Seated between my legs, me seated behind her, helping to hold her hands up. She sits back into my chest.
    Also, after I sight in the rifle, we shoot balloons tacked up to the backstop. She doesn't yet care how far she is from Bull; only whether or not it pops!
    I am amazed at how quickly they learn good sight picture this way.
  23. Snag

    Snag Member

    May 27, 2012
    Best as I can remember I started with bb and pellet guns around 7 or 8. They where the introduction and I can clearly remember having to treat those guns as if they where "real" guns. My Pa watched me like a hawk and if I even came close to breaking any of the rules I got yelled at. Not so much that it made it not fun, but close. Then came the 22's. A High Standard pistol and a Remington Model 12 pump rifle. 22 is great for kids. Cheap and fun. Next after that was larger rifle stuff. Like 243, 25-35, 300 Savage, 308, etc. Never really got in to larger handguns until I was an adult.

    I only have a daughter, currently 17, but I did the same thing with her as what happened to me. Albeit starting at an older age. Like others have said you'll have to feel it out and try to gauge how much interest they have in it. My daughter had no interest for a long time. Then one time I took her shooting and she was more curious, made a few nice shots, then she really became interested.

    My two cents, besides the obvious importance of safety, revolves around caliber selection and gun type. Again this relates to me having a daughter but I think it probably applies to all kids.....don't hand a a 12 year old or even a 14 year old a 30-06 and say go for it. Obvious I know, but still I can't count how many adult women I have heard say uncle so-and-so ruined shooting for me with a similar story. First rifle my daughter shot was a 243 and she handles it like a champ. Great kid friendly first rifle. The other thing I never thought about was grip strength. Kids have none. Things like aiming and pulling the trigger with a pistol might not be a problem but other things like ejecting a magazine and racking a slide are very hard. My daughter can't eject the magazine on my Buck Mark, just doesn't have the finger length or strength. Bolt action rifles and revolvers are more kid friendly than lever guns and semi-autos.
  24. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2002
    Centennial, CO
    Its likely a generational thing but my older brother was started with BB guns at 3, myself about 5.
  25. Texan Scott

    Texan Scott Member

    May 2, 2012
    The Texas Hill Country
    safety from an early age. demystify the gun. it is not cool, it is not mysterious. when they're old enough to cope, show them what is does. my oldest was 6 when a wild animal mauled one of ours (livestock, not a family dog or something). she watched me put the animal down with a rifle. she remembers it clearly to this day. guns are tools, but to be respected.
    teach shooting when the show both inclination to do so AND ability to comprehend taking a life - even animals. for my kids (maybe because i scarred a bit them when they were little) this was about 11-12. also, congrats! get good vaults (pistol & rifle) for your guns, and start stocking up on pickles & chocolate, jello, hot peppers, etc.
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