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Newbies at the range

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by White Horseradish, Mar 8, 2006.

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  1. White Horseradish

    White Horseradish Member

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    I had a conversation with a friend recently and mentioned that I know several people that would like to go shooting either for the first time or after a break of many years. He said that I should be careful with inexperienced people. That struck me as a particularly important consideration.

    So, what are your thoughts on taking newbies to the range? What to watch for? Dos/don'ts?

    So far, a safety lecture and starting small (.22 if possible) come to mind.
     
  2. Stickjockey

    Stickjockey Member

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    Watch the size of the group. If you have more than, say, 2-3 people, get another person to help out or split them into a couple bunches.
     
  3. Bobarino

    Bobarino member

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    i'd only take 1 or 2 at a time so an eye can be kept on them. other than that, emphasize FUN over all else (except for safety of course) for the first few outings. don't worry about bull's eyes or proper stances. you can work on those later. just let them blast away and have a hay day.

    Bobby
     
  4. Red Tornado

    Red Tornado Member

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    I think the easiest mistake for newbies to make is improper muzzle control. Make sure they don't cover you or anybody else at the range. All the 4 rules of course, but that seems the most common, and not just newbies, for that matter.
    RT
     
  5. Lupinus

    Lupinus Member

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    before you go to the fireing line go over rules. Somewhere else, parking lot, doesn't matter whatever is appropriate on your situation. This should incude general safty and range specific rules. Also answering general questions.

    Next work in small goups, one maybe two people at a time with an experienced shooter. Start with the basics, an unloaded gun and how to properly hold it and use the sights. Then show them how to load the gun, and fire off a loading so they can see someone upclose shooting. Then show them how to properly verify the gun is indeed empty then they get to take it load it (only a few rounds) and then when they go to fire instruct them on how to properly pull the trigger.

    Repeat any instructions you feel as being nessisary at any time. Above all keep a close constant eye on them.

    One trip to the range guy brought his girl friend heard him talking to the RO and gathered was her first time listoned in since they set up close to me he supervised for all of ten minutes before moving himself to a longer lane to fire a different gun leaving her all by herself.
     
  6. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Member

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    +1 on Lupinus' comments. I just took my wife for the first time, and decided at the last minute to go over the Rules with her at home before we left. I'm glad I did because the range was extremely busy, and she would not have been able to hear any of the rules with all the noise. It was much easier for me to be able to just remind her of her trigger finger, or muzzle control, than to have to have explained it all there. With that experience, I did the same with my 10 year old daughter, and she had several good questions that I was able to answer in a much easier environment.
     
  7. Gendaito

    Gendaito Member

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    do a safety session BEFORE you get to the range

    +1 on the suggestion to go over the basics before you get to the range. Once everyone has eyes and ears on, it much more difficult to communicate properly.

    Whenever I take someone to the range to use my guns, if I have any concerns at all about their level of experience/skill/comfort, I arrange for them to meet my at my place so we can go over the safety rules, the manual of arms for each specific gun, and basic range etiquette. Then we head to the range together.

    Also, I generally don't shoot much myself during these trips. I spend most of the time watching my guests, looking for issues with muzzle control, proper grip, etc.

    New shooters are the future of our sport, don't ever forget that! Taking a beginner to the range is probably the best thing you can do to ensure your own 2A rights...
     
  8. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    One newbie. Not two. Not 17. One.
     
  9. pax

    pax Member

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    A few old threads you may want to read:

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=179079 (someone who did it right)

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=183624 (someone who did it wrong)

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=173337 (someone who nearly got killed doing it)

    My tips:

    As others have said, go over range safety first. Do that away from the range, so they are able to hear you easily and ask questions. What's the safety briefing?

    First, talk about The Four Rules. If you cannot recite them yourself, from memory, you aren't yet ready to take a newbie to the range by yourself. Learn them! A few days before your range trip, hand your newbie a printed copy of the four rules and encourage them to memorize the rules. Tell them you'll quiz them on the rules later.

    Rule One: All guns are always loaded. This rule means that no matter what, you will always treat a firearm with the respect you would give it if you knew it was loaded. You never do anything with an unloaded gun that you wouldn't do with a loaded gun. This is the most basic rule and all other safety rules follow naturally from it.

    Rule Two: Do not point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. This rule applies whether the gun is loaded or not! (See Rule One...) Do not allow the gun to point at your toes or your lower leg after you fire. Do not allow the gun to point at your abdomen or left arm while you rack the slide. Do not allow the gun to point at other shooters, no matter what you are doing with the gun and no matter where the shooters are standing. Do not allow the gun to point at the sky because you don't know where the bullets would land if the gun fired.

    Rule Three: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. Make sure your newbie understands that they will probably need to be reminded of this rule more than once, and that if you remind them, it isn't anything personal. Most new shooters have a hard time teaching the trigger finger to do what the brain knows to do, so there's no shame in being reminded.

    Rule Four: Be sure of your target and what's beyond your target. Make sure there's nothing between you and your target, too -- and if you're not sure the area behind the target is clear and will stop a bullet, don't fire.

    Other talking points:

    In going over the rules, make sure your newbie understands and agrees that you will stop him if he's about to do something unsafe. Explain that it's part of the learning process and that you don't mean anything personal by it. If the newbie doesn't seem to be taking this part seriously, stop right there and don't take them to the range with you. (This really is a matter of life and death ... possibly yours, because you're the one who'll be standing the closest if something goes wrong. They don't have to take it as seriously as you must, but if they blow you off, don't keep pushing. It's not worth the risk!)

    Tell them that if they are shooting and you say, "Stop," they need to stop moving and stand still, not turn around to see what's wrong. Tell them you probably won't need to do that but that if you do, it doesn't mean anything except that you are taking care of keeping them safe. Tell them that you might tap them on the shoulder to get their attention, but that if they are holding a gun they must not turn around.

    Talk about the safety gear you'll wear -- eye protection, hearing protection, hats, high-collared shirts. Explain that sometimes people get hit with empty brass cases. Explain that hot brass isn't really dangerous by itself, but that sometimes people do dangerous things when they're hit with brass, and that they need to trust their safety gear rather than freak out if a piece of brass hits them. Add that even if a piece of brass goes somewhere it's not supposed to, that they must keep the gun pointed downrange at all times ... and that it's best to set the gun down on the bench if they need to get rid of a piece of brass.

    Discuss rules specific to your own range -- eg, stay behind the yellow line during cease fires & don't touch stuff on the bench while folks are downrange. Explain that range rules are different from one place to the next, and that the specific range rules are posted so they don't have to work too hard remembering that kind of stuff.

    Then and only then, you can discuss shooting basics: sight alignment, grip, trigger squeeze. Try not to overwhelm your newbie here. If their eyes glaze over by the time you get to this point, stop. The only really important thing you need to make sure they know is how to be safe. Everything else is just gravy.

    Things to bring with you to the range:

    * Ear muffs for you and for them. Electronic muffs are best because then you can hear what they're up to.

    * Ear plugs for them, to wear in addition to the muffs, after the safety briefing is over. Remember you'll have to holler to be heard over doubled-up hearing protection, but it'll help them avoid developing a flinch.

    * Eye protection for both of you. Basic prescription glasses are not generally good enough; get a pair of protective glasses that fit over the Rx ones. Make sure the eye protection has decent side shields.

    * Hat with a brim for both of you. The side shields and the hat brim prevent brass from dropping in behind the glasses, an important issue especially with a newbie who cannot be expected to keep the gun pointed safely downrange when in pain & distress.

    * Shirts with high collars. Esp if your newbie is female, make sure to warn her to wear a shirt with a high collar. The hot-brass dance is dangerous.

    * Big targets. And you're going to put them close rather than far away. You want your newbie to experience good success. If your range allows it, use reactive targets, things that pop or fall over or make a noise when shot, because reactive targets don't keep a record of misses the way paper targets do.

    * Small caliber guns. A .22 is ideal. 9mm is better than .45 -- at least in this context! ;) .38 special is a good choice too. Stay away from super-lightweight guns, however. Basically, you want a heavy gun and a small caliber, so recoil is minimized. Your newbie may or may not mind the recoil, but their shooting will definitely be better in the long run if they start out on something mild.

    * Hand wipes to clean up with. You can talk about lead contamination some, but full instruction about that isn't necessary unless & until they become shooters themselves.

    * Your most patient attitude. The newbie is going to do some things "wrong." Don't try to fix everything at once! Focus only on safety issues -- those are the only issues that really matter for the first outing. Your first priority is to keep them safe. Your second priority is to help them have fun. Everything else is a distant third behind these two goals.

    Things to leave at home:

    * Your own plans to shoot. The first outing is all about your newbie. If things go well, you might have a chance to shoot a little; if they don't, you won't. Understand that going in and you'll be a lot happier if your newbie needs more hand-holding than you expected.

    * Arrogance. The attitude you want to convey is that you want to share your world with them, and that safety is important -- not that you know everything there is to know about guns and that you are the source of all shooting wisdom. If they ask you a question you don't know the answer to, tell them you don't know.

    When you get to the range:

    Put the target close.

    Set out only one gun; if you've brought more than one, keep the others boxed up until your newbie is ready for the change. Set out only one magazine. Don't put the ammunition out until after dryfire (see below); when you do, set out only one kind of ammunition. Avoid confusing your newbie with clutter!

    Show your newbie how to hold the gun and how to stand. Do NOT make this complicated. Stick with the basics of keeping their thumbs out of the way of the recoiling slide or their fingers away from the cylinder, so they'll be safe. Tell them they'll need to grasp the gun tightly. Don't talk too much about recoil, but do mention it in passing as a reason to hold the gun firmly.

    Before loading the gun, show them the gun's controls, and have them practice racking the slide if they need to. Show them how to put the magazine in and take it back out again. Show them how to lock the slide back, or how to open the cylinder. Show them how the ammunition feeds into the gun. Explain again about brass. (This whole step can be done at home, if you've got a safe place for it -- but do it again on the range anyway.)

    Let them handle the gun a little bit themselves. Watch the trigger finger and remind them to keep it alongside the frame rather than on the trigger, even while they are dropping the magazine or working the slide. Be especially conscious of muzzle direction and remind them of it if necessary.

    Have your newbie dry fire a little bit. While they do that, talk to them about what the sights look like and how they are supposed to line up on the target. Draw a quick sketch of that if they seem to need it, otherwise don't. Watch their trigger finger while they dry fire, and remind them that the instant the gun comes down, the finger goes off the trigger.

    Show your newbie how to load ammunition into the magazine. Have them watch you while you fire one or two rounds, so they know what to expect. Fire very, very slowly so they don't try to imitate you shooting fast.

    Have them load only one round to begin with. Later on they can load the magazine full. You do not know how they are going to react to the first shot firing, and you want to familiarize them with the gun in any case. So have them load one, shoot one for at least 10 rounds. Watch their trigger finger.

    Stand just barely behind their strong-side elbow, within easy reach, while they are firing. A surprising number of newbies will turn around to look at you immediately after the first shot fires -- be ready for this and prepared to stop them if necessary.

    Watch their hands, not the target and not everyone around you. The target will still be there when your friend is done shooting. Esp for first few rounds, watch the weak-hand thumb. Some folks will put it behind the slide sometime during that first trip to the range. For revolvers, watch to be sure no fingers are getting too close to the cylinder. Both types, watch the trigger finger. Nag about the trigger finger if you need to, but do it politely.

    Give them praise. If they are doing well for a newbie, say so. Say so again. And then again. Don't say anything bad about their marksmanship; you weren't all that hot the first time you shot either and marksmanship is not the name of the game today anyhow. First priority it to be safe, second priority is to have fun. If they are doing both those things, they are doing very well.

    After they've fired at least 10 load one/shoot one rounds, they may be ready to load more than one at a time. Some folks take longer; don't suggest they move up to that until you are convinced they can do so safely.

    Suggest that they take their first target home to keep. Sign it! :) And invite them back -- not "sometime again," but for a specific date and time.

    HTH.

    pax
     
  10. thorazine

    thorazine Member

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    Prior to them squeezing off their very first round, yell "Hit the deck!" then run!

    Gaurenteed, the look on their face will be priceless!

    -and-

    Twenty two, smutty two.

    Start them off with a 10MM loaded up with some double tap ammunition.
     
  11. bnelson2943

    bnelson2943 Member

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    Don't Assume

    Another thing....Don't assume the ones that say they have shot before really know what they are doing. I took a guy who said he had shot a semi auto pistol before and before I could catch him he took the top of his thumb off because of a improper grip.
     
  12. nomadboi

    nomadboi Member

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    I take noobs all the time, since I do a lot of work with actors, and I like to give them a feel for the real deal first.
    In addition to what's already been said, I:
    *Try to do a quick training, tour, and safety lecture with airsoft first.
    *Clear it with the rangemaster first.
    *Try to stay towards the left side of the range, which is the opposite of what I normally do- from what I've heard (and it makes sense) more ADs go to the left, from when people turn the gun to hit a mag release, look at the thing, or whatever.
    *Stand slightly behind and to the left side the first couple shots, so I can watch their form, stay away from flying brass, and make a quick grab for their hands if I feel the need.


    I'm not an NRA sanctioned instructor or any kinda pro myself, but I do like to let actors see what real kick feels like before they try to fake it.

    Sometimes I'll also bring some blank guns. People must think my aim really sucks when I pull those out...:D
     
  13. White Horseradish

    White Horseradish Member

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    Man, there's some good stuff here. Pax, that is one excellent treatise on the subject.

    Keep them coming, guys.
     
  14. nomadboi

    nomadboi Member

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    Agreed.

    Hey PAX, just wondering- why do you say to stand behind the strong side elbow? For most people (right handed) that puts you right where the brass spits out... this woule make sense to me as where you'd want to stand for a self defense scenario, since you could lock out their elbow and they couldn't turn to face you as easily, but it seems that for something where they really aren't trying to shoot you, you'd be just as well off on their inside as their outside... that's just me though, and I'm open to being edumicated.:D
     
  15. Black Majik

    Black Majik Member

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    Newbies to the range

    Aww... pax... I'm flattered! :D

    There have been some great perspective given so far. For me, I've had great experiences taking new shooters to the range. A few of my experiences have been posted on here before. I have found that I rather take someone that has never shot than someone that has had some experience. For me, new shooters are starting from a fresh slate, I KNOW that they don't have any previous experience/training... that makes things much easier for me. I don't have to guess how much they know about firearms, or how well they perform on the range. New shooters simply are more willing to learn. They want to LEARN to shoot, to see how they'll like their first experience on the range. New shooters are much more receptive, they'll listen much more diligently. They're willing to start slow, and work their way up.

    For me, I've always explained the four rules, as well as range etiquette and Do and Don't prior to arriving at the range. I go over how to properly handle a firearm without the finger on the trigger, where the index finger should rest if the gun is not being fired at the moment. The basics should be simply that for new shooters, basics. Teach them sight picture, go over stance, grip, and the other fundamentals but don't drill them like a drill sargeant. Tell them that if you speak to them, to keep the gun down range, and tilt their head towards the sound from my mouth. No newbie has ever swept others nor me while on the range. They're good about checking the chamber everytime they put the weapon down, and checking the chamber when they pick up the gun.

    Start slow, no need to rush. Take your time with them. Progress only as the shooter progresses. Be encouraging, they'll get better if you positively reinforce them. .22's are great to start out on. They'll overcome their fears much faster experiencing a gun for the first time without the flash, noise and recoil. Don't overwhelm the shooter with too many firearms and platforms. For me, I ony bring three calibers, a .22, 9mm and .45 ACP. This keeps things simple for the shooter and does not confuse them with the different platforms and actions.

    For me, I only take one person at a time. New shooters need one on one instruction. Of course, I'm not a NRA Instructor, hell I'm not even that good of a shot. But I do try my best to get new shooters on the range. I want to have the people in my life to enjoy this sport as much as I do. So far I've been slowly converting one by one... but everyone's left with a postitive experience.

    Luckily in California, there aren't that many people exposed to the shooting sport. So theres a huge mystique with firearms. Many are a little apprehensive in the beginning, but they open up evetually... and will soon ask you to take them to the range. Take whoever you can to the range, bring it up casually. You'll have more people that will enjoy it in the end than you think!

    For reference, my other two students :D

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=173181

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=141050


    I have another shooter lined up for a range session soon. :)

    Happy shootin' all!
     
  16. pax

    pax Member

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    Nomadboi ~

    There are a few reasons. First, as you hinted at, if I need to grab & control, I want to grab & control the hand that's actually holding the gun, rather than reaching for the off hand and hoping that it stays in contact with the gun when I do. From the gun side I can easily grab an elbow and know I've stopped the gun from moving further. Can't do that from the off side. While they aren't trying to shoot me or anyone else, a newbie isn't always aware of muzzle direction and sometimes you need to stop what they're doing in a hurry. Best to be prepared to do that.

    Second, I've got a better idea of what their trigger finger is doing when I look directly at it, rather than guessing. I can't see through the gun that well!

    And third, I'd rather have my newbie turn toward their strong side to talk to me, because most folks let go with the off hand when they are done shooting. Standing on the gun side, it's pretty simple to position myself so they can't sweep me when they turn toward me. They have to turn a lot further toward the gun side to sweep someone standing next to them, than they do to sweep someone on the off side (pantomime this for yourself a couple times to see what I'm getting at here).

    The added safety is worth dodging brass.

    pax
     
  17. buck00

    buck00 Member

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    That is great you are taking some new people out shooting. We need to encourage safe shooting and get more people involved.


    One thing I have encountered, is newbies who, despite being carefully instructed, seem to instinctively place their finger on the trigger as soon as they pick up the gun. :eek: They may even do it without realizing it.

    I always watch for that.
     
  18. Knob Creeker

    Knob Creeker Member

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    What every one else said (pay special attention to comments by Pax), plus my two cents:

    One on one is the best way to do it because you can keep a watchful eye on them at all times. If you are going to shoot also, I recommend having them watch. When a newbie is shooting around me I always make sure 100% of my attention is on them. When they are firing, make sure you stand close enough to them to IMMEDIATELY be able to take control of the firearm. If the gun has a technical problem such as a misfire, hang fire, jam, or runaway, an inexperienced shooter will not know what to do and you should be able to contain the situation as early as possible. Likewise, if the shooter makes an innocent mistake such as pointing the muzzle in an unsafe direction (most common & dangerous for a virgin shooter), you should be able to correct the problem before it becomes a danger. Standing about a step back and on their strong eye side should be good. I have also found that most new shooters feel more comfortable when you’re right there and they can see you in their peripheral vision.

    Other than that, have fun and share the joy of guns with as many new folks as you can (again, one on one). Every new convert is one less scared anti out there!
     
  19. pittspilot

    pittspilot Member

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    Try to arrange taking them on a weekday, when there are few people at the range.

    I think that a busy range is very difficult for someone who is new.
     
  20. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    Which is why I include in the pre-range safety lecture ample time for the noobie to hold a gun. I tell them the proper feeling to keep in mind is the finger along side the gun. The finger on the trigger ought to feel odd. I try to get them to feel comfortable with a handgun in the hand and finger along the side. I let them practice racking a semi and opening and closing a revolver. They get to insert and remove a slide. They get to safe and unsafe a handgun. I do what is necessary to get muscle memory into them before touching a loaded gun. We also go over elementary aiming, stance, trigger control info. For example, a noobie will know nothing of slack takeup on a semi or length of pull on a revolver. It is all part of basic familarization of a firearm. When we hit the firing line they are ready to load up and make noise.
     
  21. dav

    dav Member

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    Pax,
    Thanks for a great post. I'm gonna print that one and keep it.
     
  22. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Bring 'em on out, WH, between the two of us, we'll get 'em going down the right path. Hard to be more informative than pax's first post there-well said, pax!:)
     
  23. Nashmack

    Nashmack Member

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    I prefer to work one on one with a newbie. I use either a 22 rifle if i have one at the time, or my Hi-Power. So far I've taken 7 newbies to the range, and out of those 7, who were militant antigun before,6 own 22s, and one owns an Armalite AR50.
     
  24. Croyance

    Croyance Member

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    I give a detailed safety talk. Any sign of boredom or rolling of eyes and they are out. Period. I emphasize that unsafe behavior can lead to being taken down, quickly.
    I also go over muzzle control. After all that we can talk basics.
    I keep numbers small and I end up shooting little, if any. More to demonstrate than anything else.
     
  25. mrwiggins

    mrwiggins Member

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    patience

    some people are impatient and rude to noobies when they should be giving pointers. anyone who wants to shoot can come with me.
     
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