What is an apropiate age for kids to be taken to the range

What is an apropiate age for kids first trip to the range

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Jan 4, 2003
Sometime in September my wife will be delivering our first child. I plan on raising this kid to be familar with how to safely operate a firearm at a somewhat early age. The tough question is what age will their first range trip be.

We were over at some friends house last night who have a two young sons(21 months and 5 months). My buddy and I both shoot IPSC and do most of our practicing together, so at what age we start hauling the kids out to the range is going to be an important decision that will be probably be influenced by what the other parents decide.

When I say first range trip I am invisioning one maybe two kids with both my buddy and I there to supervise. We won't have any of our comp gear, and would most likely start shooting with either a pellet gun or bolt action .22 LR. My vote for an official range trip is probably going to be around age 5, but it will depend what our kids are like and how well the listen.

My father got me a slingshot at age 7, and a good BB gun at age 8. I saved my pennies and bought my first .22 at Kmart for $119.99 on sale.

I would be interested to hear at what age you started shooting, or if you have kids what age you started hauling them out shooting with you.

I remember the bloody nose...

I got shooting a shotgun, 16 ga, for the first time when I was 8 years old. That was a long, long time ago in a different world........I believe now, a kid needs to be tall enough to shoot over the bench at a public range. If you are on private property, what ever age you think they are big enough......chris3
My kids were going to the range while they were in car seats & not crawling yet. As they would get older they would play with the other kids there in a field well behind the line.

As far as actually shooting, once their heads were big enough to wear ear muffs they could (one at a time) ask to come up to the line & shoot. At first they would only shoot (with intense immediate supervision) a few rounds until they got bored & wanted to go play again. This was probably about age 4-5. By the time they were 7-9 they were loading & shooting on their own (still supervised). Again, the attention span wasn't that long but they could shoot as much as they wanted to. Let them decide when they've had enough & have them bring a book or something else to do so you don't have to end your time there if you aren't ready.
Mine started at six or seven with an air rifle.
They'd had to memorize the four rules before that, and got a lot of safety reinforcement at the range.

They all became safe shooters and hunters. Their gun handling was sometimes better than older hunters we met in the woods.

Of course, it depends on the kid. If mine had been more rambunctious and less willing to follow the rules, I'd have waited longer to teach them to shoot.
Depends on the kid. Depends on the parent. Depends on the range.

I had my daughter shooting handguns at age 4, however, her brother didn't make his first range trip until he was 17. There were several factors involved. My daughter has always been "old" for her age, listens to instructions, and had good self-control. My son was bit of a hot head, and not too good at following instructions or paying attention. Also, due to several moves, there were times when a range conducive to teaching a youngster weren't close at hand. Also, my differeing job/study duties made a difference in the amount of time that I could devote to do it right.

Just like most things in life, this is a decision best left to those involved.
(Edited to add credentials: I've got five sons, ranging in age from 10 to 16. No twins.)

It depends entirely upon the child, and upon how well the parent has trained the child.

You cannot teach them much of anything until you teach them to obey. This starts before they can even talk, and continues until they are making their own decisions in late high school.

Next up: teach them the Eddie Eagle rules ("Stop, Don't Touch ..."). This starts as soon as they are able to talk and repeat things after you. When they are able to recite the Eddie Eagle rules, then you start discussing what the rules mean. When they are able to do that, you add one more rule -- the one that makes it all work. See post here for what that rule is and how to teach it to your child.

In my opinion and experience, there is no real benefit in bringing children to the range until they are themselves old enough to shoot. The minimal benefit does not really balance out the risks from noise and lead exposure.

If you choose to bring children who are too young to shoot to the range with you, make sure they have truly adequate hearing and eye protection. It's hard to find muffs that fit little heads (Peltor Junior muffs are worth a try). Their ears can be easily damaged if the muffs don't fit well, so add plugs too. You can cut plugs in half lengthwise to make them skinnier, but don't make them any shorter.

Of course, once truly adequate hearing protection is in place, the child cannot really hear you say, "Don't ..!" -- so again, if the kid isn't old enough to know, without being told, to stay behind the line and keep hands off other people's guns and equipment, he is not old enough to be at the range with you.

Eye protection is another issue. Again, it's hard to find protective equipment to fit little faces. We've had better luck with goggle/strap type eye protection for little guys than we have with even kid-sized safety glasses. The straps are also more comfy than eyepieces when worn with ear muffs.

Before the first shooting trip, your kid should be able to recite and explain the Four Universal Rules of gun safety ("All guns are always loaded ...").

And by that time, you should have some experience in helping new shooters at the range. A child is, after all, simply a more extreme type of new shooter.


Don't have any kids but my friend brought his boys to the (my) range at about age 5 or 6 where we started teaching them about safety around guns.
At about age 6 or 7 we started teaching them to shoot using a 22 Beretta.
Now in their teens they are excellent shots.

They also take delight in handing in pro gun and gun rights papers at school when they get a chance.:)
Took my little one (3 yo) to the range with me the other day. Didn't let him shoot, but let him watch. I set up a chair 20 yards behind me for him to sit at while I was shooting. Didn't do too much shooting, did a lot of checking his ear muffs. He was very curious and fascinated about the cartridges- he watched me load one, went back to his chair, and after I'd shoot, I'd call him over so he could watch me extract the brass and compare it to a loaded round. We would then walk down to see the bullet hole in the target. Afterwards he asked me if we could do this again tomorow and then the next day and the next day and the next day.....:) It might be another year or more before I let him shoot though, his attention span is a little too short right now.
Hm. If you do Pax's procedure of introducing a child to an unloaded gun, you may want to take out the recoil and hammer springs. Not only to further reduce the chance of discharge, but also to reduce the chance of smashed or pinched fingers. I got my pinkie finger pinched in a Glock ejection port once, and that hurt a lot. It would also let the kid work the action and stuff.
Thanks Pax for the excellent post, and thanks for the link.

I was raised in a family where obediance was the rule, and I plan to have kids the mind as well as I did.

The hearing protection is a big concern, I was thinking about going with the custom molded silicone plugs. The lady that makes them said she gives discounts for kids because they grow out of thier plugs so fast.
It's hard to find muffs that fit little heads

My full size Peltor's fit my 5 year old great. They're big, but they stay in place and form a good seal around his ears. I used them on him when we're hammering, doing construction projects, or shooting out in the woods. He's never shot yet, just watched Dad. I think next year or the year after a chipmunk .22 might be in order :D:D

His grandma got him a dollar store M16, and his form with it is quite good. I make sure he keeps his finger off the trigger until he's ready to shoot. We also got a pair of nerf dart guns that we blast each other with. Of course I accidentally shot him in the eye (flashbacks of rubber band gun fights with my Dad), so now I put eye protection on him when we have our battles.

On the other hand, I did just get him an archery set which he LOVES. It's a Bear compound bow with a 9.5lb pull. He can pull the bow by himself with no arrow, but not steadily enough when actually shooting, so I give him a little help. Good fun!

Anyway, my point is that there's lots of fun ways that are a little less serious to get kids interested in the shooting sports.
It depends :D

If there is a firearm that the child can handle reasonably and if the child if trustworthy enough to obey any instructions given then the child is ready. I wait until 7 or 8 and start them with a 22 single action revolver (ruger bearcat). Make certain to have hearing protection that fits the child.
I agree with pax.

My three kids knew the rules before they started school, from watching us and others compete in IHMSA Silhouette. When I gave my son a Chipmunk for his 8th birthday, all I had to do was observe as he proceeded to wear a blister on his thumb from cocking and shooting it. :D

My twin grandsons, almost six, got their first lessons a couple weeks ago, shooting BB guns at a box from the front porch with grandma and grandpa.

On the other hand, I took a 14 year old nephew to the range, at the request of his parents, and I won't take him again. Found out later he has a learning disability where he doesn't understand the consequences of his actions. I was continually on him to quit handling guns when other people were downrange. I don't think he ever got the message, so we packed up and headed home.
If you have private range it is your business as long as you supervise in a very hands on matter and very closely. A 4yr old could injure themselves in a split second with a firearm.

As for at a public range I would never want to be next to anyone younger than 8yrs old. Kids are just too unpredictable and you cannot be holding the gun for them the whole time.
Forgot to add:

When my kids were old enough to start shooting, I took them to the range and shot a watermelon with a shotgun.

They quickly understood the consequences of violating the safety rules.
When my kids were old enough to start shooting, I took them to the range and shot a watermelon with a shotgun. They quickly understood the consequences of violating the safety rules.

Cool, that works with older kids. Younger kids it does not. Up until around age 5-7 (depending on the child) children have only a "literal" understanding of their surroundings. This means all they would get from shooting a watermelon is that "watermelons explode when shot". They would lack the ability to form any real life link between what happened to the watermelon and what could happen to them. Their brains are not processiong indirect relationships like that yet.
children and shooting

I voted 7 years old, but actually probably would be closer to 8-9 years of age. I say this taking into account, attention span, concentration, interest, timidity and desire to learn about something new. Most of them will probably have their curiousity slaked and not take them up again until years later.....some males, not until they join the military...
FYI- a shooting bench makes a dandy diaper changing station! My oldest kid's first time to the range was at about 1 month- it's a private range-and he slept the whole time in his car seat.

As far as saftey and shooting, we started teaching safe gun handleing skills with the many toy guns they had over the years.

Both my kids got BB guns for 6th birthday gifts. The oldest started with a .22 at 7 1/2, but the younger didn't until he was 8 1/2 (difference in maturity level).

It really all depends on the child. Most childen (IMO) who have been raised properly, will do great at the range at an age as young as 4, maybe younger. I also see alot of lazy parents who don't have a clue as to how to raise a child. You can spot it a mile away at the supermarket or the video store.

Kid: Mom can I have this?

Mom: Pretends not to hear.

Kid: Can I have this? Mom? MOM!

Mom: NO! Put that back right now!

Kid: Pouts.

This lack of communication, respect, and understanding could be disasterous at a firearms range.

Anyway I'm going to go ahead that most parents taking the time to read this post have probably done an outstanding job. That said, Go Ahead! Take the little tyke out and show him/her a good time!

When my kids were old enough to start shooting, I took them to the range and shot a watermelon with a shotgun.

They quickly understood the consequences of violating the safety rules.

Me too, except I used p-dogs and .223/.243/.22's. Yup all torn up and bloody.

They'd grown up seeing me butcher deer, I'd show them where the bullet went in and sometimes the hole it made on the other side. We'd have anatomy lessons too. I'd show them the blood shot meat etc.

Pretty much the 'awe and mystery' of guns were gone from my kids pretty early. They didn't have the 'hey check this out' mentatilty. They knew that guns were off limits unless I or mom were around and we were heading out to go shooting.
I fired a .22 and .410 at 4. I was hunting with my father by 1st grade, with a 20 gauge H&R Topper Jr. Man, that shotgun kicked! Much more than a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500.

I was small game hunting in the woods (with Dad and older brothers elsewhere on the property) by age 8.

Unfortunately, like many of the older crowd here, my father knew nothing of ear protection. :( Keep those ears safely covered at the range!

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