Give the Gift of Gun Safety

posted on November 28, 2016

Most people remember the first time they went shooting: the anticipation, the waiting, then the payoff when they were able to pull the trigger for the first time. Whether it was a BB gun in your back yard or on the range getting ready for your first hunt, someone in your life took the time to teach you about shooting. If you enjoy shooting, wouldn't you want your friends to have that same chance to try out the activity you love? By teaching someone to shoot you not only will be closer friends, but give them a gift they can enjoy the rest of their life. Teaching others to shoot also makes you really think about what you know about shooting-so you'll be learning, too.

As a member of George Mason University's Trap and Skeet club, many of my friends ask me questions about the sport I compete in. I found that many of them have little awareness of shooting sports at all, but a great interest. Like most things in life I feel that by letting them experience the shotgun games firsthand, I'm giving them a better understanding than if I just tried to explain it to them. A few weeks ago, this exact situation happened when two of my friends found out I shoot. They asked if I would take them. The answer was obvious, and I quickly scheduled a day for us to shoot trap at Bull Run Shooting Center, a local public range in Centreville, Va.

The most important part about taking a friend to shoot is, by far, safety. You might not be with them every time they go shooting, so by teaching them the importance of safety you are making sure they are safe the rest of their life. So once we arrived at the range I went over the three rules of safe gun handling: First, ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; second, ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; third, ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot. After that, I discussed with them the rules specific to the public range itself and then went over some basic rules and etiquette for shooting American Trap. Once everyone understood the safety rules, I then used a test to find eye dominance before teaching them the correct stance for trap.

Here's a quick and easy way to determine eye dominance: Have the person make a "diamond" between their hands, held out at arms' length. They should focus their vision through the diamond at a distant object. Keeping their focus on that object, have them bring the diamond closer and closer to their face. The diamond will wind up over one eye or the other-and the one it winds up over, is the dominant eye.

After all the safety, eye dominance and stance information was squared away I then explained the basics of the firearms they would be using such as how to load and unload the shotguns, and where the safety was located on each firearm. Once they were comfortable with this, I showed them how to hold the firearm in order to get the best fit. Then I went over the basics of sight picture and sight alignment so they would know when to shoot at the clay in order to break it. At this point the real fun began, as each of the new shooters had the chance to fire a shotgun for the first time! This is always the point when I remember how hard it was for me to hit my first clay pigeon, and how frustrating it can get when you miss and you are not sure why.

To make this easier, it is important to praise the new shooter on what they are doing well while giving tips on how they can improve their next shot (always be positive!). At first the two girls who were shooting with us couldn't seem to hit the birds, but with a little more explaining of sight picture they quickly started breaking clays. Nothing feels better than watching a new shooter smile after a successful hit, whether on a paper target or crushing a clay pigeon. Overall the day was a great time and gave everyone involved an experience they will remember forever...including me. The new shooters took away an understanding of a sport they knew very little about before trying it. They're already asking about when their next visit to the range is going to be!

Get Certified!
Not sure if you could teach someone else to shoot? NRA Instructor Training Courses helps you develop the additional knowledge, skills and techniques needed to organize and teach courses in the NRA Basic Firearm Training Program. Anyone aged 13 to 17 can become an apprentice instructor after successfully completing the NRA instructor course within their desired discipline. Eighteen to 20-year-olds can become assistant instructors, while candidates over the age of 21 can become fully certified instructors. For more information, please contact NRA Education and Training at (703) 267-1430 or online at



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