Who better to teach gun safety to a kid than a grandparent? Grandpa and Grandma aren't the ones who do day-to-day discipline, so when Pap-Pap speaks, kids listen. Grandma and Grandpa are the "fun" family members, so any activity they suggest is less likely to seem like a chore than if Mom and Dad did it. Want to teach your grandkids about gun safety? Here are some of my tried-and-true tips!
Create the Interest
This aspect of learning to safely shoot can begin simply, from watching TV. While babysitting my twin granddaughters, I would watch hunting programs with them. They would ask questions and comment on what was just shown … and I would explain. At the end of the program, I would say, “Girls, how would you want to learn the right way to shoot?” I would get a yes. Were they just trying to be nice to Pap? Regardless, we were on our way!
Start with Simplicity: Bow & Arrow
The girls were only four back then, so I bought each a bow with rubber tipped arrows at the dollar store. Then I put up a large piece of cardboard with a target on it in the hall. Each would take a few shots and really get excited when the arrow would hit the target—since the arrows would not puncture anything, they would drop onto the rug. After a few weeks of this, as the girls’ bow muscles became stronger, I took them shopping and they picked out a kid’s bow and a few arrows.
I put out a small bale of straw in the back yard and shot a few arrows into it as I talked about technique and backstops. Also, to add excitement, I put up a balloon to pop. The kids love that!
BB Gun Fun
I pulled out an old BB gun from my childhood (which still works—thanks, Daisy!). Then I talked about its mechanics, and explained what a BB is. Then we talked about injuries. To begin, I showed them a piece of paper with a BB hole in it. I then explained how penetration works and correlated it to what if a BB bounced back … what if this was your eye? Emphasize that BB guns aren’t toys, and that is why shooting glasses should always be used when there is any possibility something could hit your eye.
Once we had the safety concepts down pat, it was time to move up to a .177 pellet rifle. These higher-powered air guns can be used to eliminate small rodents due to the penetration of the pellet. What helped the girls to “see” this connection was shooting tin cans with my scoped Ruger Explorer Youth Break-Barrel. Together, we examined the holes made by the pellets ... and talked about how skin is easier to break than tin. Now they understood on a practical level.
With Maturity, Age & Training, the Real Thing
We began with a single-shot .22-caliber rifle at the range. To begin, one individual shoots from the bench while the others stand in the rear. Because my granddaughters also had experience with a pellet revolver, my wife and I felt comfortable shooting a .22LR revolver and semi-auto. This was after my wife slowly fired a magazine of ammo while I basically covered recoil and the safe hand gripping of a semi so not to get the thumb cut on the slide as it ejects a case. It was remarkable how they quickly they went from the .22 LR version to the .380, then 9mm … and did it safely.
Final Tip: Get a Rifle that Fits the Shooter
Last point, get whatever fits the shooter and do not move up too quickly. In my quest to give the twins new experiences, I got them a Ruger 10/22 CO2 .177 pellet rifle for that semi-auto experience. The 14-year olds shot it well, but the younger kids had difficulty with the heavy 10-pound trigger pull. The Ruger Youth trigger pull was 4 pounds, and the kids all asked to go back to the break-barrel pellet rifle. Good luck and we all appreciate you all helping to guide our next generation!