As mentioned Friday, I had the privilege of introducing another person to the joy of responsible firearms use this past weekend.
The old saying that you never get a second chance at a first impression holds true and I try to stack the odds in favor of a positive experience when bringing in new shooters. Things like using ear plugs and electronic muffs for indoor shooting, larger high contrast ‘positive feedback’ targets, shorter distances and light recoiling, accurate firearms (.22 rimfire) all make the experience easier. I assume up front that I will cover all the costs associated. [Hey, the first one’s free. *wink*] I also try to avoid crowds (unable to do that this time), using unfamiliar jargon, overly technical details, politics, and targets that represent other people or animals. My goal is simply to introduce my hobby to the person. Afterwards, if they want more info, I can always elaborate.
We met at a local indoor range on Saturday afternoon and it was packed! While we waited for a lane, I covered Cooper’s rules of safety and the basics of grip, stance and sight alignment. Thankfully, a range employee found a quiet area for us to use during the instruction. Trying to explain anything on a live range even with electronic hearing protection is, um, difficult.
The dreaded flinch is something we all have to overcome; preventing it in the first place is something to strive for. Public ranges present more of a challenge with new shooters due to the noise from the other patrons. Some of the benefits of using a rimfire are lost when the guy in the next lane is firing a .40 S&W, .357 mag, shotgun, etc. When timing allows, I prefer to instruct new shooters using a pellet gun in the backyard before going to a gun range or better yet out to the country.
My student was a quick study and quickly understood the safety and sight alignment concepts; grip, stance and trigger press were, of course, unfamiliar and required a bit more explanation. However, once we had the chance to shoot, he took to it like a duck to water.
Starting at about 5 yards, my student put the first 10 rounds into about a 5 inch group using my Ruger 22/45 with a fiber optic front sight. Pretty good for a first go! We worked a bit on grip and trigger press for another magazine or two and soon moved a fresh target out to 7 yards in order to force more focus onto the front sight. He did very well again and kept the group at about the same size or smaller at that distance.
After a hundred rounds or so of .22, I asked if he’d like to try something else. He gladly accepted the chance to shoot a few rounds of 9mm* and .38 special. Again he shot well and enjoyed every moment of it. We finished up with a magazine or two of .22 to reinforce good habits and called it a day.
As we were leaving he asked if he could reimburse me for the expense. I thanked him for offering but declined stating that I found it rewarding that he had a good time and that was enough. When he pressed a bit, I responded that if he really wanted to, the best remuneration he could give me would be to join the NRA**. He responded with a half-joking, “Well, I don’t want to be on any lists.” Smiling, I half-joked back saying, “I don’t understand. You’re already on the lists.” [He has a job requiring federal security clearance and at least two hobbies requiring federal licenses.] He agreed to consider it. We talked a bit more and parted as friends, agreeing we both want more range time.
*M&P with polymer FSS trigger – brief report tomorrow
**Yes, I did say I try to avoid politics with new shooters but I also want to keep being able to exercise my rights and enjoy my favorite past time. Remember: If each member just brought in one more, the membership would double.