Dustin Ellerman is a skilled shooter, Top Shot TV Show Champion, and firearms instructor. He has a lot of experience teaching children how to shoot firearms safely and is passing on his experience here.
Safety is paramount with all new shooters, but children in particular. Firearms are inherently dangerous items, like many other items in our lives. With firearms, it’s very easy to swing a gun and be pointing it at someone – it happens all the time with new shooters. Teaching people the rules of firearms safety at a young age means they will abide by them for the rest of their lives.
- Always treat a firearm as if it were loaded
- Never point a firearm at something you are not willing to destroy
- Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
When teaching all new shooters, particularly children, it is important to stay close to them to ensure they don’t wave the firearm around. Always be vigilant and ready to grab and secure the firearm should something go wrong.
Start with pellet rifles and airsoft
Pellet rifles and airsoft guns have their own safety concerns, but are much safer than actual firearms. They can be used to safely teach children firearms safety and the basics of marksmanship. Not only are they safer, but they’re also cheaper.
Test eye dominance
Testing eye dominance is quick and easy and is important when teaching new shooters how to shoot. Right or left eye dominance will alter their shooting stance, so knowing their dominant eye helps start new shooters out right.
There are many youth model rifles available. Savage and Henry have a number of youth rifles with smaller stocks sized perfectly for young children. The Savage Rascal Youth can be usually purchased for under $200.
It is recommended to start out new shooters with iron sights. While iron sights are harder to use than a red dot or magnified optic, iron sights help teach kids the fundamentals of marksmanship so they can build on those skills as they progress through their shooting career.
Dry fire is incredibly important for shooters of all skill levels, and children are no exception. Dry fire teaches kids to avoid the flinch, and can also be used to show kids when they are jerking the trigger or anticipating the shot.
Focus on safety, fun, and positive reinforcement
Kids are wanting to have fun, and parents are wanting kids to learn. Kids will lose interest and won’t learn if they aren’t having fun. So don’t obsess too much about getting perfect form or bullseye accuracy. Play the long game, not the short game. Have each range trip focus on one skill or element of marksmanship at a time. First start with trigger control, then a few range trips down the line focus on breathing, then later maybe work on shooting stance.
Similarly, don’t overwhelm kids with too many things at once. For example, on the first range trip don’t bother teaching them how to load and clear malfunctions on a rifle, take care of all of that for them. All they need to be focusing on is making sure all shots hit the target.
Find an Appleseed Project
If you aren’t near Dustin’s marksmanship camp, look for an Appleseed Project in your area. They teach safe firearm handling, the fundamentals of marksmanship, and American history and the importance of the 2nd Amendment. Even if you aren’t a new shooter, Appleseed is a great program to improve marksmanship in all shooters.