Lessons Learned in Teaching Kids to Shoot an Airgun
There’s a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster sitting under your Christmas tree that will soon become your son’s or daughter’s first gun. Are you ready?
Virtually every adult hunter or shooter today took their first shot with a BB gun. And, let’s face it, it’s a lot of fun. But along with the exhilaration of punching holes in a target comes the responsibility of teaching your junior shooter proper firearm handling and basic marksmanship through a series of adult-led lessons that will spark of lifetime of responsible gun ownership.
Paying attention to a few basic guidelines will assure your junior shooter gets started right. With kids, there’s a teaching lesson at every turn with their new gun.
There’s no certain numeric age to begin these lessons with your child. Maturity is the key. Do they understand basic safety concepts? Do they follow instructions? If the answers to those two questions are yes, then you’re ready to go.
Lesson No. 1: It’s Not A Toy
While shooting is indeed fun, a BB gun or air rifle is not a toy. The safety warnings on the box are to be heeded. Children should be supervised by an adult at all times when handling guns.
Under the Christmas tree along with that Crosman airgun should be some other tools you will need to start a safe shooting program: Ammunition, targets, target stands and safety glasses. Of course, a kid opening presents on Christmas morning is going to blow right past these items and grab onto the gun itself. Try hard not to be the buzz killer in the room, but this is the time to set some ground rules.
Lesson No. 2: Safety First
My boys were 7 and 6, respectively, when they got their first BB guns. Their mom and I were just as excited for them as they were that Christmas morning, and the boys wanted to go outside immediately to shoot them. That was the time for their first lesson.
They were only allowed to shoot when I could take them into the backyard, and then only when we took the time to set up targets in a safe area. As we removed the guns from their packaging, I stressed the importance of safe firearm handling at all times: Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; always treat every gun as if it’s loaded; keep your finger off the trigger until you’re set up on targets and ready to shoot; keep the gun on “safe” until ready to shoot; always check to make sure a gun is on “safe” and unloaded when either handing it to someone or when having a gun handed to you.
During the first outing, repeat those basic gun handling safety procedures at every opportunity. To make sure your son or daughter understands and is completely focused, ask them safety-related questions, and do not allow them to shoot until they can.
As we progressed to the backyard, more safety issues would come into our conversations: Always wear safety glasses when shooting; never reuse ammunition; do not shoot at hard surfaces or into water; never disassemble your airgun; always check targets, target catches and backdrops to ensure a safe shooting environment. Now is also a good time to discuss range safety: Shoot at your designated target; do not swing around with the gun to say something to a sibling or parent who’s standing behind them; all guns must be unloaded, on “safe” and secured anytime a person goes downrange for target maintenance or any other reason.
Keep in mind that this is all new to your child. It’s a lot to remember amidst the excitement of actually shooting their BB gun. But they will remember these rules and basic safety guidelines their entire lives.
Lesson No. 3: Let’s Shoot!
Now we get to shoot, right? Not yet.
You’ll avoid a great bit of confusion and frustration by walking your child through one simple step to determine their dominant eye. And there’s a simple way to find that out.
Extend both arms in front of you with both eyes open. Put your hands together to form a triangle between the forefingers and thumbs and look through the triangle at a target downrange. Now have them close their left eye without moving their hands. If they can see the target with their right eye, they are right-eye dominant. If they cannot see the target with their right eye, have them open both eyes to make sure they still see the target in the triangle, then close their right eye. They should be able to see the target with their left eye. This indicates that they are left-eye dominant.
Right-eye dominant kids should shoot from their right side, and vice-versa for left-eye dominance.
The safest, most stable and easiest way to shoot is the prone position. Shooting, kneeling and standing shots should be reserved for lessons after your child has demonstrated an ability to consistently shoot bull’s-eyes from a prone position.
At this point of the lesson, you’re going to be more concerned with teaching them how to shoulder the airgun, and proper hand placement (reminding them to not touch the trigger or trigger well until they are ready to shoot) for both the trigger hand and the forward hand.
A basic description of lining up the rear sight with the front site and moving them in line with the target is plenty for their first time out. Keep the target at a reasonable distance, say 15 feet, so that they will experience success in hitting the target. Now, keeping a close watch and ensuring safety rules are followed, let them have fun.
Lesson No. 4: Marksmanship
The Internet is full of good marksmanship training lessons. Have your child sit with you at the computer to learn about terms such as sight alignment (the proper alignment of rear and front sites) and sight picture (good sight alignment with target acquisition), and other basic marksmanship skills. Keep their “safe” and unloaded airgun handy so you can stop frequently and demonstrate what those look like on their gun. And at your next target shooting opportunity, remind them of what they learned online and walk them through putting those skills into practice.
As your young shooter becomes more advanced, breath control and shooting from sitting, kneeling and standing positions will round out their initial lessons in marksmanship.
For more about learning to shoot airguns and general marksmanship, go online to Crosman University.
Original source: Sportsmans Lifestyle.com