Take a new shooter to the range


Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame

by Peter Burlingame

Let’s face it folks, those of us in the ‘gun culture’ are fighting for our very way of life. I’ve been involved in this fight, first as an observer in the ’60’s and 70’s as a youngster, then politically as I became an adult. My battles have consisted of providing support for various organizations like the NRA, GOA, CCRKBA, etc, to rallying and educating voters, to lobbying and testifying at the state level.

I’m sure many of you have done the same things. But there is something even more valuable we can contribute to the fight. Numbers. This is a political battle and those are won by demographics. And while ‘numbers’ are good, not all numbers are equal. It is much easier for our opponents to dismiss ‘Joe Sixpack’ with his Remington 870 in a rack in the back window of his pick up truck than it is to ignore the ‘Soccer Mom’ who has a Kahr PM9 in a belly band holster.

The strongest support that I have given to our fight, has been to introduce new people to our way of life. Especially those that might incline towards the other side of the gun issue.

There are already a very large proportion of gun owners in the U.S. If each and every one of you took a new person to the range, that would be 10s of millions of people that have a different perspective on firearms. A perspective other than that which the main stream media is showing them.

I’ve been immersed in the ‘gun culture’ since 1962, when at the age of 3, my father put a .177 caliber spring powered Czech air pistol in my hands and let me shoot at a tree. Still in my single digits, I devoured every gun magazine I could get my hands on. Back then, pre ’68 GCA there were full page adds for a wide variety of guns that could be shipped directly to your home! Including 20mm cannon!

Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame

Back then the demographics of gun ownership were different. Gun ownership was passed down through the family, usually from father to son. Not many people carried pistols. Hunting was one of the big reasons for owning guns, in addition to the various shooting sports. But as our culture shifted, so did gun ownership. Today, self defense is the biggest reason for gun ownership. Many people who never had any previous experience with firearms found themselves, with some trepidation, entering a gun store for the first time.

If you are watching the current fight against gun rights, you will see that despite the obviously slanted, agenda driven media support, the gun control folks are having a difficult time. Much worse than in ’94 when the original ‘assault weapons ban’ was enacted. Much credit for this is due to these changing demographics, which find that the largest growing segment of the new gun buyers is women.

So here’s your marching orders: identify someone new to introduce to shooting. Bonus points are awarded if it is a woman. The next time you are talking (respectfully) with someone about gun control, who has no exposure to ‘our’ side, invite them to the range. Or maybe you know someone that has shown a small interest in learning to shoot.

Once you’ve gotten a commitment and set a date, make the event as non-threatening as possible. Go to a quite range, at a quiet time. Realize that women have more sensitive hearing than men and bring both muff and plug type hearing protection and have her use both. Start with easy to shoot, low recoiling, quiet firearms. .22LRs are ideal. A smaller .38 special revolver with wad cutters is another good choice.

Ruger Mark II and III, Walter P22s, S&W M&P22 are good choices for pistols. A light weight AR, without all the heavy tactical gear, with a .22 conversion or upper, and an adjustable stock, a Ruger 10/22 or Marlin model 60 are good starting rifles. Stay away from heavy guns that have big grips and long trigger reach. A 5’2” person is going to have a difficult time shooting a Beretta 92 well. A .410 shotgun is another appropriate pick. Don’t have anything suitable? Well, you were looking for an excuse to buy a new gun anyway, weren’t you?

Give a thorough safety briefing on the 4 Rules of Gun Safety. We are trying to make a good impression, so showing (and proving) that we are concerned with safety is important. Be especially careful of muzzle awareness and discipline and keeping the finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot.

Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame

The range session should be short. One to two hours maximum! They will be overwhelmed with information and sensations. They will be using muscles that they haven’t used in that way before. If they get tired, the learning stops, the attitude changes, the shooting gets sloppier, and the chances for an accident increase. If, after the session they ask “When can we do this again!” then you have achieved success.

Don’t bring out your entire gun collection. One or two guns is plenty for the first time. We want them to have a good time. Pick lighter and smaller guns for smaller people so they can hold them comfortably. Use firearms that are easy to hit with. Have them shoot at targets that give instant feed back. Paper targets close enough to see the bullet holes, clay pigeons, balloons, and steel (with proper safety precautions) are all good choices.

With luck, you will have piqued their interest. They may want to advance from shooting your guns, to owning their own. NOW they have some skin in the game! Another benefit is  that another member of society that is empowered to take care of themselves and their families. It will alter their entire outlook on life.

An added bonus can be summed up by this phrase; “Qui docet, discet”, which is Latin for ‘those that teach, learn’. By teaching a new shooter, having to look at things from a beginner’s perspective, having to figure out how to explain something that you already know, will give you a deeper understanding of the subject and you will learn it at a new and different level.

Peter Burlingame is the founder of The Self Defense Initiative, a 25 year old training school based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Peter is a contributing member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. His articles have been published in the FBI’s National Associates’ magazine, “The Firearms Instructor” and “Survival Quarterly.” You may contact him at vigunfighter@earthlink.net Videos at Youtube.com/vigunfighter.com


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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