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Art of teaching beginners to shoot

Don Moyer

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POSTED September 29, 2013 11:57 p.m.

Over lunch the other day, some friends amd I were discussing the best way to teach a beginner to shoot. We found ourselves in unanimous agreement that the best firearm to learn to shoot with is the 22 caliber single shot rifle with traditional iron sights. There are a host of 22 s out there ranging from the simple single shot model to tube fed 22s, lever action saddle guns, slide action gallery guns and the ubiquitous Ruger rotary action 10-22. All can be fine guns and all have their strong points. For my money however, nothing is better than a single shot 22 to learn with.

There are several reasons why so many folks prefer the single shot 22 as the best beginner’s gun. Probably the single most important reason is that learning with a single shot will make you a better shooter. Since you only have one shot, you learn to make your first shot count. I believe that learning on a repeater tends to encourage the habit of slinging as much lead as possible in the direction of the target and hoping you hit something. Learning that single well placed shot, may be the only shot you need, is a lesson that cannot be stressed enough. If you hit the target with the first shot you most likely won’t need a second one.  Once you gain proficiency and confidence using the single shot rifle, there will be plenty of time afterward to try the various repeaters. Your lessons learned with your single shot rifle will stay with you for a lifetime.

The other factor that I strongly believe in is to start a beginner with the traditional open sights which are often referred to as “iron sights”. Learning the hand-eye co-ordination necessary to line the front blade up with both the rear groove and the target becomes instinctive with enough practice. Once you have mastered open sights it’s a simple matter to move on to aperture sights (or peep sights), and from there to the optical or scope sights.  How much practice is enough? It’s definitely a factor that will vary with the individual. For the average beginner, I suspect that several thousand rounds with the basic iron sights will be sufficient practice. For slow learners like me, much more practice is probably better.

While I believe the ideal beginners rifle is probably the bolt action single shot, it’s possible that a break action single shot might serve almost as well. The basic principles remain the same, but learning with the bolt action single shot makes the later conversion to a bolt action magazine fed rifle a little smoother. I think there is no doubt that the 22 caliber is the only choice for beginners. Its lower noise levels and mild recoil make it ideal for beginners. You can adjust to the greater kick and louder noise of the bigger calibers once the basics of shooting have become instinctive.

Probably the greatest caveat of all in teaching a beginning shooter is to invest as much of your own time in them as possible. . On the other hand buying a beginner a gun and simply turning him loose is a surefire recipe for disaster. There is no substitute for countless hours of time spent teaching your child or others to shoot. The bonds forged and strengthened while learning & shooting together will last a lifetime, and they will be bonds that can never be severed by time or distance.

Until Next Week, 

Tight Lines

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