I love my kids. The energy they bring to our home, the warm embraces I receive every morning when they wake, and the joy of watching them learn and grow. All of these things make life beautiful.
I want them to grow up knowing the Lord, following God, valuing life, to be handy with a shovel, able to use a tractor … and a crack shot with a rifle. I desire them to be able to hunt game, dispatch a rabid coyote, and be able to drop a sexual predator with a well-aimed barrage of gunfire. In short, I want my kids to learn not only how to handle a firearm, but to respect that firearm and the responsibility that goes with it, and shoot extremely well.
As a firearm instructor, my top concern on the range is safety. This has to be our first step as a parent when it comes to how to teach a child to shoot and handle guns. Every child needs to be taught to respect a firearm. They also need to be taught that a firearm in an inanimate object, and it is only dangerous if in the hands of a dangerous or evil user. My wife and I know a woman who was raised by her parents to fear guns. To this day she is deathly afraid of the sight of a rifle, shotgun or pistol. This should never be our goal as a parent.
Teach your young children to never touch a firearm, except with Mommy or Daddy’s permission. My 5 year old is allowed to handle a firearm unloaded. I am already instilling in her little mind that her finger never touches the trigger until she is ready to shoot, and to keep the muzzle pointed in the safest direction possible. I am always right there when she handles it, and it is always unloaded unless she is firing at a target with my help. Our firearms remain locked up.
Our goal should be to see our children become confident, yet not cocky. Respectful, and not fearful. I want to raise my children in such a way that if they were to come across a firearm at a friend’s house someday left out and loaded, my child could safe that weapon — meaning he or she can determine safely if it was loaded or not, and unload and safe the firearm if needed.
I have an example here in my own life. As a teenager, I once came across a potentially dangerous situation at the home of a farmer I knew. I used to hunt and work his property part-time. During deer season one year, the farmer who never practiced the best firearm safety had gone into town with his son. They left a few rifles and shotguns in a common building on the farm fully loaded. One of their shotguns, a Browning Auto-5, had a round in the chamber, and four more in the tube magazine. The muzzle of the shotgun was completely full of hardened mud and pebbles.
I was aghast at the sight. Growing up as a hunter and around firearms, I knew my way around them extremely well. I grabbed that shotgun before some of the other part-time employees who were a wee bit reckless came to work. I unloaded the shotgun, and then proceeded to unload the other firearms, a Remington 700 and a Mosin M1991/30. The shotgun with the plugged barrel sure made me feel uneasy, so I raced over to the tool shed, retrieved a cleaning rod and gun oil and gave the barrel a thorough cleaning. By the time the other knuckleheads arrived to work, I had stored the guns in a safe place out of their sight and told my boss. He shrugged as I handed him the ammunition I retrieved, but I knew deep down I did the right thing.
That is how you want to raise your kids to behave around a firearm.
Shooting a Firearm
Never start your kids on a high-powered rifle. I have seen so many idiots — and idiots is too kind a word — hand a youngster a .12 gauge or .30-06 for their first time shooting. When the kid is naturally bruised or knocked on his rear, the adult explodes in rip-roaring laughter. I honestly want to grab the firearm and wrap the barrel around the adult’s neck when I see this.
We should desire to see our kids grow up to love shooting, hunting and the outdoor sports. The first time out should be with light cartridges and small guns. Even a BB gun is great. A .22 is terrific for youngsters. Get them comfortable shooting, and then work on accuracy.
A .22 bolt action is the best tool to teach a child how to shoot. I never let a youngster use a scoped rifle unless they really need one. Start with iron sights and build confidence. Gently teach, and encourage your child. However, be strict with firearm safety. You must never waiver with a stern hand when it comes to safety.
Also, never let your child handle a firearm that they are not capable of handling. Many of us can remember last year when a firearms instructor in Arizona let a little girl handle a UZI submachine gun with tragic consequences. Let’s not let that happen. Start slow.
If they are going to start deer hunting, why not a light kicker like a .223, which contrary to many armchair gun expert’s opinion, has dropped plenty of deer. If you must go heavier, think a .243 or .7mm-08. A .30-30 can do fine for an older child.
As your child gains confidence, feel free to teach them how to handle larger chamberings. I strongly suggest waiting to introduce the shotgun until they are comfortable enough to handle recoil. I have found many larger 8 and 9 year olds are ready for a youth .20 gauge and turkey hunting.
Stay safe, and God bless!
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