That's really cool, I'll be doing the same thing with my son in a few years.
I took my oldest son on his first range trip today. He was shooting my p22. He did fantastic. Shot just over 200 rounds (he didn't want to stop) w/ several "bullseyes". All of his shots were at 3 yards and all shots were within about a 9 inch circle. He does have a couple of air soft pistols and I'm sure that helped quite a bit w/ his accuracy/confidence.
That's really cool, I'll be doing the same thing with my son in a few years.
Congratulations. Keep him involved.
Thanks. I really am proud of him. We were the first 2 people at the range this morning. I wanted to get him started w/o a lot of distraction and before other people started shooting. He's 11 years old and of course mom was nervous about him going but she seems ok w/ it now.
I have another son that's about to turn 7 and he's wanting to go also. He's a great shot w/ his BB gun and airsoft guns. He knows the rules. At what age did you fathers on here start taking your kids to the range? If it was just he and I out in the open on some private land I would take him now. I'm just hesitant to take him to an actual public range.
That's great Slick. Nothing like taking the young ones shooting. I went through all my kids and now I am working with grandkids. I have a ball when one of them wants to go. I use them splat targets as the kids love to see where their hitting in bright green.
My bride and I took a lot of flack for being so "strict" with our kids. In particular, from *before* the time they were "mobile" we had several rules that were absolutely, positively, inviolable. (Bear with me as I stray a bit from firearms-related stuff; I'll tie it in later.)
1) Nothing goes in the mouth without parental permission.
2) You do not touch plants, power cords or anything that looks like a power cord w/o parental permission.
3) You do not touch anything that has specifically been pointed out to you as a "no touch" item without parental permission.
4) If called you come; if told to stay, you stay; bottom line, you obey first, then ask questions if you have any.
When they got older, we added.
5) You don't touch someone else's property without their permission and, in return,
6) So long as you treat it properly, no body touches your property without permission.
We were VERY strict about these rules. As I said, we took a lot of flack about them too. One sister-in-law in particular told us, "You are stifling their creativity and their ability to learn -- children need to be able to 'explore' their environment unfettered. You need to put the 'childproof' plugs into the outlets, child locks on the medicine cabinets and chemical storage, and lock up/hide your guns."
To this we responded, "Your children are in a 'safe' environment where you have 'child-proofed' the house; if they leave that environment, they are at risk. We have 'house-proofed' our kids; we can take them anywhere. As a result:
1) Your kids need to be watched every moment when you visit friends or grandparents; our kids get a quick tour complete with a list of "no touches" and travel boundaries when they enter a new location, then are free to roam.
2) Your kids ride rocking horses; our kids ride real horses.
3) Your kids play with toy guns; our kids responsibly handle real guns.
4) Your kids play with toy tractors and toy trucks; our kids responsibly drive real tractors, real trucks and other farm equipment.
The list went on a lot her; but, you get the idea...
Now on to the firearms question...
At what age do you start taking kids to the range?
First, check with the range. Unless you own the range, they may have rules or policies that you don't want to violate. Beyond that, the age at which you start the kid shooting for "real" depends on the kid's maturity. By "maturity," I mean both physical and mental maturity. Physical maturity depends primarily upon level of physical activity and genetics; mental maturity, depends primarily on how s/he is raised.
I have three sons; the youngest is now 18. They came into the world fully equipped with widely differing personalities. They received access to BB guns, pellet guns, firearms, archery equipment, and various other things that can kill in a heartbeat at differing chronological ages -- based on the maturation level of each individual.
The physical maturity part requires careful evaluation -- and you have to keep in mind that it is JUST as important as the mental aspect. A firearm dropped because of insufficient upper body strength is dangerous. I know at least one 12-year-old who, at 6 foot 1 inch & 200 lbs (not my family's genetics!) could handle the kick from a .44; I know a lot of 12-year-olds who might need stitches in their forehead after the first shot. You have to match the physical capabilities, strength, coordination, vision, et cetera, with the activity being attempted.
On the mental maturity side, here are some more specific tips. To start with, be sure the child knows the rules (Range rules if you are going to the range; for sure "house" rules if you practice privately). "Knowing" means being able to recite rules, in order of importance, AND being able to explain the reasoning behind each rule. In our house, the basic rules for firearms are:
1) All guns are loaded. The only time a firearm is unloaded is for cleaning, for repair, or because there is a legal requirement for the gun to be unloaded.
2) You never point your gun at anything you are unwilling to shoot.
3) You never shoot anything you are unwilling to destroy/kill.
4) You never shoot at anything without knowing what it is AND what is "Behind it" (id est: in the line of fire).
5) You never touch anyone else's gun without their permission AND instruction on how to properly operate and control that particular firearm.
6) You never hand a person an unloaded gun.
7) You never receive a gun without checking to ensure it is loaded.
8) You properly store and maintain a gun in a manner such that it remains safe and reliable.
[Note: I am sure that some of you will take issue with one or more of these rules; some will say that I have left out something crucial. Fine. I will point out that there is no history of any firearms-related accident in my father's family (from whence these rules came) clear back to the point where some of them stepped off the boat at the founding of Jamestown (and others were there to greet the new arrivals). Say what you will, these rule work for us… The important part for this discussion is the process used in the training of the child.]
Once you knew the rules, you had to follow them scrupulously, without fail, with no "spacing out" on any part of it. How did we assess this?
Well, first of all, the boys all had a LOT of toy guns. In our house, these "toy" guns were training tools. Our boys (and we adults) were expected to treat ANYTHING that looked remotely like a gun as though it were a REAL firearm. We purposely, intentionally, religiously took this to extremes; no mercy given. When our family engaged cousins in "squirt gun fights," our children had "squirt fish" and "squirt dinosaurs" to ensure that they pointed nothing "gun like" at anybody else. If you misbehaved, (this includes adults too, folks!) you lost the use of the gun for a period of time. This was not "punishment" -- simply an opportunity to show everyone you were trustworthy again. (The eldest son once pointed his finger at a brother and went "Bang!" He rightly figured that we could not "take away" his finger for this infraction; however, as we pointed out, while taping his finger flat to his palm, the penalty is losing the use of the "gun" not necessarily the gun itself. That was the only intentional infraction of the rules we ever had. )
As I said, the rules went for adults too! The children did not touch our firearms without our permission; we did not touch their "firearms" without their permission -- so long as they treated them properly. After all, if Mommy and Daddy don't handle their firearms properly, people will come and take their guns away (and, quite possibly, take them away too). The boys could shoot as many "pretend" bad guys as they wanted -- so long as no real people, dogs, cats, horses, et cetera were in the line of fire. In fact, they could do anything you would expect a kid to do with a "toy" gun -- except handle it in a way that you wouldn't want a real firearm handled. Got the picture?
Well, maybe not quite… That is the "rules" side, sometimes a pain for the adults (or siblings) to enforce and for the kids to obey; but, there was a "reward" side too. For the kids, this comes in knowing that they will be allowed to do anything that is legal, moral, and ethical provided that they show the required maturity. (The year my 4th grader wrote his obligatory "What I did over the summer" about how he used the arc welder to build gates for a new fence, he "earned his chops" with his classmates for most of the year. )
For the adults, there is an indescribable sense of parental pride that comes when you see the fruits of this type of early, consistent training. Like the time when an uncle (from Mom's side of the family) and his kids were visiting. Uncle picked up a toy rifle leaning in the "designated place for eldest son's weapons" and started playing "shoot'em up" with his own children. Middle son, then about four, went up to him and said, "Uncle T. we don't point things like that at each other in our house and that is my brother's gun. If you want to use it, you need to put it back where it belongs, then ask him for permission."
Or there was the time when youngest son was on the swing set in the backyard with Neighbor Kid and Mom, doing dishes in the kitchen, eavesdropped on their conversation through the window by the sink. Neighbor Kid says, "Your Dad and brothers just left, I bet we could go find some guns in your house." Youngest Son (seven years old) replies, "I think you should leave now." The Neighbor Kid says, "Your brothers said they were going to Hunter's Ed, that means they have guns, we could play with them and they would never know." Youngest Son replies, "I said leave! Now!" Then he starts yelling for Mom as Neighbor Kid runs for home. Mom asked him later what he would have done had Neighbor Kid started for our house instead, Youngest Son says, "I would have taken him down and sat on him until you came to help -- well, at least I would have tried, he's bigger than me."
So, enough of the bragging, how do you tell they're ready? Well, in our family, "ready" meant a year with no "mistakes" or "accidents" or "I forgots" with their ("toy") guns. Blow it, and the timer starts over. Period.
"Ready" also meant showing strength of character. They had to be able to resist the temptation to "show off" to other kids (how many times do we hear about an "accident" that involves an "unloaded" gun being shown to a teenage friend?) and to resist goading ("I bet your Mom and Dad don't really let you target practice any time you want" to which the standard answer is, "Oh, but they do -- I just don't want to use a firearm in the presence of an idiot." )
The best part of all is seeing how gun handling becomes second nature -- like walking or, for some people, swimming. For example, in our house...
Firearms are passed from one person to another with the muzzle pointed in a neutral direction and the "giver" holding it as you would present a gift -- such that the receiver "picks it up as though from a table" and says thank you when he has it firmly controlled. Chamber and magazine are checked as a matter of course. Questions, if any, are asked BEFORE the firearm is touched by the recipient…
In our house...
If you want to inspect the rifling inside of a barrel, you are going to have to pick up the gun yourself because you will NEVER see the open end of the firearm while these boys are handling it.
In our back yard...
Their favorite target practice involves shooting pop cans w/a .22 at 50 yards. Instead of shooting the can directly, they hang them by their tabs with "hay string" -- then they drop the cans -- by shooting off the tabs. (A typical contest with the friends invited to shoot is "How many cans can you hit before I drop them to the ground?")
At Scout Camp...
...when Middle Son was 16, he won high honors at shotgun during a Camporee. He wasn't the best shot -- he missed the first bird because, never having used an "open" choked shotgun before, he let it get too far away. What he and the rest of the scouts did not know until awards time was that they were not judged on accuracy. The bulk of their score was based on "handling technique." Middle Son was the Only scout who demanded the range master show him the proper operation of every aspect of the shotgun before he would touch it; he was one of only four scouts who properly examined the firearm after receiving (and therefore found the rubber stopper inserted in the breech by inspection rather than by trying to chamber the "dummy" load he had been provided). And he spotted and returned the "dummy" load (expended primer, no powder) and exchanged it for a live round before chambering it. Most didn't spot it before trying to chamber it through the rubber stopper; some removed the stopper, chambered the round, and got a "click" on their first bird.
As for when they started shooting at the range, the only "range experience" they have had was in Cub/Boy Scouts and during Hunter's Ed. They earned Rifle & Shotgun Merit Badges at 12 & 14 respectively; Hunter's Ed was taken at 12, 10, and 14. The rest of the time, we used our own or a neighbor's property (with permission). Two were four; one five when they first fired real firearms.
Middle Son was 7 the first time he shot a "hunting caliber" rifle. I was sighting in the '94 prior to hunting season. We had a target set up at 100 yards and I'd (finally) gotten 3 bulls in a row. Figuring that a good time to quit, we started packing up to go. Middle Son had been excellent about helping to pick up brass, mark holes in the target and or replace the paper, and just generally doing "gopher" work. So, I asked him if he would like to take a shot. Of course, he said sure. I explained that this gun would kick a lot harder than the air rifles and the .22s he had used before. He said that was okay. The gun, with a full 26-inch octagon barrel, was pretty heavy for him, so we fixed a place for him to sit and tromped enough grass that he could see the target. Then we installed a fresh target, and set him up to shoot.
With him sitting and me helping hold the barrel, it took what seemed like 10 minutes for him to squeeze the trigger -- even my arm was getting tired. Right after taking the shot, he said, "Ah Dad, I jerked. I think I missed the whole target." I suggested we go look anyway. When we got close enough to see where he hit, he got pretty excited. Walking up to the target and sticking his finger into the neat hole centered on the eight-ring, he said the immortal words that will haunt him to MY dying day, "Wow, that's pretty good for a jerk!"
as a child my father was a police officer (early 80's) and their dept. carried S&W .357 mags. at the age of 8 he let me hold it (unloaded of coarse) and the first thing i did was point it back at him, he then took it from me and to this day i remember him putting his hand cuffs on me and asked me if they were comfortable and i said no, and he said this is what happens when you point a gun at someone, i never did it again. at the age of 10 he asked me if i would like to go to the range with him and a couple of other officers and watch them shoot, i was thrilled. the first gun i shot was a .22cal rugger revolver, the second was a 410 single shot shotgun, the third was a winchester 30-30 with iron sights, the fourth was a first gen Glock 9mm, and the fourth was one that will stand out in my mind forever, that shinny .357 mag. i remember dad holding my wrists as i took aim and one of the other officers cocked the hammer back for me, them boom i felt a feeling like no other, the very distinct shock wave that comes from that gun, it was amazing.........that day will forever have a place in my heart, and to this day me and my dad still go to the range about 2 times a week and i now own my beloved XD40, a taurus 145pro .45acp, and a S&W .357 mag with a 4" barrel
just thought id share my first shooting experience with the guys
So, RightTurn, I'll take any "jerk guilt" you might feel off of your shoulders by engaging in my own "jerkyesque" proofreading in turn: Your critique should read, "...typos here have the effect of making..."
I want to also thank unpecador for making the correct explanation on my behalf while I was absent. Yes, indeed, those are my family's rules; if that was not clear from my original message, I do apologize!
Obviously, on those rare occasions when we visit a range, we obey range rules; when we participate in Hunter's Ed, we obey Hunter's Ed rules; when we transport firearms in the public space, we obey public rules, laws, et cetera. At home, the rules outlined above apply -- even to visitors; no typos; no exceptions.
To understand why we have Rule #6 and Rule #7 in my Family, you have to know the Family history….
First, My Dad was born at the end of the 19th Century. When he was growing up, handing anyone an unloaded firearm was a grave insult. Out in the territories, it was an insult that could rapidly foster the use of other, fully loaded, firearms to acquit the offense. The reasoning went like this: if you don't trust my intentions or motives, don't hand me a gun; if you are willing to hand me a gun, but you unload it first, you are saying I mean well but calling me a Careless Incompetent. If there is any doubt about my familiarity with the firearm, feel free to demonstrate its proper operation while showing it to me; but, if you unload it then hand it to me, you insult me.
Second, anyone receiving a firearm in that day and age expected it to be in operational and operable condition; in my house, you should still have that expectation. Sure, it was (& is) prudent to check; however, there is not always time to do so. Which brings us to…
Third, when my eldest son was four (4) years old, we came within about 30 seconds of losing him to a Pit Bull attack because I was handed an unloaded rifle. Though it took less than a minute to occur, the incident is a long story in the telling & I am (fortunately for you folks) short on time at the moment -- so I won't present the details right now. Suffice to say, because my wife violated Rule #6 and I, with my arms full of sleeping bags and camping gear, slung the rifle w/o checking it, thereby choosing to violate Rule #7, we nearly lost our son. That is the first time I can remember such carelessness in our family; thus far, it is the only time; if I have anything to say about it, it will be the last time. (The hardest part of the whole event turned out to be explaining the mess-up to my 89-year-old father. As a consequence of my wife and I breaking these two (2) rules back-to-back, my Dad, who originally drummed the afforementioned rules into my head, wound up beating off the Pit Bull with a 2X4... All because my gun went "click" when it should have gone "bang"; I'm just glad my Mom wasn't there to see it! )