Jul 24

Realistic goals when training your family to shoot

I love to shoot and I don’t mind practicing so that I can get better.  I actually went shooting a few days ago and noticed my reloads were not as efficient as they should be.  So before going out to the range again I’ve decided to slightly adjust a few techniques, go through several hundred dry fire drills at home before ever putting the first live round downrange in a week or two.  When I do get back out to the range, I’ll probably take an hour shooting no more than 2 or 3 rounds at a time / reload / 2 or 3 more rounds.  All of this is certainly not as fun as lining up bowling pins to knock down or blasting away at steel (both take skill to do as well) but I don’t mind putting in the time to get better, if even by a small margin.  I state all that because that is the complete opposite of what my wife and daughter have in mind when they go shooting.  After an hour out  on the range they are ready to go home.  Sure they don’t mind going through some drills and plinking at various items but there is no way I’m going to ask them or even attempt to force them to “train” like I do.  That’s perfectly acceptable in my book, as we all have our interests and they will never love shooting as much as I do.  Conversely I will never love shopping as much as they do, it is what it is.  Taken all that into consideration, what are some factors to consider when setting realistic goals for family members who you take to the range?

1- Safety is still paramount.  This was one area where I was not willing to compromise and neither should you.  Before ever taking my family to the range we discussed safety at home.  We went over loading and unloading procedures with dummy rounds, how to hold and orient a weapon while out on the range, the 4 laws of gun safety, and simple site alignment / trigger squeeze drills with paper targets.  They understood that people get “accidentally” shot all the time and that in order to have fun safely these topics needed to be discussed.  Since this was my family I didn’t run the class like a drill sergeant, nor did we go on for hours and hours.  A few 30 minute sessions for familiarization prior to getting to the range was all that was necessary.

2- Start with the goal in mind.  My wife has a CCW and has already gone shooting with me many times, of course my daughter has gone shooting and I hope she will obtain a CCW at some point as well.  She has other defensive measures at her disposal but as we all know pepper spray or bladed objects are never as persuasive as a bullet.  When evaluating what kind of shooting we should do I had to start with what the goal for them should be while we were out at the range.  Super fast reloads, multiple engagements from various positions while putting all rounds inside of a 3×5 card?  I’d be happy with that level of proficiency, so obviously a bridge too far for them.  Being able to quickly present the firearm on target and squeeze off relatively accurate rounds with confidence, now that’s more like it.

3- Situational based training helps.  In addition to pistols, like any other family we have an assortment of various firearms in the home.  While at the range I’ll break out a rifle or shotgun, give it to my wife or daughter and say: “This is exactly the configuration you would find this in the safe at home, I want you to put it into action.”  Maybe that means loading some shells, but not forgetting about the thumb safety on the Mossberg and that you have to flip the other safety to expose the red dot before it’s able to fire.  Or not forgetting that pesky charging handle when loading the M4, or the seemingly simple task of which way the magazine is supposed to face when it is inserted.  You might laugh now but under stress they might forget, especially when they haven’t spent over a decade constantly dealing with these type of weapons (through no fault of their own).   By establishing situations it helps to frame the purpose of the exercise, i.e. an intruder has broken into the home and you pull out a weapon and have to use it.

4- Correct when warranted, but don’t forget to offer praise.  It’s easy to feel like the expert in the room, or BMOC (Big Man On Campus) while out at the range with the ladies.  However constant correction and chastising with very little praise for things done right will only lead to one thing: shutdown.  Or to put it another way: “Can we go home now?”  I have to remember that they are not in the military, nor do they have the same passion for firearms that I do.  Of course I will offer up simple corrections when warranted but I will make an extra effort to praise when even the smallest thing is done correctly.  I then build on those little bits of success, the whole goal being able to leave the range with them being a little more proficient than when they arrived.  Most importantly, we need to be able to leave the range as having had a positive and fun experience.  True enough shooting is serious and there are very real and deadly forces out there which could warrant either of them putting a weapon into action for real, but there has to be a mixture of training methods employed to get the best out of them.  Standing over them screaming “YOU JUST GOT YOUR WHOLE PLATOON KILLED!” will only get me a confused look and probably have me sleeping on the couch later that evening.  It’s all about balance.

All of our families are different and for that reason what I have discussed here might not work for you.  Certainly there are wives/daughters/sons out there who compete and could shoot the eyes off a gnat at 50 yards.  There are couples on YouTube who shoot together and are very proficient, I’ve seen many who go through drills together.  Yet this is not the circumstance I’m faced with and it might not be yours either.  I’m blessed with a family who will listen to what I have to say and who enjoys shooting with me, but only to a certain extent.  That’s why for me and maybe for you as well, realistic goals must be established in order to keep frustration from setting in while out on the range.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Be Sociable, Share!


Skip to comment form

    • ParaB on July 25, 2013 at 7:08 AM
    • Reply

    Nice article brother. I finally got my wife into shooting after many years of wanting nothing to do with it. I’ve sent her through a couple formal classes and try to get her to the range as often as possible. As confidence and proficiency come with trigger time. There was such a bad ammo shortage in the Chicagoland area, I had to come up with something. So I would have her break down the hand gun, wipe it down again and put it back together and cycle it a few times, just to keep her hands on it. Hitting targets is all good and well, but if its far in between range trips, you have to keep the gun in the hands every once in a while. Just an idea. Stay alert out there.

      • PJ on July 25, 2013 at 4:19 PM
      • Reply

      Great idea about working with the gun even when NOT on the range. I think some people miss that aspect of why you should “clean” your gun(s) pretty often, it’s not that they need to be clean enough to eat off of, it’s so you can become more familiar with your gun. At least that is how I view it, then again my Glock 19 still hasn’t been cleaned after two range trips and around 300 rounds fired. Eh…it’s a Glock. I’ll get to it this weekend (maybe).

    • Joel Johnson on July 25, 2013 at 4:48 PM
    • Reply

    I think that one step here is forgotten. The person doing the teaching needs to know what they are doing first. I see this all the time at the range, you get a person who thinks they are good with firearms and decides to bring their significant other or friend. It ends with them having an AD or a safety concern while telling the other one not to do THIS!! If you are not an expert become one before helping others.

      • PJ on July 25, 2013 at 9:57 PM
      • Reply


      A very valid point and one that is seemingly so obvious I overlooked it, thanks for bringing it up. Much like you said, I too have seen things on the range that made me shake my head. Not that I’m some sort of Jerry Miculek, but some of the of the stuff people “teach” is downright dangerous. One should definitely be confident in the ability to shoot and experienced before attempting to teach others how to safely shoot (while using a progressive method, e.g. crawl, walk, run). Thanks for the comment.

    • The Maj on July 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM
    • Reply

    Great article PJ. One thing that has helped me with teaching the kids to shoot is getting them to the range early in life. Of course to our liberal friends out there, I am a terribly “bad” parent for subjecting my children to a life of firearms…. However, it has paid dividends by having the kids exposed to firearms for the vast majority of their life and kinda like with batting practice – the earlier they start, the less likely they are to develop bad habits. Probably the biggest benefit is they learn to respect firearms at an early age AND they understand that they are not toys or something to be taken lightly.

      • PJ on July 29, 2013 at 12:01 AM
      • Reply

      very good points, before I ever took my daughter shooting I made sure she helped me clean my firearms. I let her hold them, become acquainted with them and she knew where I kept them. They definitely are not toys, that point must be reinforced at an early age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.