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.