In a discussion the other day with the father of a 5-year-old boy he asked me how young was too young to teach his son to shoot. This is probably the best question I have been asked in a long time. The answer to the question is quite complicated.
I began my answer with a question. I asked him did his son want to learn how to shoot or did he want his son to learn how to shoot. His answer was that he wanted his son to learn how to shoot. My answer to him was his son was too young. When I asked the question I was hoping the answer was his son wanted to learn, sadly that was not the case. But all is not lost, I got the inspiration to write this post.
First I must get this out-of-the-way. When a young boy or girl expresses an interest in learning to shoot it is important to ask them why they want to learn. If they have no answer or an incorrect answer they should not be taught. Your gut instinct should be able to differentiate between an incorrect and a correct answer.
To answer the question of how young is too young. No two children are the same, and contrary to popular opinion children are no smarter today than when we were children. It only seems that children are smarter now because we live in a different time and children of today learn differently than we did, they have more gadgets at their disposal.
First and foremost they must be learn and understand the safe rules of handling a firearm and firearm safety. If the child can comprehend this then they are old enough to begin the process.
An age and size appropriate rifle, not a hand gun, must be selected. As always I recommend a single shot 22 cal. rifle, break open or bolt-action capable of shooting shorts, longs and long rifle. The parent must be thoroughly familiar with firearms and firearms safety, if any bad habits have developed overtime, and most of us have some, correct that before you teach bad habits. There will be times when the parent will find themselves being both a parent and a friend and have the patience of a saint. Many hours of familiarization will be required for identification and purpose of the components. Sight alignment and sight picture is an important lesson to be taught. Many more hours for teaching routine cleaning and maintenance. The child must learn to respect the rifle not only for what it is but what it can do, the child must not be taught to fear the rifle. Respect and fear are not the same thing and are never compatible. All of this before the first cartridge is put in the chamber. This is very important, NEVER dry fire a 22 cal. anything.
The child may or may not express an interest in hunting, but either way sign up for a hunters safety course, as safety is the main purpose of the course. Some even offer range time with a lot of supervision again safety. Whether or not the parent is a hunter the course will do you some good, call it refresher training. The parent and child can attend the same classes, some call this bonding, so sign up and bond.
Range time, a real range with a real backstop, not a can in front of a tree in the backyard. Remember the child is a novice shooter not an experienced marksman, missing the 10 is okay even missing the whole target is okay. You and the child can work on marksmanship skills at a latter date. Having fun safely is the goal.