When someone approaches me and says I want to get into shooting and I know nothing. Help me! I’m always excited. But the conversation can be a little overwhelming—both for me and for the person asking! When someone is new to guns and totally hooked on the idea, giving them the information they want and need can be a little tricky. Since the topic of guns is huge, it can a) make me unclear about where to start to help you without b) making you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose.
Sometimes new shooters don’t even know what to ask—they just know they’re interested and want to learn. It’s hard to define what you need because really, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you have zero to minimal experience with guns, and you’re interested in learning more about them, here are five questions to ask yourself. Your answers will help me—or any other gun loving person—understand what you want to know and how to best help.
What is your actual hands-on experience/comfort level with guns?
Have you shot a gun before? If yes, what kinds of guns have you shot and how long has it been? I’ve had people tell me they’ve never shot a gun before and then I find out they spent their youth shooting pop cans with a BB gun. So, while it’s certainly not the same as shooting a 9mm or an AR—yes, you have shot a gun before. You’re in a much different spot than someone who has never so much as held a gun of any kind. For instance, you’ve probably already been exposed to the basic rules of firearms safety.
If you haven’t shot a gun before, is it because you’ve not had any interest until now? Did you grow up in a family that didn’t have guns—or a family that didn’t like guns? Your reason for having zero experience with guns thus far may figure in to how you learn about them, as well as hang-ups you may encounter.
Are you nervous to shoot? Scared to death, but still want to try? Confident in taking on something new? Your attitude towards learning about firearms can make a difference in the approach taken when teaching you.
Do you currently have access to any firearms?
Are there guns in your home? Perhaps you yourself don’t own any guns, but maybe your spouse does. If there are no guns in your home, do you have a close friend or relative who does have guns?
Which leads into question three…
Do you have someone who can take you shooting, and do you have a place to go?
Do you have a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor who has experience with guns and would be willing to take you shooting? (Hint: I’ve never met a Person of the Pew-Pew who, when asked, would decline the chance to take someone shooting. Because, duh—range time.)
If you don’t personally know anyone who could take you shooting, head to your nearest indoor range/gun store. It’s a great place to ask questions. At a gun store that also happens to have a range, you can often rent guns and try them out on site. The staff at the range will be super helpful—that’s absolutely what they are there for: to get more people shooting safely.
Having a place to go shooting is important. You’re not doing yourself any favors by getting your gun out once a year to shoot a few magazines worth at the family cabin.
Check out local indoor/outdoor ranges/gun clubs. Consider whether you can shoot on your property or at a friend’s place. What options do you have available?
What’s your purpose for learning to shoot?
Is your interest in firearms due to home defense? Personal defense? Are you considering concealed/open carry? Do you have no interest in carrying—you just want to go hunting? How about target shooting?
Your reason for wanting to learn about guns tells me a lot about what path to take while helping you to become more knowledgeable about them.
How much time/money do you have to devote to learning a new skill?
If you’re brand new to guns and shooting, you may be surprised to learn it’s a skill you need to keep up on. I suppose that anyone can point and pull the trigger. But that’s not what you want to do, right?
It takes time to learn. It takes time to hone your skill. And it’s going to take some money in ammo, range fees, etc. I don’t think you can ever get enough practice and believe you should practice as often as you have time and money to do so.
Having said that, there are lots of things you can practice without blasting through live ammo at the range. Dry fire drills, malfunction drills with dummy rounds, drawing and re-holstering, etc., will all help you become more skilled as a gun owner. Even cleaning your gun is part of ownership, and it’s something you have to learn how to do.
There are lots of things to practice—way more things than most beginners usually realize. Some of them will cost money and some of them won’t, but in all honesty, you need to practice them all. Getting into guns means different things to different people, but it should never mean you buy a gun, lock it away, and never practice with it.
“Teach me all the things about guns”
It’s completely understandable to get caught up in the awesomeness of guns and say, “I think I want to learn about guns, teach me all the things!” But fellow gun lovers will be able to better direct their advice and instruction if you say, “I was raised in a hunting family. The last time I shot a rifle was 14 years ago, and I’ve never shot a handgun. I’m interested in getting my permit to carry and was hoping you could help me figure out what handgun would be best for me, since I’m new to carrying. Also, can you take me to the range?”
Getting your thoughts in line about what you want from the world of guns is a great way to have fellow firearms enthusiasts be more helpful to you.