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Why We Need to Encourage New Shooters to Get Training

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Recently, I was asked to be a guest instructor for a defensive shooting class. It was a small class but we had one student who arrived with a brand new gun, still in the box. Not only that, but it quickly became clear that this student was brand new to defensive shooting, as in not even knowing how to load the pistol magazine. I had planned to work with the class on pistol presentation and even some movement, but that all went out the window. Fortunately, I had a helper so he could go one-on-one with this student, but it still held the class back and forced us to use much tamer shooting drills.

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Now, of course, the first thought is to just tell that student that they are in over their head and that they, basically, need to sit this one out.  But, an instructor also has to consider that these kind of students care enough to get signed up for training and we certainly don’t want to discourage them at this point. So you kind of have to dummy things down. In this case, the class lived over it and the new shooter had a pleasant, positive experience. But it’s tough to have to hold an eager class back because of one student.

When we can, we need to tell the new shooter that they really need to learn to walk before they can run. And then we need to help them find the kind of training that will give them the basics of safe gun handling and marksmanship. The NRA’s basic handgun course is a really good place to start and, of course, many gun clubs offer basic classes for beginners. Any shooter needs to master these basics before they have any business working from a holster, firing multiple shots on multiple targets, or moving with a loaded gun.

The only negative discharge with injuries that I have personally witnessed was a retired deputy sheriff—a revolver guy—who had signed up for the class with his new striker-fired pistol. While he understood marksmanship, he clearly did not understand gun handling when it came to his new handgun. His trigger-finger-control wasn’t very good and, fortunately, the wound in his right thigh wasn’t too bad.

We can all do our part to point new shooters in the right direction if we just will, not in a belittling way, but in a helpful, encouraging way. It is simply a case of “they don’t know what they don’t know.” You and I can fix that and, every time that we do, we will bring a new, enthusiastic shooter into the fold.


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