Learning to shoot is a fun experience. But like all things learned, how much you learn and how much fun you have while doing it can be influenced by the caliber of person doing the instructing.The person you select to teach you to shoot should be willing to, enthusiastic about and qualified to teach you. They should also be someone from whom you will be comfortable accepting direction and criticism. A good instructor will also be someone you are okay with having in your personal space bubble so that they can correct your stance, grip, etc. Your instructor can be a family member, friend, a gun blogger or a paid instructor.
If you decide to have a family member or a friend teach you to shoot, you have to think about a couple of things before you begin taking lessons.
1. Have you ever, even in a “joking” or casual situation or even when the gun was known to be unloaded, seen this person do anything with a firearm that made you nervous or was contrary to gun safety principles?
If the answer is yes, this is not the instructor you’re looking for. You need to be confident in your instructor’s ability to teach you and keep you safe. Your instructor should be someone you trust, especially around firearms.
2. Do you really, really care about the opinion this person has of you? Do you want to be good for them; do you want to impress them? Are you worried about being dumb, embarrassed or letting this person down?
If the answer is yes, this is not the instructor you’re looking for. You need someone with whom you can be completely humble and someone you wouldn’t mind looking like a total idiot around.
3. Does this person have the ability to make you cry easily?
If you will be sensitive to taking criticism from this person for any reason, this instructor is not the instructor you are looking for. As a part of the learning process, you will make mistakes and your teacher needs to be able to correct you. Most of the time, they will be able to correct you politely, but if you make a safety error, they may need to yell at you to get your attention and make the situation safe. If you can’t handle your family or friends correcting you and maybe even yelling at you at the range, it will be better for you to find a stranger to do those things for you.
Family and friends can make good instructors if the above questions are answered in the negative and if they are willing to teach you. Have them research teaching a newbie to shoot before your lessons begin. Cornered Cat has a couple articles on teaching people to shoot that were helpful for me when GB was teaching me to shoot: “Taking a New Shooter to the Range” and “Should You Teach Your Wife to Shoot?“.
If you decide to get a stranger to teach you to shoot, you have a couple of options. You can see if a gun blogger near you can come out to teach you. This website coordinates people willing to instruct new shooters. For the most part, you should be safe with a gun blogger stranger teaching you to shoot, but trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right about the person offering to teach you, find a different person to do it. If they do anything that makes you nervous, you can terminate the lesson and leave at any time. Your safety comes first.
If you don’t have a gun blogger volunteer near you or are a bit nervous by being taught to shoot by someone you met online, you can hire a local company to teach you. Many ranges, gun shops and gun clubs will have classes. The big sport’s stores like Scheels, Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse will offer classes. Some will even offer women’s only courses and private courses, although most courses will be coed and include other students. When selecting a paid teacher, you have several things to think about to ensure that you have a good time and learn what you need to learn.
1. Is the instructor qualified?
They should list their credentials for you on their flyer, website, business card, etc. If not, ask. Look for certifications such as those offered by the NRA. NRA instructors can be certified in several domains:
- Basic Pistol Shooting
- Personal Protection in the Home
- Personal Protection Outside the Home
- Basic Rifle Shooting
- Basic Shotgun Shooting
- Basic Muzzleloading Pistol
- Basic Muzzleloading Rifle
- Basic Muzzleloading Shotgun
- Home Firearm Safety
- Metallic Cartridge Reloading
- Shotgun Shell Reloading
- Range Safety Officer
2. Is the business the instructor owns or is employed by reputable?
Check with the Better Business Bureau.
3. Have other shooters have good experiences with this instructor and company?
Ask family and friends, gun bloggers, local and national forum members, Google around and check review sites such as www.yelp.com. Your goal is to hire an instructor with whom the gun community has had good experiences. Look for an instructor who has been shooting a long time and has been instructing a long time. New teachers may be good teachers, but someone who’s been at it for awhile is probably good or they would’ve gone out of business by now. Instructors who have been teaching awhile have also more experience under their belts and may be able to spot trouble areas on which you need extra attention quicker.
Now matter which route you decide: free or paying instructor, remember to have fun and be safe. If you don’t like your instructor, you can ask that he/she change some things that bother you or you can shop around for another instructor. There are plenty of fish in the sea; don’t let one bad/incompatible teacher/learner relationship stop you from learning this important new skill. Be gentle on yourself, learning takes time. If you can, take pictures of your experiences, take pictures of or keep your first targets and journal or blog about the journey!