Table of Contents
1 Getting Started at the Range
When you get to the range, you should start with a review of the lesson that you already gave in a comfortable location. Hopefully, this review will be quick, but if people have questions, it is easiest to get them at the beginning.
If you have beginners who have never shot before, they will need one on one supervision at the beginning. You should start with only one gun, and only one person shooting at a time. If you have experienced assistants helping you, they can each supervise one shooter. Some beginners will need one on one supervision for their whole first day. Others will be ready to shoot on their own sooner. I recommend no more than two inexperienced shooters at a time per mentor.
As mentioned above, start each person with only one round. Continue having the person shoot single rounds until they are comfortable firing the gun. Stay focused on the the shooter, not the target. Some people are ready to load several rounds quite quickly, while others need to fire lots of single rounds to get settled.
Beginners will often begin to lose focus after a little while on the range. Pay close attention as people start to get tired. Beginners who know the safety rules have not yet really learned them, so the muzzle may wander as people lose focus.
As the mentor, you should not plan to do much shooting. You will likely want to demonstrate firing the guns, but overall, a day of teaching will not be a range day for you.
2 Range Setup
When people take their first shots, they should start with a large target at short range. Keep in mind that hitting a paper plate at 7 yards with a pistol is a good performance for a beginner. For handguns, five to ten yards is a good starting distance. For rifles, up to 25 yards is OK to start with.
Beginners often make mistakes that cause widely missed shots. If the distance is too great, these shots can be far from the intended target. You should stay at short ranges until the new shooters have consistent control at these distances. Often, that will not happen on the first day.
Make sure the targets are easy to see, and easy to hit. Getting a bunch of hits on the target should be part of the positive experience for new shooters. I recommend using even larger pieces of paper for the target backing so that you can see where the misses land. Examining missed shots helps diagnose the mistakes that caused them. If your range requires you to use longer distances, then the targets should be quite large.
Do not be concerned about accuracy with new shooters. Accuracy on the first day is not important. Keep the focus on practicing fundamentals and having a good time. Over time, good fundamentals will lead to good accuracy, but the important thing on the first day is to have a safe and positive experience.
Interactive targets are fun, and instant feedback is helpful for shooters of all levels. Balloons, shoot and see targets, and steel plates are all good, depending on what is permitted at your range. For steel, make sure it is a safe distance away.
Many beginners do best if they start from a benchrested position. If you want to use a benchrested position, think about what props you will use to make the position stable and comfortable. Sandbags, small rolls of carpet and wooden boxes can all be useful.
3 Special note about double action
Be especially careful of heavy double action triggers with beginners. Many people who shoot well with a light single action trigger cannot control a heavy double action trigger. Often, they shoot into the ground in front of the target. This happens with revolvers and with traditional double/single action semi-auto pistols. Make sure people can dry fire the double action trigger without moving the sights before they do live fire with double action. Many shooters will not be ready for double action live fire on their first day.
Note, that guns like Glocks with much lighter double action triggers do not cause this issue. It is the 10 pound double action triggers on revolvers and traditional double action autos which are difficult to control.
I hope this article will help you make a safe and enjoyable plan for introducing new shooters to the range. Mentoring new shooters is an American tradition and is an important contribution to the future of shooting sports. My hope is that by writing this article I can make a small contribution to lots of new shooters.