How to Win Over New Shooters

I’m a firm believer in getting non-shooters to the range. Every single new shooter I’ve taken to the range has had a safe, enjoyable time, and about 80% have been shooting with me at least once after the first time (most of those who don’t are simply acquaintances or friends-of-friends, and we don’t often spend much time together).

Most people are perfectly willing to give it a shot (pun very much intended), but there are always some tough sells: whether the person is anti-gun, gun-neutral, or nervous, it can require a bit of effort to convince them to come. I’ve come up with a few tips for interacting with these people:

Getting Non-Shooters to Come to the Range

  1. Don’t be crazy. Nothing turns non-shooters off more (and makes the rest of us look bad) than crazy people with guns. Somehow, I doubt the UN has listening devices in your walls or stealth helicopters following you around. Knock it off. Really.
  2. Don’t bring up politics. This can be a major turn-off.
  3. See rule number 2.
  4. If politics cannot possibly be avoided (such as someone asking about the 1994-2004 Federal AWB, or a particular candidate’s stance on a certain issue), be objective, be calm, and be brief. Never be the first one to bring up politics, and try to steer the conversation to a non-politicial topic as soon as practical.
  5. Know your stuff. The “AR” in “AR-15″ stands for “Armalite model 15“, not “Assault Rifle”. If someone asks about “assault weapons” and you have an AR-15, be prepared to demonstrate the various features (flash hider, bayonet lug, etc.) that the now-expired ban covered. It might be good to mention that guns not mentioned by name and lacking the specific features were perfectly legal to buy during the ban, and that the banned guns were functionally identical to non-banned guns (AR vs. Mini-14, for example). Make a point of not using the term “assault weapon” when describing such firearms.
  6. Understand your audience. Last night, I spoke with two female university students about gunny stuff. Both are very intelligent (one is triple-majoring in Physics, Astronomy, and Math and has a 4.0 cumulative GPA). Both were intrigued by the various steps involved in reloading, and I explained it to them and demonstrated the process using scientific terms. If they were not scientifically-minded, I’d adjust the explanations accordingly. When we were talking about different styles of guns, I mentioned that many military-based firearms tend to be designed for people of larger body sizes (i.e. men), and guns with these dimensions can be uncomfortable for some women and smaller men; the collapsible stock allows one to adjust the rifle such that it’s comfortable for people of a wide range of body types to shoot. They both seemed to appreciate this feature.
  7. Relate to your audience. One of my female friends is a proficient shooter and scientist, and works wonders at getting women involved as she can relate to them in a variety of ways. If politics comes up (see Rules 2-4), I’ve found that my pro-rights-in-general leanings tend to go over well with most college-aged students, as well as people in most groups. Don’t do all the talking; get to know who you’re talking to, try to see things from their view, and relate to them. A friend if mine is very much interested in gay and womens rights; a mention of the Pink Pistols and Babes with Bullets proved a vital link between her interests and my own, as well as establishing that we were both concerned with rights.
  8. Avoid talking about self-defense until you understand the person better. Not everyone is comfortable with violence, even in self-defense. If the topic does come up, be objective and intelligent about it…don’t start talking about what rounds are the best for “ventiliating” bad guys.
  9. Don’t be patronizing. Shooting tends to be a male-dominated activity, and can be intimidating for many new shooters, particularly women. Many people have misconceptions about gun owners (that we’re all uneducated, unsafe, uncouth, redneck men); by being polite, knowledgeable, safe, and attentive, you can gently change their minds. Don’t be a pig.
  10. Realize that you were a new shooter once. Think of how they feel.
  11. Be sure to emphasize that shooting is a safe, fun, and enjoyable activity enjoyed by millions of people from diverse backgrounds.

At this point, the non-shooter should be interested in going to the range. If so, schedule a time that works for both of you. If possible and desired, try to arrange for a few other people (new shooters, until-recently-new-shooters, and experienced shooters) to come with. Group activities tend to be more fun.

If the non-shooter remains uninterested, not a problem. Don’t insist on anything. It’d probably be a good idea to change topics and not bring up guns at this time. Perhaps you’ll have better luck in the future.

At The Range

  1. Before your journey to the range, make sure that everyone understands the rules of gun safety and some examples where one might inadvertently violate them (e.g. if a pistol malfunctions, many people turn it sideways to examine it, sweeping the firing line — doing so violates Rule #2). If the range has specific rules, be sure to go over them with the new shooter(s).
  2. Be sure to bring food and drink, as appropriate. Also ensure that people are appropriately dressed, both in regards to clothing (open-toed shoes and low-cut shirts tend to be magnets for hot brass) and safety equipment (eye and ear protection).
  3. Start every new shooter off on a .22LR, preferably a .22 rifle. I recommend outdoor ranges, as the noise is not as intense as indoors.
  4. DO NOT START NEW SHOOTERS WITH HIGH-RECOIL FIREARMS. .357 Magnum is not an appropriate beginner’s firearm, nor is .30-06. Even a 9mm Glock 17 may not be suitable for some people. In keeping with Rule #3, I always have a .22LR rifle and pistol when I go to the range, and they make ideal guns for new shooters to start on. Recoil causes new shooters to develop bad habits like flinching, and may turn them off from the shooting sports entirely. If possible, avoid shooting lanes next to people with high-recoil/high-noise firearms…a blast from a .50 BMG’s muzzle brake will ruin your day.
  5. At first, demonstrate everything before you ask the new shooter to do it. They’re probably not familiar with the gun’s controls, how to load magazines, how to properly shoulder the gun, etc.
  6. Be sure to emphasize safety, relaxation, and shooter comfort. If they’re able to hit the target by holding the gun in a particular way, that’s fine (so long as it’s safe), even if it’s not how you hold it. Be sure that the new shooters understand that sights can be adjusted, and that being consistent is more important than where the bullets strike the target.
  7. Having reactive targets (metal gongs, plates that fall over, etc.) can be much more rewarding than simply putting holes in paper.
  8. Don’t be overbearing. Obviously, you should step in when there’s a potential safety violation, but avoid micromanaging their shooting. If you have suggestions or comments on their technique, wait until an appropriate time (say, after they’re done with the magazine).
  9. Stay away from crazy people. See Rule #1 from above. If the guy at the next lane is jabbering about black helicopters and the New World Order, ask to move to a different lane or politely ask the other person to stop. Same thing with patronizing people. You’d be surprised at how obnoxious some people can be when they see a woman shooting a gun for the first time.
  10. If you possess a variety of different guns, bring them to the range. Once the new shooter is comfortable with .22LR, introduce them to other calibers starting with the least recoil (say, .223) and eventually moving up to higher-recoil arms. I’ve often found new shooters enjoy shooting .30-06 from my M1 Garand, even on the first day…but they have to work up to it. If the new shooter is not comfortable with the ergonomics of a particular gun or the recoil of a specific caliber, do not force them to shoot it. Move on to something else.
  11. Same thing with different optics, if you have them. I’ve found a red-dot sight to be ideal for new shooters to start with (“Put the red dot on the target you wish to shoot, then squeeze the trigger.”), but have guns with iron sights and telescopic sights handy for when they wish to try something else.
  12. Above all, be safe and have fun.

I’ve followed these simple tips for years, and have introduced over a dozen people to the shooting sports. Everyone, without exception, has enjoyed themselves and left the range with a big smile. Several have ended up buying guns of their own and nearly (with the exception of friends-of-friends who I don’t see on a regular basis) have gone back to the range with me again.

A few dollars spent in ammunition and range fees (I always pay for a new shooter’s ammo, and nearly always pay for their range fee) can go a very long way at getting new shooters exposed to the sport, correcting common misconceptions about guns, shooters, and the shooting sports, and generally improving the RKBA.

It’s also really fun!

I don’t think so…

Evidently there’s a bill pending in the Arizona Legislature to mandate some sort of microcoding of ammunition, a 1/2 cent per-round tax, registration of ammunition, etc.

Good luck with that, particularly as the bill specifies that it would apply to “handgun and assault weapon ammunition” and, of course, Arizona has no legislaton defining an “assault weapon”, and there is certainly no federal law either.

I don’t think such a law will ever pass here, and I certainly hope it won’t.

Reloading Goals

I have enough powder to load 2,500 rounds of .223 and enough bullets and primers to load about 1,500 rounds. I have no idea how many empty cases I have, but there’s at least 1,000.

I also have a whole bunch of empty AR magazines. Empty magazines don’t do much good, and I’m sick of cranking out hundreds of rounds the night before a trip to the range.

Thus, I’m setting a goal for myself: load at least 30 rounds of .223 every day until all of my AR magazines are full. After that, load 30 rounds a day until I’m out of components. If my finacial resources permit, then I’ll buy more components (with the exception of brass, which I pick up at the range) as required.

It’s not much, and it’ll probably take me a month or so to load up all my AR mags, but it’s not an impossible goal. Having ammo on-hand is always useful, whether it’s for an impromptu range trip or a zombie attack.

Dear Ammo Makers

Dear Ammo Makers,

Stop crimping primer pockets. Unless you’re the military, it’s completely unnecessary.

Even if you are the military, it’s probably not necessary. How often do primers push themselves out, anyway?

Finding Remington and Federal brass in my range pickup bags is always nice, as their primer pockets allow for the easy but firm seating of primers.

Anyway, knock it off. My fingers are killing me and I can’t afford a Dillon swager.

Thanks!
-AZR

Musings of the Day

I’ve always been a big fan of Glock pistols: they’re not terribly expensive, they fit my hand well, they’re mechanically simple, and freakishly reliable. Sure, they’re not pretty, but I don’t care.

That said, why hasn’t Glock ever made a rifle…like, say, an AR-15? Not a 100% mil-spec one mind you, but something with some improvements. Say, have it striker-fired with the striker contained within the bolt carrier. A firing pin safety. A similar sear/disconnector to the one in their pistols — it could considerably simplify the working mechanisms of the gun itself.

CavArms has made all-polymer lowers and they turned out quite well. I’d imagine Glock could do something similar, or maybe just stick with the aluminum receivers and do some internal modifications.

Glock pistol magazines tend to be rugged and durable, with both a steel liner and a plastic outside. Why not make AR mags in a similar way, and have them be compatible with mil-spec ARs?

Many police departments and militaries around the world use Glock pistols. Many departments in the US are now equipping their officers with patrol rifles, usually AR variants (mostly likely because of the “Oooh! Shiny!” factor). I’m really surprised that Glock hasn’t gotten into this market.

Credit Card Fraud

MasterCard called me this evening to alert me to some suspicious transactions on my CapitalOne card. The card has been locked in my gun safe since August, and certainly hasn’t been used to buy $300 in gasoline (in three separate <$100 transactions) at a single BP gas station in Largo, Florida.

After the first two transactions went through, the card was disabled and the fraud department was notified. The third transaction was declined.

Of course, I’m not liable for any of the charges, and they’re sending me a replacement card (which will also go into the safe — I got the card because they charged no foreign currency conversion fees for my Europe trip, and now I keep it around as a backup) and an affadavit I need to fill out to attest that I didn’t actually make those charges.

I have no idea where the fraudsters got the card information, but I figured I’d let folks know so they’d be a bit more careful.

This is yet another reason why I stick to using credit, rather than debit, cards. While debit cards also offer the same consumer protections, you have to argue with the bank to get your money back (and there’s a risk of bouncing checks and whatnot during that time). With credit cards, you argue whether or not you owe the bank money, and you don’t owe them anything while the investigation is ongoing. There’s no chance for checks to bounce, as it’s not linked to your checking account.

Reloading Woes

I got another case stuck in my .223 die.

After the first few times doing this, I built a stuck case remover: drill out the primer pocket, tap it, then use a threaded bolt to pull it out. Simple, quick, and easy.

Unfortunately, it requires that the expander pin not be in the case. In this case, it’s well and truly stuck and the pin is still there…and blocks my drill from being able to drill through the primer pocket.

I sheepishly wrote a check to Lee for $4 and will drop the die in the mail tomorrow. If the last time this happened (about a year ago) is any indication, they don’t bother to extract them, but rather just send you a new one and the $4 is the cover return shipping. Not a bad deal.

Moral of the story: use enough case lube.

Registration

Why do some people support registration of firearms?

I’m not talking about rabidly anti-gun groups like the Brady Campaign. Instead, I’m talking about regular, everyday folks, including some gunny folks I’ve met.

I’m honestly interested in why people support such a measure.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?

I have awesome friends.

After seeing the picture of the awesome shirt, my friends decided to buy me the shirt for Veteran’s Day[1].

Observe:

Awesome indeed.

[1] I don’t usually think of Veteran’s Day as a gift-giving holiday. While I certainly welcome the shirt (it does, after all, put off the dreaded Laundry Day by another day), I feel a bit sheepish in the face of all the attention my friends have been giving me. I did a job, got hurt, and came home. Not a big deal. Seriously, if you feel that you should honor veterans, that’s fine…but please direction such honor towards those who Went There and Did That. They deserve it, not me.