I am not an expert in this. These are my own personal opinions.

The first thing I would say is that for a first-time shooter, guns are scary. I have a difficult time remembering the first time I shot a firearm. I’m thinking it was a 12gage shotgun with my uncle. It was loud and exciting. We didn’t use ear protection, we didn’t wear eye protection.

We went to the end of his driveway and I got to shoot his gun. This was part of him making his house safe for me to visit. I was maybe first or second grade? The point of it was that he had a beautiful gun cabinet with lots, from the point of view of a very young child, guns in them. It was glass – fronted and beautiful.

Later I was exposed to more shotgun shooting, culminating with a wonderful rabbit hunt.

That was then. My housemate the summer after high school took the time to show me where he had his defense weapon stored. It was a derringer. It was so exciting to handle it when I was alone. I knew to keep my finger off the trigger and I never pointed it at me, but it wasn’t a “safe” situation.

When I finally got the money to buy my own firearms, I had a little more experience. My mentor had given me some lessons. Nothing spectacular. Nothing good.

I was self-taught. Not a good way to learn firearms.

Today, I teach firearm safety to anybody who wants to learn. Not the formal NRA training, but my own person version of firearms training.

Here is how I go about it:

First is the safety talk. This is where we go over the four rules until they have it. I do not go any further if they aren’t comfortable with the rules.

The next step is to let them handle different firearms. At this stage, they learn that they really, really should treat every firearm as loaded. They learn how to handle those firearms safely. They learn how to verify, for themselves, that the firearm is unloaded. They learn to keep the firearm pointed in a safe directly. They learn a bit about how it feels.

During this time, there is never more than one firearm out at a time.

We go through the different types of ammunition. This is partially to disprove the “AR-15 assault weapons fire the most deadly killing bullets!!!!”

At that point, I show them the .22LR we will be using for our first shots. The idea here is that I want them to see this as small and less scary.

We now move to the range. At the range, we will have four different firearms.

  • .22LR semi-automatic pistol
  • .22LR Bolt Action rifle
  • 9 mm semi-automatic pistol
  • .45cal semi-automatic pistol

There are many choices for .22LR semi-automatics. I choose to use a semi-automatic because that is what the rest of my primary pistols are. Yes, I have a few SAA style and one .357 Magnum revolver, but those are not my primary. Those are just for fun.

The next question is with regard to the manual of arms. When you look at .22LR pistols, you’ll find many different styles. For me, I needed a .22LR that had the same manual of arms as my other primary pistols.

What does this mean?

What this means is that everything that you have to do right with my primary firearms you need to do right with the training firearm.

For me, my primary firearm is a 1911. Because my primary is a 1911, my other firearms that I regularly use have 1911 style controls. I prefer a push button for a magazine release, just like the 1911. I want it to have a manual safety, just like my 1911. Likewise, I want it to have a slide release in nearly the same place as the 1911. And I want it to have good sights.

My choice was the M&P 22 Compact. Everything I needed for the manual of arms applies. In addition, it is just fun to shoot.

There are a number of .22LR rifles out there. Pick one that is of a comfortable size for you and the people you are training. I thought about getting a youth sized rifle, but by the time I was ready to do it, my kids didn’t need a youth sized rifle.

Start Slow

When starting, most of the time they want to start with a pistol. Starting with a pistol is a little easier in some ways.

Here is the big starting point, only put one round in the magazine the first time.

This person is going to pull the trigger. There will be a loud bang. You do not know what they are going to do next. Sometimes they will turn towards you, sweeping with the pistol, sometimes they will want to drop the pistol. Regardless of what happens, you want it to be as safe as possible.

I always stand where I can put a hand on their hand if they start to swing towards me, but that is not always the best choice.

Start with one round.

Once they have done one round a few times, then you can move to two rounds in the magazine. The idea, again, is to be safe.

During initial training, I normally do not put more than 5 rounds in the magazine. For you, it might not feel like anything to put 18 rounds of spicy 9 mm down range. For a new person, holding that pistol out for 15+ rounds can be tiring.

At this point, I will demonstrate the 9 mm and the .45. I only send one round down range. The idea is to let them hear that sound up close.

If it works for them, I will let them put a round down range from each of them.

From there we move to the rifle. This gives them a chance to better understand the loading process. We normally shoot offhanded because most of the time people don’t like to get prone. Depending on the range, we might be able to let them sit at a bench to shoot the rifle.

This is how I do it. Lots of talk beforehand. Lots of familiarization beforehand. It is about making them comfortable and to not do stupids or allowing them to do stupids.

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By awa

11 thoughts on “Training firearms?”
  1. The ONLY problem I have with non shooting training firearms is you will fight like you train. Having “trained “ with something that doesn’t function exactly like what you carry and doesn’t go BANG, can and will get you in trouble. Muscle memory will take over. What you do to teach new shooters is very good. Its the way we do it with new shooters. Think ! Never stop thinking.

    1. Pretty much what I was trying to say. I train like I fight, and I fight like I train. Within the limits of a fat old man that doesn’t fight anymore. At the same time, I train with the firearms that are not exactly like my primary. This means learning to know that the Glock is going to shoot low until I correct for it not being my 1911 style.
      A couple of months ago, my daughter gave me a hard time because I had sent a couple of mags down range and hadn’t actually removed the center of the target. Then I pointed out to her that it was the Glock and I shoot it poorly, she just sulked because my poorly was better than she was doing. She is highly competitive.

  2. There is nothing more fulfilling than introducing a beginner to the firearms world and having them succeed in understanding the elementary aspects of firearms handling. I know from that point forward, that they’ll graduate the necessary steps to becoming a proficient shooter with the firearms they desire to master.
    The procedure you’re doing and have been doing, are exactly what ever new student of firearms needs to succeed. One round performance-based graduations serve to advance the student both mentally and physically while giving them the repeated opportunity to handle the firearm safely when loading. I do exactly what you do, and I also add the squib load experience at the end of the lesson. Many R.O.s, instructors and fellow shooters have been accidently shot during the loading, unloading and malfunction occurrences.
    Excellent post awa. Thanks. Perfect read for my first cup of coffee.

  3. There is a European tradition of training rifles in 22 that are nearly identical to the issued military rifle. That is because the ammo is cheaper and European military bases are smaller and don’t have as many long distance ranges. It was easier to train conscripts on 22s then give them a stripper clip of full power rifle ammo to know what it’s like. Cz makes a lot of 22 training rifles. I honestly like that idea for civilian training. Train a new shooter on the fundamentals with a 22 then let them shoot full power ammo. I like the trend of 22 pistols that are near duplicates of center fire handguns. I want more like this.

  4. One thing I found to be successful with new shooters – start with DA revolvers. They can learn to line the sights up, start to develop a smooth trigger pull, etc., with dry-fire DA, as many times as they want without needing to break their sight picture or break grip to rack the slide, etc.
    Then, when they’re ready for that first shot, you put a single round in the cylinder, at a location known to you but not them, so the shot will come as a complete surprise. (If you can position yourself properly, you may be able to see the base of the round rotate into the firing position by looking around the blast shield … so you will know when it’s going to happen, even if you weren’t paying attention when you closed the cylinder.)

    1. I’ve been thinking about this. I don’t think this is a good starting place. It might be a place to go, but until they are comfortable I want the firearm to function as they expect, each and every time.

      1. My add here is that I introduce the student to a DA only revolver with a laser grip (generally a S&W J frame) a couple of days to a week after their first or second range day. Not to shoot, mind you, just to practice squeezing the trigger while holding the laser on a fixed point. They are NEVER issued the ammo with the gun, just the empty J-frame with CTC’s installed, and encouraged to ‘be safe’ (i.e. confirm clear gun, point in the direction of least consequence, etc.) CTCs encourage proper grip, so I prefer them over ‘boresight’ type lasers.

  5. A+ on start with one bullet. I think this is often overlooked and is perhaps the easiest safety measure we can take when it comes to firing the first shot and experiencing recoil. There is no longer any risk once the gun is fired if it is dropped swung around etc.

  6. Excellent post especially the part about talking things over and your expectations before hand.

    I also have the M&P 22 compact and have to say its been the least ammo picky .22 pistol I’ve ever owned though I do badly want one of those .22 baby browning 1911s.

    Downloading magazines is also good for teaching weapon manipulation and reloading drills but I never thought about the tedium and strain of extended strings of fire thanks for the perspective.

    1. Reply, my wife has some hand strength issues. I was surprised when she put down the .22 pistol before the mag ran dry. She just didn’t have the strength to hold it up in position correctly.
      At the same time, as she was having trouble holding up the .22 for a string of 5 rounds, I was doing reload exercises with the 1911. 9 rounds, mag swap, 8 rounds, mag swap, 8 rounds. Put two magazines back on the belt, load the third in to the pistol. 8 rounds, mag swap, 8 rounds, mag swap, 8 rounds. Start reloading mags until the range officer says clear to examine our targets.

  7. excellent post AWA – and thanks for lighting this topic up…

    It has always bothered me how some dudes will take a woman (or kid) out into the woods with a 12-gauge sporting 00 buck magnum loads, damn near knock their teeth out then cuss at ’em for dropping their nice gun. They’ll never want to shoot again after that, and who’d blame ’em?

    I agree with your firearm lineup, with a few minor improvements. Number 1 – I always lead with the long guns. Whenever I introduce a new action or manual of arms, I try and do that in a rifle for the simple fact they’re harder to point at one’s self… So I usually start a ‘square one’ newbie on a bolt action .22 seated at a bench against an IPSC size steel target set at 100 yards. I also use a suppressor on the gun with my “first timers”. Suppressors are nice because you don’t need to fool with hearing protection, and range instruction is clear and normal at all times (no shouting, which can be unsettling). With the steel target, the student learns to listen for the impact and gets instant confidence building feedback from the ‘ping’ of the plate. I get it that’s a luxury most don’t (but should) have, and that the AFT sucks B@[[$, and the NFA of 1934 is unconstitutional. Nonetheless, this is a hugely overlooked bonus of owning suppressors and steel targets – so if you are your family’s armorer, consider taking that painful extra step to getting this equipment. You’ll thank me later.

    For the .22 pistol, I use an unsuppressed Ruger Mark III. I run an unsuppressed pistol so the newbie can start to understand the sound element with hearing protection. To your point of training gun compatibility – The Ruger is not ‘dead on’ to the 1911, but it’s pretty close… and good enough for the new shooter introduction. Because I carry many different self defense tools on different occasions and depending on the season and wardrobe, I find it useful to ‘train how I fight’ – for me, that’s with multiple manuals of arms at hand… so, cheap isn’t in the vocabulary…. but I digress.

    After the new shooter is comfortable with .22’s, I move to an unsuppressed single shot .44 magnum rifle with subsonic (first) and then supersonic loads – this allows a safe transition to a relatively powerful (and loud) round, but from a rifle, so lighter (ish) recoil and that all important single shot control. Plus as a bonus, the manual of arms are close to a revolver, including decocking a loaded chamber (in a safe direction)… This is where I introduce (as homework – not at the range) the a DA or DA/SA revolver with CTC’s – again, no ammo for this gun, just practice holding the laser on a safe target and squeezing the trigger till ‘click’ to improve their trigger control. The next range session, we might mix in a J-frame and / or a model 19, and yes, I’ve been known so sneak in a ‘dead’ load to point out their inevitable flinch 😉

    Once they’ve had a chance to shoot the .38 / .357 with confidence (and only then) do I move on to the 9mm semi-autos. I bring these in late, because if they are serious about becoming a concealed carrier, I want them 100% confident in that 9mm semi-auto from shot #1. I offer them several options here for grip geometry and manual of arms, because as we all know, everyone is different in what they prefer. By this point, they should be pretty confident putting lead downrange (like, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 – 1000 rounds on the above firearms) to pick what manual of arms they prefer.

    Only if they are 100% confident and comfortable with the 9mm and .357 (without flich) do I move to a .45 – again with choices and selection of manual of arms, I keep a SIG striker fired, SA/DA, and DAO plus a 1911 in the safe just for this purpose… hopefully by this point, having shot the .357 and being comfortable with that, the .45 isn’t a huge stretch. And by now, we’re probably also shooting .223’s and .308’s out of ARs and other semi-auto and bolt rifle platforms for fun 😉

    All of the above would be spread over several range days over weeks to months so as not to overwhelm – it’s a steep learning curve, and you as the instructor have to adjust the pace to the student to be most effective.

    It’s the best gift you can give someone – to train them and provide the tools to be a confident shooter – so do it like AWA says – I’ve been teaching that way for years with good success. good post AWA, thanks!

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