Folks who consider themselves to be proficient with firearms and then have kids have a responsibility to pass that proficiency on to those kids.
There’s more than one way to skin most cats, and this cat is no exception. What I’m going to lay out here is my opinion on the easiest way to get a kid started down the path of at least having a fundamental framework of marksmanship. Maybe we can get them to have some fun along the way, which just might lead your little crumb snatcher(s) to ask to make return trips to the shooting range. Catching flies with honey, instead of vinegar and all.
We’ll get to the cool stuff in Part 2. First we have to get them excited about the day. This part can be used to set yourself up for success for most activities, given it’s something the kid is even remotely interested in. That’s a big deal in itself. If they’re not interested at all, stop. Forcing a kid to do something they don’t want to do just won’t get you the results you’re looking for.
Attack their curiosity.
Let them see you getting all of your stuff together for your own range trip, even before you plan to take them. Be nonchalant about it. Let them get curious and look upon your treasures as you lay them out before loading them into the vehicle. Ask them to help you carry your things to the car. Let them hold the cool stuff. Teach them how to move around with a rifle. Unloaded (no magazine, empty chamber), muzzle up, both hands on the rifle. If it’s going into a case, let them help you put it into the case, if they’re interested. If they seem really excited, go ahead and take them with you. If they’re on the fence, go alone. Show them your targets and where you plan to shoot them. Talk about how far away the target will be. “Think you can throw a rock that far? This gun will throw a bullet WAY further than that.” Start setting up boundaries. If they try to play with knobs or switches, tell them that’s for range time, not here at home. That should peak their interest. At least enough to get them to go with you. When you get back, again, involve them. Ask them to help you unload the car. Ask if they want to help put things away. Maybe watch you clean your gun, if you clean them, and go over it’s anatomy. Let them ask questions.
If they don’t want to go that day, pick another one, but be smart about this. Don’t pick a day where it’s 100 degrees outside and 98% humidity. Remember, we want this to be as comfortable and fun as it can be. Go through the same routine as before. Lay your things out. Let them help. Once everything is loaded, have Mom tell them goodbye and to come back with well-hit targets and stories for her (this is important).
Tickle their ego.
When you leave, go get something to eat. Sit down for a meal. I like taking my kids to diners. They seem to like it too. Let them pick their own food. Talk to them like a small adult, instead of a kid. Explain how things work at the range. Explain the Four Firearms Safety Rules. Play a memorization game with them. No screens.
After breakfast, stop at a store for some snacks. Again, let them be part of the process. “You go grab us something to drink while I pick out some snacks.” Don’t be picky. Let them pick out your drink and drink it. No whining.
Remember this is about them and their experience. Make sure they’re a part of all of it.
Once you make it to the range, you might not get to fire a shot. Doesn’t matter. It depends on the kid and how they progress. The first half hour should be spent showing them around the range and where to pee, discussing the firing line, where it’s ok and not ok to point guns, chatting with the Range Officer (if there is one), watching other people, and THEN getting set up on a bench. Have them do as much of the prep work as you can while still not making it seem like work. Make it sound like it’s their decision. “Think we should go set some targets up?” Let them have the seat at the bench. Work around them. Help them set up the rests, but explain why you’re setting things up the way they are. There should be a ton of reciprocal communication throughout every step of this. If someone at the range makes conversation, say things like “Yeah, we just figured we’d come out and get some work done on the rifle today.”, instead of “I’m teaching this youngin’ how to shoot.” Try not to say things that diminish the kid’s presence. Again, we’re working with the ego.
Ask the kid if they need a break regularly. Suggest taking breaks, especially if they’re way too hyped…especially before we start messing with guns. All of this can be overwhelming for them, but if we’re careful, we can turn that nervous energy into excitement which can then translate into them wanting to come back for more range time and now you have a hobby that you both can enjoy together.
If you don’t think you can pull this stuff off, ask someone else to. That first trip is vital to them wanting to come back. Get the kid interested, and take over from there, if you don’t think you’ve got the patience or interest to go through all of this. Look at someone else taking them as a setup for your trip. “Why don’t you show me what they showed you?” Don’t let your temperament stain their experience. Ajax won’t take that out.
On to Part 2, where the cool stuff happens.