Say you want to introduce your 7-year-old son to baseball. Would you send him out on the field with a major league pitcher and have him try to connect his first hit on a 93 mph fastball? Maybe you want to teach him to be a real man and have the pitcher throw some more heat as close to him as possible. How about your 16-year-old daughter telling you she’d like to go on a date with some guy? Would you set her up with a college senior linebacker from one of those colleges that give football players just about anything they want and not care about any consequences? Of course not, so when it comes to teaching a newbie shooter the basics why would you insist that person—regardless of gender or age—try to handle a full-size, full-power duty pistol?

A while ago a lady from my church friended me on Facebook. She’s normally rather reserved—some mistake it for shyness, but she’s actually just a bit introverted—however she’s not afraid about trying something new. She noticed the discussions some of us have on that social media site regarding self-defense pistols and asked me if I could help her get started. I told her that I’d be happy to after my back surgery. She started to have some second thoughts after seeing how those aforementioned discussions went. “You may not want to teach me,” she allowed. “All I have is a .22.”

I was elated and told her so. Truth be told, I thought she might have a .32 or a .380. While I have made no bones about my preferences for a self-defense pistol—those who may have missed out on that should check and read my Preamble—the fact of the matter is the best gun to have in a gunfight is the one you have on when the world goes sideways. Those small pocket pistols have their place, but they are difficult to learn to shoot, and ammunition costs can make practice unaffordable. The .22 LR is perfect for learning the basics. Even with the recent ammo shortages and price gouging—which finally appear to be relenting, thankfully—it remains far more affordable and useful as a training pistol. And if the shooter is good, a couple of hollowpoints to the eye sockets of a bad guy should discourage him long enough to get the hell out of danger.

So after church last Sunday we headed out onto the desert. I set a target up at 3 yards, and the lady was gracious enough to find a big rock to set on the feet of the target frame to keep the wind at bay. We went over the basics of safety and gun handling. Her choice, by the way, was amazingly good for someone who did not really know a lot about guns. She had bought a Sig Sauer Mosquito with a 4-inch barrel. I showed her how to grip the pistol, along with the basics of both isosceles and Weaver stances, sight alignment and such, and turned her loose on the target.

She did very well for someone with virtually no experience. After about 30 rounds her groups began to shrink and print in the same area of the target. By the time she had run 60 rounds, eight out of 10 shots were within a 2-inch group. The flyers could easily have been because of the stiff afternoon breeze. We called it a day because we’re not interested in some marathon training session. A simple, civil and proper introduction keeps the shooter interested and looking forward to the next session.

I also kept it up close and slow fire. Next time we’ll try it at 5 yards; then later on 7 yards. As long as her groups remain within 2 to 3 inches, things will be fine. Then I’ll introduce her to multiple shots—controlled pairs—on silhouette targets. As she becomes more comfortable with those, I’ll bring out the shot timer.

The point of all this is when you are introducing someone to shooting, start out slow and light. Set things up to ensure success from the earliest shots. Success breeds more success, and failure begets more failure. Make the experience as pleasant as you can and before you know it that person will be as eager as you are about shooting.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”

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