In continuing the message of National Shooting Sports Month, we wanted to write a special article to cover the perspective of a novice marksman. This article is a partial follow-up to our previous article, which detailed proper etiquette when taking someone to their first range trip. Everyone can remember their first time firing a gun, whether it’s summer camp, a hunt with dad, or a casual outing with colleagues.
Most Primary Arms employees spend plenty of time at the range, whether that means carbine courses, competitions, or punching holes in paper. Of course, not everyone is an experienced marksman. Last week, we had a special first range trip with Dea, our HR Generalist. Dea joined Primary Arms with no prior firearms experience, but her warming personality made her a quick fit in the office. When we first approached her about treating her to her first range trip, she hesitated. Not only was it a new experience, but Houston’s summer weather promised scorching heats and high humidity. After a few minutes, Dea came back to us with a cautious nod, so we scheduled the next Friday morning for an early trip to the local range.
Everyone carries an opinion on firearms and shooting culture. No one can avoid the influence of upbringing, education, and pop culture imagery. Before we went to the range, Dea and I talked about her original perspective on gun ownership and shooting sports.
Like many Americans, Dea knew the stereotypical gun-owner from movies and television: brash, traditional, and opinionated. After joining Primary Arms, she quickly learned that gun-owners are highly diverse in personality and predilection. One can see these differences by visiting gun ranges across the inner city, suburbs, and countryside. Every range keeps a unique culture, but all enthusiasts share a common bond within firearms.
Expectedly, Dea didn’t know much about the mechanics of firearms. She told me that, before working in a gun-friendly office, she thought every gun used the same ammunition. With the help of coworkers, she picked up on some common lingo, but she was still unfamiliar with the technical aspects of shooting. As a result, Dea was uncomfortable handling firearms, fearing that any mistake could cause injury.
Her fears mimic much of what you will see with other fledgling marksmen. Most beginners understand basic firearm safety, but they dread tasks like loading a magazine or manipulating the bolt. As a parallel, think of it like a car. A new driver may understand road laws in concept, but when they are asked to drive, they’ll clam up and forget the basics. This is because they get distracted by the mechanics of steering, braking, and changing lanes. In essence, it’s not the car or the gun itself, but the prospect of operating a complex machine without experience. When it comes to comfort, familiarity with application matters more than familiarity with concepts.
That’s why we recommend every novice handle an unloaded firearm away from the firing line, preferably in the comfort of one’s home while using dummy rounds. Think of it like taking your first drive in a parking lot: you only need a few minutes, but you’ll be way more comfortable when you hit the road.
You may know our social media guy, Nick. Nick is the friendly man with the shades and beard in all these photos. He’s also one of our most tenured competitors, and he’s always happy to instruct our rookie marksmen. As he’ll tell you, most of the legwork comes before a round is ever chambered. Safe handling is always priority numero uno. Not only will it keep you safe, but it provides a major confidence boost.
When we got to the range, Nick dedicated the first half hour to teaching Dea the basics of firearm handling. He covered the four main rules in depth before demonstrating basic controls for both rifles and pistols. Dea learned proper grip, form, and sight picture before ever experiencing the pressure of live ammo, so she was well-prepared when Nick handed her a full magazine.
The Main Event
We started Dea off with the AR15, fired from a bench. While .22LR offers a quieter, easier first experience, .223 is a great low-recoil training cartridge, so long as you have good hearing protection. You can also get a .22LR conversion kit for an AR, in case you want the best of both worlds.
Dea was eager to get behind a rifle, as the multiple points of contact and bench support made it easy to shoot without moving the gun. Dea was ringing targets within her first mag, which caught us all off-guard. That just goes to show that you can’t always predict a natural. She wasn’t as comfortable with pistols, which is normal for first-timers. Dea said it was all nerves, since pistols are so much easier to drop.
Nick continued coaching her on proper grip, but she felt tense, even though she consistently hit paper with Nick’s tricked-out Glock. Instead of pressing further, we returned to our rifles, where she managed to group a solid spread through a silhouette’s torso at 100 yards.
After a few target changes, the sun bore down on us, with temperatures spiking over 100. That’s when we packed it up and headed off to lunch. Despite the heat, the clear sky made for a beautiful day and a perfect excuse for a barbecue.
Every firearms enthusiast wants to share their love of shooting sports, but not everyone will be interested. Here, the best you can do is get them comfortable with firearms. Dea wasn’t a sudden convert to AR-collecting, but this range trip contributed to a healthy, realistic perspective of gun-ownership, which is now more important than ever.
More importantly, Dea had a fun time. She expressed her interest in continued learning, though the mechanical aspects of firearms were still intimidating. She also was surprised by how casual some range-goers were. They were friendly strangers, and their relaxed mood was reassuring. They were nothing like the intense imagery presented in pop culture.
In the end, Dea came away more comfortable, more informed, and more attuned to the culture of sports shooting. As National Shooting Sports Month is in full swing, we couldn’t have asked for a better result. This month is all about reaching out to people like Dea—people you may never expect to be gun collectors, but people who are perceptive and interested in new experiences.
If you have time over the next couple weeks, reach out to a friend like Dea. Look up some NSSM events in your area and find a time you can share at the range. By showing them the ropes, you’re helping create goodwill for gun-owners everywhere.