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« ClipDraw and Saf-T-Blok Review | Main | Range Report: Two .40 calibers - SIG P229 and Glock 23 »

January 02, 2004


It's the same in any hobby. People immerse themselves in it, find out everything that they can about every aspect, and soon it sounds like they're talking Greek to the novice.

See, it's like this. Let's say that someone says "Glock M20", and the the experienced shooter will see something like this in their heads. If someone should mention "10mm auto" then they'll see this. All of the pertinent info right behind their eyeballs.

Most non-shooters have only experienced guns through the movies. Mention a Glock M20, a Colt 1911 or even a .357 Magnum revolver and something completely different will occur to them. The fine details that jump out at someone who's been shooting for decades don't matter to the novice. And they shouldn't.

This doesn't mean that you can't introduce someone to the shooting sports, it's just that you have to approach it in a different way than you would if you're surrounded by people who've already shot their 100,000th round. It would help things along if you restrict yourself to some very basic concepts.

Revolver or Autoloader?
This is the first thing that a new shooter has to decide. Most people have an opinion about which one is better, but it's important to keep your opinions to yourself. What works for you might just not work for someone else. If you think that revolvers are antiquated designs that are clearly inferior to an autoloader and your student wants to buy one, then it's part of your job as a mentor to suck it up and give them your support for the decision. Conversly, if you think that autoloaders are just too complicated for a new shooter and they want to get one right away, then you should let them know that it will certainly be adequate to protect them. Be polite, be supportive, point out the positive aspects of their decision.

Big, Medium or Small?
This all depends on whether the gun is going to be an in-house defender or if it's going to be carried concealed. Larger guns are easier and more comfortable to shoot, and it's easier to improve your shooting skills with them. Both are important considerations for someone just starting out.

But let's say that the need to carry is immediate (woman stalked by an ex-boyfriend, or a small business owner who's been attacked when depositing the day's receipts). Then the overriding concern is defense, and the gun should be small enough to be carried at all times. Carrying a gun around when you haven't had time for adequate training isn't the best idea in the world, but being helpless before someone determined to hurt you is even worse.

The hardest thing for experienced gun fighters is to ignore their own preferences when it comes to caliber. Everybody has their favorite, the one man-stopper they're SURE is the best possible round. I've had many shooters tell me that I'm a slack-jawed idiot because I won't favor their own pet caliber over all others. But the instructor has to think of the needs of his students before all else and put his own emotions away.

As a general rule of thumb I'd suggest that you find the largest caliber that your student is comfortable shooting as long as it's not any more powerful than a .357 Magnum (calibers larger than the .357 tend to overpenetrate). Remember that any gun in a gunfight is better than no gun at all, even if it isn't something you'd use yourself.

What Not to Do
Just as there are things that an instructor is supposed to do there are things that they should avoid. Besides trying to force them to conform to your idea of the best way to do things the only real danger is overloading them with details. Like I mentioned at the start of the post, specific manufacturers and model numbers mean absolutely nothing to the new shooter. It just sounds like babble to them, and many of them will assume that your just showing off with your superior knowledge. Also keep in mind that all of these subtle differences between the different guns might loom large in your mind but they're insignificant and unnoticable to someone who's never fired a gun before.

Good luck, everyone. Remember that the more people who shoot the better. If we can encourage an interest then it's all for the best.

Posted by James Rummel