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Thread: Too young to shoot, but when to start discussing firearms?

  1. #1

    Too young to shoot, but when to start discussing firearms?

    Hi all.

    I am not a parent, but my best friends son is 4. He is basically a nephew to me.

    Both his father and I feel he is wayyy to young to shoot, but we're going to the Patton Museum soon and will probably be stopping by my range and gun shop (Knob Creek) on the way home.

    Is there anything I can impart to the boy on what shooting is all about at that age?

    Is it worth making a distinction between the usual "don't touch" and "this is a gun, really don't touch" at that age?

    Any thoughts on not letting him see dad and I handle firearms at the shop for fear that he'd want to emulate us?

    I guess the short version is, I'm not a father, but I am a responsible figure to a few youngins. What can I do to be a positive influence regarding firearms to the kids in my family?

  2. #2
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    Well, what would you teach a kid that age about lawnmowers, about automobiles, about chainsaws?

    I guess what I'm saying is that I would teach them about tool safety now, the importance of RKBA and all that jazz can come later.
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  3. #3
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    "If you see a gun, don't touch it, tell an adult."

    Eddie Eagle type stuff.
    http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/

  4. #4
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    I started teaching my nephew on the proper names of the parts of a firearm. I had a "teachable moment" last Christmas when he was three when my sister brought some Nerf guns to play with. As I handed him the Nerf gun I pointed to the parts and named them for him. This is the "trigger", this is the "grip", that is the "charging handle", etc. We had a blast shooting each other with the Nerf darts and target practice.

    My aunt was there and she thought that teaching a kid to shoot people was a bad idea, even if it was with Nerf guns. I, of course, disagreed because I thought it was fun and it seemed my nephew agreed. The parents, my brother and his wife, didn't protest in our play.

    My philosophy is that for right now I'll let him play with toy guns and make sure he has no access to the real thing. When he is old enough I'll show him the real thing. I'll leave "old enough" up to the discretion of the parents.

    My brother lives close to the shooting range I like to visit and I tend to stop by to say "hi" when ever I go shoot. I took him shooting once and all he talked about in the short drive home was how to get a gun of his own and how much it cost. The wife was opposed to another gun in the home (she owns a single shot shotgun from her youth and has no ammo for it) with young children around.

    My nephew knows I go "shooting" but I don't think he comprehends what it is. When I take my brother with me he is told dad has to "go to work" with me for a bit. We have to "put holes in boxes" you know.

    I guess that is just a long way to say that you should follow the parent's lead and do what you can to make sure that firearms aren't a mystery to the child. I feel the worst thing a parent or mentor can do is hide the world from children. Let them see the world a little bit at a time so that when they are an adult nothing is a surprise to them when they leave the nest.
    You can have free speech or you can have income taxes but you cannot have both.

  5. #5
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    Start demystifying them NOW.

    Don't touch without permission and and CERTAIN adults with you.

    All other times do the Eddie Eagle thing.

    On the other hand, when he is with an approved adult (sounds like yourself and maybe his Dad?) he can ask properly and, if nothing else is happening (can't use it to get out of a bath, postpone bedtime, delay supper, or delay going to school for examples) he can see and handle to his heart's content AFTER meeting some task, which may change over the years. Start with the "4 Rules" and as he develops go to "properly clear a firearm he has experienced before" and that kind of thing.

    Make it a teachable moment and he will learn and get to display his knowledge while getting to see the firearm in question also.

    Buckshot

  6. #6
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    Exactly right, buckshot.

    I don't let my grandkids shoot toy guns at one anther, simply because I want the Four Rules imprinted on them. YMMV. They know that if they ask at an appropriate time, we'll take out the firearms and they can tinker with them to their hearts content. They also know that if we're at the range they can fire anything that we have with us at the time. When they're young, I don't expect them to hit anything, simply obey the rules and have fun. More serious education on the finer points will come later.

  7. #7
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    My 4 year old knows the part names (to an extent), has seen me cleaning my firearms after range trips, had gone with me to the range at age 3 (stayed in a car with mom while I fired two rounds off a shotgun I was trying), knows not to touch and call an adult if she finds one (outside the house), et cetera. She has seen me carrying most of her life, knows what it is for and what it is not for. She does not care at all for firearms, even if offered to touch/handle one when cleaning/maintaining. For her it is just another dirty tool, and I am HAPPY with that.
    She does want to go turkey hunting, so I took her to a shop this past summer to handle a few youth model shotguns. She discovered her reach was not enough to hold it properly, gave it back to me, and asked if we could try again when she grows bigger.

    The most important thing is to demystify it. After all, it is just another tool, harmless on its own. That's what they need to know first, that there is nothing special about a "gun".

    Now when I go to the garage, she says, "Have fun reloading."

  8. #8
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    Our rule with toy guns is that they can only be shot at targets, never people.

    I'm just beginning to work on "always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction" with the toys.

    We keep our real guns tightly secured.
    3KB

    "When confronted by a hungry wolf, it is unwise to goad the beast... But it is equally unwise to imagine the snarling animal a friend and offer your hand..." - Cicero

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    The best teaching is modeling.

    My kids have seen me handling firearms on nearly a daily basis. They know that I am frightened of firearms--that's probably closer to the truth, rather than saying I respect firearms. (I'm also scared of sharp knives, even though I love them.) They have seen how strenously I make sure that no muzzle ever comes even close to pointing at any person (or dog).

    They know if they want to shoot a gun with me, or handle a gun, all they have to do is ask. And then we review the safety rules first.

    I think my youngest first went "shooting" when he was four. Basically, it consisted of my shooting with his hand on mine, but he really liked it. He now handles a scoped .22 rifle well, at age six. With the closest possible supervision.

    To each his own. Every child is different, as is every family.

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    You can never keep them from guns; period. So you have to make THEM gun safe. And IMHO, it is never to early to start.

    When my son got curious about my guns I did this. I got an empty gallon milk jug with a screw on top. Filled it with water and told him to try and "tear it up." He kicked it and kicked it again and all he was able to do was dent it a little. Then I set it up as a target and shot it with a 22 Stinger. That jug just exploded in a splash of water. His eyes were as big as saucers. I then reminded him that he was unable to do anything to the jug, but that little bullet just destroyed it.

    I always allowed him to see and handle my guns; all he had to do was ask. Every time became a teaching moment. Stress the safety rules every time. You would do the same for every dangerous thing they do would you not? Like crossing the street. Touching the hot stove. Guns are no different.

    IMHO, teach them right and teach them young.

  11. #11
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    Is there anything I can impart to the boy on what shooting is all about at that age?
    There isn't much that will stick at that age. Stick with the safety stuff.
    Is it worth making a distinction between the usual "don't touch" and "this is a gun, really don't touch" at that age?
    We never had toy guns in the Titan household. We don't play shooting games, war etc. Boys got BB guns at age 6, passed NRA safety tests, were able to read the manual and explain the safety concerns back to us, before we went to the apple tree and started punching holes in paper. At 8 we gave them the .22s, repeated the process. Now we are getting to the 20 gauge age (the elder is hoping Santa will be kind to him), but it will be more of the same.

    Any thoughts on not letting him see dad and I handle firearms at the shop for fear that he'd want to emulate us?
    Let him see you handling safely and hope he will.

    What can I do to be a positive influence regarding firearms to the kids in my family?
    Sounds like you already doing it. The very best thing you can you is set the proper example.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freiheit
    I am not a parent, but my best friends son is 4. He is basically a nephew to me.
    Both his father and I feel he is wayyy too young to shoot, but we're going to the Patton Museum soon and will probably be stopping by my range and gun shop (Knob Creek) on the way home.
    My father started me plinking with his Colt Woodsman .22 at age three, so I have to disagree that four is too young an age at which to start. Of course, my shooting was supervised very closely, and I had no access to the gun when adults were absent.

    But I still number among my fondest memories making that rusty tomato can dance in the driveway of our construction site (Dad was building our new home at the time). The smell of gunpowder makes me smile to this day.

    Keep the lessons short and simple (young kids have short attention spans), don't leave the gun(s) unattended, and always stress safety. Then if they're old enough to hold the firearm, they're probably old enough to start learning.

  13. #13
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    children

    I have a free hunting/fishing mag in SC you should get one.I think they come out often and there is a 4yr old with his first deer.big cleanup yesterday and I have no idea where anything is today.
    success I found it."fish'n& hunt'n guide magazine.[fishnandhuntn.com]

  14. #14
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    My girls are 5 and 3 years old. I've been having discussions with my oldest for about six months now. The things I stress are that guns are tools and as such, they need to be cared for and respected. I also tell her that we don't discuss guns outside of the home.

    She didn't seem to understand this until I explained that there are things that we don't talk about outside of our home, like poopies and toots. That worked.

  15. #15
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    the same age you teach them about light sockets......

    when theyre too young to understand, you put dummy plugs in the socket.

    when theyre old enough to know what the socket is used for but still too young to fully understand the consequences of misuse, you leave the dummy plugs in.

    when theyre old enough to understand that electricity can kill you if misused, you supervise them when they plugs in the easy bake oven or slot car track.

    then the day will come when they teach you a thing or two.

  16. #16
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    What has worked even with my most curious and headstrong son is to allow him to look at and touch my guns in a controlled environment with my supervision whenever he asks (usually when I am either on my way to or back from the range). It helps keep the mystery / forbidden fruit curiosity from building up. By the time I was 6 I knew where everything my parents didn't want me to know about was hidden, I figured my kids would be the same way if not worse.

    Whenever we do get the guns out of the safe we go over the basic rules for safely dealing with firearms. I also took each of the boys to the range around the age of four or five with a friend of mine and we showed them what the gun does so they knew why we had those rules. Seeing is believing especially at that age. When I was 4 my Dad shot a bunch of holes in a 55 gallon trash barrel out back of the house to show me why I shouldn't play with them, a lesson I never forgot.

    My wife and I have also made a game of going over various what-if situations while driving in the car:

    What do you do if you are walking in the woods and find a gun?
    What do you do if a stranger offers you candy?
    Who do you call in an emergency?
    What if there is a fire in the house?

    Getting them to think about these types of situations in advance can make all the difference between freezing and making the right move. Works great for getting them to memorize their address, phone number and other stuff as well. Kids are competitive so harness that to your advantage in the whole learning game.
    Evil Ed
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  17. #17
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    4 isn't necessarily WAY too young. My son started at 5+ eith a Daisy 499. Cut the stock to fit (but so it can be added back as needed), and keep it in the gun cabinet/closet/safe with your other guns. Comes out only under supervision when he wants to shoot.

  18. #18
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    IIRC, hand/eye coordination don't kick fully in until age 7-8. As others have mentioned, now is a good time to start teaching him about guns in the abstract.

    If you do start someone shooting early, be very conscientious about hearing protection. The ears are still developing until the late teens, and among young children, they are more vulnerable than ours.
    "I believe in .44 Special the way some folks believe in Elvis." --Michael Bane

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    I don't have time to read the whole thread today, but here's what I did with my kids:

    I told them up front that if they want to see my firearms, they can ask any time they want. They will not be told no unless there's a good reason and then I will put it off until later, but not reject the asking for it. All four of my kids know this and I made good on my offer. It paid off in that they *NEVER* try to sneak my guns out to play or look at them.

    Every time the guns come out for them, I quiz them on the names of the major features of each one we look at: trigger, hammer, barrel, slide, safety, etc. Then I go through the process of clearing the gun with them, if they want to hold it and I make them point it in a safe direction (helping them hold it when they were younger) and use correct stances and grips. I had a deputy sheriff I know here compliment me on my childrens' gun safety practises one time when they were showing off their new 6mm BB guns. I also took them to the range with me and as soon as they were big enough to shoot with help, I helped them. When they got big enough to do it on their own, I had them shoot solo, with coaching.

    I tell, and quiz them on this, too:
    I hold up a loaded magazine and ask them, "What is this?" The response is, "Eight dead men waiting to happen." (To impress the potential dangers of loaded guns.)

    I also tell them that a gun is a living creature, it has a mind of its own, it is always loaded, it doesn't like you or anyone around you, and it will kill to get out of your hands.

    This is my approach to inculcating the seriousness of the potential dangers of our sport. I also mandate safety gear and range commands for them no matter where we do our target shooting. It seems to be paying off. My kids complain at each other mercilessly when they muzzle flash each other with those plastic BB guns. (I don't hear it too much any more!)

    Hope this helps.

    Matt McCune
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  20. #20
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    You're doing a great job training your kids and the proof is in the results...

    BUT THIS...

    I also tell them that a gun is a living creature, it has a mind of its own, it is always loaded, it doesn't like you or anyone around you, and it will kill to get out of your hands.
    ...seems kinda bizarre and a little creepy. No offense intended, but it directly contradicts the fact that firearms are inanimate tools that can only be destructive in human hands attached to a brain with ill intent.

    Whatever works, I guess.

    I might add I'm in no position to criticize any one's teaching technique, since I failed to teach my now grown children anything about firearms. I was a woefully ignorant young father back in the 70's.

    Now I'm a somewhat smarter grampa. Even though my daughter is an avowed anti (like I say...I blame myself for that) - her 6-year-old boy, my grandson, is definitely NOT! Since he began making toy guns out of toast, blocks, sticks, etc (around the age of two), I have drilled the Eddy Eagle mantra into his head.

    Last Friday he picked up a long stick and began "shooting" it. Then he looked at me and asked, "Why do I like guns so much?" I replied, "Because they're fun!"

    I asked him if he wanted to shoot my airsoft (not for the first time), and he enthusiastically said "Yes!"

    This time was different because instead of setting up a little indoor bulls-eye, I put up a silhouette on the fence in the back yard. This was a much bigger target to hit and so was more fun (more hits). He demonstrates good muzzle and trigger control, always pointing toward the target, finger indexed on the frame, safety glasses in place, waits for the ready-fire command, and stays back of the line when it's not his turn. He loves to help load and can easily manipulate the slide - he wants to do everything himself. He got a big charge out firing at a "man" target - much more fun than a "boring" bulls-eye - and he's developing a pretty fair aim.

    Moving up to the real thing will be a challenge considering his mom's attitude, but I think I may get some help from his father (who has bought him every kind of nerf gun made). It's also possible his mom will change her mind when she sees how much he enjoys it, how good he is at it, and how safety conscious he is. I'm thinking we can move up to a .22 when he's 10 or 12? That gives us 4-6 years to change his mom's mind.
    Last edited by rainbowbob; August 3rd, 2010 at 03:41 PM.
    Best regards,
    Rainbowbob

  21. #21
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    i started my son at age 6, with Daisy 499 BB gun that was shortened to fit (later added pieces back on to lengthen it as he grew). Occasional reactive targets keep the fun in shooting, but be careful what you use with BBs.

    Boring paper targets are only so if there is no goal. We started prone rested, and 1 targets of 45 or better got him off the rest and to prone with sling. Ten more got him to sitting. Ten of 45 or better in sitting got him to kneeling, then ten of 4 or better to standing. After ten 4 or better standing targets the prize was his own 22 (Rem 521, cut down).

    The 499 lived in the gun cabinet with the other guns, and came out only when he asked to shoot. Sometimes three nights in a row, sometimes noy for two weeks. Sometimes one target a session, sometimes 8 or more. Everything dependes on THEIR desires and attention span at that age.

    That was 30 years ago. He became multiple state champion in smallbore and air rifle in his teens, and has now gone over to the dark side (air pistol). i have found that kids do better after the supported position if you go standing, kneeling, sitting, prone. They get more stable as they get closer to the floor, and have less frustration to deal with. Might lighten up the standing score requirement to 35 plus.

    Only takes 15 feet and a cardboard box full of rags to make a range, and all the safety skill can become ingrained. A pellet rifle could be the carrot instead of a 22 if he's still too young for the 22. My son took about 2 1/2 years to go through the program.

  22. #22
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    Rainbowbob,
    The internet leaves so much out of communication from the loss of tonal inflection, body language, etc.

    Yeah, in and of itself, my line about guns being living creatures, etc. can sound that way -creepy, I mean- but in the context of my family where hyperbole is often the best way of stressing an idea, it works wonderfully. I had to take a special class to get my commissioned guard (armed guard) card in Texas two years ago and I told that to the instructor and he liked is so much he asked permission to add it permanently to his class presentation and had me write it down for him.

    My children, thankfully, understood what I meant by that. Whenever their friends start going, "Eewww, guns kill!" They respond without any hestation, "No, people kill; guns are just tools like knives or hammers." They know very well that it's a piece of machinery and in that context, they understood my line about it being a creature with a mind of it's own.

    Sorry if I discomfitted anyone with that one.

    Matt McCune
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    http://stores.lulu.com/Confederate

  23. #23
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    The internet leaves so much out of communication from the loss of tonal inflection, body language, etc.
    Aint it the truth!

    I've gotten into trouble before with friends who didn't "get" me in written form.
    Best regards,
    Rainbowbob

  24. #24
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    I love necro threads. This one's been going on for about 10 months now.

    My youngest grandson, age 2, is asking about his dad's guns, and this is the way dad handles it.

    Go watch.

  25. #25
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    too young

    My son at the age of 5 loves to shot his bb gun.He also is a good shot with my 22 cal.air rifle.I made a new stock for it and i load it so he does not touch the lead pellets.A child is not stupid.it just does not know what to do yet.He has better gun safety than most adults i used to hunt with.Teach them wile they are young.Never touch a gun with out an adult. At 5 when he picks up my air rifle with me there he first checks to see if it is unloaded first.He will make a good shooter and my best hunting buddy.He already is more talking about this years hunting season where we will go small game hunting .He will take the air rifle and i will take the 22.

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