[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]he thumbs-forward grip started with competition shooters and spread to defensive pistol instructors and others who recognized the beneﬁts of this once unorthodox style. The grip grew popular because it provides excellent recoil management that allows for faster and more accurate shooting. To get the most from this technique it needs to be performed correctly. Some shooters simply point their thumbs forward without completely understanding the mechanics of the grip. The name aside, the key is really in the position of the support-side wrist, not the thumbs, and once that is understood, mastering the grip becomes easy.
To learn how to execute the thumbs-forward grip start by putting both thumbs up in the classic “Fonzie” or “double hitchhiker” position. Try to get as close to a 90-degree angle between the thumb and the index finger as possible.
Place the pistol in the dominant hand, while keeping the dominant thumb high and out of the way. The trigger ﬁnger should index on the side of the slide and the second ﬁnger should be up tight against the underside of the trigger guard. The empty area on the grip is where the palm of the support hand will go.
Now take the support hand, open it, and cock the wrist downward at about a 45-degree angle. Make sure to keep the almost 90-degree angle between the thumb and the ﬁngers. While keeping the support hand’s wrist rotated down, place the meaty part of the support hand’s palm on the open area of the pistol grip to obtain as much hand-to-gun contact as possible. The support hand’s thumb rests alongside the slide and naturally points forward.
Next, close the support hand’s ﬁngers. The index ﬁnger on the support hand should be as high as possible under the trigger guard. The wrist remains cocked at the same downward angle and should feel “locked.” At the same time bring the dominant thumb down onto the support hand thumb until both thumbs point forward. (The strong hand thumb should ride the safety on 1911 or similar pistols). The support hand should provide most of the force of the grip. This makes it easier to isolate the trigger ﬁnger of the dominant hand to allow for better trigger control. While the thumbs-forward grip works well overall, there are a couple potential issues. The ﬁrst is that the grip does not work as well onehanded due to the high thumb placement. Many shooters will lock the thumb down if shooting with only one hand. The other issue is that the slide may not lock open on an empty magazine if the shooter’s thumbs engage the slide release. In many cases a slight repositioning of the thumbs will avoid this. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]he “Ruby” pistol is the result of France’s desperate need for arms in the early days of the Great War. By 1915, much of the French industrial heartland was under German control, and what remained under allied control was producing critically needed material such as riﬂes, machine guns, and artillery. As the conﬂict grew beyond even the most pessimistic expectations, the sheer volume of troops sent into battle literally exhausted the meager stores of small arms. To meet this rising demand for pistols for the trenches, the French contracted with the Spanish ﬁrm of Gabilondo y Urresti-Eibar for their Ruby semiauto pistol.
The Ruby made use of a prewar design largely copied (without license) from the Browning Model 1903. Among the changes are the deletion of the grip safety and a relocation of the manual safety closer to the trigger guard. The resulting Ruby is a direct blowback pistol chambered in 7.65 (.32 ACP). The pistol features an internal hammer and a frame-mounted safety that goes down for “FIRE.” The original magazine capacity was nine rounds.
The original contract called for the ﬁrm to produce 10,000 pistols a month, but the insatiable French demand for handguns saw the production numbers increased in stages until the incredible target of 50,000 pistols a month was set.
THIS IS WHERE THE STORY of the Ruby gets messy. Since Gabilondo y Urresti-Eibar could not hope to meet that production quota, they licensed out manufacture of the pistol to other companies. Although only four other manufacturers were originally contracted to produce the pistol, the ﬁrm eventually partnered with seven companies to meet French demand.
At the same time, French purchasing agents were individually contracting with other Spanish ﬁrearms makers to also produce the guns. By the time all the contracts were signed, roughly 50 companies were producing the pistol, either for Gabilondo y Urresti-Eibar or directly for the French. Soon, multiple companies (both legally and otherwise) were producing the pistol across the continent, making it a truly European weapon.
The result was chaos. The quality of the pistols produced varied widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some were good, others substandard, while others yet were simply unsafe to ﬁre. At ﬁrst the French tested every pistol, but soon went to batchlot testing instead. Even among the pistols deemed acceptable to issue, problems would arise after the guns broke in with use. Some references list the expected service life of the Ruby at only 500 rounds.
As you can imagine, parts interchangeability – so vital for a service weapon – was lost as the number of manufacturers involved grew. Parts and magazines from one manufacturer would not work in another manufacturer’s pistol, and often parts would not interchange even within pistols made by the same manufacturer. Features such as barrel length and magazine capacity also varied from source to source as different manufacturers put their own spin on the design.
All in all, the Ruby became a textbook example of what not to do for small arms weapon procurement.
Still, the pistols were desperately needed, and almost as fast as they were produced they were sent to the front to be engulfed in the horrors of trench warfare. Records show that the French military had accepted an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 pistols by war’s end.
The large number of pistols produced has made the Ruby available in the U.S. collector’s market for decades. Some came home as souvenirs after WWI or WWII, while others found their way across the ocean in various import lots over time. The modern U.S. collector is unlikely to know the exact origin of his pistol, as many were imported prior to import marks became mandatory in 1968.
ALTHOUGH I’VE NEVER OWNED a Ruby pistol, I’ve had several opportunities to ﬁre them. Their best attribute is their simplicity. Unlike other pistols from the same time frame they are a “modern” design with a one-piece slide and breechblock and what we would consider conventional controls. The safety lever is relatively easy to use, as is the European-style heel mag release. The pistol does not have a slide stop/slide release. On some examples I have seen, a rivet was installed to keep the safety from moving to the “safe” position. My understanding is that this is a postWWI French military modiﬁcation.
The gun in the accompanying photos is an actual Gabilondo y Urresti-Eibar-produced pistol and owned by a friend. Recently, I was able to fire several magazines of modern-production .32 ACP FMJ through this particular pistol. Surprisingly (based on reputation alone), the pistol fired 100 percent of the time, with no misfires, failures to feed, or failures to eject. This is not always the case with these little pistols as, in addition to their hurried manufacture, they have by now seen an additional 100 years of often hard use. Obviously, it is important to have a qualified gunsmith check out any Ruby-type pistol before attempting to fire it. Besides the original manufacturing issues listed above, other problems may have arisen in the decades since these pistols were produced.
The condition of the original magazine is especially important, as a bad feed lip or worn-out springs will cause problems. Since most pistols only come with one mag, and magazine interchangeability is spotty at best, a bad mag can deadline an otherwise functional pistol.
The tiny sights make the pistols better suited for point shooting than precise aimed ﬁre. The combination of the steel frame and low-powered .32 ACP cartridge reduces the felt recoil considerably. I was not able to bench test this particular pistol, but we were able to keep a full magazine inside a paper plate out to 10 yards. Accuracy began to drop considerably at 25 yards, and the best either of us could do was to keep about half the shots on a plate at that distance. The tiny sights and gritty trigger on this particular pistol made us work for even those results.
Although not rare by any means, except in certain variants, the Ruby pistol remains an interesting historical artifact. And even though it was hurried into production to meet insatiable wartime needs, the gun I tested still functioned as intended a century after it was produced. If nothing else, shooting a Ruby pistol is a way to make a tangible connection to the time when the French struggled to survive during “the war to end all wars.” ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]hile there are many dedicated .22 LR pistols on the market, one of the best for everyday use is not a pistol in the pure sense, but instead is a conversion kit for the popular CZ-75 from the Czech Republic. And although this is not a new product, it remains one of the best of its kind on the market.
The CZ-75 Kadet (and the more recent Kadet II) .22 LR conversion kit is a CZ factory-made unit that allows a shooter to quickly and easily convert a CZ-75 series pistol from centerﬁre to rimﬁre ammunition (and back again). This gives the shooter a lighter recoiling gun, which shoots less expensive ammo, while retaining the same trigger, controls, and overall feel of the pistol.
The Kadet unit consists of a replacement slide assembly with a ﬁxed .22 LR barrel. The rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The entire unit is made of steel and is coated with a durable black polycoat. A Kadet kit-equipped pistol closely replicates the weight and feel of a standard pistol. The kit includes two 10-round .22 LR magazines. The Kadet magazines are made with a .22 LR inner liner sleeved in a full-size centerﬁre
metal magazine body. The integral baseplate and followers are both plastic. The magazines cannot be disassembled and, unlike some other designs, there is no way to compress the magazine springs for easier loading.
To install the Kadet kit on a pistol, take the complete pistol and pull back the centerﬁre slide until the witness marks on the slide and frame line up, push out the slide stop, and slide the centerﬁre top end off from the front. (This should be familiar to any CZ-75 owner.) Then, slide the .22 LR unit on the frame, line up the witness marks, and reinstall the slide stop. It’s that simple.
BECAUSE A TIGHT FRAME-TO-SLIDE ﬁt is important for accuracy, certain points on the rails of the Kadet slide are very slightly oversized. This may require the user to ﬁt the kit to the pistol the ﬁrst time it is installed. All this takes is a needle ﬁle, a little focused time, and some patience. Simply note the high points on the rails of the kit slide and alternate between a few ﬁle strokes on the Kadet slide and test ﬁttings until the Kadet slide goes completely onto the frame.
The Kadet kit was recently redesigned slightly to work with the newer Omega trigger system, and these newer kits (the Kadet II) may not require as much, if any, ﬁtting. The Kadet kit works on the full-size CZ-75 and SP-01 and the compact CZ75 models, including the P-01, P-06, PCR, and RAMI. The Kadet kit will not work on the CZ-97, CZ-75 TS, or P-07 Duty models. When used with the compact models, the magazine will protrude below the mag well.
In my experience the CZ-75 Kadet kit has proven to be reliable, accurate, and fun. I’ve owned mine for over a dozen years and have ﬁred untold thousands of rounds through it in that time. I’ve found the Kadet-equipped pistol to be more reliable than most other .22 LR pistols I’ve tried.
The only times I have a problem is when the pistol gets excessively dirty, usually after several range sessions without cleaning, especially if using the cheaper .22 LR ammo that is known to leave more residue behind. The problem typically manifests when the slide starts to feel gritty or “sluggish,” and sometimes includes failures to feed or failures to extract. These problems typically clear up with the application of additional lube at the range, followed by a thorough cleaning before the next trip.
Of course, like any .22 LR pistol, the Kadet-equipped CZ-75 will likely show a preference for certain ammo for both reliability and accuracy. As this often differs from gun to gun the best way to ﬁnd what shoots best is to try different brands and take notes.
THE FIXED BARREL HELPS PROMOTE accuracy. While it’s not up to the standards of a NRA Bullseye competitor’s pistol, in my experience it shoots as well, if not better, than any “plinker grade” or entry level .22 LR target pistol. The adjustable sights allow the shooter to sight in for any particular load or distance and are easy to see. While the exact trigger feel and weight depends on the speciﬁc host frame, I’ve found the gun is capable of very precise shooting, especially when ﬁred single-action.
In addition to using it for general shooting, I’ve found a Kadet-equipped CZ-75 to be an excellent training pistol for new shooters. The similarity of the controls to other centerﬁre pistols is a bonus, as is the general accuracy and reliability of the unit.
There are, however, a few issues with this design worth noting. The ﬁrst is that the requirement that the Kadet slide be hand-ﬁtted to the host pistol may be off-putting to some shooters. This is mitigated by how easy it is to do and the fact that the new units require less, if any, ﬁtting. But frankly, if this is an issue for you, perhaps you shouldn’t invest in a conversion kit in the ﬁrst place.
In order to make the action work with less powerful .22 LR ammunition, the Kadet slide had to be redesigned from the centerﬁre original. Instead of a one-piece slide, which moves on the frame, the Kadet slide is made of two pieces. The larger piece, which includes the top and bottom of the slide, stays in place with only the smaller cutout portion of the slide actually reciprocating. This makes manipulating the slide to load the pistol a bit more difficult as the
moving part is smaller than the complete slide and some shooters ﬁnd it hard to grab.
The other potential issue is with the Kadet magazines. While well made, they cannot be disassembled for cleaning or maintenance. Fortunately this has never become an issue for me, but is something to be aware of.
The CZ-75 Kadet .22 LR conversion kit is a well-designed, well-made unit that gives the CZ-75 owner “two guns in one.” A Kadet kit-equipped CZ-75 is easily the equal of any .22 LR pistol in its price class and is practically a must-have for any CZ-75 fan. ASJ
Contact: CZ USA cz-usa.com/products/view/cz-75kadet-adapter
[su_dropcap style=”light”]I[/su_dropcap]t’s the ﬁrst stage of my ﬁrst match and I’m nervous. The range officer asks, “Shooter ready?” and I nod, almost reluctantly. The buzzer sounds and I raise my Uzi submachine gun, sight in on a plate rack downrange, and trigger a burst. The staccato bark of my gun marks the start of my ﬁrst-ever subgun competition.
I was at the Michigan subgun match because I wanted to do something with my registered fullauto Uzi more interesting than “busting dirt” at the local gravel pit. A submachine gun competition sounded like the challenge I needed.
ALTHOUGH I WAS NEW to the sport, the sport itself is not new. Organized submachine gun competitions have been around since at least the 1980s. The events, while never as well known as other “run and gun” sports such as IPSC, have maintained a mix of die-hard supporters and new blood. The basic requirement is for a fullauto-capable gun that ﬁres a pistol-caliber cartridge.
The longest continuously running SMG match in existence is the Knob Creek Range National Subgun Competition held in West Point, Ky., each April and October. The match is part of a larger event at the Knob Creek Range that includes a machine gun shoot, huge gun show, and other competitions. Shooters from all over the country compete in what has become the defacto national title match for subgun shooters.
The KCR match has evolved over the years: The early match format featured a single long stage where shooters moved along a predesignated path while engaging targets along the way. Over time the match changed to a more efficient multistage format that allowed match directors to work in different challenges, while also being quicker to reset. The original format still survives as the “Jungle Walk” side match.
The match has also changed to keep up with technology. The advent of “slow ﬁre” kits for the MAC series of SMGs offered advantages to seasoned shooters and also made it easier for new shooters to get into the game by making those less expensive guns competitive. These changes are reﬂected by alterations in course design, rules, and how guns are classiﬁed for the match.
THE MATCH FORMAT will seem familiar to anyone who has shot in an IPSC or 3-gun competition. Most matches are multistage with three to ﬁve shooting positions in each stage. The targets are a mix of steel, other reactive targets such as bowling pins, and paper targets. Obstacles, barricades, and “no shoot” targets are used to round out the course. The round count can be as low as 150 rounds for a good shooter, and up to over 500 rounds for those of us who miss a lot.
One difference is that most matches require that the gun be ﬁred only in full-auto mode for the whole match. This rewards those shooters with good trigger manipulation skills who can ﬁre short bursts or even single shots on demand. Although this is the best way to shoot most targets, the shooter might be instructed that certain target arrays can only be shot with a single long burst. This beneﬁts those who are also good at keeping the gun on target while ﬁring a long burst or even a full mag dump.
Scoring is based on the shooter’s time and modiﬁed by penalties for things such as missed targets, insufficient hits on paper targets, lower scoring hits on paper targets, and hits on “no shoot” targets.
Many matches feature scenarios or an overriding theme. One scenario at a recent KCR match required competitors to try to rescue a downed pilot in enemy territory and included a stage with a large helicopter mock-up as a shooting position.
At the KCR match, guns are divided into classes based on their method of operation and sighting system. The classes are Open Bolt/Iron Sights for guns like the Uzi or MAC with stock sights, Open Bolt/Optics for those same guns if they mount any type of optical sight, Closed Bolt/Iron Sights for guns like the MP-5 or 9mm M-16 and Closed Bolt/Optics, for those guns when they mount optics.
Other matches may use an older system that divides guns up by date of design (pre- or post-1945), open or closed bolt, sight system (irons or optics), or rate of fire (below or above 900 rounds per minute) or they may use a different classification system altogether.
Safety is paramount at all matches. Any shooter who has an accidental discharge or breaks the 180-degree rule, pointing the barrel in an unsafe direction, is immediately disqualiﬁed. One special rule commonly used is that shooters are not allowed to backtrack once they have moved even a single step forward. This is to reduce the chance of a shooter tripping while holding a loaded full-auto ﬁrearm.
THE BEST WAY TO GET STARTED with subgun matches is to enter a competition like the Jungle Walk side match at Knob Creek. This is because the range will actually rent you a submachine gun for the match. For only $40 you get a Uzi or 9mm M-16 and 50 rounds of ammo. You then get to take a nice walk in the woods while looking for 18 swinging steel targets that are usually rusty and hard to spot. A range officer follows you the whole time and once you’ve completed the course he’ll help you safe the gun, tell you how many targets you hit and your time. The winner each day is the shooter who hit the most targets (usually all 18) in the fastest time.
Aside from the Jungle Walk, or a really good friend who will loan you his gun, the other way to get started in submachine competition is to jump in with both feet and buy your own gun.
While all the details of how to legally buy a submachine gun are beyond the scope of this article, machine gun ownership is legal in most states, and the required ATF paperwork and procedures are really not that difficult to complete.
The bad news is that the guns aren’t cheap. That is because private citizens can only own those machine guns that were manufactured and registered with the ATF before May 19, 1986. Since this limits the available supply, the law of supply and demand has kicked in over the past 30-plus years, and prices have steadily risen in that time.
Although the initial expense may shock you, an entry level but still competitive SMG can be obtained for just a bit more than what it would take to purchase a complete three-gun setup. By the time you add up the costs of a quality AR, optics, an auto-loading shotgun, a handgun, slings, mag pouches, and other gear, you aren’t that far off from the price of a MAC series SMG and a slow ﬁre conversion kit.
Of course, if you have the cash, other guns such as the Uzi, MP-5, Sterling, Thompson, etc., are out there and are suitable for competition. Aside from the gun, all you really need are extra magazines, mag pouches, and lots and lots of ammo! ASJ
Editor’s note: The author wants to thank Paul Winters and Todd L. for their help with this article.
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]R[/su_dropcap]ecently, the Ruger LCRx with a 3-inch barrel transformed the popular lightweight revolver design from a snub-nose carry gun into a handy general-purpose revolver.
The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a ﬁve-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.
In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.
The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer ﬁre control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily ﬂuted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack ﬁnish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.
THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip ﬁts onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the ﬁre control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.
The ﬁrst thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.
The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.
I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.
I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.
I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then ﬁred for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All ﬁring here was single-action.
The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.
Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.
The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.
Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-ﬁre shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual ﬁring at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry ﬁre with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identiﬁed and compensated for the issue. At ﬁrst the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one ﬂyer that messed up an otherwise good group.
IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the ﬂagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.
The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.
The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]A[/su_dropcap]s a shooter, there will likely be a time when someone asks, “Can you teach me to shoot?” If you aren’t used to working with new shooters, you might not know the best way to introduce them to the sport. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to provide newbies with a safe, fun and educational range trip.
Once you’ve scheduled the trip, let the new shooter know what to expect. Discuss how to dress for the range, and why they should avoid low-cut tops and open-toed shoes. The “hot brass dance” is never amusing to the one getting burned, and trying to clear trapped brass with a ﬁrearm in hand can be dangerous.
Review the standard safety rules ahead of time so they can process them in a calm, quiet environment. You’ll reinforce the rules later at the range. I prefer the NRA’s “Three Rules of Gun Safety” but “Cooper’s Four Rules” also work.
Explain the importance of using eye and ear protection at the range, and make sure you have enough of both on hand for everyone. Have the new shooters “double up” hearing protection by wearing foam earplugs underneath ear muﬀs. This will reduce anxiety caused by the noise of shooting.
It’s not enough to recite the rules. You have to go over how they work in context by explaining what a “safe direction” is at the range, how keeping the ﬁnger oﬀ the trigger helps prevent accidental discharges, when the gun should be loaded or unloaded on the line, and why these rules still apply even to “unloaded” guns.
You should also explain that “Cease ﬁre” means “Stop shooting now!” and review other range commands if you’re using a supervised range.
Remember that the students will model their behavior oﬀ of the example you set, so make sure to follow the best safety practices yourself.
WHILE SHOOTING CAN BE a fun social activity, it’s easy to be overwhelmed if you are overseeing too many new shooters. If you are teaching by yourself, try to limit the trip to one or two newbies, if possible. Even then, work with them one-on-one and have the person not shooting observe so they can be better prepared for their turn.
If you have a friend assisting, you should be able to handle additional new shooters if you split them between you. Remember you are there for them, not for your own shooting practice, so focus on giving them the best possible range experience.
Also, whenever possible, split up relationship-paired couples among diﬀerent mentors so each half of the couple focuses on what they are doing instead of trying to “help” the other.
A ﬁrst trip to the range isn’t the same as a full NRA Basic Pistol class. Keep your instruction focused speciﬁcally on what they need to know to safely handle and shoot the ﬁrearm and hit the target. Leave the more technical stuﬀ for later. Draw them a diagram of a sight picture and make sure they understand how the drawing corresponds to the front and rear sights on the ﬁrearm.
HAVE THEM PRACTICE HOLDING and dry ﬁring the unloaded gun, and correct any problems with their grip or stance. Enforce the “trigger oﬀ the ﬁnger until the sights are on target” rule with dryﬁre so they’ll get in the habit. Avoid using the term “trigger squeeze” as it can cause new shooters to tighten their entire grip as they ﬁre. Instead, explain that their grip should be ﬁrm and consistent the whole time, and that the trigger should be pulled
straight to the rear in a deliberate, smooth motion.
Since you’ll likely need to recock the ﬁrearm to reset the trigger during dry-ﬁre, make sure they understand that once the gun is loaded it will automatically reload and recock itself when they shoot for real. (This is obviously not the case for manually operated ﬁrearms such as bolt- or lever-action riﬂes).
The best ﬁrearm for new shooters is a .22LR, bar none. Whether it’s a riﬂe or pistol, the low recoil and relatively quiet report of the rimﬁre make it ideal as a ﬁrst-time gun. If you don’t have a .22LR available, go for the lowest recoiling ﬁrearm you do have. For handguns, a full-size gun ﬁring standard-pressure 9mm or .38 Special loads should be easy enough to manage. For riﬂes, a pistolcaliber carbine or a .223 AR are good choices. This goes double for ARs with adjustable stocks that can be resized for smaller statured shooters.
For aerial shotgun shooting use loads appropriate for the sport. If you are shooting stationary targets, use light loads or reduced recoil “tactical” loads. Whatever you do,
avoid the temptation to have a laugh at someone’s expense by giving them “too much gun.” It’s not fair to the new shooter, can turn them oﬀ the sport, and is actually unsafe.
The best targets are those that react to the hits. Nothing is more fun for new shooters than watching their targets explode, fall down, or spin around. Plate racks or portable swinging or spinning targets are good choices. Just make sure to keep to minimum safe distances when shooting steel.
You can also improvise with cans, plastic cups ﬁlled with water, clay birds set up down range, or anything else that is safe and doesn’t violate range rules. Even if you are limited to paper targets, many ranges will still allow you to tape small balloons to the targets or use the brightly colored Shoot-N-C targets.
TEACHING KIDS TO SHOOT has its own challenges and rewards. Some kids learn best from their parents, while others pay better attention to unrelated adults. If nothing else, a parent should always be present whenever a child is shooting. Make sure the ﬁrearms are suitable for the physical size of the child. I prefer using bolt-action or lever-action riﬂes over semiautos when working with kids so the shooter has to manually work the action to load the next round. Pay particular attention to their energy level, as their attention and safety consciousness can start to slip as they get tired. While it’s important to stay positive with any new shooter, that goes double for kids. Start and end critiques with positive statements and focus on the fun.
Now that you’ve learned some tips on taking new shooters to the range there is no better time to do so than right now. The NRA Mentor Program oﬀers additional resources to help you promote the shooting sports by taking new shooters to the program. Whether you are a NRA member or not, you can help grow our sport by mentoring a new shooter.
For more information about the program, visit nrapublications.org/mentor. ASJ