If you are bringing your family up off the grid, one of the most important life skills you need to teach your children (boys and girls both) is how to handle firearms. Before we talk about safety and the best guns to help kids learn with, let’s talk about why teaching kids to shoot is so important.
First of all, if you have guns in the house, kids need to learn to respect them. They need to understand that these real weapons are not toys. Kids are naturally curious, and the best way to tame that curiosity is to allow them to learn to shoot a real weapon when they are old enough. You never hear stories about farm kids who grow up around guns pulling the revolver out of mom’s nightstand and shooting the neighbor kid. It doesn’t happen. Why? Kids who are allowed to shoot guns know they have to respect what the weapons can do, and they know they have to follow the rules.
Second, kids need to learn to hunt. Hunting is one of the most important ways to keep yourself and your family alive, and once kids are old enough to get a hunting license (ages vary state by state), they can get their own game tags. Family participation is a great way to keep the freezer full.
Third, kids need to know how to defend themselves. If you have a variety of weapons at home, every member of the family needs to know how to operate and maintain every weapon. If you leave your kids home alone, they need to know what to do if an intruder shows up at the door. This is where family values come in. Kids need to understand that killing in self-defense is not a violation of the sixth commandment. They also need to have a solid understanding of righteous anger versus the kind of selfish anger that can get people in trouble. Teach your children the right way to live, and pray they’ll never have to raise a gun in self-defense; at the same time, don’t make the foolish mistake of neglecting to give them a solid education about how to use firearms.
A Child’s First Gun
My recommendation is to give kids a good airsoft gun sized right for them as soon as they are old enough to understand that these things are not toys. Start with the kind that shoots plastic projectiles that can be reused. Line up some soda cans about three feet away, and let your budding marksman go to town. Once your child can hit these reliably, start moving them further away.
Remember, don’t treat operating guns (even unloaded airsoft guns) like toys. These are not toys. They shoot projectiles, they are tools, and they have a purpose. This being said, shooting should be fun. I have never met a boy or girl who did not have fun with his or her first airsoft.
BB and Pellet Guns
When you move up to a BB or pellet gun, you’re going to be able to start hitting targets that are further away. Use a big marker to draw an easy-to-see target on a piece of paper (don’t waste money on printed targets!), and tack it to a bale of straw or hay. You can still shoot pop cans, and if you’ve given your child a good pea shooter, then he’ll hear a satisfying “thwack!” noise when he hits them.
Don’t let your kids shoot at birds or little animals with BB and pellet guns. These are for target practice. Kids need to know that shooting any kind of ammunition at living things should always be done with the intent to kill. Injuring God’s creatures intentionally is wasteful and wrong, so don’t stand for it.
Rifles, Shotguns, and Handguns
Once your kids have the arm and hand strength to handle a real gun, they can start to learn how to shoot real, working guns. A .22 rifle made for kids is an inexpensive investment, and it’s one of the best ways to start a child out. Start with targets nearby, and as accuracy improves, move targets further back. Making targets easy to hit at first gives kids confidence that they can, indeed, hit what they are aiming for. Just like they do in other situations, kids will look forward to greater challenges, so don’t be afraid to let them start at a super easy level and move along at their own pace.
Don’t let your kids shoot unsupervised until you are absolutely sure that they have the ability to handle their guns responsibly. The more time you spend shooting and working on gun maintenance, and taking your kids along when you go hunting, the faster you will be able to get them to that level of responsibility.
A .22 pistol is best for teaching kids how a pistol works, and a .410 shotgun is a great starter shotgun. Whenever your child starts to learn about a new gun, spend time showing him or her how it works, and go over all the features of the weapon. Use appropriate targets, and make sure you use hearing protection.
Hearing Protection and Safety
While you don’t want to wear protection in the woods until you’re actually ready to shoot (you want to hear game coming), you do want to protect your precious hearing when you are practicing. Also, a good pair of shooting glasses can help improve aim and protect your eyes. If kids shoot on their own, insist they wear protection while practicing. An accident or hearing loss will reduce your child’s quality of life – and when you’re living off the grid, you need all your senses to remain in good order.
Most important of all, and this bears repeating, teach your kids that guns are tools for killing game and protecting the family. It’s fun to shoot at targets and if that is all you ever do, that’s fine – but kids need to know that they should never point a gun at something they do not intend to shoot. Teach them right when they are young, and you’ll end up with kids who are responsible, and who are good shots.