Choosing a first weapon can be a daunting task, for me this decision was made for me at a very young age. Although the weapon provided me with many hours of hunting and shooting enjoyment the choice of a 12 gauge at age 10 might have been less than ideal. A lot of factors should be considered when making such a decision. The shotgun I inherited was more because of convenience and availability than practicality. There are some guidelines that can help you decide from a more practical or useful standpoint. Let’s start by going over some of the many choices and their differences.
There are some very good reasons to choose a bb gun for a first weapon. Price tends to be an important factor for entry level shooters; airguns as a rule tend to be reasonably priced though high quality guns can be very high priced. When considering price, cost of ammunition, and upkeep, airguns can’t be beat. The use of this type of weapon tends to be limited to mostly targets and very small game. These guns are somewhat safer than a larger caliber weapon but can still deadly if misused. This reminds me of a story I saw recently of a cow moose killed by an airgun in Alaska. All safety measures do need to be followed including eye protection but ear protection is probably not needed. This weapon will give many opportunities to shoot as they can be used almost anywhere. Another thing worth noting is they tend not to scare a new shooter, eliminating some of the negative experience that might turn off someone not used to a big bang that is produced by say, a .12ga. Even with my growing collection of guns we still find time to shoot these fun little guns often, it just never gets old.
.22 long rifles
If hunting is part of the reason you want to shoot, the 22 opens up a lot of opportunities. These guns can be purchased for as little as a tank of gas or as high as the price of a car, though for plinking and small game a 10/22 Ruger or even a model 60 Marlin will provide a ton of fun. Depending on your style of hunting, jumping brushpiles and rippin’ off 5 or 6 shots at a rabbit that’s trying to get out of your way or sitting at the base of a tree chattering in a squirrel, lots of people get their first hunting experience this way. A .22 is also a great gun for practicing long range shooting disciplines or for impromptu shooting contests with your friends in the back yard. Whether you get a 22 for a first gun or not, at some point you will have one or at least carry one on an adventure sometime in your shooting experiences.
These have the most overall hunting applications and if birds are what you’re after there is really no other choice. Now it’s all about what size of shotgun, a lot of things factor into this but the most important is the size and age of the shooter. For smaller or younger people the 410 is still not a bad way to go. The 410 can be used effectively on almost any game the bigger shotguns can. I’ve got friends and family that like their 410s and 20s for deer, I’d have to say they can shoot slugs pretty well. No matter the size the nice thing about the shotgun is the variety of game and shooting opportunities available. Let’s start with targets: trap and skeet shooting is fun for everybody, even those who didn’t know they liked to shoot can’t help but smile when a clay bird goes up in smoke. As far as hunting goes, just about anything that can be taken can be taken with a shotgun. For me first thing I think of is birds, mostly because they are almost exclusive to shotgun hunting. The types of birds hunted and the ways to hunt for them are as varied from doves to waterfowl to turkey and beyond. Then there is small game squirrel’s and rabbits etc, where I’m from most big game is taken with shotguns.
Believe it or not some people don’t like guns. Just because someone doesn’t like guns doesn’t mean they get left out when it comes to the great outdoors and hunting. Bows are a good option for those who don’t like things that go boom and still offer many chances to shoot or hunt. Bow hunting and shooting is probably the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports for a good reason it’s fun and challenging. Though it takes time and practice to get very good there is fun to be had at all skill levels. The initial investment of bow and arrows may seem a little steep but you can get many shots and a great sense of accomplishment from learning this skill. Hunting with a bow usually means longer seasons and more time in the woods. I don’t want to talk anybody into bow hunting but a successful bow hunt offers a sense of accomplishment rarely felt with other methods. Okay maybe I am trying to talk you into it, archery is worth the effort.
I know these next tips might be common sense but they’re easily forgotten in the excitement of training a new shooter. Try not to over-power with too big of a gun or bow, you can upgrade later as there is a big market for buying and selling used equipment. Keep targets big and close at first success keeps people interested. Resist the urge to show off too much, show what is possible but don’t embarrass them. Take a break if they start to get frustrated, but try to stop for the day on a high note. Remember having patience with a new shooter can pay off with somebody to share your passion for shooting with for a long time to come. Thanks to everyone that helped me along the way, too many to mention though none forgotten and all appreciated!!