Coaxing Non-Shooters Out to the Range
In many ways, the battle for gun rights is as much cultural as it is political. Even after hundreds of years of gun culture in America, there is still a mystique about firearms that can often be intimidating to those less knowledgeable. Contacting legislators is important, yet in many ways it is more vital to contact our neighbors and invite them out for a safe and fun day at the range.
In many cases the invitation process is rather simple. Yet, for some of us it is an uphill battle. I have struggled with this quite often and the following steps are offered to anyone meeting resistance. They are based on casual interviews with over fifty people. Each has successfully encouraged a surprisingly high number of non-shooters to attend a range session. In most cases these new shooters ultimately purchased their own firearms.
(Unfortunately, due to the nature of today’s world, I have to state that this is for entertainment purposes only, any actions of the reader are their responsibility and I and any other party hold no responsibility for any results, good or bad, from the use, or misuse of statements made in this writing.)
For lack of a better term the recommended “system” is as follows:
1: Start with them
Give the potential shooter the advantage of familiar territory. If they like art, go look at art, if they want to dance, hey… it’s a great work out. Spend a good while doing this and often they will want to do something you enjoy the next time.
2: Ease them into your circle of friends
Explain your goals to your friends and ensure they help the process along. Introduce them to you’re your circle of friends in a manner similar as they introduced you to theirs. Keeping the same format lets them know what to expect. Invite them to attend interests that may relate to things they enjoy. Perhaps attending fine art exhibits bored you a bit, and yet you both have a passion for high quality films. Find that common ground.
3: Use the time to establish yourself
Be yourself. However, try to highlight the safe, down-to-earth, sensible, caring, nurturing side of your personality to lay the groundwork for the invitation. Doing this now will associate reasonable emotions from the hesitant. “Well, he’s a safe person, he wouldn’t ask if he thought it’d put me in danger.” That sort of thing. It’s fine to have a “wild side” but it might be good to specify that one never pushes it beyond the limits of what is safe.
4: Express your own interest and joy in firearms
It is best to make it a private matter and introduce the subject when you have some one-on-one time. Introduce the idea as something you recently enjoyed. Sometimes it is as simple as seeing the smile on your face. Other times, people need more information. I’ve had several people ask me the classic question “Why do you need a gun?” It used to be an aggravation, but lately I’ve come to see that many people simply do not know what to do with a firearm. Providing the why-before they’ve asked for it-can smooth the process.
In my case, I’ve talked about the sense of Zen that I find in marksmanship. For me, it is almost as if long range accuracy forces the individual to relax. For a while there is nothing more than a trigger, a target and you. I walk away from the range centered and ready to take on the week ahead. Especially for a hesitant person, this can be alluring. There are plenty of other things that can appeal to them as well. Having understood them better in previous steps, you can now guess what will pique their interest.
5: Clearly identify their objections
At this point people usually express their objections to firearms. We are still in the information gathering mode here. Listen attentively and understand what they dislike about the concept of firearms. Many people have never shot one, and their fear is more towards the unknown than anything in particular. Other people associate emotions with firearms and feel that evil, anger, and other things are caused by such objects. We find no advancement by mocking such “cameras steal your soul” mentalities. Remain focused and positive; they are simply new to the idea. I remember white-knuckle-grabbing the steering wheel the first time I learned to drive. Things are just scary sometimes.
6: Introduce the subject in a tactful way
Expressing your own enjoyment of firearms is one thing, but inviting them out to shoot is another entirely. Most people who oppose firearms do so from an emotional position, while most people that are in favor of firearms do so from a logical position. One is not better than the other. Without emotion, how can there be loyalty? Without feelings, how can we enjoy freedom? These people can enhance the gun culture, if embraced. Appeal to their emotions, embrace their concerns and empower them to overcome their fears.
One woman I invited was hooked by the sense of empowerment a firearm gives. Another friend did not show interest until the safety rules were covered. Back when I opposed firearms, I was coaxed out by the marksmanship and devotion to the art of firearms.
Everyone has something that piques their interest. Find that trigger, if you’ll pardon the pun, and press.
7: The invitation
It is interesting to see the many different approaches at this point. Some people take charge and say “I’m taking you shooting, I’ve got everything covered, all you need to do is be ready when I come to pick you up.” Others are a bit gentler in their approach. I think when all is said and done, let the invite be something that is congruent with who you really are and what they are most likely to respond to.
8: Follow up
Plan it like you would plan any party or event. Remind people of the date. Make a check list of everything you will need for the day and check it twice. This way all they have to do is show up.
9: Range day
Begin with some socializing and allow for a brief period of adjustment. Let people ease out of their anxieties and get acclimated to presence a range often has. Once ready, begin with another safety brief. Cover the safety rules again and visually explain the proper way to handle a firearm. Safety should be covered enough to drive the point home, but in a manner that keeps things enjoyable and positive.
Start them with a pellet gun or a 22LR, and only give them one round at a time until they get comfortable. Keep the target distances easy and attainable. They can always attempt further shots when they are comfortable.
Express your emotion of enthusiasm whenever appropriate as they shoot the targets. Allow them to shoot as they like, keeping a watchful eye on safety, and when they are ready you can see how they do with a full magazine.
Try and have some fun targets available. Keep the targets somewhat politically correct, save the bleeding zombie targets and Tannerite for another time. Spinner targets and other reactive targets will offer plenty of fun.
Keep the entire focus on safe fun and forget about technical jargon and complex conversation, right now it is simply about letting them enjoy and explore.
If you have other firearms available, it is important to make sure they feel comfortable stepping up to the next piece. Cover each one in detail in terms of its use and what to expect in terms of recoil and so forth and allow them to choose.
If they violate a safety rule, remain calm and correct it without startling them.
At about the two hour mark, when they’ve gotten used to the firearms and started to get swept away in all the fun; it’s time to pack up and go home. The importance of the two hour mark is that it leaves them wanting more. If everything is done well, you will likely make it to step 10.
10: The gun shop
If possible, it is best to accompany them to the gun shop. This continues the fun and camaraderie we all love about firearms. Ensure the shop you take them to employs positive and friendly people. It is always good to have a relationship with the owners prior to inviting anyone out to the range. The owners can be prepped for the new shooters arrival and have the proper atmosphere ready and waiting.
While I love hearing from people who have an easy time coaxing new shooters out to the range, there is a large number of us that engage in an uphill battle. I hope that this method, which can of course be adapted to suit anyone’s taste, will help to smooth the process. Hopefully this increases the number of firearm owners in your area, or at the very least, the number of educated people out there.
Remember that the experience for them is all about the fun. The passion will come, in time, and the bond will be long lasting.
We are almost the majority in America, let’s keep growing.
Being slightly dyslexic makes writing hard, I can’t post as frequently as many other writers do, I apologize. Subscribe to my blog so you never miss a new post. Thanks in advance.