The jakes were gobbling and coming strong, just what a buddy had hoped. He was afield with his eight-year-old son, trying to get the boy his first turkey. First anything, really.
All was going well when he heard the boy whisper “I’m afraid the gun’s going to kick me.” The boy shot and, not surprisingly, missed.
Few people of any age enjoy the recoil of a shotgun or rifle. Kids have a particular fear of the recoil even though they probably get knocked around a lot harder when playing with siblings and friends.
Still, kids afraid of recoil are kids who’ll develop bad shooting habits and may give-up shooting. Here’s what I recommend.
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#1 – Don’t start kids too quickly with shotguns and high-powered rifles. Air rifles are a great place to start getting kids confident with their shooting. A few hundred rounds of .22 ammo help with the process. Never leave a child struggling to mount and hold the gun free-hand. Let them shoot from a rest.
#2 – Always make sure a child is wearing hearing protection when they’re around firearms – ALWAYS! I contest it’s the loud report of a gun that leads to flinching more than the recoil. Once a child’s ears get slammed around it’s hard for them not to flinch and fear when a gun fires. My kids often wore foam plugs and quality muffs when shooting high-powers.
#3 – Introduce them gradually. Begin by allowing them to watch you shoot their firearm. Be sure to shoot at targets that show visible signs of a hit. Empty soda cans stuck on sticks are great because they fly when hit and the kid can count the holes. It diverts their attention from any problems with recoil. Let them stand behind you, with a hand on the back of your shooting shoulder so they can feel how mellow the recoil of the gun.
#4 – Allow them to get comfortable with the gun before they pull the trigger on a live round. Be sure they’re using a steady rest to help hold the gun. Let them dry-fire a dozen or so times so you can check their gun mount and they’ll know the feel of the trigger. Put a hand under the gun’s forearm for the first few shots so you can help hold a bit of the recoil.
#5 – And use the word “recoil” instead of “kick.” Dont’ try to be funny or scare a kid.When our daughter’s first shotgun arrived, a youth-model 1100, a hunting buddy looked at it and her and said, “This is gonna kick you on your butt, kid.” Heck of a thing to say to an 11-year-old girl! It took a few days to get her to try the 20 gauge. It took much longer before I quit putting adjectives in front of Marc’s name.
#6 – Don’t start them too young and there is no common age. All kids are different. Raised around guns, Jerrod would shoot a rested 12 gauge when he was six. At nine he was shooting 3/4″ groups at 100 yards with a 6mm. Lindsey opted to use a 7mm-08, despite more recoil, than the 6mm on her first deer hunts at 14 because “the harder it hits on my end, the harder it’ll hit on theirs.” But both kids had shot thousands of pellets and .22 shells and been eased into recoiling shotgun and rifles.
I have a buddy with a 10-year-old boy who’s scared to death of his 20 gauge and flinches terribly when forced to shoot it. Raised in the big city the kid hadn’t proper introduction to shooting. His father was eager to get the boy hunting…maybe a bit too eager. Flinching is hard habit to break. It’s much easier to prevent.