Teaching your Kids about Weapon Safety

This is a topic that I hold dear. As a child who shot their first revolver before starting grade school and also living in a law enforcement household, weapon safety was ingrained in me, and I truly believe it’s something all children (really all people) should know and understand.

Why? Because understanding at a young age builds valuable safety skills everyone who handles, works around, or comes in contact with should be able to follow. It builds a healthy respect for a tool that could result in deadly consequences if not handled properly. And a healthy respect is what we’re aiming for—pun intended.

“You teach vehicle safety when kids drive, why wouldn’t you teach firearm safety?”

-Sam, 39, successfully raised one mini-me

Weapon Safety Violations

Before we get too far into this, let’s first start with a few stories where weapon safety was, well, non-existent. Because who doesn’t like a good story about thinking you’re seconds away from getting shot by a friendly?

Violation #1

Nothing scares me more than someone’s first time handling a weapon, especially when they think they know it all and end up pointing a safety-off, loaded weapon at me.

I remember being downrange with a young Lt—that pretty much says it all—who had cross-trained from a back-office style job to a security-type job. I was standing the clearing barrel for this individual as they approached me to arm up for the day.

Not only did I get a weapon pointed at me, but also this individual was shaking the entire time while attempting to slide a loaded magazine into an M-9, and then went to pull the trigger (round in chamber-on fire). Lucky for this individual, I’ve been doing this a long time, unlucky for me, I had to be the one to remind an Lt about arming safety.

Boy Shoots Heavy Weapon
A child sights in on a M240 machine gun during “In Their Boots” day on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Nov. 21, 2017. The event allowed others to experience the physical and mental demands of the military and build camaraderie. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

This might have been the Lt’s first time arming up since that one time they had to qualify, assuming it wasn’t pencil-whipped because we know how officers are just too busy for all that—guess that’s what happens when you have to get out from behind the desk, shaky hands and all.

“Teaching safety is important by itself but also helps instill trust, confidence, and that their actions have real consequences.”

-Ray,  33, raising four sharpshooters

Violation #2

In another instance, and due to a scheduling conflict, I ended up doing my weapons qualification with a group of individuals who fell into the category that only fire their weapon prior to deploying.

I kid you not, there was a guy in there that hadn’t shot a weapon in 17 years—no, that’s not a typo, 17 years in the military and hadn’t shot a weapon since basic training!

Now me, I grew up with firearms in the house, I shoot them regularly and I understand and respect the weapon because I know what could happen if safety isn’t taken seriously. Now take someone who hasn’t come from that same environment, put them on the range with about 20 other people who are just like them, and think about what could happen? Yeah, it’s a scary thought.

Of course, no matter the skill-level in a shooting course, the instructors will always go over weapon safety. Typically they ask the students to recite it to them, making sure everyone is on the same page—at least in the classes I’ve taken.

This class (we call it “base-pop” class because it’s people who don’t shoot or qualify regularly) was no different. We covered it all, don’t aim at anything you don’t intend to shoot, know what’s behind your target, always treat the weapon as if it’s loaded, always keep your weapon steady and downrange, you know, the basics.

And I swear, it seems to be the most forgotten rule, to the point it almost feels like they do it on purpose, taking their weapon off the target, turning around to hear what the instructor said, and pointing a live weapon directly at another student or instructor.

It’s enough to make you want to s*** your pants because you know they haven’t put the thing on safe yet.

Kid Shooting Rifle
A child, wearing face-paint, fires a paint-ball gun during Operation Kids Investigating Deployment Services at Camp Sentinel on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, Oct. 1, 2016. Operation KIDS volunteers taught the children how to aim and fire paint-ball guns. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randall Moose/Released)

Violation #3

Then there’s the story of a guy (also a retrain into the world of law enforcement and security) whose first time handling or even being around a weapon was after joining the military.

Now this story, you might have some sympathy for, but I have none because I went through the exact same situation myself and had a completely different reaction. For those of you who shot your fair share of rifles, you too might understand.

So here I am, getting ready to head out for yet another deployment, and I’m doing my pre-deployment rifle quals. I’m standing next to a guy who suddenly starts freaking out, right in the middle of firing.

Not only does he take the weapon off-target, but he also points it at me, the person on the other side of him, the instructor, and then drops it on the ground, muzzle NOT downrange and STILL on fire.

What happened? Well, some hot brass made it down the backside of his uniform. I’m not sure if you’ve felt the sting of hot brass rolling down your skin, but it’s not comfortable. I have a giant scar right at the nape of my neck where a 5.56 landed, and then when I went to set my weapon on the ground continued rolling down my neck.

Again, this is one of those situations, where I had such respect for a weapon because safety was ingrained into me from such a young age, that not breaking one of these sacred rules was the first thing I thought of in this particular situation, not the fact that I was getting a 2nd-degree burn.

Why all these stories?

I tell all of these stories because each one was a situation where something terrible could have gone wrong but didn’t. Each case could have most likely been avoided, had those individuals grew up learning, understanding, and respecting weapons and the safety requirements that goes with them.

I also tell these stories because each individual in my encounters were adults. Now imagine a child in these same situations, would you expect them to behave any differently? Probably not. But, if you teach them, when they become adults, we might have much better (and safer) stories.

Of course, I know not everyone is going to grow-up and work around weapons every day like I do, but a basic foundation is so valuable because it builds respect between people and weapons, so that they understand it’s not guns that kill people, but people who kill people. And sometimes it’s because people don’t practice basic weapon safety that peoples’ lives become severely altered.

Soldier Showing Kids Weapons
Sgt. Nickolas Ehrhardt, the Fort Campbell Special Reaction Reaction Team NCO in charge, demonstrates a stun gun to MacKenzie, 6, during a back-to-school bash Aug. 2, at West Creek Elementary School in Clarksville, Tenn. He was one of several volunteers from the battalion who assisted with the event.

So, what are the basics of weapon safety, and how do we teach it to our kids? Well, let’s start with all the things you should teach them, first.

Weapon Safety

  1. Don’t point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot
  2. Don’t joke or jester with your weapon, because guns aren’t toys
  3. Always treat your weapon as if it’s loaded, meaning imagine there’s a round in the chamber and it’s on fire
  4. Don’t put your finger in the trigger guard unless you’re aiming to shoot
  5. Know what’s behind your target
  6. Always keep your weapon steady and downrange

*While this article is geared toward kids and weapon safety, all these rules apply to adults just the same. This is more of a, teach these to your kids while they’re young, so they become instinct by the time they’re old enough to own their own pew pew.*

Why, When, How

Not everyone owns a firearm, we know that, which means not every kid will be growing up in a house full of them. But, that doesn’t mean all kids shouldn’t know about the safe practices of weapon handling.

WHY Teach Weapon Safety to Kids

We’ve hit this a little already, but teaching kids safe practices around firearms is important. But why is that, you ask?

“At a minimum I want them to understand firearm safety and how to render a weapon safe. Some of the youngsters start wanting to learn “just the basics,” but they pretty much always wind up getting much more into it once experiencing some positive range time. The ability to safely run a firearm is a confidence builder and time spent on the range can (and should) be used as some quality family time.”

David, 52,  Helping ramrod 14 minions

Like I already wrote, we know that not all kids will grow up in a home with a firearm, but what if your kid comes in contact with one at a friend’s house? What if your kid is out playing at the local park and finds a loaded pistol in the bushes?

*Side Note: You might not think this will ever happen if you don’t live in a big-crime-ridden-city, because I sure didn’t…until something similar happened to me. Early one morning before heading to work, while walking my dog, there it was, literally lying in the middle of an enclosed dog park, the upper receiver of a rifle wrapped in a towel (not even hidden in the bushes).

Teaching boy how to shoot a rifle safely

Then there’s always the movies-style scene. Billy is playing at a friend’s house and little Bo walks in and says, “Hey, wanna see my dad’s gun? I know where he keeps it!” You’d probably want to feel good knowing your son (for the purpose of this example) knows how to respond to this offer.

Or, let’s say it’s the other way around and you are the one with a weapon in the house. This time, Bo is at your house and says, “Hey, isn’t your dad a cop? I bet he has some cool guns! You think I could see ‘em!?” We all hope your son (again, for the purpose of this example) would know how to respond to this question.

WHEN to Teach Weapon Safety to Kids

While we like to say, the sooner the better, please be smart about this. It’s probably not wise to put a loaded weapon in the hands of an 18-month-old. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t start *brainwashing* the “troops” early, especially if you have a weapon in the house.

“Teach kids at a young age, guns are meant to be respected and treated as dangerous with care, just the same as we tell them don’t run with scissors, don’t hand someone a knife with the blade facing them, etc.”

-James , 29, housing one little minion

I know as a kid, my dad had plenty of weapons in the house. I knew where they were (if I needed them) but more importantly, I knew not to touch them unless I needed to use one because my life or my family’s life depended on it.

“The firearm should never be a mystery to your children. Children are already highly curious with everything anyway, so teach them, they want to know and they are smarter thank we think.”

-Macey, 35, father of two kiddos

I wasn’t learning to shoot while I was in diapers, but I was learning the dos and don’ts of handling a weapon, how to act around them, what to do if I found a weapon, etc.

So, while you probably shouldn’t hand you 1911 to little Joey, who just learned to sit-up, you should start teaching them what to do if they come across a loaded or unloaded weapon, whether that’s in your house, someone else’s, or out on the street, as soon as they’re old enough to comprehend the lesson. Because even if you don’t house a firearm, that’s not to say your kid’s best friend’s parents don’t.

We think David said it best by saying when to teach them is subjective.

“I teach kids to shoot as soon as I believe they’re ready for it. That’s subjective. Some I’ve started younger, others I waited a little longer for. There are a lot of reasons to teach them about guns—first and foremost because they’re in the house, but also because I want them to be able to defend themselves. I also want them to understand firearms from first-hand experience, not just what they’ve seen in the movies or heard from sensational media stories.”

-More from David

HOW to Teach Weapon Safety to Kids

Kind of like a 12-step-program, but not really, you can teach firearms to kids in steps.

First, teach them the safety stuff, the things they can learn without having a weapon in their hands—because again, you don’t want to put a loaded firearm in the hands of a kid who’s too young to even know what they’re holding.

Boy Plays with Toy Gun
A child fires a Nerf gun during the simulated weapons qualification portion of Operation Hero at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Sept. 28, 2019. Barksdale Airmen created a mock deployment scenario to help military children understand deployment procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassandra Johnson)

Second, teach them all the stuff they can learn about safety with an unloaded firearm (i.e. don’t point at anything you don’t intend to shoot). You can even use toy guns. Playing with water guns presents a great opportunity for this.

“If a child knows how to handle a gun properly, and more importantly WHEN they are allowed to handle a gun, accidents are less likely to happen.”

-Michaela, 30, mom of three boys

Finally, start teaching them the fundamentals of shooting and build upon that as they become the little sharpshooters you always knew they’d be.

WOW, you made it this far into the article!

So, there you have it, the why, when, and how of teaching firearm safety to the kiddos. Now, I know, somewhere along the way, some of you got your undies in a bunch and said,

“WeEl, MaYbE iF tHe paREntS KePT iT lOcKeD uP kIDs CouLD’nT toUCh A GuN WiTHouT SupERviSiON!”

Please, stop…Kids are way smarter than you think.

Have you ever seen a determined kid get the cookie jar off the top of the fridge…but they’re only 2! Yeah, kids pay attention. They know where you keep the keys, they know that one time you forgot to lock it back, they watched you punch in the code a million times, etc., etc. 

Yes, adults, please practice safe storage and all that too. But don’t use it as an excuse to not teach your children the dos and don’ts of weapons.

New to weapons?

Now, let’s say you’re one of the people who grew up not around weapons. Maybe you’ve never handled one yourself. Or maybe you did grow up around weapons, but you have a friend that didn’t.

As much as we love to joke, this might not be the time to make fun of them for not knowing how to handle and shoot a weapon.

Remember, we want to build a healthy respect, at a minimum, not fear and shame. Just because someone didn’t get the opportunity to shoot growing up doesn’t mean they can’t learn now.

I know, I know, we can joke around a lot and always at the most inappropriate times—I’m the master of this. But for once, can we be serious? Probably not, but let’s hold the jokes until we at least get the safety stuff down.

 

 

I have a friend that came to me wanting to purchase a pistol for home protection. The first thing I asked him was, have you ever shot a weapon? When he answered no, I said, how about we go shoot and make sure you can safely handle the weapon first, and then we can talk about owning one.

Of course, we went over the basic safety rules first.  I didn’t make fun of him for not knowing how to shoot, and he was actually a pretty good student because he really wanted to learn. And safety was a priority, the entire time.

“The most important thing is exposing them, if you never expose them to a firearm, showing them the safety features—not just children, but everyone—then they’ll never learn. But if you show them at a young age, the safety of a firearm, how to shoot the firearm, then when they’re old enough to purchase one, they know how to safely handle and shoot it.”

-Kevin, 44, father of two adulting whippersnappers

So, let’s recap real quick. It doesn’t matter if you own a weapon or not, it’s important to teach weapon safety to your kids. Expose them young so they gain a healthy respect for the weapon.

If they decide they don’t want to own or shoot firearms when they’re older, then that’s on them. But, don’t let them grow up to be afraid of a firearm. Give them the tools to at least successfully react when they come in contact with one.

And if you own firearms yourself, make sure your child knows when, how, and why they’d need to use one. And if it comes down to it, how to use it safely. While guns can be used for recreational purposes, they should be taken seriously, because if not handled correctly, could be life-ending.

Children, psychologically speaking, are too young to understand the complex consequences on their own. You, as an adult, have to teach them. Expose them while they’re young, teach them before they actually handle, and give them a healthy respect for any weapon they come in contact with, whether it’s to shoot for fun or serious business.

Target Practice with the Kids

Looking for some target practice for you and the kids? Check out these targets your kids will love!

Reactive Silhouette Targets

A reactive target is simply a target that gives you immediate feedback. That feedback can come from sound, movement, or splatter. And who loves reactive targets more than you, your kids, because they get to hear and see their results, immediately.

AR500 Steel Silhouette Reactive Reset Pistol & Rifle Target

 

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This target has two holes cut out in the shoulders and because you can hang it from a chain, it gives off two reactions: sound and movement. Which is great if you or your kid are hearing impaired.

AR500 Steel Silhouette Reactive Reset Pistol & Rifle Target 

 

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Jumping Targets makes a 3/8” AR500 steel target that does more than just make an auditory reaction. This particular reactive target rocks back when you hit it, and should reset for your next round. The “Rockin’ Gopher” also comes with four smaller targets on the sides so you can work on improving precision as your child gets better.

Threat Down Silhouette CTZ Bundle

 

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Threat Down Silhouette CTZ targets are definitely not your average paper targets. This style of reactive targets comes with small paint pouches on them. If you hit one of the key areas on the target, paint comes oozing out, making it feel like a more realistic shot. It helps improve their accuracy, for the older kids, while also giving instant feedback on shot placement for the younger ones.

Target Games

While most of these target games are more advanced, and probably best-suited for the older kids in the group, they are a lot of fun. If you’re past the basics with little Sally-Lou, then this might be an option to help improve accuracy and keep it fun as those little tikes grow up.

Human Resources Target: The Hammer Drill

The shooter stands at the 7m line.  At the buzzer, the shooter fires 1 round to the T box, 2 rounds to the chest, and 3 rounds to the pelvic triangle.  These are performed using our Human Resources Target. 

IQ Target: Numbers Game

Engage all COLORED shapes with a number inside of it. The number in the middle determines the number of rounds that shape receives. The shooter with the best time wins. A 1-second penalty is added for each miss or improper round count.  These are performed using our IQ Targets. 

Kill Zone Target: 5 x 5 Drill

The shooter stands at the 5m line.  At the sound of go, the shooter fires 5 rounds to the A Zone, reloads, and then fires 5 rounds to the B Zone.  These are performed using our Kill Zone Target.

Hitman Target: 1-2-3 Drill

Fire 1 round into the 1” target, 2 rounds into the 2” target, and 3 rounds into the 3” target. Fastest time wins.

Dartboard Target

Exactly like cricket in darts, but with bullets. We recommend using one target per team to help keep score. If you need a quick refresher on how to play, here’s a link to an easy to understand cricket breakdown. (The instructions are also on the bottom of the target): https://www.darting.com/Darts-Rules/Cricket/

 

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Fun Targets for the Older Kids

As your kids get older, they’re probably going to be interested in becoming more advanced in their skills. And we know you’re ready to teach them. Below are some great options for just that.

Essentials Target

 

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The Essentials Target is designed to give you an essential set of drills that will maintain your current proficiency level. The drill takes 150 rounds to complete and covers multiple aspects of pistol marksmanship to include slow aimed fire, weak and off-hand shooting, target transition, trigger speed changes, drawing, magazine reloads, and controlled multiple shot groups.

Want to improve your marksmanship? Read our blog, 5 Gun Targets to Increase your Marksmanship

  • Measures: 23″ x 35″
  • Unlimited amount of shooting combinations
  • Designed to maximize range time
  • Made in the USA

This product is designed to be used specifically with our Essentials Shooting Guide. 

IQ Target

 

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The IQ Target is designed to create thinking among shooters. The infinite combination of shapes, colors, numbers, and letters allows an instructor or student to create a wide variety of shooting problems. Students can be given simple commands such as “shoot all the triangles” or more complex scenarios such as “shoot at the squares and triangles that contain a number.”

Looking for another target option? Read our blog, The Best Silhouette Targets

The idea is to force shooters into thinking rather than aimlessly punching holes in paper. The 3 in. shapes make the target suitable for close pistol work or long-range shots. The larger 5 in. shapes are suitable for close quarters and short-range rifle drills.

  • Measures: 23 x 35 in.
  • Unlimited amount of shooting combinations
  • Pistol targets: 3 in. shapes
  • Rifle targets: 5 in. shapes
  • Made in the USA

Hitman Target

 

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The Hitman Target is designed to offer long-range shooters a comprehensive zeroing and engagement system for precision marksmanship. Printed with a grid overlay system in both Metric and US/Imperial measurements, shooters can see their impact offset and be adjusted onto different zeroing squares. The squares have been sized 1-3″ for maintaining a 1 MOA zero at 100, 200, and 300 yards with precision aiming points at their centers. They have also been colored to contrast with red and black reticles for improved sight picture. Lastly, the target can be rotated 90º for MILDOT measurements for wind call adjustments.

Did we miss anything? Do you have further recommendations? Please, comment below. We love hearing from our readers!

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