What To Expect As a New Shooter

Kirsten Joy Weiss shares some tips for new people who are interested in shooting but have not yet shot a gun. These tips can also apply to experienced shooters who are going to instruct new shooters.

Kirsten shows her Grandfather’s .30-06 bolt action rifle and explains the features on the gun. She does a pretty decent job of explaining how to manage recoil. One thing she did not explain was how to shoulder and cheek the stock properly. Too often new shooters who have never shot a gun tend to not know how to cheek a rifle. It is like watching a new born animal try to walk for the first time. They are not sure what to do and position their limbs at odd angles all the while looking silly and potentially hurting themselves. I have seen new shooters try to cheek a rifle like they are holding a cell phone between their ear and shoulder. Also they don’t seem to know the correct position to place their eye for proper eye relief on a scope. I have seen too many virgin shooters try to move their head further back along the stock as if there is a poisonous snake by the scope about to bite them in the face.

Another topic she should address is eye dominance. Determining which eye a person is dominant in will help determine which side they can shoot on. Or just train the right eye by tapping over the left eyepiece on a set of safety glasses.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • Nicks87

    Eye relief is a big issue for new shooters. I’ve seen incidents of scope bite that ruin shooting for people. As in, they never shoot again because of the black eye they received because of improper training/supervision.

    • Bob

      I don’t quite get how scope bite could happen with the scopes I use, which have awfully lengthy eye relief. Of course I am dangerously near sighted, so maybe my glasses have something to do with that. (Though I suppose a newbie might not understand the nasty black ring around the edges and might not reevaluate things.)

    • KestrelBike

      I’m not afraid to admit that I can be a bit clumsy, and I scope-bit myself just a couple months ago when I got a new Rem 700. Been shooting rifles since I was 18, but mostly iron sights or red-dots. I didn’t seat the rifle firmly into my shoulder enough and got an embarrassing kiss (while wearing eye-pro, of course). Live & learn, it happens!

      • Nicks87

        It happened to me when I was 5 yo with my dad’s 30-30 lever action. I wanted nothing to do with scoped rifles after that. I guess that might be the reason I became such a good shot with iron sights lol. It happened to my wife when she was shooting my savage .300 win mag a few years ago, now she wont go near the thing.

    • Nicholas C

      A good reason to shoot suppressed or with a muzzle brake. Cut down the recoil.

      • Sarig

        Muzzle breaks are horrible for the people to the left and right of you though.

        One shooting range I frequented years ago banned them on busy days for this reason.

        • Nicholas C

          I dont see the problem. Just don’t go shooting with people next to you. When I go to the range it is usually empty. For some people, they are teaching shooting in the woods. Not a cramped public range. Now I cannot assume that is available to many. Just as you should not assume everyone shoots with other people on a line at the range.

  • Cal.Bar

    SO…. who takes a new shooter out the first time with a high power scoped rifle? If you start new shooters out with .22 pistols and .22 rifles you won;t have this problem. Let them work up to “grandpa’s old .30-.30”

    • Cmex

      Instead you’ll just have people who rapidly lose all their desire to shoot because it’s sitting at a table with a 22 while someone barks at them about technique minutiae they’re already doing exactly as instructed.

  • USMC03Vet

    .22LR isn’t even fun to shoot and treating every first time shooter like they a Faberge egg that is going to break under the extreme forces of anything higher is absurd. That caliber can actually reinforce some terrible shooting habits too.

    • Kelly Jackson

      You’re the kind of douchebag that thinks it’s funny to hand a small framed woman a .44 mag and laugh when she gets hit in the face with it aren’t you?

      • Evan

        That’s a false choice. There are in between options.

    • Kyle

      A little girl friend of mine is English and had never held a gun in her life. She had an absolute ball with my little .22 1911. She liked the .380 I brought along as well. Wasn’t fond of the 9mm or .45 and flat out hated the 12g. She has been to the range several times with me now. without that .22 she wouldn’t have had a good time and would not be interested in continuing to shoot. I could have brought her out, handed her my KSG loaded with 3″ magnum slugs. She would have shot it once, probably dropped it, and then demand to be taken home. New shooters should be started out with something small and provided with more powerful options to try if they want to be adventurous. Just taking some noob to the range and handing them some kind of cannon is a surefire way to ensure that they won’t enjoy themselves and won’t be interested in coming back.

      • Evan

        There can be a happy medium between .22 and .454 Casull. I’ve found a 5.56 AR is a good gun for first timers.

        • Kristoff

          What are you talking about? .454 is the happy medium. If a new shooter can’t hit the bullseye at 50 yards, free hand with a .454 on his/her first shot, then they have no business shooting.

      • Nicholas C

        Give girls more credit. When I was living in NY, I volunteered with my shooting club for NRA Ladies Day. We provide the guns and ammo and let women shoot for free. I brought my KSG along as it is actually easier to shoot for women than a traditional pump shotgun like an 870. For one there isn’t an issue of length of pull. New shooters do not know how to negotiate weight with long guns. They instinctively lean back to compensate for the weight that is so far forward. The KSG, as you know, is a bull pup so the CG is closer to the body of the shooter. Some women built up their nerve and shot it after some instruction and actually liked it. Of course they were only shooting light bird shot loads.

        • Kyle

          Oh I’m not saying the KSG wouldn’t work for a girl. My friend specifically would not be a good match for it and had I given it to her the range trip would have been short. She really didn’t like my friends Double barrel with just birdshot in it. In my experience it is the KSG presents one of the hardest felt recoil weapons I have ever fired. It has actually left bruises behind at the end of the day with long sessions of full power buckshot and birdshot. I have a buddy who ran 4 slugs through it and has never fired it since then. This is a guy who loves shotguns and have 5 of them in his safe at home and wanted a KSG. At least until he fired it lol. Your milage may vary obviously but in my opinion I would never hand it off to a new shooter at this point. If they want to try out a 12g I would get them on my M4 and let the have a crack at it.

          • Nicholas C

            Interesting. I have shot over 150rds thru my KSG at a local sporting clays course. Not even a bruise. Just a slight tinge of yellowing the next day. I find the recoil of the KSG is linear compared to my 870, Mossberg and 930 JM Pro.

          • Kyle

            Huh, weird. I Find my M4 is extremely comfortable to shoot comparatively. I’m betting it is probably shooting stance related. Still despite it kicking like a damn mule for me it is a neat little gun. If I lived in an area where it was needed I think it would be a phenomenal truck gun and that would be what I used it for. I’ve been eying those Keltec CMRs as my next gun purchase. First cause they look fun as hell and second because I think it would make an excellent beginner friendly weapon for my friends.

          • Kyle

            Or maybe I just bruise easily. Who the hell knows.

      • Len Jones

        My wife was like that. I was shooting my bodyguard in the yard and my wife wanted to try it she might as well have been shooting a 9mm because it kicked like one that was the last time she has ever shot. I now just shoot with the oldest 13 yr old grand daughter with her Henry I bought her and she can’t get enough.

    • Evan

      I disagree that .22LR isn’t fun to shoot (it can be kinda lame on the range, but it’s a blast in the woods), but last time I took a gun virgin shooting, she found my 5.56 AR far easier to shoot with than my .22 Marlin.

    • Cal.Bar

      You’re missing the/my point. All I said was you don’t hand a new shooter a high powered scoped rifle right off the bat. Why? Because things like getting hit with the scope are very likely until they figure out the right eye relief. Better to learn about scope bit on a .22 than a .30.06 right?

    • BearSlayer338

      I agree 100%,my dad started me off shooting a S&W 66 4″ .357 magnum,with .357 loads when I was 13,ever since then pistol shooting has come naturally to me.
      Shooting that .357 really made me realize how accurate a good .357 magnum can be.

    • Cmex

      I know if I’d had to do learn to shoot with 22LR, I would’ve been so bored after the first few times I probably would have quit shooting altogether. I’ve talked new and irregular shooters through using my 91/30; there’s no real point to starting someone off on a 22 first thing unless they’re like 4. Making sure that people have to learn to deal with at least the existence of recoil from early on builds a basic level of caution and compotency, so they can theoretically handle most things that may fall into their hands if they know the controls. It also helps to prevent people from accidentally shooting the ceiling or over the berm the first time they have to manage anything with some kick and firepower. I actually think that a bolt action rifle is the proper way to teach shooting, but it should be paired with some sort of incentive to do well and pay attention, like getting to rapid fire a black rifle at the end of the session, or getting a chance to use a full power rifle for some more challenging long range shots..This isn’t because we’re all 5 years old, but because once you’ve taught marksmanship fundamentals in about 10 minutes and they’re getting comfortable after an hour, presenting some new, interesting challenge or hardware makes them want to come back again to try it until they can say nail the basketball at 200M offhand with the Garand or empty the VZ58 in 6 seconds with all rounds on target.

      • Limonata

        Having trained well over 200 people I am going to take my experience and say you are wrong. When you say you would be bored, your speaking about your own experience and only your own. Every single person is different. I have taught people who are ready to rock-n-roll and pretty much natural shooters and people who have freaked out after shooting a 22lr.

        There are those that need some additional instruction or perhaps just need additional shots down range.

        While you can teach the fundamentals in 10min, that does not mean everyone “gets it” after those 10min. That does not mean these people are stupid, some people need some additional time and reinforcement.

        I have not met anyone who has not wanted to do more shooting even after shooting a 22lr. I think you are projecting your own personal experience/opinion on everyone else and I will tell you, you are wrong.
        In my NRA classes we start everyone off with a 22lr and then 380, 38spl, 357, 9mm, 40 and 45 so they can get a chance to try out all the different pistols and revolvers so that when they actually purchase one for themselves, they have some clue as to what to expect.

        As for rifles, I have started everyone out with 22lr bolt gun to learn the basics before working them up to an AR-15.

        The reaction and how quickly one picks up on what to do very much varies from person to person. I have had college age kids to 70 something old women take my class who decided she wanted a gun after her husband passed away. Some are scared of a 22lr because they did grow up around guns at a young age. Others get a big grin and cannot wait to try out the next one. I have had students stop shooting after a single round of a 9mm. Ditto with rifles. Some cannot wait to try the 308, one person fired 3 shots out of a 5.56 and told me he had enough.

        Everyone is different and teaching needs to be adjusted to that person. I have seen nothing wrong nor a new shooter bored because of a 22lr. My girlfriend and now soon to be wife would only shoot a 22lr for about a year before she would try something else. Now she owns her own Glock 43.

        Blanket statements do not take into account the person you are trying to help. Sure, there are some who will take to larger calibers day one, and there those who need more time and need to start with a 22lr. I don’t like making blank statements without considering the person.

    • Trey

      Single shot .22rf Hand Cocking bolt gun is my go to rifle for first shots. Yes it will let you get away with a lot, but that is what TEACHING is for.

      The new shooter has to do every thing so they get to understand what the rifle is doing.

      After that I have a lot of options, an SKS configured into straight pull bolt is a good choice as it has recoil and feels like a “real rifle” but still the shooter is operating every step or nearly so if you use the magazine

      Then if they are comfortable I will bring out a full power service rifle or Hunting rifle. Like a 6.5×55 swede or a 98 action in 30-06

    • Stacy Flit

      How many “first time shooters” have you trained? Did you learn to say “shoot” in the Corps and why did you not continue your pontificating on alleged terrible habits that a .22 can cause. One bad habit I have seen in my life around firearms and I avoid like the plague is a know-it-all with a weapon. The bad habit of disrespecting certain weapons, if one is lucky, will result at best in a close call and pretending to be a Marine will result in an ass whoopin’.

    • Cea

      Try shooting a 22 skirmish! That, is fun!! There are all kinds of 22 rifle/pistol spinning or breaking targets that are absolutely fun!
      Try any 22 competition, they are nothing but fun. 22 steel challenge…fun.

  • Suppressed

    My favorite awkward posture is when you hand a new shooter an unloaded rifle to feel out and they hold it like an RPG, with the stock up on top of their shoulder.

    I have no clue why that’s such a go-to for the new shooter.

  • Bob

    Two things. One: All that editing and cutting is going to give me a seizure. I need to go watch something slower paced like a Hickok45 video… And Two: That is a nice looking 30-06.

  • Gol

    What kind of rifle is that?

    • Cameron Bissell

      Looks like an FN (maybe intertarms) Commercial Mauser 98. they used to be sold through department stores, you can still find the with “Sears” on the side.

  • Geoff

    In an ideal world, one would start on an air rifle, then move on to suppressed .22 LR, well, then suppressed everything else. Ideally, all shooting would be suppressed. It’s the civilized thing to do

  • DL

    Good job Sweetheart. It helps to have women instructing women. Now if you decisively operate that bolt you should get proper extraction/ejection. I always encourage young/new shooters to use air rifles. Moving up to the rimfires and then the varmint calibers/30-30. SINGLE SHOT. Those military rifles weaken marksmanship skills. Handguns. Well, that is a whole different category. They might have a real aversion for firearms.