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Introducing kids to USPSA

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Over the past weekend, my 7-year-old son shot his first USPSA course using a 22LR pistol: 

 

 

He's been going to the range with me off-and-on for about two years, but more consistently this last year.  I've pretty much just had him follow my training schedule, which is 1x live fire (per week), 2-3x dry fire, and a few sessions with AirSoft.  During the sessions, we use the range commands and practice the safety aspects so that he only knows the one way to handle his firearm--safely.  We also only work on the basics, and only one/two techniques at a time.  I'll sometimes bring him along to the matches, but since he's not shooting, there's not much to keep his interest.  Our gun club had a single-stage steel match that was the perfect format for him--not too many competitors to be intimidating, only one stage so he didn't have to think too much, he got to shoot the same stage over and over during the two hour match, and he got accustomed to the range commands during a quasi-match environment.

 

Some things that I think are going well:

  • He's very conscious of his muzzle and finger at all times.
  • His recoil control is coming along (he can now shoot 9mm--slowly).
  • He's still very excited about the next practice session.

 

I'm very happy with his awareness to safety, though it's still nerve-wracking having him run a full course while others are watching.

 

Some things that are continually challenging:

  • He's interested in dry fire for the first five minutes.
  • He'd much rather "rapid fire" his gun than shoot deliberately.
  • He still anticipates and flinches for the first few shots.
  • His hands still aren't big enough to wrap comfortably around a full-sized gun.


Most of the attention deficit issues are just because, well, he's 7.  I try to vary up the sessions by making games out of the drills, like beating the par time for first shot as we move further from the target, fewest shots to get n-number of hits on steel, etc.  Live fire usually isn't an issue, but dry fire might as well be doing math homework.

 

For the anticipation/flinching issue, I've been having him shoot with his eyes closed (into the berm) and double-plugged to reduce the stimuli causing him to flinch, and it's helped some, but it's still noticeably there.  He hardly flinches with Airsoft, but sometimes shows with the 22 pistol, and always there when he shoots 9mm.  One recent improvement is that after getting to shoot a 9mm for the first time, he anticipates less when shooting 22.

 

He's obviously still growing and his hands will eventually be big enough to grip a full-sized frame, but in the meantime, we do pull-ups and other grip exercises to build up strength.

 

What recommendations or experiences do you all have?

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IMHO, I'd wait another few years before I had him shooting 9mm.

 

The .22 should keep his interest for a while, and he can learn some

very good habits that way.

 

I think that if he is showing some flinch with the .22, I'd have him shoot

reactive targets outside, only.  That should help keep his interest   :) 

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First, great job on introducing your son to shooting and teaching him gun safety.

 

I shoot with my 10 year old daughter.  I started her with a .22 pistol in steel challenge matches almost 3 years ago.  She just started shooting a 9mm this summer and shot her first USPSA match a couple of months ago.  I agree with Jack, stick with the .22 for now.  Wait until his hands have grown big enough to control the 9mm.  My daughters hands are just now getting to the size that the heel of her hand is on the back of the gun.  Notice in the video that your son's hands are not quite there on the 22/45.  It only takes one embarrassing DQ for it to ruin it for him for a long time. 

 

The other thing is to make it fun.  We practice with reactive targets a lot.  We also have little competitions to see who can shoot the best smiley face on a target, etc.  We always go get ice cream or something similar after matches or practice. 

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I started my son on .22lr and left him on it until there was no flinching or jerking and he could keep his eyes open while shooting.  Running him through stages with an unloaded gun making him air shoot targets while watching finger and muzzle until it became programmed. He did that for almost 6 mos. before I bought him a Springfield Armory 5.25 competition 9mm.  He won high junior in production in his first level 2 match and after a year went to single stack using a Sig max in .40. He won high junior and 2nd C class in his 2nd level 2 .  Watching young people mature when they are exposed to being around a much older crowd is very cool.  They seem to be more level headed and have better control over their emotions as well.  The shooting sports are a great venue for young people.  Wish you and yours the very best of experiences together!

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There is not much better then being able to shoot with your kids and watching them grow and develop in the sport.  My son started with a .22 at 10yrs old.  Went to a 9mm M&P in Limited minor after 5 months.  At 12 yrs went to a 2011 limited major.  Now at 13 he is consistently in the top 10 in Limited.  Of course physical size and majority has played a large role.  He was a small 10 yr old and now is just shy of 6' tall.

Edited by wolffy1876

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Flinching and anticipation are primarily due to inexperience in basically being exposed to a firecracker going off in front of your face. The issue magnifies when they are in direct control of when said fire cracker will go off. A lot of peoples (Young and Old) issue with this is that they simply want the "BOOM" event to be over with as soon as possible and tend to over react during the actual event. Such as mashing the trigger or flinching. One side to tackle is the actual bio mechanics of the shot and subsequent recoil event. Double Pluging to fully remove the "BOOM" factor from the process really helps the shooter to focus on the bio mechanics of shooting. The number one bad habit or perception to break is the misunderstanding that they have to grip the gun harder when it fires verses when it isn't firing. You need to reinforce the fact that the gun should ALWAYS be gripped hard any time the gun is between their face and the target. You can train them on this by having them grip the gun, point and aim at a target, then YOU pull the trigger at random intervals to fire the shots. In this scenario they are forced to maintain a firm grip on the gun the whole time because they don't know when the next shot is going to happen. This should prove to them that as long as they are gripping the gun firmly there is nothing to worry about from a bio mechanics perspective in managing the recoil. Your random triggered shots should also prove to them that if they maintain a proper sight alignment and on target hold that good quality hits can be made regardless of who is pulling the trigger.

 

The second factor is getting used to the "BOOM" sound and concussion. This can usually only happen with direct exposure to those instances as you gradually reduce the level of hearing protection. Start with a double plug/muff setup then have the shooter dry fire groups on a target standing next to another person who is actually shooting at a random cadence. The primary goal in this type of drill is to refrain from blinking when the random "BOOM" event happens. The cheapest way to do this is to replicate the drill at an indoor range when there are other shooters in stalls next to yours shooting. Once you can maintain a hard sight focus during the dry fire and random shooting scenario, then remove one layer of hearing protection. The tendency to blink will usually resurface every time a layer of hearing protection is removed because the "BOOM" is more noticeable. I am not advocating to fully remove hearing protection at any point, as that could lead to hearing loss. But at some point the shooter should be able to dry fire without blinking even though they only have one layer of hearing protection on. Once they get more used to normal "BOOM" shots, then request to be put next to louder guns like rifles or shotguns. Everyone has a specific threshold of sound or concussion they simply can't stop blinking in. But the goal is to make that threshold as high as as possible.

 

Your comments about your son losing interest in dry fire after 5 minutes is normal for children and humans in general. Young kids really don't understand that a specific learning processes is needed to actually learn something effectively. This is especially difficult if they don't associate a tangible reward with completing the "boring" training tasks. You can show him the water but can't force him to drink. Do your best to make it fun for him but avoid making it work. For example, setting up a reactive air soft target for him to shoot at during the dry fire session would probably keep him engaged for a longer period of time while still reinforcing the target goal of the training session.

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Uh oh, I’ll probably ruffle some feathers here. While it’s great to shoot with kids informally, please remember that many of us shoot USPSA to get away from kids and hang out with other like minded adults.Junior shooters who are old enough to not need coaching, can keep up with resetting stages, know how to clear malfunctions etc are a good thing for the game. But junior juniors who need spoon fed through stages and can’t grasp the concept of keeping things moving by being ready and helping should be delayed until old enough.

  And yeah, I’m the guy that hates when you bring dogs to matches as well.

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  what gets me is when mom and child show up to watch dad,with play pen and no ear protection for the one in play pen  ..

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3 hours ago, Sarge said:

Uh oh, I’ll probably ruffle some feathers here. While it’s great to shoot with kids informally, please remember that many of us shoot USPSA to get away from kids and hang out with other like minded adults.Junior shooters who are old enough to not need coaching, can keep up with resetting stages, know how to clear malfunctions etc are a good thing for the game. But junior juniors who need spoon fed through stages and can’t grasp the concept of keeping things moving by being ready and helping should be delayed until old enough.

  And yeah, I’m the guy that hates when you bring dogs to matches as well.

The younger they start, the quicker they learn Sarge.  My son started coming to the matches to just watch and pick up brass for a few months, he then learned how to keep score and went with me to RO class. While at a state sectional he got to talk with Jessie Duff and then he started like I stated above.  Clearing malfunctions is the one thing that has to be learned on the fly.  I personally love seeing juniors as long as they can handle themselves safely.   

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