Children And Firearms: Prepare, Teach, And Apply

This guest post is by Z.H. Former USAF Combat Arms Instructor (AFSC 3P0X1B) and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

There remains a fair amount of hesitation among some in the wider survivalist community about teaching their children about firearms (especially those making the transition from urban areas where the very idea of addressing firearms with children seems verboten). Of course, those individuals who have seen their families take an active interest in firearms, be it for hunting or simply target shooting, have long seen the benefits of teaching children to use firearms.

Of course, there has been outrage in the media in years past each time a child injures or kills a sibling, friend, or themselves by using a poorly-secured weapon. In nearly all these cases, the child in question had no knowledge of the lethality of firearms. In a SHTF scenario, it is extremely likely that all too suddenly that this will become suddenly and brutally apparent to all, and the unprepared mind is even more likely to be traumatized.

One of the best safety and preparedness measures in regards to children and firearms is to simply involve them in the experience. Long before any of my children were of an age to shoot, I would let them “help” in regards to cleaning my rifles. This generally involved helping oil our cleaning patches, and even operating the cleaning rod (with immediate, direct supervision). Of course, during this entire experience, the top priority was safety. Before they ever got the chance to “help out Dad”, they were instructed, repeatedly, as to the lethality of these items. I even found YouTube videos showing the penetration and destructive power of several firearms to assist in this. This is the sort of step that can start as early as the preschool years, and will form a firm foundation and appreciation for the lessons to come.

An air rifle can be an excellent transitional complement to a child’s firearm education and experience. The same basic tenets apply in regards to operation of an air rifle or BB gun as they do to a standard firearm. The lessons of checking/inspecting a weapon before and after use, knowing never to point the weapon anywhere you aren’t prepared to kill or destroy, and overall situational awareness can be achieved nicely at this step. The child may learn to identify the parts of the weapon, and can take a sense of ownership in maintaining “their” weapon. My daughter was able to take this step at the beginning of her grade-school years, and truly enjoyed learning to accurately hit some bright targets on the back of our property.

Remember, you are the expert when it comes to your kids. You know their maturity level, and can judge them better than anyone when it comes to their readiness and attitude. When you feel they are ready for the next step (and I have seen young grade school children reliably ready to step up after proper instruction), it’s time to consider that first rifle. For many of us, this is an absolute joy, knowing that we’re giving something truly special to the children. My advice: make a big deal of it. Link it to their demonstration of personal responsibility and attitude around the house, not just when they’re shooting with Mom or Dad. By doing this, you’re continually reinforcing that firearms are something special, worthy of their respect and proper judgment. There’s never a bad time to bring that lesson up for an encore!

When you’re shopping for that first rifle, there are many fine weapons that will do nicely. For availability and ease of use for the general public, I would go with the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22. Happily, .22 LR ammo is cheap, the weapon easy to fire and maintain, and should be quite durable as your child progresses into young adulthood and beyond. While there are several fine models of the 10/22 that will do nicely for this purpose, I have seen good results with the 10/22 Compact and Carbine models. Also in the .22LR camp is the Marlin Model 60, which is often claimed by Marlin to be the most popular .22 rifle in the world. My advice is to take your time on this purchase, read plenty of reviews, stay within your budget (there are many fine firearms that won’t cost a fortune that are fine for this purpose), and realize you don’t need to get too fancy with this, regardless of what anyone tells you.

As you move up into weapons that offer a sharp or booming report when fired, remember, hearing protection and other safety gear is doubly important for children, especially as their hearing can be negatively impacted by repeated loud noises. A visit to your local gun store or sport/outdoor shop should provide everything you need in terms of the right gear for your offspring. Remembering to show proper storage and security for firearms is also a must with this.

If you’re new to the world of preparedness or firearms, you might not feel up to the task of teaching your child yourself, or may want to seek out instruction for your whole family. Additionally, your current circumstances might not allow for you to simply head out to a remote part of the back 40 and have target practice. I have personally worked with two programs I can recommend, though a bit of internet research will provide even more. The first is 4-H’s National Shooting Sports Program (, which is a program for youth active across the United States. The second is Project Appleseed (, which has the admirable goal of teaching marksmanship and respect for our nation at the same time. There may be shooting clubs in your area as well that provide a community resource; make sure to ask around.

Happily, learning the safe handling and operation of firearms can be a true bonding experience. Not only that, but the discipline and confidence one learns in safely and accurately discharging a firearm can be a boon to them in any situation (not just the worst-case scenarios we all endeavor to weather).

Remember, training your child to shoot does not suggest that they will become a child soldier, scarred and traumatized, or a sociopath out to injure others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hollywood and our society do much to alternately glamorize and demonize firearms; it is up to responsible parents, grandparents, and relatives to show our children the truth about these weapons. We all want to protect our children, and to teach them the skills to both provide for and defend themselves when they must. People fear or improperly use that which they don’t know. That is why firearms training, started and secured at a young age, can play an integral role in ensuring your entire family is prepared when a true disaster-level event hits. Regardless of when or if it happens, firearms training for children is an important, enjoyable, and rewarding activity for kids and parents alike.

This contest will end on August 7 2012 – prizes include:

First Place : 1 Year Subscription to AlertsUSA, 1 Radiation Safety Package consisting of the following;  (1) NukAlert Radiation Monitor and Alarm (5) Radsticker Peel and Stick Dosimeters (1) Box Thyro Safe Potassium Iodide. All courtesy of AlertsUSA. A $150 gift certificate for Federal Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo. And a British Berkefeld water fillter system courtesy of  LPC Survival. A total prize value of over $700.

Second Place : A six pack Entrée Assortment courtesy of Augason Farms, a Nukalert courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply and a WonderMill Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $550.

Third Place : A copy of each of my books “31 Days to Survival” and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of The Survivalist Blog dot Net and “Kelly McCann’s Inside the Crucible Set” courtesy of Paladin Press. A total prize value of over $200.

Contest ends on August 7 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. benjammin says:

    It used to be in this country that a loaded firearm either sat over the fireplace mantle or by the door, and no kid ever thought it was a toy. In fact, many used those guns to go get dinner.

    I raised my daughters from the time they could walk to respect guns, to be familiar with them and to leave them alone unless they were told to. I took the time to educate them and supervise them so we never had a problem, despite having loaded firearms accessible regularly in our home. I became a hunter education instructor and involved both of them in the program, assisting with classes regularly. When they came of age, they became hunter education instructors. I will help teach their children someday.

    It is simple, with the right comes the responsibility. If you shirk your responsibility, don’t be surprised to lose your rights. You can’t go halfway with an adult responsibility if you are also a parent.

  2. I think so much of training our children with firearms has to do with our mindset. I only know here, where I live, we consider guns a tool. I’m sure in most overcrowded urban areas they look at guns as weapons. I have no frame of reference so please excuse me if I’m speaking out of turn.

    I also think that because it is not “PC” to even let children play with toy guns some people have an unnatural fear.

    I think people and children who don’t have firearm training or even basic survival skills will be at a great disadvantage WTSHTF, I don’t know it that you would ever convince them otherwise. I have people in my own family who will be the first victims due to their lack of skills.

  3. Nice topic and write up. I’m in the process of teaching my first grader these lessons. It started about 2 years ago when someone gave him a toy gun for Christmas. “Don’t point guns at people” was the broken record for a while(the “at anything you don’t want to kill is a little deep for a 4 year old.) This year, I bought a Barret suction cup crossbow. It only shoots about 15′ with moderate accuracy. The big plus is it’s got “iron sights” for him to learn sight picture and the safety aspects of keeping the weapon pointed in a safe direction and keeping his finger off of the trigger until he’s ready to fire. Plus, we can shoot it in the back yard and nobody is going to call the law on us.

    Next year, the plan is to move on to a BB/Pellet gun, then on to a single shot .22 and then maybe a 10/22 if he progresses. I’ve made it a point that if he show’s responsiblity in his daily activities, he gets to shoot the crossbow and that if he continues to make good choices, he will be allowed to contine to progress with the weapons. He follows this well as the he gets the same progression type system in Karate.

  4. JP in MT says:

    I’m working on the second generation to learn about guns in my house. I still get a kick out of people who freak that there are guns all over my house. They always make comments about how kids will just grab things and start playing with them. I tell them every time that disciplined children don’t do that, they respect other peoples property, and leave it alone unless they have permission every time. Most act shocked. It’s like they don’t think you can teach discipline to children. I have step-grandchildren that didn’t take long to understand it. Why can’t they make it happen in their own homes?

    • JP-
      The shock that people express when you describe disciplined children in a household containing firearms is a result of the sadly permissive and lazy way most children are parented today. It is seems as if people are afraid they will be accused of child abuse if they say ‘no’ to their own offspring!
      The result is the loss of the potential of the majority of children of the last couple of generations who grow up lacking in the basic skills of self-regulation, self-discipline and responsibility.

  5. tommy2rs says:

    Started all of mine off cork guns, then BB guns, then moved them up to a Marlin 915Y single shot .22. Starting with the cork guns any safety infractions resulted in the loss of shooting privileges. My son now has the little Marlin and is using it to teach his sons to shoot. His only regret is teaching his wife to shoot as it’s now always her turn when they go shooting…lol.

  6. Bravo Z.H.,
    Well done. Thank you for this wonderfully written peice.
    Education is the only way to insure that our children are safe. Whether it is firearms, situational awareness, or learning to swim.

  7. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    If used to be so much easier when the U.S. population was rurally based. Gun ranges were mainly for target shooting, and taking a .22 or single shot shotgun to the backyard for some plinking or target practice was very common.

    Training youngsters (or any inexperienced shooter) requires lessons that are repeated until they become ingrained habit. Once a month between sessions is a pretty long time.

    My grandfather taught me these shooting exercises, they do not require ammunition (though they help), they are for trigger control:

    Pick out a horizontal line (top of fence, ceiling wall line, shelf, etc. and WITH AN EMPTY GUN (Check!), point the firearm and trace the line while pulling the trigger, maintaining a good sight picture. When the shooter is confident they are following that line, then switch to a horizontal line (wall corner, straight tree trunk, etc.) These exercises were taught by Army cavalry, or so I was told.

    Building up muscles for handgun shooting: Fill a gallon milk jug with water which weighs approximately 8 pounds. Hold it in front of you at arms length, holding the bottle top as still as possible for 10 seconds. Then longer. This weight is nearly double the heaviest handgun, so when you point the firearm, it is much easier to hold that weight still.

    I hope this helps.

    • hi, do you mean vertical line at first? this is informative and will try this on my two boys. Thanks so much.

  8. MrSpud in ID. says:

    Great read Z.H., I could not agree with you more. Teaching our children proper firearm safety reduces “accidents” and teaches them how to safety defend themselves and thier family if the need arises. Regardless of whether guns are in the home, most children are curious about guns. That curiosity is equally strong or stronger among children who grow up in homes without guns as it is in those who grow up in gun-owning households. While parents are ultimately responsible for the care, safety, and development of their children, all children need to be taught gun accident prevention to be prepared if they encounter a firearm. Where there is no adult supervision, children must know what to do. As a NRA certified firearm instructor and hunter’s saftey instructor, I get the awesome job of teaching our young people how to properly handle guns and to hunt safely! I love teaching the “Eddie the Eagle” program for the younger kids from the NRA. The kids respond so well to this program and love learning about firearm safety! Always remember what Eddie Eagle says, when ya find a gun :
    “DON’T TOUCH”.

  9. SurvivorDan says:

    Trained all my children in the proper use of firearms. The only one who resisted/resented our forearms sessions was my youngest boy. He enjoyed karate and Shinkendo but had no interest in firearms.
    Ironically, he is now an active duty Marine with one tour in Afghanistan at an FOB under his belt. (I gave him a crash course in the months before he went in.)
    Excellent post Z.H. Well written and displays your broad knowledge base regarding firearms training….and kids. Thank you.

  10. Thank you all very much for your kind words. I’m working on another submission, but wasn’t sure how the first one would be received. I really appreciate all the comments, and am heartened to hear of so many adults and parents taking firearms education seriously.

  11. Jennifer (Prepping Wife) says:

    This is a really good post and makes me want to get my kids into a shooting club. I actually just sent off an inquiry to our local 4-H folks after clicking on the link.

    My folks never taught me about guns. The first time I held one I was 30. The first time I shot one I was 31. I remember the first time I shot it I damn near dropped the thing and I cried. I was scared to death of them and it was a horrible emotion. I wasnt prepared for the boom, or the kick back. After that first shot (and after I composed myself) I emptied the clip into the empty beer box (or the dirt a foot away from it since I have no aim).

    My husband was/is very patient with me. I still cant load/empty a gun quick enough to defend myself because I have an irrational fear it will go off for no reason. I have a fear that if my vacumn creates static to close to the gun cabinet the bullets that arnt even in the gun will go BOOM.

    This is a problem of mine. I acknowledge this and want to get myself into a rifle range and learn to shoot and clean and load without fear while still respecting my gun.

    After a few shooting practices, my husband and I allowed my nearly 13 year old son to shoot. I was scared to death but letting my husband (who knows what he’s doing) take care of the situation. I remembered reading the story about the little boy who was killed using a weapon at a gun show and it fired backwards I think? Ever since then I have been scared of guns. My son shot of a shotgun and was loving every second of it and the “him and step-dad” bonding time they had, after my son was done, my husband shot of some rounds – the thing broke in half after the last shot and the butt kicked him so hard he fell over. WHAT IF THAT WAS MY SON!? Surley all it would have done was throw him back a few feet but it reminded me of the little boy at the gun show.

    How do I get over this issue? I really think I need to go to a range and get lessons and learn and perhaps get the kids involved at the range with real instructors. Guns are not something to be afraid of, they turn into a liability in that situation and I realize this.

    So, in conclusion, good post! Got me thinking even more about what a sissy I am. =)

    • Jennifer,
      First, your fear of firearms comes from the “unknown”. You should treat yourself to a nice day at the range with an amazing gifted patient instructor of your choice.
      I am sure your husband is a nice man. But, I am thinking you are having some safety trust issues.There are just somethings that we can not let our husbands teach us.
      After you release the fear within yourself, you will feel very confident and stress free when your children learn.

      It is easy. Call a local gun shop, or range and tell them you are very frightened by guns by want to learn to shoot. In my experience, most folks at gun shops/ranges WANT to help. If they do not offer services, I bet a box of ammo that they have a card or two of someone that does.
      Call the instructors, do a short phone interview. Check prices and times. Check references! Of course, only agree to go with a friend to a public gun range.
      I have had a female instructor who is a retired FBI agent. She was very nice. I have also had some fantastic instructors who were men. Very gentle and patient.
      This could be the most important prep you do. A gift to yourself.
      I can’t wait to hear how fabulous you will be.

    • txrebelsil says:

      follow up on the 4-H shooting sports program. You’ll be amazed.

  12. Recently took my friends 17 year old to the range at his request. He somehow jammed up a live round in my Lee Enfield so bad I had to get the gunsmith to pick it up.

    He then jammed the rounds straight into my ruger bx-1 magazine the wrong way despite me showing him the right way to do it. He managed to get two jams in 5 rounds in the ruger 10/22.

    His father told me he had a history of being really bad with mechanical equipment and forever breaking his paint ball guns. Thanks.

    This reinforces the need to get kids into shooting early and learning RESPECT. My friends boy won’t shoot MY guns again but if I ever have kids respect will be drilled into them furiously.

  13. Carl in W.V. says:

    My grandpa gave me his Hamilton seed company .22 when i was about 11. He won it from the Hamilton seed company for selling the most packs of seeds in the region when he was 13. what an awsome little gun it was as small as the .22 cricket. My youngest daughter was 4 when she learned to shoot her cricket even worked the bolt and loaded follow up rounds. We made safety our number one priority by always checking and showing each other the chamber was empty.

  14. axelsteve says:

    I tought my 2 sons to shoot. I stressed safety.Now they are both avid shooters and are in there 20`s.

  15. sonoftexas says:

    When I turned seven, my Dad gave me a small fiberglass bow and some target arrows. He and his father, who lived in the same suburban neighborhood, each spent time teaching me how to use it stressing safety as well as helping me practice technique. Before long, I was allowed to take the bow, target arrows, and a target they had prepared outside by myself to practice. Each time I took it out by myself I had to get permission. Each time I did, Someone repeated the safety rules, and I had to repeat them back before I could go out alone. After a few times like this, I broke one of the rules (I shot at something other than the target they had prepared which I had to place in a specific location.) I felt like the whole world had come to screeching halt. Rather than the typical punishment for disobedience, the whole family was gathered together. In addition to a very sobering lecture in front of the whole family about the reasons for each of the safety rules, the lecture was then connected to the principles of why obedience in general is so crucial. This was delivered with a calm seriousness like I had never before experienced. It was concluded with the decision that I had lost the privilege of shooting the Bow “until I could demonstrate that I could handle the responsibility that goes with a serious weapon like this.” I do not know how long it took, but to a second grader it seemed like an eternity before I could practice again, even with direct supervision. Later I was allowed to practice again “by myself”, but unknown to me I was being watched from inside the house for a while (again). The lesson stuck!

    When I turned nine, my other grandfather, began teaching me to shoot a gun (his .22 single shot rifle) on his farm. Though I did advance to larger caliber guns in High School, was not allowed to shoot alone until I turned eighteen, When I turned eleven, he gave me my own single shot .22 rifle, but said I could not use it until I got it in good shape. He had bought it at a pawn shop, and it looked to be in pretty rough shape. My Dad guided me by first teaching me to disassemble and re-assemble the gun. Then I had to strip, sand, and refinish the stock. Next I had to thoroughly clean, refinish and lubricate all of the metal parts. This included polishing where the outside of the barrel and bolt casing were oxidizing. By the time I finished, it was probably better than when it had been new.

    I never became a “Gun enthusiast”, but I learned to value and respect both guns and bows. My sons also learned that comfortable respect for both. What is an appropriate age for a child to start learning about these weapons? Not Until the parents are mature enough to properly teach the child what they are capable of learning.

  16. dogsbody says:

    both my kids grew up around firearms, they were available to them anytime they wanted to shoot, they were shooting bb guns and small 22s from about 5 years old , I stressed safe handleing from the begining! I drilled it into them and tested them often.

    when my son was in second grade Eddie Eagle came to his school to give the gun safety message. what do you do if you see a gun ? Stop! dont touch! go tell an adult! that went against what i had taught him so he argued with eddie eagle, NO! he said you check the chamber to see if it is loaded and make sure its on safe! you never leave a gun laying around! thats dangerous!
    needless to say i got a call from his teacher.

  17. Well done Z.H. and an excellent topic. Like others, I shot at an early age and my children are doing the same. Another resource that hasn’t been mentioned is the Boy Scouts. The boys start young with BB guns and eventually shoot shotguns as teenagers. Another benefit is that they begin early on with teaching the boys archery. This allows for them to learn to be safe on the range and get comfortable with range commands.

    Engage with your kids about this and everyone is better off. You’ll even enjoy yourself and offer your kids a healthy alternative to television and the like. For those of you with really little ones, pick up a Nerf gun. Great for all ages stuck inside any size home on a rainy day. Don’t forget the safety glasses!

  18. Hi ZH
    Thank you for a great post. I’m in the process of doing just this – teaching my three sons about firearms safety and respect. We’re getting there together, as I never received any formal training as a kid. Our instructor is an ex-milit member of our prepper group, and we are greatly indebted to his creativity, patience, and cool under sometimes stressful conditions. In the year or so we’ve been doing this, I’ve seen a change in my boys. Though we’ve forbidden them from talking about their experiences with firearms with anyone outside our prepper group, they have shown a marked improvement in their confidence levels overall as well as an improved attitude around the house. Our rule: if you can behave respectfully at home, why should we assume you will on the range, where a misdeed can be fatal? Though we began with airguns, my eldest has shown himself adequately accurate that this past spring, he started with my old single-shot .22. He’s as good as our instructor with that thing, and we’re hopeful that within a year or so, we’ll be able to move up to something larger.
    Teaching kids can be done, even when their parents aren’t expert enough to teach… with help of a good instructor.

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