Training new shooters

Four years ago, I did a photo shoot with Ariel, 16 at the time. While she was quite convincing with a variety of arms, she didn’t actually know how to use them. We decided to remedy that shortcoming. She was joined by her friend Treasure, and later Amie and our friend Eric, a metro police officer, came by as well.

The rules for successful introductory range trips:

  1. Safety
  2. Fun
  3. Learning

We lucked into fairly decent weather. The first rifle we used as an early 1930s Winchester 60, a single short, manually cocked bolt action similar to Henry Mini Bolt and Crickett. This was an entry level model and not even serial numbered, as there was no legal requirement to do so. We shot it with Aguila Super Colibri 20 grain CB caps ammo at bullseye targets starting unsupported at 3 steps, then from up to 1o yards from kneeling. The goal was to work on the basics with minimal report and recoil.

Once we got that figured out, we switched to a suppressed .22 AR15: a Taccom upper with 1.5x compact ACOG. Originally, it was mounted on a Cav Arms lower, but I tried Tennessee Arms Company lower for the length of pull adjustability. We ended up using several different lengths, so having the tele stock was a definite win.

Turned out that subsonic ammunition wouldn’t re-cock the hammer even though it reloaded properly, so switched to CCI Mini Mags and everything was reliable, if slightly noisier, from there on. Mini-Mags are my go-to load for training new shooters with semi-auto guns: they have been consistently reliable and accurate in a variety of rifles and pistols. Ear plugs were plenty to shut out the bullet flight noise. With full power ammo, we did more marksmanship practice, then switched to 3D humanoid targets designed by Tatiana Whitlock, just to put the practice into perspective of possible practical use. I will check performance with standard velocity ammunition: this lower might need a lighter buffer for rimfire shooting.

We practices a little of side-stepping combined with firing, failure to stop drills, then called it a wrap for the first day. Total time at the range: less than two hours. Total amount of ammunition expended: 30 rounds of Super Colibri, 80 rounds of Mini-Mags. One new shooter got the basic training and three current shooters got refreshers. And everyone had much fun. Fun is important. Making the initial learning stages simple and achievable also helps.

Note, that this photo was taken later. For the actual range time, eye protection and long pants were used to avoid mosquito bites and other environmental hazards. In the future, I will most likely use CZ455 rifle with a sling instead of the Winchester 60, just to be able to illustrate hasty sling techniques.



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3 Responses to Training new shooters

  1. LarryArnold says:

    You have cool toys.

    I have to start my new shooters with a Marlin No. 1, which is also old enough (pre GCA ’68) to lack a serial number. 😉

    • Paul Koning says:

      Learn something new every day. Up to now, I had thought that only the famous Liberator came without serial numbers (ignoring antiques, of course).

  2. poobie says:

    I know this comment is coming a little late, but regarding using subsonic .22 ammo in an AR pattern gun, I’ve had great luck using the Aguila SSS 60 gr ammo with a Ciener (mine’s a CMMG) style conversion unit in an otherwise stock upper. The 60 gr projectile is long enough to properly stabilize in a 1/7 or 1/9 barrel, and it’s got enough energy to cycle the weapon, in my experience. the SSS doesn’t run any more expensive around here than any of the other specialty .22 rounds, but it doesn’t run well in any of my other .22s; the slow twist rate seems to lead to keyholing pretty rapidly.

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