Top tips to welcome newcomers to airgun shooting
PUBLISHED: 12:06 04 January 2018
Welcoming newcomers to our sport is an honour that we can all enjoy, the editor says
Often, people want to join an airgun club, but feel self-conscious and intimidated, worrying that the experienced shooters there will laugh at them. Welcoming new shooters to our great sport is a duty and an honour that we can all enjoy. Let me discuss some of the points that have come up in my long, club-shooting career, in the hope that you’ll find them useful when you welcome newcomers.
Taking your first tentative steps on a club’s grounds can be very worrying, so being met by a smiling face is what you want. I think it’s good to show people around the whole club and let them have time to relax. Next, ask them what kind of shooting they want to enjoy; pistols or rifles, plinking or competition, indoors or out, and discuss whether or not your club can help with that. Often people just want to shoot and will decide much later if they’ll specialise in one area. Many people want to hunt, but that’s not something a club can help with, but it is a good place to get their rifle set up correctly and to learn proper technique.
Sometimes, people will have bought a gun already, but please, please do not be judgemental. Without clubmates to offer guidance, people might have bought wholly unsuitable guns for the kind of shooting they’re hoping to do, but now is not the time to point it out, unless there’s a reason that the gun cannot be used. For example, at my club we may not shoot steel BBs at all, and if your newcomer has bought such a gun, they need to know the rule immediately.
Further, try not to be a snob. If you’ve been in the sport for some time it’s likely that you’ll have upgraded along the way to something very smart, but I think it’s fair to say that most of us started out with something cheap and cheerful. I’ve heard some pretty unkind comments about other people’s guns over the years and that’s quite wrong. It’s likely to make the owner feel bad, and that the club is unwelcoming. No matter how much you might dislike a gun, it could well be the other person’s pride and joy.
Offer a shot or two
Once the person has come along a few times, it’s likely that they’ll continue and then can be good time to offer a few shots with your own gun. When looking to upgrade, it can be very useful to try out as many guns as you can before parting with a good chunk of money. Clearly, you should stay close by to offer help and guidance on just how your particular gun works. This also creates a bond between you and them and increases their feeling of becoming part of something.
Newcomers will have loads of questions and often these will be on the most basic points but remember, we all asked these things when we were starting out in the sport. I always say, ‘no question is silly; please ask me anything’. I’d much rather people learned correctly from the beginning, than found out the hard way for themselves. Of course, safe gun-handling and a proper understanding of the club’s rules will be top of the training list, and every club has its own way of teaching these.
A good degree of patience is needed in these situations because although it can all seem so obvious to us, when you don’t know windage from elevation, a springer from a pre-charged pneumatic, or a gas-ram from a gate post, it can all seem overwhelming.
Let them be themselves
It’s important that we don’t expect newcomers to want to be like us. Everybody has their own way of enjoying shooting and that’s just fine. I remember all too well being in a club that was full of super-serious, field-target competitors and I received endless pressure to compete. I didn’t want to because I’ve always been a hunter, not a competitor, and got really fed up with the constant verbal hassle. We have many clubmates who like to come along and just enjoy shooting and each other’s company, and who don’t want or need competition.
Clubs are great places for anyone new to shooting to learn and flourish in our sport. Being one of the people who welcomes them and guides them along the way can be hugely enjoyable and many long-lasting friendships have started this way. Take your time, be patient, and most of all, remember that you were a beginner once, whether that was last year or 60 years ago. Do that and you’ll be an asset to the newcomer, your club and the whole sport of airgun shooting – and you can be extremely proud of that.