The Boy turns 8 shortly. I have decided that this is the year that he comes to the range. He's been expressing greater and greater interest in going to the range with daddy, which comes as a natural progression from getting his marksmanship badge in Cub Scouts for BB gun, getting his own Red Ryder, and watching daddy load up gear for a range trip.
We've been through the Four Rules - he knows them better than a good number of adults I know - and he's demonstrating greater and greater maturity in all areas. With proper guidance, I feel that he's ready to shoot his first firearm. We'll start small - I've got a single-shot Ithaca Arms model M-49 that should do the trick just fine. Once he shows me he can be careful and responsible with a single shot - and, most importantly, how he handles the gun after he's shot it - we can investigate other arms like the pump-action Remington 572 or the lever-action Marlin 39A.
Deciding when a child is ready to go shooting can be one of the harder choices to make. There's a lot that goes into the decision - is the child ready? Will they be safe? Can I devote the appropriate amount of attention to this task? Can they handle a firearm? If the answer to any of these questions is anything other than yes, then wait. Wait as long as you have to. There's another aspect, too; one that's an unfortunate by-product of our hoplophobic culture.
Are you prepared to deal with the fallout of people knowing you brought your child shooting?
For me, I'm prepared. I've armed my son with the most important thing of all - knowledge. He's not afraid of guns. They're not a "forbidden fruit", nor something to play with. I am not shy about my hobby and my passion; I don't hide my affiliations; nor will I ask my son to lie about his activities with me at the range. It's legal, it's fun, and as long as he enjoys it I'll be happy to bring him with me.
Besides, once he starts shootin' he can start cleanin'... That'll REALLY take the mystique out of it!
That is all.