How Mentoring a New Shooter Makes You a Better One

The best way to keep your wisdom is to give it away.

by posted on August 17, 2020
Mentoring Girls Range Day

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) celebrates August as National Shooting Sports Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to share the simple enjoyment you have found in shooting firearms with a new shooter. Taking part in National Shooting Sports Month and expanding your trip to the range with a “+1” can yield improvement for you and the newcomer. Here’s why.

You don’t know what you don’t know.
I recently had a friend and her adult daughter over to work on pistol shooting skills. One thing that really hit me during that afternoon on my range was how intensely they must focus while shooting a firearm, simply because they don’t spend as much time with one as I do. My goal was to teach them basic principles of marksmanship and the function of the pistols they own. I also wanted to make sure they enjoyed the process, so I tried to put myself in their shoes.

While I was doing this, I noticed something: In trying to envision what this would be like for them, I began to realize how much of my own marksmanship and gun handling has become “muscle memory,” meaning it’s automatic for me. Assuming the perspective of someone who doesn’t have that foundation is very instructive. In som
e ways, you don’t know what you don’t know … until you try to teach it to someone who knows even less than you.

Consider the lens that your +1 is viewing your range time through.
As shooters, teaching others forces us to see the action through a different lens, and to break down what we are working on. Sometimes this “breakdown” means taking a series of actions that make up a skill and slicing them into smaller pieces. We create digestible bits of information or steps that a person can take. This is why instruction from a pro is a big deal with any sport; novice enthusiasts do not often have the knowledge base to break down complex skills.

As I tried to cover the basics with my friends, I had to try to ascertain what info they had before they got to me. I treated them like a blank slate that I wanted to get off to the right start.

Learning others’ limitations teaches you your own.
My friendship with these two new shooters provided one of the clearest pictures of what some people face when it comes to getting range time or advice and instruction in shooting. They know some things, but they don’t know what they don’t know. They just know they need to know more.

My friend’s husband has shooting experience and lots of solid shooting advice, but he could only teach them so much. Male or female, we can only pass on the firearms knowledge we have that was passed to us. Often, this wisdom isn’t technical; it’s a hands-on, “layman’s terms” type of firearms knowledge. That sort of knowledge can take you duck hunting or plinking, but it has its limitations.

This is why people who know what it takes to shoot well—even expert shooters—will still seek out professional instruction. We don’t know what we don’t know. And if we don’t know it, we can’t teach it.

Get better at getting better with your own mentor.
On our own, we can only learn so much, but someone who has actively worked in a sport at a high level will have more input and knowledge to share, as well as guidance on the “do’s and don’ts.” A seasoned pro in any sport can mentor you through many challenging hurdles, and help you to develop good technique and habits so that you don’t have to unlearn them. 

You’ll often find that a teacher will give you only so much information, because they want to sell you another class or more training. But I think a good teacher will help you understand what you don’t know, and where to go to fix that. They’ll mentor you to understanding that there is always more to learn, and help you find out how and where to make that happen. A good teacher wants you to get better at getting better. Find a mentor who can do that, because it will help you be that mentor for another woman (or women) in the future.

Get after it!
So get to the range! Add a +1 to your next practice or plinking day. Don’t just think about August as the time to do this—make it a point to add a new person to your range day whenever you can. You’ll do good for more than the people you bring into the shooting sports, you’ll do good for yourself and all the people they influence as well. It was so rewarding to see my friend go from “I’m nervous about shooting my pistol because I don’t get a lot of time to do so” to, “Okay, I want to shoot more.” Just knowing that there’s a lot they didn’t know, but truly can master one day seemed to give them confidence in abundance!

About the Author: Becky Yackley competes in the shooting sports across the country and around the world with her husband and three sons. She has spent much of the last 20 years holding down the fort while her husband proudly serves our country in both the Marine Corps and state law enforcement. Her writing, blogging, and photography are ways that she shares her unique perspective on firearms, competition, hunting, and the Second Amendment, especially as it applies to mothers on their own. She grew up the daughter of a gunsmith, and with her siblings competed in NRA Highpower and Smallbore, and she has since competed in more disciplines than almost any woman involved in the shooting sports. From IPSC, USPSA, Bianchi Cup, 3 Gun and more, she enjoys sharing that to be proficient and knowledgeable with a firearm is within the reach of anyone! She’s the founder a 501c.3, 2A Heritage Ltd., and works with industry partners and other volunteers who share the ethos of bringing new youth into the shooting sports with personal commitment to safely sharing an historically American pastime. 




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