Why You Should Let Someone Else Teach Loved Ones To Shoot

Take it from me, it's not always a good idea to teach a family member how to shoot a gun. All it may end up doing is costing you heartache as you regret your decision to train that much-loved person. Of course there are some exceptions to this, like younger children. I'm a firm believer that certain things need to come from parents, and gun safety and proper handling is one of those things.

But, what about other loved ones, like parents, spouses, and even close friends to some degree? Here are some reasons why it's not a good idea for you to teach your husband, wife, parents, or anyone else you care about and why you may just want to leave it to the pros:

If they get hurt, it's at least partially your fault —

I'm starting here because this one happened to me recently when I took my old man shooting a semi-auto pistol for the first time. Sure, he'd shot rifles, revolvers, and shotguns before, but this was his first time with a semi-auto. It wasn't good. No matter how often I corrected him, he defaulted back to what he saw in the movies. At one point the slide came back and bit his hand, slicing the web of his thumb open.

He bled all over the place and is on medication that thins his blood so it wouldn't stop. It wasn't good, and even though it was he that didn't listen to me, it was still at least partially my fault because he was clearly not ready for live fire. Which, I guess, ultimately leads me to my next point:

The ability to do something, and the ability to teach it are different —

Just because I know how to put rounds on paper doesn't mean that I know how to teach others to effectively do the same. A professional instructor knows the right methods and progression of teaching someone how to be able to defend themselves, or just how to shoot. If this is your first time, you're almost guaranteed to forget something all important.

Just showing them what you do isn't likely going to be enough. If you're teaching that person how to be successful in a self-defense scenario, don't you want them to have the odds stacked in their favor?

Higher caliber instructor —

If your goal with wanting them to get trained up, or their goal for that matter, is to be successful in a self-defense scenario, why wouldn't you want them to get the best level instruction that they can have? Isn't it better if they get the same instruction you got, but not from you?

Chances are good they won't listen to you —

The chances are really good that they won't even listen to what you're saying. Take my dad up above for example. He didn't listen to me when I told him how to grip the gun. As soon as I turned around it got bloody. There is a reason for that. No matter what … I'm still his kid. He's still the dad. And anything I can say would be better off coming from a third party where there is no relationship formed. It will mean more coming from that other person.

This is true even though he asked me to show him how to shoot a semi-auto pistol. Even after I have been working in the industry and shooting guns for years I still reverted back to his little boy whenever I tried to correct him.

Stress to do the right thing in front of you is high —

While it would seem that it's a more laid back atmosphere than what would take place in an actual class, there is actual extra stress put on a person when they're performing in front of people they know. Putting stress on someone just learning how to shoot isn't a good thing.

Being in an actual class is beneficial —

Here's one Jacob suggested that I hadn't thought of. Just being in a class with other students can be helpful. What if one of the other students thought of and asked a question you hadn't considered? It can and does happen. When you're in a class with others, you learn from those others by default in any conversations you may have.

A proper instructor has more tools, training, gear —

Of course, if you are an instructor this doesn't apply to you, per se. Still, someone who is an instructor will have a better time teaching one of your loved ones for those reasons right there. They may be able to bring guns for him/her to shoot. They may have some specialized gear that will help. And, they may have more training/experience than you do.

Evaluate your own skills/training. Should teach? —

I don't know you, so this one may not apply either. But, knowing what you do about yourself, should you be teaching others how to defend themselves? Here's the hint, if you just go to the range to stand and shoot at static, non-moving targets and don't get much training yourself then the answer is likely going to be no.

Insurance —

At the end of the day, an actual instructor who has training to teach others is going to be insured.

Love and fighting —

Okay, let's say that you're a professional pistol instructor. You teach advanced and beginner level courses and you actually can talk your way out of the above issues. Good for you. But you still may want to leave them in the capable hands of someone else if for no other reason than if they don't get what you're saying it could cause an issue between the two of you. We are often times the hardest on those we love.

Conclusion —

Sometimes it's just best to leave the instruction to someone else, and then after they're competent with firearms manipulation and have proper skills, you can go to the range and enjoy a day of shooting/spending quality time together. Did I leave anything out? Am I totally off base? Let us know what you'd add in the comments below.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. Eve Flanigan on October 24, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Bravo, Josh! Great coverage of the reasons to get professional instruction. Almost weekly, I deal with despondent new shooters who are convinced they “can’t” (fill in the blank, but racking the slide is on the top 5), thanks to being taught by a well-meaning family member who doesn’t understand their methods aren’t appropriate or safe for their loved one. It’s a great blessing to see the same shooter walk off the range with their head held high knowing they can handle their own gun!

  2. R. Hime on October 25, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    I explain it to the husbands taking my classes with their wives if they are attempting to coach instead of letting me do it. Jesus says in Mark 6:4, “”A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” She’s more apt to accept the coaching from me. It’s very true.
    Dick @ Raymore Outdoor Sports LLC

  3. Stephen Griswold on October 25, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    When it came time for my wife to learn to shoot I remembered all the “fun” I had trying to teach her to drive a manual transmission vehicle. I had a qualified instructor teach her. We both enjoyed the experience and I was not the “bad guy.” I agree with your position and I would hire a driving instructor if I was ever to need my wife to learn to drive a manual shift (the training I attempted did not go well).

  4. nancy bennett on October 25, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    This is an important issue but rarely addressed. You’re definitely correct, Josh, in my experience from both sides. When I wanted to learn stick shift, I didn’t do well with my boyfriend as instructor in his sports car. I was too focused on impressing him with good performance rather than actual learning. As an instructor, I run some classes just for women. Many times their man has tried to teach them without great results. A big issue there is that men and women absolutely do think differently. For instance, more men than women understanding the basic mechanics of gun operation beforehand. So what’s generally a “logical” progression of information for men doesn’t usually get through to women as well. Then there are always different procedures and styles. A gun-experienced loved one may say “don’t do it that way.” The student can always “blame” it (the better or safer approach) on “that’s the way the instructor taught me.”

  5. Gary Kamisky on October 25, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks a lot. I feel very much better about NOT teaching my wife my bad habits. Going to the rangevwill be much easier when she is properly trained and qualified.

  6. Aaron J. Kozloski on October 25, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    I had my son teach my new wife. He was a PMI (Primary Marksmanship Instructor) in The Corps at Parris Island. GREAT decision!

  7. Al Grayson on October 25, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I went to a pistol class once. I was the only male student. The instructor was a NRA certified instructor.
    While going over the basics of safe firearms handling, I asked him, “Do you not like me?”
    “What? Why do you ask?”
    “Well, you keep pointing that pistol at me.”
    Yes, you guesses right!
    He responded, “It isn’t loaded.”
    I said, “Yeah, that’s what they all say…right after they’ve shot someone. Good-bye.” I got up and left.

    • Joshua Gillem on October 26, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Good for you for getting up and leaving. That’s not the kind of instructor you want to be taking lessons from.


  8. Hank Marlowe on October 30, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Interesting article, however it does not apply to every case. My grandfather taught me to shoot when I was 8 to 10 years old.
    He did well enough for me to shoot expert with both rifle and pistol when I was drafted into the Army. I spent my last year in the Army shooting on a pistol team. Discharged October 1960.

    In 2014 my wife who has shot very little in the last 50 years decided to buy a handgun and get a permit to carry it. She first purchased a 22 caliber S&W M&P and we begin dry (firing or practice) including the malfunctions for a few minutes a day for several weeks, then to an indoor range to fire the pistol. We then went to Front Sight Firearms Training in Pahrump NV to take their CCW class for Florida, Nevada and Utah permits. Front Sight teaches using a coach shooter system and I was her coach while shooting. One of the instructors felt that this was not a good idea but when she told him she would not shoot with another coach he relented. She passed the class and has her permits and since then has purchased a 9mm S&W M&P.

  9. Tom Hart on October 31, 2018 at 5:51 am

    You hit that on hr head!

    I’d like to add just because someone is or had LE / Military training for firearms this doesn’t make them qualified to teach firearm safety or use.

  10. Mike Kennedy on October 31, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Or try teaching a spouse how to drive a stick shift, or skiing, big mistake

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