We found ourselves in unanimous agreement that the best firearm to learn to shoot with is the .22-caliber single-shot rifle with traditional iron sights.
There are a host of great .22s out there, ranging from the simple single-shot model to tube-fed .22s, lever-action saddle guns, slide-action gallery guns and the ubiquitous Ruger rotary action 10-22. For my money, however, nothing is better than a single-shot .22 to learn with.
There are several reasons why so many folks prefer the single-shot .22 as the best beginner’s gun. Probably the single most important reason is that learning with a single shot will make you a better shooter. Because you only have one shot, you learn to make your first shot count.
I believe that learning on a repeater tends to encourage the habit of slinging as much lead as possible in the direction of the target and hoping you hit something. If you hit the target with the first shot, you most likely won’t need a second one.
Once you gain proficiency and confidence using the single-shot rifle, there will be plenty of time afterward to try the various repeaters. The lessons learned with your single-shot rifle will stay with you for a lifetime.
The other factor I strongly believe in is starting a beginner with the traditional open sights, which are often referred to as “iron sights.” Learning the hand-eye coordination necessary to line up the front blade with both the rear groove and the target becomes instinctive with enough practice.
For the average beginner, I suspect several thousand rounds with the basic iron sights will be sufficient practice. For slow learners like me, much more practice is probably better.
Once you have mastered open sights, it’s a simple matter to move on to aperture sights — or peep sights — and from there to optical or scope sights.
I think there is no doubt that the .22 caliber is the only choice for beginners. Its lower noise levels and mild recoil make it ideal. You can adjust to the greater kick and louder noise of the bigger calibers once the basics of shooting have become instinctive.
Probably the greatest caveat of all in teaching a beginning shooter is to invest as much of your own time in the student as possible. Buying a beginner a gun and simply turning him loose is a surefire recipe for disaster. There is no substitute for countless hours spent teaching your child or others to shoot. The bonds forged and strengthened while shooting together will last a lifetime.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, began writing Tight Lines more than three decades ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.