Mentor Shooters Through Their Fear

mentor shooters and deal with their fear

Mentor shooters and deal with their fear

Know someone on the fence about getting a firearm? Or maybe you know of a gun owner too afraid to fire his/her weapon. Sometimes, what’s standing in their way is simple fear. As a gun enthusiast, how do you help them overcome their anxiety so they can become capable gun owners?

To start, let’s look at one meaning of fear: false evidence appearing real. Broken down like this, it’s easier to deal with. Most of us can relate to the idea of fearing the unknown. If someone is new to gun ownership or the idea of it, fear could prevent them from learning correctly. As a knowledgeable gun owner, it’s up to you to take the newbie under your wing, teaching them safe and responsible ownership.

Knowledge = Power

So, you’ve been asked to mentor a new shooter. Congrats. The good news is they’re willing to listen to you about reliable and conscientious gun ownership. Use this time to help make them comfortable being around a firearm. Avoid the idea of starting at the shooting range. Rookie mistake. For you, this is where to start. The nervous newbie is not ready for the range.

Small steps will have a bigger impact with people uneasy around weapons. A great way to begin is by answering their questions and addressing their concerns while an unloaded firearm sits in the middle of a table.

Here’s where it may get tough for you. Let the gun speak for itself.  Don’t touch it. Don’t make eye contact with the weapon or otherwise acknowledge it. Your newbie/student will be fixated on it. After a while, if you feel it’s too much of a distraction, ask them if they want to hold it (might be a day, a week or month). Curiosity will eventually win out. Once they’re holding the firearm, allow them to get comfortable with it WITHOUT adding extra pressure – like firing it.

Get Active

Next, help them confront their fear by facing it. Suggest a trip to your local shooting range – no firing involved. Prepare them for what they will see, hear and experience. And stick to your guns about a no-firing trip before you get around to firing. If they are dealing with real fear, they need this step even if they think they’re ready.

After a few trips, start them off slowly. Go over what they need to know, including how it feels firing a firearm for the first time. Be descriptive without frightening them. How you handle this step could make or break whether they get over their fear. Patience goes a long way.


Some people are going to overcome their fear sooner than others. That’s okay. Trust yourself to know when to reassess this relationship. If you are getting nowhere, maybe your newbie/student is better off under someone else’s guidance. Don’t be afraid to have THAT conversation.

Safety First

Always remember to check in with the newbie about their level of comfort with their firearm. If they aren’t completely at ease, suggest a different firearm. Their first choice may be too much gun for them at the start. Safety comes before their ego. This is another rookie mistake that doesn’t need to happen. Learning on a smaller weapon may help dispel the fear.


There is no magic answer to helping anyone overcome their fear of firearms. The best advice is patience and lots of different ways to be around firearms. Older folks can be as nervous as younger ones. Fear doesn’t hang out in any one particular group.

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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