Training Future Firearm Fans Starts with the Tiny .22
In the opening scene of “To Hell and Back,” the life story of World War II hero Audie L. Murphy, the youngster is depicted slipping through the Texas countryside carrying a single-shot .22-caliber rifle.
Despite his young age, Murphy was already an expert with the tiny .22 and tried to make sure every bullet put a rabbit or squirrel on the family dinner table.
By all accounts, the Kingston native, who earned the Medal of Honor – the U.S. military’s highest award for valor – along with 32 additional U.S. medals, five from France and one from Belgium, was a natural-born marksman.
Very few shooters, even those with multiple trophies on their wall or in a display case, are lucky enough to have been born with the natural ability to accurately and effectively send lead down range.
What is required in most cases is practice and more practice – trigger time of some kind to mold both young and old into a better shooter -- with a .22 caliber rifle or handgun the preferred firearm for developing shooting skills.
When we have a father, mother, grandfather or even grandmother come into our shop interested in starting a youngster along the path of shooting enjoyment, our staff regularly directs them to our wide variety of rimfire firearms.
There is no better tool for developing fledgling shooters' skills and understanding of the techniques required to accurately sending lead down range than a .22 caliber.
Practicing with a rimfire is a relatively inexpensive way to develop good trigger pull habits, sight alignment and other techniques that can be transferred to center fire rifle shooting situations with game or targets.
As veteran shooting instructors will note, the higher the fun factor experienced during practice sessions, the greater the chance for success and continued engagement by the trainee.
If touching off a round causes shoulder shock or sends the comb of the stock into the shooter's cheek (large caliber center fire rifles can often cause shooting to be a painful experience) beginners will often lose interest quick, fast and in a hurry.
In the old days, nearly every youngster growing in a rural setting like that depicted in Murphy's story cut their shooting teeth on a .22 caliber rifle that may have been their father's or grandfather's first firearm.
Our gunsmith shop regularly restores those veteran rifles for use by fledgling shooters, but we also stock a variety of both used and new .22 calibers that would serve the purpose of getting a beginner on the right path.
Although there have been times in the recent past when even .22 caliber ammunition was scare on store shelves, there currently are ample supplies available for a variety of target and hunting loads in the small caliber.
In addition, the lower cost of the .22 caliber firearms helps reduce the hit to a mentor's wallet when they want to pass on their shooting knowledge to the beginner they are bringing into the outdoor community.
Factoring in the advantages of less expensive firearms and ammunition with less recoil and more fun time makes selecting a .22 caliber for a new shooter a win-win situation for everyone.