The Cornered Cat

This one is for the guys. Chances are, if you’re a guy reading this page, you’ve thought about teaching your wife or girlfriend how to shoot.

My opinion? In most cases, it’s a bad idea.

The reasons someone romantically involved with her probably isn’t the best person to teach a woman to shoot are manifold. There are safety issues, instructional issues, and emotional issues that need to be considered. All of them together add up to quite a hurdle.

Safety Issues

This is the most important aspect of teaching someone how to shoot. Gun safety is literally a matter of life and death. Yet it is often difficult to impart the lessons of safe gun handling to a family member.

Even if the firearms safety rules are communicated effectively in the beginning, new shooters frequently need safety reminders. A romantically involved man often has a hard time coming down on safety violations the way an instructor must if the beginner is to become a safe shooter.

On the flip side, when an instructor comes down on a safety violation, a new shooter sometimes takes personal offense where none was intended.  When this happens and the two people are romantically involved, the instructor often becomes reluctant to bring the subject up again even when it is plainly necessary.

This sets up a dangerous cycle wherein the person most responsible for the new shooter’s safety is unable or unwilling to enforce her safety on the range.

Instructional Issues

A lot of spouses and long-term partners ignore each other’s expertise, but will listen to an outsider. The old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” isn’t always true, but it is often difficult for one family member to really hear what another family member is saying.

Allowing the student to struggle a little bit and figure some things out for herself is a necessary step in the learning process. But a romantically involved man often has a hard time keeping his hands off the firearm.  Some men find it hard to just let a woman figure out how she can do the basic gun manipulations she needs to know how to do. A caring man sees that it is difficult for his loved one to load a magazine or lock the slide back.  When he reaches in to “fix it” for her, he cuts short her learning process.

Most firearms instructors have experience with teaching all types of people how to shoot, which means they usually know more than one way to communicate the ideas if the first way doesn’t work. In contrast, a self-taught shooter or one without much teaching experience often doesn’t know what to do next if his student just plain doesn’t get it the first time he explains something. Frustrated instructors create unhappy students, and unhappy students don’t learn well.

Emotional Issues

Especially for self-defense, learning to shoot often stirs up a lot of really complex emotions. A relative stranger can often impart facts and instill knowledge without triggering an unfortunate cascade of emotional reactions where a family member might run into trouble.

A surprising number of women have questions they won’t ask their husbands or boyfriends because they are afraid of looking bad, being teased, or being made fun of. (This is not to say that all these men do or would make fun of their loved ones. This is simply a fear that a lot of women seem to share.)

Guys, here’s the thing you need to remember:  If your woman has questions she does not want to ask you, you will not know it … because she isn’t going to ask you.


For all these reasons, if it is at all possible, I recommend that if your significant other wants to learn how to shoot, you find someone other than yourself to teach her.

Instead of taking on this heavy role, let someone else do that task.  Keep your range time together pure shooting fun. You’ll both be grateful you did in the long run.