I've written before about gun enthusiasts versus casual shooters, especially as it relates to Lu. She loves to shoot and is very good at it but she's a product of her upbringing and limited training. She is comfortable with single shots, revolvers, pumps, bolts and levers but semi-autos, either handgun or rifles, make her uneasy. She is never quite certain, deep down inside, whether or not she needs to do some sort of manipulation to make it go bang and she has to stop and really think whenever reloading comes into play. In a casual setting, one where she's just plinking and not training, she's fine but throw in pressured training and she has issues. It's a problem for us because I have based my home defense plan around high capacity semi-auto pistols and AR15 pattern rifles. Yeah, it's a problem. Again, that's totally my fault. I should have gotten her up to speed on semis a long time ago but I didn't and that is a massive failure on my part. One I am going to address.
I decided to start with getting Lu comfortable with the AR rifles first because if we can get her skillful with that weapon then a pistol should be much more simple. To me the best way to get her going strong was to ramp down the training aspect and give her a training tool she'd be comfortable with and was fun to shoot. Nothing makes training easier than having fun. Enter my answer. Mind you it's my answer. Yours may differ.
A S&W M&P 15-22. I considered just getting a .22 conversion for one of my ARs but one of Lu's complaints was the weight of the rifles. At 5 1/4 pounds the Smith is very light weight and I'll later go to work on one of the ARs to lighten it up considerably. Composite everything except the barrel, bolt and bolt guide rails the thing is really easy to carry and hold off hand.
The controls mimic the AR platforms exactly.
It's a blowback design with a light weight bolt so cleaning is much easier.
The guts seem pretty much AR standard, including the robust hammer. We had no failures to feed or fire and got good primer strikes. The trigger is fairly heavy but crisp with no appreciable creep or slack.
Enough about the technical aspects. How did it shoot? Very well. We didn't do any accuracy testing (the first range session was purely a fun shoot) but anecdotally I was very happy with it. It shoots very softly, as you'd expect with a .22 long rifle, and put every round in a 10 inch pie plate at 10 yards. That may not seem exceptional but one of the shooters was a brand new shooter. I'll get into that in a bit.
To address the training and gun handling issues I mentioned earlier my plan was to introduce Lu to the gun as gently as possible with no pressure or expectations. I even did all the magazine loading.We headed to the range with one of Lu's co-workers and his non-shooter wife. There was a bit of subterfuge going on here. He wants an AR for himself but she's resisting, not quite understanding the attraction. This was the perfect opportunity to slay two dragons with one bolt.
We started the day on the line with two Ruger pistols, Lu's MKI and my bull barrel MKII. Again, yours truly did all the magazine loading and gun manipulation (short of the actual shooting). The setting was low key with the emphasis on fun and trying some new stuff. Lu is well acquainted with her little Ruger so had her usual load of fun. The new shooter (TNS for short) was pleasantly surprised. She had a ball. The first thing I did was have a safety brief. The very next was to assure her that I was not not not one of those idiots who think it's funny to hand her a hand cannon and laugh at the results. I told her I wouldn't give her anything to shoot that would hurt or cause her discomfort. No YouTube follies here.
With that success in my pocket out came the rifles. We started with a pair of 10-22s because hey, they're 10-22s and who doesn't love those little guns? Both women had an absolute ball. All that was required was range safety and a good time. Smiles were in abundance. One of those rifles is Lu's so no manipulation issues were encountered and with the relaxed atmosphere she quickly got into a good groove. A good sign.
After about half a brick of fun it was time to bring out the New Gun. Lu was first up and I have to say that after the first magazine she had a grin plastered on her face that never left. I acquainted Lu with the controls but didn't ask her to manipulate any except the safety. Easy, gentle and fun. More will come later, and there will be a later. This gun did exactly what I hoped it would. Relaxed Lu and let her handle an AR pattern rifle with minimum pressure and maximum fun. She can't wait to shoot it again. In future range sessions I will be slowly adding in gun manipulation skills and tasks but only as she and I deem her ready.
Same with TNS though she was pretty much divided on which rifle she liked best. I also didn't fuss over her or give her too much input in this first of hopefully many more range sessions. She shot everything and is a natural shot. She had an absolute ball and never once missed, hence the short range and large target. If a new shooter has that much fun and initial success you're halfway toward making a true Gunny.
All in all it was a great day and an excellent purchase. I highly recommend the S&W rifle. It's light, easy to shoot, relatively inexpensive (I paid $569), 10 different kinds of fun and cheap to shoot. For smiles per dollar spent it's an absolute steal. Lu now has a rifle that she loves as opposed to one that she's intimidated by and that should make acquiring the skills I need her to have much easier. As she progresses I'll modify the AR I have set aside for her to make it smaller and lighter to more nearly mirror the little Smith. This has reinforced in me the idea that it's a bad assumption to make that all other shooters can simply pick up a gun, any gun, and shoot it competently just because you can. That lesson is now permanently impressed in what passes for my brain.
As for The New Shooter? That was pure icing. I talked with her husband just today and a 10-22 purchase is already being planned. I think we may have a brand new shooter joining our ranks and that makes me very happy. I'm not Keads or Dann yet but I am doing what I can.
A very good day indeed.