Editor’s Note: Doug Koenig has hunted all of his life, has been a Mossy Oak Pro Staffer for 10 years and a professional competitive shooter. He shoots 3-gun tournaments and Sportsman's Team Challenge. He's a handgun world champion and national champion. He's won the Bianchi Cup, the most-prestigious handgun competition in the word, 15 times. He also has a TV show – “Doug Koenig’s Championship Season” that airs on the Pursuit Channel. The show features shooting competitions and big-game hunting. Koenig’s favorite two Mossy Oak patterns are Treestand and Break-Up. But he quickly admits, “I believe I have every pattern that Mossy Oak makes. I use just about every one of them each year, depending on what and where I’m hunting.”
I have three sons. My 15-year-old middle son, Trevor, is a competitive shooter with a handgun. My oldest son is 17. He loves to shoot, but he really doesn’t have the competition bug to compete. My youngest son is nine, and he likes to shoot everything. He shoots his bow, his .22, and his pellet gun. My sons are heavily involved in shooting and the outdoors. They really love all of it.
I think the first handgun a youngster should shoot would be a .22. I like the Smith and Wesson, Even though it’s more of a precision or competition style pistol. But it’s so accurate and will last forever. I’d put a red dot pistol sight on whatever .22 handgun you choose for your youngster.
I believe the most-important way to start anyone shooting is to teach them trigger control. I teach them to just barley squeeze the trigger. To me, to begin with, this is more important than sight alignment. If you try to teach them sight alignment at first, they’ll usually jerk the trigger instead of squeezing it. So, I teach young people to focus on squeezing the trigger and just put the sight on a little bit bigger target. This way, they don’t have to worry about aligning the sight. Once that red dot scope is sighted in, the youngster can tell exactly where he’s shot, because he’s seen where the red dot was on the target.
Here’s another advantage of teaching trigger pull first. A youngster easily can transition the skills required to play a video game, because they know how sensitive the triggers and joy sticks are. They can compare that to squeezing the trigger on a handgun. Youngsters can immediately understand what they’re supposed to do and immediately see the results. Leupold makes a great scope called the DeltaPoint Reflex Sight. There are several other scope manufacturers that make red dot scopes.
I think the first rifle that a youngster should start with is an air rifle. I really like the Gamo air rifles, since they’re a little more of a high-performance air gun. I believe youngsters should start off shooting a .22 rifle. One of the big mistakes I see in shooting sports is an adult will start a youngster off turkey hunting with a .12 gauge shotgun, often a 3-inch magnum. The recoil and the noise knocks the dickens out of a youngster and makes his or her first shooting experience not a good one. I believe in teaching youngsters the fundamentals of shooting with low or no recoil guns and little noise.
The targets don’t have to be sophisticated. My boys shoot plastic bottles, tin cans, little steel targets and whatever we have available. Shooting sports don’t have to be expensive. Youngsters can have a great time with air guns and .22s. As far as the sighting systems, I start them out with open sights with fiber optics, and we have Leupold air gun scopes on some of our air guns. The beauty of air guns depends on where you live. If you shoot in the backyard or shoot in the basement, they don’t make any noise. There are many opportunities to shoot air guns.