The Best Way To Give Gun Advice To Strangers: Things To Consider

The Best Way To Give Gun Advice To Strangers: Things To Consider

For good or ill, a lot of people love to give advice and a few folks are highly resistant to it. Gun advice is especially tricky; it’s easy to give someone the wrong impression or come off as condescending or insulting. And that’s sad to me—the firearms community is a very welcoming and accepting place, and we should all do our best to continue to make it so.

Regardless, there are situations where you may want or need to give a stranger some gun advice. If handled correctly, this can be a great way to start a conversation, introduce someone to a new aspect of the shooting sports or maybe even make a new friend. So let’s dust off our interpersonal skills, open our minds and hearts, and dive right in.

One of the first things to consider is this: Is my advice really warranted​? Obviously I can’t give you a hard and fast guide to this, but sometimes differences of opinion are matters of personal preference and should be respected as such. Occasionally it’s best to just let something go.

So let’s say that your advice couldn’t hurt and might help. Good! Now we consider presentation—how can you best approach this person​? Follow the basics: be polite. Be respectful. Ask questions before you start to give answers. “Hey, I’m just curious about why you’re doing _________? Really? Cool—have you considered XYZ instead? I’ve gotten great results with it.” People have reasons for doing what they do, and you might learn something from them.

This goes double for new shooters or people who have been recently introduced to the firearms community. Don’t talk down to them, preach to them, or get out your soapbox; they’re not in the mood to hear about why Brand X makes the greatest handguns of all time, or why their choice of holster is sub-optimal.

On that note: Gentlemen, the women of the world are constantly surrounded by guys trying to give them advice—about everything. Your advice, in this situation, may be a good thing, but try to make sure you present it right. No one wants some patronizing jerk up in their business. And giving someone advice as an excuse to flirt with or hit on them is probably inadvisable and impolite if not creepy.

Remember, this is a conversation. And a conversation between two (probably) adults, who share an important interest. Ask questions, tell stories, listen to stories—and take some advice in return. Even new shooters have insights to offer and it behooves us all to learn as much as we can. We were all beginners once.

Now, unstated in my points above is the assumption that this advice is unsolicited—you observed a situation in which your input might be useful and jumped in. That’s fine, but what if someone comes to you for advice?

Well, first of all—be flattered. This person thinks enough of your expertise—real or perceived—that they felt they could come to you for some input. They also felt comfortable asking you for help—no small thing for a new shooter or a younger person. So, toward that end . . .

Be humble. The important thing here is not feeling like a know-it-all, or spread your particular doctrine, or preach the Gospel of the AR15/AK/M1911/GLOCK/etc. This person in front of you needs some guidance. Give them the best advice you can, and know when to refer them elsewhere. You don’t know everything, and they might benefit from an additional opinion. Help them find the advice they need.

There’s one situation where all of this goes out the window; safety. The rules of gun safety are sacrosanct—as are range rules—and breaking any of them is a no-no. If you see someone doing so, intervene. Don’t be impolite, angry, or pushy—just let them know that there’s a better way and what the risks are.

Advice can be a wonderful thing, and connecting with new friends to share knowledge can be a learning experience for all involved. And if you find that there are questions neither of you can answer, turn to an online firearms community that brings together shooters of all levels of experience. Someone’s bound to have what you need.

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  • Dog Food Ninja

    Well written, sir.

  • Gun shop employees and owners everywhere would benefit from the wisdom in your article. Excellent..

  • petedoc810

    A good rule in life is to not give advice unless someone asks for it or looks like they want it, unless something dangerous needs to be addressed, of course.

  • RangeResident

    I was at a public range a couple of years back…two young guys show up at the bench next to me with an AR-15 and boxes of ammo. Over the next 20 minutes they deal with major feeding issues. I continue shooting but listen in as they gripe about only getting one or two rounds off…then an FTF. Finally they say “this gun is junk!” I ask them “Are you having issues?” They say “Yeah…this crappy POS won’t shoot right?” I ask “How long have you had it?” They said ” About an hour…we just bought it.” I hold back my laughter. I then ask “Have you cleaned it???” Their response was priceless….”Clean it?!?! Why would we clean a brand new gun?!?!?!” Now the whole line starts to laugh. I then proceed to teach them how to breakdown the AR15. Clean the chamber and barrel, then properly LUBE the bolt, BCG, Upper receiver and buffer tube. Then reassemble. After that they could empty 20 rounds without a single failure. They thanked me for my help. I help people all the time on the line. The thing is….you have to let them try to solve the problem themselves…most times they do. They may take longer than “you” would have. But every issue is a learning opportunity. Teach. Never criticize. Be friendly and most people will welcome your input.

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  • Reloader54

    I’m a NRA Certified Range Safety Officer and I’ve also taken and completed a Gun smithing course. I also carry everyday now and have been doing it for just over a year now. I do have people ask me about why I carry? and I tell them why I do so. I’ve also had people ask me about firearms. And what one I would recommend to them. I always ask them what they are planning to be using the gun for. And then we talk about what type of guns will do what they want. I never tell them what gun to get. I just talk to them about the different types and the pros and cons of them. A few weeks ago I was at Physical Therapy and they all know that I’m a gun person. And one of the female therapy people asked me about guns. She was looking at getting one. And she asked me what type I’d recommend. The first thing that I asked her was what she was planning to use it for. And then we talked about the different types that would do what she wanted. But I told her to look at them, hold them, And if possible to shoot them. And then to pick the one that she liked the best and that she felt comfortable with the most. And she did get the one that she liked the best. She’s also asked me to recommend someone that she could got to, to take firearms training courses. And of course I did so. I told her about the person that I’ve taken courses from and gave her their contact info. But as this article states it’s not good to try to force and issue unless it is a safety issue. It’s not good for gun owners to force their views on anyone that you don’t know.

  • OneOfTheGoodGuys

    Great article. Usually the guy giving unwanted advice is itching to impress others with what he knows … and that’s usually not much.

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  • OneOfTheGoodGuys

    Great article. Usually the guy giving unwanted advice is itching to impress others with what he knows … and that’s usually not much.

  • BX

    That’s pretty much the same principle on how to influence people as a leader stuff.

  • Oskian Yaziciyan

    This is a little off topic, but here it is:
    I’ve had a Florida CC Permit for some 15 years, and now that I moved up to South Carolina, it’s worth nothing.
    The news months ago was that a SC legislator introduced legislation to eliminate the 8 hr training course to qualify for concealed carry in, but you can’t find any updated information on it. Not on the Internet, not from a law officer, nowhere. Nor do I know if printing is prohibited- it was eliminated in Florida.
    This is where the NRA should put their efforts in, not just allowing any nut-job to get a firearm and go on a shooting spree. Makes them and the rest of us gun owners look like gun-toting hicks.
    US Citizens will always have firearms if they choose, and nobody will take them away from us, but I also want to have some reasonable control over who can buy one legally; then again, you can buy one in the street like you were buying a stick of gum.

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