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.