Shooting off steam, with the NRA’s Women on Target

BulletIt turns out that a great antidote for being disgruntled is to fire off a few rounds.  That’s what I did yesterday when I attended an NRA “Women on Target” gun safety and training class at Bullseye, Marin’s only indoor shooting range.  I had a wonderful time.

We spent the first hour receiving instruction about guns — how they work and how to use them — from a former Navy weapons instructor.  He opened by telling us that he loved teaching women, because they seemed more open to instruction than men and were definitely more willing to ask questions.  And question him we did.  By the time the hour was over, we knew more than I ever thought possible about the way guns and bullets work.  It was very entertaining.

We also learned, of course, the gold standard for gun safety:  (1) Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; (2) Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and (3) Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

With respect to Rule 1, a workplace colleague who is also an NRA instructor told me that he tells his students that they must never point the gun at anything they’re not willing to kill.  When he taught his daughter shooting and she carelessly turned an unloaded gun towards him, he immediately announced that, because he was now dead, the lesson was, and then made her wait a week before he’d resume her lesson.

After the classroom instruction, we headed down to the firing range.  There were five instructors for ten women, ensuring that we all got lots of personal supervision.  I got to work with a revolver and a pistol, both of which shot .22 caliber bullets.  The revolver weighed less than the pistol, which should have made it a nicer gun for me, but I found it easier to aim with the pistol.  I therefore ended up using the pistol three-fifths of the time.

What was most fun was watching the other women just light up as they got more adept at shooting.  Some had used guns before, but most were newbies.  They were there for myriad reasons:  personal security reasons, for principle, for curiosity, for family pride, etc.  One women was terrified of guns and was taking the class in the hope that it would help assuage her fear.  Last I saw her, she was still a little nervous, but was also happily, and competently, firing away at a target.  I think she learned that a gun, like a car, is both a tool and a source of fun, provided that it is used safely and responsibly.

Another woman went from firing one cautious shot per minute, without getting anywhere near the target, to emptying the 10 round magazine in a couple of minutes.  When she started, she was game but nervous.  When she finished, she was glowing with happiness as she showed how she had a nice pattern of shots all contained within a circle that was about 3″ in diameter.

Why is firing a gun so much fun?  I know that it satisfies my targeting abilities.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that I have decent aim, whether playing darts, tossing paper balls into a garbage can or, as it happens, shooting guns at targets.  It’s also fun to know that there is room for improvement.  Since I’m merely a decent shot for a beginner, there’s so much room to grow.  I like doing activities at which I can get better.  As I tell my children, there’s only so good you can get at folding laundry . . . and then it’s just boring.

Guns are also fun because they make one feel less helpless.  I know that, should I be in a situation in which I need to fire a gun to save my life (or someone else’s) I can do it.  I hope that I’m never in such a situation, but now I know that I can handle it should it arise.  That’s a good feeling.

And finally, I wonder if guns aren’t fun because, after growing up anti-gun, shooting a gun feels like a slightly illicit activity to me.  I also feel very good knowing that, with every shot I take, I’m thumbing my nose at the sizable segment of the population that would like to erase the Second Amendment, leaving us without recourse against predators, both governmental and non-governmental.

I’ll end by throwing in a very deserved good word for Bullseye, the shooting range and gun supply store.  I cannot tell you how nice the people who work there were, and that goes for the instructors and the people manning the counter.  They weren’t just courteous and efficient, they were really friendly.  Being a neophyte, I find the thought of gun stores and ranges somewhat intimidating, but these people couldn’t have been nicer.

I also learned that, to encourage women, Bullseye has a ladies night.  Every Wednesday night, from 6 to 8, ladies get half off on lane rental.  (Also, although it’s not on the website, there might be a special deal if two or more women come in during ladies night needing to rent guns and buy bullets.  If you’re planning on going, call and check on what deals they have. )

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  • Jose

    Good for you.  Sounds like you found a well run establishment.  
    You learned a heavier gun is easier to shoot, which is not what people tend to think.  That is important to remember when you eventually decide to get one of your own.

  • 11B40

    Looks like its time for me to update my training. Here I ‘ve been thinking all these years that revolvers were pistols.

    • Bookworm

      According to the NRA handout I got from the class, semi-automatic pistols are different from revolvers.  It appears that the semi-automatics have magazines, while the revolvers have cylinders.

      • Ymarsakar

        Generally people need to be specific when referring to pistols, so that people can tell how the action is placed.
        A handgun or pistol, is a very generic reference.

  • Charles Martel

    I second what you have to say about Bullseye, Book. The fact that it’s located in the heart of Obama Central and does land-office business warms the cockles of my heart. 
    Another cockle warmer is watching elfin little college-age girls, wearing giant ear protectors, tip-toe into the firing range, lift their pistols or rifles and shred a paper target in a matter of seconds. Same with watching soccer moms usher in their 11 or 12-year-old sons and beam proudly as the kid rips off a few rounds. 
    Two of the people I took a shotgun training class with a couple of years ago were lesbians. They were very no-nonsense about why they wanted to take the training: They were avid campers who thoroughly knew their way around their pistols, but wanted something with more stopping power. They never said why, but I assumed that they’d probably run into a few male human varmints out in the wilds and wanted a weapon that would allow them to keep more distance between them and danger.  
    The folks I talk to at Bullseye generally are contemptuous of Obama and his followers. They laugh at the fact that each time the fascists grumble about restricting gun rights, a whole new wave of fed-up people descend on the store to learn how to shoot, and buy guns and ammo. 

  • Ron19

    Reading recommendation:

    The cornered Cat: A Woman’s Guide to Concealed Carry

    by Kathy Jackson

  • March Hare

    Re:  teaching women to shoot, several years ago (now!) I took my Girl Scout troop to Council-sponsored shooting event where they learned to shoot .22 rifles.  The NRA instructor also told me girls were easier to teach because they didn’t think they “knew” everything about shooting and they listened.
    Most of my girls had never shot (a couple had shot BB guns) and were very excited when they got their targets back and saw how well they did.  I didn’t do too badly myself!  😉
    As for the adrenalin rush–I felt it and it seems to be real for both sexes.  I thought it came from the power but also from the skill.  You need real discipline to shoot, stilling your body and your breathing, concentrating and focusing on your target.  Skills which also serve in Real Life and which modern kids often lack.  Possible correlation?
    Side note:  at our local Cub Day Camp, we had a BB Range and an archery range, both well-supervised and controlled.  Some parents would give permission for their boys to shoot arrows but not BBs.  What they didn’t understand is archery is more complicated and the possibility of serious injury was higher than with the BB range.

  • Texan99

    My childhood wasn’t anti-gun, and yet it was entirely gun-free.  The subject never really came up.  Thus I can’t explain where I absorbed the strong lesson that I must never point a gun carelessly, even one I “know” is unloaded.  I only know that it makes me almost physically uncomfortable even to contemplate doing it.  The only shooting I’ve ever done much of is clay targets.  No one had to urge me not to let that shotgun barrel point at anybody, or not to load until it was time to shoot.

  • Charles Martel

    When my son was a Boy Scout he’d head up to a week-long summer camp in the Sierra that had all the activities kids his age loved—swimming, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, archery, and musket shooting. Actually, he and his buddies snorted at that last one. Who would want to shoot a fusty old musket when a shotgun or high-powered rifle would be much more fun? 
    Then they saw the musket instructor give a demonstration. He set up a pumpkin on a fence, walked 50 paces back from it, and then loaded the musket. “Boys, the nice thing about this old firearm is that when you shoot it, you can see the ball leave the barrel, fly across the corral, and smash the pumpkin. You can’t do that with a rifle bullet—it moves too fast.” With that, he lifted the musket, aimed, and fired. The ball flew visibly out of the barrel, sped across the corral, and administered a massive splat-inducing head wound to that hapless gourd. 
    “Wowwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!” Every boy in that one-week session immediately signed up for musket weaving or whatever its official name was. 

  • Ymarsakar

    Was the revolver you fired single or double action, Book? Meaning, when you pull the trigger, does it move the hammer back and forward in one movement, or do you have to cock the hammer first then pull the trigger?
    The harder the trigger pull required, the more the hand tends to grab from all fingers, thus causing the handgun to misalign due to muscle isolation problems. Even the left click on the mouse, the softest button in existence, is something people tend to press down too forcibly when playing adrenalized FPS games. A light trigger pull and muscle control of the hand and fingers, is very important in accuracy for firearms.

    • Bookworm

      It was double action, although the instructor recommended that I treat it as single action.  I think having to cock the hammer also upset my “flow.”  I don’t know.  It just didn’t feel as good as the pistol.  

      • Ymarsakar

        Many duelists and sharpshooters in the Wild West preferred single action revolvers. But they used their off hand to palm down the trigger after every shot, shooting from the hip. That’s an advanced technique though, generally made obsolete by semi automatic tech, automatic slides, and auto loaders.
        Pure single action revolvers are thus easier to use with the ancient techniques, if I recall my info correctly. There’s something weird about the trigger assembly if you try to use a double action as if it was single action.
        Cocking the hammer probably disrupted your muscle flow because it introduced a new muscle activation sequence that you weren’t familiar with. Martial artists see that a lot when applying same technique to different situations.

      • Ymarsakar

        Correction: palm down the hammer, not the trigger.

  • jj

    You threw in a good word about Bullseye, which sounds like an excellent place; let me throw one in about the NRA.  Even if you aren’t going to be a gun owner, join.  They’re the ones occupying the front lines in the battle to preserve the 2nd Amendment, constantly up to their ears in lawsuits on behalf of all of us, and in constant need of whatever kind of support you can give – even just by being a number they can add to their membership role.  They’re among the very few who are doing something more than just talking about preserving the Constitution.  Being a member is entirely worth it – and you can buy a tee-shirt to wear prominently at a sidewalk table at Starbucks!

    • Bookworm

      I have my NRA membership hidden somewhere, so that Mr. Bookworm can’t find it.  My half of the community property approves of the NRA for the reasons you stated, jj, while his half of the community property does not approve of the NRA, also for the reasons you stated.  😉

      • Ymarsakar

        Should grab a copy of Firefly series, off the net perhaps, in the same fashion. Keep the Underground alive, Book. We’ll have need of it soon.

  • jj

    Should’ve assumed that…

  • Charles Martel

    Am a card-carrying NRA member. 

  • Katja

    The range that my husband likes has a hard and fast rule – everyone stepping foot on their (indoor) range had to wear ear protection.
    For this reason,  when my husband got his concealed-carry license,  I was ineligible to do so as well since I was pregnant.  When they said everyone must wear ear protection, they meant it, and since the unborn baby’s ears couldn’t be protected, no shooting range for me.  
    It strikes me as highly ironic, then, that the staff at the shooting range care more about people’s unborn babies than your typical leftist does.