Guns, guns, guns, and more guns; or a pleasant morning at the shooting range

ruger-sr22-pistol-sideOver the past twenty years or so, I’ve decided that some of the nicest people you’ll ever find hang out in two places:  martial arts dojos and shooting ranges.  That’s not what one would expect in places that train people in the art of defensive mayhem, but the reality is that in both dojos and shooting ranges, you’ll find people who adore what they do, who are very knowledgeable about it, and who love sharing their knowledge and helping out.

This is especially true at shooting ranges, as was proven to me again today.  I wonder whether this has something to do with the fact that, at least in the blue, blue Bay Area, people at shooting ranges are beleaguered in the general community.  At the shooting range, they can be themselves and share their pleasure with others.  Or it could be that people who believe in the Second Amendment are just seriously nice.

This morning I met two of my readers, as well as their charming, poised son, at Bullseye, the local shooting range in San Rafael.  Out of respect for their privacy — because, as I said, gun owners are not incredibly popular here in Marin — I’ll call my readers Amy and Henry.

Before today, I hadn’t met Amy or Henry.  Instead, all of our contact had been via email.  Some months ago, during our email exchanges, Amy had asked me if I would like to join them at Bullseye, adding that she and Henry have a nice collection of guns that I was welcome to try.  You’d think that I’d jump at that invitation, wouldn’t you?  Actually, I didn’t.  I got nervous.  That’s because I read too much.

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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. )