The first gun I ever shot was a double-barrel shotgun. I was 15 years old and my best friend’s older brother had set up two liter soda bottles outside for target practice. I didn’t have any real interest in shooting, but he insisted that I give it a try. I had no ear protection and was given zero warning about the giant bruise that would form the next day on my shoulder. I took aim, and to my delight, I blew my arch-enemy, Mountain Dew, into another universe. I shrieked, jumped up and down with sheer joy, and promptly planted the barrel of the gun into the soft sandy soil. My friend’s brother did not share in my ecstasy, but lectured me about how he was going to have to spend all afternoon cleaning his gun. His dark looks did not encourage my inner-sportsman. Since then, I was given a couple other opportunities, but due to my previous experience, I never relished the idea of shooting anything unless it was plugged into a gaming console.
Then my husband decided I should go to the range a several years ago. We owned a handgun and he wanted to make sure I could use it in the event he was out-of-town and I needed the protection. And as Clint Eastwood aptly put it, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.” Needless to say, I thought learning to use our firearm correctly was a wise move because we have small kids and I have trouble sleeping when he is gone; especially after watching episodes of 48 Hours where whole families are randomly murdered in their beds by psychos.
I must confess, I had mixed feelings about going to the range. I was nervous because of past events and I didn’t want to show up on the front page of national newspapers for accidentally killing several people because of my inexperience. As a woman, I imagined I was going to be entering a “man’s world” and I dreaded the snarky looks. If you are scoffing at my self-doubt, then I want you to picture in your mind how insecure even Charles Bronson would be in an exclusive spa surrounded by candles and mystical music in his fluffy bathrobe and bamboo slippers.
The unknown is what worries me most so I pelted my husband with 1000 questions so I felt better prepared. I gathered my courage and we headed out. My husband went over some brief gun safety and had me load the extra clips with ammo. In hindsight, the loading of all the clips was unnecessary, but it accomplished two things. One, it calmed my nerves because it was something I could do without killing anyone, and two, my husband didn’t have to do it. I didn’t notice any snarky looks when we entered the building because I didn’t make eye contact. With eye and hearing protection secured, I made my way back to the actual range. Even with ear protection, I was amazed at the magnitude of sound. I could feel my teeth rattling in my head it was so loud. This did not help my nerves.
Once we were at our stall, I relaxed because I had accepted the fact that it was just going to be loud and I would have to get over it. I finally stopped jumping after each shot and my husband showed me how to load and unload, how to put the paper target up and send it down range, how to hold the gun when not shooting, and how to aim and hold for accuracy. I fired a few shots and my confidence was building until a hot shell went down my blouse. And yes, I wore a blouse. Then one pinged me in the side of the head. I was rattled and desperately wanted to go to the restroom to check for blisters, but I continued on. We spent a total of twenty minutes in the war zone. I have to say, it wasn’t as relaxing as a spa, but I left feeling I had learned something important and knowing that if the need arose, I had the ability to protect my family from a psycho killer.
So if there is a woman in your life, whether it be a girlfriend, wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, or simply a neighbor or friend, remember to encourage them to learn self-defense. Take into account how intimidating it can be to be put in an environment that may be completely and utterly foreign. I have compiled a simple list from my own experience for anyone guiding a woman through her first steps to being self-reliant.
Tips for Taking a Woman to the Range for the First Time:
- Describe the atmosphere you are going to in detail as well as the procedures and rules at the range you are visiting.
- Let her know it is going to be loud and understand that for the first time she may only need to be in there for 15-20 minutes. A nervous woman with a firearm can be dangerous.
- This is not for you to show off how well you can shoot and disparaging remarks are obnoxious and never appreciated. Let your inner Bruce Willis take the day off.
- Look into purchasing eye protection for her instead of using what is available at the range. The pair that I chose were terribly uncomfortable and didn’t work well. Here is a great site with girly accessories.
- Don’t smirk. Ever. Women can see a smirk even when their head is turned.
- Explain the gun and how it works. Show her everything you can think of BEFORE going to the range. There won’t be much Q&A in the stall because of the noise. Here are some Practical Gun Safety Tips you can use.
- Clean the gun with her afterward. This was extremely helpful to me because it allowed me to see all the working parts and gave me a better understanding of the weapon in general. Plus I’m a girl and I want things to be clean. I just feel better.
- Watch the movie, Salt with Angelina Jolie the night before the range trip. Very inspiring. The Matrix works as well, although you may want to explain that she won’t be able to walk up walls and cart-wheel while holding a weapon in each hand even with multiple range lessons.
- If you are still afraid you will fail at the above suggestions and you fear a huge spat in the range or after you get home, then I suggest you hire someone from your local range or encourage her to take a class. You will have to dig deeper in your pocket, but she may take instruction better from a stranger. Sorry, the truth can hurt.
- Take her for ice cream afterward. There is nothing quite like getting a whiff of gun residue on your hand as your bring the cone to your mouth. It makes the world feel a little safer somehow.
If you teach every woman in your life how to properly and fearlessly wield a weapon so they are confident and don’t feel hesitant or defensive then you may well save their life and the lives of those around them.