After a lot of prodding and cajoling from my husband, I finally pulled a trigger on a handgun for the first time on my 45th birthday. It was at an indoor range and I'll admit I was twitching and jumping every time someone else pulled a trigger near us. When I was the one pulling the trigger, the twitching and jumping wasn't as noticeable. What was noticeable was that I was very anxious and put the gun down on the counter after each shot. I remember thinking, "Okay, gun went bang, my hands feel sweaty and tingly, let's put the gun down, make sure I'm okay, see if I hit the target, breathe...okay, I'll try again." I must have done that about 18 times, which is how many bullets my husband had loaded in the one high cap magazine, before I turned to him and said "I'm worn out, I have a headache, time to go home." To his credit, he didn't argue. He backed up the handguns and ammo, and we left. FYI - I think my husband is a pretty smart guy. He figured out from the beginning that if we made my early range experiences about him instead of me, that I wasn't going to be going anymore.
The second time we went shooting it was at an outdoor range and the experience was MUCH better! There were very few shooters near us, so my twitch factor wasn’t near as high. I also found the sound reverberations far less intense and the air quality far better. That successful second shooting experience led to several more over the next few months. On many occasions more experienced shooters (one gal and about a dozen guys) would help me along with grip, stance and sight picture. Then we were invited by this group to try a small action pistol match, held at the range on Sunday mornings. There were four stages in the match, with approximately 10 paper targets on each stage (2 hits per paper required) along with a steel popper that would fall if you hit it in the middle. Sounds easy, right?
I remember driving up and seeing about three dozen people milling around getting ready for the match. Most of them strangers, yet they all looked like they knew what they were doing, except me! I remember climbing out of our mini-van thinking “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want these people watching me. Everyone is going to laugh at me because I’ll be so slow. Maybe I’ll wait till next time.” My overactive imagination was chanting all sorts of escape plans. I guess my husband didn’t see my “deer in the headlights” expression (yeah, right…) and he promptly took me over to the safety table where a few of the familiar faces helped me put on gun gear, most of it borrowed, for the match. As soon as we had all the belts, holsters, and mag pouches strapped onto my body I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. Gear back off, gear back on, and now a range officer is going to explain about the safety rules of the match.
I was familiar with the range safety rules but when he got to the part of explaining the how a range officer would bring up one shooter at a time, with specific commands to load and make ready, I could feel the nervous twitching starting again. We broke up into small squads; each squad went to a different stage on a different bay. I was the last to go on our squad. This allowed me the opportunity to watch the more experienced shooters each shoot the stage. It also let me acclimate to the loud buzzer used by the range officer to signal to the shooter that it was their time to pull their handgun and start engaging targets. So far, so good, seemed like an easy game plan and it was finally my turn.
When the range officer called my name, I step up to the designated shooting box, where he tells me I can load and make my gun ready. Once loaded, I put the gun carefully back in my holster, waiting for the next command and of course that spooky buzzer. I remember hearing the buzzer from a distance, feeling like I was frozen in place till it dawned on me to finally pull the gun and start engaging targets. What seemed so easy just a few days ago, getting good hits on a target, now seemed outside my skill level. It took a mere eight rounds to get two hits on the first target; I think it took another six rounds to get two more hits on the second target. In other words nothing on this stage went easy or fast. With two targets and a steel popper yet to go it became obvious I didn’t have enough ammo on me to finish since I only had two magazines, with a total of 34 rounds. (Sounds like that should have been plenty for a course of fire that called for 21 rounds; obviously it wasn’t.) I stood there with an empty gun for a moment, perplexed on this newest “glitch” in the system. Keeping the gun in a safe direction, finger off the trigger, I yelled loudly back to the group of guys behind me “GET ME MORE AMMO!”
There was a scramble of guys grabbing .9mm ammo from my husband. Then some other guy from our squad grabbed up my first empty magazine dropped a ways back. He loaded it while running it up to the range officer, who handed it to me. By this time I had dropped out the empty magazine; reloaded the gun ready to go again. I finished shooting the last of the targets, then unloaded to show the range officer an empty gun, and re-holstered. I remember turning around and seeing that whole squad of guys applauding. Yes, they were laughing too but that’s okay.
As I walked back, the guy who had reloaded my magazine gave me a hug and said “guess a girl can never have too much ammo” to which I replied “Amen!” And to this day, now over fifteen years later, when I shoot a match, regardless if it’s handgun, shotgun or rifle, I always have extra ammo on me. I also share this story with our Babes with Bullets campers at each of our three day events held over the last seven years. I want them to know I relate to their fears and concerns in handling a gun for the first time. I also encourage them to chant with me “I can do this, I can do this!”