New shooter report

Today I took son James and daughter-in-law Kelsey shooting. This was the first time for Kelsey. James and I had told her it was an option for her if she was ever interested. But I never pushed her on it. To the best of my knowledge James has not either. A few weeks ago they informed me that Kelsey had decided she would like to learn to shoot because it would help her feel safer when James wasn’t home.

This was a really big deal for Kelsey. Her family is somewhat anti-gun. When she told them she was going to learn to shoot a gun they “sort of freaked out”.

This morning I went over to do the “classroom” portion of the lesson. I had done a tiny bit previously in the weeks previously when I would go over for dinner on Monday nights. I wanted to refresh those lessons and get her ready for actually pulling the trigger on a live round.

I reviewed the sight picture with her and immediately noticed that she was cross-eye dominate. She is right handed but her left eye is dominate. We reviewed her options and she tried various things with my plastic gun. She decided she probably would be shooting left handed.

I asked her if she remembered the three safety rules (I teach the NRA rules, not the Jeff Cooper’s). She hesitated just a bit but told me:

  1. Never point the the gun in an unsafe direction.
  2. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  3. Never load the gun until you are ready to use it.

Wow! That was interesting! She got the essence of the rules correct but she turned them all into negatives. The NRA rules are positive statements of what you should do. I explained that it was, to exaggerate the point some, like telling someone not to think of pink elephants. The actual NRA three gun safety rules are:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

I showed her the proper grip and stance then went over the mantra “trigger prep, sight alignment, squeeze, follow through”. I had her use one of my plastic guns to practice going from a high ready position to a fire position simultaneous with using the mantra.

I told her that eventually she would be able to look at something close her eyes then point the gun at what she had just seen without needing the sights. Just like pointing at something with her finger.

It was at this point that she said, “I’m not sure I ever want to be able to do that.”


She explained that when she held a gun in her hand she was very aware that she was holding “Life in her hands.” Interesting choice of words I thought but didn’t tell her that. Most people, in particular anti-gun people, would say, “Death in their hands.” She did not want to be so comfortable with a gun that she took it causally. She even expressed concern that she might become a sociopath. I tried to explain that wasn’t something that was going to happen at her age but she interrupted and said that she had been concerned that she might give birth to a sociopath since the age of 13 and no one had been able to dissuade of that in the intervening years and I wasn’t going to be able to talk her out of that concern in the next few minutes. I let that drop but asked, “What about using a gun to stop an attack against you?” She wasn’t sure, “It depends on what their situation was. What if they were just at a really bad point in their life?” “What about defending the life of your child?”, I asked and got a similar answer. The same for someone stomping on her puppy or cat.


I went on to the next lesson and showed her how to determine if a gun was unloaded–verify the source of ammunition has been removed and the chamber is empty.

I had her dry fire my STI. I repeatedly manually racked the slide and she “got” the reason for leaning into the shot and having the elbows slightly bent to absorb the recoil.

We went to the range and the public bay was crowed. Very crowded. The members bay was less crowded but we had to go through the public bay to get to the member’s bay. A shot went off as we entered the public bay and even with my best electronic muffs on Kelsey jumped and cowered. James and I hurried her into the members bay. But even there the shots from next door caused her to jump and nearly curl into a fetal position while still standing.

“It’s so loud!”, she said. After a brief consultation, James asked if I had any foam plugs she could use. I didn’t but the gun store was open and we left to get them.

She put them in and we returned. I can’t say that I could see it improved her demeanor any. And each shot made it worse. She was curled up, shaking, sweating, and crying. I told James that we should take her home. If she still wanted to learn we could go again sometime out in the woods with Ry and his suppressed .22. James started talking to Kelsey and I packing up our stuff. I shouldered my backpack and was ready to walk out but James said she still wanted to try it. I asked why. Kelsey said because she had said she would do it. “That doesn’t matter,” I told her. If you really want to do this we can do this another time when and where it’s much quieter. She insisted and I relented.

I had her dry fire the Ruger Mark II. She still jumped every time another gun went off some place. But the crying and shaking had stopped.

I put a single round in a magazine, racked the slide, and let her pick up the gun to shoot at the target about eight feet away. She brought the gun up and pointed it at the target. She hesitated and then quickly put the gun down. “I can’t do it!”, she said. “Okay, you don’t have to,” I told her. “You don’t have to do this. I don’t think you are ready and I think we should go home so we can talk about this.”

I started to pack up again. But she said, “How about I just hold the gun and you pull the trigger?” “I’m fine with that”, I said.

She picked up the gun and pointed it at the target. I repeated the mantra as I put my finger over hers in the trigger guard. I just barely touched her finger and was starting to say “squeeze” when the gun went off.

She put the gun down and started jumping up and down. “I did it!” she exclaimed. The guns booming on either side no longer mattered. From then on she didn’t stop smiling until we left the range except to pout when she had emptied a magazine. I started taking pictures and then a video:

I showed her where first shot ever hit. It was about 5:30, just inside the black.

She asked to do it again. I started to put in a half-full magazine. “Not that many. Just one. Maybe two,” she said.

I loaded the gun with two rounds.

Those went quickly and she asked for three rounds.

Then a full magazine.

And then another, and another, and another.

James shot for a while then Kelsey returned to the bench. I had her hold my partial brick of .22 ammo. She didn’t understand the joke but held it for me anyway:

I merely said the boxes had gotten a little bit wet, then dried, and were sticking together. I’ll have to explain it to her tomorrow when we go sailing.

She burned through magazine after magazine with fire blazing from the barrel. She emptied the magazines faster than I could reload.

She moved the target out to nearly 30 feet and could still keep them in the black at will. It was only when she pushed the speed that the rounds strayed a bit. But only one was outside the rings and all were on the paper:

When we brought the last target in she pointed to the big hole in the paper and with almost a growl said, “I killed it!”

Anti-gun for 25+ years then turned into a budding sociopath in just over an hour. Sarah Brady’s worst nightmare just came true. Damn! I’m good.


12 thoughts on “New shooter report

  1. I think a lifetime of indoctrination had taught her that anyone who likes shooting must be a sociopath. Coming to terms with liking to shoot might require her to let go of a whole set of deeply ingrained beliefs. Her family might very well blame you and your son for corrupting her.

  2. Reads to me like you had one very determined young lady, there. One who understands, if only intuitively, that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s dealing with it. And good on her.


  3. +1 on M. Facing her fear was an enormous step forward. It will serve her well for the rest of her life.

  4. How appropriate that she’s wearing what appears to be a “cuddly Cthulhu” tee-shirt 🙂

    Great new shooter report! Welcome, Kelsey, to the world of freedom!

  5. I guess I am a little thick. I did not get the partial brick of 22LR joke either.

  6. “She did not want to be so comfortable with a gun that she took it causally.”

    Interesting choice of words, and both right and wrong, in a way. The skill SHOULD be taken causally, as one should be practiced enough to not have to think about HOW to use it. However, WHEN to use it – yeah, that’s not a casual thing. I’m guessing that’s probably what she meant, but it still struck me as carrying a double-meaning.

  7. Great story showing just how powerful a trip to the range can be in changing someone’s attitudes about guns.

    Reminds me of a recent trip to a public gun range with my wife. Both of us grew up in homes where guns were absent, and have lived in New York since before we became interested in firearms, so we had little to no experience with handguns. On a recent trip out west, we went to a gun range to test pistols. I’ve got a video of my wife firing a Glock for the first time. You can see her jump after every shot. After a few dozen rounds that jumpiness went away and she was much more comfortable firing everything we tried. It was great fun for both of us.

Comments are closed.