Not unlike a lot of people raised in rural Alabama, I grew up around guns. Almost every person in our small town owned at least one gun, whether intended for hunting or home protection. Men in my family had gun racks in their work trucks, and my granny hid a pistol in her Buick. I have even shot guns on several occasions throughout the years but never owned one.
That all changed a few months back when my husband gifted me with a small Kimber handgun, the Micro Bel Air special addition. Not being a pink girl, I had often joked that I wanted a turquoise gun. Needless to say, he did not disappoint.
So, I finally had my own weapon. Now, I just needed to know how to use it. Since I don’t always respond positively to my husband’s teaching style (don’t ask about our ski trip), he suggested I get some formal training on my new gun. Luckily, my county sheriff’s department offers a free firearms safety class on Saturdays from March through October.
I signed up and convinced two of my friends to come along. Both of my friends work in the public school system, which gave them even more reason to learn self-protection. After filling out paperwork and having our background checks approved, we were ready to learn how to become responsible gun owners.
Armed and ready, we showed up at a secluded training facility out of town for one-on-one training. The shooting range looked like a scene from Top Shot, and right beside it was a block building where we would have class. Several police officers were there to train and assist the dozen people present. The classes are kept small on purpose as to offer more hands-on learning.
It was interesting to see all the different personalities and demographics in the room. There was a couple in their 20s, two older couples, an older woman, a middle-aged couple and the three of us. As far as experience went, participants ranged from people who shot guns regularly to the woman afraid to hold the gun her husband had just bought her. (The latter wasn’t me, in case you’re wondering.) One of the older couples had quite some stories to tell, too.
We had a thorough lesson on handguns, which included all the parts of pistols and revolvers. One of the officers went over all the details of common guns, complete with pictures pointing out each part. We learned about the safety features and how to properly load and unload our guns.
I found it especially helpful that the officers took time to go around the room and make sure we all understood each instruction. They also took questions along the way. Before breaking for lunch, a different officer went over how to clean a gun. He took his gun apart and cleaned it so that we could see how. Then, he explained all the basic tools needed for gun cleaning. It was advised that we clean our guns after every time we shoot.
After a quick lunch, we got the opportunity to put our newly learned skills to the test. We could go down the hallway and use the reality simulator and visit the shooting range with our personal guns. My friends and I did both.
We each had our own paper target set up and stood at a distance of five to seven feet from the target. One of my friends was right on the money with her shots. I bared a little lower than the target at first. Then, my instructor noticed I was gripping my gun too tight and pulling down on the trigger. These are the kind of tips I needed to know to correct my aim and hit the target.
My gun is a small .380, so I only needed to put the end of my finger on the trigger. I was also way too tense with my grip. This probably stemmed from bad memories of my brother-in-law giving me a gun way too big on purpose, then laughing when I clutched my shoulder the rest of the day. After making the adjustments given by the officer, everything felt much more comfortable.
A lot of people I know go to shooting ranges frequently. The difference in shooting at self-protection training was that I had my own one-on-one instruction with an officer and I learned specific tips for my gun. This has made all the difference in how I shoot and gave me more confidence in if I ever need to protect myself.
The last stop on our agenda for the day was the virtual reality simulator. We headed inside with our shot-up targets in tow. These were the spoils of our victory, which we would proudly show our husbands later that day.
We went into the simulator room one at a time and used a fake gun with a laser pointer that looked a lot like a Glock. The first phase consisted of large targets and then smaller targets with a shooting range backdrop. I hit all the large targets and most of the smaller ones.
Round two took me through a drug bust in a virtual home. The police running the video instructed me to assume everyone on the screen was a criminal. I shot all of the targets (including some twice), as there were infinite “bullets” in the laser gun.
Some people jumped out from behind doors or were hiding under furniture. This startled me at first but made me realize how alert I needed to be in a hostile environment. The woman who was afraid of her new gun had warned us that the simulator scared her. (She had done it several times to try and work up her courage to visit the shooting range.)
I couldn’t help but think that many people nowadays are scared of guns. Whether it’s from lack of knowledge or constant news about crime, firearms get blamed for more than they should. Recent, random shootings just make me want to become more educated and skilled with my own weapon, rather than shy away from guns altogether. I hope taking the self-protection class helped this woman feel better about guns as well. I highly suggest professional training for anyone wanting to become a responsible gun owner.
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