I’m straying from my usual subject matter this week, to share with you my recent experience in a new hobby. My family took a trip to an outdoor range at a state park in November of 2016, that was my first real shooting experience. Now, less than a year later, I’m a firearms owner, member of a ladies shooting club (The Well Armed Woman), and most recently, an NRA Certified Instructor in Basic Pistol. So far, the only things in common it has with horses, is that it’s highly addictive, and expensive to do. Needless to say, if you’d have asked me last fall, or any time in the past, if this is where I saw myself heading, I’d have laughed.
Under the watchful eye of Papa, while Mama loads up a magazine in the background
All my life, I’ve been able to say with 100% conviction, I am a horsewoman. I’ve never questioned or hesitated with this, I know it to the depths of my soul, and I always will be. I’m proud of it. In the absence of having my own horses, I’ve dabbled in other hobbies, running, acoustic guitar, ballroom dancing… but I’ve never BEEN any of those things. I ran, but wasn’t a runner, I took guitar lessons, but wasn’t a guitarist, I love dancing, but I’m not a dancer. They never became part of my identity like horses did, and still are. It’s this line of reasoning that’s often kept me from trying new things, and being a perfectionist. If I couldn’t master whatever the new skill or hobby was, right out of the gate, it would lose it’s appeal. When I first picked up Dad’s .22 last fall, the journey it ended up being the first steps to, wasn’t even on my radar.
Owning a gun wasn’t anything I’ve been opposed to, but never having the means or resources, it stayed in the back of my mind. My boyfriend and I have discussed it many times during the course of our relationship, but last fall seemed to be the catalyst. After watching shooting after shooting being reported on the news every morning, and coming to the realization that nowhere is safe anymore, we finally decided to put thought into action. I know nobody gets out of this world alive, but given the choice, I’d much prefer to have the means to defend myself against a violent attach and never need it, than die wishing I’d had them. You only regret the chances you don’t take.
Getting started at our local range
My boyfriend gave me my first pistol for Christmas, 2016. “Stella,” (because I name them all, since we do need to be well-acquainted it makes sense to me) is a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver model 642. She’s the one I trained and qualified for my Concealed Handgun License with, and the one I carry currently. I know revolvers aren’t the first choice for personal protection, but it’s what I want at the moment.
I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by amazing resources in the firearms industry. We have a state-of-the-art range very close to home, staffed with amazing, knowledgeable people. My shooting coach is a real gem. I actually met him through training at a previous job where he coached on customer service. Based on that experience, when I wanted to pursue my CHL, he was my first choice. I still talk to and work with him regularly. He’s a powerful voice in my head. My new circle of friends in The Well Armed Woman is fantastic as well. We have Instructors, RSO’s, beginners, and every stage in between, and they all have something to offer.
TWAW offers great learning opportunities to it’s members, like gun trial days where we can test many different firearms for purchase
Working with Coach, in preparation for my Instructor Course
After “Stella,” came “Rick.” Springfield (get it, Rick Springfield? lol) was offering a great promotion over the last several months, with the purchase of a new firearm, you could send away for an additional four magazines, holster, and mag holster at no cost. I wanted a traditional 1911 style .45acp, and found a great deal on him. “Rick” isn’t fancy, he’s a Mil-Spec model, very simple, but very reliable. Since I bought him in February of this year, I haven’t had a mis-fire yet.
After joining TWAW in April, I learned that not only was the chapter growing at a rapid pace, but the need for certified instructors was as well. When the challenge was presented, I thought, “why not?” Along side two other members of our chapter, we registered and began training for the Basic Pistol Instructor course taught by my local range. The shooting qualification was the most intimidating, but I took advice from those who’d done it, borrowed Dad’s .22, and started practicing. Our weekly visits to the range, quickly became two and three nights a week, and my skills improved. I booked some time with Coach for a tune up, and just before our visit, my boyfriend surprised me with my own .22, a Browning Buck Mark Black Label, “Brownie.” We got on like a house on fire, and my confidence grew. The more practice time I got in, the more people I trusted and respected kept telling me I had it and I would do well, the more I started to believe them.
In the week leading up to our course, I expected to find myself stressed and anxious (no surprises there), but I was also becoming more emotional. At first I chalked it up to nerves, but when I kept being caught off guard with tears, it dawned on me. I’m emotional because I really care about this. I’ve worked hard, and I’m becoming passionate about something again. It means a lot to me, and I want to do well not just for myself, but for everyone who’s believed in me. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I “was” something again. I am a shooter, and I believe it when I say it.
I’m so happy that I was in the first group to shoot, on the first day in the morning, to get it over with and not allow myself too much time to stew. I still have difficulty seeing at 15 yards, but I could rely on my ever-developing skills to get me through. My first 10 rounds all found the target, but two were in the border area, so only eight counted. I re-set and fired my next 10, all well within the target area. A final score of 54/60 advanced me through the class.
The remaining pieces got easier as I went through them. The basic handling and malfunction clearing felt clumsy to me, from lack of experience. In hind sight I wish I’d taken the Range Safety Officer course first, but that will happen in due time. The test after the first day wasn’t terrible, and I scored 100%. The test at the end of the second day, was one I’d downloaded and studied on flash cards, so I finished quickly and scored 100% on it as well. At the end of the day, our lead instructor asked if there was anyone in our class, any of us felt shouldn’t be recommended for the certification, we shook our heads no in unison, and he told us, then we all knew how we did. Again, I was blessed to have great fellow IC’s (Instructor Candidates) and a great Instruction team around me.
Our class photo
I’d be a fool to tell you this makes me any level of a professional in the industry. I’m hyper aware of just how green I still am, but I’m learning more every day. Part of being an Instructor, is always being able to take instruction, and knowing that you don’t know everything. I’m excited to see where the next turn on this road leads me (actually, it’s leading me to an Appleseed Project rifle camp with the new Ruger 10/22 I got to reward myself!). One small step in my next big journey!
Proof of my accomplishment
My new badge of honor