Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Teaching A Woman To Shoot

I was at the range the other day. (How many of my articles start this way?) I noticed a young couple pull up and sat in the guy’s truck for about 10 minutes talking. I continued my “workout” which is sometimes unusual. Today was no different. I was shooting from behind, and over, benches that I set up on the range. The couple was a ways off in the next bay. I shoot at an outdoor range that has several bays with about 5 shooting lanes each. They were one bay over. Finally I stopped and took a break, it was pretty hot. Finally the guy and girl got out. I waved and said hello, they waved back. Now it was my turn to watch. The guy took out his handgun and left the two rifles sheathed. He took out hearing and eye protection for both of them. They walked downrange to set up their target and I hit the range with another round. I was just about to end and shoot my last round when I heard a loud bang. I had taken off my muffs so I put them back on. It was the blast of a .45. I glanced over and saw the girl give the gun back to the guy quickly. I didn’t see her shoot it but I can guess how it went. The gun kicked like a mule and she almost hit her head and dropped the weapon. To the guys credit he was not laughing but trying to calm his wife. I found out later it was his new wife of less than a year. She was not hysterical but clearly a little scared or surprised, embarrassed, and did not want to shoot again ever in her life. Later in their marriage he would have to beg her to get her concealed carry license and if she actually got it, she would never carry or practice.
He saw me cleaning up and preparing to leave and came over to me. He introduced himself and asked about my crazy “workout”. We talked a second and his wife walked over. He introduced her to me and we all chit chatted a little. He just started as a game warden and they had just moved to the area. Finally I brought up that I noticed this was not a good trip for her to the range. They both laughed and I asked some questions. I asked if it scared her. I asked what her experience with guns was. I asked why he had brought her here that day. We talked a little about guns and shooting and he asked about my gun experience. I told him a little and mentioned I was an instructor. His eyes lit up. I knew he would not ask so I volunteered to give a little mini lesson for them. They accepted so I started in with safety. I went through the 4 safety rules. We talked briefly about how they are different degrees of basically the first rule. I had them repeat them back to me and told them I would quiz them a few times before we were done. I then praised him for his PPE (personal protection equipment) and their use of it. I happened to have my Ruger Mark II .22 with me. I showed her the gun, handed it to her and asked her what the 3rd rule was. She quoted it to me and then commented how much lighter the .22 was from the .45. We went through basic shooting techniques and shot for about 15 minutes. She was pretty good. I asked her if she wanted to try a 9mm. She already had confidence with the .22 so she was not so hesitant about the 9mm. I gave her the same instruction and told her there was a little more kick to it but it was not like the .45 she shot. She handled it quite well.
When we were done we sat talking again. I asked her now how she felt about shooting guns. She said “That was fun!” I then quizzed them both for the last time on the safety rules.
Hopefully, we diverted a bad shooting experience into a more positive one.
Here are some things you should be aware of before you take a woman/girl/wife/female friend to the range, especially for the first time.
Let me put my disclaimer in here so as not to offend. I realize that many women shoot. I’ve competed with, taught, and been beat in competition by women. But for the most part shooting is a guy’s thing. My daughters all shoot. But my sons are the ones who have shot the most. Most of this could apply to anyone shooting for the first time.
Safety First
Safety is so incredibly important but I teach it like a game. I’m not saying to not be serious about safety, but it’s easier to remember if you make it more enjoyable. Don’t teach safety so seriously that the student is scared. Being serious does not involve fear. This is what I do:
The safety rules are the “Ch’I” of shooting. They are the foundation. Everything we do in shooting revolves around what I call “The Final 4”.
1.Every gun is always loaded. Every means all, total, each one, the sum of all guns! And they are not just dangerous, but LOADED. You must respect them.
2.Never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy. Destroy means: shoot, blow up, kill, hurt, ventilate. (…because every gun is loaded.)
3.Never put your finger in the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. Do not rest your finger in the guard or on the trigger. Keep your finger straight. (…because every gun is loaded.)
4.Always be sure of your target and beyond. This means never shoot in the dark. I don’t care how scared you are, identify your target and what is behind it. This is what separates us from the criminals and terrorists. (…because every gun is loaded.)
Sometimes I add a 5th rule being “Never point a gun at me!” which of course is rule 1, 2, and 4.
I then ask my students to repeat back to me each rule. I tell them they will be quizzed on them throughout the session. Then I make sure I quiz them at random times. I want them to have them memorized. I want them to know them backwards and forward. I’ve even given students candy when they are correct when asked. I stroke the positive. If they are wrong I correct them right there in a nice respectful way, then ask them to repeat the correct answer. I make it a point to quiz on the one they missed later.
I ask questions calling them by name, “Mark, what is Final 4 number 3?” “Lynn, what is the foundation rule number 4?” I then reward with praise, candy, or whatever little thing will help them remember.
Let the student understand the parts of a gun and then let them clear and handle a gun before going to the range, reminding them of the Final 4. Let them see the bullets and handle them. Teach them to load the magazine or chamber. Teach them to manipulate the gun(s) they will shoot. Teach about different actions. Start them with a .22. Some instructors would balk at that but this is my logic. With a .22 you can learn the basics of shooting, grip, trigger press, sighting, without a large bang or a large kick. But it does go bang. It’s just not a deafening IED going off in their hand. Start small and work your way up. Starting small gives great confidence and will naturally move to a higher caliber. .22 will be easy to tame and may leave them wanting a bigger challenge. Sometimes starting with a big caliber is dangerous because the gun is not in control.
Most instructors will tell men to not teach their spouses or family how to shoot. One of the problems with men is we think we are Tarzan and she is Jane. Well, sometimes she can be Tarzan. Woman are tough and resilient. They can do anything we can do and sometimes better. Teaching my daughters to shoot was a joy compared to the boys. The boys weren’t as interested in doing things the instructor’s way. The girls wanted to learn and they were interested in more than blowing things up!
If you insist that you can teach your family you’ll have to check your ego at the door. You will have to have patience and humility. To be honest, I think that is the way you should be when you instruct anyone. I am pretty good with a gun. But I can say that I’m no Jerry Miculek or Rob Leatham. I know how to teach and I have some experience shooting so I think I can teach it. Teaching should not be a competition or a time to show off your skill. It is a time to show off your knowledge so that the student can learn too. It is sharing what you’ve learned and practicing what you’ve learned. I am still learning and I always will be. At one time I taught the Weaver stance. I haven’t taught that since the 80’s because I have learned something better. At one time I taught shooting with your dominant eye. Now I teach both one eye and both eyes open shooting.
More Safety
Make sure you as the instructor follow your own training. Keep the safety rules meticulously. Lead and teach by example.
Also teach some range etiquette. Things like taking care to not interrupt a neighbor when they are shooting. Policing brass at a convenient time. When people are on a cold range you’re not touching your gun. Being clean. Just being courteous in general.
Make sure you practice and teach good technique. Don’t get sloppy just because you have 20 years of experience.
Remember that not everyone loves the sulfur smell of gunpowder or knows the difference between the pop of an AR and the boom of an AK. You are home on the range, she may not be. She may be OK with it, but it’s not going to the top of her date list. You may want to compromise and do something she really has a passion for before or after you do what you are passionate about. Maybe go to dinner after a shooting session. Know that shooting is really for everybody, but not everybody will love it.
Follow these suggestions and taking your girl to the range will be a good experience all around. You may even have her suggest it to you one day!
Semper Paratus
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