Being born and raised south of the Mason Dixon line, I’m sure I grew up around guns like everybody else. My family wasn’t necessarily gun-ho (forgive the pun; it’s a genetic disorder) about firearms, but my dad had a 12ga pump shotgun and a .22 rifle for when he’d go dove hunting/skeet shooting or just wanted to plink around respectively. He eventually added a .22 pistol which I still use.
We didn’t go shooting every weekend, but we’d occasionally take trips down to Leeds Rifle Range or if when on vacation we’d be near a range we’d pack up the gear and make an afternoon of it. One thing I love about public outdoor shooting ranges is the sense of community you have with people who enjoy shooting and treat it as serious business; if you’re at a range and are respectful and safe, people who have the same mindset tend to let you try out their cool toys. One trip in Virginia, my dad and I were shooting at an outdoor range and a gentleman offered to let us try out his .500 S&W single shot rifle and we both gladly fired one round a piece. My younger sister went with a friend once and a gentleman (who had all the proper documentation/permits) let her and a friend rip through several hundred rounds of ammunition on his full-auto Tommy-Gun just because he liked seeing people’s reactions to shooting it.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered my wife, the epitome of a Southern Belle, had never fired anything more than an air gun during her days in JROTC. She had watched my firearm habits increase over the years and while she wasn’t anti-gun she just didn’t really get it. So one weekend, I asked her to go with me to the local indoor range and try it out. Hesitantly, she agreed even though she had never shot any kind of pistol and that’s what we would be doing that afternoon.
As we were preparing to enter the lanes, I found a difference between men and women shooters: hearing protection. Being the gentleman, I offered her my over-the-ear muffs to block sound while I would use the cheap squishy orange cone foam plugs myself. She refused and insisted she take the orange plugs because those wouldn’t mess with her hair…something that would never occur to me. She isn’t a girly girl who has to have a pink gun though; she insists that a gun was meant to be black, not cute.
As we stepped up to the line to shoot, I walked her through all of the safety things again that I had discussed on the drive to the range: don’t point the gun at anything you wouldn’t want to shoot, make sure there isn’t a round loaded in the chamber when walking around, if the gun jams keep it pointed downrange and ask for help clearing it, etc. Like any good range, we were already required to be wearing eye protection and hearing protection so we were good on that end.
I decided to start her off with a .22lr pistol that I had, in this case a Ruger Mark II. If you’ve never owned or shot a gun before, I always recommend you start with a .22lr firearm. Even with the recent ammo crunch and decreased availability, it’s still by far the cheapest ammunition to shoot. $30 will net you 500rds of .22lr which will take you an entire day of constant shooting to run through. It’s also low recoil, low noise, and plenty accurate even up to 100yds in a good rifle. If you grew up shooting, you probably have good memories of setting up cans and making lots of holes in them with a .22lr rifle.
For my wife’s first time shooting a pistol, she did okay with the Ruger .22lr pistol. Her groups weren’t very tight, but they were acceptable. She complained though that she didn’t like the way it felt in her hand which was understandable since she shooting it right-handed due to the target-style grips on it when she was naturally left handed. The only other pistol I had brought was a Beretta 92 9mm and I didn’t want to start her off with the additional noise/recoil of a 9mm but she insisted she wanted to use that instead of the Ruger.
I wasn’t too worried about her using the Beretta though. The 9mm really isn’t a large round and in a full size gun the recoil is negligible. As the gun gets smaller into the compact, subcompact, and pocket-size guns, that same round though has increased recoil due to the decrease in weight and the shorter barrel. The Beretta 92 was a steel frame gun with a 5” barrel, both of which takes the recoil out of the shot.
As she started shooting with the Beretta, the first shot surprised her with the recoil; not that it was harsh, just surprising, so her shot went a bit wide. Her next shot though, she drilled near the center which I gave her a pat on the back for. Her next shot hit near the same spot…as did the next shot. And the next. And the next. In fact, she emptied a 15rd magazine into a space no larger than a baseball at 7 yards. While not exactly Olympic qualifying scores, for her first time, it was very impressive.
That’s been months ago and we both now enjoy shooting. We’ve owned a wide variety of handguns in most of the major calibers and she’s now getting into target shooting with some .22lr rifles that I’ve built just for that purpose. She’s become an even better pistol shot and has her own gear now. She’s commandeered the Beretta 92 for her own and recently acquired a Glock 26 for her to take her conceal carry class with. She’s actually switched from gun-indifferent to pro-gun which is only dangerous to our checking account.
Gun control is somewhat of a hot-button issue around the country, and this isn’t a political column; this is a column on The Great Outdoors and what I find out there. For some that means kayaking or hiking, but for me one of the outdoor activities that I really enjoy is target shooting. So if this article isn’t to your liking and you’d like to inundate my email box with talk of how evil guns are and how they need to be taken off the streets, you’re more than welcome to; that’s your opinion. But for many people, guns are no more dangerous than riding bicycles (I’m actually safer with a firearm than I am on a bicycle) as long as they’re treated with proper respect and safety. And if you don’t like firearms and have never actually tried one, shoot me an email. I’ll be glad to meet you out at the range.
If you’re looking for a range to go to, there are several options within driving distance. Leeds Rifle Range in Sumter National Forest is free to use and goes out to 100yards. Lesser known is that there are numerous other ranges nearby. For a full listing, go to https://www.dnr.sc.gov/srange/shootsearch to find the public outdoor ranges near you.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.