"Yep, I shoot a bit," I replied.
"I have a gun that I bought for protection, but I've never shot it before," she said.
"Really? What do you do with it?"
"I just carry it underneath the seat of my car in case I need it," Frieda informed me. Such is often the case, sadly. I asked how long she had the gun, and learned it had resided underneath the seat of her car for over a year.
"What kind of gun is it?" I asked.
"I don't know, a black one," she replied. Later in the day, after she had apparently checked, she told me it was a Taurus. I asked if it was flat, or if it had a cylindrical thing that held the bullets. I learned the gun in question was a revolver.
A day later, Frieda asked me if I would take her shooting. "Why do you want to shoot?" I asked.
"For protection," she replied. "I have another gun, one my daddy bought before he died. I don't think it's ever been shot," she said.
"What kind of gun?"
She was ready for me. "A Ruger MKII," she replied.
"Good, you bring the Ruger, and I'll bring the ammo." Then I gave her the Four Rules to memorize. "Learn these," I told her after writing them down for her. "They will keep us safe."
"Do you want me to bring the Taurus?" she asked.
"You can, but we will mostly be shooting the Ruger."
Before arriving at the range this afternoon, we met to discuss the rules of the range and have a recital of the Four Rules. I checked her guns to make certain they were not loaded. I showed her the basics of how to manipulate and hold the pistol, and we drove through the gates to the sound of ARs and Glocks cracking in the distance. As we walked through the parking lot, muffs on our heads and handguns at our sides, she did not seem to be the least bit bothered by the noise.
At the first cold range call, we took targets out to seven yards. I wanted Frieda to know that distance, to have it locked in her mind. Seven yards, or twenty-one feet is the distance that a determined aggressor can cross in 1.5 seconds, the time it takes most people to recognize a threat and clear leather. It's the boundary of no return demonstrated time and again in the Tueller drill, the distance that intervention must be undertaken in if injury is to be avoided.
I started Frieda off on her father's Ruger. I showed her again how the bolt worked when firing to chamber the next round. I cautioned her to keep both thumbs on the same side of the pistol, and showed her how to load a magazine. As she worked her way through the first few magazines, I watched her. Her muzzle discipline was good, and she followed the rules of the range to the letter. A smile was on her face. After a couple of magazines, I showed her how to make a safe weapon for a cold range.
The cold range call came quickly, and she made a safe weapon on her own, magazine out, bolt locked back, muzzle down range. When the OK came to go down range, Frieda was pleased and excited to find a target with most of the holes in the red. "I'm pretty good at this, aren't I? she said.
"You are," I assured her. "Better than most at this stage in the game." I took a picture of her with her first target, and she removed it for posterity and comparison later.
When the hot range buzzer went off again, she shot and I observed, I began to give a few small pointers. Frieda adopted an Isosceles stance early on, but had a tendency to place her feet together, then place her weight on one leg. Her shooting was suffering from it. "Place your feet underneath your shoulders," I told her, explaining that doing so will make her body a more stable platform for shooting.
Frieda was a very receptive student, and as she incorporated my suggestions, she found herself no longer shooting outside of the red. Then came the request I hoped not to hear. "I want to shoot my Taurus now," she said.
I quietly suggested she try my old Model 17 first, and she agreed. I showed her how to operate the cylinder release, and how to load and eject shells. I showed her how double and single action shooting is done with an empty gun. "Why would you want to shoot that way?" she asked, referring to single action.
"For precise accuracy," I replied. "For defense, however, you want to use double action. It's much quicker if you can control the gun." I let her attempt to dry fire the Model 17 and she had a tough time with the trigger. Finally, she found the sweet spot, and I showed her how to engage the revolver trigger with the first knuckle for leverage.
Frieda found that the revolver was not as easy to shoot well as she had thought. Her shots were all over the cardboard. None were on the paper. Frustration erupted on her face. "Don't worry about it Frieda," I told her. "Some people never learn to shoot a double action revolver well. It's not an easy gun to master."
"Is it me, or is it the gun?" she asked.
"A little of both," I lied. "The gun is scary accurate, but you are still building your foundation of basic marksmanship. Revolver shooting is all about trigger control." I took the revolver, and placed six holes in the ten ring of a fresh target to prove my point.
"Do you still want to shoot your Taurus?" I asked.
"I do," she said.
"Then let me shoot it first, so you will have an idea of the recoil." I took the Taurus, and quietly summoned all Brazilian gods of accuracy. I managed to place five larger holes in the red.
I loaded the snubnose revolver for Frieda, and she aligned the sights. She struggled to pull the trigger back, and when the little revolver finally barked, it almost leapt from her hands. She looked at me in astonishment. She looked back at her target, and trembled as she began to pull off another round. Bam! A look of genuine concern crossed her face.
"You don't have to keep shooting it," I told her. "We can unload it."
"Good," she replied. All to often when a woman enters a gun store to purchase a gun, they are met with ignorance if not outright condescension. Over and over I have met women who purchased a snubnose revolver as their first handgun. The only reason I can fathom for this is a salesman wanting to make a sale, and him knowing that the female new to shooting, will go for the smaller gun.
Frieda had fallen into that trap. Unfortunately, the snubnose revolver is one of the most difficult handguns to shoot well. The long, often heavy double action trigger combined with the short sight radius make it a challenge for experienced shooters. For a person in the learning stages, the trigger, sight radius and recoil are a recipe for failure and frustration. A cold range was called, and we went out to put up new targets.
Frieda returned to her father's Ruger. At first, she was still a little shaky, but as she settled down and concentrated on her fundamentals, her shots quickly began hitting the nine ring, then the ten. "I see now why you wanted me to bring this one along," she said as we reloaded magazines.
"Are you having fun yet?" I asked.
"You bet!" she replied enthusiastically. "I don't know why Daddy bought this gun.... He never shot it. Would it work for self defense?"
"Well, for self defense the first rule is to hit your target. You are learning to do that with it. In my opinion, a twenty-two is too small for reliable self defense, but it has been known to do the job. Chances are, you will want to move up to a cartridge with more stopping power in the future, but learn to hit what you want to with this one first."
"Do you think Daddy would be happy his little girl is shooting his gun?" asked Frieda.
"I'm certain his buttons are bursting with pride," I said.
Labels: Neophyte Shooters