A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Busting Buttons

"Xavier, I understand you shoot guns a lot...." she said tentatively earlier this week.

"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. Click to enlarge "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. Click to enlargeSeven 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. Click to enlarge"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. Click to enlargeHer 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. Click to enlargeShe 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. Click to enlargeAt 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.



Blogger AKA Angrywhiteman said...

Kudos to both of you. Love happy endings.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Talie said...

Well done, sir! I hope you take this young lady shooting again and keep teaching her well.

Taliesin MacAran E.M.T.
Phoenix, Az.

9:46 PM  
Blogger DouginSalcha said...

"I'm certain his buttons are bursting with pride..."

I think so too. Thank you for helping another person learn to enjoy shooting (and to learn to be a little bit 'less' afraid).

10:08 PM  
Blogger lee n. field said...

Light wadcutters for .38 newbie, to start, maybe?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Allen said...

Good Job!

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Bill N. said...

Just wondering if Freida is a nurse? Many of the nurses I know are anti-gun.

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree a little with your reasoning for women being sold snub-nosed revolvers. In my experience, as a female and having listened to sales clerks talking with other females, men often assume that semiautomatics are too "complicated" for women to operate. "You need a revolver; all you have to do is put the bullets in the little holes here" was told to another lady in my hearing once.

Men also assume that women aren't strong enough to rack the slide of a semiautomatic.

Then, too, men sell guns to women to carry but not to actually shoot. That little lightweight snubbie is just the thing to carry in your purse, little lady! Never mind that it's going to kick like a mule and be painful to shoot (particularly if you're old enough to have a touch or more of arthritis.As you say, it may also be difficult to shoot with accuracy. I also wonder if these men have ever actually tried one of these guns themselves.

Take it from me, there are quite a few men out there who are stuck in the belief that women aren't capable of operating anything but a revolver.

Good for you that you don't even understand their thinking!!!!

2:01 AM  
Blogger PatriotCross said...

This is only the second post I've read on your blog. I must say you are truly a good man, sir. I will bookmark and read it, recommend it often. Thank you!

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you say about the revolver and yet...
1. It is more reliable than the pistol
2. The small pistols can be just as brutal on the hands i.e.(KelTec PF9)
3. With handloading you can tame down most recoil problems until profiency build up

I'm sure glad you started her out with the 22LR.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Nice story, Xavier. Soon, you will have to introduce her to the joys of semi-autos. Might be easier to shoot; a little more complicated, but I think that will just help the safety mindset.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Ruminator said...

Good job, sir. I have a standing offer to take any non-shooter I know shooting. I'll provide the firearms and ammunition. Starting her out with the Ruger is genius.

With regard to the anonymous commenter before me, I know many women have trouble with the slide of semi-automatics. Wife struggled with the slide of her P220. She was deadly accurate with it, but had a helluva time chambering a round. She does much better with the G19 I bought her and is just as accurate with it.

A lot of that has to do with technique. I teach women to use the push-pull technique (use it myself too) -- overhand hold on the slide (turn sideways to put the muzzle downrange), use the pecs to "hug" the pistol so that both arms put pressure on the recoil spring, the right on the frame and the left on the slide. With a little practice, it works every time and even small females can rack the slide quickly every time.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous TJP said...

Personally, I'm sticking to my theory that people who push snubbies on novice shooters haven't actually fired them on a regular basis. It's about money, and a cheap Taurus will likely make a sale for an inexperienced gun buyer.

How was the trigger, X? That looks to be an 85 or 850. Every Taurus 85 I've ever tried had a 6-ton trigger pull that felt like I was dragging a coarse file through a bucket of pumice. One memorable example had a skip right out of the box. Obviously the guy behind the counter didn't feel it was his duty to do a basic test of functionality.

I am not a firm believer in "carry a lot, shoot a little". If my life had to depend on a revolver, I'd put at least a thousand through it the first year, just to eliminate possible surprises--especially a Taurus revolver--but my 442 is still getting the same treatment.

I have a Dan Wesson 12 (medium frame revolver) that was near new when I bought it, and exhibited no issues the first couple of years that I occasionally fired it. Then I put on the 2.5" barrel and "service" grips, and did a bunch of DA work. Lo and behold, a little stress testing revealed a shallow screw and a loose side plate, a weak mainspring, and most recently, a weak bolt spring.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

"How was the trigger, X?"

I'm not going to talk bad about the shootability of the lady's gun. I was able to get five out of five in the red at seven yards. It'll work for self defense. Yes, a S&W is nicer.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Like Lee N. Field, I am wondering about the ammo you used in the Taurus, Xavier. Were you using light 148-grain target wadcutters so as to minimize recoil? Did you explain about different ammunition types and recommend a light-but-effective load such as the 125-grain NyClad from Federal?

11:01 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

We used some WWB 38 special 130 grain target rounds. It was what I had. She had brought along some PMC Starfire JHP. I avoided those.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Well done sir.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Phil K said...

Hi Xav,

Thanks for this article.

I would like to observe, however, that it should not be taken to mean that the 38 snubby is not an appropriate carry weapon for a woman. (I have read you enough to know that it was not your intent to indicate that stance).

My own experience may not be representative, but when my fiance (now wife) decided that she needed to know more about this shooting hobby of mine and told me she wanted to try shooting I started her with a 22 rifle from a bench. Then I transitioned her to a 22 ruger mark I. (This was after introducing her to the four rules of course).

While she was resting between magazines, I was shooting a bit. She was interested in shooting a SW revolver and enjoyed it. She also saw me shooting a 1911 and wanted to try it as well. I was hesitant to let her shoot it, but then reasoned that she had done well with the 38 revolver and gave in.

Try to visualize a 5'1" 96 pound woman with a 1911 in full recoil, looking over her shoulder with obvious joy and saying "I like this gun!" (On the bright side, I now had to replace the 1911 that lost to her on that day).

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Orygunmike said...

A wonderful story....and a nice job modeling proper way to introduce a new shooter to the sport

12:06 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

You are absolutely correct Phil..... I just don't consider a 38 snub to be an easy gun to shoot well, much less learn marksmanship with. It's a gun that takes some dedication and rounds down range for an experienced marksman to shoot quickly and well.

I suspect Frieda will eventually end up shooting a 1911..... and loving it.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Ride Fast said...

[...] Frieda the new shooter [..]

Neat, good job.

2:56 PM  
Blogger DMP said...

I have an Airweight and shooting lighter bullets like 110's or 125's makes a world of difference. Shooting 158's is pretty rough, even as target loads. When I got it for my wife we took an assortment of ammo to see what was manageable.

I like my 3" M629... DMP

2:59 PM  
Blogger drjim said...

Most excellent job, Xavier!
Thanks for being so patient with a new shooter. You've provided her with a basic Skill Set she can only improve upon.

5:41 PM  
Blogger B Smith said...

I introduced a new shooter this weekend, too! She's now trying to relieve me of my S&W Highway Patrolman (never gonna happen).

Happy Dances, all around!!!

3:42 PM  
Blogger VinceInAZ said...

Everybody wants to talk guns! :) Well, I love a good trigger-tech discussion as much as anyone, I guess, but it was Bill N.'s comment about how many of the nurses he knew are anti-gun that caught my eye. My wife is a nurse. I asked her if she was afraid of other people having guns, or if her colleagues were. She isn't (I already kinda knew that), but her colleagues "tend to vote Democrat". I.e., love gun control.

It's sad that people who work in a profession were they see the results of homicidal attacks aren't sympathetic to those who would prefer to prevent themselves or their families from becoming a "GSW" victim. How can someone who has gone through years of tough training, school, and experience, still think that tough enough laws will eventually disarm all the bad people? My faith in nurses has taken a hit today.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I really enjoy your comments on shooting and gun news, especially on the SW's.

what is your experiemce with the Taurus Tracker ? I have a tracker in the .22mag. that shoots better than I can. however, I'm really hooked on a K-22 model 17-3 in the local gunshop at $450 and trying to justify the purchase. I know it is only money. Help!
My common sense tells me that I already have a good target gun. Is there any comparision with the 2 as practice guns? I also shoot a Model 28 SW. $450 buys a lot of 38's.

The tracker looks much like the newer model SW 617.


Roger E.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Roger, I have no real experience with the Tracker. If it shoots accurately for you, that is good enough. My preference has simply always been S&W for revolvers. I'mjust not a Taurus guy.

I don't know if I would buy considering you already have an accurate 22 revolver. Maybe a trade and a bit of cash if you really want the Smith.......

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the prompt reply. I gave in and decided to buy the SW at $450.

Keep the blog going and have a hppy holiday.

roger e

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bought a SW K-22 model 17-3 shoots great but the fired casings stick so tightly I have to punch them out of the cylider. Ejection rod will not function they are so tight. Very fustrating at the range. Not what I expected from this gun.
At the initial inspection there are no blemishes in the cylib=der tubes.

Any suggestions? Is this a serious problem , enough to return it and ask fo my $$$ back?
Never had this problem in my other Double actions, SW and Taurus.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I'd advise having a gunsmith look at it. Good possibility the chambers are oversized and/or uneven from a poorly done polishing job.

Before you make a decision, you need to know what is wrong with it.

7:08 AM  

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