Last week I had the opportunity to take a brand new shooter to the range. It was a surprising, terrifying, frustrating, exhilarating, transformative experience, unlike any other. It also highlighted for me the aspects I like best about shooting and the attitudes I like least in the community.
I am a very “ducks in a row” kind of person. Up until quite recently, I did not feel like I was knowledgeable or competent enough to teach someone else to shoot. Before I stepped into that role, I wanted to make sure that I could adequately explain and demonstrate all of the fundamentals of safe marksmanship, and I just wasn’t sure I was there yet. But then I went through the NRA basic pistol class, which reinforced a lot of the skills and knowledge that I already had. And I also began really committing to going to the range once a week and working on the basics. These things paid off and I finally started to feel like I was in a place where I could share my love of shooting with a beginner.
On the day of the lesson, my lovely friend was enthusiastic and eager to shoot a gun for the first time. She definitely brought her “teachable attitude”. We were also joined by another friend who is curious, but not quite ready to pull the trigger. I got us targets, ammo, eyes and ears and we set up in the lane. As I opened my mouth to start the instruction, I realized the enormity of what I was about to try to explain. My friend had read a few articles about gun safety online, but other than that she was entirely uninitiated. I had thought about what I was going to say, but once we were actually there I was suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of information I felt like she absolutely NEEDED to know, and also empathetic to the anxiety and trepidation she must have been feeling. I didn’t want to bombard her with instruction, but I wanted to make sure she knew enough to be safe and have a little fun. So, we went over the safety rules first, which she had already memorized. (I told you she brought her A game). Then we did grip, stance and trigger pull. She was hitting her target almost instantly (like a boss). Excitement quickly replaced our anxieties. My friend seemed genuinely, pleasantly surprised at what the experience of shooting a gun is actually like. She says that it is both easier and harder than she thought it would be. I feel the same way about teaching her how to shoot. Our other friend, who was observing, says she would like to give it a try the next time we go. They both expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of a monthly Ladies’ Night at the range and an interest in becoming proficient shooters. I couldn’t ask for more. I can only hope that any other teaching experiences I have in the future are with people who are as open-minded and willing to learn as these girls.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all sunshine and gunpowder. As a group of young women alone at the range, we definitely attracted a fair amount of attention. I usually go to the range with my husband, and I am generally left to my own devices. Most of the employees know I am safe and competent. Turns out though, that a group of women shooting alone inspires a lot of Advice Fairy/Fun Shark behavior. This usually entails a dude stepping in to repeat the instruction I have just given, but in a louder voice while puffing up his chest and displaying his biceps. Peacocking, one might say. As a new teacher, I do appreciate help and a more experienced perspective, but I didn’t see anyone stepping in to help the girls who were there with their boyfriends or husbands. There was a noticeable difference between the reactions our little posse garnered versus how I am treated when I am with male friends. It felt as though we, as “unsupervised” ladies, were deemed less competent. On top of all that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the RSO was dying to ask me for my friend’s number. Sigh. I thought that’s what Match.com was for.
Fueled by both my exhilaration at my friend’s success and my irritation at being underestimated, I immediately went home and emailed a friend about getting my NRA Instructor credentials. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and this experience tipped the scales. Lately, I’ve noticed increasing numbers of ladies getting involved in firearms, however I have not seen an increase in female instructors. I think it is time for me to step up and put my money where my mouth is. I want to see a change in certain perceptions and preconceived ideas in the gun community, and this is a chance to be that change. Also, I can blog my behind off about it and that will be fun for all of us.
If you have tips about teaching or getting instructor training, please let me know in the comments. I would be grateful for any feedback.