Handgun lesson #1 – don’t point the gun at anyone, even if it’s not loaded

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Last week my sister and I went to Beikirch’s to play with … er … look at … the guns. I’ve had my pistol permit for almost two years but just haven’t really been motivated to get my own pistol.

I’m not afraid of guns. I grew up around them, my father being a cop and all. And I’ve shot guns before. But it’s different when it’s your gun, something you need to actually know how to operate and clean and store safely, not just shoot and hand back to its owner when you’re tired of playing with it.

Now that my sister is a handgun instructor, we thought we’d have some fun and go look at guns. It’s a daunting process, even when you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing.  Poor Mark at the gun shop; he was overwhelmed by one woman with too much info and one with absolutely zero (that was me!).

So today I had an hour long lesson with Dave Jenkins from Rochester Personal Defense here in Rochester. We went to the gun club and for an hour he explained how a gun works, what I should be looking for in my own gun, answered my stupid questions, and then let me shoot a couple of his guns.

I learned a lot. I always knew that shooting was more than pulling the trigger; I’ve shot rifles and pistols before. But I forgot how easy it is to pull the trigger and then turn around and say, “Hey! Wow! Did you see that?” while waving the gun around. Oops. Good thing Dave only put one bullet in at a time. (“This isn’t the first time I’ve done this,” he said with a smile.)

When my sister and I were looking at guns last week, I was unable to pull the slide on one. I mean, literally, physically unable to muscle the thing back while holding the gun. Today I learned that I also need to be able to push the safety thingy up at the same time. The thumb on my right hand doesn’t want to cooperate; there was another gun I simply couldn’t work because I couldn’t push up with my thumb and then slide the … slide thing. (I’ll learn the actual terms when I take another class, I promise.) My thumb still hurts.

Dave explained that that just helps us eliminate some guns. Other things to consider are purpose (will I carry it for protection? go target shooting? both?), the grip, how it feels in my hand, and can I operate it. Clearly, some I can’t.

I got to shoot the Glock 19 and managed to get most of the bullets in one area of the paper without hurting myself, Dave, or the guy shooting next to us. I also shot a Smith and Wesson revolver.

I’d forgotten what a powerful experience it is to actually shoot a gun. It’s not like on TV; the gun BOOMS and kicks back and sends a bullet at a gazillion miles an hour into a target. I think every elementary school kid should shoot a gun if only to show them that guns are not toys and that what they see on TV is nothing like reality. Shooting a gun – even holding a gun – is not a game.

At the same time, it was a really cathartic experience. I called it “yo-gun”, because I had to focus and steady myself and breathe and then … WHAM! Yeah, I did that. Boom!

There are a lot of rules, too. Don’t point the gun at someone, even if there aren’t any bullets in it. When the buzzer sounds, get behind the red line. Don’t point the gun at anyone. Don’t point the muzzle in the air. Don’t take your ear protection off or your ears will be ringing for a long time. (If you can’t hear with them on, pretend like you can.) Don’t point the gun at anyone.

Oh, and don’t point the gun at anyone.

It’s a lot to take in and well worth the $35 Dave charges for a consultation like this. (Thanks, Jackie!) Out of the hour, I only spent about 15 minutes shooting, but I was prepared for the experience and felt much more comfortable handling the gun. Dave explained how the gun should fit in my hand and how it actually fires a bullet. Plus, I got to try a couple of guns to see what felt good in my hand. Next time, Dave said I can shoot more and try some other guns. Since buying a gun is such a big investment, this is a great way to ease myself into shooting without making a huge investment in a gun I can’t shoot or won’t carry.

You can learn more about guns, especially programs for women (one of their main focuses), at Rochester Personal Defense’s website, www.safeinrochester.com.

And with this little outing, I think I can close out my Year of Adventure!

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