One of the greatest joys in life is when your best friend starts to take interest in something you find so very important. The even greater joy is when they come to you for advice.
A couple of years ago, my friend Allison and I were attending a university in Huntsville, TX. I don’t know what any of you know about Huntsville, but most people you ask respond with “isn’t that the place with all the prisons?”. Yes. Yes it is. Huntsville, TX is where this nation’s criminals get transferred before they’re executed. Sounds like a great place, doesn’t it? The city is literally surrounded by about 9 different prisons. You can imagine how frightening it is to hear when someone escapes (which they do on a yearly basis) or when you hear that someone has been released. Because of this, you learn to trust your instincts and gain the knowledge that if someone appears to be up to no good, it’s usually because they are.
We had a couple of experiences where we were legitimately worried for our safety walking around campus at night or coming home late from work. One incident in particular, we ended up finding a University Police call station to call for help. The man on the other end was laughing and carrying on conversation with his co-workers while we were trying to tell him what was happening. We ended up repeating ourselves several times AND it took them over 20 minutes to get to us. Had we not felt helpless, things would have gone differently. This is why I encourage women, on college campuses or not, to get a gun.
My friend has recently graduated and will be moving to Houston. A place in which she feels she would be much more comfortable living if she was able to carry. She came to me with a few questions and I decided to share them with you:
1. What is the first thing you should do when beginning to consider owning a gun?
- Do your research. Look into classes in your area. I highly recommend NRA’s First Steps Pistol courses. You can even do a women’s only course! This will give you a chance to learn about gun safety, maintenance, and you’ll have someone with you during your first time at the range. These instructors can also help you find what you’re looking for depending on why you want a gun. They will ask you questions and figure out your preferences to help you find what you’re looking for. This can also help address many of the concerns that people have when considering getting a gun. Please don’t ever purchase a gun without knowing how to use it. This could be extremely dangerous to you and those around you. Wait until after you feel physically and emotionally prepared to own a firearm.
2. How many times at a gun range do you think it would take to start to feel comfortable with a gun?
- It really depends on the person. I was into my 3rd time when I really felt comfortable. My 1st time was nice and easy because I had an instructor with me. The 2nd time was really nerve-wrecking. I wasn’t sure what to say to the lady at the counter, I was nervous because there were a lot of other gun owners in the room, and I felt pressure because I wanted to be as good as the other shooters. The third time, I was much more at ease. I knew exactly what to say, went up to my station, loaded everything up and went at it. Some people take a little more time, depending on how comfortable they’ve gotten with their gun on their own time. For example, when I first purchased my gun, I sat at my dining room table and took it apart and put it back together over and over and over again. The first time was REALLY hard because I refused to cheat and look at the manual. I wanted to know exactly what to do. Now I can take it apart and reassemble it with my eyes closed in about 15 seconds. When you get comfortable with the mechanics, you feel comfortable shooting it because you took the power away from the gun. It no longer has control over you. The fear is gone because you no longer go “what happens if I do _______?” going through your head every time you pick it up. You’ll know what happens when you push that button or unlock the safety. You’ll have full control. With people like my mom, she was given the gun already loaded and told to shoot. She doesn’t know what to do with it once it’s empty. So, if your instructor wants to set everything up for you, let them do it the first couple of times and then ask to take over. Have them walk you through the steps.
3. Who should be aware of you owning a gun?
- People you trust and people who will be around the gun. Everyone in the whole world doesn’t need to know you have one. The less people who know, the better. If a criminal knows that you have a gun, they can be prepared. If they don’t, then they’re in for one hell of a surprise. Family members who live in the same household should also know (except if you have someone who you believe it mentally unstable). Family may be intimidated or afraid at first, but once you get comfortable you can help them get comfortable with the idea and then encourage them to take safety courses as well. You can also explain to them what the benefits are of having a gun, why you feel you need one, and answer any questions they have.
4. Guns are expensive and so are bullets. Besides that what are other expenses that come with a gun?
- There are a lot of unnecessary (but fun) accessories you can buy, but the main things you will have to worry about are cleaning supplies, range supplies (eye and ear protection), storage, and ammo. How often you need to purchase cleaning supplies will depend on how often you use your gun. You can purchase this from Wal-Mart, sports and outdoors stores, and sometimes even the range. In your introduction to class, you will be taught what supplies to use and how to use them. As for eye and ear protection, spend the money on quality. The last thing you want to do is damage your hearing or sight. Ranges do have rentals that you can use while you’re there, but they aren’t always the greatest. For storage, purchase something that you can keep out of reach from other people. You will also need it in order to transport the guns. Gun locks and safes are always a great way to go. Remember, the safety on your handgun should never be assumed to work, so have backup.
5. How often should you practice shooting and is there a continuing of education with guns and gun safety?
- I would make it a monthly obligation to practice your shooting. You can never be too prepared. You can also never be too educated. There are plenty of opportunities to continue education and learn more about gun handling. The NRA offers tons of courses. You can look into group classes, clubs or organizations, legal courses, self-defense courses, and when things get too easy for you, try looking into stimulation courses. I have found a few places here in the area that I can go to and play our real scenarios. This would be an excellent way for me to test my response to stressful situations and how I would handle myself. The levels of difficulty increase, so you’ll always have some new way to practice. You can also look into concealed carry courses and/or testing to be an instructor.
Getting a gun is a huge responsibility and like any other thing you’ll take on, practice makes perfect.
What questions do you have about purchasing/owning a gun?
After day one of gun safety in the lecture room, our day 2 was heading out to SharpShooter’s Small Arms Range and learning how to shoot. I arrived a little early and decided to look at a couple of different guns. I was advised not to purchase without testing them out first but decided I would save that for a different day.
My instructor arrived and got me set up with my eye and ear protection. I expected gun shots but nothing prepared me for what I was going to hear once I stood behind the firing line. I was definitely jumpy at first but that wore off once I focused on watching each of the shooters. While my instructor was getting the different guns and bullets ready, I enjoyed watching how each person stood, aimed, and recovered.
I then went back over to my instructor to see what I needed to do. She had 2 different .22’s laid out and told me to hold both to see which one felt better. I had the choice between a Ruger and a Browning. The Ruger felt awkward in my hands so I decided to go with the Browning. She first had me shoot from a Bench Position and then we moved to 2-handed standing and 1-handed standing. Shooting was easy with no recoil and a smooth trigger. However, in the 20 rounds that I shot with this gun I encountered both a misfire and a jam. Not exactly what I would call reliable but I was almost glad that it happened so that I will know what to expect if this ever happens to me again in the future.
Bench Position- Browning .22
2-handed standing- Browning .22
1-handed standing- Browning .22
After a few rounds of shooting with the .22, we then moved to shooting a 9mm Glock 19 3rd Generation. The Glock was a little too big for my hand and I felt as though the slanted frame was preventing me from getting a good grip. One of the reasons that I like the grip and feel of either a Baretta PX4 Storm or a 9mm Sig.
2-handed and 1-handed (circled) standing- 9mm Glock 19 G3
I have to say, I feel I did pretty well. There were a few shots that I missed the black target but all of my shots were on the paper.
So to conclude my past 2 posts, I would really recommend that women take the NRA First Steps Pistol class for women. If you are in the Virginia area, I really encourage you to go through Virginia Gun Safety for any NRA classes. The instructors are really great and are extremely helpful. I am excited for my next practice and will be looking to purchase my first handgun within the next couple of months.