“What did you learn from the Responsible Use video?” the rabbi asked me.

“Not to start a fight,” I replied.

“Make friends with everyone,” he said, smiling. “But have a plan to kill them.”

I needn’t have worried if Sam would take to the rabbi. Even before they met, they shared a common philosophy.

Surprisingly, there was very little banter between them. Granted, the range was an oven. I shuddered at the image of the folding chairs stacked in the corner arranged in the open, directly in the line of fire.

“It’s a gun range,” Sam said. “Deal with it.”

I forgot the Sig. So did Sam. From the moment she held the rabbi’s box-fresh XD-M, the Sig was headed for D&L’s used gun case.

The rabbi helped Sam tighten her groups. I refilled magazines, shot video and retrieved spent snap caps from the casings littering the vinyl floor.

“Most people don’t realize that the gun is rising even before the bullet leaves the barrel,” the rabbi told her. “Control the recoil, control your shot.”

And so she did.

Sam struggled to rack the XD-M. No one had said anything about her refusal to keep a round chambered; though the rabbi was well aware of his new student’s reluctance.

I shot pretty well, intermittently. I’d knock the hell out of the bullseye, then found new ways to make old mistakes: racking before tapping, keeping my finger on the trigger during racking, rushing my shots, anticipating, and so on.

At one point, I tuned into the trigger reset.

“It doesn’t mean a thing,” the rabbi cautioned. “In a gunfight you won’t notice it.”

Sweat stung my eyes. My muscles twitched. But I was making progress. The rabbi directed me to increase my speed. Initially between shots, then rapid doubles.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m shooting the gun,” I said, during an ammo break. “Sometimes I feel like the gun’s in charge.”

“With a new gun, I like to shoot an entire magazine downrange,” the rabbi said. “Bang bang bang bang. Then I know what’s me and what’s the gun. Eventually, we come to an understanding.”

The rabbi decided to skip ahead. I’d already watched him sidle sideways and fire at a target. He moved like a cat-crab, without any wasted energy or motion. I’d watched Sam try to do the same thing; first achieving little more than cardboard castration, then putting one through his neck.

It was my turn.

I fired at the target while sidestepping across the room. I put seven shots right in the middle of the bad guy. A four inch group.

Suddenly, for the first time, I knew I was firing a gun. Not some machine that spat bullets at a paper target. A lethal weapon.

I promised the rabbi I wouldn’t practice the maneuver.

Sam barely woke from her air-conditioned slumber as we drove to the outdoor range.

I was charged with running away from my wife. The second my hand left her shoulder, she had to rack and shoot. I got about twenty-five feet away. She missed the target, which was less than five feet away.

The rabbi peppered her with logic. What if you need a free hand to keep Lola back? What if you need a free hand to fight? What if your arm is injured? What if you forget to rack the slide?

Again and again, he focused her mind on time and space. How close is the door to your computer? How much time would you have if someone kicked in the door? How much space do you need to get off a clean shot? Do you have that time?

“I’ll keep one in the pipe when I get my concealed carry license,” Sam said.

“Why not in the house?”

“I’m afraid one of the kids will get a hold of the gun.”

“Why would they?” the rabbi asked. “There are only two places for your gun. On your hip and in a safe. Can they get to the gun if it’s on your hip?”

“No.”

“Can they get to the gun if it’s in the safe?”

“No.”

“So that’s the problem. You’re worried that you won’t keep your gun under your control.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” Sam said. “I just need some time to think about it.”

“If you don’t keep a round in the chamber then your gun is a useless hunk of junk,” the rabbi concluded. “You might as well not have it.”

On the way back to the city, Sam asked if I wanted the ham she’d stripped off her sandwich. Only it wasn’t ham. It was turkey.

“You know what I meant,” she said. “It’s a lunch meat. Same thing.”

“You can never admit you’re wrong, can you?”

“There’s no wrong,” Sam said. “Just different kinds of right.”

Sam knows the difference between right and wrong. Between good and evil. But when it comes to firearms, she’s more afraid of her own actions than the actions of others. And that’s saying something.

Something the rabbi and I have to respect. Not accept. Respect.

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