By PA Deacon
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” When it comes to firearms, training at the range or browsing gun-shows might be the best way to learn. But that may not always be possible. Cost, time constraints, and, most important, knowledge gaps, are real challenges.
I didn’t grow up around firearms and never learned about the proper shooting technique, firearms maintenance, and all important gun-culture.
As an adult, I sought out the people, places, and outlets that gave me the information I was looking for. What’s the difference between .223 and 5.56? Google it. Will I like shooting a single action .45 Colt? Ask a friend who owns one to take a trip to the range. I had, and still have, lots of questions. All I need to do is find the answers.
Sometime around 2009, a couple of friends invited me to the range. I had never been to the range or even held a firearm, but I had enough sense to agree to go with them.
I wasn’t nervous when we arrived at the range. Why should I be? People shoot every day.
When we walked into the waiting area, I heard the muffled echo of shots from the range. I had not expected to hear that. Mostly because I didn’t expect anything. I realized pretty quickly that if I had questions, I should ask. If not, follow the instructor’s lead. They were all relaxed and so was I.
Once we found our lane, my friend took his rifle out of its case. It was big, wood, and looked worn. He told me it was a Garand. He bought it from something called the CMP. He mentioned that we’d also be shooting his Berretta handgun. I knew of that gun. “The Army uses that, right?” I said.
My friend walked me through everything I needed to know before shooting. I settled in and got ready for my first shot from the Garand.
That’s it? I expected a lot more. Of course, at the time I had no appreciation for how the weight of a rifle, the size of the cartridge, and the type and amount of powder would affect something like recoil. My friend explained it all to me. Lesson learned.
The Berretta was just as fun. The three of us took turns. While one of us was on the line the other two would talk about our shot placement and watch others in their lanes. I saw someone practicing their draw from a concealed holster. I could not have known then, but it would only be a few years until I was doing the same.
We capped off the day with dinner where my friend discussed the firearms we shot; the pros and cons of each, the costs, and comparisons. I asked about the Civilian Marksmanship Program and why it started. Hmm. Seems like an important program, I thought.
Within ten years I would have my own firearms collection and a growing understanding of the right to self-defense. And it all started with an invitation to the range and my willingness to learn.
A Quiet Example
Without a firearm of my own, I didn’t go back to the range for a few months. It wasn’t until I met a “gun guy” from work that I considered owning a firearm.
My co-worker moved to D.C. from the Midwest. He already had an impressive firearms collection back home, but due to changing D.C. laws, he wasn’t yet comfortable bringing them East. He was a hunter, so he brought his bolt action as well as his 1911. But it wasn’t his guns that interested me. It was the way he talked about hunting, firearms, and how he researched answers to his questions.
He and I didn’t talk too much about his firearms though. But he set a quiet example. I started thinking about firearms as I would any other tool in my house. Fun, interesting, and sometimes expensive, firearms increasingly took up more of my free time.
My friends didn’t intimidate me with their superior knowledge, or push me to go to the range. But they were open to teaching me.
As this series will detail, my interest in firearms is much bigger than any interest in collecting cool shooters. My understanding and appreciation of firearms has changed over the years. They were once a passive thing – but not my thing. Now firearms represent something more.
I didn’t get here overnight. It has taken almost ten years to appreciate what firearms are, what they are not, and why they should be important to me.