As Nick mentioned on Monday, he and I got the opportunity to meet up with several like-minded, gun-owning, millennials for a little range time with Ronan Farrow over the weekend. Like Nick, I thought it went well. The questions were fairly innocuous, and for the most part he seemed primarily interested in Kirsten Joy Weiss doing trick shots. Which is interesting and fun, but my attention was mostly focused on Ronan and his producer Candace . . .
Ronan’s an interesting guy. Very well-spoken, even when he’s thoroughly out of place, and about as gracious as they come. And while he claimed to have shot trap and skeet in college, two things became quickly apparent during out limited range time. First, he didn’t know anything about rifles or pistols. Second, he wasn’t afraid to ask questions.
As a native Texan, my exposure to people who have never seen, touched, or fired a rifle is extraordinarily limited. I’ve taken dozens of people shooting for the first time, and all of them have at least some experience shooting a gun. Before I met Ronan and Candace, I’d never actually gotten the opportunity to work with someone who knew literally nothing about firearms.
As you might expect, I spent as much time as I could with Ronan covering the the most basic of topics. I showed him various cartridges, explaining what the word caliber means, and, lucky for me, I brought along some clips for my M1 Garand so I could explain the difference between a clip and a magazine. At various points along the way, Ronan asked questions that not only betrayed his lack of knowledge, but also showed a guy genuinely willing to learn.
His producer Candace was even more fun to work with. She had never even held a gun, and it became apparent quickly that she was a touch uncomfortable, but willing to push that aside to help get the content they needed to work with. I’m basing my opinion on several interactions, but the crown jewel had to be our very first meeting.
Shortly after beginning to shake her hand, I asked Candace if she was going to shoot during the day. Her initial reaction said it all when she took a few tiny steps back, nervously started giggling, and said, “Oh, I don’t think so! I’ve never fired a gun before at all!”
I asked if she wanted to, and she replied that she’d be open to it, assuming that it didn’t interfere with filming or interviews. So throughout the course of the day while Ronan interviewed others, I explained the various parts and pieces that were laid out on the tailgate of my truck, and gave a brief overview on grip, stance, trigger control, and sight alignment.
With fifteen minutes left before they had to leave for the airport, she said, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to shoot. We just don’t have time.” To which I replied, “Let’s make some time.”
I snagged a Ruger 22/45 with a threaded barrel, Nick’s .22 can, and an already loaded 10 round magazine. I walked her up to the line, had her remove her hearing protection so she could hear me, and walked her through the same talk on grip, stance, trigger control, and sight alignment. Once she had it down with an unloaded gun, I had her load a magazine, drop the slide, and when ready, flip the safety off.
She gently squeezed the trigger and sent her first round low and left. And then she started laughing. I coached her through the next nine rounds and she was able to put three on a steel target. I showed her how to check to make sure the 22/45 was unloaded and clear, and then we walked back to the tailgate of my truck.
She was still giggling, and she kept telling me how much fun that was. I told her that she could now go back to New York, sip $30 cocktails, and one-up her hipster friends by telling them that she went to Texas and shot a gun. She graciously thanked me, made a promise that she was going to find a gun range and a friend because she wanted to do that again. She then grabbed Ronan and headed off.
Like any coachable moment, both parties learned something. Hopefully, Candace learned some solid fundamentals and got a first hand look at what today’s gun owner looks like. Selfishly, I think I learned a lot more. I’ve been a bit lax in the last year about getting new people out to the range, and this was a good reminder of how much fun it is to ring some steel and hear that giggle. If you’ve taken a new person shooting, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The other, more expensive lesson was that I’m going to have to jump in with both feet on ownership of a dedicated new shooter gun. In my mind, the perfect new shooter pistol is a Ruger 22/45 with a silencer and a red dot sight. With this sort of set-up I can say, “Pull off your hearing protection, put this red dot on that target, and slowly squeeze the trigger like we talked about five minutes ago.”
When dealing with a truly new shooter, getting hits on a reactive target with a quiet gun is second in importance only to safety. Everything else can be worked on, but you have to get the hook in early. You’ll know you succeeded when you hear that steel sing, and see that shooter’s infectious, ear-to-ear grin.