By Jessica C.
In the midst of the never-ending debates, when all of those opposing my right to bear arms accuse me of lacking a soul, I look back with fond memories at how I became an avid shooter. I will never forget my introduction to firearms, nor will I forget the legacy that has been passed down to me by my family. On an overcast afternoon, my mother and I walked into an unassuming range in Hoboken, New Jersey . . .
I was eight years old and the manager of the range, Carl, greeted me with a big smile. He helped me select my “eyes and ears” and then gave me a big round target that I held carefully as I followed my mother through the heavy door that led to the indoor range. After careful instruction, she handed me her Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolver and I carefully squeezed off the first round. When I saw it make contact with my target, my eyes lit up and my love affair with firearms began.
A few years later, my older brother became a police officer and would often take his kid sister out to the range with him. I would eagerly take every opportunity to soak up all the instruction I could get.
When I turned seventeen, I traveled to Missouri to spend the summer with my grandfather. My grandfather grew up in Louisiana, he retired from the Navy as a Master Chief and worked in Special Operations for a good part of his career. When I first arrived, he didn’t quite know what to do with his city-grown, teenaged granddaughter. Then, after seeing me pick up a copy of Guns & Ammo magazine, he realized that we shared a common interest.
It was in that moment when my perception of firearms and my mentality would be forever changed. No longer was shooting a casual activity. My grandfather decided to treat my interest with sincerity and respect. He didn’t coddle me, he didn’t let me make excuses because I was a girl, he just set up his classroom and we got to work.
On the first day, he put me through a formal safety class and on the second day we cleaned every firearm he owned. “You shouldn’t shoot it if you can’t clean it,” he said in his drawl as he helped me field strip his GLOCK 19. Over and over again we drilled this. The next lesson covered his philosophies on firearm selection. He laid out every pistol and long gun he owned, from his 1911, to his .22 rifle, to his shotguns, Berrettas and a host of other firearms in his collection.
“Which one is the most effective?” He asked me.
I squinted as I looked at the table, scanning each firearm with great scrutiny; finally, I walked over to the GLOCK 19, “This one.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Why?”
“Because it’s the one I’m the best with,” I answered.
He smiled and kissed me on my forehead, “I wish your uncle paid this much attention,” he laughed.
We would end each day by cleaning the firearms until they were spotless. This could be a tedious task, but as he explained, “Take care of it like your life depends on it,” which seemed more than logical enough for me.
Later on in life, I moved to Arizona and I married the man who took me to the range on our first date (a well-played maneuver).
I also met my best friend, who is an F16 pilot, and an avid marksman. We have spent many weekends on the range together and we have a slew of memories created through 1,000’s of rounds.
My brother and I still spend hours discussing new firearms to try out, and to my delight, he sends me pictures of my nephew at the range, now carrying on the tradition within our family.
It has been many years since my beloved grandfather passed away, but to this day, when I pick up a firearm I still hear his voice, “Slow down, breathe, pull back slow and steady,” as though he’s standing right beside me with every shot I take.
While firearms are indeed a means of protecting myself and my family, they represent something much more profound than that. They connect me to my family and my friends through distance, generational gaps, and even with those that have passed on. I wholeheartedly intend to pass this tradition down to my children someday, and to continue the legacy that has been entrusted to me.