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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.

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  1. Great read, thanks for sharing Jessica.

    Shooting with my grandfather is one of the only memories I have of him. And having just given my daughter her first air rifle and getting her on the road to being a shooter, this whole article strikes a chord with me. I’m glad you chose to write and submit it.

  2. “Because it’s the one I’m the best with,” I answered.

    That is ultimately the best response in all the caliber/platform/whatever debates around firearms. The one you shoot the best is the best gun for you.

    8 years old. Damn. I get funny looks from letting my 8 year old daughter shoot my air-soft Glock here in 21st Century Massachusetts, never mind a real firearm.

      • .40 short and weak’s stopping power is nothing next to the centimetre.

        But then, stopping power is a kinda ridiculous measure. Stopping power is a supposed measure of a calibre’s ability to stop a threat, hence the name. But stopping a threat is not as simple as pointing a gun at them and pulling the trigger, a .22LR through the Aorta will stop a threat faster than a .45ACP through the stomach. There are too many factors involved for it to be a reasonable measurement. Where you hit, the constitution of your assailant, how he reacts to being shot (at) all will make a major difference.

        To my mind there are three factors that matter when choosing a calibre and platform: wounding capability, your ability to make effective hits on target, and reliability. If you have all the wounding capability in the world but can’t hit the broad side of a barn it does you no good. If you can put a full mag into a single hole in under a second but it doesn’t cause incapacitating injury it does you no good. And none of it will do you any good if it doesn’t go bang when you need it to.

    • //I get funny looks from letting my 8 year old daughter shoot my air-soft Glock here in 21st Century Massachusetts, never mind a real firearm.//

      I took my older one to the range for the first time when she was 7. By coincidence, there was a British family at the range, with the dad and the teenage son shooting, and the mom hanging out in the lobby. The dad and the son must have wanted to have their “American experience”. When that mom saw my 7 year-old coming out from the shooting area to the lobby for a break, her eyes just about popped out of their sockets. This was in AZ, not MA, but it was funny all the same.

  3. Stories like this are why the anti-gun people will never win. No matter how much they try, they will never have stories like this from protesting our rights.

  4. What a wonderful story. About a rootin’-tootin’, square-shootin’ family. What a pity that New Jersey no longer exists.

    • I learned to shoot in NJ back in the 1960’s and 70’s. There were lots of ranges and gun stores at that time. There was even hunting! Honest! The land I used to hunt on is now covered by strip malls and condos, and million dollar houses.

  5. Good stuff. The only sad part is that those people you mentioned trying to belittle and chastise you for believing in your rights will never understand that our beliefs and or passion run deep, just like family.
    On the plus side, its why they will never win.

  6. Great story. My grandpa started me shooting when I was 6. We went to the range too only it was the open range of Iowa and Wisconsin. I teach my kids what he taught me. Thanks for bringing back some memories.

  7. Thanks for the memories. I, too, was introduced to shooting, though as an adult, at the old Hoboken range. Old school and dingy, for sure, but what a great spot. I still have the S&W 4516 I purchased there.

  8. Jessica, thank you. Your essay is beautiful. It captures the essence of what it means to be free and independent. Tradition, continuity, self-actualization and forthrightness. No blame, no excuses, just what it takes to see it through and get it done. you and your clan will b just fine.

  9. “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.”

    OH NO! You are obviously a member of the dreaded GUN CULTURE!!!!

    Great post – your statement above really sums it up for me and my family, too.

  10. Thanks for sharing your special story Jessica, I’m sure your grandfather is looking down and very proud of the woman you have become.

  11. I started Shooting in the front yard with Dad, Uncle Jack, and his boys. Later in life we all hunted together. I miss those days. Thanks Jessica. I guess I’m not stupid for trying to be “that Grampa” too.


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