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By H.L. Harris

Part two of my journey into gun ownership (see: A Newbie’s Tale from Texas) brought me to South Austin. When RF told me to meet the TTAG team at a gun range, I imagined something like a bowling ally minus the disco ball and the smell of stale feet. The Range at Austin — still under construction — is the Taj Mahal of gun ranges.

The facility boasts fifty thousand square feet of sales, range and classroom space. Not to mention the second floor VIP range, complete with walk-in humidor, machine gun rentals and the latest Action Target system. Yup, everything really is bigger in Texas.

After schmoozing for the camera, it was time to get to work. Before I could touch any firearms Nick taught me the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Never point the gun at anything I don’t mean to destroy (ex-husbands included); keep my finger off the trigger until I’m ready to fire; treat all guns as if they’re like small town Texans on a Saturday night (i.e., loaded) and know what the heck I’m shooting at and what’s behind it.

Donning the appropriate gear — hat, safety glasses and ear protection– I got the distinct feeling I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. As we entered the otherwise empty range, I thought I was about to get to grips with some handguns. Nope. Nick proudly proffered a Brethren Armament MP5 with a B&T stock and an ACC Ti Rant 9 silencer. Like most of the gun-lingo the TTAG guys used, it sounded like Nick ate the alphabet and threw it back up.

There was nothing nauseating about the MP5. She was a beauty: completely matte black and lightweight– featherweight, even. Nick told me he liked to start newbies on rifles, to ease them into the whole recoil, noise and OMG it shoots a bullet thing. I had a little long gun experience for comparison. The B&T was the easiest and softest shooting rifle I’ve ever fired.

Nick’s fiancé loves to shoot the B&T because of its gentle recoil, stopping power and relatively quiet sonic signature. The rifle fit perfectly into my shoulder. When I looked down the sights to line-up the three white dots, I felt a rush of excitement zing through my fingers. After firing off three or four rounds, I didn’t want to give Nick his gun back. I wanted it tucked in next to my bed for home defense. What’s a tax stamp?

Dan stepped forward and handed me a brand new 9mm Remington RP9. Thank you Dan. Nick showed how to handle the gun properly, encouraging me not to hold it like a snake. Once I had my hands positioned correctly, it was time to work on my stance. Lean forward, weight on the balls of my feet, knees and elbows slightly bent.

It took forever to muster the courage to pull the Remington’s trigger, I admit I had trouble not squeezing my eyes shut when I finally took the shot. OK, I probably shut my eyes. The gun’s power took me by surprise. The recoil was, in my opinion, impressive (a positive way of saying scary). My hand jerked back so far that the gun was almost pointing at the ceiling. “Whooooa!!!” is all I could say. The three TTAG fellas nodded their heads at my shock and awe. Nick showed me how to steady my hands to reduce the recoil of the next shot.

After popping off a few rounds of 9mm, Robert pulled out his “big gun”:  a .45 caliber Cabot Guns S103 1911. A giant name for a giant gun. [ED: RF’s Cabot is Commander-sized.] The bullets seemed as big as Coke bottles. My arm tired as I held it up to aim. The boom and recoil went straight through my body. I put the gun down and declared I’d had enough shooting for the day.

Robert and the guys encouraged me to give it another go, reminding me that as long as I follow the rules of gun safety, I would always be OK. I fired off two or three more shots and felt invigorated. There was no doubt in my mind that the Cabot would heavily discourage an assailant. I wouldn’t want to own anything quite so powerful. Yet.

I came away from my second exposure to self-defense firearms feeling better educated — and slightly more badass. RF offered to lend me a gun ’til our next session, but I don’t feel comfortable enough. We shall see what the TTAG team has in store for me next . . .

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  1. Why is the hat required gear?

    I had a .45 case find the gap between my hat and glasses once. Gave me a nice cut, bruise, and burn all in one tidy little package. But without the hat it would have had somewhere to go, leaving me with only the cut and bruise.

    I’m just wondering if there’s a reason the hat is considered required.

    Oh, and welcome!

    • I think if you have long hair the casing would have a nice place to nest.
      I don’t wear a hat personally since the hair thing has not been an issue for some time.

    • The hat helps deflect hot shell casings from going down one’s shirt. That is a distraction that could cause someone to accidentally be shot.

    • When teaching new female shooters, suggesting a hat with a brim is more fun than suggesting a shirt that doesn’t reveal any cleavage.

    • I once shot without a hat, and had a .45 +P case land in the gap between my glasses and right temple. At first I just felt a quick sting, like it had bounced against my head. Then the heat kicked in. I pushed my left hand (my strong hand) straight out, while I brought my right up to rip the pain away from my face. The case landed on the floor, and when I picked it up, I saw about a quarter of the case was covered in burned skin. That’s part of why I always wear a hat.

      • I’ve had a similar experience. My brother’s 1911 likes to lob cases in a way that they will land on the shooter’s head semi-frequently. One of them slipped behind my glasses and got stuck just below and to the left of my left eye. It stung a little and left a tiny burn mark on my cheek that took a couple of weeks to fade away.

        I still don’t wear a hat. I just don’t borrow that 1911 anymore.

    • Just (please) don’t try to rationalize how an enjoyment of guns still allows you to be a Hillary Clinton/Progressive. It doesn’t. One or the other will inevitably end up being dishonest. But, then, that’s why Marx invented the idea of false consciousness.

  2. Excellent! Glad to hear your second experience was much more encouraging and pleasant.

    As to your tax stamp question (if it really was a question), they are government required $200 stamps that require a background check and ATF approval. They are required for Title II firearms as designated in the 1934 National Firearms Act. These include machine guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles and shotguns.

    • Which means, if that MP5 had a barrel shorter than 16 inches plus a suppressor, then whomever purchased the gun needed to pay for $400 worth of Federal Government permission and wait several months for ATF approval before taking possession.

      • Or take a gamble on the Hearing Protection Act passing quickly, and pin the suppressor to reach 16″.

        I’m hoping that if the HPA passes, Sig will release that MPX barrel with the muzzle brake that acts as baffling when you thread a can on it. I’d love one that’s 16″.

  3. Haha I like that third paragraph. Also, that is one mighty fancy range, never seen anything like that before.

  4. “There was nothing nauseating about the MP5. She was a beauty: completely matte black and lightweight– featherweight, even”

    Featherweight? MP5s are known for a lot of things, but being featherweight is not one of them. .22 cal?

  5. I suggest you shoot a CZ 75 or 75 compact in 9mm. I was surprised at how their internal slide structure or something reduced the recoil. I also have a P-226 in 9mm, a heavier weapon than the CZ, yet the recoil of the CZ is less, it is easier to get back on target.

    Perhaps TTAG needs to invite me and the GF to your next shoot. Sheri’s favorite pistol is an RIA Compact in .45. The full size 1911 feels front end heavy to her, but the Compact (or officers model if you prefer) was love at first magazine.

    Another possibility, if you can find one, is a Sig P-230 or 232, the most ergonomic pistol I own, although for smaller hands the P-238 is pretty sweet. You can shoot mine, if TTAG is gutsy enough to invite me to Austin.

    • The Beretta PX4 storm would be another good gun to try, it has a unique rotating barrel that helps with recoil.

    • Yes, 1911 .45s are kind of heavy, but that heavy absorbs a lot of recoil. The first .45 I shot was a wlell broken in full size (5″ barrel) and it was sooo sweet I just had to buy one. Of the .45s, they are the easiest to shoot–the shorter the barrel, the more the muzzle wants to climb to the sky. My daughter got a FNX .45 for Christmas last year, and loves it, though she says it does take a proper grip to keep it from having stoppages. I started both of my kids on a .22 bolt action rifle, as it teaches sight control and trigger control, since you have to recock it every time. The 9mm came later.

      I’d bet one (or more) of those guys has an AR rifle. The .223/5.56 is a pussycat compared to any of the pistols you shot.

  6. Really, even in an article jokes are probably inappropriate for the safety rules. Especially from a new shooter who likely hasn’t truly memorized them.

  7. The first time I shot a handgun I closed my eyes and the first time I shot a rifle. You just have to get used to the bang and then you’ll keep your eye(s) open.

  8. Well done, Grasshopper.

    Keep an open mind when dealing with our diverse community and open ears to the rules of safe, responsible gun use and soon you’ll be able to snatch the pebble from my hand.

  9. Ms. Harris,

    You have chosen good teachers. After a few more trips to the range, you will look forward to regular sessions of ballistic therapy. You will also discover that shooting outdoors is way more fun, and shooting steel targets can be addicting.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

  10. i dont think you should be exposing new shooters to suppressors. that would be like taking someone to a car dealership for the first time and you take them to a Lambo dealer. you are setting the bar a little too high and giving them unreal expectations of what to expect and what they should be looking for.

    start simple. pistols. and work up to rifles.

    • Gargoil,

      I believe it is much safer to start a new shooter with a rifle.

      I have personally witnessed a new shooter, with handgun in hand, finish two shots and then turn to share his enthusiasm with everyone. Of course his hand with the handgun followed his body and he was about sweep multiple people with the muzzle of that handgun … while three of us simultaneous jumped over to stop that from happening. Sweeping people with a rifle is more difficult, especially if you are at an indoor range with dividers.

      Another plus to starting new shooters with a rifle: new shooters find it much easier to hit a paper target with a rifle than a handgun. Being able to hit paper targets right away encourages the new shooter. Once they have the basics and confidence to hit a paper target with a rifle, then you can transition them to a handgun.

      Finally, using a suppressor initially is a great idea for two reasons: suppressors seriously reduce both blast and recoil. In other words starting with a suppressor accomplishes the same goals as starting someone with a smaller caliber. Both generate a positive experience which is really important to encourage the new shooter. Once they realize that shooting is fun, you can ease them into larger calibers and remove the suppressor.

  11. It’s great that you’re taking further steps.
    Many firearm owners and enthusiasts want to help.
    Good luck on your journey.

  12. As a multiple-time ex-husband, I appreciate you not pointing a gun at an ex-husband.

    BTW, none my exes live in Texas.

  13. A suppressed MP5…they definitely started you off on the high end. I can’t think of a better type of gun to get a newbie used to the idea of shooting — unless it’s a lever-action .22. Light, low recoil, low noise, and easy to operate, that’s the way to go. And there’s just something special about a levergun. TTAG folks, you need to bring one of your Henry rifles to the next range session.

    Welcome to the People of the Gun. Take your time getting settled and stay as long as you like. And have fun with it. All that serious stuff is both necessary and good, but the fun is what keeps us all coming back.

    • I agree on the fun part. I am pleasantly surprised with this article. Much better stuff than Tipton’s child pictures and transgender bathroom nonsense.

      Older single male pro-tip Ms. Harris: the ex-husband barbs are a clue to future single love interests that you may still be a tad bitter. Take it for what it’s worth…?

  14. Knowing you have limited experience, what are some of the suggestions the TTAG crew have given you for a first gun? I enjoyed the article.

  15. You lost me at Taj Mahal of gun ranges. I don’t like Gucci gun ranges or those that look more like an Apple store. Now, neither do I care for those ranges that feel like you’re trespassing and shooting in an abandoned building, either.

    I like my ranges with a little bit of grittiness to them, like some stuff may have gone down here back in the day, and who knows, may again someday, but just not today. In fact, my favorite range in Houston actually is an old converted bowling alley.

  16. I also welcome you to shooting
    My wife and I enjoy indoor target shooting and outdoor “plinking ”
    She likes .380 caliber pistols for low recoil and reduced sound
    I recommend both the Sig 238 and the Walther PK 380 as they both have very easy to rack slides
    Many women have trouble racking the slides of semi auto pistols and these have the easiest slides
    I taught each of my kids to shoot by starting with the the M 1 carbine
    That is a very soft shooting gun

  17. That was a GREAT article. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    TTAG treated you right. However, I think that some first-time shooters might be irreversibly frightened by the power of a big .45 on their first trip to the range. I wonder how many have just given up (as you considered) after having been handed “too-big of a gun?”

    I would have played it just a little smoother. I would have let you enjoy shooting the 9mm until you asked if there was anything more powerful that you could try.

    I can’t wait for Part 3!

  18. Congratulations. You’ve learned that safe shooting can be a lot of fun! Please share with your friends.

  19. I’m glad you stuck with it and didn’t just throw in the towel after your horrendous introduction to the wonderful world of shooting. So many d*ckheads you have to sort through before you find some real gems. There

    I bought my wife a compact 9mm that turned out to have such a horrible trigger and lots of recoil that she prefers shooting my full size Springfield XD in .45 ACP. And yes, she can rack the slide by herself too, lol. You may discover as my wife did that in some cases, a heavier firearm will produce less felt recoil since the mass of the gun itself cancels out the effect of the bullet being discharged, and why she doesn’t mind the .45 anymore. Hope that makes sense and good luck in your future shooting endeavors and have fun! 🙂

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