P320 Entry: Hoplophobic No More


By Meghan N.

My entire childhood was filled with four irrational fears: bees, spontaneous house fires, drowning, and guns. Bees (and, honestly, any stinging insect) is easily explained as I stepped in a well-concealed underground nest when I was seven. Buh. No thank you. I still get the creeps from anything with a stinger.  Harboring a heart-hammering apprehension of spur-of-the-moment house fires probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up in the mountains of Northern California, where “smoke” and “ash” is synonymous with “summer”. Perhaps. I can’t really explain my fear of spontaneously combusting homes.

Drowning…drowning I can’t rectify. I was a competitive swimmer for twelve years. I’m more comfortable treading water than I am walking on flat ground, where I’m more likely to break my ankle or fall flat on my face (and yes, it’s happened).

Guns, however, I can pinpoint to a fear that was bred and spread by other people.

When I was five I found a stray bullet in my cul-de-sac while playing with friends. Every parent present immediately grew pale and worried and ushered us all inside. At age twelve my whole neighborhood was awakened by the sounds of a semi-automatic blast, quickly followed by four short pops – a man shot down by the police. Teachers regularly told horror stories about guns being left out in places where small children could play with them, and accidentally shoot their siblings: a formidable warning to us youngsters to stay away from guns. Don’t touch them. Don’t look at them. Don’t even think about them. Don’t play video games with them because god forbid they might make a person violent.

But then there were unspeakable terrors like Columbine.

My mother, however much I love her, abhors guns. She swore when I was young that a gun would never find its way into our house and ensured that I would never hold one, let alone shoot it. It’s kind of funny, how “never” became almost like a charm. She should have knocked on wood.

My father, in an interesting twist of events, is fascinated by guns. He respects them. When I grew too old to appreciate Saturday afternoons at the batting cages with Dad, we started sneaking off to the shooting range. You think I’m kidding. I thought he was kidding the first time he suggested it. And it was always followed by, “but don’t mention it to your mother.”

The first time I walked into a shooting range, I felt completely backwards. I was maybe sixteen and super-girly. Perfectly applied makeup to go grocery shopping, for instance, because there was always that risk that the cutie from second period was also out grocery shopping. The scandal.

My cheeks were flushed with embarrassment and I was fixated on the thought that it was so wrong for me to be playing with guns, especially as the only female on the range. But my heart rate was also doing the quickstep in excited anticipation and it took everything in me to slow down and listen to my father as he went through the four rules of gun safety. I was simultaneously so nervous that I was accidentally going to shoot someone, or, more likely, myself, that I was afraid – a trend with guns, sadly – to touch the .22 rifle in front of me.

The first shot I fired scared the ever-loving shit out of me (um, from a .22 — take that in for a moment). The second and the third were better. By the end of the round I’d stopped shaking and had this ludicrous goofy grin on my face. I didn’t want to give the gun back to my Dad for his turn. There was an M-16 on display behind the register when we were leaving for the day. “When do we get to use that?”

While I entered the range with a face scarlet from humiliation and discomposure, I left with the bright glow of love. And while I was by no means a good shot, it was something else entirely to destroy a target. It was also a point of pride to look at boys who’d never picked up a gun and be like “yeaaahhh I shoot guns. I’m a badass.”

And then I went off to college – and when I say I ended up at probably the most liberal school in America, it is, by no means, an overstatement. There was absolutely no gun tolerance. I don’t think I ever once admitted to my peers that I’d ever shot a gun. I only ever met one other person who knew anything about them. People on campus nurtured an intense and unfounded anxiety about guns that I never understood, and so I kept my “I love guns!” secret to myself.

The summer after my freshman year, Dad took me to the range – I’d been so unbelievably deprived – and I was sporting one of my college tees without really thinking about it. No one from my hometown really knew where I went to school, so it came as a complete shock when an older gentleman at the range recognized the name. He glanced over, did a double take and approached us as we loaded our mags in our lane.

“You went to Oberlin?”

Totally nonplussed, I gaped stupidly at him for a moment before responding. “Y-yeah…. I go there now, actually.”

“And you’re holding a gun?”

My dad laughed, as did the man. I was still so stunned that it took a moment for me to chime in.

“Ha! Yeah, yeah I guess so.”

“Well then. Want to shoot my Desert Eagle?”

“You’re joking.” No freakin’ way.

“Only if you are,” he laughed again.

“I’m game.”

At that precise moment, the mental image that flashed wildly across my brain was of cowboys facing off in the middle of a dusty and empty street at high noon while the theme song from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” played wistfully in the background. I equated a Desert Eagle with a Real MotherFucker.

Of course I wanted to be like one of those dumbasses who pretends they’re cowboys and wields Desert Eagles one handed, but the man flashed me one expert glance and wiped all gleeful idiocy out of my mind. He showed me how to hold it so that it wouldn’t smack me in the face once it fired.

“Okay. You’re ready.” Uhh… I started shaking again. This was a Big-Ass Gun. Like, whoa. I hesitated.

“Meghan, you know how to pull the trigger, right?” My dad, always full of jokes. Me, always the punch line.

I took a deep breath, and released slowly as I aimed and pulled. And, as always, I was completely unprepared. I nearly dropped it. This was no .22. Or 9mm, which was (is) my flavor of choice.

“Damn. Daaaamn. Wow. Wow, thank you so much. Okay. Wow.” I put the gun down and tried to walk away from the lane, the fear of the Big-Ass Gun and the Real MotherFucker standing next to me, who had been overcome with laughter at my reaction.

“Where do you think you’re going? You have six more bullets in there!” Goddamned .44 Magnum. I looked sidelong at my dad, who just started laughing and gestured back at the gun that had scared me witless.



“Nothing. I mean, really? Are you sure?”

“Sweetheart, it’s all yours.”

And that’s how I overcame my fear of guns. Nothing like facing the biggest and baddest of them all. Of course I ran away like a little girl when I was done and my face was pinker than a sunburn in the hot sun, but it doesn’t matter. Point is, I’ll pretend I’m Tomb Raider behind my lane and celebrate my appreciation, respect, and enjoyment of having serious firepower in my hands any day.


  1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

    So, now that you’re older, did your mom ever find out? If so, was dad in the dog house? Where you?

    1. avatar Kagans says:

      Yes, so many questions left unanswered!

  2. avatar emfourty gasmask says:

    Haha, reminds me of the first time I shot a gun when I was 8. I had an M44 Mosin placed in my hands and a body behind me to catch me.. Boy did he ever have to catch me after I let one of those 54r’s fly downrange. I was all grins, however, and wanted to do it again. Fondest memory of my childhood.

    1. avatar Tom says:

      First handgun I ever fired was a Ruger Redhawk in 44 Mag. Not exactly the best way to be introduced to shooting. My son`s first rifle he shot was a Mosin Nagant at age 7 Didnt want to bother starting out with a 22. He could not get enough shooting the Mosin and ended up buying one when he turned 18

  3. avatar Cknarf says:

    Neat. The pawn shop down the road has a pimp-tacular chrome Desert Eagle in .50 AE. Definitely on my ‘If I win the lottery” list.

    1. avatar John Butler says:

      I have a plain black MkXIX Desert Eagle in .44 Magnum. The MkXIX is easily switched in seconds between .44 Magnum and .50AE by swapping the barrel and mag out. I got a .50 barrel in 2012 and last December picked up the .357 barrel and bolt. Hot .357 feels about like 9mm from a large frame handgun in the DE. I’ve let a few novice shooters at the range shoot it and they are reluctant to give it back.

      Granted, it’s a boat anchor of a hand cannon, but in .357 it’s actually something you can hand a new shooter that they will enjoy and won’t scare them off from guns for life.

      Plus, they get to brag that they’ve shot a Desert Eagle.

      1. avatar Gareth A says:

        “Plus, they get to brag that they’ve shot a Desert Eagle.”

        If I’m honest, this is why I rented a .44 model in Vegas. Same with the 1911 too though.

        This is going to sound strange, but I thought the .44 Eagle kicked less than the 1911. Is it because of the DE’s weight, or can I just not shoot a 1911 for toffee?

        1. avatar Jason Lynch says:

          I think it’s the weight. I used to shoot .45ACP (S&W 4506, then a Glock 21) and the Desert Eagle .44 I borrowed, didn’t kick any harder than they did; a fair handful of recoil, but it was more of a steady shove backwards. Great fun, though, even if I couldn’t think of any serious applications other than entertainment and looking cool…

          What I did notice was muzzle blast: even through the cans it was loud, and my wife swears it was blowing her hair back where she was standing near me.

          (Yes, some of us in the UK used to shoot pistols and liked doing it… we did exist)

  4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    For the new shooter who wants to take on a major caliber handgun and doesn’t yet know how to control recoil, the DE’s are a surprisingly good start. Their mass and grip angle assist the new shooter in controlling the gun.

    Worst introductions I’ve seen to major rounds is in short .44 Mag revolvers and very light .357’s. I’ve seen more than one very light .357 “magnum CCW gun” dropped because the shooter’s hand hurt so badly from the recoil impulse that dropping it was pretty much involuntary.

    1. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

      And if you have any concern that the recoil will be too much for you don’t be ashamed to load a single round for the very first go.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      Have you shot any of the heavier (say 48+ ounces) .44 Magnum revolvers — especially with ported barrels? I was pleasantly surprised when I shot one. I had heard all manner of horror stories which did NOT match up with my experience.

      I would characterize the .44 Magnum recoil as stout of course, but not unpleasant. Of course you will get a fair amount of muzzle flip which means fast follow-up shots will not happen. But then again, it is .44 Magnum and you wouldn’t need a follow-up shot … unless you missed your attacker. (The fact that you are deaf after promptly stopping your attacker is a whole other can of worms.)

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Yes, and they’re more pleasant. Something like a 629 DX is pretty easy handling, all things considered.

  5. avatar jay1987 says:

    lol well at least you didn’t hit yourself in the forehead with it or give yourself a fat lip like I have with a couple different guns.

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Introduction to shooting sports by ambush, a sure way to dampen or extinguish the interest of potential shooting sports enthusiasts…all for the sake of a laugh and power/control by the prankster.

      1. avatar jay1987 says:

        I brought it on myself, kept askin to shoot that big 44 mag and the 308. I was 8 & only weighed about 80lbs soakin wet. My granddaddy finally figured I’d never learn to stop asking if he kept tellin me no so he let me fire one round outta each. the 44 hit my forehead and the 308 gave me a fat lip. Now, I’m a gunsmith, a veteran, & working on opening my own shop.

  6. avatar Gunr says:

    Way to go Meghan! So, did you ever get to shoot the M-16?

  7. avatar Dontbestupid says:

    Great story (would have been better without the profanity).

    Now that you’re one of the Armed Intelligentsia, ask somebody about the difference between a bullet and a cartridge.

    1. avatar John in AK says:

      Well. Gee Whillickers! Pray, do not suffer from palpitations! Take a couple deep breaths through a lilac-scented monogrammed handkerchief, indulge in some chilled sarsaparilla, and go lie down in a darkened room for the rest of the afternoon until you’re no longer prone to swooning.

      Please note, in your zealous striving for technological correctness, that the author was quoting someone ELSE in the sentence using the word ‘bullets.’

      Personally, I thought that the damn’ story was freakin’ delightful.

    2. avatar TheBear says:

      I enjoyed this article, all of it.

      Guess what? This is how people under 40 talk now.

      “Fuck” isn’t even really considered a curse word in most younger circles anymore.

      1. avatar Will says:

        And REGULATED no longer carries the same meaning as it did when it was used in the 2nd. (The Antis are glad to use the newer definition and ignore the definition of the time period it was used.) What’s your point? The N-word is tossed about within the black community without thought to it being derogatory, but soon as a “cracker” says it, oh boy… all hell breaks loose and they’re a racist about to face a mob killing. Doesn’t make it right.

  8. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Great story!

  9. avatar Jake says:

    Everybody else is all “Good job!” And I’m just sitting here like “Are you single? I can’t find a girl who doesn’t hate guns.”

    1. avatar Charles5 says:

      You must live up North.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        More probably, ‘Northeast.’ In the NORTH, excepting Canada, a goodly percentage of females LIKE guns and those who own them, so long as the males are no more O or F than can be tolerated in a G, whether W or not.

        1. avatar CA.Ben says:

          I’m 20 and have no clue what you are trying to say here.

        2. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

          Ha ha………..
          I see what you did there
          slick move on the newbies……..

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      You’re hanging out in the wrong crowds then…

      Or you live in the NE, same difference.

  10. avatar MikeC says:

    Great story! It reminds me of a trip to the range right after Christmas. I was next to a guy and his 8-9 yr old son. The kid had a brand new single-shot Rossi .22/20-gage rifle, and he was happy as a clam loading one .22 round at a time. I was zeroing an Aimpoint on an AR. I took Dad aside and asked him if I could offer to let his son shoot mine. When I asked the kid, man, did his eyes light up! He absolutely loved it, and Dad recorded video on his phone. I love to imagine the kid beaming and Mom having a coronary as the video was passed around to friends and family!

  11. avatar DG Dillman says:

    Good story, Meghan. Im planning to take my step-daughter to the range for her first time pretty soon. I hope she’ll enjoy it as much as you clearly did!

  12. avatar EagleScout87 says:

    yeesh, glad you had a great time.

    Reminds me of the exact opposite of a first time shooter and a large caliber…


    1. avatar James Miller says:

      WTF? Who in their right mind would give a novice shooter a S&W .500 to shoot? Let alone one with multiple cartridges loaded. Hell I’m no small person (6′ 5″) and I’m intimidated with the thought of shooting one of those cannons.

      Well at least she went quick. Can’t imagine there was much of a head left after that.

    2. avatar doesky2 says:

      Uh yeah…I kinda thought it was generally agreed upon by responsible owners not to hand a relative newbie a hand canon with multiple rounds for their inaugural use.

  13. avatar dwb says:

    awesome story.

  14. avatar HeySpanky says:

    Is it wrong that I find this attractive in a woman?

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      It would be wrong if you didn’t!

      1. avatar James Miller says:

        …yet perfectly acceptable. 😉

  15. avatar CBI says:

    If you’re still at Oberlin (BTW, I guessed it from your description before you named it), you might consider “coming out”, starting with your friends. There have been a number of “howtos” on TTAG that might help.
    Hope it all goes well.

    1. avatar Kagans says:

      I agree, she may be surprised how many of her friends and fellow students love guns or want to shoot guns.

  16. avatar JeffR says:

    That was a wonderful story. I recently took a Sarah Lawrence grad to the range. I felt like I had performed a small 2nd Amendment miracle. I’m now working on my friend from Carleton College.

  17. avatar StevenB says:

    My wife is from Indonesia. She met me online while I was on my first tour in Iraq.

    In her country the gov’t makes it cost prohibitive for people to get firearms. It’s like $10k a permit – and at the time she was making $400 a MONTH (not bad pay for an Indo woman).

    Anywho – when she got with me (and it IS a long and HILARIOUS story if I laid it all out) she was terrified of guns.

    Short version: she LOVES shooting now. She’s a better pistol shot, in target (not tactical) shooting than I am.

    We even have his and hers AK-47’s and .357’s.

    Thanks for sharing your story Meghan.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      We have had similar experiences. Years ago I joined a dating club that dealt with introductions to Asian women. I met (not personally) a number of ladies from Indonesia, came close to going there, but finally settled on a gal from the Philippines.
      Just one question: How long did it take to get your wife to the US, took 10 months for my wife to get here, after I married here over there. It sometimes takes longer to get your legal wife here, than to get a CCW permit.

      1. avatar Dave says:

        It took me about 8 months to get my wife from the Phil’s (as a fiancée), but about 1 week to get my concealed carry permit, so, yes, I’d say it can easily take longer….

        My wife loves and hates guns; she never fired one before coming here, but almost everyone in the Phils loves .45s. She is so scared of them, because she just doesn’t have confidence in her understanding of them and how to handle them safely. And, yet, she loves them and the idea of being able to protect herself.

        1. avatar Gunr says:

          Have patients with her, and maybe start her out on something a bit less formidable than a 45.
          Also, I should have added in my post was that I also had to go to a US congressman’s office twice, because of crappy issue in my petition papers, then later, after she had been here a while, we had to go to the immigration office to prove we were married and living a “Happy” life together. This, because we had separate, rather than joint bank accounts!

  18. avatar Great Scot says:

    Great story, love the Deagle. Very innovative design. Certainly on my billionaire’s list.

  19. avatar VF77 says:

    haha that’s a great story, Meghan! 🙂

  20. avatar PeterK says:

    Hands down. Winner, haha. Awesome story. Hopefully this is me and my daughter someday, haha. Though hopefully with less secrecy. I mean I do own the two we compromised on. 🙂

  21. avatar KingzGambit says:

    Great story! I have a hard time believing any college is more liberal than Berkeley though!

  22. avatar B320 says:

    Ha… for quick reads I usually disregard the bylines.. I read this and didn’t realize it was a female writer until, “Perfectly applied makeup to go grocery shopping, for instance, because there was always that risk that the cutie from second period was also out grocery shopping. The scandal.”

    1. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

      Could have been a male Oberlin student who has been freed of stereotypical gender roles imposed by an oppressive patriarchal society…Oh dear i’m having an episode.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Now THAT’S funny!

    2. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      Even after that line, I thought, “I guess guys in school apply makeup now. Maybe it’s a retro-metro thing.”

  23. avatar James Miller says:

    First gun I ever shot was a 12g pump shotgun. What a rush. Wow was my shoulder sore and bruised the next day. Can’t remember the model of the first pistol I shot but I think it was 9mm. Pretty sure I had a Joker-like smile the entire time I shot it at a picture of the T-800 endoskeleton. I was hooked at that point.

  24. avatar GenghisQuan says:

    Great story.

    Sidenote: I think I speak for all of the single (and some of the not-single) readers when I ask: where exactly does one go to meet girls who like guns?

    1. avatar James Miller says:

      Texas 🙂

      We even have a ladies night at our local gun club.

      1. avatar Gunr says:

        I remember vaguely, a story of a watering hole in Kaliforia that had “Ladies night” once a week, and the drinks were cheaper for women.
        Some of the guys got together and raised a stink about it, declaring that it was discrimination against men. In the end, the bar had to change their policy and charge everyone the same.

    2. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Agreed. In Texas, there are no fewer than ten public and private colleges/universities which have school-sanctioned competitive shooting teams or clubs. That’s not even counting all of the youth sporting activities that attract girls and boys, alike. This is a state where fast approaching a third of concealed handgun licenses annually are issued to women. Don’t know if that’s a nationwide record, but it’s respectable by any measure. Texas ladies should be at the top of the list for single men.

    3. avatar TheBear says:

      In my experience, most girls like guns. The ones who don’t just haven’t had the experiences in life to discover this yet.

      By “girls” I mean women young enough and open minded enough to have not embraced a political or social ideology with religious fervor yet.

      It seems like both genders get old in the head and closed minded as hell around 35 or 40.

  25. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with fear. It serves to save your life on a daily basis, after all. However, many manifestations of fear are irrational, in that they are disproportionate to the degree of danger involved. We see this with people and firearms, all the time, at every level of society.

    It’s ignorance that tends to fuel these fears, but emotion that tends to ignite them. That’s especially unfortunate because the brain’s left side (analytical and objective) and right side (emotional and subjective) don’t always work that well together. So it can be difficult for someone to overcome with reason what has already taken firm root in emotion.

    Those who can do so deserve our respect, not because they’re “cold hearted”, but because they’re using more of the fullness of their minds and matching mental resources with real world requirements. Thank you for sharing your story, Meghan, but even greater thanks go to you for stepping up and taking on your fear in a reasoned, determined manner. That has value and implications far beyond college or the range. You’re a great American.

  26. avatar Darth Mikey says:

    Meghan, if you ever get a chance, try the DE in .357. Kicks like a 9mm, just with a massive muzzle blast. My kids like shooting mine in either .357 or even .44. Wakes up everybody on the range, and my teenage daughter got to impress the hell out of the old boys’ club. (She still favors her Beretta 92FS though.)

  27. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Father knows BEST…good story.

  28. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    So, your dad legit had sneak out to shoot guns with you?

    That’s pretty crappy.

  29. avatar T-DOG says:

    20+ years ago I worked at the Evergreen State College which has a reputation of being a little left leaning. During that time I met an exchange student from Great Britain. Got talking with him at work and found out he had only ever shot a blot action .22 one round at a time in a summer camp back in England a couple of years before. One day after work I took him up Capital Forest with a SKS and a bag of apples. At first he stood well behind me as I picked off the apples. After watching me go though a few 30 round magazines he decided to give it a try. He was very nervous at first but quickly got the grin and had a great time. By the end if it he was shooting it from the hip (it had a folding stock) as fast as he could pull the trigger. I knew for him that was one of those days you never forget. I hope to this day he took that experience back to England to help counter the fear his fellow countrymen have to firearms.

  30. avatar dutchroo says:

    I work for a high-powered consulting firm. Everyone knows where I stand on guns and self-protection (hard to hide when I ask for time off for a hunting trip…). My coworkers are typically of the left-leaning variety, so I was pleasantly surprised when one agreed to go to the range with me. We went, shot the Glock for an hour, I had fun, and he had his world expanded.

    Fast forward 10 years, and I recently found out that he’s a regular shooter with a gun club membership and everything! How cool is that?

  31. avatar Meghan N. says:

    Hey everyone! Author here. The comments are just TOO GOOD not to respond!

    Firstly: thank you. This was an awesome reception and has set me up immensely for failure since I fully expect anything else I write to be this appreciated. Love you.

    Secondly: to answer some of those burning questions… Mom found out, thanks to a particularly hilarious incident with a black powder pistol and a speaker. Oops. But she definitely doesn’t know I have a handgun – 9mm Taurus that has literally caused people on the range to stop and go “The hell is that?!” because of its big voice (tee hee) – thanks, Dad!

    I am in the great state of Ohio and yes I am going to obtain my CCW.

    I never shot the M-16 – couldn’t really shoot full-autos at that range – but I DID shoot an M-4 with my brother, which was stellar.

    As for Oberlin, I won’t spark any political debates here but it came up once and it never came up again. I was (am!) proud to have my father-daughter outings at the range; my peers thought I belonged in the looney bin.

    To all the dads (and moms!!) – take your daughters. Soon. Now. Go. It’s a great bonding experience and you’re giving her a life-changing tool for her toolbox.

    I’m trying out all these guns ASAP!!

    And, yes, I’m very much a girl, though I appreciate the Oberlin gender comment

  32. avatar El Mac says:

    Way to sling the word bombs Meghan.

  33. avatar dh34 says:

    You go girl.

    I shoot with my daughter every chance I get. I had the gun safe open the other day and she basically told me which of my guns she wants and which she will cede to her brother.

    One thing I will say, is that while I was in the service, I had a number of young women work for me that had zero weapons experience before joining the service, and even then were in specialties which were not combat arms. We made a lot them machine gunners, manning crew served weapons (M2 AND M60) which required them to become proficient with the M14 and M16 as well. I would put my “all chick crews” as they referred to themselves, up against anyone.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Isn’t it sweet how the kids divvy up your guns before you are even dead? Heck, before you are even old?

    2. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      From just my personal experience, it seems most female Soldiers are better at shooting M240s and M249’s than their M16s or M4s. They are generally, however, better than their male counterparts with crew served weapons.

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