How I Overcame My Fear of Guns…Thanks to a Desert Eagle

Woman pointing a gun. Girl shooting at someone on the street.

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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. It was 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 would also be 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 shoot 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 a lot of fun 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. 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 there at all. 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.

“Shit.”

“Sorry?”

“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 at the beach, 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.

 

[This post was originally published in 2014.]

comments

  1. avatar Ed Champion says:

    Beautiful story. Thank you.

  2. avatar MyName says:

    “my whole neighborhood was awakened by the sounds of a semi-automatic blast”

    What is a “semi-automatic blast”?

    “followed by four short pops”

    Were these semi-automatic or other?

    Also, I seriously doubt it was an M-16.

    1. avatar Mercury says:

      Some ranges have real M-16 rifles (and/or M-4 carbines) for rent, as well as other select fire AR-15 pattern rifles and fully automatics. This is relatively rare as the cost of transferables is too high to make money renting them, so this is nearly always limited to class 3 SOTs with ranges on site. It’s not all that unusual though.

      The rest of the nomenclature gaffes, however, are inexplicable.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        What do you mean inexplicable? She never said she was anything like a gun guru or even a garden-variety gun nut like you and me. Just someone who was told she wasn’t supposed to like guns, but does anyway.

        1. avatar Mercury says:

          Inexplicable meaning I couldn’t come up with a reason why she might have said it with a deliberate meaning in mind, rather than aiming at purple prose and ending up with gibberish. The gun behind the counter may actually have been an M-16 (or, as both you and MyName pointed out, she may simply not know enough to tell the difference between a standard AR-15 and a machine gun.) There is no possible explanation for “semi-automatic blast” other than as a Mad-Lib of gun words she’s heard but doesn’t understand. The issue in both cases, of course, being that these both smack of the deliberate ignorance written in mainstream media anti-gun propaganda. She may have overcome her fear of guns, but lines like these make me think she still reads what the New York Times and Washington Post put in anti-gun editorials and takes it as gospel — or at least something other than the nonsense it is.

    2. avatar FedUp says:

      I interpreted it as mag dump(s), followed by a few finishers and/or metoos.
      This was the sound of government doing government stuff, so it shouldn’t have upset the author’s mom.

    3. avatar Coffee Addict says:

      Jesus fuck, you’re a real asshole.

      1. avatar Someone says:

        He is right about that semi automatic blast. Maybe she experienced one of those mythical fully-semi-automatics.

        1. avatar Mantitude says:

          I kinda just took it as the sound of a rifle going off, versus four pistols. Just a description of the sound.

  3. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    TTAG management, can you possibly track down the author and ask her for an update?

    Be nice to hear the now Oberlin graduate’s opinion on current gun politics…

    1. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      And, TTAG, tell her those weren’t bees she stepped on. They were hornets/yellow jackets. Big difference. Bees live up high and aren’t crazy like hornets. If you step on ONE yellow jacket the rest will chase you across the yard and into the house. (It happened here.) Yellow jackets get crazier in the late summer/fall. Don’t drink sweet drinks outside. They will fly into your can/bottle.

  4. avatar Oddball says:

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!!
    Don’t let any snarky comments get in your way!

  5. avatar former water walker says:

    Pretty funny. Never feared guns as a kid. Dad took us occasionally to the NRA range near Kankakee,Illinois to shoot his cool 22sixgun & 22 rifle. And I shot a 410(?) shotgun as a boy scout. It wasn’t unusual some 55 years ago. I don’t “think” I had any girlfriend or wives who were anti-gun. Even my crazy ex who is extremely leftard carried a gun(quite illegally😆). Never shot a Deagle-shotguns are painful enough. Luv to shoot my AR15!

  6. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    Best day ever at the range was when my wife – a petite little thing that prefers only .22LR and 9mm – was given the chance by a family member to shoot his new Desert Eagle chambered in the fabled .50 AE. And as some of you may already know, the .50 AE is such a huge handgun cartridge, the empty case will completely hide an entire .45 ACP dropped inside (bullet and all).

    We loaded a single cartridge (for safety) and let her shoot. Same as the author, she was nervous about what this huge gun in her hands might do. But she fired that round, recovered her breath, and smiled. “That wasn’t so bad”.

    We then gave her a full mag and let her destroy all the imaginary bogeymen downrange. One of the pics I took happened to snap at the perfect time, with the slide racking back and ejecting the spent case a few inches from the gun. And my wife’s badass look on her face.

    She’s never wanted to pick up such a big gun again, but that day helped her overcome any fears she secretly harbored. Now she takes her 9mm and is at east loading, racking, shooting, disassembling, and cleaning.

    That’s my girl.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Best day ever at the range was when my wife…”

      Whoa… Hold on a sec… I have a wife?

      *Boggle*

      ‘Cause, according to peegee2, you are really me, and your ex-buddy Guesty as well.

      So, how did we meet? I gots to know! 😉

  7. avatar Jross says:

    “Where do you think you’re going?”

    With a Deagle, anywhere you want.

    1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      ““Where do you think you’re going? You have six more bullets in there!””

      Would love to have seen the look at that moment 🙂

  8. avatar Phil LA says:

    Summary: I was irrationally afraid of something until Dad stepped in and helped me experience it in a safe, patient and comforting manner. Now I’m experienced in something new and have a greater confidence in myself through life.

    Thanks for a great story and a great lesson to dads everywhere.

    1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      ^That. Right there. Absolutely.

  9. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    The honesty is refreshing. It’s also great to hear how important gentle parental guidance affected her. I hope she’s passing that along as well.

  10. avatar Dave in PTC says:

    Meghan, I really loved your story.

  11. avatar Hippi says:

    Ah the only gun I ever sold and I still wish I hadn’t de in 44 mag. It took me a bit to get it to cycle a whole mag but after quite a few springs it finally settled in and was running no problems before I decided I needed to sell it to drum up cash to move to San Pedro. In retrospect a big mistake.

  12. avatar Robert Kling says:

    Size matters.

  13. avatar GS650G says:

    The DE is pretty awesome. It has the giant cavernous hole on top with a cartridge in place when you pull the slide back , way back, and great fireballs. It has less recoil than the super redhawk. A real movie gun.

    I need to get another one.

  14. avatar possum says:

    That was a refreshing article, thank uou

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    She went to Oberlin. I guess the poor girl couldn’t afford college.

  16. avatar Art out West says:

    Nice story. I enjoyed it.
    I think Deagles are kinda silly, but I’ve never shot one. I think .44 mag is potent enough for revolvers, and 10mm is sufficient for pistols. Sadly, I don’t even have either of those. I have to make do with .357 mag in my revolver, and 9mm in my pistols. I’ll have to rectify that someday and get a .44 revolver, and a 10mm pistol. I’ll pass on the Deagles.

    Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to run into one at the range sometime. I won’t buy one, but will love to try yours if you want to share.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Art,

      If you set out to purchase a .44 Mag revolver and want to enjoy shooting it, large and heavy are the way to go. And ported barrels add to the enjoyability factor quite a bit as well.

      With proper technique, even a 115 pound female in average physical condition can enjoy shooting a large revolver with ported barrel and modest .44 Magnum loads.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        I’ve shot a friend’s Redhawk before, and the recoil wasn’t bad at all. If course a Redhawk is a pretty heavy gun. I think that one has a 7.5″ barrel. I’m kinda cheap, so I’d probably buy a used Redhawk or 629, or maybe a new Blackhawk. New Redhawks and 629s are awfully expensive.

        Maybe I’ll find a bargain on a used .41 mag Blackhawk sometime. Frankly, revolver wise, I’m pretty satisfied with my Security Six, 642, and .22s.

        Still, I know I’m not a proper gun guy until I have a .44mag.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Art,

          If you are budget conscious, consider a Taurus model revolver with 6-inch barrel. It is big and heavy without being too big or too heavy.

          Bonus: Taurus revolvers seem to have outstanding triggers. And all of their .44 Magnum revolvers have ported barrels if I am not mistaken.

          Full disclosure: I own two Taurus revolvers and two Ruger revolvers. (And I got to shoot another Taurus revolver.) I love the Taurus revolvers and would buy another in a heartbeat.

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Start with .44special in a revolver and move up to mags.

  17. avatar Gregolas says:

    Great story. I too, would like an update from her to hear how she’s doing and how she handles her personal security today.
    I must say that a .44mag Deagle at twilight is a flamethrowing joy to shoot. It’s also a joy to shoot compared to a .44mag revolver.

  18. avatar PATRON49IFT says:

    Nice, refreshing article about a young woman who overcame her fear of guns foisted upon her by ignorant do-gooders who have no understanding of firearms. I’m glad she is among us now and knows how to safely handle firearms. I did the same thing with my daughter and she now loves to shoot and is a hunter.

    For all you ass-hats who pick apart her story because it is not written to suit you; piss off.

  19. avatar Dave G. says:

    I started my younger daughter off years ago on a Super Redhawk in .44 Magnum. I loaded one round for the first shot and let her have at it. She shot a bullseye! Over the years she’s gone shooting with me on numerous occasions ever since. When she does, we usually go through a lot of ammunition. Can’t be taking any of those nasty bullets home again, you know. However, I later sold the Ruger and now wish I hadn’t.

    1. avatar Someone says:

      I used to run out of ammo at the range. It made me sad to cut the fun short because of it, so I started to reload and cast bullets. Nowadays, just to be safe, I drag so much ammo with me every time I go shooting, there is not a chance to use it all up. It helps that we can pull our vehicles right to the firing line to unload and load our gear and ammo before parking. It would be a major chore to haul these ammo cans full of bulk cartridges.

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