The most important thing about gun handling is gun safety; accuracy comes second. This is the mantra I must repeat to myself every so often, usually after having been thoroughly embarrassed at the range by someone whose marksmanship eclipses my own. It’s one thing to stand next to someone like Jessie Harrison while I’m looking at my less-than-ideal groupings. After all, she’s won umpty-billion shooting titles and if she’s on the line, nobody’s even going to notice my scores. It’s quite another to come home from the range after having been taught a little lesson in humility by one of these three people, all of whom are better shots than I.
It doesn’t matter if this first-timer is a young shooter being coached through her first pulls of the trigger or an adult who just joined the ranks of millions of new gun owners in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However this new shooter came to stand next to me downrange, I don’t know. I don’t know whether she chose that gun to shoot or it was chosen for her. I don’t know if she’s nervous or not. I do know one thing: Her bullseye is going to have one large, ragged hole right over the X, while mine looks like I was trying to cross-stitch for the first time instead of shoot.
Grr. Beginner’s luck, surely? Well, then there’s …
The Tender Heart
Every shooter has a Tender Heart in their life; I know I have several. She’s sweet, nurturing and more than a little squeamish. She doesn’t like to watch action movies, and she flinches when you say the word “recoil.” I have a Tender Heart-ed loved one who cries when she sees a dead raccoon on the side of the road. Would you like to guess what happened when I took my favorite Tender Heart to the range for the first time? It sounded a little bit like this:
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! “Hmm. I don’t know, Wendy. I think I missed it? Look, there’s just one ragged hole where the X was. I think my last five shots just went through it …? I’m sorry.”
But that’s nothing compared to …
The Person Who Knows Where I Work
None of this would be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that most of the time that I’m actually out shooting, I’m doing it professionally. Make no mistake: I don’t mean shooting professionally like Becky Yackley or Lena Miculek. I mean shooting as part of my job at the National Rifle Association as an editor of this publication. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a safe shooter. I pay close and constant attention to the Three Rules (or Four, if you prefer) of Gun Safety. That doesn’t mean that I’m the second coming of Annie Oakley, of course, but I can usually at least make a decent grouping with a couple of flyers.
Unless, of course, I’m shooting with someone who knows where I work and is expecting to be impressed. If that happens, there is only one inevitable result and that is that my target is going to look like Jackson Pollack ate something that didn’t agree with him. My observer’s target, on the other hand, will have one large, ragged hole right where the X used to be.
Pardon me while I invent some new words, that I may deploy them in familiar ways … all while admitting that yes, you’re probably a better shot than I am.