Despite the fact that my dad was a police officer, I was never exposed to guns growing up. The stuffed deer at my parents’ lake cabin is stuffed with cotton filling and that’s the way we like it! To me guns are simply people-killing machines. And I’ve always made a point to stay at least 20 feet away from any tool that could cause accidental death or dismemberment. Even the knives in my house are dull!
My husband, Brad, grew up with a very different outlook on guns and hunting. I was shocked when I first visited Brad’s childhood home to see several guns lining the walls. Twice, I’ve witnessed guns being given as gifts during Christmas celebrations and bathroom reading is the latest edition of “Guns and Ammunition.” This was a whole new world for me. While I always remained very tentative around the guns, I grew somewhat more comfortable with them. I learned to respect them and actually grew to appreciate their beauty. Brad got his first BB gun when he was seven; and graduated to his first .410 shotgun when he was 10. Safety and maturity was demanded around guns and Brad was taught to be meticulously cautious around them.
A few years ago I accompanied Brad and his dad on an afternoon of pheasant hunting. I was there mostly as a dog wrangler. Wearing orange and trudging through rough roughage (that’s what Chili dog called it!) I began to understand the allure of hunting. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shoot an animal, but reenacting the rituals of our ancestors was enlightening.
Brad doesn’t shoot much anymore. But, he’s always urged me to learn more about gun safety so I feel more comfortable around them. Knowledge is power, after all. If I know how to safely shoot a gun, then I in turn know how to safely handle a gun and could perhaps overcome my fear of bullet blowers.
We took a road trip to Brad’s hometown to teach me once-and-for-all, how to shoot. On the car trip, Brad answered my countless questions and patiently explained the most basic information. Did you know that rifles shoot one bullet at a time, while shotguns shoot a zillion little BBs? This may seem blaringly elementary, but I didn’t know this!
When we arrived at Chez Steil, Dad-Brad (Jim) was ready and waiting to share his expertise. He embraces shooting as a hobby and is a member of on a prize-winning trap shooting team. I learned that trap shooing is when you shoot the clay pigeons… like Duck Hunt! Jim was open and understanding, and excited to share his love of shooting with me. Dad-Brad showed me several guns, and explained the differences. He also showed me all the different types of ammunition. He pulled out the three guns that he and Brad had chosen for me to shoot. He patiently showed me all the features of each. I was nervous and skittish, even though we had all triple-checked to ensure all the guns were unloaded and had the safeties engaged. My whole life I was conditioned to run away from guns and here I was surrounded by a slew of death machines.
After gentle coaching, Jim handed me a gun. It felt unnatural, but I survived my first gun holding experience; I didn’t even yelp!
We packed up the guns and ammunition and drove out of town to legal hunting land. There Brad set up a box with a target on it. They carefully showed me how to load the 1950-ish, bolt action .22 rifle. He demonstrated how to shoot it for me. Before I knew it, I was loading and aiming the gun.
Ready, Aim…. No wait, I need to get a better aim on the target.
Ready, Aim…. Is Chili okay? I’m not going to shoot him, am I?
Ready, Aim…. Is that donuts I smell?
Ok- No more procrastinating. It was time to become a target assassin. FIRE!
Holy crap! That was fun!Although I missed the target, I hit the box – and that was good enough for me!
I reloaded about eight times and continued pummeling the poor box with fatal blows. Sadly, I only made it on the actual target a few times, but I was getting the hang of it.
Next up was a semi-automatic .22 rifle with a scope. This sucker looked bad-ass. I totally felt like Lara Croft.
While the scope promised to make spotting the target easier, I had a lot of trouble with it. I’m going to blame this one on my jacked eye balls. I have extremely poor depth perception. Did you know I can’t see 3D movies? It’s tragic. I’ll never truly experience the Smurfs in 3D! The travesty! This fact is especially helpful to explain away why I am terrible at sports, why I fall down so much and why I can’t really wink very well. I’ve also tried to use it as an excuse as to why I’ve overslept or missed a deadline, but it hasn’t panned out well so far.
After carefully moving my head every possible angle I could, I finally saw a foggy dime sized picture of the box through the scope. I pulled trigger and hoped no bunnies were frolicking anywhere near the box of death. A few more rounds and I managed to hit the target a time or two.
Last up was the .410 shotgun. Anyone who’s anyone knows that shotguns “kick,” giving your shoulder a jolt. Well, I’m not anyone, so when the gun popped backwards towards my shoulder I let out a freakishly girlish squeak, thus thoroughly amusing my shooting partners.
The shotgun was my favorite to shoot because it was virtually impossible to miss the target. When you’ve got 100-odd BBs flying towards a box located 40 feet away, you’re bound to have some of them hit the target. Check out my target for proof! That box didn’t have a chance against me and my shotgun!
All-in-all, the experience was super fun. I couldn’t believe how enjoyable it was. I’m absolutely certain that target shooting will become part of the activities we regularly do when visiting Brad’s home town. I can’t wait to watch Jim trap shoot, and I’m excited to get more experience next time. I am going to stick with smaller, less dangerous guns and my most menacing enemy will likely always be made of cardboard.