The Beginning of a Shooter
It had been roughly six months since my father died. My mother knew I had grown to love the sport of shooting, and while my father taught me the basics of rifles and shotguns, he had not had the time to teach me much about handguns. I learned a little from my dad, but after that I mostly taught myself the rest of what I knew about an old revolver I had gotten from my grandmother. So Mom had asked a family friend to take me shooting to teach me more about what I had grown to love, and had a natural ability for.
Terry was a family friend about 15 years older than either of my parents. He had been a truck driver, a policeman, and was in the Coast Guard. He had known me since I was born, and had taken me rabbit hunting. He was also a firearms instructor for the Coast Guard and the police department in the city next to where I grew up.
We make plans to have him pick me up on a Saturday morning and go to the gun range in the town where he lived. I wake up, get dressed, have a hearty breakfast, grab my Colt revolver, and I wait.
His truck pulls into the driveway, I jump in, and off we go. I am excited.
We get to the range, and I have no idea what to do, or how to act, or what kind of process this entails. I’m a lost kid in a new world. There are stacks of boxes of ammunition behind the counter, and paper targets stapled to cardboard cover the walls. In the other corner are magazines, cases, parts, and other accessories. I hear the sound of guns being discharged behind two steel doors and a panel of bulletproof glass.
We sign in and buy our ammo: 100 rounds of .38 Special for me and a box of .45 ACP for him. Then we grab a few targets. Bull’s eye, silhouettes, and one of the “real life” targets (the one of a mugger pointing a revolver at you).
We get out on the range and stage our equipment and ammo in the stall, and he puts the target in its holder and holds the toggle switch on the wall, sending it down range, 21 feet, standard training distance.
He tells me to load my gun. I oblige, heart racing. Hoping I do good, hoping I’m as good of a shot as I am in my own head.
I aim down my sights, center it on the target, and squeeze the trigger. CRACK, the first round snaps off and hits the 10 ring. Five more consecutive shots, all hitting the nine or 10 ring. I’m happy with my initial display of what I think was a good first showing. Terry tells me I did a good job, and then begins to correct several parts of my flawed stance, grip, and overall knowledge of what I thought I knew what I was doing. I take it all in and remember everything.
Load up six more rounds, remembering everything that I was just taught and shown. Six more rounds find their place, but this time they’re all in the 10 ring or bull’s eye. Some more guidance and instruction, and I feel like a force to be reckoned with.
He pulls out a nickel-plated 1911 .45, and I fall in love with what will become my favorite pistol of all time. He lets me shoot it, and it is awesome.
Shooting the rest of the ammunition we bought that day at the different targets we bought, I have exceeded his expectations. I am becoming a shooter, no longer a novice. Last cartridge of the day, he tells me to put a bullet straight down the barrel of the “mugger’s” gun. I don’t even touch the sides of the bore. It is dead on.
By the end of the day I have impressed a man who has more knowledge about firearms than I ever thought I could have. We pack up and go get some food, then go home. It was the first day of the rest of my shooting life.
When I became a firearms instructor I told Terry about it. While not a man to show too much emotion, I saw a smile of pride when I told him that the kid he trained and taught became what I am now.
I am a shooter.