Saturday, August 30 2003

Boyfriend syndrome

It’s a familiar sight for anyone who shoots at a public pistol range: a man and a woman come in together so he can teach her to shoot, and he gives her a loud, hard-kicking gun and incompetent instruction. Usually he’s a terrible shot himself, and sometimes he’s a danger to himself and others. His real goal, conscious or not, is to convince her that guns are a “guy thing,” and she should let him be her protector and champion.

I got tired of watching this a long time ago, and usually I try to sneak in when he’s left the room and give her a few quick pointers, including the all-important “rent a .22 next time.” When he comes back and she’s shooting better than he is with his favorite gun, the session usually comes to a quick halt.

Today was a bit different.

Two men and a very attractive woman, all in their early twenties, came into Markley’s together because they just wanted to try shooting handguns. I got the impression that one of them had been to a range before, and he was at least familiar with how to operate revolvers and semi-autos. He couldn’t shoot for sour owlshit, of course, so the instruction he gave to his friends left them barely able to hit the paper with the .357 Magnum they’d rented.

[At this point, I should mention that I think the staff goofed. These people should not have been allowed to shoot without direct supervision. I’m guessing the alpha male’s confidence convinced them he was safe and competent. He probably reminded them of the many police cadets who shoot there (a story for another day…).]

When Alpha Male and Pretty Woman went out to exchange the .357 for a different gun, I walked over and talked to the other guy, asking a few friendly questions about their shooting experience and offering to give them a quick lesson if they were interested.

When they returned with a .45-caliber semi-automatic, he relayed my offer, and they took me up on it. The woman wanted to shoot first, so I gave her the familiar lecture on stance, breathing, focusing on the front sight, and pressing the trigger like a switch, and then handed her the empty gun to practice with.

After a few trials, I loaded it with one bullet, sent her silhouette target down 25 feet, and led her through the shot. Dead center in the head. After confirming that she was actually aiming at the head, I congratulated her, then loaded the gun with a full magazine and encouraged her to continue.

The second shot landed right next to the first, and then she lowered her aim to the chest and put the remaining six into a tidy four-inch group.

Other Guy was next, and to make his shots stand out against hers, I added a Shoot-N-C target paster. I gave him the same drill, and he managed to hit the paster with every shot, a vast improvement over “usually hitting the paper.”

Alpha Male came last, and he sent a different target down, one of the reduced-scale silhouettes on a smaller piece of paper. He had picked up the habit of anticipating recoil, so after four decent shots, he was pulling the gun down enough to shoot off the bottom of the target. I told him to dry-fire for a while until he broke the habit, and invited Pretty Woman over to my lane to shoot a .22.

She had competently handled (and enjoyed shooting) a full-sized M1911A1 .45-caliber pistol, but I knew she’d appreciate something a bit easier on the hands. I handed her my recently-acquired Browning Buck Mark, and she put all ten shots into a three-inch group. She loved it, and was pleased to hear that the range had one available for rental use.

After she finished shooting, she said “Y’know, this is a lot of fun! It’s very empowering.”

Music to my ears.