My very first experience with guns was at a training facility in the Nevada desert. Sounds ominous, very alien – government conspiracy type thing, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
I have seen guns on the hips of the police and also slung over the shoulders of soldiers in France, but I had never held one in my hands and of course, never fired one. At first I was terrified at the thought of shooting one, although I’m not sure why. I guess it is just plain old fear of the unknown that makes us scared of things we don’t understand. Plus there was always the fear I might accidently shoot someone, or worse, myself.
But after learning more about guns from my BF, some of my fear had turned to curiosity. I was ready to take the next step and learn how to really shoot a gun. So of course we flew to the other side of the world. You just can’t learn that stuff here in Australia.
We planned the shooting adventure as part of our holiday. Most people plan theme parks, beaches and relaxation on their holiday. Well, we did all the fun tourist stuff first – road tripping through California, Nevada and Utah, seeing the biggest tree in the world, visiting real snow, Disneyland and beaches. Then we headed to Vegas to begin the serious part of the trip.
We rented a hotel in Vegas and drove our rental car (a jeep which had a soft top that didn’t close properly and made wind noise so loud that we had to shout to hear each other) for about an hour out into the desert to the training facility. I was literally shaking in the car and didn’t have a clue what to expect.
We checked in and I got my belt and gun. I didn’t get to touch it – it went straight into my holster and only came out when we were on the line and instructed to do so. We participated in some lectures and then finally we were out on the range. It was gravel covered with about a thousand bits of brass casing covering it. The first shot we took was with an instructor pulling the trigger for us. I actually had tears in my eyes when the first bullet fired.
I jumped every time a gun fired for the first day. I wanted to leave and thought I would never be good at this. But I suffered on for the rest of the day because I didn’t want to disappoint my BF. I contemplated not going back, but I decided to see it through.
Day 2 started off much better, with no jumping at every shot and my skills actually improving. There were 4 instructors. One was the range master (main instructor) and the others helped us all out. I had one instructor who was so patient and helpful. I think if it wasn’t for Wayne I might not have made it through the course.
I learnt so much in 4 short days. I learnt how to handle a gun safely (which was my biggest fear. I was seriously worried I would shoot myself in the foot by accident) and how to shoot like a ninja. Well no, not a ninja. (Side note: Do ninjas have guns?) Anyway, I could shoot really, really well.
And more than that, I loved it! I was up early ready to go before dawn and even practiced with the rubber gun back in the hotel at night. I had crazy dreams about being on the range, and was even heard muttering range commands in my sleep. At one stage I even called out “Nice shooting!”
After my course was over and I had to give my gun back, I felt so sad. I felt sad all night. So much so, that the next day I booked in to the course again. It had been a big turnaround for me from a teary shaking girl to a confident and competent shooter. And damn did that feel good!
Before I left Australia I was already pro gun. Even though I had never shot a gun, I was still of the belief that law abiding citizens have the right to own guns and use them for self defence purposes if the situation arose. Maybe one in ten thousand people in this country might agree with me. The rest would look at me as if I was some crazy gun toting maniac and start backing away from me, debating whether or not to call the authorities.
In America, it is easy to find people who think the same way. You can easily find people who make you feel like you are an old family friend, being welcomed home. Sad to say, I have never felt so at home as I did when I was learning how to shoot.
I heard stories from instructors about the benefits of owning guns and being able to use them effectively. It wasn’t until I heard these firsthand accounts that it really hit home how important it was. Also how very sad it was that at home people could not see this.
But I have learnt that there is no point being sad about this. Changing the minds of Australians on this issue is harder than trying to lick chocolate off your own nose. (Go on, try it. It’ll be funny).So I am not trying to change people’s mind. I will just talk about my own experiences and the things that I learn along the way. I hope you will join me.