Today, I learned a lot about guns. I’ve wanted to learn as much as I could for many years now, but I never really had anyone nearby who was reliable in helping me to that. However, my man is of the hunting variety, and has connections with people who’s re very much in the know about guns. So, today, I took a class on guns.
It was, basically, all day, but it included lessons on the guns and things about and around them, as well as actual time shooting guns at a gun range. I was mostly totally okay for the lesson parts in the classroom. I had, obviously, some research ahead of time to familiarize myself with the general information that might be covered. I had studied more than we covered specifically, but it was a perfect foundation for understanding what was taught in the lesson.
We had a little quiz/test at the end of the lessons to test our grasp of the material. Without using any notes at all, I scored confidently a 100% on the test. I like to know my material, and I did.
However, things took a turn once we were at the range itself. As the others started taking out handgun after handgun, picking them up and setting them down again on this wooden table at our area – all unloaded and taken apart, of course – I started to grow increasingly nervous. Within maybe five to seven minutes, I was standing back from the group, full-on crying. Quietly, but crying, nonetheless.
My man tried to comfort me physically with touch, which is usually the go-to way to comfort me. However, something about the whole situation had me not want to be touched… at all. It doesn’t happen often, but, when it does, I seriously do not want to be touched or crowded in any way. I feel almost claustrophobic if anyone tried to touch me or get too close to me in these times. Today was one of these times. My man asked how he could support me – great job, honey! – and I told him just not to touch me and to let me be, away from abetting, him included. He allowed it, though clearly still concerned for me, and went back to the gun table fun. (Think little kids all showing off their cool TechDecks or Hot Wheels…)
When the instructor saw me, he very easily and, obviously, knowledgeably stated that I was nervous, with the edge of a question on the end. I nodded. “Okay, you and I are gonna go work on this together, all on our own, away from everyone else, okay?” I nodded, as a new wave of tears began to pour out freely. He told me he’d do the one thing with the first group first, then would work one-on-one with me. I nodded more.
Once the tears started, I just allowed myself to feel the feelings coursing through my veins. I never fought it, tried to hold it back. I just let it be, allowed it to express itself.
The instructor had me help load magazines for the guns, using this cool little tool that makes it a million times easier than doing it just with one’s fingers alone. That way, I got to be nearby for the shooting, and could see the drill he was having us all do, but didn’t have to do it myself yet. And I got to grow more comfortable with the guns simply by doing the simple activity of loading the magazines.
I had to step away, though, when the firing started. It amazed me how freaked out and panicked I was. I looked into the panic.
It was an outdoor range without any dividers in our specific area – just single barrels to ‘define’ the lanes. Was it that?
A little bit. But it wasn’t enough for my level of panic. So, what else?
Eventually, a thought popped up, and I began to see very clearly what was going on for me.
*****Warning: very sad material is about to follow. I am safe and well, but this is sadness from my past. You have been warned.*****
On Christmas Eve, many years ago, my uncle shot and killed himself, intentionally. It was unexpected on every level for me, and the delivery method and manner of the news didn’t help anything for me. This uncle was my godfather. Yes, he had been dealing with alcoholism in a bad way lately, the previous few years or so, and had even divorced because of it. But he was still a man whom I loved and respected, who had taught me many things and whom I had always longed to impress with all I learned. He never needed to be impressed, which was probably why I so wanted to do it. He was great… when he was himself. Alcoholism can truly remove a person from the world, however, long before his or her conscious body leaves this world. He was certainly progressing on that path. But I still loved him.
Now, back to the class.
Seeing the guns, seeing so many moving hands and parts all at once – despite it all being done to the book and as safely as possible – really got me thinking about that incident for my uncle. I got a little lost in the swirl of thoughts and brain patterns that could lead a person to choosing that as a path, as well as the ones that then actually pursued such a path. Even now, it hurts so much just to say this, though I’m somewhat avoiding going any deeper than my words right now. Anyway, it really got to me there at the range.
When a rifle was pulled out, I noticed that I felt little fear, almost a feeling of ease around it. Okay, I thought, so guns don’t necessarily terrify me into a panic by being guns. Handguns, however, do.
When I talked with my mom about it later, I was describing the different feeling between using two different handguns. One was heavy and reliably helped people hit their target consistently. The other was smaller and lighter, but still roughly the average size of a handgun. The smaller, I told her, filled me with much more ease when I used it, though it was quite so easy to hit the target precisely. It felt like a gun to me. The larger, however, could only be described by my head as, “a (definitive) killing device”. It was funny how the thoughts were so different, and the corresponding feelings were so strong yet clear. Guns themselves aren’t petrifying for me. But certain ones – the killing device-type ones – are.
Our instructor mentioned a man who has a pink handgun. Perhaps, if I ever want to get a gun, I might get something like that. The typical black handgun can be really rough for me…
And so, after trying the both handguns with a lot of coaching and near-constant crying, I used the smaller one to do the actual exercise he’d intended for us all to do.
For one thing, I cried almost the whole time. For another, I somehow got the crazy luck of the draw today that the casings from the person to my left kept hitting me. Never hard or anything, but, boy, were they a definite surprise while I was aiming on focusing my breathing to shoot effectively myself. In addition to those two factors, my hands were shaking almost constantly.
What’s more, my eyes, as they cried a bunch, struggled to hold focus. They kept doing their, ‘Hey, I don’t really feel like working right now,’ thing, making me have to work extra hard to get them to focus back. Usually, it takes a second or two to get them back focused when they decide to relax. However, the exercise was intended to be with time limits on each round or set of rounds. It took a lot in the pre-practice I did with the instructor just to fire more than once in a row without putting down the gun and shaking all over while crying some more.
And, finally, my hands kept sweating up a storm, and my glasses would fog in if I had them too far against my face.
Despite all of this, the instructor said afterward that I didn’t an amazing job. And he wasn’t being generous. I have a whole – there were two, both very much alike with their hole locations, but I only kept the second – target sheet of a person who had clearly been gutted and shattered in the center torso by my shots. I had a total of four shots that didn’t hit right in the center area, and they were when I moved back to farther distances to shoot. Out of roughly a hundred+ rounds fired, only four weren’t in the target tires area. Even the other four, though, were still very clearly on the target’s body, just not properly centered like the rest.
I’d say I was blown away by how well I did, but I guess that was more the targets… 😛
The final gun I shot was a really cool, really light one, and it had much smaller bullets than the 9mm guns had used. I actually really enjoyed shooting that one. The kickback wasn’t so scary, nor was the bang, and it was great. Granted, this one actually burned my finger. However, it was pennies compared to how great and comfortable I felt using it as a whole. Plus, this one was green(!). I shot well with that one, too, but I didn’t have an official target, and so attacked one of the extra backstop signs, the letter O, using it as a target, as well as a small bit of bluebonnets on the sign. It was great. I kind of destroyed them both, really.
The instructor told me that it happens every so often, that someone will cry when learning to shoot. It he was proud of me for how I stayed calm and just kept going. He also commended me for the fact that, even though casings kept flying on my way, even hitting me multiple times while shooting, I never once reacted dangerously. I always remained calm – shaking and crying aside, of course – and stayed focused on what I was doing. Any time I had to pause my shooting, from getting hit in the face or hand or whatever, I always kept the gun pointed perfectly down-range and downward – I never turned it in a dangerous direction… not even a little bit.
So, suffice it to say that I am so glad and grateful that I went to this today and that my man got me connected there. The instructor invited us to go shooting with him and his daughter when they go monthly to a certain range, and I accepted the offer. I told him that I am still terrified, but that I want to keep going with it all.
Yes, it was a very good day, tears and all.
Thank you, God. And thank you for the blessing in my childhood that was Uncle B—. Thank you for that love, for exactly as much as it lasted. And thank you for helping me grow through the pains. Please, bless those who helped us in the class today. Give them comfort, grace, and ease, through your love. In your name, I pray. Amen.