This post is for folks that are starting to get into the world of firearms.
When I first started taking firearms more seriously I can’t tell yall how intimidating manipulating an AR15 was. Though its a relativity simple gun once you are familiar with it, but initially all the buttons confused me, it felt unwieldy, and I was pretty uncomfortable having the gun in my hand. Forget trying to shoot the thing- how do I hold even hold it!? It felt much the same with pistols. You watch Hollywood movies your whole life and think that you will just walk up to the firing line and know what to do, then when you get there its like those Oregon folks who have have to pump gas on their own for the first time in their life. Looks straight forward (it is) but its scary at first when your’e not familiar with what you are holding.
When I tried to zero my rifle for the first time I went to the range real early to increase the probability that no one else would be there. I put my target at 100 yards because I wanted to have a 100 yard zero and someone on the internet said that was a good zero to have. It took me something like 80 shots and over an hour before I gave up. I left defeated when another person pulled up to the range. I didn’t zero my rifle that day, never even hit the gigantic target I set up- just wasted a bunch of money and time. I had watched folks on youtube do it in less than 10 minutes and very few shots. Needless to say I was both frustrated and embarrassed. My ego was pretty bruised. Luckily I was alone and no one was witness to my continual failure, but I also didn’t have anyone around to tell me that putting your target at 100 yards before getting hits on paper would almost guarantee failure. I also didn’t have a spotting scope, so even if I hit the target I wouldn’t have been able to tell where without walking down the range. Bullets don’t actually leave gigantic holes in everything like Hollywood would have you think. I couldn’t really tell where I was missing either because I closed my eyes instinctively every time I felt the recoil. I’m positive that I was turning the turrets on my sites the wrong direction. I was also standing up when shooting, which means that I didn’t have a stable platform and it was anyone’s guess where the next shot would land. I was the opposite of bad ass.
I share that story because a lot of yall are in the same boat when you start. I see it all the time in the firearms basics workshop I’ve done over the last couple of years. People see the gun as intimidating and confusing, there is apprehension to shooting the gun even when people travel over an hour to the range just to learn to do that very task. Doing it in front of other people adds to the pressure and discomfort. A lot of people emotionally experience the opposite of what they expected. Unfortunately a bunch of people stop there because of the discomfort, or they get a little bit better at the basics but don’t want to continue with that feeling, which is required if you to push your skill level higher. There are shit tons of people out there that have only taken a concealed carry certification course and don’t develop any further than that. I think that’s because, at least in part, folks don’t want to face the reality that they suck and would rather fantasize about their capabilities. Are you really safer because you carry a gun with you but have no idea how to use it, especially under pressure? Probably not.
I want to encourage yall to push against that reaction and stay in the pocket. The truth is, almost no one at the range is paying attention to you or cares about how you are performing. That’s the case at most competition matches as well. People want you to be safe with the gun and other than that, they are mostly paying attention to their own shit. I’ve heard it said, “Unless you’re really hot or super good, nobody is watching you.” Don’t let being unfamiliar with something take you out of the game. Everyone, EVERYONE, starts at the beginning just like you and slowly increased their skills. Maybe it takes you longer than other folks because you don’t have the time, the energy, the easy access to a range, the money, or knowledgeable friends to teach you. That’s OK too! Take your time, embrace the discomfort, and learn the skill over the long term. Its a skill worth learning and prioritizing as much as possible. No body gets good without putting the work in, I think the idea that people are “naturals” is a myth and you shouldn’t compare yourself to that standard. If your pace is slower than others for a variety of reasons, don’t beat yourself up over it, just stay the course. Ultimately, it could save your life or the lives of people in your community. It increases your autonomy and decreases your dependence on “authorities” to keep you safe. So suck away, just don’t give up!
PS: DONT SUCK at being safe with the gun! That’s one thing you can’t fail on, whatever skill level you are.