Life List: Learn to Shoot Skeet (& How I Became a Pinterest Quote)

January 31, 2013

BLOG, LEAH, LIST

 

For YEARS I had been asking Husband to teach me to shoot. Years. The rationale was pretty simple:

  • We have his late father’s shotguns which are both beautiful and meaningful. If we were going to keep guns in the house, I wanted to know how to use them, gun safety, etc. Same goes for the kids.
  • Shooting has always fascinated me. I always had a tremendous amount of respect for great marksmen and their reflexes. It felt like there was a lot of tradition in the sport.
  • There are a few charitable shooting events here that I would really like to participate in – if I could ever get good enough. (And I really, really want to get good at this.)

I never had any great urge to hunt. I have no problem with it, but I knew I couldn’t shoot a deer and bird hunting never seemed all that exciting. Larger game, maybe – as long as you could eat what you kill. I’m a purist that way.

But, man, did I want to shoot. And so, a few weeks ago on what was clearly the coldest day of the year (OMG), Husband cleaned up one of his dad’s shotguns and took Leah and I to have a shooting lesson here at American Shooting Centers.

I’ll tell you Leah’s story first.

She thought the safety glasses were very cool.

I’ve heard guns fire before, but we knew Leah had not, so we spent a few minutes driving through the acres of shooting areas so that she could hear the different kinds of shots and get used to the noise. Luckily it was a weekday and the facility wasn’t terribly crowded.

From the car we watched families and groups shoot trap so she could see what we were working towards and cheered as a little boy hit a clay out of the air. Then we drove to the ranges for rifles and handguns. We watched a man meticulously sight-in a rifle at 300 yards. I didn’t realize how loud a rifle that size would be. He would shoot, look at the target through binoculars, make tiny, precise adjustments to his scope or the gun and fire again. I think he took two, maybe three shots total, but it was FASCINATING to watch this happen for a target three football fields away.

Finally, it was our turn and so we headed to meet our instructor, Brian, over by the skeet range. He was amazingly nice and really great with Leah. She was not nervous at all, which I was glad to see, and even volunteered to go first. He spent several minutes with her explaining how a shotgun shell worked, how the gun itself worked, how to hold it and position it against her shoulder.

Look at those grins! So cute.

 

After setting up several clays on the ground facing up like a carnival game, he came back over to her, helped her hold the gun, instructed her on the proper form for her body and told her to fire when ready.

And she did.


(with thanks to Husband for video)

She ignored a bit of that “proper form” and the gun kicked back into her shoulder, which she didn’t like. It was the one and only shot she took that day, but later, after the surprise wore off, she did admit she’d come back on a warmer day and shoot again with a smaller, easier gun. I was really, really proud of her.

Now my story.

Pay no attention to the puffball ponytail.

 

Unlike Leah, I had some idea about the power of a gun. I have seen the aftermath of what happens when one is used criminally and so I have a healthy mix of respect for and fear of the power I held in my hands. I know I heard Brian tell Leah to lean forward, place her cheek on the stock of the gun making sure the butt of it is squarely against her shoulder, but when I had to do it, the rationale of it went completely out the window.

Logically, I get it. He wanted me to brace against it so I could control it and NOT cause any sort of force injury. But the fearful side of me kept thinking, “What if I CAN’T stabilize it and this thing kicks into my cheekbone and I end up with a bruise or a broken face?”

See, Leah never hesitated, because ignorance truly is bliss. I knew too much or assumed too much and so taking that shot meant I had to overcome all of that and trust I could control something I sort of had no control over and it would be fine.

I hesitated. A lot.

I know I sat there for what seemed to be an eternity and I’m pretty sure to Husband (who was videotaping) and Brian (who standing by) it really WAS an eternity, but eventually I did this:

And it hit that target – and the next two after that – and it was a GREAT feeling to watch those clays smash apart.

Eventually Brian pulled out the cute little remote control out of his pocket and clays started flying over one of the trees that surrounded us and our lesson went from circles on the ground to circles flying in the air. I did, eventually, hit a few (yeah!), but it took awhile. Turns out it’s harder to hit those things when they’re ACTUALLY MOVING. Go figure!

What DIDN’T happen eventually was more interesting.

PULL! I always wanted to say that.

As time went on, I couldn’t get out of my own head and just trust the gun – or maybe myself – I still can’t figure that part out. The core of being a good shooter is form and that form requires you to lean into something that logically you wouldn’t want to lean into. I never expected to have this issue, but all of a sudden on that frigid range I was a g-ddamned Pinterest quote. “Stand strong and lean into the fear.” Or something like that. The longer it went on the more frustrated I got and the more my internal conversation was, “COME ON. This cannot be this hard – LEAN IN.”

Irritation became frustration which eventually bordered on anger that I was so unsure of something and so, not surprisingly, I spent the next few hours analyzing everything AD NAUSEUM and don’t you wish you were Husband now? Bless his heart.

Here is what I landed on: Knowledge. I need more of it. I realized that for all the shooting I did, I did very little gun “handling”. I never learned about the parts, how to actually load shells, the safety, etc… all the details, I didn’t have them. There was so much about the actual gun that I didn’t know or feel comfortable with that it was directly contributing to not trusting it – and that’s okay. The point of the morning was really to shoot – and that’s what we did. But next time (and there will be a next time), I want to understand more about the actual gun. I need to get to the point where the gun is just an extension of my arm and not have to think about it any more and that only comes with time and practice. Husband and I will do some of that at home and I really believe that will make a big difference.

I knew this would be an interesting Life List item – and it was. I’ve found something fascinating, personally challenging, and, quite frankly, something we can all do as a family – especially if we decide to follow family tradition and hunt together when Benjamin is a little older.

Look at THIS guy. He knows what he's doing. Even shot doubles.

I’m glad I did it – and I’m glad Leah is learning. Regardless of what people are yelling about politically I want my kids to respect, recognize and  know how to use guns of all types. They may never choose to continue shooting, but they may go to someone’s house where there are guns and I want them to be the smartest ones in that room should someone start to do something stupid. Respect and safety come from education, period.  (And for the record: The first rule in that situation is “You leave that house and call us immediately.”

Learn to Shoot Skeet: Check.

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5 Responses to “Life List: Learn to Shoot Skeet (& How I Became a Pinterest Quote)”

  1. Knighton Says:

    Proud of you!

    Also, Leah in the yellow glasses? Tres Bono.

    Related: That LEAN IN, thing. I get it. We’ve been taking ice skating lessons since early January, with our last lesson this Saturday. Everything on the ice is counter-intuitive to me. Years of ballet training consistently bitch-slap me. I fall down at least twice. Every. Single. Lesson. And the coach is always “bend your knees and lean forward a little. No. Don’t stand up straight. Lean.” It’s uncomfortable. I really wish I could get to the exhilarating part of skating, but mostly it’s just terror. And tears. Every single lesson.

    All of that to say: you look great with a gun in your hand, and you will learn to trust the weapon. It just takes practice.

    Reply

  2. elz Says:

    Glad you are ticking this one off. We’ll see your team in October, right?! Leah can be our youngest participant!

    Reply

  3. Alison (DC Celine) Says:

    Thank you so very very much for writing about this. It’s on my list, too – has been for ages – and I’m thrilled beyond belief that my H joined a conservation society (Izaac Walton) that has a couple of ranges on our local property. The “get out of your own head” thing is fascinating…

    Reply

    • Pam Says:

      It was certainly more than I bargained for! But I’m so glad I did it – and can’t wait to do it again now that the weather here is warming up. :)

      Look forward to hearing YOUR range experience, too!

      Reply

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