The complicated web of laws and rules relating to carry, the heavy responsibility of choosing a potentially lethal self-defense tool, the difficulty in finding a gun to carry, figuring out how to carry and conceal it, and getting confident enough to shoot it well were almost enough to make me swear off concealed carry. After all, I got into guns for fun and I thought I lived a pretty sheltered and secure life.
But much as I thought I could avoid “bad places” and “bad people”, it became increasingly clear to me that I could not always avoid them. During this time in my life, I worked in downtown Philadelphia at a job where leaving at 6 or 6:30 in the evening was considered early. Parking in that particular part of town was pretty slim, and the best option I could reliably use was about four blocks away, through an area that on one side more or less shut down in the evenings and on the other side hosted quite a bit of Philly's night life. The neighborhood was pretty good, but not unknown for muggings and other attacks. My employer was not large enough to offer escorts to parking. Oh, and I was taking night classes in North Philly.
You can easily see I’m not exactly in prime physical shape to fight off a larger, more physical attacker. What you can’t see are the many old injuries that I was still rehabbing and that made it difficult for me to run, not to mention the knee I blew right about that time.
I had a hard time getting that job, and I thought finishing my masters’ degree could help me find a better one but until then, I was stuck. And I knew that all of the ninja hand-to-hand skills in the world wouldn’t do much against someone larger and stronger than me. Maybe my safe lifestyle wasn’t and couldn’t be as safe as I thought.
And maybe that little weekend hobby of mine really was the answer, especially since my employer was too small to even think about a gun policy. I knew I’d feel silly if I knew how to shoot and didn’t have a gun when I needed one, but now I started feeling like I really might need one. I figured that as difficult as getting comfortable with the laws and rules were, I was a smart cookie. I’d passed the bar. I could figure it out.
As for knowing someone might die because of my self-defense choices? It’s not something I look forward to, but I’ve come to believe that if I were involved in a fight with one winner, I’d want to do whatever it takes to come out on top. I’ve worked too hard to be who and what I am to let some criminal take that away from me. Victim selection is on them, not me. Consequences are on them, not me.
So all that was left was figuring out what to carry and how. Back then, there weren’t as many tiny guns on the market and I didn’t think I could conceal anything “big”, so I bought myself a cute little Kahr. A heavy leather gun belt and a long wait for a custom holster later, I had myself six rounds in a slim package, but very little knowledge in how to use it.
I mentioned earlier this evening that I took some basic classes early in my shooting career. That thankfully included some beginner defensive pistol instruction, where I learned how to safely draw a concealed gun from a holster, how to shoot around walls, how to shoot while moving, all sorts of cool stuff.
It didn’t take me very long, though, to realize that learning them once wasn’t a good way to know how to use those skills if I really needed them. Since the range we went to back then didn’t allow “action” shooting, I knew I had to find some way to practice.
One way I found was to take more classes. Even if they covered material I’d gotten from another instructor, hearing it over and over helped, not to mention all of the supervised shooting with immediate feedback. I still take a class or two every year to tune up my shooting and review and expand my related knowledge.
I also learned back then about the concept of dry fire, or practicing safely without live ammunition. At first, I used it just to learn how to run my gun: rack the slide, lock it back, insert magazines, things like that. A far cry from what my dry fire routine looks like these days, but it was the first step on the journey that’s taken me from barely able to hit the target to hammering up to six accurate, close-up shots in under a second...
...then having fun with pistol targets fifty yards away.
And finally, I learned about the wide world of competitive shooting. There, I could do all of the things I was learning in classes or might need to know for self-defense. It wasn’t really “practice” in that I could do the same thing over and over again until I perfected it, but it was something close and came with some real pressure.
While a match is just a game, your shooting is timed and scored, and there will often be people watching you. The results aren’t really important in the grand scheme of things and most of the audience is full of well-wishers, but they still add a little extra edge. And I won’t lie, I’m a little competitive. Having some numbers I could improve and some people to try to beat certainly helped drive my improvement.
It didn’t take long for competitive shooting, especially the action pistol sports, to become my passion and to change the course of my life. In the last few years, I’ve called competitive shooting and everything I did around it a second job, but it wasn’t really work. I loved everything about it: the people, the events, the gear, the practice.
I’ve been fortunate to meet some of my closest friends through the gun world, and have had the amazing opportunity to represent companies from as big as SIG Sauer and Lucas Oil to as small as PHLster and my local gun store, King Shooters Supply, as a sponsored shooter. I spend most weekends shooting or at a gun-related event, like this one, so much so that I actually quit my day job to develop and run a new indoor range near my home. It’s a scary ride so far, but I’m already much happier than I was in my prior career.
Every girl should learn how to shoot. In the process of learning to protect herself, she might also find herself.
Read on for part 4...