12 October 2016

Every Girl Should Learn How to Shoot - Part 4 of 4

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 first if you haven't already.

And as I said, I’ve found some of the best people in the world by being around firearms. It’s not all kittens and rainbows, but the best here really are the best. Let me share a little of my piece of the community with you.

At one of my local monthly matches, a regular competitor is a police officer who I have seen show up straight from his overnight shift to shoot with us. He told me that yeah, he was pretty tired, but he couldn’t let go the opportunity to shoot because the dangers of his job don’t wait for him to be fresh and wide awake. Some of why my friend comes is love of the game, but much of it is his dedication to honing a skill that he knows he needs to stay alive and do his job. And he’s not the only one.

By day, my coach is a law enforcement training officer. One of his current crop of recruits is pursuing her dream to become a police officer, but has been challenged by severe dyslexia combined with additional vision problems. She’s been working especially hard in training these past few months, including extra one-on-one training and spending hours of her own time practicing and visualizing. Last week, she made a breakthrough and jumped from the back of the class to the top. Because she didn’t give up, even when others were ready to suggest that she could do good for her community in other roles.

But many of us don’t need to practice shooting for our professions. While we might be interested in self-defense applications, a lot of us are ultimately out on the range for fun. Safety is always first, and competition is called that for a reason – wanting to win is a thing, and not a bad one. It’s not the only thing, however, and that common attitude leads to some of the greatest acts of individual generosity I’ve seen anywhere.

For instance, shooters have raised thousands and more for various causes close to our hearts. From the Salute to Valor 3 gun match that raised more than thirty thousand dollars for a selection of charities benefitting veterans across the United States to the many clubs that annually run food and toy drives for local families, shooters have formed a community that takes care of its own and others.

Shooters give on an even more micro level too. When I had an unexpected several-day layover in Los Angeles trying to get home in the middle of a snowstorm, a friend told me, “I’ve got friends down there! Let me ask them what you should do…” I had barely found a last-minute hotel for my stay by the time enough volunteers and gear had been offered to outfit both me and my husband to shoot a match the next day. What could have been a miserable few days in an airport hotel turned out to be more fun than I could have imagined.

One of the best parts of that side trip was following it up a few weeks later with an intended trip west to shoot Phoenix Handgunner, at the invitation of my friends Jaci and Jess. They put me up, fed me, and made me feel completely at home even though I knew about four people there (and they were half of them) and had never shot that match format before.

I was reminded of my earlier trips to A Girl and a Gun Club’s national conference with my friend Tracy, who also picked me up from the airport, drove me all over, and helped me navigate a whole new crowd and event. While I enjoyed meeting and spending time with other friends, new and old, during those events, those trips were particularly special to me because of those I spent the most time with.

The shenanigans I have with my shooting girlfriends are fun, but even better is how those trips are only crystallized moments of the support we provide to each other whether as shooters working to improve our skills, as women navigating a male-dominated industry, or in our lives off the range.

Most of my friends growing up were boys and like many of you, my circle shrank as I got older. In the gun community, I found not just men I’m proud to call friends, but women with whom I could form an instant bond. It’s not just that I’ve found friends with a common hobby, it’s all of the other things I’ve talked about this evening. I’m delighted to have discovered these confident, competent, thoughtful women with a take-no-prisoners attitude towards life. Like I said, it’s not all puppies and ice cream, but these gems are what makes it all worthwhile.

Every girl should learn how to shoot. She’ll get to meet some really cool people and make some lifelong friends.

Thank you for being another step on my journey, and I hope I’ve brought you some inspiration for your own. I know many of you have already started shooting but if you haven’t, I hear there are some good folks to learn from around here. And as you start putting more rounds downrange, I hope you, too, discover for yourself why every girl should learn how to shoot.