by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This series will be different than any I’ve written. It’s a fictional guest report about a man teaching a woman how to shoot a gun. That’s everything you need to know. I intend for this series to be highly instructional.

Today’s report is written by one of our readers who was recently challenged to teach someone about guns and also how to shoot. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Jack who?
  • Oh, boy!
  • Teach me to shoot?
  • Her past experience
  • Lots to test
  • Are airguns okay?
  • Movin’ on up
  • Deluxe apartment in the sky
  • The rules
  • No accidents
  • Sight pictures
  • Time for dinner
  • “Hitch — what do I do?”

I have been a reader of this blog for many years, but this is the first time I have ever written anything. Three weeks ago I joined a Christian bible study group in my church. The study is run by one of the deacons and his wife at their house every Wednesday evening. About 12 people gather to discuss a passage or passages in the bible that the deacon has assigned to the group the week before. Most of the people are couples, but there is also one single woman in the group who looks a little younger than me. She is drop-dead gorgeous, and I was surprised that I never have seen her in church before. Believe me, I would have noticed her! She must attend a different service than I do.

Jack who?

Since this was my first time with the group they asked me to tell them a little about myself. I mentioned that I’m single and I work as a freelance artist, mostly doing illustrations for advertising firms. It sounds way better than it pays, believe me. I then told them something of my past, which is pretty boring and at the end for some reason I mentioned that I’m an airgunner. Several folks asked me what airguns were and I had to explain to them what all of you readers already know so well.

Oh, boy!

Then the evening’s discussion started and I was allowed to just sit and watch, since I hadn’t come prepared for this first session. After about an hour of discussion, we stopped for refreshments and I met most of the other members of the group. Then I got some cookies and a glass of lemonade and sat down to enjoy them. And the beautiful woman walked over and sat next to me. She told me her name is Jillian, but I could call her Jill. Then she asked me why I liked to shoot airguns. I told her about their relative safety and the quiet operation, but she kept pressing me for the real reason I wanted to shoot. So I compared it to throwing darts, which is something I suppose most folks like to do. You just want to see if you can hit what you aim at. I said airguns were just like darts, only you’re hitting the target out farther.

We made some other small talk that I am not normally comfortable doing — especially with attractive women. But she did most of the talking so it worked out okay. Then the group was called together and given our assignment for the coming week. We then said a group prayer and the bible study was over. As I left the house, Jill joined me on the sidewalk and asked me to walk her to her car. Heck, I would have crawled on broken glass and barked like a chicken (as B.B. once said) just to be with that woman a little longer!

Teach me to shoot?

We stopped at her car, which is a light-colored E-class Mercedes coupe (of course), and she asked me if I would teach her to shoot. I think you can guess my answer. She handed me her business card and asked me to please call her the next evening, after 6.

Well, this woman is a doctor! The card was just for her phone number, but you can bet I Googled her as soon as I got to my laptop. Turns out she is a respected surgeon at a very exclusive hospital in my city.

Her past experience

I called her the next evening and learned her story. Her husband had passed away from cancer two years before and she wanted to get a handgun for self-defense. But she had a very bad experience with guns growing up. Her family didn’t have any guns in the house, so she had no exposure to them until a college boyfriend took her to a local shooting range. He handed her his .357 magnum revolver and told her to hold it really tight because it kicks! Well, the first shot split the web of her right hand, causing blood to flow. It also raised a blood blister on her right thumb. For a soon-to-be-surgeon that is not good.

Are airguns okay?

So she dumped the boyfriend and forgot about shooting for the most part. But some desire still lingered in the back of her mind, and, now that she was single again, she wanted to learn to defend herself. Since I had mentioned that I shot airguns, she wondered whether they might be a less-painful way for her to learn to shoot.

I told her she had done the right thing, and that I would be pleased to teach her proper gun handling and also how to shoot. Airguns are perfect for starting out, because the basics apply to everything that shoots a projectile. I asked her when she had a free hour and she said we could start the coming Saturday evening at 5 p.m., if that was convenient. I told her the first session would take about an hour, because I didn’t want to overload her with information.

Then she asked what she could do for me, in return. Since we would be together Saturday evening anyway, I wondered if I could take her to dinner after our session. She asked me if I meant like a date and I said I guessed I did. I figured that would end everything, but she said okay — she just wanted to know.

Movin’ on up

On Saturday I learned that she lives in a downtown high-rise where you identify yourself at the guard/reception desk and they call up to see if you are okay. I was, so I was allowed in the elevator. I wondered what they would have thought if they knew I had a gun stuffed in my golf bag?

Deluxe apartment in the sky

Her suite is humongous! It’s two stories with a balcony along the second level that looks out through the two-story picture window in an open living room! There is a breathtaking view of the harbor. She has more space in that suite than my parents do in their entire ranch house, and it’s not that small!

We said hello and quickly found a place to set up. I told her she wasn’t going to shoot during this first session, which I think surprised her. My plan was to go over the basics of firearms etiquette, safe gun handling and sight pictures, so we could start shooting in the second session. I guess that satisfied her, so we got started.

The rules

I think she was surprised to learn there was so much to safe gun handling. Just so you’ll know, I covered the NRA’s 10 basic rules.

1. Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction
2. Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In Use
3. Don’t Rely On Your Gun’s “Safety”
4. Be Sure Of Your Target And What’s Beyond It
5. Use Correct Ammunition
6. If Your Gun Fails To Fire When The Trigger Is Pulled, Handle With Care!
7. Always Wear Eye And Ear Protection When Shooting
8. Be Sure The Barrel Is Clear Of Obstructions Before Shooting
9. Don’t Alter Or Modify Your Gun, And Have Guns Serviced Regularly
10. Learn The Mechanical And Handling Characteristics Of The Firearm You Are Using

I added to and modified some of those rules. For instance, I told her to never put her finger on the trigger until the gun was in position and she was ready to fire. I had a friend whose finger was always on the trigger until the day he put a pellet 6 inches up into his arm!

I told her we would not wear hearing protection for the first part of the training, because we didn’t need it. And I also told her about B.B.’s claim that there are no accidents with guns. There are only Stupidents.

No accidents

When I got to the part about no real accidents, she said surgeons say the same thing. So she understood about not pointing the muzzle in a direction in which you didn’t intend shooting and keeping your finger off the trigger until you were ready to fire the gun.

Then I covered gun etiquette, which frankly surprised her. She thought shooters just picked up guns whenever they wanted. She didn’t know that you should always ask permission to examine a gun that is not yours before touching it. And, when I told her that one shooter will examine a gun to make sure it is unloaded before handing it to another shooter who then goes through the same drill they have just witnessed, she was astounded! Each new person to touch the gun does exactly the same thing. She said hospitals have similar procedures when dealing with certain types of medicine that can kill if administered incorrectly. That is the moment that it clicked for her that we were talking about life-and-death situations when talking about handling guns. I think that resonated the deepest with her.

She told me that until then she had thought of all shooters as clumsy Bubbas, because that was how her college boyfriend had acted. I told her if she was ever around people who did not act the way I was describing, she should leave immediately, because it was unsafe.

Sight pictures

The last thing I covered was sight pictures. I had brought my Daisy Avanti Champion 499 along for the first part of the training, and I had to tell her why. She wanted to learn how to handle and shoot a handgun and I assured her we would get to that, but it is far safer to train a new shooter on a long gun first. The instructor can watch where the muzzle is pointing much easier with a long gun! And they can grab it when it moves too far. I also told her to hold her comments about the gun I brought. It might look like a Daisy Red Ryder, but it is about as similar to one as her Mercedes is similar to a Jeepney. I used that example because she had mentioned earlier taking a recent vacation to the Philippines.

I spent no small amount of time selecting the 499 for training this woman. Although she is about 5 foot 7 inches tall, she is very slender. She can’t weigh more than 105 lbs., if that. I wanted a long gun that wouldn’t be too heavy for her — a gun she could forget about in all aspects except safety. The 499, at 3.1 lbs., is certainly that. I also wanted a gun she could cock easily. She has very small hands with long, delicate fingers. She may be stronger than she looks, but I wanted the operation of the gun to become completely transparent for her — again aside from the safety aspect.

And I wanted a single shot. This woman is probably going to be a super-careful shooter, but I wanted no possibility for anything untoward to happen. One shot and it’s time to reload — it’s that simple.

The final criteria was the gun had to be accurate, which we all know the 499 is. I don’t want to spend time teaching someone to shoot, only to have them discouraged by a shot pattern that can’t hit a grapefruit at 20 feet. I told her about the Daisy National BB gun Championships and the pre-teen kids who can hit the period at the end of this sentence 9 times out of 10. That impressed her!

After that I showed her the proper sight picture that she will see with the 499 when we start shooting in the next session. Here’s what that looked like.

sight elements
These are the individual things the shooter will see when looking through the 499 sights.

sight picture

This is the correct sight picture. The important thing is to center the bullseye in the front aperture. The rear aperture takes care of itself automatically when you sight the gun.

She said this looked so simple and straightforward that she didn’t see how it was ever possible to miss the bullseye. I told her to hold that thought until our next session, but now it was time to go to dinner. I left the BB gun at her house so I wouldn’t have to lug it back and forth each week. Once we started shooting, she could practice on her own any time she wanted.

Time for dinner

We then went to the restaurant, which is one of the best in our city. I had shelled out $125 to have the cab of my pickup detailed, just to keep from offending her. I was surprised she didn’t suggest taking her car when she saw the beater I drive. But at least it was clean and she wouldn’t need a tetanus shot after getting out.

Dinner was great and I even had one glass of wine, but no more because I was driving. She had two. I told her then that wine was fine with dinner, but we would never have alcohol anywhere near where guns were being handled. That came as another surprise! She said she assumed beer and guns went together like burgers and fries. That college boyfriend had really messed with her mind!

That dinner set me back another bundle, but this lady was all dolled up and I wanted to show her off. How many chances will I ever get to go out with an angel?

When we returned to her building I suddenly panicked because this was our first date, after all. According to Alex Hitchens in the movie, Hitch, if the woman fiddles with her keys at the door she expects to get kissed. I was certainly looking forward to that, but her building wasn’t built that way. The doors weren’t locked. She was going to walk in past reception and take the elevator to her suite. The guard at the reception desk kept riffraff like me out unless he got a signal from a tenant.

“Hitch — what do I do?”

Fortunately for me, she stopped before we got to the door and turned to thank me for a wonderful first session and meal. I guessed that was my cue, so, just as Hitch advised, I got close and leaned in 90 percent of the way. She did the rest. When the kiss was over she told me I was a good kisser and said goodnight. Then she was through the front door and our training session/first date was over. I knew I would see her at the bible study group on the next Wednesday evening, but I decided to call her before that and see how things really went. And maybe she would have some questions about the first session.

Next time we start shooting. There’s a huge surprise coming!