Teach me to shoot: Part 5
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Jill encounters her first difficulties today, and they throw her for a loop!
Our guest writer is reader, Jack Cooper. Take it away, Jack.
Teach me to shoot
by Jack Cooper
This report covers:
- Ready to go!
- What am I doing wrong?
- Sight picture not perfect
- Try the Mark I
- How far you have come
- The talk
Ready to go!
We met the next evening and Jill was more enthusiastic than ever to get started. We got right to it and I watched her get into the offhand shooting position we had practiced the evening before. It was obvious she had been practicing, because she got into position almost as quickly as I do, and I’ve been doing this for many years. Then she started shooting.
What am I doing wrong?
She began with the Crosman 2240 that she had learned on. Her first 5 shots at 10 meters scored a 37 and included one 6, two 7s, an 8 and a 9. The 6 was just below the bull and the rest of the shots were in the black, on the bottom half of the bull. When we went down to retrieve her target she made a face that told me she wasn’t satisfied with the result. “What am I doing wrong?” she wanted to know.
Sight picture not perfect
I told her that all of her shots hit low on the target. If they were all raised an inch, the score would have been higher. She saw that but complained “It’s hard to hold the top of the front sight exactly at the bottom of the bull like you showed me.” I smiled and said, “Welcome to 10-meter pistol shooting. You have just discovered why this sport is challenging.”
But there was more to learn. The Crosman 2240 is an accurate air pistol for what it is, but it is no 10-meter target pistol. I had to tell her that some of the lost points could be attributed to the gun. To that she said, “Well, I don’t like that! A gun is supposed to hit what it’s aimed at, isn’t it?”
Of course it is, but Jill was now experiencing the reality of shooting a handgun. They don’t always hit what they are aimed at. Sometimes the miss can be attributed to the gun and not to the shooter.
Try the Mark I
“Let’s try that other pistol — the Crosman Target one. I like the way that gun holds better than this one.” So she picked up the Crosman Mark I Target and I ran through the loading and cocking procedure for her once more. Then she got into position and shot a second 5 shots at a fresh target. Her score this time was a 31, as only two shots made it into the bull — a 7 and an 8. Two of the other pellets landed below the bull again, scoring a 5 and a 6. Her final shot was at 8 o’clock and it was a pulled shot. I saw her wait too long to take the shot and watched her hand twitch as she threw a 5 to the left of the bull.
In competition terms, Jill was blowing up! Instead of concentrating on the front sight and letting her trigger finger decide when the shoot she was starting to rush the process. She rushed the shot because she wanted to get it over with, and she was getting angry with herself. It was time to stop and talk.
I told her what I had observed and that she needed to calm down. She said she was very disappointed, because she had done so well with the Daisy 499, but pistols were what she really wanted to learn. And she was no good at it.
“Let me stop you right there. Jill, that last target you shot is better than 90 percent of shooters could do under similar circumstances. You are comparing yourself to a made-up shooter who doesn’t exist. Most shooters would be holding the pistol with two hands and struggling to stay on paper at this distance. You are hitting the bull, maybe not every time but when you don’t, you’re close.
The Daisy 499 was much easier to shoot, plus you shot it at half the distance. And you were holding it with both hands. Now you are holding the pistol with just one hand.”
“Let me see you do it,” she asked.
“I will, but you have to bear in mind I am a competitive pistol shooter. I can outshoot 99 percent of all shooters in this country with a handgun. Among the other one percent, who compete I am ranked below average. That is the world of competitive pistol shooting — or competitive anything, for that matter. I might be able to ski down a double diamond slope, but that doesn’t make me Jean-Claude Killy.”
“Chocolate Kitty!” she giggled.
“Oh, my mother had a crush on him back in the late 1960s, like most women her age. She called him Chocolate Kitty, because she said that’s what it sounded like whenever he said his name.”
“Yes. Well, you get my point?”
“I guess so. But this target pistol shooting is discouraging after the 499. I thought I was going to be good.”
“You are good, Jill. In fact, you are much better than good. You’re exceptional. But you are also at the very beginning of a large and complex sport. But let’s forget about that for a moment. Let’s look at what you set out to do. You asked me to teach you to shoot. You had a bad experience in college and thought there must be a better way than what your boyfriend did. You asked if I could show it to you. Well, I have.
How far you have come
“Think about all you have learned in just 5 sessions. You have learned how to safely handle all guns — both firearms and airguns, alike. You have learned firearm etiquette, which is something less than half of all shooters know and practice. Then you learned the proper sight picture for the Daisy 499. Jill, I could hand you an Anschütz target rifle right now and you could shoot a wonderful score with it at 50 yards. You don’t know that because you’ve never tried it, but I know.
“And finally, you are shooting a handgun with just one hand. That’s something even many law enforcement personnel can’t do! I once outshot a SWAT team commander at 10 meters, with him holding the pistol in two hands and me holding it in one. Jill, you have to trust me on this — you are already far advanced as a pistol shooter!”
She was quiet for a time and then said, “I guess I didn’t think of it that way. You’re right. At the beginning of last month I didn’t know anything about shooting except I couldn’t do it. And here I am, shooting a handgun. I have learned a lot.”
After this talk she had calmed down and I let her shoot each pistol again. With the 2240 she shot shot a 41 and with the Mark I Target she shot a 35. When she finished, she said she was doing better with the 2240, even though the Mark I felt better in her hand and had a much better trigger. That was a lesson by itself.
I didn’t tell her this, but she could have done much better with a real 10-meter target pistol. Neither of the two pistols I gave her was that accurate, though they were the best there is when all things are taken into account:
weight of the gun
size of the grip
ease of cocking
The fact is — no reasonably priced air pistol exists that has all of those features to the same extent that the Daisy 499 has them. This is a huge gap in the airgun market that could easily be addressed, but no manufacturer seems to understand the need. Yet they will climb over one another to get the next cookie-cutter camouflaged breakbarrel magnum ready for the market and wonder why the competition is so stiff!
After Jill finished she reminded me of my promise to shoot a group, so I took my position and shot 5 shots with the Crosman 2240. I scored 45, which was lower than I would have shot with a target pistol, but also higher than it should have been because I was shooting .22 caliber wadcutter pellets that cut a larger hole in the target. Now it was time for Jill and me to have The Talk.
While shooting at targets is fun and I happen to enjoy it, it isn’t what Jill wanted to learn when she started. She wanted to shoot for self-defense. Defensive shooting is completely unlike target shooting. But it is my belief that if a shooter is disciplined enough to shoot at paper targets, they can do anything.
I told her she was now going to learn several new things, and we were going to leave airguns behind. Airguns are not weapons and are not intended for defense. It was time now to move to firearms. Everything she had learned to this point, though, all the safety and courtesy, still apply.
We can’t shoot firearms in the house, so our next session would take place at my private range. I asked Jill to continue to shoot the 2240 every day for the next week to sharpen her skills. Our next session together would take place on Sunday of the following week at the range. Because of her busy schedule, that was the only time she could get free. We are now seeing each other at church, as well as at the bible study on Wednesday evenings, plus we have a standing date on the weekend.
Was she afraid of the firearms training that was coming? Not at all. She said she trusted me to do it right, which of course was uppermost in my mind. How did I go about introducing Jill to firearms, when I knew her last experience had been traumatic? What would you do?