Saturday, October 20, 2018

Reflections on Guns099

After a friend experienced a scare at her home, she asked me to put together gun class for a few of her friends. Well, an informal class for a few of her friends turned into something much more and I ended up scheduling three classes.

My goal (and my friend's goal) was to make the ladies who attended far more comfortable with the idea of guns, and to learn to use them safely. I went to work putting together a curriculum that would put the students at ease and answer some of the questions I've heard over and over. I thought back to questions and concerns I'd heard during other classes and started with very basic knowledge: things that oftentimes instructors - even instructors who teach at what they think is the very basic level - assume that their students already know. This assumption of knowledge creates fear or frustration for students who have never seen, or handled, a gun in real life. My primary goal became to give these ladies that information so that they would feel comfortable and confident in attending a basic pistol course.

As a general rule, I'm not really a fan of segregating classes, but I also know that for a lot of women it can be intimidating to walk into a class of men, especially if they already feel intimidated by the course material. I thought back to everything I'd learned during my shooting career and tried to boil it down to exactly what these women would need to know.

My outline looked something like this:

  • animation of a semi-auto pistol (We want to know *why* something works. Sometimes, explaining it brings clarity, but seeing how it works in a safe manner - with a cut-away animation - usually explains things better than I can with words.)
  • auto vs. semi-auto (I found this important because the media can't seem to get it right. If I had the opportunity to straighten out a few misconceptions, by God, I was going to take it.)
  • pistol vs. revolver
  • long guns (single shot, bolt, semi-auto)
  • 4 rules of gun safety (We discussed, in depth, the why behind each rule and the reasons for the redundancy in the rules. I also explained that they would run into instructors who use different verbiage for the rules, but like the Golden Rule, the basis is the same.)
  • gun store etiquette
  • basic range commands
  • how to clear a gun (I tried to drill it into the students that *every* time they pick up or receive a gun, they needed to clear it for themselves.)
  • how to pass or receive a gun (and then clear it - "trust, but verify")
  • how to load a magazine (and the differences between a single stack and a double stack magazine)
  • how to load/unload a gun, using snap caps
  • basic grip
  • basic stance
  • basic trigger control
As you can see, what the outline contains are things that we, as shooters, take for granted, but at one some point we had to learn all of this. In fact, I found out from several women who had been "taught" to shoot by friends or family members that they didn't even learn these basics.

I used judge the fuck out of anyone who handed me a gun without clearing it first. 

I did. 

However, after teaching this class I realized that's a skill I picked up while working at the gun shop, it was never anything that was taught to me. That changed my attitude. If someone hands me a gun without clearing it, that gives me the opportunity to teach them how to do it safely. That said, if I teach someone to clear a gun before handing it to me and they get defensive or refuse to do it, that's someone I don't need to shoot with.

I believe in teaching in "baby steps" - I broke our hands-on portion down to small tasks that we spent time conquering before we added anything new. We started with clearing a gun, passing it, receiving it, and clearing it again. Once everyone was comfortable with that, we added loading magazines with snap-caps, then loading and unloading the gun using the same four steps we used to clear it (safety - magazine - chamber - safety). When the students were comfortable with that, we added in grip, stance, and trigger control.

By the time we went out to the range, we'd put it all together. I added range time simply so they could see how the steps fit together; they only shot a total of ten rounds - enough to give them some confidence, but not so much to fatigue them.

I considered the classes a success based on the smiles and confidence the women portrayed. Several of the women went on to take a basic pistol class and thanked me for what they learned in Guns099.

I believe Guns099 is an important course for *any* shooter, not just new women shooters. Instructors, maybe consider adding some of these basic steps into classes that you teach. You may find that your students respond positively.

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