First Visit to the Range

So, I made my first visit to the firing range. I fired a gun for the first time in my life, and the only thing hurt was my pride.

While I have taken gun safety courses, I had no real training in the actual art and science of firing a pistol. Sure, all of the training on how to operate the weapon, how to load and unload and safely store it, even how to teach kids to not play with it while not making them afraid of it. But no target shooting. I had high hopes about my accuracy, and thought I would walk in and be able to consider myself a natural.

I did not know what to expect about the firing range, but it strangely reminded me of a martial arts school, without an instructor. Everyone was calm, respectful, and above all, careful.

Obviously, this is not the place for hotheaded behavior, or showing off. The guns were real, the bullets were real, and horseplay could end in disaster. I felt very safe there.

Yet, strangely, I was nervous enough to end up sweating profusely before I had even done anything. Yes, it was warm in there, but I was raised without air-conditioning, and worked in construction, in Texas, during summers that would kill mere mortals – seventy-eight degrees is really nothing to me.

Maybe it was the outright fear of firearms that I had been taught from childhood. The first time my Mother heard Steve Earle’s The Devil’s Right Hand, she called firearms by that name from then on. There was an instinctive nervousness that I needed to overcome.

My hands were especially sweating.

Which leads me to mention the grip on my gun.


The beautiful wood grip on the Smith and Wesson 686 SSR was not a selling point to me, but I will admit in the back of my mind I did think about the way it would gain character and look even better with time.

What I did not think about was the way it would be slippery when my hands were sweating.

And slippery is an understatement.

God only knows where the first bullet ended up, but I can tell you that the gun jumped wildly. I was really not prepared for that much kick. This was not an issue of hand strength. I worked for many years as a block and stone mason, and I tell you without hyperbole; there are no weak block and stone masons. Even this many years removed from the trade, my hands are still wicked strong. The kick was just more than I anticipated.

Here is a photo of the first twelve shots:


In case you did not count, there are seven holes in the target.

Five never even hit the paper.

It is my sincere hope that the five misses were the first five shots and were not the last, or scattered among the rest. These were my first ever shots, and if the very first ones missed, that will hurt my poor widdle feelings a lot less.

In the end though, what I take away from this is that I have work to do. Granted, it is fun work, but it is still work. I counted it as White Belt accuracy. Five shots within the target range, two shots outside of the target range but still on the paper, and five complete misses.

Since sharing this on Facebook, I have gotten encouragement and great advice from friends. Rik Kellerman casually mentioned something about finger positioning on the trigger that explained to me why all of my shots were to the right side of the target, and I can begin correcting that error.

At least I can only get better from here!