One of the points that I didn't include previously: Kay is pretty far down the political spectrum from most of us. In her own words, "I'm a progressive with a libertarian streak." She has an upper-tier higher education focused on the liberal arts and works in a related field. In other words, the antithesis of the stereotypical gunny... Not anti-gun, just not educated to our ways.
From her email about my blog post comes this tidbit:
The one correction I'd make is that I was NOT intimidated at Perry; I just realized quickly exactly what I didn't know (like how to load a gun, that would have been useful information, LOL). It takes an awful lot to intimidate me, a lot more than a cheerfully obnoxious Master Sergeant and a really big gun. The whole experience was fascinating; I took in everything. The people on my team were really nice, although when exchanging notes later, my son and I discovered that we had both avoided like the plague any conversations that reminded us that the people around us probably didn't think like us - like the Master Sergeant's descriptions of the Afghanis, and his animated recounting of his attempts to trap snow leopards.
(For what it's worth, I think many of us do the same thing. I have several friends who I agree with on many topics and others we just avoid like the plague. Their friendships are worth more to me than a lose-lose shouting match about beliefs.)
I do have to give Kay a lot of credit for doing this, though. Driving two states away to learn how to shoot a service rifle from the US Army Marksmanship Unit - with zero prior firearms experience - takes guts.
During our latest email exchange, this little gem really got me to thinking:
I think the shooting world is somewhat inscrutable, and if one hasn't grown up around it, it's pretty hard to figure out what to do. In fact, the way I found out about SAFS was by googling "rifle instruction," because it doesn't seem like instruction is readily accessible at the community level.
Read that again, because that is the key to success, hearts and minds, etc.
I didn't grow up around the "shooting world". I wheedled my parents into a BB gun after I'd successfully earned my rifle merit badge at scout camp one summer, and then hung up shooting for several years after high school. Plinking thereafter was self-taught and informal (tin cans in the woods), and it wasn't until I started hunting that I really started digging in. Beyond that, I can't point to any one thing that made me want to take the next step in shooting.
The vast majority of what I've learned has been self-taught, with a fair bit of help from the Appleseed program a couple years ago. I don't know it all, but I know enough to be dangerous. If I went to one of the run'n'gun schools that Tam frequents, I'd be That Guy. So be it. There's one in every class, it might as well be me!
So what point am I trying to make here? Simply this: no matter how welcoming we are - and I can't count the number of fellow bloggers who will gladly take new shooters to the range - we're still not reaching the right numbers of people. Programs like Appleseed are a great resource, but speaking as a former instructor, it's not a program for new shooters. The NRA runs training classes nationwide on a regular basis - even classes exclusively for women - but they aren't generally reaching the absolute novice either.
I want some input, kids. How do we fix this? Shooting as a culture is a mystery to outsiders. We have our own code, of grains and feet-per-second and muzzle energy and come-ups and zeroes and windage and so forth. Is it possible to run a new-shooters night at your range once a month? Once a week? Bring a bag full of .22s, a couple bricks of ammo, and a handful of willing instructors. Start small. Safety, basics, single-shot from bolt guns, short distance. Break the ice.
Maybe I'm spitballing, but I think there's potential here... and potentially a market. Something to think about...
And now, the photos that Kay sent along:
The group in the center is hers, using the Savage MkII at 50 feet with a front rest. The top left group is mine, off-hand with the Savage. The top right group is the first set she shot with the Marlin 795, and the bottom right is the second group once we discussed sight alignment a bit more. (See why I love the Savage for new shooters?)
Bob's upper half - well-ventilated. The handful of larger holes around his collar is from the Model 67 at 5 yards, single-action.
Bob's torso. Note the tiny group under his name patch, as compared to the group around the eye shown above? We figured out that the mid-grays and random-ish patterns of the face provided a less consistent aim point than the white oval of the name patch.
And a handful of rounds from the 22/45 - literally.
We should be hitting the range again this week, and we'll see what she wants to shoot! If I ask really nicely she might let me take a picture of her with a gun. Maybe. ;-)