Women on Target – Durham County Wildlife Club – as a participant

Yesterday, even though I had a bad cold, I showed up for the Women On Target event at the Durham County Wildlife Club. I’ve volunteered at previous events, but this was the first time I’ve attended as a participant.

Sixty ladies attended and were separated into groups of 12 then spread across 5 clinic sessions. If you asked to be in the same group as friends or relatives, they will do their best to make that happen. I showed up solo and made a few new friends during the day.

Our group started with archery. We used practice bows. The instructors focused on form and I was able to hit the target, but I never actually figured out how to really aim the arrow. They have a trail with archery targets that sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon. The other big plus was that no ear protection was needed. It was nice and quiet.

Next we tried skeet. We shot 20 gauge shotguns at flying clay targets. They launched from a “high house” and flew left to right across a clear field (essentially toward us) and we did our best to lead the “bird” then knock them out of the sky. I was amazed that I actually hit about a third of my targets. For the second round we tried shooting from the “low house”. These launched right beside us and headed up and across the same field, essentially away from us. Again, I was amazed that I hit anything. Typically shooters will move to 8 different positions and shoot from both the high house and the low house.

We ended the morning at the pistol range. We shot .22lr pistols. The instructors there knew me for the most part, so I helped one of the instructors diagnose a finicky Ruger SR22. Sweet little gun, but I don’t think it liked the ammo. This was copper clad but somewhat blunt on the tip. I shot two full magazines with no issues, but had misfeeds, jams, or failure to feed on three other magazines. I like the white dot sites and I think it would make a great training gun with ammo it liked.

They fed us lunch catered from Moe’s. My cold left me with not much of an appetite, but that was my issue.They feed you well at this event.

Shot with a .22lr at 40 years (with a scope)

Shot with a .22lr at 40 years (with a scope)

After lunch we started with .22lr rifles. I shot 3 different models and shot at three different ranges: 40 yards, 75 yards and 100 yards. We shot from a benchrest and this is the first time I’ve ever shot with a scope. Like pistols, this requires you to aim and I liked that: taking my time to line up a shot then nail it. We all picked a playing card and set them up at 40 yards. I managed to hit mine – with the first shot.

I finally have an appreciation for distance and scopes.

Our last station for the day was trap. We shot 12 gauge shotguns from 5 different positions at clay targets moving away from us. As the instructor said, “Pull! Bang!”. The longer you wait to shoot it, the further away it gets and the tougher the shot gets. I managed to hit between a third to a half of my targets and found the shotgun recoil wasn’t that big of a deal. I also learned to get the heck out of the way of the shells when I broke open the gun after the shot. I only got popped in the face once.No harm done.

It was a good day. I’d never shot a shotgun before and I found I could not only shoot them, but I could hit moving targets. Amazing.

I’d tried archery and .22 rifles as a kid at summer camp – about 4 decades ago – and still see the appeal. Pistols are still my first love however.

If you know any women who would like safe, enthusiastic exposure to a variety of firearms, the local Women on Target events in the spring and fall at this facility and the facility where I volunteered two weeks ago are a great opportunity.


Update: I saw this article posted today over at Cheaper Than Dirt on all the basics of pistol shooting so I thought I’d add that link here for new shooters.

Update: Here’s a link to an article in the local paper about the WOT events: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/05/07/3843729/shooting-clinic-helps-women-learn.html


Women on Target – Sir Walter Gun Club

Pistol Plinking Targets

Pistol Plinking Targets

I just got home from spending a very cold day out at the Sir Walter Gun Club for a very good cause. I volunteered for an NRA Women on Target event that gives new female shooters an opportunity to shoot various firearms with coaching to keep them safe and help them be more successful shooters.

I worked the pistol plinking section. We loaded up 7 or 8 rounds in an M&P 9mm semi-automatic pistol and coached the ladies through shooting the targets pictured above. The steel targets fall down when given a solid hit. If you hit them, but don’t drop them, they still give off a satisfying “ping”.

We covered stance, grip, aim, and trigger control. In our section we took 6 ladies through at a time then gave them all a second chance to shoot again.

We had all ages and every women we coached knocked down at least one of the steel targets.

The couple I was working with were also kind enough to let me take a turn and I managed to knock down all 6 targets pretty quickly. Just having an instructor certification doesn’t make you a good shooter, but in this case I didn’t embarrass myself.

I also made a new contact that may open up an opportunity to teach some more NRA.

The biggest lesson I learned today: bring extra layers. I have an emergency bag in the trunk of my car and I ended up digging out an extra layer and a pair of gloves that made me much more comfortable during a long cold day.






Frustrated… so I signed up for a class

I’ve been shooting for just over a year. I’ve learned quite a bit: about guns (that cranky 1911), competition, and shooting. But I’m not getting any better, really. I still come in dead last or in the bottom 5 at every match. A friend and I were trading email about our journey and he wrote: “I classified as an IDPA Marksman a few months back and am going to try for Sharpshooter”. We shot our first match together. I’m still a bottom ranked Novice. I am not happy about this.

One of the contributing factors was getting pushed into buying a 1911. I waited for the slim grips to arrive and I essentially started from scratch. I wasn’t used to a gun with a thumb safety and I had spent too much to sign up for more private lessons last fall. Several competitors at matches where I’ve shot have volunteered their opinion, “Whoever told you to buy that 1911 did you no favors.”. One of the local shooters I watch gave up on his 1911 (for now).  It’s a great gun. It’s just more gun than I know what to do with and it requires additional knowledge and experience to use well. Dealing with “hardware” issues has distracted me from developing my shooting skills.

Add to that I took off work at lunch on Good Friday (forgetting that it was a holiday) and intended to practice at the range — only to find a 45 – 60 minute wait for a lane. So back to work I went with no practice. The weekends are worse.

What have I been doing? Shooting a match or live fire practice at the range once a week.

What am I not doing? Dry fire practice and getting instruction. At this point I don’t even trust I’m practicing the right things.

Time for a change…

We all have constraints on time and money, but I found a class that I can afford, with an instructor that comes highly recommended by a match director and many past students. I’ll be packing a lunch Saturday and heading north for a full day of basic competition instruction. Once I have that refresher, I need to make time to do much more dry fire practice and see how that works.

I feel like I’m a slow starter, but I know I’m not a quitter. Signing up for this class makes me feel more positive, should improve my skills, and gives me the opportunity to meet other shooters.



Getting a Concealed Handgun Permit

I have had a few people ask about getting a Concealed Handgun Permit or Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) License. Why might you consider this? It gives you more options for carrying guns legally and you don’t have to apply for a Pistol Purchase Permit every time you want to purchase a handgun.  You are not required to carry if you have a permit, but you have the option.

NOTE: I’m not a lawyer or a law enforcement official. I’m sharing my experience but follow my advice at your own risk. Do your own research then decide what’s right for you. 

In the state of North Carolina, you must attend an 8 hour class and pass a shooting proficiency test to apply for your permit. I was under the impression that the 8 hour class would teach tactics or basic self defense skills. I was wrong. This class is designed to present you with basic gun safety, familiarize you with the laws concerning where you can carry and to discuss justified use of deadly force. This is nothing more than a way for the state to ensure everyone with a carry permit has been exposed to the law and to basic gun safety.

I strongly encourage you to also take a defensive pistol training class. And practice. And consider shooting defensive matches to hone your skills. Do you really want to be figuring all of this out at the point where your life or the life of a loved one hangs in the balance? But I digress…

I took a class offered by the Wake County Range. The current class schedule is here. The cost was $80. The time commitment was just under 10 hours if you include the round trip drive to the range. Part of what they discuss is how to apply for the permit, what it costs and how long it takes. To get your certificate, you must pass a written test and a shooting proficiency test.

  • The written test is 50 questions which are multiple choice, true/false, or fill in the blank.
  • The shooting proficiency test requires you to fire 10 rounds each at distances of 3, 5, and 7 yards at a standard silhouette target.
  • 70% is considered a passing score for both exams.

The email confirming the class was very detailed and stated:

You will need to bring a handgun and a minimum of 50 rounds of ammunition (you may want to bring extra ammunition in case you have any issues with your handgun during the qualification course of fire). If you have an extra magazine for your pistol, or a speed loader for your revolver, please bring it. If you do not have a handgun, please let me know and I’ll arrange with the instructors for you to use one of their guns for a small fee.

I used a .22 target pistol for the class. If you pass, you can carry any caliber, regardless of what you used for your proficiency test. Don’t expect to get instruction on how to shoot. Practice that in advance. If you are going to carry on a regular basis. you should be safe and you should be proficient (for your safety and the safety of the people around you.)

NOTE: This is not the time to learn how to operate a firearm or a firearm that is new to you. Spend some time getting familiar with the gun and how it functions before you take this class. Read the owner’s manual.

There are many options for CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) classes locally. Just be sure that the class you choose meets the 8 hour minimum and is licensed to issue a state recognized course certificate. Type “<your city> handgun training” into Google and you should find multiple options. Ask at the range where you practice. They can make referrals.

Once you have your class certificate, here’s the scoop on applying in Wake County, NC.

  • They are only open during regular business hours during the week. You may have to take time off work to visit the courthouse.
  • Download the forms, review them, and fill them out before you drive to the courthouse. My class instructor recommended making a copy of the class certificate to keep for your records.
  • The cost of $90 includes a $10 fee for being fingerprinted. The fingerprint office is right next door to the handgun permit office but they are not open from 11am to 1pm. So come earlier or later.
  • They don’t take credit cards. So bring enough cash or a check.
  • My permit took 6 weeks to be processed. They can take as long as 90 days in NC.

Total cost: $170 (class and permit application) + 8 hours of class + 50 rounds of ammunition + 1 or 2 trips to the courthouse.

Finger printed? Yes, you will be fingerprinted. That was the thing I was concerned about the most since I’ve never been fingerprinted. It made me feel as if I was throwing myself on the mercy of our judicial system and that felt scary to me. They are digital prints and I’m told that isn’t as precise as paper and ink. But you will be in the system. Since I have no aspirations toward a life of crime, I decided it was just one more thing I’d have to accept as part of paying my “gun dues”. This can be a mental journey as well as a physical one: think hard about the privacy tradeoffs.

This “feature” made available by WRAL ignited quite a bit of press about invasion of privacy: Rural areas lead in concealed weapons permit rates. You can enter any local street name and it will tell you how many permit holders live on the street. My street has four, but there are 90+ residences on the street. On streets with just a few houses, it can make it easy for the neighbors to know who carries. That can make you a target for theft. The link has been up for months and WRAL refuses to take it down.

Be aware that your permit is linked to your driver’s license. If you are pulled for a routine traffic stop and the officer runs your license he or she will see you have a concealed handgun permit. Best practice is to disclose up front and not surprise the officer. If you are not carrying it’s not required, but I personally would still disclose just to avoid that surprise. In that case, I’d say something like. “Office, I have a concealed handgun permit but I’m not carrying at this time.” If you are carrying, here’s a video I found that has a good demo of the disclosure process:
[Note: the original video was deleted so I’ve added a link to a different video as of March 2016].

When you do get that license, I want to leave you with this, from “The Cornered Cat” by Kathy Jackson:

When is the best time to tell my friends I am carrying a gun? At the same point you feel compelled to tell them what color of panties you’re wearing. — Gunhilda

More of Gunhilda’s wisdom can be found here. I highly recommend Kathy Jackson’s book for all new shooters, male or female.

Learn from my mistakes: I painted my gun shut. Really…

I took a 16 hour defensive handgun class locally: 4 days, over 2 weeks, 4+ hours each class. Snap caps were required for malfunction drills. Snap caps are essentially dummy rounds to allow dry fire without damaging the firing pin or to mix with live rounds to force malfunction drills. In this case we were required to have 5 snap caps, 3 mags and live rounds. We swapped these with another student and loaded a mixture of live/dummy rounds. Then when we shot we weren’t sure if/when a malfunction would occur. Not every mag was fully loaded and not every mag had to contain a snap cap.

After all 8 students had exhausted all magazines there was a mix of snap caps and brass all over the range floor. I wasn’t quick enough at spotting snap caps on the floor. The result: I was down 3 snap caps at the end of the night. At $3 apiece I wasn’t too happy about that.

I bought another 5 snap caps from the instructors and asked for suggestions to avoid this in the future. One of the instructors suggested I mark my snap caps. She mentioned the words “fingernail polish”.

I’m not a fingernail polish kind of girl. I have painted my nails a few times in the past but I can chip them in an hour flat and don’t see the point. I’m setting the stage for what comes next…

I bought bright green paint. I painted a band around the long part of the snap cap. My thought process was this: I could spot my rounds before I ever picked them up. I let them dry for 45 minutes. The bottle advised 10 minutes for nails so this seemed sufficient.

I loaded a mag and intended on practicing tactical reloads and slidelock reloads. That never happened. The slide would not budge. I loaded one round and that “painted it shut”.

This was on a Thursday night. I had my last class Saturday evening. I was trying to figure out who I could get to look at the gun on Friday and if it was still stuck, what I could use in class instead. It was not a happy evening.

I lucked out and the gun smith at the range I frequent was in on Friday. He works part-time so I was feeling lucky. I had to take time off work and endure a bit if humiliation, but he forced the slide open and cleaned the barrel for me. He showed me two handed technique he used: rocking the barrel until it popped open.

Of course, my instructor happened to stop by the shop while I was getting this issue addressed. Of course.

But I learned a good lesson. I have a great story to tell. And I made a new friend. The gun smith is never going to forget me.

What did I do with the new snap caps: I painted the ends where the firing pin hits. I used a very thin coat of paint and let them dry over night. I came home form the last class with all of my snap caps!

MY red snap caps with green bases!








It started with a simple thought: “use it or lose it”

I bought a small revolver many years ago on impulse. Early this year I was on yet another crusade to purge things from my home that were not being used when I considered this pistol. As with many things I’d collected over the years, I asked the question, “Are you going to use it or are you going to get rid of it?”  I’d asked many friends over the years to take me shooting but the few trips I’d made to a range were rare and not recent. This year I decided to stop waiting on “someone else” and to take matters in my own hands. I decided to become proficient and learn to shoot.

My journey started by reaching out to my social network to ask for recommendations on a basic pistol class. I selected an NRA First Steps Pistol class at the county range. I came home after class quite giddy and knew I wanted to learn more, much more.

This blog is the story of the journey that followed that first class.