Making Friends through Competitive Shooting

Making friend is easier when you are willing to help others learn. -- Shooter's Like Us night at the Wake County Range . April 2016.

Making friend is easier when you are willing to help others learn. — Shooter’s Like Us night at the Wake County Range — April 2016.

When I started shooting it was a solo pursuit. I didn’t think I knew anyone I could ask to teach me and then, once I got started, I had trouble finding other shooters I could share this new passion with. Why does that matter? Because making friends who shoot will give you access to a wide range of personal experience, encouragement and support in your pursuit of firearms skills and safety.

I got lucky. When I showed up to my NRA First Steps Pistol class, one of the instructors was an old friend I’d lost track of from over a decade ago. Neither of us were shooters before. She let me shoot some of her guns and helped me select my first pistol to purchase. That was a S&W 22A chambered in .22LR.

She made me aware of a Ladies Handgun group that met once a month. That seems to be unique to women, as I haven’t heard of a support group for men in shooting, but it was a great resource for me. They helped me select my first 9mm handgun: an XDS by Springfield Armory.

I since sold both of these guns, but they were good starting options.

I began networking with people I already knew as I became passionate about shooting. I wasn’t shy about sharing my new interest. After dozens of conversations with gun friendly people, I realized that many firearms enthusiasts don’t actually shoot that often. They have knowledge from the past, or they collect firearms, but due to lack of time or money, they didn’t actually shoot that often.

I wanted to go to the range 2-4 times a month as I was building my skills. I voiced my frustration about people who said they liked to shoot, but didn’t seem to make it to a range. One of my friends who was in that category suggested I talk with a mutual acquaintance I wasn’t aware was a shooter. BINGO! I found a fellow fanatic who talked me into taking classes and then to shoot our first competitive match together. I can’t thank him enough. So keep networking patiently and consistently. It pays off.

Shooting handgun competitions made shooting even more fun for me. And it made me much safer as a shooter. I found shooting a single target in a lane at a shooting range became very tame.

One of the folks I met locally posted this to Facebook and I agree wholeheartedly: “Remember, a shooting match is just a social event occasionally interrupted by gunfire.”  I don’t place well in matches, but I consider it a good day to shoot with friends.

It’s great to have access to first hand opinions about other equipment, be able to ask for references on where to buy a gun or find a good gunsmith, and even have friends that can lend you equipment if you have equipment failures. I have one friend that has installed aftermarket triggers for me. In return I’ve helped him clear brush from his private range. Even though shooting can be a rewarding solo experience, I have found having friends in the sport to be very beneficial.

So here are a few tips on making friends in the competitive shooting sports:

  • Expect people to be a bit cautious. They need to see that you are safe with firearms.
  • Look for folks that are looking to make a similar time investment. If you are a once a week shooter, you will annoy someone that wants to shoot a few times a year.
  • Not all shooters are into what you are into: there are many niches in the shooting sports. Respect the differences and look for other shooters that share your particular passion.
  • If you join a club, they need to see that you will keep showing up before they invest in you. So keep showing up.
  • If you are interested in an event or competition, volunteer. Then show up as promised and fulfill your volunteer commitments. That is probably the #1 way to get to know people.
  • Once you make one friend, that person will introduce you to others. Before you know it, you have access to the knowledge and experience of many.

Volunteering at WOT & Watch that trigger!

9mm Pistol Plinking rangeI volunteered for another WOT (NRA Women on Target) event last Sunday. The write up on my first experience at Sir Walter Gun Club is here. For the first time I felt confident about coaching non-shooters and that made a big difference. We had many more volunteers than last April so the instructors switched off quite a bit. No one had to teach back-to-back-to-back students and we all spent time instructing.

Last April I listened to a seasoned instructor coach about 25 students in a row. He was so consistent in how he walked the women shooters through the process that I taped him coaching a student. I transcribed the recording (the audio quality was poor), used that as a script, then recorded my own version. The night before this event I listened through the recording a few times. It worked well for me. The coach I emulated advocates the bare minimum to get a shooter started so she can focus on 2-3 things and no more. We allocated two 9 round magazines per student. They started with 8 steel targets that (were supposed to) drop when hit. Then we moved them up a bit closer, to the smaller table, and let them shoot a paper target. It’s always fun to send them home with visual reminders of their success.

Every one of my ladies dropped at least one steel target and got at least one shot on the paper target.

The weather was great! No freezing like in April. But I was prepared this time.

Of note:

  • One lady insisted the gun was malfunctioning after trying to press the trigger and not getting a bang. It looked fine to me and I asked her to try again. She did. No bang. She asked me to try shooting it… so I did. And I hit the bullseye circle on the target. When you are supposed to be the expert, it is affirming to see successful skills in action. She tried again and the gun did go bang. I think her finger was just fatigued from shooting the steel.
  • I saw an out-of-battery malfunction in several cases. It’s a matter of poor technique when racking the slide and easy to correct: just tap the back of the slide forward.
  • I realized that some ladies have a great attitude and are thrilled with any positive experience, while others will never be satisfied with their performance. Guess who had a better day?
We know how to have fun at WOT!

We know how to have fun at WOT events!

And finally, the biggest lesson for me was after the students left. The instructors took a run at the steel targets. Someone volunteered her Glock and we all had a go. The trigger was lighter than I was used to and, although I managed to hit each steel plate, the gun went off before I intended. I started taking up the slack in the trigger as I lined up my shot and I was used to a different trigger. My bad.

The gun was pointed down range and I hit my target but I realized I needed to slow down and pay more attention when the equipment is unfamiliar. I have learned to warn friends that the trigger is light when I hand them my 1911 to shoot. I need to take my own advice and be more cautious with unfamiliar equipment.

If you know a women interested in spending a day trying at least 5 different shooting sports, the local WOT events are a fabulous opportunity. At Sir Walter Gun Club they offer two types of pistol, two types of rifle and skeet for the ladies during a WOT event. The events run locally in March/April and October/November.




New Instructor, not a new shirt / Ladies NRA First Steps Pistol

IMG_20140911_191914-cropI volunteered to assist with the Ladies Only NRA First Steps Pistol class at the Wake County Range yesterday (9/13/14). I taught as part of a team and covered the section on ammunition.

This is a 4 hour class designed for new shooters. Most of the time is spent in the classroom but every student shoots from a benchrest position as part of the class. Pistols in .22lr are available for each student. If you have a gun and you want to shoot it, that is an option also. There is no test and every student is issued a certificate of completion. If you take the NC Concealed Carry class at the Wake County range, you’ll get this class again as the gun safety portion of the day.

I’ve only taught one other time since I got my instructor credentials, and I realized I needed an instructor shirt to wear. I bought a long sleeve NRA Instructor shirt last winter, but it’s summer now and that indoor range can be sauna hot this time of year. I also bought some instructor patches and it was time to put them to use. I had an old golf shirt I received from a previous employer back in the early 1990’s. The logo was small and as I over laid the patch, I said “BINGO!”. I would never have imagined all those years ago that this shirt would have a second life with the NRA.

Recycled Shirt

Thursday night I sewed on the patch. Friday night I drafted my lesson plan and Saturday I was at the range at noon to help set up for the class.

We had 18 ladies. I think at least half had never shot a gun before. By the time they left, we no longer had shooting virgins!

Teaching as part of a team is the best of all worlds: you get actual experience teaching and you have other instructors to back you up and give you feedback on how to improve. Volunteering at the Wake County Range means they take care of the publicity, the scheduling, the registration and they have student packets in stock. That’s all part of offering a class that most students never think about. It allows me to focus on improving my teaching skills.

These are all 50 round boxes of 9mm Luger ammunition.

These are all 50 round boxes of 9mm Luger ammunition.

They also have built up a great set of teaching aids. I wanted to contribute something so I put together an example of the variety of boxes that 50 rounds of 9mm Luger can come in. NOTE: No live ammunition is allowed in the classrooms, so all these boxes are empty. I shot most of this long ago.

I also had plastic packs of brass in common handgun sizes. I only shoot .22 and 9mm but when you pick up your brass at a public range, you end up with a little bit of everything. I even had a single bullet (just the lead) I’d found on the floor. I may reach out to friends who reload to get a few more examples to show some of the variety of bullets available.

If you know a woman who would like to learn to shoot from a staff of female instructors, check out the classes on the upcoming class schedule at their website. They typically post 3 months at a time, so if you don’t see what you want now, check back later.

Next up for the ladies:

N.C. Concealed Carry Handgun Certification Course
Sunday, September 21, 2014 (Ladies Only)
9 a.m.–5 p.m.  Fee: $80





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:


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.






What’s Sadie been up to: Certifications, Volunteering and Teaching

NRA Patches

NRA Patches

I took a break from shooting due to the cost of the ammo I was burning through. I also realized I was shooting for fun, but not really improving my skills. I decided to take my shooting in a different direction in the short term.

My mom asked me to take her shooting, a woman I used to work for asked me to take her shooting, and a volunteer opportunity I signed up for resulted in me coaching new women shooters. All that seemed to point in one direction: learn to teach.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I volunteered for a Women On Target® (WOT) event October 20, 2013 at the Durham County Wildlife Club. The great ladies that run the event encouraged me to get my pistol instructor certification so…
  • I passed an NRA certified Pistol Instructor class on November 10th, 2013.
  • I volunteered to teach a section of a NRA 1st Steps Pistol (Ladies Only) class sponsored by the Wake County Range on December 8, 2013
  • I passed an NRA Range Safety Officer course on Sunday February 2, 2014.
  • I volunteered for a Women On Target® (WOT) event March 30, 2014 at the Sir Walter Gun Club. I worked the “pistol plinking” event where we taught women to shoot 9mm pistols and shoot steel targets.

Do I feel I’m ready to go out and start a business teaching people to shoot? Heck no! But I do want to find volunteer opportunities to work with more seasoned instructors and build my skills.

It’s really a thrill to see a group of ladies walk into a class room with some level of trepidation and/or anticipation at the beginning of a class then see them leave with a sense of real accomplishment ( and a target with bullet holes in it!) at the end of the day.