Mother’s Day

Mom & I at The Range

I went to visit my mom for Mother’s Day last weekend. For various reasons I didn’t take her shooting this year but in past years that’s exactly what I’ve done for Mother’s Day.

It’s unlikely she will  take her gun to the range unless I go with her. I remember when I first started down the path of becoming proficient with guns, I was often unsure of myself at times. It’s something I’m very confident about now and something I’m happy to help her with. She’s done so much for me over the years. Please note, there is no doubt Mom will use her gun to protect herself and her home! The range trips we make to practice help ensure she can do that with confidence.

This photo of Mom and I is from the day after Thanksgiving in 2012. My sisters and my nephew joined us. In all my years of growing up never did I imagine I would take my family shooting. We were the only ones at the outdoor range that day so I was the default Range Safety Officer. Everything went flawlessly.

Love you Mom!

Concealed Carry Fashion Show – Sept 19th 2015

2015-0919 Sadie walks the concealed carry purseThe Gun Powder Gals in Fayetteville, NC put out a call for volunteers to participate in a Concealed Carry Fashion Show hosted last weekend. I wanted to know more about carry options for women so I volunteered. I bought a holster (discounted for the models) and then walked in the show.

I got a first hand report on all the holsters as I had time to talk to the models backstage about how they liked each of the options they would be showing. I have one or two new items added to my future shopping list as a result.

There were news crews onsite and two versions were aired. I managed to get a copy of each though the shorter version is not the greatest quality. I’m the one trying not to smile in the pink shirt.

The event included vendors, speakers and the fashion show. Food was available at the venue. A knife fighting demo was also included. Several guns were raffled off with the proceeds (over $2000) donated to the Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County.

I intend to write more but for now here’s the video. Enjoy!

Women at Action Pistol

I shot the Action Pistol Match last night in the May heat and managed to get two of the stages on video. I’m posting not because I’m a great shooter (I’m not, yet) but to show you that women do participate in these matches. On both Stages I have a female Range Safety Officer.

Lessons learned:

  • Hold the camera vertically to film horizontally (old Flip camera we pass around).
  • Stage 2: Don’t just start running with no clear destination in mind. If you can’t see the targets, pick a point on the floor to head for it. I overran the gap in the barrier and backed up to make my shot.
  • Shooting a complicated stage can be easier the second time. I shot all of these stages on Monday of the previous week and Stage 1 took some time to figure out. Last night I shot 2nd, it was our last stage, we were all hot and tired, and we didn’t take as much time to plot strategy. I’d shot it before so I knew there were low, long shots from each corner. I split up the targets in set of 3: 3 from the initial gap, three from the left corner, a single at the right gap, and the last 3 from the right corner. For once I ran the stage as I intended. I’m still slow but all my shots were alpha or charlie (no penalty points for “alpha”, one penalty point for a “charlie”). No misses. I was very pleased with that.

Another successful Women on Target event

I spent most of my Sunday (April 26th) at the Sir Walter Gun Club coaching new shooters. I volunteered for a Women on Target event a few years back and now it’s become a habit. These are scheduled in the spring and the fall and are advertized as “rain or shine”. We had great weather last November but we started this event with rain. The weather was wet & cold for the first half of the day and stayed chilly in the afternoon. I got to try out my rain gear and it did keep me dry. We set up canopies over each shooting station to keep shooters out of the rain but everything got damp.

I set the alarm for 5:30am so I’d have time for breakfast before leaving the house at 7am to assist with setup. I remember thinking… “Why did I agree to do this?“. I instructed at the reactive pistol station. We had two bays and at each bay we had 50 minutes to teach 6 women to shoot a 9mm pistol at steel targets: if you hit them they fall down. It provides great visual feedback. Once we gave every lady the opportunity to shoot 15 rounds of 9mm (S&W M&P), we also let them shoot a S&W 67 revolver (.38 Special) and explained the different between shooting double and single action. We worked with 3 groups of 6 before lunch and 2 groups after lunch in our bay.

I personally instructed about 25 ladies. I don’t consider myself an experienced instructor but I can help a brand new shooter get the basics right, help them build confidence and insure every one stays safe. My co-instructor was very seasoned and he helped with the women that found this to be challenging. We were very serious about calling the range hot and cold (to reset targets) and checking in each time before going hot again.

Typically our groups of women have shot .22 pistols before rotating to our station for larger pistols. The first group has not. This group included a women that was very quiet and tentative. I talked her through stance, grip, sight alignment and trigger control. She looked apprehensive. Then she shot. I think it took about 3-4 tries before she hit the first steel target. Wow! She went through a transformation! She broke out into a big smile and said, “I can do this!”. Once experience like that will keep me coming back, getting up early and staying out in the weather.

More about the Women on Target Events: 

There are two “Women on Target” events (NRA sponsored) in the spring and in the fall. They are intended for women with little or no shooting experience. They are hosted at two local private ranges in the Raleigh/Creedmoor area. Each event is limited to 60 women. Groups of 12 women rotate through 5 different types of shooting clinics during the day. The events run from 8am till about 4pm and are rain or shine.

The attendees are all ages, a mix of races, and can include multiple generations of women from the same family. Come with your family, your friends, or just come alone (I did).

This fall:

  • Oct 10th, 2015: Durham County Wildlife Club: Pistol, Rifle, Archery, Skeet and Trap
  • Nov 1th, 2015: .Sir Walter Gun Club: 22 Pistol, 9mm Reactive plinking, High Power Rifle, Smallbore Rifle, Skeet

You must mail in your application on a specific date as they won’t take them before that date and tend to fill up quickly.

If you’d like more details, please send me a private message and provide your email address. I can email you the flyers/application forms.

I’ve attended as a participant and as a volunteer instructor in the past and most ladies are smiling and confident by the end of the day! This group provides a safe, positive experience.

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.




October Wake County Action Pistol Match / Ladies Handgun League Action Pistol

Sadie - Bay 2

Sadie – Bay 2

I went back in October to shoot another Wake County Action Pistol Match on 10/29. We got a late start due to conflicting events but still shot 4 stages. Total round count: 55. Special highlights: shooting from under a barrier and one stage shot strong hand only. Two of the stages were “run & gun” set ups requiring movement and two stages were shot from a stationary position. At this point the Monday matches fill up fast but the Wednesday matches fill slower – and may be easier to get into.

A past shooting partner came out for his first Action Pistol Match and I did my best to be a good tour guide and answer all the questions I asked at my first match.

He & I have shot IPDA in the past so mostly it was “yes you have that restriction in IDPA, no you don’t have that restriction at this match”. My biggest “victory” at this match was no malfunctions with my 1911. I was thrilled about that.

When you shoot a match, you get one run through of the stage. The match director was generous enough to set up a stage in Bay 1 this morning at 9am for the Ladies Handgun League. I couldn’t pass up the chance to run through the stage a few more times. I lucked out and got 3 attempts. Each time through I focused on slightly different things:

  • Are you absolutely sure your finger is OFF the trigger when you are moving?
  • In an attempt to work on recoil control, I put 3 shots in most of the targets instead of just the required 2 shots.
  • I never remember to count my shots – I always ended up reloading after I pull the trigger and get no bang – something to focus on in the future.

This is FUN! Every lady that gave it a try was smiling after her attempt. It looks intimidating. I promise that’s only before your first time through. The typical reaction is “I want to do that again!”

Finally, I wanted to mention the good feedback you can get from video. My friend and I swapped off filming each other last Wednesday night and I got to rerun the stages from video and review my shooting. What feels really fast in the moment sure looks slow in review. I’m not a fast shooter and definitely not competitive, but if you want to see what shooting a stage looks like, I’m posting 3 of the stages below.

If you are local, want to shoot the match and have questions, the match directors do a great job of responding. If you want to talk to a participant, I’m also happy to answer questions to the best of my ability.

Here’s the video:

Bay 1: turn right, shoot 3, transition to the right, shoot 2, move forward and right, shoot  2 high and 2 low – 18 rounds

Bay 2: two targets each side of barricade, three paper plates (stand in for steel plates) in the middle – shoot at least one under the barricade. I shot 3 each side and a single under – but I had misses – 11 rounds

Bay 4: Two stages.

Stage 1: (No Video) Five targets, two each side and a swinger in the middle. All strong hand. Start with the gun on the table, pull the cord to trip the swinger then pick up the gun with one hand. 10 rounds.

Stage 2: 4 targets all partially covered. Two rounds in each, reload, two more in each. 16 rounds.

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





Why it often takes a woman…

I listened to this podcast interview this morning while I was out walking the Raleigh Greenway. It’s from one of my favorite podcasts: Triangle Tactical. Luke interviewed Candy Sugarman who started Gunpowder Gals based in Fayetteville, NC.

Candy explains why it can take a woman to teach another woman to shoot, enjoy the sport, and be proud of her accomplishments. She does a great job!

The closest group to me is the Ladies Handgun League of Wake County. I’ve mentioned the group in past posts.I keep going back because I get the positive reinforcement I crave from these ladies.

If/when Candy puts together a women’s concealed carry fashion show, I’m making the trip to Fayetteville!



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:


Ladies Handgun League: Advanced Shooter Drills

Don't hit the good guy! (ie: the front plate). All shots one handed at 15 feet.

Don’t hit the good guy! (ie: the front plate). All shots one handed at 15 feet.

I attended the monthly gathering of the the Wake Country Ladies Handgun League (LHGL) last Saturday. I opted to shoot the advanced shooter drill as I wanted practice time and I wanted a challenge.

The drill this month was to shoot one handed then switch to the other hand. We didn’t use a holster for this drill, just picked up the gun from the bay table.

We started with 7 rounds loaded in the magazine and shot 4 strong hand, transferred the gun to the  weak hand and finished up the last 3 shots.

Turns out the hard part of the transfer is getting the thumb of the shooting hand out of the way of the transfer hand. At least, that was my challenge.

I moved onto full magazines and transferring every 2 shots to practice the pass between hands. I realized after the fact that I may have gotten better results as neither hand was over tired by holding the gun for longer strings of shots.

To up the “ante” a bit, we overlapped paper plates, designated the front plate a non-threat (using IDPA terminology) and attempted to hit the back plate without “hurting” the non-threat. I posted a photo of my initial results with the first two magazines. No hits to the non-threat!

I used my XDS in 9mm for this exercise. I think the targets were out at about 15 feet.

To qualify for the advanced shooter drills with the LGHL you have to pass a basic gun handling safety test and a basic accuracy test with your shooting. It provides more challenge than just shooting downrange and adds skills to practice.