“To protect yourself and your loved ones learn firearm safety and practice practice practice. You’ll sleep better at night” – Toni King
As a firearms instructor I’m asked from time to time to assist with classes which are for women only, in fact NRA offers Women on Target classes nationwide. These classes are for ladies only whether it’s your first time handling a firearm or you’re a seasoned shooter looking for a refresher course or additional instruction. To find a local class go to https://wot.nra.org/
On this particular Saturday, I was asked to co-teach the hands-on portion of the handgun class following a morning of classroom instruction. I met the ladies out at the range for lunch where we all got to chat a bit, enjoy a nice lunch and prepare to enter the range. Once inside the pistol house at our local gun club the lead instructor pulled me aside and asked me if I would take this particular lady 1 on 1 for instruction that afternoon. There had been some concern during the classroom portion that morning that made the lead instructor a bit “nervous” with this one particular student. I’m always up for a challenge and after chatting a bit more about her concerns was glad to take on this student who I’ll call Sally.
As the ladies were all getting their lane assignments, picking out their eye and ear protection I went up to Sally to introduce myself and let her know that I had the honor of working with her that afternoon. Sally seemed shy and uncomfortable from my introduction, a slight elderly lady who was particularly quiet and uneasy she put on her eye protection. The range safety office announced, “The Range is Hot you may approach the bench and you may get ready to fire.” Sally and I walked over to her lane, I asked her to have a seat on the stool as we chatted about what was about to take place. The pistol on the bench facing downrange, action open, its presence made Sally uneasy. As we chatted her anxiety markedly diminished. We put on our ear protection and she got comfortable. I placed a single .22 cartridge on the bench and modeled how to load the pistol. “You may commence shooting. I exaggerated the steps and fired the single round. Modeled opening the action removing the magazine and placing it on the bench.
I asked if she was ready? She shook her head. I told her it is okay to take her time and breathe. She closed her eyes tool a deep breath, opened her eyes smiled and with shaking fragile hands picked up the pistol. I asked if she was ready to proceed. She quietly nodded her head and quietly said yes. Sally took a deep breath, took a single .22 from me, and struggled to get that round into the magazine with her hands shaking.
She loaded the magazine into the battery, pointed the muzzle downrange, closed the action, aimed. She held that gun downrange and just sat there. I leaned in closer to her so no one else could hear and said “Go ahead whenever you’re ready.”
She said, “My children said, the recoil may break my wrist.”
Me: “Just watch the others. Do they look like it is hurting them?”
Sally shook her head, took aim and pulled the trigger, hands shaking more than ever, opened the action, and placed the gun down on the bench with the muzzle pointed downrange.
Sally turned at that point looking at me with tears rolling down her cheeks. I said “how was that?”
She said, “I’m 73 years old and this is the first time in my life I’ve ever touched a gun.”
I asked “What did you think?”
“Can I try that again.”
“Do exactly what did before.” When Sally turned towards her target I handed her one round, she loaded it into the firearm, took aim, and took her shot. This time after clearing her firearm and laying it on the bench downrange when she turned she had a huge smile on her face. I asked, “Well?”
She said. “That was fun, I’m not scared anymore, that was a really big deal for me. May I do that again?”
This next time I handed her 3 rounds and she shot the target hitting it like she had been shooting for years. Her fear of the unknown was now gone, she was having fun, and couldn’t wait to tell her son what she was able to accomplish. That afternoon as we wrapped up our class, Sally came game me a huge hug and thanked me for taking her from a point of being so afraid to making her comfortable and truly enjoying her afternoon of firearms training. At the end of the day, she was looking forward to more range time in the future. Sally and I chatted after class and she was excited to now try things she has not experienced, at least not yet. At 73 she was my inspiration and that it was my privilege to have been working with her that afternoon.
After all of the students headed home that afternoon the lead instructor came over and said: “How did you do that? I was watching you from afar and never thought that student would be able to shoot and felt she was a real safety concern.” What we both realized that afternoon is you never know someone’s story until they’re given an opportunity and a chance to share it. I’m so excited and proud of Sally, she went home a more self-confident woman that day.
Toni A. King
Co-founder / Chief Operating Officer
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