To Help a New Shooter

Getting started in shooting.I don’t like guns. At least that’s what I thought, as I reflected back on how my mother never let my father bring his gun into the house.

I remember talking to my dad about getting a little Derringer. He was adamantly against it. Small guns can be wrestled away and used against the owner, he said. Instead, he advocated for a gun that was effective with one shot.

Several years have passed since I first thought about owning a gun. Recently, I have a renewed interest in learning to use one. I want my daughter to be educated on firearm safety and use—I want her to be smart and prepared.

Do Any Gun Ranges Cater to Beginners?

I did some research and read some good reviews about the Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range, just north of Atlanta. When I called about their membership, the woman who answered discussed my options. She mentioned that Thursday was set aside for women—and there were no range fees.

I’m not going to say that I felt immediately at ease or unafraid, but it was important to me that a well-spoken woman had all the answers to my questions, and she understood my apprehension.

“Make sure you let the person at the desk know you need some help,” she said, adding that it’s standard to assist guests.

I’ve since learned the range is owned by two sisters, Cara Workman and Robyn Workman Marzullo. I had the pleasure of meeting Robyn during my visit.

“If you can load a washing machine, you can load a gun,” Robyn said with a smile. She was right.

Behind the Gun: First Impressions

Newshooter2My daughter and I attended Ladies Day and were impressed by how professional and courteous the staff was—and that they were armed.

I was met by Brandie Huth, director of marketing and Casey Retterer, director of training. Retterer provided us with safety information about the gun, the club, and how each range is segmented—all completely state-of-the-art.

He set aside a Browning Buck Mark 22 for our first experience.  Then he took us to the side and gave us the four cardinal rules of gun safety:

  1. A gun is always loaded. Casey does not want there to be any mistakes or confusion and he doesn’t believe in simply, “treating a gun as if it’s loaded.”
  2. Never cross the muzzle of a gun over anything you are not willing to destroy. Again, Casey’s safety-first training kept us feeling at ease.
  3. Always keep your finger on the side unless you have made the conscious decision to shoot. Even after we went into the range, he impressed upon us to wait until your aim is set before putting a finger on the trigger.
  4. Always be aware of your target, the foreground and the background. Being aware and knowing what is happening in that space is critical.

Once on the range, Casey showed us how to load the .22, pull back the slide and get the first shell into the chamber. I was surprised how easy it was to focus and not get distracted by the other shooters on the range. After a while, fear was set aside as we learned more about the pistol. There was only one person in the other lane so the noise was minimal and we were wearing ear protection.

The pistol was easy to handle, easy to load and had very little recoil. The target was only about 5 yards away, but I didn’t seem to be hitting the circle very well. My daughter, however, was a sharpshooter right out of the gate.

“I love it,” my daughter exclaimed, as we left. And with our first range session being a success, we wasted no time. We were already making plans to return and try other handguns.


Recommended Rimfire Rifle and Pistol Resources

Gun Digest Book of the .22 RifleThe Gun Digest Book of the .22 Rifle

Customize the Ruger 10/22

The Ruger 22 Automatic Pistol

2 thoughts on “To Help a New Shooter

  1. SmithKoWitz

    I couldn’t help myself from writing when I read the line:”Small guns can be wrestled away and used against the owner, he said. Instead, he advocated for a gun that was effective with one shot.” A smaller gun would be harder to wrestle away, as there is less to grab hold of. A small weapon is not necessarily an ineffective weapon. I have a derringer (made in Texas) that shoots 45LC, 3″ 410 shells, .357magnum just to name a few; it has close range effectiveness. A gun effective with one shot; that would be more about placement of the shot than size of the gun or caliber; unless you are talking about rifles, shotguns (we can’t walk the streets with those concealed though) or the monster handgun calibers that push in the neighborhood of 1000 to 2000 ft. lbs of energy. Glad you started with a 22LR and Buckmarks are an excellent choice. I own two of them and also a 22LR revolver. I shoot a 22 just about every time I go to the range to practice. I warm up with 50 to 100 rounds of 22. Cheaper to shoot (hard to find lately) yet reinforces the basic mechanics of shooting, including safety and responsibility. As for being able to load a gun if you can load a washing machine? A revolver is similar, a semi-auto no. Loading some larger caliber (especially High capacity) magazines can be a physical challenge for many people, even some who appear muscular. They do make devices that can help with that, known as mag-loaders. Over time, the magazine spring tension weakens some and our abilities and thumb strength improve, making it easier to load without need for a mechanical aid. I’ve seen people have issues with .380 and 9mm magazines that only held 7 rounds. When I first started I had trouble with doing more than 10 to 12 in my 9mm without the loader (it holds 17). Now it’s a piece of cake, still easier to load a washer though ; )

  2. Nana

    At the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center in APEX, NC, we have many classes for beginners, some of them for Ladies Only. And we have a non-competitive Ladies Handgun League that is heavily weighted with beginners. Our goal is learning more and having fun. We help one another, and many of us members are certified instructors. It’s a beginner-friendly range.

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