Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

Squeeze the trigger

When I said I was going to try out new sports, I didn’t want to rule anything out. So while visiting my family this weekend I got a wild notion to go out on a shooting expedition with my brother, dad, and grandpa. They’re not hunters; they shoot for sport. And who am I to say shooting is not a sport, when it’s in the Olympics? The guys in my family, who have a mighty arsenal among them, like to get together on the weekends and shoot at targets (targets being pop cans, tufts of grass and sometimes even targets). They’ve done this as long as I can remember, and I’ve been around guns as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been afraid of them.

But part of trying new sport challenges is overcoming fear. If I’d let fear stop me, I’d never have met all my weightlifting goals. So off we went this morning to my grandma and grandpa’s house in rural south-east Kentucky. My “little” brother, who luckily for me, is a state-licensed firearms instructor and really, really into shooting, brought nine guns, ranging from a little Glock to a Russian rifle used in WWII and a 12-gauge shotgun my dad had sworn would knock me down. My dad brought a Springfield rifle dating from 1898 and my 83-year-old grandpa has an untold number of guns in his collection–he kept disappearing into his cabin to pop out with some marvel or another. The history behind all these weapons was fascinating. When I looked at them as items of interest, instead of recoiling with “ewwww, a gun!” I found there was a lot to learn.

The men in my family, like me, don’t believe in doing anything half-assed. So after I put on my safety glasses and earplugs, and got a little instruction, my dad handed me a Magnum 357. My entire body shook violently as I took the revolver. I held it like I’ve seen in the movies, aimed it at a big tuft of grass (I’m guessing), tightened my core as if I was going under a big weight, and carefully squeeeeeeeezed the trigger, terrified of what it would do, but determined to hang on tight and not drop the gun, scream or otherwise act like an idiot. And with an explosion I felt reverberate in my skull, it went off and I held on. I’d done it! Brian even told me later that despite my shakiness, I had a steady hand :)

One after another I tried the family guns, quickly moving to the 12 gauge my dad had bet me would knock me down. I’d argued the day before that I was strong enough to handle it, and hadn’t dropped the Glock (that thing leaves your hand numb!) so I got to give it a go. And learned: don’t bite your tongue as you’re sighting the gun or you’ll nearly take it off when that thing kicks back. My dad stood behind me, ready if it knocked me down but even though I wasn’t coming very close to my targets, I leaned into it like my brother instructed, and I stood firm against the blast.

Grandpa shows me how to load the Colt

When my grandpa came out with a long-barreled stainless steel revolver I think I experienced my first gun envy. “Oooh, can I shoot that?” I asked. And wouldn’t you know it, I hit my target for the first time with that pretty, shiny thing. A Colt Anaconda, my grandpa says it’s a rare weapon, and a piece of art. I shot it several more times, my pick of all 13 guns I shot today. He showed me how to load it and check it after shooting to make sure it’s empty (though he himself ignores rule #1 of gun safety, and leaves his weapons loaded — “you may as well walk around with a crooked stick if you’re going to carry an unloaded gun,” he says).

I kept shooting even though my hand and forearm were in shock from the repeated blasts, and watched the guys shoot to learn how they hold it, aim and take fire. I never could stop shaking each time I took aim, but it got better, and the explosion of each shot was a little addictive.  I can see why my brother is so into it and why this has been such a long tradition in my family. I’m not ready to buy a gun for myself, but I have decided to make target shooting one of the twelve sports I learn over the next year. Hitting the target that single time was really exciting, and I want to see how I will do with some practice.  Good thing I’ve got so many teachers in the family!

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2 responses

  1. Awesome, looks like you had lots of fun! Totally jealous of your family arsenal, too.

    March 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  2. This sounds like such a fun day! The men in my family are all really into guns too. I don’t get to join them when they go shooting often, but always have a great time when I do.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm

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