We don't teach our kids martial arts in order to make them bullies, but rather in order to prevent them from being bullied. In much the same manner, we provide our youngsters with firearms training to give them the skills they need to be safe with them. As for those members of the press who think we have this backwards, I wish they had been with the group of teenagers (seven girls and two boys) who just completed a 250 Defensive Handgun class at Gunsite Academy. I saw it through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl named Kat who, by her own admission, "is not at all coordinated, prefers to stay indoors with a good book, and didn't know the first thing about guns."
So how do you make an incredibly nervous teenager comfortable in a new endeavor with peers she doesn't know? Again, in her words, "The instructors made sure we mingled and that we did not stand next to the same person every day on the firing line. They made us give each other nicknames for the entire week's training."
How do you make a bunch of kids cognizant of the strict safety requirements in a shooting class? "They not only told us the safety rules, they told us why we have them and what could happen if rules aren't followed. Signs with the safety rules are everywhere at Gunsite, plus we had to memorize them. The emphasis on safety put me at ease."
Go time! "When the classroom lectures were finished, we headed for the range. Shooting was what I was most nervous about, because I did not even know how to aim a pistol. After ensuring all guns were empty, the instructors put us in proper stances and helped each of us aim and dry fire. They were so calm and patient with us, I didn't feel like such an imbecile. They also made sure no one made cracks about how poorly anyone (mostly me) was doing." After live firing commenced, our young lady admitted, "I was not doing well, so I was ecstatic when one of my shots finally hit the target's center mass."
On Day 2, Kat again became nervous about having to make a head shot. Simple solution. "I found that if I concentrated on my sights instead of my frayed nerves, I could hit smaller targets." Many adults have never grasped that simple fact! As the class progressed and the social interactions increased, the drills became more difficult as the kids learned how (and why) to shoot from different positions. Now they were helping each other, enjoying themselves immensely, and shooting much better. Kat again commented on how "patient and safe" the instructors were.
By Day 4 our young heroine, although sore and tired, was eager to continue and no longer nervous. The class learned pivots and turns, because threats don't always approach from the front. Kat experienced the "super fun and suspense" of house-clearing, where threats and innocent bystanders were differentiated only by what their hands held: a cell phone or a gun. She navigated a gully filled with evil steel "bad guys" and survived. The day ended with a night shoot where she learned "how to properly use a gun and a flashlight at the same time." Despite being exhausted, she praised the night shoot because "it made me feel comfortable in the dark knowing I could protect myself if needed." As she entered the final day of tests and the class shoot-off, Kat said, "I was at the point that if I did not have a gun on my hip, I felt open and unsafe."
Following the shoot-off and graduation ceremonies, Kat gave a great one-sentence summary of the week. She said, "I know that if needed I could defend myself and be safe about it." And that, boys and girls of all ages, is what the Gunsite 250 Pistol class is all about!