How to Deal With Unsolicited Advice on the Range

posted on June 7, 2016

You know the type. He might be a regular at the gun club, or he's there with his buddies for a day shoot or maybe he's by himself zeroing his rifle. He eyes you with your firearm, and as soon as he can get a moment alone with you, he sidles up. "Hey Lil' Lady..." it starts...and even if he doesn't say it out loud, you just know he's thinking it. He tells you why you're doing whatever you're doing is wrong. He tells you how to do whatever you're doing better. He offers to help. If you're a woman, and you've spent any time on the range at all—especially if you've been unattended—you've probably met the "Hey Little Lady" type.

I've been the subject of a "Hey Little Lady" more than a few times. I don't want to use the word "victim," because by and large these fellows (almost always men—go figure) mean well, and I always try to take comments in the spirit with which they are delivered. But sometimes it does feel a bit like I'm a target (ouch). After all, I'm just a gal trying to work her guns and technique, thank you...and excuse me, but could you move out of my way? Both physically and figuratively? I'm not saying that my or your way is the only way, but if we've spent any time studying these things, we want to have the chance to practice them, too. And we can do it on our own.

My personal favorite was when I was practicing for a Cape buffalo hunt. I always wear my gear as I do in the field, even if I'm "just" at the range, so that I practice with it as it's going to be—thus, I had my ammo slide on my belt with the beefy .375 H&H cartridges in it. One of the resident guys at our range came striding up, pointed at my ammo, and blurted out, "Well now! What are you going to shoot with those?" My thought bubble read, "Anything I please!" but of course, like many women, I was raised to be polite. I smiled and carried on.

Why does this happen? Sadly, some men do assume they know more than women about firearms and the art of shooting them. Many years ago, I was advised by one of my first (male) instructors that, "All American men are descended from Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. Or at least they think they are." This enlightened trainer went on to explain that for some reason, many guys seem to believe they have an inherent ability to handle a gun. "Well, I'm here to tell you," said this instructor, "It's not true."

And what drives them to extend their reach and actually engage us? I'm sure it's mostly out of good intentions—they really believe they are being helpful. Some, of course, are simply feeding their own egos, or perhaps they're trying to feed yours—using this as an opportunity to flirt. Regardless, if we're at the range to shoot, and especially if we're there to hone our skills with focused practice, it's best that we proceed without distraction, or worse, bad advice. (Of course, if he is pointing out a safety problem, that's definitely something to listen to.) 

However, unless we're talking about a safety violation here, the important points for us to remember are that:

1) Just because someone has been doing something for a long time, doesn't mean he's doing it properly.

2) Even if he's doing it properly, that doesn't mean he can teach you how to do it. Teaching is a skill that not everyone possesses.

3) Just because you're not doing it his way, that does not mean that you are doing it improperly.

Thus, in most cases there is little to be gained—as far as your firearms work is concerned—by prolonging the interaction. Unless this person is a trained instructor, chances are what he says won't help you. It's better to focus on what you were trying to accomplish in your shooting practice.

How do we disengage? If you can invoke some sort of creditable training—creditable in that it makes our interloper have to think for a moment—you have a better chance of getting out of the interaction easily. But even if not, there's hope. Unless your unwelcome adviser deserves otherwise, start your answer with, "Thank you but...

"....I'm trying to practice what I learned in class."

"...I'm trying to see what works for me."

"...I've been working on this method, and want to continue with it for a while."

"...I'm fine with what I'm doing."

At all costs, avoid getting into a discussion or worse, an argument...that is, if you want to spend your range time actually shooting. 


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