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Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Handgun Education

So.... I decided to start my firearms education with a handgun. I had no idea, however, where to start or how to start. I bought and read books upon books about self-defense and handguns. But ultimately there is only so much reading one can do before actually "pulling the trigger" ( pun intended) on shopping in-person and an actual purchase.

Let me digress for a minute and explain how I came across my first group of gun advisers besides my previously mentioned guypal. A few months beforehand, while doing some research after reading my Dad's copy of Band of Brothers, I had stumbled across a website full of paratroopers. This group, known as APO, or ArmyParatrooper.org is full of current and former "brothers of the silk", who after a few months of making sure I wasn't a looney ( Ha! fooled them!) became the most eager advisers for a first gun purchase that any woman could ever have. It was like having a website full of uncles and brothers looking over my shoulder! Now, I'm not recommending this route for everyone - it just happened to work out for me personally in a "serendipity" kind of way. And, I learned a whole new swearing lexicon in the process! There will be no repetition of these new terms here, however, as I am trying hard to not let these "colorful" terms creep their way into my pediatric usage accidentally!

So, it was to these guys that I first turned for advice. Between them and Guypal I got all kinds of suggestions for a first handgun - from a .22 Sig Mosquito, to an S&W .38 special revolver, to a Glock 19 and an XD 9. It was quite the selection to choose from, but it at least helped me narrow my choices. Much as all the great advice helped, it was done long-distance over the internet though, so it was still up to me to do the actual shopping -- alone.

The shopping part was a great challenge to my inner control freak. I tend to not like the unfamiliar, but at the same time, the novelty was a little exhilarating. Walking into that first gun shop was really thrilling, but also intimidating, and it didn't help that the proprietor was condescending and lied to me about the availability of the guns that I wanted to look at. He wanted me to buy what "he" wanted me to, and what he already had in stock, not what I was actually interested in and what fit me. Suffice to say that I left, and never went back.

After looking and handling several different models at several different stores and even a dreaded "gun show" (where I found that the VAST majority of sellers were actually licensed gun dealers, not nefarious criminals in trench coats) I finally settled on a Glock 19. It fit my hand, and had a reputation for running under almost any circumstances - in other words, I didn't think I could screw it up! The fellow behind the counter at the store was kind, and informative, and gladly showed me how to take it apart and put it back together. Thankfully due to the state that I live in, the paperwork was easy, the background check went quickly, and before I knew it, I was a firearms owner! Then, the entire drive home I kept thinking. "Oh my gawd, I have a gun in the car - NOW what do I do?" As I recall, the explanation I rehearsed for if I got pulled over before I got home would have probably had any State Trooper rolling his eyes and just sending me on my way.

The next step was to learn how to use my new purchase. Again, the men who offered me advice were long-distance friends, so I had pretty much no hope of any of them being able to teach me, and I knew ZERO women who were shooters. So I turned again to the internet. A web search for pistol instruction led me to the NRA website and and zipcode search for classes and certified instructors. I found that there was a Basic Pistol class in my area in a couple weeks - Ta-Da! I emailed the instructor ahead of time, because, being a control freak, I needed to know EXACTLY what to bring, EXACTLY where to go, was my pistol purchase okay, etc, etc, etc ad nauseum.

Fortunately for me, the instructor turned out to be a very indulgent fellow, who was very encouraging and answered all my questions by email before I even got there. It's a good thing too, because I had a huge surge of apprehension pulling in with my little Honda into the parking lot full of pickup trucks where the class was held. It reminded me of my first day of Med School - walking in as a 38 year old divorced mom. I had a huge surge of "Oh my GAWD, what am I DOING here?!"

Buuut, just like I survived Med School, I survived my first firearms class, and passed with flying colors! Whew!

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