Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Road to 3Gun, Part 3

The remaining three weeks until the Big Match flew by in a haze of back-to-school physicals, band practice, and other "real world" activities that did not involve shooting. My job tends to have a big peak in August when everyone realizes that they need a kindergarten physical, sports physical, or school immunizations. The days are long and don't leave much time for anything else but work, sleep, and school obligations. So it was, that I didn't manage any further practice until it was time to load up the car. It's a good thing that I'm not a sponsored or professional shooter. I've already got a demanding career, and I'm happy to be able to manage the practice time that I can, but sometimes that's not very much.

My packing list was an 8.5 x 11 inch page long - in two columns. I was going to be gone for 6 days, and needed gear for all three guns plus ammo. Plus it needed to be secured for travel across state lines. I'm sure this is old hat for the pros, but it was new for me, so I worried about every detail. I was going to be driving alone, so I was able to put the back seat down to make more room for gear. Unlike some docs, at least I drive a sensible car. A Subaru station wagon is more suited to my personality, and it holds a lot more gear than a BMW convertible. (And I was glad for the AWD after soaking thunderstorms and parking in fields for the event).

Since this was my first really BIG match - let alone my first 3Gun event, I obsessed about everything... was it going to be cold and rainy?... Or hot and sweltering?... How many spare pairs of shoes should I take?...Was it going to be muddy or dry?... Do people change and wear decent clothes for dinner, or do they just go eat in sweaty range gear? Turns out that the answer to all of those questions was "Yes". It was a multi-day event, and I was going early, so I needed A LOT of clothes and gear.

Finally, after months of preparation, I was on the road. Such a pleasant drive. So nice to be alone and away from the usual routine. It said something about my stress level at work that month, that I was blissfully happy to be "on vacation"  - cozily ensconced in a Super8 motel in Kentucky. Not the dream destination of most docs, or most women I know - Ha! - But it was heaven for me.

I arrived a full day and a half early, because I wanted to have plenty of time to get the lay of the land, learn where I needed to go, (since I was alone) and I also wanted to leave myself time to visit Mammoth Cave National Park while I was there. I had never been to that part of the country, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

The other main reason that I wanted to arrive early is that I wanted to watch how the Pros do 3Gun. A month or two earlier, I had gotten a mass email from Babes With Bullets, saying that several of the women Pros were going to be available to "coach" us newbies through our first 3Gun match. In order to be able to do that, they had made special arrangements to shoot their portion of the Pro Match (it was a Pro/Am) a day early. That meant that they would then be free during the rest of the match to help the "Babes" participants, and it also meant that if I arrived early enough, I would be permitted to tag along and watch them do their thing. Really??!! Yes please - sign me up!

What a generous gesture for those Pro women to make! They rearranged their schedules, and agreed to shoot all out of their usual routine, just so they could then volunteer their time to help amateur women shooters. I'd make a very large wager that this doesn't happen often (if at all) in any other national level sports competitions.

On the evening I arrived, I had gathered up as many tourist and Nat'l Park pamphlets as I could, so I could get my stay all planned out. The Mammoth Cave Visitor's Center opened at 8:30, and the first tours started at 8:45. Since the Pros weren't going to start shooting until 11 or so, I had plenty of time that first morning to poke around the Visitor's Center and get at least one of several types of available tours in, without missing anything happening up at Rockcastle, which was only a 10-15 minute drive from the Park Visitor's Center.

On my first cave tour, in addition to the geology and history of the cave, I learned about a fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome that was threatening American bat populations. I was intrigued, and stood there cornering the poor park ranger with questions for probably 20 minutes after the tour was over.  (Unfortunately for her, I spent 15 years in hospital microbiology labs before starting medical school, and am an insufferable geek when it comes to germs and infectious disease. Just for future reference, if anyone in the room is going to get excited about a Giardia outbreak, it would be me. Yeah, sorry.) But, fortunately for my poor guide, I had a time schedule to keep, so I finally let her go and moved on. What a cool morning - geology, history, AND microbiology all in one tour! After taking my leave of the poor ranger, I tossed my jacket back in the car, and headed on over to Rockcastle. (It turned out that the only times that jacket got used through the entire event was during my two cave tours. The rest of the week was simply ..... HOT.)

I got there just in time to catch the Pro ladies getting ready to leave for their first stage of the Pro match. Since this event was a Pro/Am, there were different stages set up for the pros, which were more difficult than the ones set up for the amateurs. (Personally, I thought the amateur stages weren't exactly easy-peasy either, but more about that later). It's a good thing I caught the group before they left, or I'd have never found them. I followed the car/truck caravan down the hill, out one road, and down another, waaaay out into the back of beyond. This was a seriously HUGE property!

The caravan finally stopped along a dirt road with fields on either side, bounded by hills, with a couple tables and a port-a-john as the only immediately visible signs that something was supposed to be happening there. Eventually I noticed the Stage sign and saw the set-up. Apparently this is where they set up the really long distance rifle stages, so it HAS to be out in the back of beyond. But, since this was my first time, I was clueless, and just tagging along to watch. Turns out that I was the only "spectator" per se that first morning. It's good that I knew I had been invited, or I'd have felt really weird. To reinforce that "weird" feeling was the fact that there were several photographers and a film crew with Michael Bane there as well. This is how much of a "newb" I am -- I stood there for probably 5-10 minutes looking at him and his crew, thinking "Boy, that guy looks familiar ... where have I seen him before?" Ha! Just give me a "Gibbs"-style smack upside the head next time! D'oh!

I tried at first to be just a fly-on-the-wall. I didn't want to bother anybody or be in the way, since I was only watching. I don't think I even introduced myself. Deb Ferns, Kay and Lena Miculek, and Lisa Munson knew me from previous Babes Camps, but there was also Dianna Liedorff, Athena Lee, Randi Rogers, and several other ladies who I had never met. Sooo, I was mostly just the one hovering around looking out of place. But I was all ears and eyes - I was there to learn.

After awhile, I loosened up a little, smiled and asked a few questions. But I tried not to bother anybody. They were "working", and I was not. Even so, I picked up a few things about rifle placement, etc, and this is where I learned that there is an "end" time to these stages. That was new to me. In the pistol matches I had shot, you can take however much time is required for you to finish the stage. In this event, however, you "time out" at 100 seconds. Which means, that you don't have all day to make those long distance shots. I learned that because of this, if you are having trouble with a particular target, it can be a wise strategic decision to take the penalty for a miss and move on, rather that timing out and leaving other targets still unengaged. It was a strategy that I ended up using during my own match. Thus, that knowledge alone was worth the trip.

After two long distance stages out in the boonies, they broke for lunch and then proceeded to more familiar territory for the afternoon session - the bays just up the road from the lodge. By this time I had had a chance at lunch to chat with the ladies and introduce myself to the ones I hadn't met. This made the afternoon a little more relaxed for me. I was also joined at that point by Robin - another Babes alum - so I wasn't the only spectator anymore! That made it even more fun, as we watched the events and caught up on life since we had met at 3Gun camp the previous year.

Have I mentioned that it was hot? Yeah - like 95 degrees and 80% humidity kind of hot - the kind of hot that means thunderstorms. And so it was, that by the start of the last stage of the day, the black clouds had gathered, and the drops began to fall... and fall... and FALL. Athena took refuge in the back of an SUV, Dianna and several others hung out in the gear shed, and Deb brought out her pink umbrella/parasol. But still, the show went on. By the time everyone was finished shooting, they were all soaked to the skin, and the bay looked like a flood zone. I had dragged out a stained old golf umbrella from the back of my car, so Robin and I were fairly dry from the thighs up. But from the knees down was a different story. It rained HARD, and at one point it was kind of blowing sideways. That day I learned an important lesson: You might be wearing Gore-tex waterproof shoes, but you reach a point where that just doesn't matter, when it is raining so hard that the water runs down your legs and soaks into your socks!

I ended my first day at Rockcastle by stopping at a convenience store on the way back to my hotel, so that I could buy a newspaper to stuff my shoes with to dry them out overnight. At least I felt vindicated for packing three pairs of footwear!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Road to 3Gun, Part 2

Despite a successful maiden voyage with my new Benelli M2, I realized that I couldn't keep blasting stationary cardboard forever and have it be effective practice for 3Gun. I was stewing about other solutions, when Serendipity again intervened. During that time frame, I received an email from my previous gun club, offering a Ladies only Skeet class, with the possibility of monthly Ladies Skeet nights for the summer. I didn't know exactly what "Skeet" was -  but I knew it involved a shotgun. I didn't think it was exactly 3Gun type shooting, but it was an opportunity to try something other than cardboard, so I jumped at the chance.

It turned out to be a great decision, because I met two new mentors and discovered yet another shooting sport that I think I want to pursue. Christine - who was organizing the events - turned out to be another female physician, and we clicked immediately. She had been shooting skeet for several years, and wanted to open the sport to other women in the area. Jim, the other instructor, had been shooting shotgun probably since he was in diapers, and had been mentoring youth groups in shotgun for years. Both were very patient teachers. Although skeet involved a different skill set than 3Gun, I was still getting trigger time on non-stationary targets, and finding a comfort level with my new shotgun. AND, it was a lot of fun!

Skeet was a difficult transition from pistol and rifle at first, because in skeet, you DON'T watch the front sight - you watch the clay target instead. This went directly against everything I had learned the previous four years. (Front sight... Front sight, durnit ... watch your front SIGHT!) Now, you say I've got to watch that little orange thing flying past at 60 mph??? Wait... Oh there it was...Oh, it's gone now... Ok, can I see that again?... Wait, what? ... Ohhh.... "pull"...

Although the clay targets go flying by pretty quickly, they at least follow predictable paths, so that part was reassuring. It just takes time to learn where to expect them to be. With all that, by my second time out, I was informed that I was a "natural" LOL! I'm sure they tell that to all the new shooters just to encourage them, but I fell for it! I was also informed that if I didn't find a home with 3Gun, that there was a spot open in Skeet for me. Hmmm, the prospect of buying a "classic" shotgun was intriguing. I definitely looked a bit out of place on the skeet field with my semi-auto, tactical black, super extended magazine shotgun (with the pink bolt handle). The wood on the other shotguns was sooo artistic and pretty, too.... if only there were more weekends in the month...

While I was picking up skeet skills on my new shotgun, I was also continuing USPSA and IDPA pistol matches on weekends that I wasn't working, so I at least had ongoing pistol skill refreshers. But there are 3 guns in 3Gun (Duh!), and halfway through the summer I realized that I hadn't picked up my rifle in months - EEK!

Fortunately for me, my usual day off falls on a weekday when the local range is empty, making it a perfect time to get reacquainted with my rifle. The purchase of this rifle deserves its own backstory, so I won't get into it here, but it is a Smith&Wesson M&P15 TS that I bought 2 years ago. The reason that an empty range was helpful is that I decided that I wasn't going to ask permission this time to bend a rule or two. The rules involve no shooting from ahead of the benches on the rifle range, but I wanted to practice moving from location to location and changing positions and targets. So, hardcore rebel that I am, I moved a few feet out onto the grass ahead of the benches. Not knowing exactly what I was going to be facing in the match, I set up targets at 25 yards, 100 yards, and 200 yards. (I hadn't ever attempted a 200 yard target before, but I was already being a rebel, so why not go for it?)

I practiced running (ok, trotting breathlessly) between locations, and changing positions for each target. I also practiced magazine changes between targets. I practiced shooting off-hand standing, kneeling, and prone positions, all the while keeping an ear out for someone unlocking the gate, so I could return to the benches, since I didn't want to be caught being a bad girl.

I learned a few important things from these practice drills: 1) I am out of shape. You'd never believe that I used to be able to ride 40+ miles in a day biking on the Rail Trail a few years ago. I really need to do something about that, and having a 50th birthday this year wasn't helping. 2) Being out of shape and puffing, in addition to making the cellulite jiggle, makes the rifle crosshairs bounce around ---  A LOT. Steady breathing is your friend. 3) Running/Trotting/Stumbling between targets can jostle your magazines and pistol loose. This is a BAD thing... need to make sure that the holster and mag pouches are screwed down pretty tight. 4) A fully loaded 30 round rifle magazine is both heavy on the belt, and hard to ram home when changing mags on the trot. I learned this when my magazine fell out of the rifle and hit the ground in the middle of taking aim at the 100 yard target. D'oh!
BUT - I did find the single advantage to having middle-aged junk in my trunk. My caboose is what helped keep those heavy magazines from dragging my pants down around my knees. YAY for female anatomy!

I still didn't feel prepared for the big match, and time was ticking away, so I found one more "new" thing for me to try before my preparation time ran out. At various pistol matches during the summer, people kept telling me about these "tactical" matches that one of the clubs was having monthly.  Unfortunately they kept falling on weekends that I was working. Finally, with 3 weeks left, the stars aligned and I was able to make it to that club on the appointed morning.

It turns out that these "matches" weren't really matches per se, as there was no timer and no score-keeping. They were really more like educational tactical scenarios run by SWAT officers and Military types. The idea was to get you to change your mindset and challenge your shooting skills. What a great experience it turned out to be! Everything I did that day was something I hadn't tried before.

I got to run a pistol stage while holding a flashlight. I got to run a steel plate stage with pistol and shotgun, following only shouted verbal commands... " Back!.... fire!.....Left!.... fire!....Right!..... fire!". I got to "breech a door" with my shotgun, kick the door in, and "clear a room" with my rifle - not situations that usually come up for your average female pediatrician.

I cannot say enough good things about the guys running and participating in that match. Not a single one looked at me funny when I showed up alone; no one rolled their eyes at my pink bolt handle or magazine bases, and in fact I got several inquiries about the Brilliant Backstrap on my pistol. They were all extremely patient and encouraging, and although they wanted you to push your boundaries, they were very accommodating about adjusting expectations to your comfort level. For instance, the "door breaching" stage was designed to be run in teams of two - one guy on rifle, and one guy on shotgun. The military and SWAT guys were very comfortable with that. I was not. I had never EVER run a stage with anyone in front of me. EVER. The very idea gave me the heebie jeebies - not because it couldn't be safely done, and done every day in the cop and military world - but because it was against all the previously ingrained "rules" that I had learned up to that point. A couple of the guys even volunteered to run it with me - they said they had shot with me at pistol matches and knew I was safe. But I just couldn't push my boundaries that far yet. So they compromised and let me run it by myself - once with shotgun, and once with rifle.

As if the door-kicking wasn't enough for polite little me, the last stage of the morning was my favorite. I got to shoot out an actual vehicle windshield. I should preface this by saying that my local IDPA club has had "car" stages in the past, but the "car" consisted of two rows of chairs to represent front seat and back seat. THIS was an actual pick-up truck, with actual semi-intact safety glass. I started the stage with a loaded, holstered pistol, and a loaded, but "safe" and open-bolt rifle beside me on the truck seat. Clustered around the front end of the truck were three cardboard targets mounted on lawnmower bases.

At the start signal (I think it was the shout of "gun!"), the lawnmower targets started to move toward me . I was to draw my pistol while seated in the truck, and shoot each target with two shots in the order of closest to farthest - through the glass of the passenger window, driver window and windshield. VERY WEIRD FEELING!! Not only was I "destroying" property, but the pistol report was louder inside the truck cab, and once the safety glass splinters, it is much harder to get a clear view of the targets through the spider-webby mosaic of glass that is left. Very educational. After engaging (and presumably stopping) all three targets, I opened the truck door, stepped down and reholstered the pistol in "hot" condition under direction from the Safety Officer. I then grabbed my rifle from the truck seat, chambered a round (again under direction from the Safety Officer), and ran/trotted to "cover". From that cover, I engaged two more targets with the rifle, then proceeded to a different position of cover, where there were two last targets to be engaged which could only be seen by crouching very low or being prone.

I was SOOO excited when I finished!! OMG that was AWESOME!! And I was so tickled when a couple of the guys said I did a great job! I was so pumped up, that I wanted to stay and do another round after lunch. But, being a mom meant that I had to get back home to make sure that the laundry and packing for band camp the next day was underway. So, I loaded up my "almost Tammy Tactical" gear, and back to the "real world" I went.

I had less than three weeks  left until the big event.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Road to 3Gun Part 1

I hit a big milestone in my whole 4 year gun "career" this year - I shot in my first ever 3 Gun match. But, like all things in my life, it was a stepwise progression to get there.

My baby steps started in August of 2012, when Babes With Bullets held their first ever Intro to 3Gun Camp at the wonderful Brownells Big Springs Range in Iowa. (Yes, I drove ALLLLL the goshdurn way to Iowa and back - by myself. At this point in my life I've learned that if I really want to do something, I might as well just go ahead and do it alone.) By this point I was pretty comfortable with pistol, and owned my own AR-15 style rifle (but wasn't fully comfortable yet), but I had not handled a shotgun since my Dad's FIAS 20 ga when I was twelve. Fortunately, as always, Babes had loaner equipment courtesy of their generous sponsors, and that included Mossberg 930JM shotguns.

During this Iowa Camp (though we were by no means "camping" at the Brownells Linden House), Kay, Jerry and Lena Miculek, along with Maggie Reese, and Deb and Gary Ferns introduced me and my fellow campers to the challenge of 3Gun. I had so much fun, and it was so empowering to discover that I could handle 3 entirely different types of firearms! I had only been shooting at all for 3 years at this point. Which meant that I had gained proficiency in one type of gun per year. I thought that was pretty durn good for middle-aged late-bloomer like me.

Fast forward to January 2013, and an email sent to all the camp grads about a 3Gun Match in Kentucky. Turns out that I and other camp grads were being offered one of 40 slots set aside through Babes With Bullets and the Noble family at Rockcastle. In the email, Kay said it would be a "good first experience", so naive me said "Okay, sign me up!" - LOL. Little did I know...
When I eventually read the press release about the Rockcastle Pro-Am 3 Gun Championship  and found out what a huge match this was, I had a mini panic attack. Oh Good Grief, what have I gotten myself into??!! Seriously. I fought back panic-tears, and took a deep breath and decided that I'd just have to be like a Jamaican bobsledder at the Olympics - happy to be there and take it all in, and have no performance expectations beyond not being an idiot.

Babes would provide loaner equipment to the ladies who didn't have enough gear of their own, but my inner control freak took over again.  I decided that since I was already signed up, and my goose was already cooked,  I needed to do what I could to get back in "control", and that involved buying my own shotgun so that I could get comfortable BEFORE that match. Unfortunately for me, it was winter/spring 2013, and the political climate had firearms of every kind flying off the shelves, and on backorder 'til kingdom come. My problems were compounded by short arms (which I found out is called short LOP or Length of Pull in a shotgun), which made it difficult to even get most shotguns to my shoulder, and made all the ones I tried very front-heavy. I had managed the loaners at camp "okay", but it wasn't comfortable or natural-feeling by any means. I looked online at short LOP guns available, and stock modifications, and junior versions, and all kinds of limited options, but didn't find anything that satisfied me.

As before though, Serendipity was on my side. During this time period, I was driving to another state to pick up my mother and take her on a cruise. Partway there, I needed a stretch and decided to stop at a large big box outfitter just for giggles. I wandered through the ladies wear, and up into the gun department, where I decided to look at shotguns. There was a small selection of the usual players, which as before were all too big for me.... but what's that one over there?... that's one I've never tried before. Oh crap, it's a Benelli and I wasn't planning on spending that much money. But when I lifted that gun to my shoulder, it was like the angels started singing! It Fit! I didn't feel like I was falling forward onto my face! I could get my cheek down where it was supposed to be! And it was the LAST ONE IN STOCK. Oh Good Grief  - Now what do I do? ... I'm out of state and leaving on a cruise for a week.... but this is THE gun!.... but my mother doesn't have a gun safe.... and I can't leave it locked in the car... and I can't take it with me... NOW what do I do?

After I explained my dilemma to the very kind fellow behind the counter, he checked with his manager, and they decided that if I paid for it now, that they could hold it for me (as if I had ordered it) until I got back from vacation. YAY!!!!!! It was mine!!!
I'll bet that there aren't too many women that go away on a cruise and come home with a shotgun as a souvenir!

The trip went well,  I picked up the shotgun and got home uneventfully. But there was work to be done - a LOT of work.
There was me, scouring the internet for equipment, advice, and generally trying to reassure myself that I could do this. I ordered a new Velcro gun belt, because I knew if I was loaded down with all that equipment on my IDPA belt, that getting to the port-a-john at a match was going to be interesting. For women, the port-a-john is always an interesting trip - no need to make it even more so.

The new belt type I ordered had two parts - the inner belt, which goes through the pants loops as usual, closes with Velcro instead of a buckle, and is covered with Velcro "loop" fabric on the outside; and the outer belt, upon which all the gear hangs, which is covered on the inside with Velcro "hook" fabric. The outer belt with all the gear attached simply "sticks" to the inner belt with the Velcro. That way, if nature calls, (as long as any firearms have already been secured), you just peel off the gear belt and go! Genius!

I burned up my credit card ( or to put a more positive spin on it - I "accumulated more air miles") with orders for belt, more magazine pouches, shell caddies, a magazine extension for my new shotgun, a pink bolt handle, a lower profile recoil pad etc. I also had to find ammo - which in the previously mentioned climate of early 2013, was a bit of a challenge. (And that's a bit of an understatement.) Given that Babes had loaner equipment, I probably didn't "need" to purchase any of this new gear, but being a control freak, I felt the need to have my own, so that I could practice with it and try to get comfortable ahead of time.

Since shotgun was what I had the least experience with, that's what I tried to concentrate on first. This is where I found out that sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. Being the courteous gal that I am, I emailed the president of my local gun club about using orange clays on stands for some beginning practice. He nixed that idea, saying that the little pieces made it hard to mow, and that he preferred all clays be shot in the air. Since I usually shoot alone when I practice, that was going to be pretty much impossible. I'm not coordinated enough as a beginning shotgunner to be able to both throw AND shoot. I'm mentioning this only to draw attention to the fact that there have been a thousand little obstacles like this along my entire journey - a thousand little "NOW what do I do's?" that had to be overcome or worked around. It made me recall Roseanne Roseannadanna's mantra "It's always SOMEthing!"

So, my first time out with my new 12 ga semi-auto shotgun, I contented myself with blasting the living bejeebers out of a stationary cardboard target. At least it got me used to the recoil, firing multiple rounds in a row, and learning to reload. Baby steps, Baby steps... It was a long way from my dad's 20 gauge all those years ago.

Indeed, I saved one of my first empty shells from that day, and because my dad was such a shotgun guy, on my next visit home, I buried that spent shell at Dad's grave. Probably a terribly pagan thing to do for a very Catholic guy, but I did it anyway. It brought back a lot of memories and gave me a little closure.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gun Show

My mother was visiting this weekend. My youngest had a big marching band performance this weekend, and it was also the Homecoming Dance, so we thought that this might be a good weekend for my mom to see my daughter in all of her outfits. Mom really enjoyed it. There was just one problem...

My mother was driving me crazy.

I'm sure I'm not the only daughter to experience this. I do love my mom dearly, but I'd so much rather visit her at her house, or at a neutral location like a hotel on vacation. That way, nothing she dislikes is my fault. She's 80 years old, and though she is still fairly independent, things start to fall apart when she's not on her own home turf. She doesn't know how to work my TV, she needs help working the shower knob, she can't figure out the ice/water in the fridge door. And then there's the usual "mother" things like "What are you doing?"... "Can you see there?"... Are you sure you have enough light?" (Yes Mom, it's an iPad, it has its own light). "An iPad? What does that do?"..."Do you talk to people on there?"... "Did you know the basement door is open and the light is on?" (Yes Mom, I'm doing laundry down there and the drier is almost done). You'd think as a 50 year old woman, that I could handle these things on my own. I know that we all start to lose our filters as we age, but I have also already informed my own children that if I ever start sharing intimate details about my bowel habits and hemorrhoids, that they have permission to stop me and remind me about my own mother.

So, needless to say, I was looking for a little break this weekend. I had to miss my usual local IDPA Match because of the marching band performance on Saturday. I also had to miss a less local USPSA Match that I often go to on Sunday. Those shooting matches are my outlets. I get outside, get some sunshine (hopefully), get some fresh air, get to talk to people about non-hemorrhoidal topics, and I get to shoot stuff. But those two things were "out" on a weekend when I really needed the mental break. (Well, maybe "mental break" is a bad term to use - that makes it sound like I'm on a rooftop in a tutu yelling things about hemorrhoids) I really just needed a little "me" time.

Then, in the midst of all this appeared my salvation -- a Facebook post from my local gun shop about a gun show this weekend. Perfect! We'll go to brunch, then I'll bring Mom back home so she can have a nap, and I'll take an hour or two away and check out the gun show! Ta-da!

The first time I went to a gun show alone, I was completely intimidated. All I had heard about them was from the media. The media made it sound like a gun show was a cross between the Cantina on Mos Eisley (you know - the "wretched hive of scum and villainy"?), and the street corner guy in a trenchcoat.

The reality was a blessed relief. That first show was held in a National Guard Armory - hardly the dimly lit, smoky back room that I anticipated. No, this was more like a church social. It was brightly lit and smelled like hot dogs and pie. There were local people who knew each other, there was beef jerky and jewelry for sale, and fund-raiser raffles, there was even a restored WWII jeep on display by a vets organization... and there were guns. But nobody approached me in the parking lot looking to buy a Kalashnikov ... or an RPG. There was nobody huddled in the corner making nefarious- looking deals. Everyone there was "on the up and up". It appeared to me that every seller was a licensed dealer.

So, after that initial experience, it didn't bother me in the least to mosey down to the gun show this weekend and get a little "me" time. I paid my $7 entrance fee, and even paid in all "ones", because they were running low. I filled out my door prize ticket, dropped it in the barrel and went on in. There was a definite Sunday flea market flavor to some of the vendors. There was no Jeep this year, but there were still tables full of musty WWII (and other eras) memorabilia - unit patches, canteens, and the usual handful of captured "collectible" Nazi gear.  There was a handmade jewelry table, and even one with jewelry made out of spent brass.  But the unique item prize for the day I think went to the wind chimes made out of spent .50 cal brass.

I wandered around for awhile, perusing the antique/collectible guns and trying to educate myself a little. I even play a little game with myself sometimes - can I identify this or that gun just by shape, before I lean over and read the manufacturer badge - silly maybe, but it's an intellectual challenge.

As I wandered around from table to table, I reached the tables of the gun shop that I often frequent. Before I even looked up from the pistol case, the owner recognized and greeted me. That was a little weird to realize that I was enough of a "regular" that he knew me on sight, but I guess it's also a good thing to have an actual relationship with a shop owner - you both get to trust each other. (Boy, have I made progress from a few years ago when I timidly stepped into my first gun shop where that other guy tried to bamboozle me!)

So, I was asking him a few details about the M&P9c vs the Shield and we talked a little about the challenges of women carrying concealed, when I glanced across to his tables on the other aisle. I smiled and noted to him that he still had that Colt...

"Oh yeah" he said, "It's still here, and I can make you a smokin' deal, cuz I don't want to have to pack it up and take it home."

"Oh really? Hmmmmm" ... I replied,  as my credit card started getting warm in my pocket.

Said Colt was an M4 done up in Magpul and a "Muddy Girl" paintjob. I had been watching it ever since it showed up on the shop's Facebook photos back in the summer. At first, it was just a passing interest, because it was a Colt, and I liked the paint job; but I dismissed it with an "I don't need another gun right now", and "I already have a .223". As the months drew on, I noticed that it was still on the shop wall every time I went in. I mentioned it to the owner in passing as I was completing another transaction a couple months ago, and we talked a little about trying to get my daughters interested in shooting.  But, I left the shop without it - hoping that someone else would just buy it already, so that it would release its temptress hold on me.

It was now a couple months later, and there lay the same gun - looking all bright and sassy on the gun show table. Never being one to pass up a "smokin' deal" if I could help it, I wandered over to the other aisle to take a look at it. The shop owner smiled and taunted me, "You know you want to pick it up - and it matches your shirt, too", he teased.

The gun did feel pretty good, and since I was in the process of tricking out my existing .223 to be more 3-Gun friendly, it might be advantageous (and fun) to have an open-sights gun to entice my daughters into trying rifle shooting. At least, that was my rationalization. I can rationalize ANYthing if I want something badly enough. I even rationalized that it was cheaper than buying myself another LeVian ring for Christmas! Which brings up one of the conundrums of being a female with disposable income who enjoys shooting:  Guns?...or Jewelry?;  Jewelry?... or Ammo? It's a good thing that I don't also collect designer handbags.

I wandered around the show floor for probably 20 more minutes, just trying to talk myself out of this purchase, but in the end I succumbed to my lust and rationalization ... and he knocked off an additional hundred bucks.
As I was filling out my paperwork and we were waiting for the background check, we chatted a little about the weekend, and my children, and my mother visiting. Whereupon, one of the other guys chimed in with a smile, "Wait a sec... so your mother is visiting, and she's driving you crazy ... so you're here buying a gun?"

 .... Umm yeah, I guess that doesn't sound so good, does it? Ha!
But it was a solid purchase, my lust was slaked, it made me happy, and gave me a much improved outlook for the rest of Mom's visit. That made it a Good Deal in more ways than one.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slacker Mom

I just recently read a post from JulieG about taking her two small children on an Elk hunting trip, and it brought back all kinds of (albeit hazy) memories of my own child-rearing. Preschoolers/infants on an Elk hunt? Seriously? More power to Julie, but holy cow, I must be a slacker mom. There is no way on gawd's green earth that I'd have been able to manage that when my children were small.

That's not to say that my then-husband and I didn't attempt small camping trips with our brood of three, but I mostly remember trying to keep a toddler from falling into the fire, and preventing another child from poking his sister's eye out with a stick. There may have been some dirt-eating in there somewhere too, it's a little hazy. But Elk hunting? Not so much.

There weren't any nitrate-free hot dogs. We were on a single-income grad school budget at the time, so in addition to eating dirt, there were whatever hot dogs I could find for less than a dollar a pack. What's a few preservatives and pig testicles amongst family? Hotdogs did involve sharp sticks though ... and fire, so that was about all the adventure I could handle with three children. I was a slacker mom. Eggs for breakfast over the campfire? Umm... no, here have a pop-tart. Mommy needs some coffee and we need to heat water, so Dad's gonna light the picnic table on fire with his backpacker stove if you want to watch.

There was also not much "sleeping" going on in those sleeping bags. Listen, there's a reason that the whole "family bed" trend never took off in our family. Two large people and three small people all sleeping together in the same tent is not my idea of a peaceful night's rest. As most people know, toddlers sleep "clock-wise" (or sometimes counter-clockwise, depending upon their orientation to the earth's magnetic field). Which means that even if everyone goes to sleep in a  straight row, someone is going to wake up with a small person's pee-diaper in their face. ( OMG, she said "pee". Yes, I am a pediatrician and I talk about pee and poop all day long, so why should my blog be any different? - Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.)

Which brings me to the whole camping/potty conundrum. JulieG mentioned the Luggable Loo, which absolutely must be a gift from the potty-gods to camping mothers. But there was no such gift in my day. My then-husband had a penchant for camping in the national forest, which meant, of course, no facilities. This was a fine arrangement for dad and son, but mother and daughters had some challenges to overcome. Fortunately, I had been able to pick up some skill in that arena over the years and was able to pass some of that on to the girls. But "teaching" the skills required to pee in the weeds took some time. I don't think peeing into your own socks is a thing that men and boys generally worry about. But if you're planning on camping with young daughters - pack extra socks.

Honestly, even when we were able to score an actual tent site in an actual national park campground, the vault potties presented their own challenges. Seriously - consider the size of the gaping black void that exists in your average vault toilet. Then consider the size of the average 3 year old's behind. If as a pre-schooler, you "fall into" the potty at home you might get a little wet, but you're not actually going to "go" anywhere. But the yawning abyss of that national park potty? Holy Mother of Macaroni! Why in the world would your child "want" to put her bare bum up there and expose it to the ravening jaws of gawd-knows-what just waiting down there to grab her? The end result is a whole family of constipated children with bellyaches by the time you get home.

Then, there are the other problems that are not sticks and campfires and constipation - namely wildlife that are NOT elk. My other camping memories are hazy, but this one stands out in its stark clarity - mostly because of the terror. We were packing up the truck, after an overnight ( or maybe two nights?) at a campground in a national recreation area. My toddler daughter was -- well-- "toddling" along with me as we carried gear from the tenting field, through the wooded path back to the truck. We dumped off the stuff and headed back for another load, and said toddler got gradually about 10-15 yards ahead of me, waving her ga-ga as she went (ga-ga is what she called the former cloth diaper/spit cloth that served as her comfort item). As I glanced down the path, I noticed that there was a big tree limb across the the trail that had not been there on our trip out a few minutes ago. Then the "limb" moved! And in that heart-stopping moment I realized that my BABY was closer to it, than she was to me! Heart in my throat, I yelled to her and reached out my arms, but I knew I would not reach her, before she reached the snake. Perhaps it was the potty-gods who intervened and wafted the scent of her diaper to that creature, or perhaps it was the waving of the ga-ga that sent it on it's way, but it began to move off the trail and into the woods before my baby got to the spot it had occupied. I grabbed her and swept her up in my arms and it took about 10 minutes to make my heart rate go back to normal. Now, my rational, logical mind knows that this was probably only a big black rat snake that was completely harmless to anything but field mice. A "Real Outdoorsmom (TM)" would have taken the opportunity to instruct the toddler in the finer points of snake habitat and species identification; but I was a slacker, and my "Mother Eve" instincts would have none of that. There was "SNAKE-kind" near my Baby, and I was not okay with that. Besides, I don't speak parseltongue - I'm really more of a Hufflepuff kinda gal.

Thankfully that was the only true bad experience I've had while camping with small children. Or maybe I just don't remember much else through the haze of exhaustion. But the point is that that is "all" we were doing - camping. I cannot imagine also packing hunting gear along with the diapers and spit cloths and nursing pads, and pop-tarts, AND trying to keep the diaper-smell from permeating my scent-blocking camo. Kudos to Julie though for finding some mommy-time in the great outdoors. She is my new hero.

Despite being a slacker mom for all these years, I'm trying to make up for it now. I just recently took my 21-year old daughter to Babes With Bullets camp, and will be taking my 17 year old daughter shortly. But they can at least wipe their own noses and carry their own pop-tarts now. And thankfully, nobody's afraid of the potty anymore.