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...
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.