Here it is at the midpoint of the 10-week citizen’s police academy I’m attending and I’ve been looking forward to this particular night since the academy started. It’s hands-on evening with guns. I don’t mean pass ’em around the room type of hands on. I mean go to a firing range and shoot them.
Call me all sorts of excited. I love target shooting – especially when I discovered I’m ambidextrous with weapons. As a lefty raised in a right-handed family, I did most things right-handed all my life, especially sports related. When I just-for-grins played racquetball lefty one day and found I was a better player that way, a whole new world opened up to me. Now I’m ambidextrous with just about anything.
Anyway, as far as shooting, I’m proficient left-handed, especially since I’m left-eye dominant. And since I haven’t shot in a few years, I wanted to see how good I still was.
So, after spending an hour in the classroom learning the rules of the range (such as “Don’t point weapon at anyone,” and “Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot”) we had a mini-convoy over to the PD’s range.
A sandpit in an out-of-the-way location at 7:45PM on a fall evening is dark. We got lucky that night – clear skies and above freezing – but dark. Our light source was mostly flashlights. A couple of small spotlights mounted on the back of a box truck parked in the ‘safety zone’ gave us a place to sip hot apple cider or coffee and eat donuts when we weren’t shooting.
When the call came for first volunteers, I was right there. Four of us walked down to the end of the sand pit and stood behind a line in the sand (literally) about 15 feet in front of a cardboard target.
Then we each received instruction on the Sig P229R, which is what the officers carry, including some dry firing (pulling the trigger while the gun is empty). A fabulous feature on the Sig is the reflective color on the sights – like glow-in-the-dark green. The lit up ‘runway’ made it easy to line up on the target.
No joke, my first 2 shots went into the same hole – center of the target. My instructor was amazed and mentioned it to the others, and then of course I started over thinking. My shots all made the center of the target, but not dead center. I had to pay attention to my breathing. And then I was asked to do a head shot – so that’s when I took out the target’s right eye. Fun!
Here’s my target at the end of the night:
The medium-size holes are from the pistol – my first 2 shots have been destroyed by one of the shotgun shots.
The shotgun was a Remington semi-automatic and had been modified. It had a 13″ barrel, side-saddle for some rounds, and a light. A very heavy weapon for me, but it was exciting to shoot. The power! I had to make sure the shotgun was snug into my shoulder and against my cheek to avoid injury. The shots are a bit low because I had a hard time holding the gun up without my muscles shaking. A couple of the women in the class chose not to try the shotgun because of the worry of being injured by the kick. (The pistol had the biggest kick for me.)
The third weapon was an AR15 Smith & Wesson rifle. We shot .223 rounds with that weapon – they are the smallest holes in the target. It was a bit lighter than the shotgun, but still heavy after a couple of minutes, so my instructor held it up for me (why most of the shots are high). I got to shoot quite a few times with that weapon. The instructor thought the clip was almost empty – turns out it wasn’t, so they had to finally tell me to stop shooting. 🙂
(This photo is from 2002, at another citizen police academy, getting to shoot a rifle at that department’s range. Shooting right-handed, before I knew better!)
Unlike an assigned pistol each officer is responsible for, the shotguns and rifles are signed out each shift and kept in the patrol car and then returned at the end of the shift.
This night was a fun time all around. I enjoyed the pistol and rifle – and am hoping to get into competitive shooting soon. I did a snowshoe and shoot course several winters back and loved the mix of physical activity in snowshoeing to each target and then shooting. It’s hard enough controlling your breathing when just standing and shooting – but an entirely a new level of challenge when you’re doing aerobic activity between targets.
Guns can be intimidating, but learning how to handle them in a safe environment can ease worries and open up new areas of interest. Having the hands-on experience enables me to write a scene properly – or at least more accurately than without the experience.
One mantra we learned “wash, wash, wash” – after shooting any weapon, you don’t want to touch your face or handle food until after you’ve washed your hands.
Eye and ear protection is mandatory when on the firing range, too. Safety first and the fun will follow.
If you had the opportunity to try different weapons, would you? Sisters in Crime New England has had all-day opportunities on a range every other year or so. Definitely worth it, especially if your characters use guns.