(also entitled: When Life Goes Bang)
As some of you may remember, five years ago when my life was reset (for more info you can start reading in July 2010 with the culmination of the major losses in February 2011 in my blog), I made a list of things to learn as a way to rebuild who I am and my life. One of those things was firearms.
In May 2011, I bought my pistol. A month later I tested for my concealed carry. No clue how many rounds I went through preparing for that shooting test, but I passed with no problem.
In the meantime, I became an NRA Refuse to Be a Victim instructor, worked with survivors of domestic abuse and divorce, and helped them put their lives back together both practically and psychologically. One of the classes I teach is Personal Protection Without a Firearm, but the fact is, some of these women need to be able to defend themselves against dangerous men who would kill them, and I taught basic shooting to a couple of people, but I also toyed with the idea of becoming a trained instructor.
Then, I put my firearm in the safe and left it. For over 14 months. No shooting. No cleaning. No looking at stores and drooling on their counters. Nothing.
Last summer some things happened, and I again realized being a trained and certified instructor would be a good idea, so I hired a private coach. On our first trip to the range after not touching my firearm for 14 months, I shot a 9” plate at 15 yards with better than 70% accuracy. The man looked at me and said, “You’re going to be fine.” I was told to practice once a week for 4-5 weeks, 50 rounds each time, and I’d be ready by August. Sweet!
Except three weeks later, I couldn’t hit the 24x36 inch silhouette with even 50% accuracy at 15 yards. Something was seriously wrong.
So I headed to my eye doctor. I didn’t tell her what the actual motivation was for the mid-year visit. I just told her I was having problems with focusing. She ran the regular tests, ran some tests twice, and tossed in some new tests. When all the testing was done, she sat on her stool in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “You are going to have to learn to shoot left-handed. The muscles in your right eye are too deteriorated to hold a focus for you to shoot with your right side anymore. You have to learn to shoot left. But this is you we are talking about, so it is no big deal. You’ll be fine.” What about corrective lenses? They don’t fix muscles. What about surgery? Not for this.
I left her office shocked. This was not what I had expected. I expected different glasses. I expected exercises. I expected some kind of infection with eyedrops, but simply, you can’t do this anymore like you are doing it? What?
In the midst of some other far more serious things happening, I wondered if the firearms had been a nice life raft during a really hard time. If so, I was okay with that. If not, how long would it really take to learn to shoot with my left side? It would be like starting all over, only weirder and more uncomfortable.
Finally, in November I took a deep breath and went back to the range. Just to see.
First I tried the right side to see if maybe we had been wrong. It became obvious very quickly that we were not wrong. So I loaded my pistol and tried shooting with my left eye and my left hand. I was surprised. At 10 yards, I was hitting a 9-inch target with 50% accuracy. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Except it was. It was mentally exhausting first and foremost, and I left the range with a monster headache from the eye strain. Was it worth it?
On January 13th at 11:00 pm, I was sitting on my bed with my computer open in my lap praying about a lot of things including firearms and asking for direction concerning becoming a firearms instructor. I wasn’t sure I could pass the class, and I couldn’t remember the name of the person I was supposed to take the class from. As I sat there, email came in. The email was from Bill Russel, the very man I couldn’t remember, telling about an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor class being held February 20-21. I wrote back thanking him for the information, explaining that I was having to relearn how to shoot and didn’t think I would be ready until April or later, but please keep me in mind for another class. He wrote back, “If you are close, come on.”
Close? I hadn’t actually started working on relearning yet. I was still trying to talk myself beyond that horrific headache, but now, I had no excuse…and I was on the clock.
On one hand, YES GOD!!! He was giving me this amazing gift that was obviously of Him, and if He puts you in front of a giant, He plans to take the giant down before you…if you do your part. Always exciting to see a giant fall!
On the other hand…reality. Learning to shoot using my non-dominant eye and learning to control a firearm with my weaker hand (can we say recoil?) while teaching my left hand to be comfortable holding a firearm while also learning trigger control. To accomplish this, my favorite pistol wasn’t going to work. I needed a smaller caliber, which meant using the pistol I had never liked the feel of to begin with. Yeah. This was going to be fun.
Oh, yeah, did I mention pre-qualification? There is a pre-qualifying shooting test before you even take the class. 15 yards. 6 inch group in an 8 inch area.
I hadn’t even tried 15 yards. I wasn’t sure I could hit a barn at 15 yards. On one hand, I was thinking, “What have I done?” On the other hand, really? An email from the exact person I was trying to remember about the exact class I was considering at the exact moment I was praying about it? If that is not God, I don’t think a burning bush would be any more convincing, so I was going to do this thing.
For the next five weeks, I was at the range every Tuesday and Thursday going through 100 or more rounds a trip. This was not going to be a cheap certification.
The first week was…ugly. 15 yards was a joke. I was trying to get all 20 rounds in at 10 yards.
Second week, 10 yards was working. 15 yards…seriously?
Third week, I actually had a target that would pass the pre-qual.
Fourth week, everything evaporated. I couldn’t hit anything again. I had been helping my brother clean my folks’ house, and all the dust and stuff had gotten to me. The sinus problems behind my eyes put so much pressure on my eyes that I could barely see the target at 15 yards, and accuracy was a joke.
Week five I was at the range every day. On a positive note, each day I had multiple targets that could have passed pre-qualifications. On a negative note, each day I had multiple targets that would have failed pre-qualifications. The question was: which one would show up under pressure at the class?
Saturday we stood outside in the beautiful Texas sunshine loaded 5 rounds into our magazines. Range went hot, and the shooting started. With shaking hands, I hit 40%. Seriously. I had not done that badly since week 3. We loaded five more rounds. Range went hot, and the shooting started. I was never going to pass. This was so bad. SO bad.
I cleared my firearm, set it on the table, walked to the post holding up our covering, squatted down, looked at the gravel at my feet, and said simply, “Okay, I have tried to do this on my ability. I obviously have none, which I knew anyway. I’m only here because of You. I really need you to show up for the next 10 rounds.”
I walked back to the table, loaded five rounds, listened for the hot call, stared at my giant, whispered, “I was made for this, and you are just a dead body for me to step over on my road to where I am going,” and unloaded five beautiful shots.
Last set. I loaded 5 rounds, waited for the hot call, and unloaded five more beautiful rounds. My instructor simply said, “Got over the jitters, did you?”
Interesting how stepping into the courage of who God says you are will do that. J
Last night after I got home, I sat and stared at my patches. Yesterday at our presentation ceremony in class, we shared our goals for the class and whether we met them. Everyone else had professional goals, but mine were primarily personal, and I felt pretty silly when I got choked up on the last one, but for me, it was the most important one.
“I want to set a rocking awesome example for my kids. I want them to live with fierceness of spirit and faith and realize hard things in life are to be embraced because that is where we grow stronger, and instead of telling them that, I want to live that in front of them.”
I passed. :-)