Last month our family decided to take handgun instructions. That would include me, my husband, Joe, and our two adult sons. (I call the three of them collectively “my guys.”) Our instructor came highly recommended by a friend who claimed this coach had his daughter shooting like a pro in just one afternoon.
My guys are all good rifle and shotgun shots, but frankly they’ve never been much into handgun shooting except to dispatch a varmint now and then on the ranch. As for me, I’d only shot a pistol a few times, and that was so I’d know what to do if I ever HAD to shoot one. My handgun practice was so seldom and random that sometimes I wondered if I could even remember what to do if I HAD to use my pistol.
We invited our instructor to join us for lunch at Joshua Creek Ranch before our lesson began. I was surprised when he turned out to be a young man of perhaps 35. In the course of conversation we learned that he was a handgun shooting champion with impressive accomplishments. I’m thinking “this is good…I like learning from the best.” But he was very modest when we got to the simple shooting range we’d set up in dense shade that hot June afternoon, and he never demonstrated his own skills beyond the proper stance and grip.
We were shooting at human silhouette targets with the bull’s eye in the center of the chest. My two young guys went first and shot well. I was next and mumbled to the instructor that I was quite inexperienced with a handgun. “No worries,” he whispered, “women are the best students.” Right off, I liked the instructor’s technique. He wouldn’t allow me to do anything wrong. He corrected my stance. Then he fine-tuned my grip. He encouraged me to shoot with both eyes open, but I’m so accustomed to closing my left eye to overcome my left-eye-dominance that he just said “go with it if that’s what feels natural.” Then he told me the real key to consistent, successful handgun shooting: line up the front site within the rear site, and focus on the front site of the barrel over the target in the distance. He assured me my mind knew where that target was even though I wasn’t focused on it.
Like a good student, I did as I was instructed and applied consistently greater pressure to the trigger, never certain just when the gun would fire. Believe it or not, from the beginning, I shot better than any of my guys. I have to believe it was because I had no bad stance or grip habits to break and my coach NEVER let me stand, grip or aim incorrectly. I was practicing only the correct way to shoot a handgun and that resulted in consistently hitting the bull’s eye. We shot semi-automatics and revolvers of several different calibers. The same principles always applied.
Before the lesson ended, we asked our instructor to demonstrate some of his own shooting skills. What an awesome sight! Firing as rapidly as possible, he shot several perfect patterns in a tiny target in the corner of one of the silhouette targets. Then to end the session, he shot a tiny smiley face in an open area of the board.
The upside results of that afternoon’s experience were numerous. First, I had fun both personally and together with my family. Second, I’ve already scheduled another lesson with my instructor; he had me shooting well and I want more practice under his expert coaching so that I could consistently stand, grip and aim correctly. Third, I want to be comfortable and confident shooting without my coach present and without the frustration of wondering what I’m doing wrong; I want everything about shooting to come to me automatically so I can have fun shooting and also be prepared if I ever have to use my handgun for self-defense. Oh, one more positive result of the afternoon: all my guys want me on their handgun shooting team, whereas none of them wants me on their croquet, sailing or swim team.
Our whole family was enthusiastic when our lesson was done. We weren’t just excited about advancing our own personal skills to include handgun shooting, but also about the possibility of a new shooting activity for guests at Joshua Creek Ranch. We’re always open to new and interesting ideas to add to the enjoyment of guests at the Ranch. Judging by the ratings on our own fun-meters, handgun instruction and shooting could be on the horizon as another sport to enjoy at Joshua Creek Ranch. Of course, you can be sure the instructor will be a pro!
The improved skill level and confidence that comes with taking instructions from a pro applies to any skill you want to master, shooting or anything else, really. Rather than develop incorrect habits by trying to learn on your own or from a well-intended friend or relative, do yourself a favor and take a lesson from a pro. It’s worth the investment and you’ll like the results. You’ll be the one making it look natural and easy before long.
Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at http://www.joshuacreek.com.