Excitement, Delight, Total and Complete Exhaustion

I’d meant to write this post yesterday, but just didn’t quite have the energy left.

You see, we had another women’s shooting clinic Saturday at my local range, and (like last time) I was helping to instruct. This time, I was teaching basics (grip, stance, sight picture) with a blue gun as well as a .22 pistol, and also helping run some students on a .22 double-action revolver stage.

After the clinic wrapped up, we had just enough time to grab some lunch, and then we were back at the range for a Ladies Night shoot. The combination of the two events on the same day meant I was out of bed at 4:30am, and it was close to 11:00pm by the time I rolled out of the shower and into bed.

As was true last time, although I was teaching and not shooting for most of the day, I took away some personal learning from the day. Here are a few of my lessons learned, good and bad:

Even when your concentration is focused on your students, you can’t afford to ignore the demands of your own body. We were working on an outdoor range, and I was totally focused on teaching the students, running them through the courses of fire, and making sure they were safe. As a result, I completely failed to notice how hot it was becoming or how little water I was drinking – right up to the moment that I went to the restroom and almost fell over from the onset of heat exhaustion. Fortunately, we had coolers of water and orange juice, and I was able to re-hydrate myself quickly. But, my focus on other things to the exclusion of my own physical well-being could have had severe consequences. Lesson learned.

Know the limits of what you can safely manage, and do not let enthusiasm, the desire to contribute, or anything else push you beyond those limits. I’ll admit it – at one point during the day, I screwed up. And not just a little screw-up, either. This was a truly wince-worthy, “thank god it wasn’t Really Really Bad” kind of screw up, and I confess it here with the hope my readers can learn from my mistake and not repeat it. I was helping run a line of shooters through a stage that involved shooting at Shoot N C targets with a .22 double-action revolver. We had two instructors running four shooters at a time, and one student was having trouble getting a grip that enabled her to actually operate the revolver. I tried to help, and eventually she got the gun going…at which point I realized I’d turned my back, for nearly 10 seconds, to the other shooter on my side of the bay. I know, I know, stupid. Luckily, she was a more experienced shooter and nothing bad happened as a result of my momentary inattention, but one never wants to count on luck where safety is concerned. I should have called STOP to the other shooter while I helped unsnarl the weapon problem. I should not have taken my eye off of any armed student, ever, even for one moment. Even with another instructor right there on the range. However, that moment of having the you-know-what scared out of me when I realized what I had done was an excellent learning opportunity, and I guarantee I’ll never make that mistake again.

No matter how experienced you are, there’s always more to learn. I had the chance to see several other instructors teach the basics, and I harvested a nugget of information from one of them that I’d never thought about before: One of the reasons that leaning forward in your shooting stance is helpful is because it changes the orientation of the plane of your eyes relative to the plane of the sight. I knew leaning forward at the hips was good for balance and stability, but I’d never consciously thought about how it moves the eyes relative to the sights. I’ve found that, even as much as I’ve been shooting, revisiting the basics – as an instructor or an observer – always seems to surface these kinds of insights. I’ve met some shooters who scorn learning about “the basics” because “it’s beneath my skill level”. But shooting well is about executing the basics as flawlessly as possible, and I think there’s always more to learn.

As a group, women are waaaay enthusiastic about shooting. This was the second one of these classes I helped with, and the third we offered at my local range. We had twenty students the first time and about 35 last time. This weekend, we had well over 60 students, and a good dozen or so who were wait-listed for the class. And everyone who came – brand-new shooters and more experienced alike – were just brimming with enthusiasm and excitement. The air was literally alive with that energy, and it was absolutely amazing. And the grins when people got to try stuff they’d never even thought about before and succeed at it? Priceless.

So, despite still feeling low-resourced in terms of energy today, it was a fabulous experience! We have another one of these classes coming up in January, and are considering adding a second to cover the folks who were wait-listed this time. With each step forward, with each of these we do, the women who attend are getting to experience and enjoy shooting. But honestly, I think I learn as much or more each time I teach as the students I work with do.

Dawn had never handled any firearms before Saturday, but she did great with both .22 pistol and rifle. In this photo, she’s shooting a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.


  1. Mark Cronenwett says:

    Congratulations on learning some new things, and for teaching others. It is not easy, but it can be very satisfying. Take your nuggets and be ready for next time. 😀

    • Thanks for this, Mark! I’m definitely always learning and it feels so great to share my enthusiasm for shooting sports with others.

  2. Fantastic! Kudos to you for being such a dynamic part of the effort to spread the word, and the joy of shooting to more women.

    It was very interesting to read about your concerns with “turning your back” on the other shooter. When I teach novices, they shoot one at a time with my full attention, so I’ve never been faced with that in a class.

    Last week I invited some people to shoot with me and they all agreed to my being the “RSO,” but they were not students and everyone managed to shoot on their own without problems, even though one lady was quite inexperienced. I did invite her and her son to take the class, which they eagerly agreed on.

    It was a very interesting experience for me, but I just did the normal RSO routine and was able to set aside being an instructor for the most part.

    Anyway, I suspect you’ll get more comfortable with this as time goes on and you get more experience with teaching too. In any case, to err on the side of safety is never wrong… just don’t beat yourself up over it too much!

    • I’m not beating myself up too much…I learned from the experience and will do better next time, is all. After all, as they say, “experience is what allows you to recognize a mistake the second time you make it.” 🙂

      Thanks as always for your comment…I always appreciate your perspective!

  3. Excellent post.

    Re this: I’ve met some shooters who scorn learning about “the basics” because “it’s beneath my skill level”.

    I have taken more than 1000 hours of classes from firearms instructors all over the country, and I have found that if I really want to understand the goals and teaching philosophy of a particular instructor, the best way to do it is to take the most basic class they offer. That’s because, in mid- and upper-level classes, most instructors tend to assume you’re already on board with their philosophy, so they skim over the groundwork or leave it out. But at the beginning level, they work hard to explain their teaching goals and the reasons behind them. That’s pure gold to someone who wants a deeper understanding of what they’re doing with the gun and why.

    As you noticed, there’s also the advantage that listening to a more experienced instructor teach the basics can often give you, as a newer instructor, a marvelous role model to follow, along with fresh ideas for your own presentations of similar material.

    For my money? Basic-level classes often provide a surprisingly good bargain for accomplished shooters, especially those who teach.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathy – much appreciated!

      I especially resonated with this part of your comment: “At the beginning level, they work hard to explain their teaching goals and the reasons behind them. That’s pure gold to someone who wants a deeper understanding of what they’re doing with the gun and why.” Apart from the advantages you’ve described, I’ve found in my (admittedly much smaller to date) sample of training that watching an instructor teaching the basics also reveals something important about that person’s attitude toward teaching.

      I’ve come across folks who openly disdain beginning students while bragging about their “tacti-cool super-duper-elite” skill level, promises to turn their students into the equivalent of Marine Recon operators, and all the rest. This to me is a neon sign warning me that the instructor’s ego is going to get in the way of his teaching, and it’s a clear message to me to run the other way.

  4. As a fellow instructor… great post…

    Dann in Ohio

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