Elisabeth vs. the Blunderbuss

It was the only thing that could entice me to leave my apartment at 6:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning – the chance to shoot cool guns on a range and hang out with people who shared my excitement.

At least 85 other ladies agreed with me – that’s the number of participants who signed up for the Women on Target clinic that I attended Saturday, May 8 at Arlington-Fairfax Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America in Virginia.  Actually, 300 ladies total agreed with me, but the organizers had to cap the clinic at 85 so that everyone could get individual instruction and enough time on the ranges. Seventy two of the ladies participated in the shooting events, and 13 other ladies went to the classes-only part of the clinic.

The guns lived up to expectations. At this particular clinic, you had the option to get instruction on the shotgun range, the rifle/handgun range, and even try your hand at archery.  I made the mistake of venturing down to the section of the rifle/pistol range where they were using black powder, because I thought it would make a good story.

Instead, I became the story – they got me behind the barrel of a gun called a blunderbuss, and I had the thrill of shooting off ammo in a small cloud of smoke while completely missing the target.

Unlike me, attendee Jessica Kim, also trying her hand down at the black powder stations, hit the target every time I watched (it was her first time shooting a rifle).  She admitted she was beginning to enjoy shooting the muzzleloaders more than the other guns.

I backed off from shooting the wall gun, which was definitely taller than most of the ladies there and also used black powder. Attendee Stephanie Gorski was one of the few brave enough to shoot the weapon that looked like it kicked harder than a Rockette.

Her initial responses after she shot it show just how cool she is (though she told me afterwards it did have a little more kick than she expected):

“Woa!” “I love that!” “That’s a gun!”

Then she started recruiting others to try shooting it.

Keeping all of us safe and happy were the instructors, each of whom should be canonized for their patience.  I think there’s some embarrassing video somewhere (thanks, Lars) of how many clays I let fly by on the shotgun range before finally hitting one. And it took three instructors to get me there.  They never got frustrated – in fact, it’s one of the most cheerful events I’ve been to in a long time.  It was a heck of a lot more pleasant experience than flying on a plane nowadays, where flight attendants are even paid to be nice to you (though half the time you’d never know it).

Finally, there were the classes. Bob and Linda Lavery instructed the Refuse to Be a Victim seminar which showed women techniques outside of shooting firearms for staying safe.

Linda told me that before she became an instructor for the program, she and her daughter, then a senior in high school, attended a session before the daughter went off to college.

Linda said it’s relevant for many different walks of life – those living on college campuses, those living in suburbs, those in the cities, even those already skilled with firearms.

In fact, her daughter used what she learned in the class immediately when she got to college. Linda said as they were moving her daughter into her dorm room freshman year, the daughter was checking the locks on the door and discovered someone had unscrewed the peephole and turned it around so that anyone in the hall could get a panoramic view of the room.

“She would never have thought to do that,” Linda said. “But when she got to that dorm room, she did a little survey, just like what had been suggested during the program.”

The two other classes offered were Buying & Caring for a Handgun and Methods of Concealed Carry (where the instructor informed us ladies of the good news that once we get a gun, we can accessorize it). So, basically, you learned how to stay safe and look good.

Now that’s my kind of Saturday.