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Dublin

Locked and loaded — My first firearms experience

Ledger-Transcript reporter details her time learning how to shoot — safely

  • Ken Quast, left, Charles Stevenson, Karen Horgan and Heidi Thomas listen intently to a lesson in firearms safety during an eight-hour class at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Ken Quast, left, Charles Stevenson, Karen Horgan and Heidi Thomas listen intently to a lesson in firearms safety during an eight-hour class at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Tricia Lottio practices firing during an On-Target training class at the indoor range at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Tricia Lottio practices firing during an On-Target training class at the indoor range at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Ken Quast, left, Charles Stevenson, Karen Horgan and Heidi Thomas listen intently to a lesson in firearms safety during an eight-hour class at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Tricia Lottio practices firing during an On-Target training class at the indoor range at the Peterborough Sportsman's Club in Dublin.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

Looking down the high-performance scope of a bolt-action .22 rifle, I line up my target in the crosshairs. I blow out a breath, slowly, and then pull the trigger.

Pop! The can of Diet Pepsi explodes spectacularly, and I can’t help the little, “Yes!” that escapes when it does. And I do it again, and again, three shots and three Pepsi cans obliterated. That’s why these are called gratification targets.

I never considered myself the kind of girl to get excited over phrases like “high-performance scope” or “bolt-action .22” but when it comes down to it, there is something that’s just fun about hearing the metal target ping when you manage a dead-center shot with a pistol, and I got a thrill of satisfaction when I got my first cluster of shots on a paper target. During a recent lesson with Seth Wish of Temple at the Peterborough Sportsman’s Club, I had the chance to do it all, while also getting a lesson on gun safety.

Target shooting was more interesting than I had anticipated, but here’s what I really appreciated about Wish’s On-Target class — before you ever pick up a gun, it’s first-things-first — and that’s safety. I went into my class having never before touched a gun. And while I’m aware that there’s no reason for anything to happen as long as everyone involved is being responsible, it’s still a nerve-wracking experience.

Wish laid down the law immediately with a few cardinal rules of gun usage and ownership. First — assume every gun is loaded. Always. Which brings us to rules numbers two and three — don’t point your muzzle at anything you’re not prepared to destroy, and keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re prepared to pull it.

Then, before being faced with the real thing, Wish demonstrates the proper grip with a “blue” gun, or a gun made from a plastic mold that is the same size and weight as the real deal. Then, we move on to a laser gun to get a better idea of how to use the sights and how to aim at a target before dealing with real bullets.

After all that comes my first experience with a real firearm. First, I learn how to remove the bullet magazine and check the chamber to make sure it’s not loaded. By the time I’m ready to actually fire a gun, I’ve relaxed. I start with a semi-automatic Ruger .22. It’s heavier than anticipated, but not as loud as I thought it would be, especially through my ear protection.

By the end of the lesson, I’ve tried it all. Between semi-automatics, single and double-action revolvers, and a rifle, I’ve probably fired over 100 rounds, and just have a better basic understanding of firearms and how they work.

I have never owned a gun, and I probably never will. But now, if I ever have to handle a weapon, I’ll have that basic understanding of how to make it safe. For anyone who’s recently purchased a firearm, or is thinking about owning one, these classes are great for learning the basics of safety and how to shoot a gun. And they give a range of experiences with weapons for you to try out.

For more information about firearms training, contact the Peterborough Sportsman’s Club. Wish will hold a Women and Arms class on April 13 at the Peterborough Sportsmen’s Club. The cost is $100 plus a $20 range fee for non-members. For more information, visit www.on-target-training.net.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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