I had a great opportunity to take the USCCA’s Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals course on the road not too long ago. I ended up teaching at Cape Gun Works in Hyannis, Massachusetts, to a fantastic group of motivated women. One of the reasons I loved teaching this class was this diverse group of women came from all different backgrounds and shared a wide variety of reasons for wanting to get firearms and self-defense training.
But one woman from the class definitely stood out to me. Kathy was fearful of guns (though she worked with people who knew a lot about firearms). And even though she’d wanted to learn for a long time and had often talked about it, she’d never taken the opportunity to learn how to be capable and safe with guns … until our class!
We had a great time in the classroom going over fundamentals and basics. The women asked great questions and listened attentively to answers. They were also cautious and careful when working through some dry-fire practice and getting ready for the live-fire portion of the course.
But when we stepped onto the live-fire range, Kathy’s countenance suddenly changed. And as we were getting the ladies set up with their targets, I noticed that Kathy and one of my friends (an awesome classroom helper) were nowhere to be seen.
Soon my friend came back in, pulled me aside and informed me that Kathy wasn’t going to shoot today. She was just going to watch. I nodded my head slowly, all too familiar with this response to the range, to the noise … to the unfamiliarity and the uncertainty with firearms.
I soon noticed Kathy shyly re-enter the range. She slid into the background, silently watching her classmates load magazines, take shots and high-five their friends and safety instructors. When I caught her gaze, I walked over and stood by her and said, “So … no shooting today? After all this time? This is your chance! I’m here for you, you know.”
Kathy looked at me, fear and disappointment clearly in her eyes. Then she looked away and replied, “I just don’t know what happened, Beth. The class was great. The information was so helpful. And you have been so helpful. But I’m forgetting all the words. I can’t remember what everything is called. I’m not sure I know what to do. And for some reason, I’ve lost all my confidence.”
I looked at her and smiled. “I understand. And It’s OK, Kathy … you can just have some of mine.”
She looked up at me again and started to smile. I assured her that I would be there every step of the way. We walked up to the bench together, and I showed her the unloaded M&P Shield EZ. Together, we loaded one round and inserted it in the magazine.
“Want me to shoot first so you can see and hear what this will be like?” I asked.
Kathy nodded. So I took one shot and blew a hole right through the number 8.
“You’re next. You’ve got this. And I’ve got you! Let’s aim for lucky number 7. If this is the only shot you take today, you can say you did it. No regrets.”
We loaded one more round and inserted it in the magazine. Kathy carefully took up the proper shooting grip the best she could with her small, arthritic hands. She brought the gun up, shaking slightly, aimed and pressed the trigger. I immediately grabbed her hands and moved the firearm to the table as she looked for a new hole in the target.
“That’s you, Kathy. YOU did that!” I said, pointing out her hit, slightly low and to the left.
The smile that lit up her face was a mix of emotions — trepidation, anticipation, humiliation and elation all appearing in waves. A few tears ran down her cheeks.
“Now … want to do that again?” I asked.
Kathy took one more shot that day for two shots total. And I could not have been more proud.
Did those hits make Kathy ready for defensive shooting? Probably not. Did they prepare her for concealed carry? Not very much. But those two shots did give her confidence. Maybe this confidence will motivate her to try again. Maybe it will lead her to take another class. It might even be enough for Kathy to buy a gun, to take the next step in training and even to pull the trigger if someone ever threatens her life.
It may not seem like a whole lot, but confidence is everything. If that’s the one big takeaway from a class, then I’m satisfied. I just hope we can all face the New Year and all it holds with as much confidence as Kathy was able to use that day.
About Beth Alcazar
Author of Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals, associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and creator of the Pacifiers & Peacemakers column, Beth Alcazar has enjoyed nearly two decades of teaching and working in the firearms industry. She holds degrees in language arts, education and communication management and uses her experience and enthusiasm to share safe and responsible firearms ownership and usage with others. Beth is certified through the NRA as a Training Counselor, Chief Range Safety Officer and Certified Instructor for multiple disciplines. She is also a Certified Instructor through SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute, DRAW School, TWAW and I.C.E. Training and is a USCCA Certified Instructor and Senior Training Counselor.
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