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:~: Monday, July 21, 2008 :~:

I Hurt


My arms, especially the left one. And this morning I have a newfound appreciation (and utter awe) for those who serve in law enforcement.

Yesterday I took a handgun class taught by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office at their Public Safety Training Center. I went with my RS-writing buddy, Kendra, and though I've never been big on loud noises, I have to say, it was great research. The one-day class was intensive - approx. 6 hrs of classroom instruction followed by 5 hrs on the range. We covered the basics of handgun use and mechanics, safety and responsibility. When we got to the range I ended up shooting a Croatian semi-automatic 9mm most of the day - the XD9. I thought I'd end up shooting a Glock (a lot did) but I found I liked the weight of the XD9 and it was a good fit for my hands. At the end of the day we got to sample other guns students were using in the class (and some that weren't), including a Glock 9mm (another one I liked), Glock .45 (wow, was that powerful!), .22 Ruger (I liked this one a lot, hardly any recoil), S&W revolver (really felt weird after shooting a semi-automatic all day long) and a Kahr 9mm (so light the recoil was horrendous).

Surprisingly, my accuracy was pretty spot-on when I took my time and focused in on the target, and even better when we did the rapid fire exercises, mostly I think because I sighted once and didn't give my brain a chance to over-analyze the trigger pull. (And yes, I know the target in the pic is upside down, we'd just switched them so we could shoot targets 4 & 5 when this pic was taken. Target #3 has a couple of bullet holes outside the oval, but only because the instructor pushed my target back because he said it was too easy for me. You really don't think 5 extra yards makes a huge difference, but it does!) At the end of the course we took a timed test which was required to pass the class - three shots, variations of 3, 5 and 7 seconds based on distance - and while I passed, my accuracy in the test wasn't nearly as good as the other exercises. The stress of the seconds ticking by really got to me!

Overall, it was a great day, and worth the soreness in my arms today. The pic to the left is Kendra and I mid-way through the course. I definitely see the allure in owning a handgun, going to the range and firing, though I don't think I'm ready to run out and buy one myself. There's a real sense of power when you're holding that gun in your hand and you know you have a live round in the chamber. And it's followed quickly by the reality that you're responsible for where that round goes and who/what it hits.

One funny thing that did happen...At the beginning of the class we had to go around and introduce ourselves, explain why we were there, etc. Now, keep in mind this is a gun class, therefore the instructors themselves are very pro-gun and right to bear arms, etc. I was first to go and told everyone I was a writer who was taking the class for research. A few of the other students thought that was cool, but the instructor simply nodded, then quickly moved on to the next person. Not that I expect everyone to be interested, but I did find it strange he didn't ask anything about my books or what I write and why this was important for my research. In the end, I figured he just wasn't much of a reader and shrugged it off. Well, at the first break everyone left the room and I stayed to ask some technical gun questions for my WIP and he looked at me with a wary expression and said, "So, you wouldn't happen to write for the Oregonian, would you?" For those of you who aren't familiar with the Pacific NW, The Oregonian is the biggest paper in Oregon (based in Portland) and very liberal. Very pro-gun control. I laughed and said, "Oh my gosh. No, I'm not a reporter. Don't worry. I write fiction." He breathed much easier after that and answered any and all of my questions. So much so in fact that I came home last night and immediately emailed my editor two minor changes to STOLEN FURY based on what I learned from him in the class.

If you write RS (or really any genre that includes handguns, no matter how minor), I highly recommend taking a class like this. Most of the actual class information you can find online - there really wasn't much technical I hadn't found through researching handguns myself - but that experience of holding the gun, loading, unloading, sighting and what it really feels like when you pull that trigger is one you can't get from research in a book or on the computer. The sound, the smell, the feel of hot metal as the case flies out of the slide and lands against your skin (yes, I know how it burns because it happened to me), it's priceless. And just shooting a handgun once won't give you the same experience. The whole first hour we were shooting I was really nervous, adrenaline was pumping, my hands were shaking and I jumped every time a gun went off in one of the booths next to me. By the end of the class, I hardly heard the sounds of gunfire around me, and the mechanics of loading, firing, unloading became second nature. I know my characters and the suspense portions of my books can only benefit from this class.

I'm going to leave you with a video they showed us in the class yesterday. This one really stuck with me. The DEA agent in this video is talking to a group of kids about handgun safety. He thinks the gun he has is unloaded. At one point he goes off camera and asks someone to check to make sure it's unloaded. They look and, since the magazine is out, hand it back. They don't, however, check the chamber.

This guy - this trained DEA agent - shot himself in the foot in the middle of this presentation. He's bleeding all over the floor and continues to talk to the kids, who are, of course, freaking out. Just goes to show, you have to be careful around guns no matter who you are.

Have you ever shot a handgun before? Do you own one? Do you have any desire to learn how to shoot, either for personal reasons or for research?



Blogger Kendra said...

The video is amazing. I love it when the crowd protests as he takes out the second gun. I would have dashed out of that room the instant the first gun went off.

Our instructor said there are no accidental discharges. Only negligent discharges. This is definitely the case in the video. How many times did our instructor make us stick our finger in the chamber and through the empty grip to show it was empty? Over and over and over. In the video someone didn't stick a finger in the chamber or even look. This should be as automatic as breathing.

I have a new appreciation for gun handling. After the classroom portion of the class, I was sincerely rattled at the responsibility of holding a weapon. I'm surprised there aren't more accidents.

You were an awesome shot!

I need to find an outdoor range.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

It sounds like you two had a lot of fun and learning!

I grew up around guns. Did the Hunter Safety thing- beat both my brothers scores on the writing test- and didn't do too bad on the shooting. I went hunting- and couldn't shoot the deer when it was in my sights. I know what a gun can do and I didn't want to be the one to end the creatures life. But I've plinked at ground squirrels and I've blasted a rattle snake. I can kill animals, but I doubt I could ever pull a trigger on a human.

And your right, holding a gun and shooting them is not easy. I hate the kick of rifles and usually shoot a small hand gun or .22.

My daughter has a concealed weapons license and a gun in her car. Her cop husband insisted on both and makes her do target practice.

If you haven't shot or handled a gun it is a good thing to do whether you are pro gun or not. I think it gives people a whole new perspective.

I also believe if you have guns and children you need to teach them from day one to respect them and not keep them locked up an a mystery. While growing up we had seven rifles and two hand guns that hung on a rack on the wall in plain sight and where we could take one down whenever we wanted. But we'd been taught to use them and we'd been taught what they could do.

Okay end of sermon!

3:33 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Wow, it sounds like you had a great time. I DEFINITELY want to take a class like this. I've never shot a gun before, but a friend of mine took me to a shooting range when I first started writing suspense and we talked to one of the guys for a long time. I haven't gotten the nerve to go back yet!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Genene Valleau said...

Hey, Eli! Sounds like you had a great class!

I'm wondering if the video was for real or if it was an incredible job of staging an "accident." The lecture wouldn't have made nearly the impression it did if not for the "accident." Yeah, yeah, I'm a cynic!

Like Paty, I grew up around guns. My dad taught us to never point a gun at something/someone you didn't intend to kill. And I would never, ever take someone else's word that a gun was empty, so I can't imagine a trained DEA agent doing that.

Another piece of advice I heard somewhere along the line is that any weapon you carry can also be used against you. So if you get into a situation where you feel the need to use a gun, do it before your assailant gets close enough to take your weapon and use it on you.

I own a shotgun--no handguns--and if push came to shove, yes I would use it. That said, I don't particularly like guns and really would not like shooting someone. However, you're so right that the personal experience of shooting a gun is going to make those scenes in your stories more realistic.

So glad you had the chance to take this class, Eli, and I hope your arms aren't sore very long! :)

7:34 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Kendra, so would I.

And I think you definitely need to find an outdoor range. ;)

7:45 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Interesting point, Genene. I'm guessing it wasn't staged though. If you watch carefully, the girl goes around behind him when he's talking to the kids, bends down and mops up something on the floor. When she stands, the rag in her hand is covered in blood. I just can't believe he stuck around for two minutes after he shot himself. He had to be in serious pain.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty, I grew up around rifles too, and like you, I hate the kick of a rifle. I'd never shot a handgun before this class though.

And I think you're right...holding a gun and shooting it gives you a whole new perspective on guns, safety and responsibility.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Lexi, you should definitely sign up for a class like this. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have done it (it was close to $180 when all was said and done, including ammo), but Kendra talked me into it. In retrospect I'm really glad I did it, and I can't believe it took me so long to take it. Easily worth the money.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Kendra said...

I talked you into it?

I said, "I'm taking a handgun class. Do you want to go with me?"

You said, "Yes!! When?" All caps, I believe.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL. Okay, okay, I probably did. But I wouldn't have gone looking for the class if you hadn't suggested it, Kendra. ;)

How's that?

9:16 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

As a Buddhist, I don't own one. Would never own one. Don't understand Americans' fascination with guns and why we live in a country with so much gun violence.

That said, I once fired one at a range . . . and I think for research, classes like that are excellent. I took a NASA rocket-making class . . . and learned so much from the NASA guys, and it was all just for the experience.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Thanks Elisabeth and Kendra. I was one of the coaches the day you came to class. I'm delighted you gained perspective, and doubly delighted you have reported on your experience in a fair and balanced way. Since PSTC is a public range, and indoors, I hope to see both of you and your friends at the range. Perhaps even taking more classes!?! There is no saturation point to training!

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The instructor for the class has to chime in! I'm glad to hear you liked the class. Both of your comments demonstrate the effetiveness of repetitions and precision in gun handling.

A couple of items just for the record. I would answer all your questions even if you had been an Oregonian reporter. I said that with a smile darn it. :-) Come on down Oregonian reporters! The DEA agent video is true.

Good luck with your new book. It's always nice to read accurate firearms details in novels.

10:58 PM  

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