Reasons To Take A Hand-Gun Safety Class

According to David Montero, staff writer for the Orange County Register,* last February the Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens loosened the restrictions on concealed-weapon permits in the county. In the four months since, over 5,448 O.C. residents have applied for a concealed weapon permit, and the half-dozen licensed county instructors have been very busy.

Self protection, a job requirement, and 2nd Amendment right, are reasons why many people in Orange County are taking advantage.  There is, however, another motivation for getting hands-on gun instruction.

Like this one, for example…..

Sisters  in Crime** authors take their mystery and crime writing research seriously. They read a lot, interview the experts, and occasionally take hands-on instruction.

5322MeBonJackGayleMirmWall2Five of us met at an indoor shooting range in Burbank, for some basic instruction in handgun use and safety.  Some of us would come away feeling empowered; others would know they would never pick up a weapon again except in the pages of their novels.

It was amazingly quiet inside, although we could see through safety windows that several people were shooting.

I asked about a sign stating that two or more people were required to rent firearms.  “It’s to prevent suicide attempts,” was the solemn answer. “People are less likely to take their lives if someone is with them.”

“Have there been suicide attempts here?” I asked wide-eyed.

The young man behind the counter nodded.

My gaze was drawn to the viewing windows.  I imagined a stall sprayed with blood and brains.

5315FiveInClassJim Bowen, our NRA & BSIS Certified Firearms instructor, interrupted my gory thoughts and pointed to a small classroom where several open-chamber revolvers and semi-automatics lay on a table.  When all were present, he came in and firmly closed the door.

“There is no live ammunition inside this classroom,” he announced.  “The walls, ceiling and doors are reinforced steel. You’re in the safest, most modern indoor shooting facility available.”

He picked up one of the handguns, snapped it shut, assumed a classic police stance, and aimed it off to our left. “Always point the muzzle in a safe direction,” he said. “This is the first rule of firearm safety.”

5314WatchVideoOver the next two hours we learned the other nine safety rules, watched an informative video about how to handle, load, aim and shoot a hand gun, and were introduced personally to the weapons on the table.

Jim’s assistants patiently helped us open, cock and dry-fire a .9 mm semi-automatic, a .357 Magnum revolver, and a .22 pistol.

Jim also taught us about bullets (type & caliber) and how to load them into revolvers and automatic magazines. “The lighter the bullet, the more the recoil,” he warned. “Be sure your gun and ammo are compatible.”

5317BonnieHe taught us about aiming, “Get the front site in focus; the rear sight and target will be blurred.  Line up the top edge of the front site with your target’s center.”

When we were ready to shoot, Jim distributed safety glasses and hearing protection, then handed us each a plastic tray with a an open-chamber firearm and a plastic bag of bullets.

Passing through sound-proof doors, we stepped into stalls, laid down our trays and eagerly picked up the guns. “Step back from the weapons!” Jim instructed forcefully.  We froze; then obeyed.

“We will dry-fire first,” he said. “Wait for our help.”

One of the assistants came to my stall and watched while I picked up the .9 mm Glock in a two fisted grip, raised my arms and sited down the barrel.  He corrected my left-hand thumb position and said, “Fire.” I did, several times, and then waited for the others.

“Load your weapons with five bullets,” was the next order.  Did my hand shake when I picked up the live ammo and forced five of the small brass beauties into the magazine?

He checked my work, watched me raise the gun and aim.  “Okay,” he said.


My hand jerked up.  My heart leapt at the loud report.  Double ear protection or not, the noise was LOUD!

5326GayleShootsAfter the virgin shot, I continued until the five rounds were fired, ejected the magazine and laid down the gun – as per instructions.  I looked at my target some twenty-five feet away: one dead center; four in a tight circle around it.

“Not bad,” he said.

I used up the rest of the 30 rounds, five at a time, and then switched to a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, cocking the hammer with my thumb each time. The gun was heavier, the barrel longer, and my first shot went high; another low.  But I got the rhythm soon enough.

5328WithTargets1The flame-bursts from the muzzle and the hot, sometimes gritty blowback on my face were hard to get used to.  The idea that I held death in my hands was even harder.

Are we more prepared to protect our lives and those of our loved ones?  Probably not, but we sure can write more “realistic” crime fiction!

Firing-Line is located at 1060 N. Lake Street, Burbank CA 91502.  (818) 954-9810.

**Sisters in Crime is a world-wide organization that promotes the professional advancement of women who write mysteries and crime fiction.  For more information, visit: The women in the above article are members of the Los Angeles chapter.

*For the entire Orange County Register article, see:

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