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First-time Gun Owner Goes to the Range

Today, my wife and I went to the shooting range. We are both first time gun owners, so yes, we fall into the category of paranoid city-slickers turned suburbanites all wet behind the ears. She had never fired or even held a gun in her life. I had only fired guns once when I was a teenager (which was a LONG time ago).

When the CCP virus came, I thought to myself, I better take prepping a little more seriously. I bought some food and water storage items. I did stock up on toilet paper, but it was one of the last things on the prep list.

Then when the riots became a normal occurrence, I felt it was the right time to pitch to my wife about bringing a firearm into the house. Ages and a more liberal mindset ago, I would've shuddered at the thought of owning a gun and raising a child. Now that I have one, I want to do everything in my power to protect her. That includes owning a gun and hopefully never needing one rather than regrettably needing one and not having one.

I had done my homework. I've wanted a gun for a while. I know the risks. I know the responsibility. I know the power of a firearm. I know the psychological effects of owning one. I prepped myself because I knew I'd have to make a strong case to my wife in order to bring one into our home. But the riots kind of did all the work for me. When the gunshots and looting reached only a few blocks away from our Philadelphia home, she gave me the go-ahead.

So I went to one of the only places in the city that had firearms, were taking appointments, and were open during the pandemic. This was in late March and The Firing Line, Inc. and their staff were just amazing. They did not make me feel like the prototypical new gun owner. They were helpful and accommodating. They treated me like an adult and with respect. At the time, I wasn't interested in a concealed carry permit (CCP) or anything like that. I was only focused on home defense. They presented me with a few different guns, showed me how to handle them and told me they're basically the same and that it mainly depends on how if feels in my hand.

Of course, the one that felt the best was also the most expensive. I chose the Glock-34 9mm Gen4 with three 17-round magazines for $675. I also bought a 50-round box of Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown jacketed hollow-point (JHP) 124 grain 9mm ammunition for $35. They gave me a bunch of coupons and two range passes and welcomed me as a new gun owner.

Then the lockdowns started happening and going to the range was prohibited. After some fighting, Pennsylvania deemed gun stores essential and they were opened back up but with restrictions. From March to July, I had moved our family out of the city and into the suburbs. The store I popped my cherry at was a good 35-40 minutes away, so I started to look for shops and ranges closer to my neighborhood. But the COVID cavaeat was that gun ranges could only allow shooters in the range who were already members of that gun range. I called everywhere and it was all the same. No one was accepting new members, firearms were scarce, and ammo even more so.

So I inundated myself with good ol' YouTube. My personal favorites are Active Self Protection, Donut Operator, Warrior Poet Society, National Shooting Sports Foundation, hickok45 pretty much in that order. There are a few others with some great learning videos, but these are the guys I go back to over and over. Lucky Gunner is another I sometimes visit. I studied the art (or skill) of dry firing, developing a good grip, how to clean a gun, range etiquette, gun safety, and loads of other topics and realized, man you really can learn anything on YouTube!

Then the election came and went. Things started to kind of simmer down in a way. At least the violent protests and riots did. Those seemed to have disappeared overnight. Where did all the reports of unarmed black men being shot and killed by the police go? Yet under the surface, there is A LOT going on. Though the MSM and basically everyone in the country has come to terms or is elated at the prospect of a Biden term, there are those that have yet to concede, most importantly, Donald John Trump. And of all the dates thrown out by so many speculators, the one date President Trump has outlined is January 6th, 2021. And as we approach that date, I feel as though things are crescendoing.

I'll tell you one thing: I have no idea what will happen. There's way too much speculation going on. But if Trump actually ends up winning the election, or something even more crazy, like leading a secession, things will break, explode, erupt into chaos.

On the other hand, maybe it will be a big bunch of nothing and the Trump movement will fizzle out and go quietly into the night. That is totally possible. Maybe you walk from the convenient store to your car and it's as uneventful as the other hundred-thousand times before. But if that one time just so happens that you're met with a life or death situation, I want to be prepared.

So I made a call to my trusty gun shop in the heart of Philly. They said as long as you have those range passes, come on down! So yesterday my wife and I hopped into the car and made the drive into the city. We filled out our passes, got our one box (50-round) limit of full metal jacket (FMJ) range ammo, and were ready to hit the lane. Then I said, "well, my wife has never fired a gun before, and the last time I fired I still had a cracking voice." The clerk, I'm so bad with names, said, "Hmm, well maybe you should wait until a range officer is here." He explained to us what that was. Essentially a Firearm Range Safety Officer is someone who helps maintain order at a gun range. They also help rookies like us become more familiar with firing and handling a gun at a gun range. He told me we could come back tomorrow. It was then that I made an appointment to buy another gun and then go to the range right afterward.

Fast-forward to today and my wife and I got back into the car and made the same trip. We were greeted with the same tough but accommodating service I had gotten the first time around. These guys are Philly guys. They can sniff a phony out in seconds. They had their eye on my wife the moment she walked in. She was on her phone, she was sort of half present, you know...still a little millennial. But I was laser-focused and very serious and they respected that, and thus treated both of us with respect.

He asked me what my price range was. I said I'd like to keep it under $600 knowing full well that the market had totally blown up since COVID and the "peaceful" protests. Surprisingly, there were a handful of guns available...though still no JHP ammo. I said I was now very interested in obtaining my CCP in the near future (whenever that's possible), so I was looking for something smaller to carry (the Glock-34 is a bigger handgun made mainly for competition shooting or home defense). He brought out a couple Sig Sauers (P365 SAS and P320 Compact), a Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact, a Glock 45, and a Glock 43. All were under $600. I handled them, my wife handled them and we both liked the Smith & Wesson because it was a little bigger and more solid. It was the cheapest at $495 and came with three 15-round magazines. We went with that as well as the $20 box of aforementioned range ammo.

Then the range officer, Al, came by and introduced himself. He reminded me of a shorter Telly Savalas but a little more rough around the edges. He was very traditional in that he kind of left me alone and focused mainly on my wife, which was all well and good since I had done all my homework and my wife (who, as a kid, picked flowers on the soccer field while in the middle of a game) had done none. He was able to get her to be comfortable. He was not at all intimidating or impatient. I was very impressed with how attentive he was. These guys run a first class operation. I really can't say enough about them. I actually would rather drive the distance now, having gone through these two transactions.

He taught the wife how to handle, load, stand, aim, dry fire, and then really fire the gun. She did amazingly well for her first time ever. In fact, way better than I remember doing my first time. I loved how he had us load five cartridges, rounds, bullets, whatever you wanna call them, at a time, rather than load the entire magazine and try not to lose count.

What's funny is that her first 3-4 shots were very close to center mass. Then, when she unconsciously prepped for recoil was when her shots started to get farther away. He told her to breathe and just relax as much as possible and her aim started to come back.

After 10 rounds, I got my chance. I hit my first five rounds just left of center. The next five were still center mass but spread out a little more (not intentionally). My wife and I switched it up, going from the newly purchased M&P to the Glock-34 and back. The left-leaning headshot was from my wife (not quite intentional), and my proudest shot of the night was the center headshot, very intentional! This target (I forgot to mention) was at just under 10 yards, maybe 25 or so feet away–a good home defense distance.

My wife was very glad we went. It opened her eyes to a lot of things regarding firearms as well as range etiquette and the things it takes to be a responsible gun owner. For the most part, it went just as I expected it would. Even still I learned a great deal. I think the only real surprises were how much easier it was to fire and aim a gun. I thought it would be a lot harder, and that is probably a good thing. Firearms must be respected at all times. I will never take for granted my Second Amendment right as well as my privilege of being a gun owner. It is something I will take very seriously and I will always support the right to keep and bear arms.

When I started writing this, I just wanted to share my range experience and tell anyone willing to listen, how amazing the guys at The Firing Line are. But now that I have gotten this far, I want to encourage first-time gun owners to really be proactive in their gun ownership. Learn the ins and outs, respect not only the gun itself, but the Constitutional Right our forefathers gave us, fought for and died for. With that right, we are a unique country unlike most others in the freethinking first world. We have been given the responsibility of protecting ourselves from outside harm. We are looked upon as the pillars of society. We are given the utmost power of being able to end life, yet we, on most occasions, do so only as a last resort.

This right is very close to being restricted or even outright taken away by the seemingly incumbent regime. I wrote an opinion on Civil War and what I think we, as conservative, gun-owning, responsible citizens are faced with. I'm still not sure what I'd do if or when push comes to shove. But I know I bought these guns to protect my family, and if pushed to those extremes, protect my family I will... at any cost.


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