My Road to 3Gun, Part 2

Despite a successful maiden voyage with my new Benelli M2, I realized that I couldn’t keep blasting stationary cardboard forever and have it be effective practice for 3Gun. I was stewing about other solutions, when Serendipity again intervened. During that time frame, I received an email from my previous gun club, offering a Ladies only Skeet class, with the possibility of monthly Ladies Skeet nights for the summer. I didn’t know exactly what “Skeet” was –  but I knew it involved a shotgun. I didn’t think it was exactly 3Gun type shooting, but it was an opportunity to try something other than cardboard, so I jumped at the chance.

It turned out to be a great decision, because I met two new mentors and discovered yet another shooting sport that I think I want to pursue. Christine – who was organizing the events – turned out to be another female physician, and we clicked immediately. She had been shooting skeet for several years, and wanted to open the sport to other women in the area. Jim, the other instructor, had been shooting shotgun probably since he was in diapers, and had been mentoring youth groups in shotgun for years. Both were very patient teachers. Although skeet involved a different skill set than 3Gun, I was still getting trigger time on non-stationary targets, and finding a comfort level with my new shotgun. AND, it was a lot of fun!

Skeet was a difficult transition from pistol and rifle at first, because in skeet, you DON’T watch the front sight – you watch the clay target instead. This went directly against everything I had learned the previous four years. (Front sight… Front sight, durnit … watch your front SIGHT!) Now, you say I’ve got to watch that little orange thing flying past at 60 mph??? Wait… Oh there it was…Oh, it’s gone now… Ok, can I see that again?… Wait, what? … Ohhh…. “pull”…

Although the clay targets go flying by pretty quickly, they at least follow predictable paths, so that part was reassuring. It just takes time to learn where to expect them to be. With all that, by my second time out, I was informed that I was a “natural” LOL! I’m sure they tell that to all the new shooters just to encourage them, but I fell for it! I was also informed that if I didn’t find a home with 3Gun, that there was a spot open in Skeet for me. Hmmm, the prospect of buying a “classic” shotgun was intriguing. I definitely looked a bit out of place on the skeet field with my semi-auto, tactical black, super extended magazine shotgun (with the pink bolt handle). The wood on the other shotguns was sooo artistic and pretty, too…. if only there were more weekends in the month…

While I was picking up skeet skills on my new shotgun, I was also continuing USPSA and IDPA pistol matches on weekends that I wasn’t working, so I at least had ongoing pistol skill refreshers. But there are 3 guns in 3Gun (Duh!), and halfway through the summer I realized that I hadn’t picked up my rifle in months – EEK!

Fortunately for me, my usual day off falls on a weekday when the local range is empty, making it a perfect time to get reacquainted with my rifle. The purchase of this rifle deserves its own backstory, so I won’t get into it here, but it is a Smith&Wesson M&P15 TS that I bought 2 years ago. The reason that an empty range was helpful is that I decided that I wasn’t going to ask permission this time to bend a rule or two. The rules involve no shooting from ahead of the benches on the rifle range, but I wanted to practice moving from location to location and changing positions and targets. So, hardcore rebel that I am, I moved a few feet out onto the grass ahead of the benches. Not knowing exactly what I was going to be facing in the match, I set up targets at 25 yards, 100 yards, and 200 yards. (I hadn’t ever attempted a 200 yard target before, but I was already being a rebel, so why not go for it?)

I practiced running (ok, trotting breathlessly) between locations, and changing positions for each target. I also practiced magazine changes between targets. I practiced shooting off-hand standing, kneeling, and prone positions, all the while keeping an ear out for someone unlocking the gate, so I could return to the benches, since I didn’t want to be caught being a bad girl.

I learned a few important things from these practice drills: 1) I am out of shape. You’d never believe that I used to be able to ride 40+ miles in a day biking on the Rail Trail a few years ago. I really need to do something about that, and having a 50th birthday this year wasn’t helping. 2) Being out of shape and puffing, in addition to making the cellulite jiggle, makes the rifle crosshairs bounce around —  A LOT. Steady breathing is your friend. 3) Running/Trotting/Stumbling between targets can jostle your magazines and pistol loose. This is a BAD thing… need to make sure that the holster and mag pouches are screwed down pretty tight. 4) A fully loaded 30 round rifle magazine is both heavy on the belt, and hard to ram home when changing mags on the trot. I learned this when my magazine fell out of the rifle and hit the ground in the middle of taking aim at the 100 yard target. D’oh!
BUT – I did find the single advantage to having middle-aged junk in my trunk. My caboose is what helped keep those heavy magazines from dragging my pants down around my knees. YAY for female anatomy!

I still didn’t feel prepared for the big match, and time was ticking away, so I found one more “new” thing for me to try before my preparation time ran out. At various pistol matches during the summer, people kept telling me about these “tactical” matches that one of the clubs was having monthly.  Unfortunately they kept falling on weekends that I was working. Finally, with 3 weeks left, the stars aligned and I was able to make it to that club on the appointed morning.

It turns out that these “matches” weren’t really matches per se, as there was no timer and no score-keeping. They were really more like educational tactical scenarios run by SWAT officers and Military types. The idea was to get you to change your mindset and challenge your shooting skills. What a great experience it turned out to be! Everything I did that day was something I hadn’t tried before.

I got to run a pistol stage while holding a flashlight. I got to run a steel plate stage with pistol and shotgun, following only shouted verbal commands… ” Back!…. fire!…..Left!…. fire!….Right!….. fire!”. I got to “breech a door” with my shotgun, kick the door in, and “clear a room” with my rifle – not situations that usually come up for your average female pediatrician.

I cannot say enough good things about the guys running and participating in that match. Not a single one looked at me funny when I showed up alone; no one rolled their eyes at my pink bolt handle or magazine bases, and in fact I got several inquiries about the Brilliant Backstrap on my pistol. They were all extremely patient and encouraging, and although they wanted you to push your boundaries, they were very accommodating about adjusting expectations to your comfort level. For instance, the “door breaching” stage was designed to be run in teams of two – one guy on rifle, and one guy on shotgun. The military and SWAT guys were very comfortable with that. I was not. I had never EVER run a stage with anyone in front of me. EVER. The very idea gave me the heebie jeebies – not because it couldn’t be safely done, and done every day in the cop and military world – but because it was against all the previously ingrained “rules” that I had learned up to that point. A couple of the guys even volunteered to run it with me – they said they had shot with me at pistol matches and knew I was safe. But I just couldn’t push my boundaries that far yet. So they compromised and let me run it by myself – once with shotgun, and once with rifle.

As if the door-kicking wasn’t enough for polite little me, the last stage of the morning was my favorite. I got to shoot out an actual vehicle windshield. I should preface this by saying that my local IDPA club has had “car” stages in the past, but the “car” consisted of two rows of chairs to represent front seat and back seat. THIS was an actual pick-up truck, with actual semi-intact safety glass. I started the stage with a loaded, holstered pistol, and a loaded, but “safe” and open-bolt rifle beside me on the truck seat. Clustered around the front end of the truck were three cardboard targets mounted on lawnmower bases.

At the start signal (I think it was the shout of “gun!”), the lawnmower targets started to move toward me . I was to draw my pistol while seated in the truck, and shoot each target with two shots in the order of closest to farthest – through the glass of the passenger window, driver window and windshield. VERY WEIRD FEELING!! Not only was I “destroying” property, but the pistol report was louder inside the truck cab, and once the safety glass splinters, it is much harder to get a clear view of the targets through the spider-webby mosaic of glass that is left. Very educational. After engaging (and presumably stopping) all three targets, I opened the truck door, stepped down and reholstered the pistol in “hot” condition under direction from the Safety Officer. I then grabbed my rifle from the truck seat, chambered a round (again under direction from the Safety Officer), and ran/trotted to “cover”. From that cover, I engaged two more targets with the rifle, then proceeded to a different position of cover, where there were two last targets to be engaged which could only be seen by crouching very low or being prone.

I was SOOO excited when I finished!! OMG that was AWESOME!! And I was so tickled when a couple of the guys said I did a great job! I was so pumped up, that I wanted to stay and do another round after lunch. But, being a mom meant that I had to get back home to make sure that the laundry and packing for band camp the next day was underway. So, I loaded up my “almost Tammy Tactical” gear, and back to the “real world” I went.

I had less than three weeks  left until the big event.