My Road to 3Gun, Part 6 (Final)

I had four stages of Day #1 under my belt, and even though I was exhausted that night, I ran a boresnake and some oil through my guns before collapsing into bed. One of the advantages of my long packing list was that I did remember to bring my cleaning kit and even an old towel and some rags. I also used some of the leftover newspaper from the “dry my shoes out” episode to protect the carpet in my room. My mother would have been proud of me. I thought this would be common sense, but apparently not, because I saw a sign at the Lodge asking people to please not use the hotel towels for gun cleaning. Seriously? People do that? In what universe would this be a good idea? I mean, if you were desperate, there was even a dollar store down the road where you could buy something cheap and use that. I guess some people must have been raised by wolves… Sigh.

At least there was no repeat of the sleeplessness from the previous night, thank goodness. I guess exhaustion is the best sleep-aid. I awoke a little sore and achy, but refreshed and ready for Day #2.

The first stage on Saturday for our squad was Stage #1, which was an all Shotgun stage. My thumb hadn’t yet recovered from yesterday, but this is where I just told myself “Suck it up, Buttercup”, and kept moving. In sizing up the stage, Lena thought it would be a good idea for me to take a few of the shots at a longer than usual distance, meaning I needed a tighter choke on my shotgun. I had changed the choke a grand total of once in the six months that I’d owned this gun. I knew how to do it in theory, and I knew I had what I needed, but it was still a welcome help when one of the photographers offered to supervise my efforts. We stood at the back of my car in the field, squinting at the tiny print on the chokes that came with my gun, holding them at arm’s length (yeah, I should probably break down and get bifocals), and feeling for the number of notches. Finally between the two of us, we figured out which one I needed and got it installed. Whew! Thanks Yamil Sued, you’re a lifesaver!

This being an all shotgun stage meant that I was going to need to reload A LOT.  There were something like 23 targets, and my gun held 6+1 shells. You do the math. Following Randi and Lena’s advice that you can never have too much ammo, I loaded my belt with as many shell carriers as I could fit. Randi had a  whole box of them so I went wild. If I had a bandolier, I’d have probably used that too. Given my inexperience, and the number of reloads required, multiplied by my already sore thumb, I figured I’d better allow for several rounds dropped in the mud, too. Fine motor skills under stress aren’t exactly my strong suit. I tell people that there are ten very good reasons that I never became a surgeon! LOL.

Thus prepared, I literally rattled when I walked up to the start line. Since the stage had a low port to shoot through, I also had on knee pads. I looked waaay cool in these camo babies from the hardware store, let me tell you. As it turns out,  I probably wouldn’t have needed them, as the area around the port was storm-soaked mud, thinly disguised by a layer of straw. It would have been nice and soft to kneel in. Some people only crouched low at that port. But there were 6 or 8 targets back there, and given that I was still pretty new to 12 gauge, I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t nice and stable, I’d end up sitting on my butt in the mud, and maybe DQ’d. Thus, I wore the sexy knee pads.

I was pretty proud of myself. I did time out with three targets left, and I “ouched”, and “Ow dammit”-ed my way through all the shell reloads, but I hit my targets consistently and didn’t screw up any of the 180- traps. I thought for a newb, that was pretty durn good. (Having Lena at my shoulder helped tremendously).

                            (Thanks to Lisa Marie Judy for this photo. It’s the moment I timed-out)

Basically, since I shot well, but still timed out, that meant I ate up all my time with reloads. My thumb looked it too. It was bleeding, and the nail was starting to peel back, and turn black and blue. When we got back behind the line, Lena tried loading a couple shells into my gun at the pre-load table, and her reaction was pretty much, “OMG, I don’t know how you’re even doing that. You need some modifications.”

This revelation was a bit of a relief to me in that at least I knew that it wasn’t “just” me being a wimp or doing something wrong, and it also gave me some perverse pride that I had soldiered on through it. This was also what led me to get to know some of our male squadmates.  I had already bonded with the other women on the squad, commiserated, clapped, hugged, etc. But I’d only had short chats with the guys so far. Several of them were on team “C-Rums“, and they started talking to me about shotgun modifications (especially for Benellis). Turns out that their namesake and teammate – Jeff Cockrum – does exactly the kind of custom work that was needed on my shotgun to make it more 3Gun (and thumb) friendly. He even gave me his card. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I did by the time the match was over, since he took second place amateur!

Our second stage of this second day (or 6th stage overall) was a pistol/rifle stage. I had a less than stellar performance here, even on pistol, and timed out without hitting yet another long distance rifle target. I learned though, that I definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY need to take a lot more practice time for shooting from odd positions, odd props, etc. Looks like I’m going to have to be a secret bad girl at my home range again – Shhhhhh.

Our 7th and last stage of the match was shotgun, and choice of pistol or rifle. Most of my squad chose to use rifle for speed and accuracy on the close-up cardboard. But not me. I had very little experience in maneuvering a rifle around stage barriers, corners, etc. I was mildly afraid that with my face in the scope, I’d get hung-up on a barrier, or turn wrong and DQ somehow. People tried to talk me out of it, but it was my last stage, and I wanted to feel comfortable, not worried. I didn’t care about time, I just wanted to shoot it “clean” for my last stage ……. and I did. I hit all my shotgun targets pretty easily and quickly, grounded the gun in the barrel, and moved on with my pistol, pretending it was just another USPSA stage on a Sunday.

When I reholstered my pistol and turned around, there was Lena with a big grin and open arms saying, “You just finished your first 3Gun Match!” … and she gave me a big hug! This girl is 18 years old and hugged me like I was one of her kids. It was awesome! I sobbed. Not teared-up —- SOBBED! LOL! Then it was Randi’s turn. All the pent-up adrenaline and anxiety just poured out, and I was shaking. It was awesome and cathartic. I couldn’t believe that I did it!!! I was so thrilled, and proud, and relieved, and exhausted …. it was like a cliche movie review (I laughed! I cried! It was better than CATS!) I was so hopped-up that I don’t even remember anybody else shooting the stage. I was a walking ball of endorphins.

At some point though, our last shooter finished, and we a had a couple minutes until the next squad was due up, so we took some group photos. Yay Squad 6!!! I’m so glad we did that, because it helps jog my memory about who all my squadmates were. There were fourteen of us, plus Randi and Lena. Many were already involved with the gun industry in one way or another, (though I didn’t always know that at the time), and it was great to make their acquaintance. Now I can even pretentiously name-drop and mention that “I have friends in the industry, you know” *snort* BWAhahahahaha!

So, without further ado, I present you with Squad 6 (in no particular order): Dan Wheatley, Jeff Cockrum, Jacqueline Marie Janes, Jeff Burch, Randi Rogers, Julianna Crowder, Lena Miculek, Angala Foster, Kelli Sampsel, Athena Means, Lisa Marie Judy, Kathy Sherlock, Lacey Duffy, Gretchen Burch, Craig Nordgren, and Dave Wilson.

It was a great group, and we thanked everyone – especially our male squadmates and SO’s – for their patience with the newbies . As I recall, at some point in the match, one of them said that with all the hot stinky summer matches they shoot, this was the first one where their squadmates smelled good. LOL What a great bunch of guys!

With our last stage done, there was nothing left but the celebrating! Unlike the previous day, I actually had time for a shower and clothes change before dinner and the prize table. It felt WONDERFUL! After that recharge, I headed back up to the Lodge area because I had up to that point had no time to check out the vendor tents. The first place I stopped was at the Hear-Pro tent to get molded for earplugs. I really like my electronic earmuffs, but the sweltering heat of this week made my head really hot under them. I also don’t like the “foamies” because they don’t fit well, and I hate the crinkle sound as they expand in my ear canal. So, I thought getting molded for custom plugs would give me a better option when it’s hot.

My next stop was at the tent for … I think it was The Shooter’s Source. I was determined to at least “start” solving my shotgun issues that very day. The extremely patient fellow there listened to my story, and helped me along with a +2 extension for my existing magazine tube extension. This would bring me up to an 8+1 and be more in line with what other shooters were using. I also bought a few more shell caddies while I was at it.

After I entertained myself with retail therapy, I came across the BEER TRUCK! How had I missed this before? Now, I’m not a big-time drinker, but I do enjoy a beer or two on occasion, and this one tasted like success! I wandered around with my beer and my bag of goodies, and I mixed and mingled. I’m usually not very good at that kind of thing, but between the beer and my endorphin high, I felt like quite the social butterfly. I may have even talked a fellow into sending his wife to Babes Camp!

The shooter’s dinner was a yummy open-air buffet, where I got to catch-up with some of the Babes gals and compare notes from the other squads. To a woman, we all agreed that it was a great experience. Touring the prize tables was interesting – the sponsors were very generous. I don’t think I had seen so much cool stuff (and certificates for cool stuff) in one place before. If my name was pulled, I had no idea what I would choose. Apparently how this worked (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong) is that for amateurs, the competitors who came in first, second, third – and I’m not sure how far down – got to choose what they wanted from the prize table first. There were several guns there, so the choices could be quite valuable. After those were awarded, then the rest of the prizes (and there were a couple hundred) were awarded by random drawing. My name was pulled rather late in the game, and I still won a certificate for a Warne scope mount, worth a couple hundred dollars. (It came a few weeks ago, and it’s the cat’s pajamas! They didn’t have pink, so I took red – it’s so purty!)

The evening wore down, and we exchanged many hugs and said our goodbyes, since many people were leaving in the morning. I wandered over to the lodge windows where they had the final amateur scores posted (the pros wouldn’t finish until Sunday). It was full-on dark by then, so visibility was a little tough. I used the light on my phone to try to read the print. (How many flashlights did I get in my swag bags – and did I think to bring even ONE?? – D’oh!) I finally found my score and, get this…. I WASN’T EVEN LAST! I did a little happy dance right there, and announced it to total strangers – “This was my first time, and I’m not even last!” — At least nobody laughed at me 🙂

It was the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae of this whole experience. I had my two modest goals, which I succeeded in accomplishing (Don’t DQ, and Have Fun), but I still more or less accepted the reality that I might come in dead last. I was okay with that. But it didn’t happen. After all of the literal blood, sweat and tears, I wasn’t even last. Who knew that such a small thing could satisfy me so much?! I went to bed an exhausted, but very happy camper.

Work was waiting for me on Monday, so Sunday morning I had to leave before the Pros were finished. I really would have liked to stay, but I’d been away for 6 days, and my “real life” was waiting. On the drive home I was still “high”. There was so much information to process, so many memories to store, and so much new knowledge to stew over, that it kept my brain busy for eight straight hours.  I came up with the idea for this blog on that trip home, and also a plot for possibly getting a Babes Camp to come closer to where I live, so as to get more women I know involved. It was a mentally productive trip.

I was sooo proud of myself for meeting the challenge! I accomplished things that 4 years ago, I would never have even considered possible. I gained new skills and new confidence, pushed my personal boundaries even further back, and met crowds of new people. I’ve never really gotten the concept of “networking” before, since it wasn’t something I had to rely on in my career. But this experience was a “networking” bonanza – so many wonderful, helpful, fun people, who encouraged me, helped me, and educated me! Who’d have thought that I could have such new worlds open up to me at age 50?

In a way, I apologize for taking 6 posts to summarize this 3Gun journey, but then again, I really don’t regret documenting “everything”. Every experience, and every step along the way was important to the final accomplishment. This could simply not be summarized into “I signed up, I showed up, and I went home”, format. Doing that would in no way have done justice to the “process”, which for me was just as much part of the adventure.

Here’s to many more!