Saturday, October 25, 2008

Take Your Mom Shooting - I Do.

My mom was raised on a farm. Like most farm boys and girls, they started shooting guns well before they began walking to school barefoot, uphill both ways in year-around, waist deep snow that covered a thick layer of “goats head” thorns.

They were tough kids and shooting guns was as much, or more, of a necessity as is was for fun. There were coyotes that were always trying to steal chickens and rats rummaging through the trash that needed to be “taken care of".

When my 60+ year old mom said she wanted to go shooting with me I thought to myself, “Hm, this will be an adventure.” The day was perfect. It was cold and there was a light drizzle falling so going to the indoor range seemed like a good option. When we got there, I bought some silhouette targets and some ammo and we headed back. To keep from getting shot by my own mom, I gave her a quick safety briefing that I give all of my friends that are “new shooters”.
We started with a small Beretta Bobcat .22 that I’ve owned for over 20 years. It’s a fun, small caliber gun that’s perfect for “first timers” and “old timers” alike. After I “showed her” how to do it, I reloaded the gun, clicked the safety and laid it on the table. As she picked up the gun, I flashed back to all the grief and trouble I gave her as a rowdy teenage boy and suddenly wondered if this was a trap!

We once again did a quick review of what the sight picture should look like and I stepped back as she took aim. She sent all seven rounds down range and into the target in a group that was about four inches at its widest point. Not bad at all! Mom looked at me and asked, “Is that good?” I said, “Actually mom, yes. That’s very good.” After about five more magazines, the groups were down to about three inches, tight enough that I thought it was time to either graduate up to a bigger gun or move the target back.

She opted for both options so I loaded a snub-nosed .38 special with Crimson Trace Laser Grips and pushed the target back about five feet. Once again, I shot first then reloaded and stepped back. She took the gun, aimed the laser at her target and pulled the trigger. Her arthritic fingers had a real hard time with the double-action pull. Her shot was erratic as she fought the heavy trigger and the laser danced and flipped around as the shot broke. To combat this, we switched to the “cock and shoot” method. This was much easier for her and once again she accurately hit the target creating a nice tight group that landed almost exactly where the laser was pointed.
I was impressed! Mom turned to me and said, “You know, I’d like to have a gun at home for self defense.” My blood ran cold and my eyes bugged. “Uh, ok mom. Maybe…” Overall, it was a fun couple of hours.

For our second outing we went to the outdoor range. Once again we started with the Bobcat, and then moved to a Taurus PT92 9mm. It was a bit heavy for her and the grip was a too thick. Nevertheless she managed to hit the target, placed 25 feet away, with enough accuracy that if it were an intruder, she would have made 10 torso shots.

After she mentioned wanting to keep a loaded defense gun in her home, I told her that it would be ok only if she took a gun course first. For legal and practical reasons she would need to learn some basic skills and then practice them from time-to-time. One of the skills would be alternative shooting techniques like shooting from the hip in panic saturations. Why did I open my big mouth? She wanted to try it!

She picked up my 9mm, slipped in a magazine, held the gun at waist level and pulled the trigger. I wasn’t sure exactly where the bullet went but when I saw splinters of wood flying off my target stand, I knew she was at least in the right area code.

I cringed as another big piece of wood got blown off my carefully crafted, handmade, but luckily modularly rebuildable target stand. Mom smiled at me after seeing fragmented pieces of debris flying all over the place, “I’m hitting the target! That’s pretty good!”

I grimaced and scratched my head, “Yea, not bad.” I shook my head and mustered a small forced smile. “Uh, mom, let’s go back to shooting with both hands. You’re kind of destroying my target stand!”

Another hour went by and mom continued to have a great time and shot with a surprising amount of accuracy, for an “old lady”.

The moral of the story is, if she asks, take your mom shooting. You never know, in a previous life she might have been an Annie Oakley fan that was deadly with a 20-guage shotgun or a vicious coyote hunter like mine!

Things to think about when taking your mom, wife or girlfriend to the range for the first time:
  • Start with safety. Don’t feel embarrassed about going through a safety briefing. DO IT! Make it simple, but cover the basics of muzzle safety and range etiquette.
  • Always start with a .22 or other small caliber gun first. If you want to piss off or scare off your mom or significant other, give them a .44 Super Redhawk the first time you take them out. They’ll pull the trigger once and never do it again. If you want to help them enjoy the sport, start small and work up to bigger calibers slowly – at their pace.

  • Keep the targets close. Targets that are 15-25 feet away are hittable by anyone. This is a confidence builder and helps them with immediate feedback and gratification. Start close and work back in 5 foot increments. If you start anyone off at 25 yards, they’ll get frustrated and give up fast. Hell, I get frustrated with 25 yard shots myself.
  • Don’t preach and teach. Give some pointers but don’t make the outing a formal gun class. That’s boring and not why they wanted to go. If they want to learn more, they’ll ask. NOTE: If your mom has her thumb behind the slide of your 9mm, correct that! But don’t give military or police style training.
  • Praise their accomplishments. While shooting a 4-inch group at 15 feet at might not be a huge accomplishment for you, it’s more than enough to “drop” a bad guy and a VERY good job for a beginner or for someone that hasn’t picked up a gun in 30 years.
  • Lastly, do whatever it takes to make it fun for them. It might not be your idea of a perfect range day but make it fun for them. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll have helping your mom have a great, safe shooting day.

I just wanted to relate my story of shooting with my mom.  She was born in 1933 and grew up in Chicago - she moved to rural Wisconsin in the early 50's when she married my dad.  Not much of a gun enthusiast - but not stopping her four sons for shooting if they so desired.
She worked at the bank in town and became the second in command - so she had keys to the get in, knew how to turn off the alarm, and could open the vault.  When my dad passed away in 1993, a young man in town suggested that she learn how to handle a gun, for the reasons mentioned above - plus that fact that she lived alone in a small town with no permanent law enforcement. 
One day during that first summer after my dad's passing - we took my S&W .357, my fairly new Browning Buck Mark, and a few boxes of ammo out to a quarry just outside of town.  Like you, I showed my mom how to safely handle the firearm.  I don't remember much about that day - except that we went shooting.  But that's not where this story ends. 
For the next several years until she retired, she kept that Buck Mark in one drawer of her dresser and a loaded magazine in another drawer - knowing exactly what she would need to do should an intruder enter the house.  Luckily - she never had to use it for her protection.
Flash forward to 2010 - I was in the process of getting divorced and now had some free time on the weekends.  I live a couple of hours from where my mother lives and I go home as often as I can.  Mom and I started shooting again - in the quarry where I first took her to get familiar with the Buck Mark.  We try to go shooting once a week - usually on a Sunday.  There are times when I talk my girlfriend into joining us - but that is another story for another time.
My mom still has the Buck Mark and shoots it from time to time - but she has really taken a liking to my little Browning BL-22 lever-action with a scope.  While I haven't documented her shooting as well as you documented shooting with your mom - I can say that she really enjoys the time we spend shooting in the quarry.  We shoot plastic bottles that range in size from a few ounces to one gallon jugs filled with water - anywhere from 20 yards to about 100 yards.  We shoot rifles and handguns from .22 up to .357 - though mom sticks to the .22's.  After we've had our fun watching the bottles explode - we recycle the plastic.
I came across your website while looking for reviews on the Browning Buck Mark - just to see what others have to say about the firearm.  Besides the one my mom shoots - I have a Browning Buck Mark Contour with a 7.25" barrel - and it is a blast to shoot.  I'm not one to reply or add comments to online articles - but after reading your article I felt I had to share the story about my mom's shooting experience.
Reply back if you get the chance - just so I know you received this email.

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  1. How often does your mom go shooting with you?

  2. We go a couple of times a year.

  3. My momma is in a nursing home now. Unfortunately, she doesn't even remember who I am. But I have loads of wonderful memories of her.

    One of them is when she went with me me to an outdoor range a few years back, when her memory was still working. After watching me shoot for awhile, I got her to try my S&W M10 with some wadcutter handloads. She even did some shooting with my Winchester 94 with 30-30 handloads of mine that kick like a .22 long rifle. Good memories.

    We only have one moma. Love them as the special person in your life that they are.

  4. I took my mom shooting for Mother's Day this year because she did go out and buy a gun for home protection. Great article!