Preparing for My Next Adventure

I got an email from NRA’s Woman’s Programs, telling me about a planned wilderness escape. The attendees would learn to shoot smallbore rifle silhouette, scoped/tactical carbine, long range high power rifle, conventional and tactical pistol, historic firearms and shotgun (five-stand), and archery. Other activities included in the program are bow hunting, a mock hunt, and survival training.

campingAlthough I enjoyed the day I spent learning about gun safety and shooting various weapons at the local gun club (I thought someone who has killed as many people in books as I have should know how to shoot), I can’t imagine being steeped in gun culture for eight days. Nor am I certain I’d be willing to pay $1800 for the privilege. Still, the idea does tug at me, as do all things I’ve never done before. If nothing else, the shooting complex would be an interesting setting for a murder, and I could chalk up the week to research.

One thing in the invitation especially caught my attention: Whether you are a novice or a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, it’s an experience that will prepare you for your next adventure!

Do they know about the adventure I’m considering, walking up the Pacific coast? Oh, my, I sure hope I won’t need to know how to shoot for that expedition. Guns are heavy! I tend to take as little as possible, probably way too little (though not as little as The Peace Pilgrim who carried only a pen, comb, map, toothbrush, and the clothes on her back). I’m not planning on walking for peace, exactly, but am aiming for a peaceful walk. Not only would a gun overload my pack, it would make me nervous, as if it were calling out to be used. (Can you feel my shudders?) So not the spirit of peace!

Still, I would take pepper spray or bear spray or some other sort of unfriendly creature spray, and I figure as long as I remember to point it away from me, that’s all the expertise I’d need.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Halt and I’ll Shoot! (Adventures With Firearms)

Pistol target.

In an effort to add adventure to my life and to challenge myself to experience new things, I went to an NRA Women on Target Gun Clinic last Saturday to become familiar with firearms. As an author who has killed way more than my share of characters — approximately 510,010 in my four published books combined and another 6,000,000 in my WIP — I figured I ought to know what my characters feel when they shoot a weapon. (Okay, only a couple shot a weapon so far. The others used strangulation and bioweapons, but I have no interest in learning how either of those feel.)

I expected the guns to kick. I expected to be knocked off my feet. I expected to be unable to aim the heavier caliber pistols and revolvers, rifles and shotguns. I expected to be humiliated by missing the target completely. None of that happened. At first, my arms shook a bit as I aimed the handguns, but that could have been due to being past my first youth (and perhaps even my second youth) or else it could have been due to the unaccustomed stance. Still, I managed to aim, managed to hit the target. Managed to get a bullseye even. Kept on my feet the entire time. Didn’t even rock. The shot came as a surprise, but not a shock.

Deadly with a rifle! Not bad for the first time

After the pistol range, we headed to the shotgun range. There we shot stationary clay discs, and I got three out of three. Then we tried the flying discs (they might have been called clay pigeons, but they sure looked like mini dayglo orange and green frisbees to me). I never quite the hang of it. Mostly shot too soon. The problem women have that big men don’t have is that to balance the shotgun properly, we have to lean into the stock to keep it balanced and to allow the force to travel up through our arm into our body mass. This is fine while shooting stationary discs, but leaning forward to shoot while following the disc with one’s eye and hopefully one’s arms, turned out to be difficult for me. Still, I did manage to kill one of the suckers, but one out of twelve tries isn’t anything to brag about.

Then we moved on to the rifle range, and there I was deadly!! Hit the 100 yard target three out of three times. Hit the 200 yard target three out of five times. Hit the metal animal targets ten out of ten times. Hit the 50 yard paper target every time and even got a bullseye.

Besides learning how it feels to shoot, I learned how easy it is to forget firearms are deadly weapons. Several times after hitting the distant paper target, I was so excited I wanted to run out to see how I did. Of course, I managed to contain my curiousity or I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I’d be in a hospital or a morgue — there were a lot of people shooting that day! I’m also ashamed to admit that after killing my clay disc, I lifted the shotgun in the air in impromptu exhiliration. So not the thing to do! Eek.

I also know why in books and movies the good guys always yell, “Halt!” before they shoot. Perhaps, like me, they can only shoot stationary targets and want to make sure they hit their man.

NRA Women on Target Instructional Shooting Clinic

I’ve killed off hundreds of thousands of people in my books — generally by impersonal means such as diseases — but at least one character shot off a gun. I just guessed at how it would feel, and apparently I got it right, but still, if I’m going to continue my lethal activities, I should know what to do, how to do it, and how it feels. To that end, I’ve signed up for a shooting clinic. The clinic is this Saturday, and I am looking forward to the adventure. This is what it entails:

Agenda: 8:30 to 9:00 am Sign in at the Clubhouse
9:00 to 9:30 am Introduction and safety brief at the Clubhouse
9:45 to 11:30am Range Instruction (2 stages)
11:30 to 12:45 pm Lunch catered by a local Mexican restauran
1:00 to 2:45 pm Range Instruction (2 stages)
3:00 to 3:30 pm Debriefing & Certificates

What to Bring: We will provide all firearms, ammunition, safety equipment. We provide foam ear protection you insert in your ears and clear safety glasses. Wear your prescription glasses or contacts and safety glasses can be worn over them if necessary. Sunglasses are recommended if you wear them. If you have earmuff style ear protection and wish to use it, please feel free to do so.

You should wear light colored, loose fitting clothing that will offer some protection from the sun as it is likely to be hot and we will be outdoors most of the time. Scoopneck or v-neck blouses are not recommended for the range. We suggest a men’s style t-shirt with a high neck line. We will receive a visor at the event but may wish to bring your own hat or visor to protect you from the sun. Bring sun block if you are sun burn prone. We are in the desert and are subject to winds, be prepared. You will be walking on gravel and concrete so wear shoes that offer some traction and protection: hiking boots or running shoes work great. Don’t wear open toed shoes, flip flops, or sandals.

Bottled water will be available at all stages of the event. Restrooms are located at or near each range.

What you will be doing: You are going to learn to safely handle and fire rifles, pistols, and shotguns. You will also learn to hit the target. You can expect one on one instruction and coaching, and we will maintain a pace of events that is comfortable for you. We encourage you to try everything but your comfort level will be respected. This event is designed to take a novice shooter to a level of comfort with firearms that will allow that shooter to pursue further instruction. We replace fear of shooting with knowledge about shooting and apprehension about guns with respect for guns. At all times, we will maintain safe conditions and will instruct you in the safe, responsible and ethical handling of firearms.