#11: go to a gun range

For two years I lived in Taiwan, where guns are illegal.

Then I moved back to Texas, where most people have at least one firearm, and some carry one at all times.

Guns scared me. They were, for all intents and purposes, a way for anyone to play God and take a life. I would see a handgun on a counter or table and leave the room. I didn’t know how to check if it was loaded, how to make sure the safety was on, how to make sure I didn’t accidentally shoot something… or someone.


On my To Do Before 32 List was #11: go to a gun range. I wasn’t looking forward to it, I didn’t want to do it, and I was anxious about it. I wanted nothing to do with guns.

In College Station there’s a man named Gene Schiller who, along with his wife Bernice, owns Schiller Arms. I took their one-on-one Basic 101 Marksmanship Course for $25 with Gene.

Gene knew I’d never even held a gun before, and we started from the absolute basics of handguns. The small range where his students practice allows for target practice at 3 yards, 7 yards, and 15 yards. We started at the 7 yard mark, where he flipped the target so that the blank side faced out and placed a bright red sticker near the top. After I nailed the sticker a few times (which, as it turned out, was in the groin area of the target on the other side), he faced the target normally and told me to aim for the X.

45 minutes into the hour-long lesson, he had me shoot left-handed, standing sideways, as though an assailant had shot my right hand, which is my trigger hand. He had me aim for the forehead.

As time passed, Gene asked if I minded staying a little later. He was excited about my accuracy and wanted to teach me more advanced shooting. Repeatedly he asked if I was interested in competitive shooting which, the more he mentioned it, the more interested I became. I was having fun!

After each shot, I let out a quick, high-pitched, “OH!” It was most definitely not on purpose, and it was a little embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. Every shot felt like a miss, and the power of the Glock surprised me every time.

I arrived at Gene’s house at 5:30pm; I headed back to my parents’ house at 8:30.

Halfway through the lesson

Halfway through the lesson

Gene taught me from a competitive shooting standpoint, not from a personal safety one, and that made all the difference in the world. I don’t want to think about shooting a person. I don’t want to think about how I would react to killing someone. But give me a target and tell me to hit the X, and everything changes.

“I want the X!” I would tell Gene, before reloading and trying, once again, to shoot out the center of the target.

Will I ever conceal and carry? Probably not. But am I irrationally afraid of guns now? Absolutely not.


    1. Marianne! I’ve missed you 🙂 When did you learn? Do you still shoot?

      It was empowering. A lot of that came from losing the fear, and it’s so nice to not be scared when I know the guy next to me is carrying or, in the off chance I need to use what I learned in an emergency, that I can take care of myself.

      Gene was the one who suggested we take a picture. I still have the target at my parents’ house. My dad suggested I hang it in my apartment.

  1. Fantastic that you overcame your fear of guns. But, in my limited mind, there is no reason a civilian should hold a weapon capable of taking a life. Weapons are designed to take life, be it animal or human, so I wonder, again…in my limited mind, why a peaceful person would want to own a gun, let alone teach others how to weild it? Just a bit bewildering to me.

    1. I grapple with that every day, Clinton, and it’s really hard for me to argue either side of the fence. The most common argument I hear is that “the bad guys have them, so I need to, too,” but I hate that. I know how I feel about guns, but at this point, I try as hard as I can to not get into discussions about it. It’s as polarizing a debate as war or abortion are… and I refuse to talk about those, too.

      I guess that makes me seem apathetic – which isn’t the case, because I do care, A LOT – but I’m just not willing to deal with the debate.

      If I remember right, you were in the Armed Forces, so I know this is an issue close to your heart. Thanks for your thoughts. I will say that while the people I know who carry feel more protected, I feel the opposite. I hate that I’m surrounded by weapons that could kill me.

  2. Good for you Mandy, you’re well on you way to achieving your list! And it’s great that you know know about guns and have overcome your fear of them. My husband now owns 3 rifles, and does target practice all the time at 100 yards. He goes to a place called Gunsmoke that is out on Highway 60 between BCS and Snook, just a block or so past Highway 50 heading into Snook.

    1. I found it interesting that there are no outdoor gun ranges in Brazos County. My coworker wants me to try shooting his rifles now; he says I’ll have more accuracy with them. I doubt I’d ever own a gun, unless I got into competing, but it’s fun being a little competitive with myself!

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