Posted by: pendrops | October 23, 2007



“Ma’am, I gotta tell ya, you’re the best shot I’ve seen in a long time.”

I shook my head, setting down the emptied .357 revolver on the ledge in front of me, and stared at the target I’d annihilated over the past hour. The holes, grouped tightly in the center of the red bull’s eye on the paper waving several yards in front of me.

In the lane next to me, Jason pulled the trigger of a $20,000 MP5 machine gun, the gun I had just used to shoot about 30 rounds.

“I just can’t believe it,” I said to the chiseled ex-policeman who was taking Jason and I through our first gun safety course. “You have no idea…I can’t believe I’m even here.”

You see, it all started several months ago when Jason inherited a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol from his deceased uncle.

“I don’t want a gun in the house,” was the summation of our one-sided conversations in the days after he found out about the gun. “I’m not comfortable with it. And what about when we have kids someday? I just can’t do it.”

My experience with guns has been sporadic and negative at best. I was in a movie theater when a gang decided to begin a shootout. I knew a guy who committed suicide by playing Russian roulette. And how many movies, TV dramas and news shows have I watched, evoking as much fear and ignorance as they can.

“No guns in the house. Final,” I remember saying to Jason. That was May.

But in gentle and un-premeditated conversations, over dinner and on walks, Jason began telling me stories of men and women protecting themselves with firearms. He also told me about classes that educate and help gun owners become proficient with these lethal weapons.

The more I heard, the more open I became. “I suppose if you take one of those classes and we keep it unloaded in the deepest, darkest, furthest corner of the apartment, then we can have one. But just one,” I said.

Then fear set in. I don’t want to be ignorant about anything in my house, especially something that dangerous.

“So, do you think we could get a deal if I took that gun safety class with you?” I asked one night over my signature pasta and meat sauce.

Jason smiled. “Well, yeah,” he said, digging into the pile of noodles swimming around his plate. That was August.

Fast-forward to yesterday, a rainy October morning, and we novices, with our respective guns in tow. After an hour of classroom-style education on our specific guns as well as some pretend loading and shooting, we headed out to the range. With protective eye and ear gear in place, Jason and I loaded our guns per the instructions of our extremely knowledgeable teacher, and laid them on the ledge.

“Would you like me to shoot them first,” our teacher said in his strong but boyishly southern accent.

I nodded somberly and Jason said, “Sure.”

I didn’t realize I had pinched my eyes shut until the shot went off. I opened them wide to find a hole in the paper target a few yards in front of me.

“That gun’s not been fired,” our instructor said. “It’s nice.” And he set it down on the ledge to come around to the lane where my revolver sat.

I can’t explain all the reasons why, but I wanted to run from the room. I wanted to get our money back for the gun and never see it again. I wanted to cry really hard.


“Fires good, ma’am. Why don’t you give it a try,” he said kindly, sensing my apprehension.

I walked to the ledge, my feet heavy as lead, and picked up the gun. He watched carefully as I held it exactly the way he’d shown us in class.

“Good,” he said from behind me. “Now, just go ahead and shoot.”

My hands were cold and sweaty and I trembled. Tears welled in my eyes as I tried to line the front sights up with the rear sights.


My heart stopped for a milla-second and smoke clouded up in front of me, but quickly got whisked into the ventilation system overhead. When I opened my eyes, I saw that I had hit the target dead in the center.

“Good. Go ahead and fire again, ma’am.”

By this time the sweat felt like it was dripping from my hands and my once-stopped heart raced. I took my time lining up the sights and closed my eyes, but then quickly opened them, remembering that I needed to see the target. That was important.


When I opened my eyes again, I had pierced the hole I’d made from the shot before.

“Very nice, ma’am.” He paused. “Again.”

Is he serious? I have to keep shooting, I thought, just wanting the noise and the smoke and the fear to be over.


I shot, not really seeing any way out. Again…bull’s eye.

In a rare moment of hilarity, a line from “A Christmas Story” passed through my consciousness: “He’s a dead-eye, Edy!” I was a freakin’ dead-eye, having never even been within a football field of anything more than a BB gun.

“Should I go ahead and start shooting,” Jason asked the instructor, antsy for his own turn.

“Absolutely,” instructor dude said.

When it registered with me that Jason would be shooting at the same time I would, I remembered the cardinal rule of bowling: you never go up for your turn when the person in the lane next to you is up.

“Babe,” I said, shaky and desperate and poking my head around the wall of his lane, “can you not shoot while I’m shooting please?”

“No, no, no,” the instructor said, patting my back. “You go ahead, Jason. Ma’am, you’ve got to get used to the sound.”



Jason’s gun fired next to me, a bit louder than mine, and I jerked. But I knew I wasn’t getting off the hook, so I returned to shooting stance, leaned against the ledge and breathed for a minute.


Another fire from Jason’s gun and I jumped a little.

Breathe, Krista.


I shot. Another dead-eye.





Jason and I fired in some kind of rhythm with one another; his shots slightly outside the red bull’s eye, mine still dead center.

But I was misty eyed, my hands still cold and hot and shaky.

I unloaded the barrel and turned to our instructor. “Does the next class deal with the, uh, emotional, uh, psychological, uh, the fear stuff.” Tears pooled and nearly spilled over as I waited for his answer.

With kindness, he told me the story of a woman he had in class recently and her fear of guns, fear of their potential, fear of the blasts.

“You’re not alone. It is emotional. I get it. You just have to keep shootin’.”

I breathed. It helped knowing that I wasn’t the only one, and that I wasn’t the most emotional one either.

Just keep shooting, I said to myself.













After about 45 minutes, I became more comfortable with what I held in my hand, with its power, with the idea of life-and-death scenarios, and I relaxed a little. Then the instructor stopped me.

“Ma’am, I want you to try this.”

My mouth hung open and thoughts of Jack Bauer bombarded me as I took the MP5 machine gun in my hand.

“Now, just rest your elbow on the ledge, put the butt of the gun against your shoulder, make a lollipop with the sights, and fire.”

I did everything he said and pulled the trigger.


A louder shot, but no recoil and another dead-eye.

I turned around and smiled at the instructor, my first smile of the day.

“Fire another one,” he said, smiling, too.

I found the lollipop and fired.


“Now, you’re gonna have some fun,” the instructor said, flipping a switch on the side. “Go ahead.”


I turned to face the instructor, my mouth opened even wider in utter disbelief. Then I saw Jason’s head poking around the wall. He had no idea I had a machine gun till he heard the string of shots.

“Fire it again,” the instructor said, laughing at my speechless grin, laughing at Jason. “Don’t forget the lollipop.”

I laughed later at how this hulk of a man helped Jason and I learn about our guns by using examples of milking cows, holding baby bunnies and looking for lollipops. Whatever works.


“I’m veering to the right a bit,” I said, standing up after emptying the magazine twice and pointing to my wavering paper target.

The instructor laughed again and Jason eyed the gun, asking if he could have a try.

“Feelin’ better, ma’am?”

I nodded and breathed in. Then out.

“Now try your gun again.”

I loaded the .357, quickly and more comfortably this time as Jason fired rounds from the machine gun. I fired my last five rounds. Dead-eyes, every one.

“You’re doing…well…you’re just doing the best I’ve ever seen anyone do their first time out,” the instructor said as I brushed empty shells off the ledge.

Later I told Jason, “You know, I appreciated all the encouragement and everything, but I don’t see what’s so hard about hitting the target.” We laughed.

But later, the more I thought about it, I realized the hardest part of hitting the target. It had everything to do with picking up a gun. And laying down so many fears.



  1. You’re right, girl–this is your comfort zone. Your memoir-esque (like the word?) is so much smoother than your fiction. i couldn’t stop reading this…and it’s real life! I don’t often read non-fiction!
    This journey is crazy, but you have to admit that there’s almost no better way for self-discovery!

  2. As long as I live, I will never forget seeing you shoot that MP5 submachine gun. It brought tears to my eyes! 🙂

    One thing is for sure: the guy on that paper target will never bother you again.

  3. Krista, you totally need to submit this to various gun magazines, they’d fall all over themselves to print something like this

  4. Krista I agree with spectaprod! Submit this!!

    And congratulations my dear friend, you did something not even I have attempted! Fabulous!!!

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