Extreme Researching: Guns & Ammo

Aka, the day I became a bad ass

A few weeks ago I did something extreme in the name of research: I took a handgun class.

I'd always wanted to learn to shoot, but I was terrified. Before the class I had never shot a gun or even held a loaded one in my hand. I'm one of the clumsiest people I know, so what if I dropped the gun or something? My husband won't even let me get near his sharp knives, so giving me a gun had to be a bad idea. I figured there was a high probability of shooting a toe off, at the very least.

But I decided for the good of my book I had to do it. My main character is a geek like me, but has to learn how to use guns at one point. I knew if I wanted to write the scene right I'd have to experience what she would go through first hand.

And so, in the name of research, my husband signed both of us up for a handgun class. There were two other people in the class with us, but I was the only complete newbie. I was also the only girl, and the youngest one there.

The class was taught by a woman who looked like the heroine in an urban fantasy novel: short but fierce, with long, straight black hair, wearing a tight black shirt and a gun strapped to her thigh. I wanted to call her Anita Blake but I didn't think she'd appreciate it.

In the first hour of class we learned about the parts of a gun, how guns work, how to load one, etc. I wish I could have taken notes, but I guess that's what the internet is for. Then we practiced shooting with no bullets. The main thing I learned is that shooting is all in your posture and how you hold the gun.

During the second hour we took turns shooting in the range. We had big old goggles and ear muffs, but it was still really loud and overwhelming in the room. Part of me wanted to run out the door when it was my turn, but I swallowed my fear, lined up my target, and took a shot.

With my trainer. Pretty sure she hunts vampires on the side.

The first shot was so freaking scary! I didn't drop the gun, but it was close. I wasn't prepared for the noise, the recoil, or the casing flying at me. I'll be honest - I missed that first shot. But I kept trying, and I hit every one after that. I even got a few in the orange zone.

Not bad for my first time eh?

I don't think I'll ever become a gun enthusiast, but I might go back and practice again sometime. If nothing else, it was an amazing experience and I learned so much from it. I know that my book (and my future books) will be better because of what I learned. Most importantly, I faced my fears and finally did something I had always wanted to do.

Have you done anything extreme in the name of research?