This past week, one of the members of the San Antonio Chapter of A Girl and A Gun, Denise Pride, took the plunge and shot her first USPSA match. She did great! She successfully completed the first goals of any competitive shooter: she had fun and shot a safe match. Or as she so eloquently put it “Well at least I didn't shoot anyone!” I spoke with Denise both before and after the match to get a sense of what concerns she had and what advice she could give to first time shooters.
Just to give you a little background on Denise (and to show that you can go compete even if you are beginner), let me share a little bit about her. Denise wasn’t the type of woman who grew up with a gun in her hand. In fact, she initially had very little interest in firearms. Her father is an ex-DEA agent who was always encouraging her to take an interest in self-protection since she is a woman living alone. She finally decided it was time to try and learn more about firearms and so in February, Denise went to visit her uncle in Tennessee and tried her hand at shooting a .38 revolver. In April, she went and did some shooting with her father. Everyone loves a good father/daughter bonding day at the range! Last month, she bought her first gun: a Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry II (a pretty nice first gun choice if you ask me). She then went and took a private class at LoneStar Handgun and did some target practice out at Camp Bullis. All in all, her experience prior to the match added up to about five different shooting experiences and only about a 150 rounds. So this definitely puts Denise in the beginner category! And as you’ll see, I think we have another future USPSA addict on our hands!
I would also like to add that Denise is lucky enough to be a part of very supportive group who work to encourage female shooters to get out and try their hands at competing (yes, this group includes me). We made sure she was on our squad and the match was slow enough that day, that we were able to put together a mostly all female squad with two female ROs, including Bobbi Hedegard (who you will hear mentioned below). I think these circumstances helped to ease a bit of that first time anxiety. I think many people don't go out and get started because they are intimidated by the run and gunner folks. If you are a competitor, It is important to share with your friends that all levels compete, from the novice to shooter to the expert marksman, and there is room for everyone!
Before the match…
Are they any fears or concerns you have going into this?
First that I don't make a fool of myself. Second, that I can get the gun out of the holster. Third, that I at least hit one target (anywhere on the target), and fourth that I don't hurt anyone.
What inspired to you get give USPA a chance?
I decided to give it a try after talking to y'all (the San Antonio A Girl and A Gun competitors) at dinner the other night; I realized that no one is really judging us and that everyone welcomes beginners, especially females new to the world of shooting. The fact that there is no fee for females also helped! And it looks like fun!
Anything you are doing to prepare?
Went out to Camp Bullis today for some target shooting ... only second time shooting with my new pistol. I again was dipping the muzzle of the gun down just before shooting; I really have to concentrate on keeping my hands still except for pulling the trigger. I realize that it will all come with time like flying an airplane. Now I feel as I am one with the airplane but it was definitely was not always that way. Will be glad when I feel that same way with the pistol!
And after the match..
So what did you think?
I loved it! I knew I wouldn't do very well since I was so new to firearms. I was even wondering if I would even hit a single target. I was extremely nervous right before it was my turn to shoot for the first time but everyone with AGAG was so supportive and terrific. I was amazed that the first thing that I aimed at (one of those metal things) fell down on the first shot ... I remember turning to Bobbi and saying 'holy cow' because I never thought I would hit something that far away (just for the record, it wasn't that far away but all my shooting prior to that had been at 3-5yds). I TRIED to focus on keeping the gun pointed downrange (not as easy as it sounds) and keeping my finger off the trigger (again, not as easy as it sounds). I'm not use to just throwing things on the floor so I kept handing the used magazines to Bobbi ... and then would apologize for doing so. I really felt that I did a lot better than I thought I would do going in ... but knew I was still a great deal away from everyone else. My focus during the match was (1) safety and (2) having fun. I wasn't in a hurry to run through the match or to hit every target ...
So do you think you’ll shoot another match?
I am definitely going back. September is a very busy month regarding being on-call so I won’t be able to get back towards the end of that month; otherwise, I would be back next weekend at whatever match happens to fall that weekend.
What do you wish you had known going in?
I wish I had known how supportive everyone … including the men … would be to someone so green at shooting; that would have saved me a great deal of anxiety beforehand. I also was not aware of all the equipment involved in match shooting … the bullets, belts, holsters, magazine holders, bullets, wagons, bags, and more bullets.
What advice would you give to other first time shooters?
My advice to another woman … relax and enjoy yourself. At my stage, I am only competing against myself. No one looked down at me because I couldn’t hit every target, or that I ran out the clock and was still shooting. My final advice … bring plenty of water and baby wipes … you are going to get dirty.