I’ve never held a gun in my life.
At first, I thought my editor was crazy and deep down inside I hoped he was joking. But as he talked more and more about it I quickly learned this was no joke. He wanted me to shoot a gun.
With current gun violence and the political issue of gun control, whether I wanted to or not, I was going to have to go out and learn how to shoot a gun.
The first person I reached out to was Tyger Volz the owner of Casa Grande Trap and Skeet. She said people who want to try trap and skeet but have no experience handling a gun should call a reputable club.
So that is exactly what I did.
I went out to the Tucson Trap and Skeet club, with some information on the sport, and with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever shooting a firearm and gun safety. Larry Lykins, the manager, became my teacher.
Tucson Trap and Skeet has been open since 1948, and is one of 17 places in Arizona where people can shoot trap, skeet or both.
Shooting clay has become a competitive and recognized sport and hobby throughout the United States.
Upon arriving I was shown a safety and common courtesy video to learn the club rules and how to handle a firearm. I sat as close to the TV and raised the volume so I could be well-informed.
The most emphasized piece of information I learned was to handle every gun as if it was loaded. Not doing so is how accidents happen.
Larry gave me the equipment I needed to begin: ear protection, a shoulder pad, an apron to carry my ammunition and a semi-automatic shotgun that was just about my size.
We went out onto the field and he began explaining the two sports to me by demonstrating which direction the bright orange clay pigeons move.
There are a few differences between the two. In trap shooting the clay target plates are launched from a “house” or machine located in the middle. The plates glide across the sky away from the shooter. There are five different places to shoot from and those are different from the spaces you shoot in skeet.
In skeet the targets are launches from two “houses” that are located on the different sides, one on the left and the other on the right, known as the high house and the low house. The clay plates move sideways, once toward the shooter, once away and once in a motion where two plates move towards each other that will intersect in front of the shooter. There are eight different spots to shoot from.
My lesson began.
Larry showed me the right way to place a gun, which is near your shoulder. Place your cheek on the gun so when the gun recoils you don’t get hurt, he said. My dominant eye needed to be centered over the rib on the top of the barrel. He also showed me how to place my feet.
I didn’t expect the gun to be so heavy.
We practiced the form many times. Usually my face wasn’t close enough to my thumb on the gun, and it wasn’t as high in my shoulder as it should be.
Larry put a 20-gauge shell in the gun and I gave it a try. I tried not to let my fear show. Whenever I was ready, he said, just pull the trigger.
A loud noise came and I felt a small push. After all the fear and uncertainty of holding and shooting a gun, at this moment for the first time I was beginning to understand what the hoot was all about.
I felt empowered and confident that I was able to do this and do more of it.
I felt a weight was lifted from my shoulder, it could have been the feeling of setting the gun down, but regardless I was relieved. We tried it again but this time I loaded the ammunition myself. I fired again. It felt even better this time.
Larry gave me his wife’s over-under shotgun to try. This one was lighter, but I was more comfortable with the semi-automatic shotgun I was working with before.
I was then ready to shoot a clay pigeon. He took me to the easiest spot to shoot, which is right underneath the house where the plate moves away from you.
He first demonstrated and then I was able to give it a try.
I positioned myself and with the directions Larry gave me, I was ready. All I had to say was “pull.”
I braced myself and then …
“Pull!” I shot and missed.
Larry showed me what I did wrong and directed me on what to do the next. I was ready to try again.
I set myself up again and got ready for a second try.
I followed the plate with my eyes and gun, pulled the trigger and the plate shattered. A direct hit. I was in complete shock. but I felt extremely happy.
We tried it again.
Another direct hit.
We moved on to try trap.
Larry demonstrated but couldn’t hit a plate, and then I gave it a few tries and I couldn’t hit any either.
We decided to call it a day.
I learned that no one has been shot at Tucson Trap and Skeet and the club has never experienced an accident.
I left thankful I was able to experience shooting a gun.
I had nothing against guns, though I did fear them. After going to Tucson trap and skeet, I see the use for guns. Besides learning how to use a gun and about gun safety, I learned how to play a sport.
Maybe my editor isn’t crazy.
Alexa Portillo is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at email@example.com
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