Story Of A New Member (revisited)

I was hunting up an old essay in my archives, when I stumbled upon this piece. It’s one of my favorite posts of all time, just because… well, you’ll figure out why, soon enough.

August 23, 2005
8:05 AM CDT

I thought I’d share with you the progression of a woman living in the Pacific Northwest who became a member of the Nation of Riflemen. Here’s how it started:

I’m a WASP-y suburban mom, previously sort of lukewarm about 2nd Amendment rights (along the lines of, “yeah, private gun ownership is necessary but never in MY home!”). The last presidential election changed all that – seeing how the Democrat party was willing to trash the Constitution for its political purposes horrified me I realized that I needed to become a gun owner out of philosophical belief, if for no other reason. (Now, of course, I have plenty of reasons.)
I don’t own a gun yet, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to buy and can’t afford to choose incorrectly. But I am taking classes and poring over your GGPs. Out here in liberal-land, I’m not sure where to turn for advice. So: I’ve turned to you. Thanks for the time and energy you put into your site. Never doubt that you are making a difference.

Leigh H.

So I wrote back, and put her in touch with the Analog Kid, who kindly offered to help us out. So she went out shooting, and here’s the range report:

Wow. Wow. First, thank you so much for introducing me to Phil. He is a True Gentleman and a great instructor. We spent five hours today, four on the range. He wouldn’t let me pay him for his time, which is nuts because he’s a young’un and money is tight. (He did let me buy him a couple boxes of ammo, .45 acp, but if you have any ideas for future ammo gifts or other “gratuities” I’d love to hear them.)
So the first gun I tried is a Ruger Mark II (.22 LR). First target, 7 meters, got 9/10 on the paper, five inside the target (two on black), all others below. Shot low but took a long time to figure out why (head thrusting forward and down rather than upright). By the fifth mag I had all shots inside the target (six on black). Switched over to a S&W 317 (.22LR). With sixteen shots (not my first sixteen, though) got fourteen inside target, two others immediately outside. Of course, realizing that I was closing my eyes as I pulled the trigger helped immeasurably, too. Had shot quite a few before I realized that I should see a flash when the gun fired!
I’m recovering from tendonitis in my wrist, so 220 rounds about did me in. Think I’ll cut it down a bit next time, Phil says trying to push through the shaky hands won’t do me any good; whaddaya think? I’m irritated w/myself that it took me so long to realize my head position was wrong, but feeling hopeful that I’ll see a big improvement from here out. Phil, I think, had higher hopes for my accuracy, but he was very kind. I’m not naturally athletically inclined but am really stubborn and can afford to spend a lot of money on ammo while I figure this out.
Oh, another query: my hands shake when at rest. It’s benign, but inconvenient. It shows up when aiming, so I started compensating for it by slowly raising the gun & firing exactly when I’ve got the sights aligned. Have you known other shooters w/this problem, or heard of other solutions? My way slows me down.
Leaving the range, I totally understood what you said a couple weeks ago about how a range session calms you. I didn’t think I’d feel that way (I hate noise), but leaving, driving home through Seattle’s awful traffic, I felt… centered. Grounded.
Kim, again, thank you so much. Phil is a Hoss, The Man, a Prince! He’s totally on board with your quest to turn us into a nation of riflemen. Between the two of you, I am now a convert. I am no longer afraid of guns. I want my own gun. One will not be enough. I need several, and many boxes of little cylinders with pointy heads that punch cool holes in paper. And I need it soon, because that range will not rent to me if I go in alone, unless I bring in a gun as well (suicide watch).


Sincerely, and with heartfelt gratitude,

Leigh H.

I wrote back with a little advice as to posture, technique and so on, as well as a short list of guns she should consider. So… the seed having been planted, I sat back and waited. Didn’t take long.

I am seriously considering the Browning (being, like The Mrs., a Magpie Gun Buyer). It would be a carry piece, though; do you think it would be too big? Your GGPs talk about little guns that are great for shoving up against ribcages, but I don’t want a goon to get that close, especially when I’ve got my kids with me.
You’ll be sorry you asked for range reports: I’m saving targets and will send you .jpgs when I get something to be proud of!

Leigh H.

Then she took The Step.

Intended to just look, but went for it. Got myself a Browning Buckmark .22 pistol. NOT the nickel finish, rosewood grips (gosh, they’re pretty), but didn’t want to spend a lot on it. So, it’s used, from a shop Phil recommended. Just realized I didn’t see an owner’s manual in the case, guess I’ll be calling Browning…
Oh, and I’m taking this as A Sign: Due to weekend closures and proprietor vacation, my pickup date is APRIL 15!

Leigh H.

Oh, yes. Baby Vulcan was smiling—and I was ecstatic. The next email came:

Took my new Buckmark to the range yesterday. What fun! Pop, pop. Not feeling nearly so leery, and anxious to get better so I can move up in caliber. Once I accustomed myself to the feel of it, was able to get fairly tight groupings (maybe 4”), however, they were consistently directly *under* the ten-ring. Think I must unconsciously be flicking the barrel down as I fire, as I need to bring my hand up to recover sight picture. The Lord and Master, of course, put most of his shots in the black, and he hasn’t fired a handgun in about 30 years. Arrgh. If he wasn’t so cute I’d have to hate him.
Anyway, we’re going back today. L & M wants to try a real man’s gun, so I can bet we’ll be making another purchase within a couple of weeks.

Leigh H.

Wrote back with a little more advice, got this response:

Thanks for the advice. I knew I could adjust the sights, but didn’t want to until I had my technique down. I know it’s me, not the gun, because I had the same pattern when I was at the range with Phil, using his Ruger. A thousand rounds before I move up, huh? Well, went to the range twice last week, have about 400 rounds under my belt so far. You said a thousand rounds would last me a couple of months. Liar! (Think it’ll take more than a thousand. The L & M rented a Glock 35 .40. I fired it three times and thought my hand was going to fall off.)
I am pleasantly surprised by how quickly I’m becoming comfortable. (Showed off the Buckmark to my brother, who now wants to visit the range. If he buys a gun, you can chalk that up to your credit as well.)
As soon as I get my Paypal account straightened out, I’m dumping $25 in your gun fund, in appreciation for your advice & the Buckmark manual. Besides having a lot of fun, I’m learning a great deal about overcoming fear and being proactive. Worth way more than $25, but I need ammo.


This last comment is an important point. If the choice ever comes down to putting money in my BANG fund* or buying ammo for yourself, buy the damn ammo.

Anyway, it didn’t take long before the Buckmark didn’t satisfy (does any of this sound familiar to you guys?). Here’s a letter sent to the Analog Kid and myself:


Attached for your amusement is my first target of my first session with a Springfield 1911 at 7 meters. Seven rounds in the mag, shots 3 and 7 were (called) outside the 4-ring. Of course, it all went downhill from there, because I developed the flinchies. (Left a very attractive hole in the target holder!) Also tried a couple of 9 mm today, pretty fun.
Kim, Kid: what shall I do and/or experiment with next? Ummm… at the range.

Leigh H.

Passing up the opportunity for the joke, both the Kid and I responded in our various ways, which generated this response.

The High-Power is on my list to try, also. To be honest, the .45 really was too much gun for me to shoot a lot. But given that I’ve only owned my Buckmark 35 days, I thought it was interesting how fast I got brave.
I doubt I’ll buy another pistol very soon. I can’t afford something in every caliber, and want my next one to be something will real stopping power. I think I can maybe swing two more: a carry piece, and a different one for range shooting.

Leigh H.

This was mailed in late May, 2003. Over the next year, we got sporadic emails containing target pics, and there was definite sign of improvement—both in terms of accuracy, and towards further gun acquisition.

Well, it was a sucky day at the range today. Haven’t shot so badly since well before I got sick. I was burning through partial boxes of several different calibers, shooting a Sig Sauer P239, Springfield XD.40, and my own Buckmark. Suck, suck, suck. Finally brought out the range’s Kimber Pro Carry .45, which I’ve been dinking around with. If this is how I shoot on a bad day, I can hardly wait for a good day. Not being a complete idiot, I hied myself directly from the range to my local gun shop, and bought my own Kimber (Ultra Carry .45). I get to pick it up next week.
Kid, you warned me once that I should get my CCP quickly or I’d regret it. You were right: if I already had my CCP, I’d have walked out with the Kimber today & would be able to make pumpkin mist with it Saturday. Bummer.
Now I’m going to step back slowly & let the two of you duke it out as to who owes whom for teaching me to shoot. When the testosterone ebbs, I will gently remind you that it is *I* who owes *you*.

Leigh H.

Well, there’s the carry gun taken care of (and a damn good choice it was, too). Then things got quiet, and I figured all was going well. Imagine my surprise when I got this letter last week [over a year later]:

Hiya Kim!
You probably don’t remember this, but in March 2003 I dropped you a fan note, and you hooked me up with The Analog Kid, who taught me to shoot. The rest, as they say, is history. I now own six weapons:

Browning Buckmark
Kahr K-9
Kimber Pro-Carry (my carry gun)
Winchester 94 (.38-.357)
Remington Express .20 gauge
Olympic Arms AR-15

I’m sure you’ve noticed that they all use different calibers, which I intend to rectify. I’m actively coveting an M1 carbine and various others that will use the same ammo as what I’ve got. (I know you’re not a big fan of the .223, but I’ve joined a “black rifle” league, and the more powerful rifles are too heavy for me. I figure I’ll just have to shoot twice as fast.)
I also shoot plates once a week, which is great fun. At both leagues, I am by far the newest shooter, and at plates, usually the only woman. I’m nowhere near the best, but I hold my own and manage to outshoot people who have been shooting for many years.
I’ve taken several female friends for their first shooting experiences (one’s husband has been trying to get her to the range for YEARS). As well, at a family reunion last week I took five nieces/nephews and two of their dads shooting. (My Buckmark and a friend’s Ruger .22 rifle.) A good time was had by all and I left one set of brothers actively lobbying for a rifle. I’m seriously considering becoming an instructor at a local range—they’re asking me to go through training, because so many women are looking for female instructors.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you again for your help and all the time you put into your site. The “ripple effect” you have on many lives is greater than you’ll ever know.

Leigh H.

If you look up the expression “shit-eating grin” in the dictionary, that’s my photo right underneath it.

And now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going out to the front lawn to do the Kim Happy Dance, Deluxe Version (total nudity, camo facepaint and a hi-cap mag in the AK-47).

I should point out that over the seven-odd years of my first blog’s existence, Leigh was one of many hundreds of women whom I either advised on getting their first gun, or taught how to shoot in person. None of the ladies ever got into it as much as she did, though.

Leigh, honey, if you see this, get in touch.

*BANG fund: Buy (Kim) A New Gun fund. Back when I could do that kind of thing.


  1. Your “Nation of Rifleman” was a good idea, especially for the successes like this.

  2. I’m a new shooter, been to two indoor range sessions with a generous friend who stepped up to introduce me to it all. I have the potential to go completely nuts on this if I had the money and access to a good instructor. Good for Leigh! She cracks me up.

    9mm is my choice, but a friend tells me I need to shoot many, many pistols before I find the one that speaks to me.

    I hear that it’s OK to pray to God for anything, so I’m praying for a lottery win so I can shoot. This is the most excited I’ve been about anything since I lost my husband, and I’ve got a Utah permit burning a hole in my pocket.

    1. Yearning, if you need an instructor (like Leigh’s Analog Kid), I may be able to find you one nearby… let me know by email. I know LOTS of friendly instructors.
      And of course, if anyone is looking for an instructor in the N.Texas area…

  3. That’s fantastic!!!!

    I’m behind enemy lines in New England if anyone is looking for assistance or company at the range

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