Jim Witt

Sheriff Andy, I now know how to shoot a gun

People outside of Texas think we all wear guns to work, we have oil wells in our back yard, we give the death penalty for low-level crimes like jaywalking, and we brag too much.

Only one of those is true. But the one at my house isn’t pumping right now.

Anyway, I’ve lived in Texas for nearly 50 of my 61 years and somehow I’ve never had the opportunity to fire a gun (other than the one time my dad took me to the rock pit outside town when I was 9 and he let me shoot a .22 rifle a couple of times).

I’ve never even held a real loaded pistol — just the toy guns you get for Christmas.

When we played cowboys as a kid, I never could get the hang of wearing a holster for my two six-guns. I would constantly be running back to my dad complaining that they were falling down. Finally, in exasperation, he buckled them around my neck.

Growing up, none of my friends were into hunting or shooting, so it was something I didn’t really think about doing. They didn’t ride motorcycles or smoke either, so I missed out on those two death-defying actions, too.

But I have been on a motorcycle before, and I’ve smoked a cigarette or two, so I decided a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to see what it was like to fire a handgun.

I know what you might be thinking if you’re a regular reader of the Star-Telegram’s editorial pages — heck, why didn’t he just have former editorial page editor J.R. Labbe show him how with one of her guns?

I don’t think that would have worked out too well. I’d be trying to out-macho J.R. and would probably shoot myself in the foot (I’m pretty good at doing that even without a gun).

So I decided to go to a gun range and get a lesson from a pro. We have a monthly sports iPad magazine called dfwOT, and last month we had an article about shooting ranges in the area and one — Shoot Smart — is in the Alliance area near my house.

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I showed up for my lesson not knowing exactly what to expect, but my instructor, Jennifer Quigley, quickly put me at ease. We went through an extensive 30-minute safety lesson before heading to the shooting gallery. I learned how to hold the gun with two hands, how to stand and how to aim as well as everything NOT to do.

For instance, did you know it’s not a good idea to look down the barrel to see why your gun is jammed?

Jennifer quit her job as manager at a barbecue restaurant to get into the gun instruction business. She grew up in Wise County around rifles and shotguns, so when a friend of hers suggested she try it, she found a job she loves and now is an assistant manager at the facility. They give individual lessons, group lessons, even lessons for homeowners on how to shoot in the dark while carrying a flashlight!

Anyway, I assumed that she’d probably start me out with a .44 Magnum — which Dirty Harry claimed to be “the most powerful handgun on the planet” — but instead I learned on a .22 pistol. As bad as I did, I expect Jennifer wishes they made an .11 for rookies like me.

From about 15 feet I could hit the target, but my aim from shot to shot varied wildly — probably because I was shaking like a leaf. I was holding my breath (a no-no) and looking up after every shot to see how I did. But somehow I got off 20 rounds and didn’t shoot her or me, so it was a success.

And now, every time I watch a police show on TV or a movie where there is somebody with a gun, I think, “Ha! That’s not how you do it.”

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