Being part of a community of people who respect, appreciate, celebrate (and shoot!) guns is the best! But there are a few truths worth pointing out that will help make your experience within the gun community more beneficial to yourself and those around you.
1. No one knows everything.
I’m not sure what it is about firearms, but it’s one of the few niches where I feel like people assume they’re automatically supposed to know how to do stuff. Maybe it’s all those Hollywood gunfights we’ve watched. Or maybe we were supposed to get things through osmosis from our grandpa.
Showing up to a class or a group situation (or even a hey, let’s go to the range! with some friends you’ve never shot with before) can be a little unnerving if you’re new. Why? Because you’re really hoping that you know at least as much as the other people there.
It’s easy to feel you have to prove yourself when it comes to firearms. But here’s the thing. No one knows everything. And instead of showing up to the range ready to try to impress each other, show up to shoot your gun. Claim what you’re good at, but be okay with admitting what you don’t know, what you struggle with, and what you could improve on.
Ego can sometimes sneak into your gun case and end up at the range. Leave the ego at home, have fun responsibly shooting your guns, and always be willing to help each other where you can.
2. Most men do want women to know how to shoot.
Many female shooters just starting out often say that men in the gun community intimidate them. They either feel as though men don’t really want them at the range, or that a man is more interested in a woman bringing him a sandwich than having her shoot alongside him. (Actual quote from a new female shooter.)
Gals, please stop.
The gun community is full of men (and women) who want to support each other in their quest to learn about guns and become proficient with them. Seriously. And if this isn’t the experience you’re having, you need to find a different group of people to shoot with.
By and large, the men I have talked to in the gun community (both in person and online) are completely awesome and very supportive. They’re excited every time they hear of another person—male or female—who wants to get into shooting.
Sometimes women prefer learning from women, but gals, hear this: don’t ignore the male sector of the gun community because of what you think they think about you. I can tell you from experience 9.9 times out of 10 they’re just thinking, awesome! Another person to go shoot with!
3. There are jerks in the gun community.
Here’s the thing: jerks are generally louder than non-jerks because jerks like to hear themselves make noise. But just because the obnoxious loudmouths are, well…louder…it doesn’t mean they represent the vast majority of the gun community.
You know the jerks I’m talking about. Your crazy neighbor who has all the tacticool gear and shoves it in anyone’s face who glances their way, but can’t tell you what the actual gun laws are in their state—and hasn’t been to the range to practice in m-o-n-t-h-s. Your ex who is all about guns but is anything but safe with a gun. Your aunt who isn’t welcome at family Christmas anymore because she couldn’t stop working my second amendment rights are being taken away! into every. single. conversation.
So, yes, there are obnoxious people in the gun community—but that’s no different than any other community, from politics to parenting. Please don’t let a few people’s obnoxious comments ruin your experience with firearms. Because believe me, none of us in the larger gun community like those people, either. The jerks are the ones that give the rest of us a bad name.
4. Everyone has an opinion.
People generally give advice about guns based on the experiences they’ve had with guns. And since different things work for different people, there are a lot of different bits of advice flying around.
In talking to many different people in the gun community—which I absolutely think you should do—you will find out that some people love 1911s, and other people think they’re worthless. Some people would never shoot a Hi-Point, while other people will tell you they’ll hold up to anything. Some people carry with a round in the chamber, some people think it’s totally unsafe. You will find people who will tell you you’re right (or wrong) about anything from the position you carry in to the ammo you use.
People need stuff to argue about, right? ‘Merica.
Opinions are like belly buttons—everybody has one. And that’s okay. What is most helpful is to remember that opinions are just that—someone’s opinion—and yours might be different. As long as it makes sense, and following the rules for firearms safety, do what works for you.
5. We have so many options available to us.
If you wanted to learn about guns 50 years ago, hopefully your parents or grandparents had some information to pass along. If not, you had to take a class or find a book.
We now live in a world where information about guns is literally at our fingertips. We could read blogs or watch YouTube videos about all different aspects of gun ownership all. day. long. There are groups and gatherings and organizations and discussion forums that exist for the sole purpose to learn more about firearms. (One of my favorites for women is The Well Armed Woman!)
Do not stop learning. If you’re always the smartest person in the room, you need to increase the size of the room you’re hanging out in. The gun community exists to support each other and to teach each other. Find people that you can learn more from, regardless of what level you’re currently at.
6. In the end, it’s just you and the gun.
The gun community is important—and awesome! Fitting yourself in among other gun enthusiasts who are working on their skills and knowledge is one of the best parts of being a gun owner today.
When all is said and done, the competition and the comparison should be between you and yourself. Not the person in the next shooting lane. Not the person hunting in the next field over.
Because in the end, it’s just you and the gun—and that should be your focus when you practice.