Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


May 8, 2014

Being a trick shot isn’t one of my talents, but gun lessons were helpful

— — I was feeling pretty tired last Saturday morning. The Friday before had been a busy one, and Fridays are always what I call a ‘crunch day’ at the Daily Telegraph. We’re trying to get the next edition and weekend copy ready at the same time. I normally sleep in after days like that, but this Saturday was different. I had an opportunity to do some shooting.

The Beckley Gun Club invites local media to its range near Ghent for a day of shooting pistols, shotguns, AR-15 rifles and other firearms. It’s a chance to learn more about shooting and weapons in general. For instance, the letters AR don’t stand for assault rifle. It stands for the company that manufactures it.

After a wrong turn — yes, I’ve heard of the movies by that name — that took me down a road better suited for ATVs than my Toyota, I arrived at the gun club’s ranges. The land is a former strip mine property that offers good sites for shooting; you don’t have to worry about firing toward homes and cars on the highway. The range where Media Day was being hosted is surrounded by cliffs most almost three stories tall, so actually getting a bullet beyond them would be a task.

The day started off with a talk about safety: always treat any firearm as a loaded one even when you think it’s empty; never point it toward anybody; load it only when you are ready to shoot. In a way, handling a gun is like handling a power tool like a chain saw or blow torch; you don’t treat it like a toy. It’s a tool that’s safe only when you handle it properly and use it for its intended purpose.

We first saw a demonstration of speed and shooting by Brittany Long, daughter of Cpl. James Long with the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police. Running between three different areas, she used a pistol, shotgun and rifle. She quickly knocked down targets and showed off skill that takes years of practice.

Then we had the opportunity to try some shooting for ourselves. Most of us started out with a .22 pistol and learned to hold a pistol properly so we didn’t catch our skin in the mechanism. We also tried our hands at filling magazines; it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s another skill that needs practice. The rounds kept slipping out of our hands, but most of us started to get the feel for it.

We next moved on to more powerful firearms. I practiced with a .45 pistol and, to my surprise, hit a succession of targets. I knocked down a series of steel targets, but only after I finally got it through my head that I needed to keep both my eyes open and use the guns’ sites right way.

My favorite firearms were the Glock 9 mm, a small Ruger pistol and the shotgun. I’m not bad with a shotgun and I’d love to get one of my own some day. A handgun is also on my wish list.

The Glock felt good in my hand, and I understand caring for it is simple once you know what you’re doing. I might get one of the more compact models. The Ruger was small and interesting, too. I might consider one of those.

There was also revolvers with triggers that require a good effort to pull; the gun club’s instructors said you don’t want something in your pocket that has a hair trigger. I’ll have to keep that in mind even though I don’t plan on always having a gun on my person.

Those weapons are interesting, but the shotguns are my favorite. I like the kick, and I’ll confess that I’ve always had a thing for fires and explosions. The AR-15 was interesting, too. I was surprised how easy it was to use, and it was easy to aim. Being a trick shot isn’t one of my talents, but I didn’t do a bad job.

What sort of firearm I end up with will depend on my budget and my needs. I’m not looking to get into a gun battle. I just want something for target shooting and self defense, and I know I’ll need a class in order to do everything right. I know from previous talks with the gun club’s members that I have to keep in mind where shots might go if I fire a gun in self defense. If you’re in an apartment, your bullets could go through walls and into your neighbors’ living room.

I still remember one story I covered. A woman came home and found a bullet hole in her living room. It turned out that one of her neighbors was cleaning a handgun when it went off. The bullet went right through a wall, traveled at least 300 feet, and penetrated a neighbor’s home.

Taking part in media day was fun and I learned a lot. I’d say the main lesson is that I still have a lot to learn.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at


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