A man, a woman and his gun


Having  just returned from a four day weekend at a very unusual place, I thought I’d tell you a bit about it.  Since the name of our blog is Petticoats & Pistols, I thought it might be pertinent to talk a little about pistols…guns.

Now this is a subject that I know next to nothing about and anything I’ve ever written about guns has been research…in fact, outside of holding a gun in my hand maybe twice this lifetime, I’ve had nothing to do with pistols and in truth, up until recently, little interest in them.

However, since I often write about men at a time in history when a man was known by the kind of weapons he used and how well he kept them — not to mention how well he could shoot — it occurred to me that perhaps my hero should be carrying a weapon every now and again — particularly since he needs to protect the heroine against the bad guys.  So this weekend my husband and I attended a four day class on shooting.  The place was the hot desert area of Las Vegas area and the place was Front Sight.


Although I’ve always been a pro-second Amendment person, the one thing I learned is how much I really don’t know.  So please come with me for a moment and share a little of this unusual weekend with me.

Imagine this:  I thought it would be an easy weekend with me and my husband together, doing a little shooting and a little learning and a lot of one on one with my hubby.

Wrong…except for spending a good deal of time with my hubby — but time spent on a shooting range…

Little did I know the weekend would be spent much like a bootcamp.  Our hours were from 8AM to 7PM each and every day(sometimes later — on Saturday we had a night shoot), and we were constantly shooting or learning.  Now, since I exercise daily and since we had to be up long before the sun came up in order to make it to the complex on time, it soon became apparent to me that this was anything but a casual weekend.

One thing I thought was spectacular about this course (which was taught by former police officers or military personnel)was a required seminar on the ethics of owning a weapon and the moral choices one has to make if ever one is in a life and death situation.  In other words when to shoot and when not to shoot.

Okay with that said, now we get to the first time I have ever shot a gun.  At Front Sight, things are taken step by step.  First you practice with your gun without ammunition — we rented our guns, by the way.  Then you load up the gun with ammunition and you are ready to walk out onto the range to shoot.  Luckly, an instructor is nearby to ease you through your first shoot.

Never in my life would I have thought I would have reacted as I did to the first shot I’ve ever taken with a gun.  Never.  Not ever.  What was that reaction?

I cried.

Yep, I cried.  Luckily the instructor was there to hold the weapon for me as I literally left the weapon hanging in the air, put my head in my hands and cried.   And cried.  But knowing I was there to learn, and really wanting to learn how to defend myself if ever needed, I continued on — after some heady discussion with my hubby.  Subsequently, however, I cried again on the second and third shot, as well.  It got better, though, and after that initial response, the first day passed quickly into a gorgeous sunset.  I even started making some good shots.

However, it was back to the beginning for me on the second day with my first shot of that day.  Again, I cried.  I can’t explain it, nor did I want to try to figure out why.  Perhaps it was the extreme use of force or maybe it was something else.  I don’t know.  The only thing I knew for sure was that the only thing I could do was to bust through it.

And I did.  It was better on the second day, though — and with lots of instructor help, I came to eventually enjoy myself.  It was a rather large class there at Front Sight with the guys out numbering the gals by about 6 to 1.  However, I soon met someone who was a little like me and hadn’t shot before and we soon became friends.

On the third day, we were all put through simulator drills — where we went into a “house” that had cardboard figures in it of men with guns.  We students had to decide when to shoot and when not to shoot.  It was the first time I ran across the cardboard picture of a man holding a woman hostage with a gun to her head.  And I was supposed to shoot at the image of the criminal.

I put my gun down and said, no way.  I was afraid I’d shoot the woman hostage instead of the bad guy.  But the instructor was kind, understanding, and walked me through it — and I eventually took a shot at the cardboard figure of the bad guy, and I gotta tell you, I manged to lay a shot to the bad guy’s head in one shot alone.  However, as soon as I’d done it, I again cried.  Thank goodness the instructor was there to coach me through that, as well.

Looking back on it now, I must admit now that the entire experience was fun and exciting, though at the time I thought it was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done.  One thing did happen, though, and that is that I came away with the feeling that if ever I were caught in a life or death situation, I would not only know what to do, I would have the skills to do it.

Will I ever go back to Front Sight to improve my skills?  You bet.  

Hopefully, later today I will be able to get up some pictures of the weekend end (I have to wait for my hubby to download them first).  But for now let me share with you the cover art for THE LAST WARRIOR, my next book which is due to be released in March of next year. 

indian_11.JPGI would love to hear from you about your reactions to shooting, if you’ve ever done it — or your opinions about shooting, as well.  So come and let’s have a talk.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.

32 thoughts on “A man, a woman and his gun”

  1. Oh gosh Karen! I am teared up reading this. I have never shot a real gun…I had toy popguns and water pistols as a kid. I’m not sure I want to shoot a gun, but your instant reaction to tears brought me to tears because I have a feeling I would react the same.

    My husband and I don’t have a gun in our home and part of the reason is because I’m afraid of them. As a child I saw my uncle go through manic depressive episodes and borderline schizophrenia and he was obsessed with getting a hold of my grandfather’s guns. I remember my parents had to hide my grandfather’s guns at our house once when my uncle was “sick” and my mom warned me away from her closet for the longest time because of the guns being up in there.

    Once he even held a shot gun to my other uncle’s head to get him to sign over a car to him when he wasn’t in his right mind. It left a lasting impression on me to say the least.

    I’m not sure I could ever hold a gun, let alone fire one, though I probably should learn in case I was ever faced with a life and death situation.

    I’m glad you got a lot from your weekend though. It sounds like a wild experience that will help you if you ever need it. Way to go!

  2. The only kind of gun I’ve shot with is a BB rifle at my Grandma’s house when I was a teenager. We used to shoot milk jugs and such in a big open field. My husband and I don’t own a real gun. I’m not sure if we ever would as we’ve never really talked about it. If we ever did, I’d want it kept somewhere where our two kids would never find it. You hear too many horror stories about kids and guns.

  3. I wonder why you cried. Isn’t that interesting that you’d have that reaction? Although we don’t hunt, my husband owns two guns, a rifle and a shotgun, just because of the occasional rabid skunk or a cow that’s dying, suffering, stuff like that. But he doesn’t hunt. I am surrounded by them, though.
    We live in the bluffs along the Missouri River and it’s like hunting Mecca here. Honestly during deer hunting season we are very cautious about going outside. Those high powered rifles…combined with the rolling hills, so hunters could be on the other side of your hill and take a shot not realizing there’s a farm house within range…keep in mind this has never happened, but some Saturday mornings you can hear gunfire just steady all day long. Weird.
    I fired a BB gun when I was little and I went out and just did a bit of shooting once when my neighbor asked my husband to come she his new handgun. (we don’t have one of those, they seem especially dangerous to me). So I THINK (yes think, I don’t remember for sure) I took a shot of two with that handgun.
    That’s it.
    What I mainly remember is LOUD. I didn’t want to go deaf learning to shoot. My husband agreed. The noise was painful.

  4. I grew up in a family that hunted. Game animals and the ground squirrels. We had guns sitting all over the place and being the only girl in the family I had to prove I was better with a gun than my brothers. I finished the hunter’s ed class with a higher score than my brothers and shot at the targets and even practiced with the gun I was going to use to hunt a deer. The sound was deafening and the way it slammed against my shoulder hurt, but I was determined to bring in a deer.

    That is until I saw the deer in my sights. I couldn’t shoot the deer when we finally tracked one down.

    After that I just shot the ground squirrels and left the big game, with big, brown eyes to the boys.

    Now, I just shoot use a BB gun to chase away the deer who come in and eat my flowers.

    Interesting post, Kay.

  5. Hi Kay,
    Well, I’ve never shot a gun either. I’ve only held a real gun in my hand a few times. Once, when a fellow chapter member and police officer gave me a quick lesson with her Glock for a story I was doing.
    What a great weekend, but I’d be like you, thinking it would be a fun getaway, then realize, uh-oh, this is going to be intense!
    Sounds like you came away with a some great insights and a new respect for what you’ve learned.
    I know one thing – I’d be scared to shoot.
    Oh wait- I lied. I did shoot a rifle once — in Disneyland at their shooting gallery. Guess that doesn’t count!
    I like your preliminary cover!!

  6. Karen,

    Clearly this experience touched some deep part of your subconscious that you didn’t realize was there and which left you very emotional. Your instructor sounds like a peach.

    I shot a shotgun just for fun (at cans on a fence post) recently. The darn thing kicked back and bruised my shoulder. I was sore for 3 days afterward!

    Thank you for sharing a very unique experience!

  7. Kay, thank you for sharing your stirring experience. I’ve never shot a weapon before and have no great desire to do so. I’ve only held one in my hand and that was enough. Every muscle tensed and I felt such a relief when my husband took it from me. I guess it just sensed and respected the power that piece of shiny metal had. That’s the best I can do to explain my fear. It sure adds more realism to our stories when we actually experience to some small degree what we write about. I’m an anti-gun person. I know under certain circumstances a gun is necesary but I see no need whatsoever for the average person to own an assault rifle or any other large weapon. Those are meant for one purpose only and that’s to kill people.

    Congratulations on your cover for the upcoming release!! The warrior guy portrays strength and courage and would definitely make me want to buy the book. Do you know the cover model’s name? He looks a bit like Nathan Kamp who is on the the cover of my upcoming Give Me A Texan. He’s hot.

  8. I shot a huge rifle once and yes the kick back killed my shoulder. Ages ago my husband bought me a gun for my birthday because he was going out of town. I had it less than 3 months and he sold it. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I think guns cause more problems in domestic situations and when found by children. They say in a lot of cases it can be taken from you if you attempt to use it and can’t really use it on a person. What really scares me are the assault guns that are out there now.

    Absolutely love the cover!

  9. Never shot a gun myself so I am not sure how I would react. It has to be a scary feeling though. You should be proud of yourself for trying despite the emotional pain it brought you.

  10. Living with an avid hunter, I have shot guns several times at cardboard targets never at anything living. Since I had children who also learned to shoot, my husband and I became hunter saftey instructors and bowhunter safety instructors.
    I also became a hunter…..I hunt with a camera. Love every minute of my time with my husband in the wild. Documenting something that is important to him has brought us closer although on the shot…I close my eyes!

  11. Hi!

    Please excuse my absense from the blog today. I’m afraid after this weekend, I overslept…and then as usual there were so many things to do to get back into my regular life.

    Let me anwer Tanya Raye’s comment first. Hi Tanya! I can really understand your feelings on even holding a gun. Like I said, I’d only held one in my hand twice in this life. But like you, too, I’ve shot water pistols and toy guns — remember the old pop-guns? Or how about the toy cap guns? Does anyone remember those?

    I can certainly understand your mom wanting to keep these things out of sight. One thing we went over and over and over this weekend was gun safety — not only in the home, but if one is ever found. One thing we learned is to always consider any gun loaded — always. Another one was to never point the muzzle at anything or anyone you are not willing to destroy. I guess one thing that caught my interest was rewatching THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS — and noticing that every man in that picture was armed to the teeth. And then I remembered learning how in the old days a man was known by his care of his fire-arms and his ability with them, as well.

    Thanks so much for your comments. : )

  12. Hi Andrea W!

    I remember my brother having a BB gun, but I don’t remember ever seeing it. Like you, I grew up in an otherwise gun-free envionment and when my kids were young, they did, as well. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time imagining my hero with a gun, though he most certainly would have had one. If you ever get a chance to look at the old pictures of Indians and cowboys, notice the guns they carry — they’re always there — unless it’s some portrait.

    Thanks so much for your comment and your take on this.

  13. Hi Mary Connealy!

    It was interesting, my reaction, I think. I didn’t want to look too closely at it, cause goodness knows what it came from. As regards the notice, we had on headphones and I also doubled that with ear plugs, as well. But out on the shooting range, when the gunfire started, I at first ducked. Again, the instructors were so understanding — that’s when they gave me headphones that were electronic, as well as ear plugs — it was really interesting, because it blanked out the sound of all the shooting, yet if you turned the volume up, you could hear people speaking perfectly. Interesting…

    The area that you live in sounds beautiful. In fact, I grew up close to Missouri, on the other side of the Mississippi — in Illinois.

    Thanks for your post, Mary. Love hearing from you!

  14. Hi Paty!

    Isn’t that interesting? That you wouldn’t shoot the big-eyed beautiful deer and such? One thing that did happen in that simulator session (the “house” that had all the cardboard figures of men with guns) — in one of the rooms was a dog. Now we have several dogs and I love them dearly. It was the only shot I missed totally and completely…

    Interesting post, Paty. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  15. Hi Pam and Charlene and Linda!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and making comments and telling me about your reactions, as well. Charlene, that’s what we were shooting was glocks — I certainly did come away with a healthy respect for that piece of equipment. You made me laugh with your Disneyland comment. : )

    Pam, yes, it did touch something deep inside me. Heaven knows what it was, and I’m not one to think too much about it — why stir up other things? But again, one thing it did give me was a good understanding of what it’s all about — not to mention how much these things weigh, and the outrageous weight, as well, of the ammunition. How did our heros carrying all this around with them?

    Linda, I sure understand where you’re coming from on that, although I’ve never been against guns — I guess cause I come from the country, where it’s important to be able to defend yourself. It’s also interesting that I felt isafe n that environment — among people loaded to the teeth — we even left our car essentially unlocked while we were there.

    I guess the thing I learned to take with me, despite all the emotion (and there was more than just crying going on with me all weekend long) — was that if I ever had to, I could defend myself and my loved ones. Oh, and a good first-hand knowledge of what it would be like to travel with a man with a gun and a shotgun in hand.

    Thanks again for sharing your comments with me on this. Makes you think.

    Oh, and yes, the cover — isn’t he gorgeous? I think the model is Nathan Kamp — at least that’s what a fan has told me. : )

    Goodness, but he sure is handsome!

  16. Hi Jeanne!

    Again, I so thoroughly understand where you’re coming from on that. I guess that’s why if one ever gets a gun, one needs to learn how to shoot it and use it for one’s own protection. And to know and thoroughly understand the ethics and morals of ownership, as well as safety. Like I said, they not only taught shooting, but each day there was a required seminar by these police/military personnel, as well.

    Thanks for your thoughts. : )

  17. Wow Cherie J! Thank you so much for your encouragement. It really did take alot for me to get through the weekend. My husband says I must’ve told him at least 3 times a day that I was quitting. But I never did. And at the end of it all, I was glad that I didn’t, because again, it’s an empowering thing to know that if your children or loved ones were ever threatened, you could do something about it.

    Really appreciate it.

  18. Hi Connie Lorenz!

    I loved the kind of hunting that you do. : ) It must be interesting, as well, being a safety instructor. It’s something that really impressed me about this place — how much safety and ethics were stressed over and over and over.

    Also, like you, I figured that the best defense is a strong offense. When my children were young, and we lived in a condo complex with a pool, I realized that I couldn’t always be with them (they were in middle school/high school at this time) — and I didn’t want to tell them NOT to go swimming as that would have been a sure-fire way of making sure they did.

    So my defense was to give them both lifeguard lessions, on the philosophy that if one of them (they were inseparable) was in trouble, the other would be able to safe her — and they became did become lifeguards (though they complained alot about it at the time) — not as a job, but to this day, if anyone were in trouble in the water, they would know exactly what to do.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with us all.

  19. HI! I love the new cover you have posted! Lets just say the times hubby or my dad tried to teach me to shoot….ummm didn’t go so well for the dirt! I never could hit the target!

  20. Interesting post, Karen. I grew up plinking at targets with a .22 (the men in my extended family were hunters, and mountains were close by). I also have a friend who writes gun articles for a living and serves as my consultant. Once in a while when he has an interesting gun he lets me shoot it. For a while I kept a borrowed pistol in my house for protection–gave it back when my grandsons got old enough to find it.
    That said, I have NEVER shot at a living creature, and don’t think I ever could.

  21. I’ve got neighbor ladies who hunt right along with their husbands. So it’s funny none of us does much shooting.
    They say four out of five American’s have a gun.
    But that’s not true. Only one out of five American’s owns a gun, but that guy has four…so it averages out to four out of five. 🙂

  22. Hi Crystal!

    Thanks so much for your compliment on the cover. He is gorgeous. I don’t think when I was growing up that anyone could have talked me into shooting a gun, but with these professional guys and everyone around me hitting targets, I felt safe enough to really give it a try.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  23. Hi Elizabeth!

    Interestingly enough I’ve just seen the movie, Innocense Betrayed and it was this movie, as well as the desire to know a bit more about guns so I can put them into my hero’s hands with some bit of reality, that helped make my decision to go and learn a little about it. Like you, I don’t think I could ever use a gun on another living creature either unless I was either very hungry — starving — or myself or a loved one were being attacked and I had no choice but to shoot a killer in order to save either my life or the life of a loved one. Only in self-defense. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Elizabeth.

  24. Hi Mary!

    That’s really interesting about the women hunting right along with their men. There were some women at this, as well, but many of them seemed to know already what they were doing. However, there was one person there, who like me, had never shot before. I did grow up in the country, where guns were more or less taken for granted. One could live off the land there if need be and if the need arose, then a gun would certainly make life a little easier.

    Again, thanks so much for your thoughts.

  25. Sorry I’m posting this late but my work week was too hectic for me to be on-line long. Let me start this by saying I am a police officer. The first time I ever shot a gun was during my internship when a lt took me down to the range and had me shoot a revolver. I’d helped my dad clean his shotgun from hunting before that but had never fired a gun. I had a boyfriend who took my shooting once and I rather enjoyed it. Then I was hired as a police officer.

    At first I was intimidated by my holster, not my gun. It was new and did not want to let my gun out-I looked a bit like Barney Fife trying to draw my weapon (even the instructor had problems with it). After that it still took almost ten weeks for me to become comfortable with my weapon (which at the time was a .9mm Beretta). I also had to learn to shoot shotgun, which is something I still don’t like and it takes three days for the ache to go away and a week for the bruise.

    When we have firearms training (we shoot at least three times a year)we do scenarios where we shoot carboard targets, some with hostages. One thing that still unnerves me is when we do simunitions training. Simunitions is like paintball, the bullets are actually made out of colored soap but you use real people for the scenarios. You are supposed to treat the situations as real and respond accordingly. It’s not easy when someone is coming at you with a knife you know is fake but have to treat as real and have to shoot them with bullets you know are fake but still feel a bit real (we use actual guns with special barrels but the rounds come out feeling like a .22). Many times after a scenario I’m shaking, both from adrenaline and the fact that I know I could shoot someone if I had to. That last fact still unnerves me and I’ve been at this job for eleven years.

    As for your crying, to me that shows you realize what the consequences of shooting a gun can be and what a responsability it is to learn to handle a weapon and how overwhelming it can be. It’s the people who don’t feel anything or enjoy it too much when they learn to shoot are the people who worry me.

  26. Never have shot a gun. I owned one, but that as far as it went and that was only because my ex-brother-in-law thought I needed one for protection when we lived in a not so great neighborhood.

  27. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article A man, a woman and his gun, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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