By October 30, 2007

Teaching the Teacher (Combat Shotgunning, Part One)

Warning: this is a long entry.

Two weeks ago my friend Markie sent me an email entitled, “can you get the weekend off ….” In the email was a link to a Suarez International shotgun gunfighting class held in nearby Culpeper, Virginia. SI teaches classes all over the world. The class material requirements sounded ominous: 150 rounds of birdshot, fifty rounds of buckshot, fifteen slugs, and at least fifty rounds of pistol ammunition. The course notes recommended a flashlight, elbow pads, a shotgun sling, ammunition pouch/sidesaddle/etc, and the obvious eye and ear protection. The course was $265.00 and did not include the cost of ammunition or gear.

I’ve been shooting for the majority of my life, but it wasn’t anything like the type of shooting I expected to do at the Suarez course. Moving and shooting, high round count (for me), etc. Normally my shooting is done at an indoor “bowling alley” style range where both the target and shooter are standing still and facing each other. Most notably, I have never received any formal marksmanship training, just formal gun safety training. I wasn’t sure how I felt about being a novice shooter in front of a professional instructor and demonstrating my skills (or lack thereof) in front of total strangers.

However, any knowledge — even if it’s knowing that I suck — is worth having. I didn’t really consider the prospect of attending the course as “fun,” and my excitement level was quite a bit lower than Markie’s. I figured this is something that I should do as a responsible firearm owner. I also felt that I needed to carry forward a maxim I read many years ago: Teach the Teacher.

I enjoy introducing new shooters into the world of firearms and marksmanship. In order to more effectively help novice shooters understand and enjoy firearms, I felt that I needed to raise my own knowledge of shooting. The better trained and equipped I am, the more fun my friends and family will have when they go with me. Plus, it would never hurt to have a cadre of experienced shooters around me in case the dead rise. 😉

I typed in my credit card information and registered for the course. The next thing to do was go shopping.

Markie and I agreed to meet a week before our class at Gander Mountain in Fredericksburg, VA. There was a new one closer to me, but this was a halfway point for us and would allow some post-shopping chit-chat. I haven’t purchased shotgun ammunition outside of my shooting range in probably three or four years, and was surprised at how expensive things have become. A box of five buckshot shells was about $5. We weren’t even buying the good stuff, either — it was the cheapest ammunition we could find. I spent about $170 on ammo, a sling, and sling swivels for my Mossberg 590A1. I promised myself not to imagine a dollar bill blowing out the end of the shotgun every time I pulled the trigger.

The next thing I knew it was time to pack up the car and head to Culpeper. Unfortunately it had been raining all week. And I mean all week. The instructor said we were going to be killing paper people come rain or shine. I packed up the car in the rain, and hoped that it would clear by morning. I tried to get more than my usual amount of sleep, but Pearl had explosive diarrhea the day before and made nice shit-pancakes on the carpet at 8PM, and 11PM. She woke me up at 1:30 in the morning to go outside for another bout of the squirts, and then again at 4:30 … but this time she didn’t wake me up in time. The Bissel earned its keep that night, and I went through two full reservoirs of water and cleaning solution. I went back to bed at about 5:15 only to wake up forty-five minutes later. It was still fucking raining. I made myself one cup of coffee, ate a light breakfast, and hit the road.

The drive to Culpeper was a breeze — probably because the time of day and rain kept most motorists off of the road. I neared the training facility in good spirits. I had made good time and was due to arrive about a half hour early. My GPS chirped out directions to me, and as I turned off of the main highway the bottom fell out of my stomach. The GPS must have been wrong. I turned onto a very narrow (one and a half cars, at most) blacktop strip. The strip bifurcated a modular home and a shanty-shack with “NO TRESPASSING” signs stapled on every tree.

The narrow path quickly broke up into patches of asphalt, and then finally a muddy dirt road. I’ve been saving this announcement for a later post, but I was driving my new MazdaSPEED 3 station wagon, which is very low to the ground and … well … new. Gravel and mud began clinking and clonking at the front and sides of my car. I rolled to a stop. Here I was, half an hour early to the class, and literally at the dead end of a road with just a gravel-encrusted mud path sloping up and to the left. “TURN LEFT!” my GPS said. “TURN LEFT!” I was about to turn up a farm road to someone’s private residence … this was not the world-class training facility I expected.

I turned around and headed back to a gas station I spied earlier. A few people had come out of the modular home and were staring at me as I motored past. I called Markie on my mobile phone. “Hey brother,” I said to him with a laugh, “we might have to actually use our shotguns to get to the course.” The gas station was crammed full of vehicles — all trucks. As I expressed my concerns to Markie: “did I have the right place? do I want to just show up at some guy’s house out in the woods half an hour early?” there was a knock on my window. I told Markie to hold on. I eased my right hand towards my Glock as I rolled down the window. “Hi there,” said a kind-faced man with his hair pulled back into a braid. “Are you looking for the Suarez course?”

“Yes,” I replied with a smile.

“My name is Frank, we’re having it at my place. You were almost there, just go left up the road and then turn right to go down to the range.”

I thanked him, rolled up my window, said goodbye to Markie, and hoped for the best. I eased back down the narrow pavement, over the broken up pieces, and up the muddy gravel trail. When I arrived, Frank was already there, and motioned for me to go right and then out to the range. Except “going right” was just a field. “Follow the red dots on the ground,” he said. There were some red patches of spray paint leading into his pasture and then around a tree. It was still raining. “Okay,” I said, and idled off into the grass. Then I lost the dots. After five minutes of Frank guiding me around his pasture I found the rest of the class. Good thing I was early — I wasn’t the last person to arrive (Markie called and said, “I’m going to be late. Just answer yes or no: do I need to come in guns blazing to rescue you?” I answered no, by the way), but it took longer to reach the actual “range” than I expected.

I pulled up and started getting my gear out. There were six wooden targets spaced two feet away from each other. They were thirty yards from where everyone had parked. I introduced myself to the instructor, Jake, who was immediately very friendly and disarming. Well, not literally. But he was nice, and made me feel better. I filled out a waiver while we waited for the other two participants to arrive. Once Markie was there I felt better, and my spirits started to lift. Jake detailed some of what we’d be doing over the next two days, and during the laundry-list he made a comment about shooting once to the body, with a follow up shot to the head. “You never know when someone might be wearing body armor. Or they could be a zombie.”

My soul smiled. Markie and I looked at each other sideways and started laughing.

Hot damn, I thought, this might be the right fucking place after all.

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Posted in: guns, preparedness

5 Comments on "Teaching the Teacher (Combat Shotgunning, Part One)"

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  1. Essie says:

    Long… but totally worth reading! Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Baby!

  2. Markie says:

    It was a long weekend… I am sure Part 2+ will be just as good… I can feel the tension rising for act two.

  3. Stomper says:

    Very cool. So did you kill zombies in Act 2?

  4. Mike says:

    Just awesome. Now I’m on the edge of my seat for the thrilling conclusion.

  5. rawcode says:

    That is awesome!