National Shooting Sports Month

By John Gilstrap

August is National Shooting Sports month!

Okay, so it doesn’t rate a special tree in the living room or lights in the window, but National Shooting Sports Month provides unique opportunities for writers to familiarize themselves with the weaponry their characters use.

Sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF, the same group that puts on the massive SHOT Show every year), the month-long celebration encourages shooters, gun stores and range owners to make special efforts to introduce more people to hunting and the shooting sports.  Have questions?  Walk in and ask some questions.

There will even be special events.  On August 17, I will be giving a presentation on the weapons Jonathan Grave uses, at Elite Shooting Sports in Manassas, Virginia.  The details are still in play, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to do any live fire exercises.  That would have made the even really fun.

I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink here on TKZ over the years discussing gun stuff.  Guns handling and gun play are nearly impossible to describe accurately unless you’ve done some shooting.  There’s a feel to the grip and the recoil.  There are weight and balance issues peculiar to different weapons.  There’s a method to loading magazines.  National Shooting Sports Month will provide perfect opportunities for you to get hands-on training.

A couple of years ago, my publicity team from Kensington traveled from New York to Virginia–and then on to West Virginia with me–as part of a publicity plan to shoot copies of Scorpion Strike, whose cover featured a number of bullet holes.  These young ladies were as anti-gun as you’d expect from New York City.  As we entered the range complex at Echo Valley Training Center, they mocked the shooters they saw and cowered at the sight of firearms being carried out in the open.

When I got them on the trigger, though, everything changed.  After hundreds of rounds apiece, they were enthralled by the sport.  By the end of the day, I had them advancing and shooting at steel targets.  When their magazines ran dry, they dropped them and slapped in another.

In four hours at the range, their world view of shooting–and shooters–had changed.  They’d learned new skills and had had a fun day outdoors in the fresh West Virginia air.

Marksmanship is about precision.  Just like golf or tennis, your number one competitor is yourself, and experience combined with good instruction is the only way to advance your skills.  Here’s a website that will direct you to a shooting range in your area.  Even if you have no experience–especially if you have no experience–drop in and sign up for some beginner instruction.

If you’re afraid of the weaponry, embrace your fears.  A firearm is just a tool and your instructor won’t let you pose a danger to yourself or others.  Don’t worry about recoil.  It’s never as violent as what you see on movies or television.  (I know, right?)  Just hang on to everything tightly and keep a balanced stance.

For your first outing, shoot with either a small caliber or a big gun.  Preferably both.  Physics lesson: The heavier the gun, the less the felt recoil, and the smaller the load, the less energy to trigger that equal and opposite reaction.

So . . . Who’s game?

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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in Fairfax, VA.

6 thoughts on “National Shooting Sports Month

  1. I recently attended a Citizens Academy with my local Sheriff Department and we spent one of our 8 Saturdays at the gun range. I was able to shoot a Glock and also an AR-15. I was a little nervous at first, but quickly got over that! Ride along scheduled for a Saturday night soon, can’t wait.

    Getting real experience with weapons (and law enforcement) is excellent advice if you’re trying to write a crime novel, and many local PDs/Sheriffs do citizens courses like the one I attended. Apparently Border Patrol does too, though they may be too busy these days…

  2. Always glad to see firearms treated respectfully. What a shame we can’t require supervised introduction to firearms for all youth so they don’t grow up with unfounded bias and phobias. Familiarization with all story elements is a necessity for writers. Without that, they only promulgate stereotypes and misinformation. Thanks for another great post.

  3. John, the experience of your publicity team mirrors my own. I started out scared to death of guns until my husband patiently and carefully taught me safety and skills. I realized it wasn’t going to jump off the shelf and shoot by itself and became an excellent target shooter. Not interested in hunting but, in Montana, that’s how many people with limited incomes feed their families so I understand that.

    Many single women with carry permits feel empowered that they can defend themselves and their families in case of violent attack since the police often can’t arrive in time.

    I’ve done a whole lot more harm to myself chopping food with a sharp knife than I ever will with a gun!

  4. Shooting is not only a fun sport, it is something I agree should be taught to everyone. The more people are comfortable with firearms, the less violent crime there is, as the criminals know there will be hell to pay. Switzerland, as I understand it, requires their citizens to not only learn how to shoot, but to own a firearm for national defense. When was the last mass shooting, terror attack, or for that matter war in Switzerland?
    That said, it is also a supreme confidence builder, as well as a potential humbler. My wife, born and raised in South Korea where civilians firearms are forbidden, was terrified of guns. Until the first time she fired one that is. Okay…maybe the second time actually. First time she ever fired a gun, it was a short barrelled lever action 30-06, and her posture was, shall we say, not quite perfect. The rifle pounded into her not so tightly held shoulder socket, then flew out of her grip when she jumped at the pain. After overcoming that moment, she switched to handguns, thinking they’d hurt less. They did, and she was 10 for 10 on hits with the pistol. Every time! Couple of years later a friend built a target made of old spoons that spun around an axis with each hit. I was an expert marksman in the Marines with M16 and 9mm both and could only hit two or three times with the same weapon on that target. When she started plinking every shot from a 2″ .38 special from 20 feet away, (even one-handed!) I realized I had created my very own pretty little Nikita!

    • Correction, I could not hit the spoons with the 5 shot 2″ revolver my wife was using. Gimme an AK or a M4, and target is wasted at up to 500 yards.

  5. I got to go to a gun range at a writers conference. It was run by retired FBI guys and we had a ball learning about various guns and safety and such. I was much like your Kensington crew — unfamiliar with guns. Not disparaging. Just ambivalent. It was fun and eye-opening.


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