Intern Teri Boates gives shooting a try with the Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club

Published on April 18, 2017

Student intern Teri Boates shows off her target after an outing with the Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club.

©Wendy Elliott

CANAAN, NS - I always saw myself as more of a rifle kind of person. My years of video game training turned me into a virtual sharp shooter, blowing away all my targets from afar. Today, though - in the real world - I’m a handgun gal.

Walking into the Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club in Canaan, I’m not sure what to expect. I’ve never been on a shooting range before. Growing up, I was around hunting rifles and shotguns, but not like this. The fact is, guns can be scary, especially if you aren’t educated about them.

John Robinson, president of the range for 20 years, has trained hundreds of people on how to properly shoot firearms, including countless women. Robinson - along with others at the Shooting Sports Club - believes more women should be involved in the sport.

I ask Robinson why women should consider taking up shooting recreationally. Ultimately, he says, it comes down to confidence. He tells me story after story about women coming to the range. Most are shy, letting men take several turns while they stay at the back. Many are too intimidated to come alone. After trying the guns though, they beam with a newfound confidence. That’s when the Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club decided it was time to host women-only Ladies Day events.

The events – held about twice a year for the past 10 years - allow women to shoot firearms in a safe environment with other women. Although women are welcome to come to the range whenever they please, Robinson thinks it’s important they have the range all to themselves for a day. Robinson says gun clubs are too often seen as “good ol ’ boys clubs,” and wants more people to realize shooting is a co-ed sport.

Robinson and I head down to the basement where the shooting club has its indoor firing range. He walks me over to a bench with two silver pistols, barrels facing the targets, magazines empty beside them. Safety is extremely important when dealing with guns - especially handguns. He tells me about them: both are Ruger MKII and use .22mm long rifle ammo. They look nearly identical to each other with the only clear difference being their barrel length: one is five inches; the other is 10 inches.

Before I can shoot, I’m given a pair of protective glasses and large plastic earmuffs. It’s not just about protecting others from firearms: you must protect yourself as well.

I decide to shoot the five-inch first. Robinson shows me how to properly hold the gun: your index finger doesn’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, squeeze the gun firmly, put your arms out straight, feet shoulder length apart, and bend at the waist. I stare down the barrel, trying to line up my sights with the target. Robinson clicks off the safety, and I fire.

BANG-BANG. I’m glad my ears are protected. Even with headphones on, every bullet booms inside the basement. Excited to see if I’ve hit my target, Robinson helps me take out the empty magazine and set the Ruger back onto the bench. We go over to the target. Lo and behold, I miss every shot.

Despite missing, Robinson tells me women make the best shooters.

“I would rather take a woman under my proverbial wing to show them how to shoot,” he says. “A guy will stop learning from me. Male ego, plain and simple… Females don’t seem to have quite that problem. They want to learn.”

We decide to move the bench closer to the target. This time, I choose the 10-inch handgun instead. It’s easier to aim, but heavier. I recount and mimic everything Robinson taught me about holding and firing guns. BANG. I shoot again. BANG-BANG. I fire a few more rounds. Then, I put the gun down: he wasn’t kidding about it being heavy. I shake out my arms and go again, finishing off the magazine. We walk up to the target. This time, I hit eight times.

Feeling like Angelina Jolie, I strut back to the bench. Hitting the target made me feel confident, and quite frankly, badass. It’s not an easy sport, but when you do well, it feels incredible. I went in with one goal: hit the target at least once. Now, my goal is to improve.

Before firing for the final time, Robinson and I talk about guns. Today, guns can be seen as destructive and harmful. Robinson doesn’t feel this way.

“Guns don’t do wrong: people do,” he says. “Don’t blame a gun for a person’s actions.”

He then reminds me that the range isn’t only a safe environment to shoot, but a place to teach firearm safety.

For my last 10 bullets, I use a Ruger MKI with a four-inch barrel. Harder to aim, but I’m up for the challenge. BANG-BANG. This time, four shots hit the target. Not a lot, but it brings my total hits to 12 out of 30. I’m so excited that I ask for my target to take home. Robinson laughs and agrees; he says a lot of women ask for the target after their first time.

Looking at my target, we discover I shoot a little high. Robinson tells me that if I were to aim a few centimetres lower, I would have hit the bull’s-eye . I shake his hand: “next time.”

The Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club’s next Ladies Day Event will take place on April 22 from 1-4p.m. Attendees are welcome to try any and all styles of shooting, including archery, handguns, rifles and cowboy action. Prices vary depending on the firearm.

Learn more about the club at https://www.avssc.ca/