I'd never fired a hand gun before, I told the Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy as we walked across a grassy field to the firing range on firearms training night at the latest Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Citizens Academy class.
Technically I had fired a sniper rifle before, but I only got two shots, and it was a whole other story I didn't feel like getting into.
I felt excited and a little nervous when we stepped up to the range. We put on eye and ear protection, which included a radio so the instructor could communicate.
A line of about 15 targets — a bad guy brandishing a handgun — was set up about seven yards away. An empty Glock pistol sat on top of a blue, plastic barrel a few yards away.
With an instructor at my side and one in my ear, my only worry was for a steady hand to hit my target.
With direction, I loaded the first magazine into the light-weight, dull black handgun.
I aimed for a kill shot, right at the heart — a strange feeling — even if the man was just a paper target.
I stood at the line, gun pointed in anticipation of the bad guy. Any second now, he would flip around to face me, gun in hand.
My heart was racing, and I'm pretty sure my legs were shaking. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. You're talking about someone whose imagination runs so rampant that when I was a little girl, I'd panic and scream bloody murder when my brother pretended to be a shark in the pool. To have a paper bad guy pointing a gun at me was just frightening.
And then, in a flash, the bad guy flipped around. I hesitated, holding the gun steady, trying to aim at his chest. I slipped my finger over the trigger and — BANG!
I did it! My shot went straight through the center of his paper chest. If he were a real bad guy, he would be on the ground, laying in a pool of his own blood — that is, if he didn't shoot me first.
The instructors would take care of that. We were going to do it again, only we had to get off more shots under a time limit and at varying distances.
Those rounds didn't go as seamlessly as the first. My aim became less precise when we were rushed.
On my drive home that night, with Timmy the Target looking like Swiss cheese, I remember feeling two things: one, I need to do this more often; and two, the utmost appreciation and respect for law enforcement and military officials who step in harm's way all the time to keep us safe. Their risk is much more real than a paper target.
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