Our instructor was a real pro, a man who'd been involved in several violent incidents and who regularly carries two firearms on his person. He explained, "When it absolutely, positively has to go bang--carry two guns." With great patience, he put each of us through a quick hands on demonstration of the "combat grip." He schooled us in gun safety: always treat every gun like a loaded gun, never point an empty gun at anyone, keep your finger trigger straight along the side of the gun above the trigger until you are ready to shoot, never hand a gun to another person (instead lay it down and let the other person pick it up), always turn the gun butt toward you before picking it up, and more.
We were each given safety glasses and hearing protective "ear muffs." To enter the gallery, you must pass through two doors that muffle the sound. The rule is "never let both doors be open at the same time." From there we walked a long narrow corridor--another safety precaution because you can't pass people while carrying a gun as you traverse the corridor.
I loaded my clip myself. My fingers shook a bit as I matched the bullets to the second slot and dropped them in. When I slammed the cartridge into the butt of the gun with the heel of my palm, I felt like a character in a movie. The noise of people shooting around me was surprisingly loud. Later Lee Lofland and my pal Rick McMahan would tell me that during a gun battle you don't hear the sound of the blasts, but right then, I was keenly aware how loud a gun is.
I took my stance: both hands wrapped around the gun, arms out, sighting down the barrel and lining up the notch and post, semi-squat position. I stroked the trigger.
My first shots were a little wide. I hadn't accurately lined up the notch and post--I was too scared. Yes, scared. I was so very conscious of the fact I was holding a lethal weapon, an inanimate object that I dislike on so many, varied levels. Seeing the target with the form of a human on it, well, it both sickened and excited me. The smell of gunpowder coated my nose and mouth like the smoke from a cigarette smoker, invading my being involuntarily. The random "pop, pop, pop" of other guns startled me. The knowledge my instructor stood at my elbow waiting made me uneasy.
I remembered a portion of a Jack Reacher book where Lee Child wrote about how important breathing was to the accuracy of a sniper. I began to time my breathes so I could stroke the trigger on that space between inhales and exhales.
Then I blasted the heck out of the red center of my target. By the time I moved to the bigger gun, I was deadly. True confession: I loved shooting. And I know I'll be going again.