I grew up around guns in the form of shotguns and rifles. My brothers had pellet guns, shot .22 rifles and sometimes had trap shoots. My dad had one of those old rifle racks in the laundry room, filled with oldish wood stock shotguns. While guns in general were a commonplace in my family, I was never interested. I had never even touched one.
That all changed on day one of hunter's safety. I was an uninterested observer in the classroom. I was the first one driving in my family, and my brothers wanted to go hunting. So, my ignorant 18-year-old self sat through hunter's safety, surrounded by twelve-year-old brats who seemed to know EVERYTHING about rifles and shotguns. Bolt action, pump action, lever action - I was completely clueless. Nothing could be more Greek. Not only was it flustering being completely out of my realm of experience, but I was being shown up by KIDS!
I learned a lot, though. And I even was a pretty decent shot in the optional live fire part the end of the course, which was encouraging.
Now that I had basic gun safety under my belt, I went on to have absolutely nothing to do with firearms for about a year. Basically right up until after I started dating my future husband, who had his conceal carry license. He always conceal carried, and often open carried as well. I thought it was kinda cool, but wasn't something I was interested in doing.
With time, I realized that carrying was something I wanted to do. I took a conceal carry class when I was 20, and the day I turned 21 I applied for my conceal carry license online. I got my card in the mail three days later! My husband bought me my first gun for my 21st birthday, a cute yellow Ruger LC9s 9mm.
But I'll be honest, guns scared me.
I had trouble pulling the slide back. I fumbled with holding it, terrified of accidentally putting my finger in the trigger guard before I was ready to shoot. I felt self-conscious, surrounded by pros who were proficient and handling their firearm. My hands got sweaty from nervousness. I didn't enjoy shooting, and I always felt pressured to shoot guns I didn't want to. What was so great about guns anyway?
A lot of people are afraid of guns; handling them, being around them, etc. It can vary in degrees, and can be from a variety of factors. For me, it was being unfamiliar with them, and feeling scrutinized by people who had been carrying for years. It was embarrassing trying to rack the slide without success!
Here is my guide to conquering your fear of guns, specifically the conceal carry variety.
Know what is causing the fear.
Common problems in dealing with firearms can be grouped as following:
Fear of self-induced accident discharge
It's an understandable one. Just know that either you or someone else has to pull the trigger. That's the only way for any modern-day firearm to shoot. Also, ignore the safety; you are the safety. Control your finger. Stay focused on what you're doing; it cannot go off by itself. Take a deep breath, and let it out. If your hand is shaking, put the gun down and go for a walk. Don't rush.
Fear of the gun firing if dropped
Most modern handguns are drop safe, meaning that if you accidentally drop your firearm from the waist level, with a chambered round, it will not accidentally fire. The main thing you need to worry about is not grabbing the gun to try to catch it. Let it fall; it's more likely to go off while you're grabbing at it in midair, then for it to actually hit the ground. If you're worried about the finish getting scuffed, don't. It's not worth risking your safety or the safety of those around you.
Fear of ear damage or hearing loss
Let's face it, guns are loud, and the health and well being of your hearing is something worth paying attention to. This is something I want to expound on, and I will, but for now, just know that having adequate hearing protection is essential when hitting the range. If your ears are ringing, damage is being done. While at the range, do not shoot without hearing protection, or allow others to shoot nearby. Unless you think wearing hearing aides are cool, get proper ear protection first.
Fear of accidental flagging
Also known as pointing your gun in an unsafe direction, usually at someone else. This again is something that will take practice and constant awareness of to improve on. Stay focused, and pay attention to what you and others are doing. Remember, YOU are in control of the firearm. Make good habits now, and it won't be a problem later.
Fear of the round hitting something beyond the target
This is a valid concern, which is why having a proper berm behind your target is very important. Most shooting ranges will have adequate backing behind the target, whether indoor or outdoor. If you're at home or someone else's backyard, check Google Earth satellite images to see what's beyond the direction you're shooting, and when in doubt, find a steep hill to shoot into. Remember, once you fire that shot, you are 100% responsible for it, and you can't call it back.
Fear of recoil
I empathize with you on this one, recoil can be nasty feeling. Just realize that it is a physical law in our universe: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the momentum of the round being ejected from the barrel is proportional to the handgun's reaction, or “kick.” Fortunately for us, the weight of the gun is also a factor. If the weight of the gun is increased by 25%, the recoil goes down by 25%. As you would guess, a smaller 9mm handgun will have more recoil than a heavier, larger framed 9mm handgun. Recoil can also be combated by improving overall grip strength, practice in holding the firearm optimally, or by making use of rubber grip sleeves, as shown below.
Sooo, what should you do?
Learn all you can.
For me, it helped seeing the gun taken down. It is, after all, a tool composed of many parts working together. Once you see it all in pieces, and learn how everything functions, it helps with the uneasiness.
Take the owner's manual to your firearm, and learn how to take the gun down. You don't have to take every piece apart, but take the slide off, remove the barrel and the spring behind it. Notice how nothing happens until the trigger is pulled back, that's it. Now put it back together. It deserves your respect, yes, but there's no reason to be afraid of it, any more than you are afraid of your car.
Discover the types of ammo, and know which one your gun takes. Know the difference between hollow point and FMJ ammunition.
Know the basics.
What's the difference between a rifle and a shotgun? What exactly does caliber refer to? Which is better, revolver or semi-auto? What does semi-auto even mean?
If you're unsure of the answer on any of those questions, do some Googling around and get familiar. No need to get a degree in it, but knowing what someone means when they say one thing or the other helps! For instance, gauge is a measure of the inside diameter of a shotgun barrel, and caliber usually refers to the diameter of rifle and handgun rounds. Check out gun forums, blogs, YouTubers and many other sources, there's so much to learn!
Carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility. This shouldn't be news to you.
If you haven't already, commit the 4 universal rules of gun safety to memory:
1. Treat every gun as if it's loaded
2. Never aim at something you don't intend to destroy
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot
4. Be sure of your target and what's beyond it, in front of it, to the left of it, and to the right of it
Know your gun. Clean it. Take it down, put it back together. Learn how it works. Practice racking the slide to clear it, even if you haven't loaded it yet. Let the slide snap back into place on it's own, it's good for it. Build up that grip strength.
PLEASE, please do NOT rely on the external safety.
YOU are the safety. A gun isn't safe because the safety is on. It's safe because you are a responsible gun owner who knows how to handle it correctly and in a safe way. You can choose to leave it on or off, but don't have a false sense of security just because the safety is switched on.
Recently after purchasing my Glock19, I was talking to someone about my new gun. He said to me that you really had to be extra careful with the Glocks, because they had no safety on it, and so a lot of people ended up shooting themselves in the foot. I had a good laugh about this later, but please realize the gravity of the situation: if you're treating a gun as if it's “safe” just because the safety is on, you have no business having a gun in your hands.
So, in conclusion..
Don't be afraid to learn, and try new things. I never would have thought I would own a gun, let alone 5! The most important thing to do is give yourself time. It may take only a couple days, it may take weeks, or maybe months! But with patience, you'll overcome your apprehension around firearms, because your firearm will become a part of you, one that you'll never leave without.