League Ladies Brave the Elements and Keep on Shooting

Although we, along the Texas Gulf Coast, don’t have to worry about cold weather and snow very often, we do get the occasional severe thunderstorm that blows through, and yesterday at the range was no exception.  The storm blew in during our regular ladies league shooting session, but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the women, who just kept right on shooting.

I gave everyone the option of packing it in when the rain started, but no one took me up on the offer!  For two and a half hours, whether the rain was light or heavy, these ladies stood their ground and continued to work toward their goals.

We’ve been working on the NRA Marksmanship Pistol Qualifications, and almost everyone advanced at least one level yesterday, regardless of weather conditions that would have driven most people inside.

Comments I heard were, “It’s really fun to shoot in the rain!” and “I want to get this level finished.  I don’t care about the rain!”  I told them all that they can add that to their bucket list and then check it off 🙂

And while we did look like a motley crew (or maybe drowned rats), I am very proud of the ladies; they definitely earned their shooting stripes yesterday!

Also, many thanks to our “shooting dudes,” the men who always stand by us and support us, come rain or shine.  We appreciate you.

Now, back to the range; and to borrow (and mangle) the postal creed:  Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night [will] stay [us] from the swift completion of [our] appointed [mission]…to punch holes in paper – and become the best darn shooters we can be 🙂

You can read my previous post on the importance of ladies shooting leagues by clicking on:  Why Should Women Join A Local Shooting League.

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Coming Soon: Gabby Franco interview

Keep an eye out here for an interview with Gabby Franco of Top Shot Season 4!  Gabby and everybody who is anybody – except me 😦 – is at the NRA annual event right now in St. Louis, but I’m hoping to have the interview with her, and others, in the coming weeks.

Gabby has posted pictures on her facebook page showing her catching up with others from Top Shot, either this season’s contestants or those from previous seasons, as well as many other ladies in shooting sports.  It looks like a good time is being had by all.

Next year’s NRA meeting will be held in Houston, in my own back yard, so we will have lots of in-person interviews, photos, and maybe even a first-hand report of a who’s who shoot at our own home range.  Can’t wait!

Summer Camps for Junior Shooters

Summer is the time for kids to head out the door and have fun at camp, and junior shooters are no exception.  Summer camps designed especially for young marksmen are a great opportunity for kids who are already experienced shooters to get together with others in a fun and safe environment and brush up on their skills.

I will focus on four camps in this post: The MGM Targets Junior Shooters Camp, NRA National Junior Pistol Camp, NRA National Junior Smallbore Rifle Camp, and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting Junior Clinic (the only one not held in the summer).

MGM Targets will host their 2012 Junior Camp on July 21st through 23rd, in Boise, Idaho.  Cost of the camp is $260 per junior shooter, which also includes lodging for a parent or guardian (parents/guardians will also receive two half days of instruction).  A limit of 60 campers ensures optimal training time by some of the nation’s best shooting instructors.

Campers must be an active member of USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association), IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), or SASS (the Single Action Shooting Society aka Cowboy Shooting), and have competed in at least four pistol matches, and possess good handgun handling skills.  This is NOT a beginner’s firearms safety class.

Junior Competitor, Allie “Allie Cat” Barrett, who I previously interviewed and wrote about HERE, has been accepted to the camp again this year and has said she is really looking forward to the fun.

The National Rifle Association also sponsors camps for young shooters.  The NRA National Junior Pistol Camp and National Junior Smallbore Rifle Camp are the intermediate events held during NRA National Rifle and Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio.  Pistol camp is held from July 10th through the 15th, and rifle camp is held July 21st through the 26th.

Intermediate to advanced shooters must be 12-18 years of age, and enrollment is limited to 50 students for pistol camp and 72 for smallbore rifle camp.  Standard registration is $225 per student, plus housing, food, and other expenses.

This year the 5th annual U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting Junior Clinic will be held August 13-17, in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Cost for the camp is only $35, and it is limited to 32 shooters.  This advanced, smallbore rifle camp is open to shooters 14-18, and accompanying parents are welcome to attend classes with their children.  Shooters must have participated in NRA or USA Shooting matches and acceptance to the camp is based on previous matches shot.

If your child is a pistol or rifle shooter, or may be interested in learning to shoot, one of the best ways to get them into the NRA or USA Shooting matches is through an organization such as the Venture Scouts or the county 4H clubs.  Both of these organizations offer shooting sports and make participation in these matches available to their members.

Contact the individual host organizations for each camp for exact details or more information.

The benefits of competitive shooting

I’m a fan of competitive shooting, as well, and am just beginning to get into that arena. I also believe in working through some type of qualifications, such as the NRA/Winchester Marksmanship steps, in order to have a measurable way to improve. It’s a great way to get started and move toward the next goal.

Firearm User Network

What have they mastered?

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Gabby Franco and Top Shot, Season 4

Yesterday’s report from NRAblog.com gave an update on the most recent Top Shot episode, where tiny powerhouse, Gabby Franco, holds the honor of being the first woman to make it this far into the competition – and it doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere soon.

Gabby, who has an arm-length-long list of medals and top shooting honors from most major games since 1997, is an NRA instructor in the Miami, Florida area.  You can out more about her by clicking here.

This season is turning out to be an exciting one, so check out Top Shot on the History Channel, Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00 Central.

Magazine for young shooters

For those that still have members of the under-18 crowd at home, or who know of young people in that category, did you know the NRA publishes a monthly magazine just for junior shooters?  You and/or your junior can view the February issue online, as well as previous issues, by clicking here:  NRA InSights:  News for Young Shooters.

Each month the magazine brings news, contests, stories, games, and more to young people interested in hunting and the shooting sports.  There are also tips, conservation news, podcasts, camp listings, tons of photos, and too much more to list.

Check it out, and don’t miss this month’s feature story on Cool Jobs:  Exhibition Shooter – Ramping It Up! by Linda Hoff.

How shooting helped heal me of cancer

Caution:  Might be some God talk below, so if you don’t want to read it, feel free to just click away.

A year ago, almost to the day, I was told by my endocrinologist that I had too many nodules on one side of my thyroid gland and that at least one side had to come out.  In April of last year, I had the surgery, which went well, and all pathology during surgery came back benign – nothing to worry about.

I really didn’t give it another thought, untill I went for my followup visit two weeks later to find that post-surgery lab work showed not only was one of the tumors malignant, but that the cancer had spread, metastasized.  The doctor was somber, very sorry, and referred me to an oncologist for further treatment.

That was the day I felt the life drain out of me.  I had gone to the appointment alone, because there was nothing to worry about – or so I thought.  On the way home, I called my husband and various family members, who all gave much encouragement; but it was hard for me to hear them with all that was going on in my head.  I was still the one with cancer, and regardless what kind of cancer you have, or how treatable it may be, just receiving the diagnosis feels like a death sentence – at least it did to me.

So I melted down for a few days, just continued to spiral downward, couldn’t stop crying, was terrified to the point of panic attacks, and just didn’t know where to turn.  I was a believer in God, and did believe that God heals, but I also knew that many “believers” had died believing; so I had no true anchor to hold onto, besides a hope that somehow I would be one of those that received favor.

Just prior to having the surgery, I had signed up for a basic women’s shooting class and had attended the first meeting.  Surgery, however, threw a wrench in the works and I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete the class, so I bowed out and hoped to make the next one.

I had only shot a gun, maybe twice, possibly three times in my life – and then only when I happened to be with someone in a woodsy setting who said, “Here, do you want to shoot it?”  I rarely even knew what “it” was that I was shooting.

I had also sat and pulled the trigger on a .22 rifle at my son’s 4H practice sessions a couple of times, and I knew that I wasn’t afraid of guns; I had just never really thought of shooting them myself.

While waiting for an appointment with the oncologist, I tried to get into another women’s class, but none was scheduled at that time; I tried to get the person who taught the class to meet me at the range and shoot with me, but our schedules never meshed; and my husband, who had no more experience with a pistol than I did at the time, was too busy working to go with me.

At this point, I was over my meltdowns, and had realized that I do have faith in God, and that I do believe that He loves me and would heal me, but I was still very weighed down by all I was having to deal with.  So one day I told my, then 13-year-old son, to pack up the shooting gear, we were going to the range.

I had been with Dylan at every 4H meeting up to that point, and I knew how the coaches drilled safety at every meeting.  I had seen Dylan handle guns; I knew he was aware of the safety rules; and I knew that he could show me how to shoot the gun.  So off we went – and yes, I was nervous as a cat.  That day, I was cleverly disguised as the responsible adult, but really, it was the child that was in charge.

We both survived that day, though, so I made it a weekly event – we would head to the range every Tuesday morning, no matter what.  On occasion, there would be someone at the range that took me under their wing and gave me tips, such as retired Marine Captain, Ed McCourt, who I can’t thank enough for all he taught me during those impromptu sessions, and who always made me feel like I was the best shot out there.  Overall, though, it was me and Dylan, heading out by ourselves every week, sometimes being the only ones at a large, outdoor range (another frightening thought).

But by this time, my self-esteem was improving; I began to feel more confident; and the depression was lifting.  My visit to the first oncologist confirmed what the initial pathology had said, and I was referred to the world-famous MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is only about 20 minutes from my house.  Tests were re-run and I waited to meet with the expert.

As I became more comfortable with my gun, and realized I could be safe and really enjoy shooting, I decided to begin working through the NRA/Winchester pistol qualifications, which really boosted my confidence as I shot my way through each level without any problems.  I also attended an Appleseed rifle shoot during this time, and although I was still too weak from the surgery to make it through the entire 105 degree weekend, I loved every single minute of it, and knew that under better circumstances I could shoot the course well.

The appointment at MDA began by having us meet with the Physician’s Assistant, a very business-like woman, who reminded me of my test results and explained the treatment I would need to be scheduled for as soon as possible – another surgery to remove the other half of my thyroid that was still there, followed by about three days in the hospital to undergo radioactive iodine treatment.

My husband was with me at this appointment and supported me when I said that I didn’t believe there was any cancer in my body and that I wanted more proof before I endured further treatment.  The PA was highly irritated that I was not cooperating, assured me that with my pathology there were no options, and after about an hour of explaining her position (and my lack of options) many times over, she finally brought the doctor in so she could tell me the same – which she did.

The doctor, however, seemed to be a reasonable person who really listened when we talked; and since she knew that my type of cancer wouldn’t kill me overnight, she agreed to wait six months and re-test me.  She did reiterate, however, that the pathology had been run twice, by two different labs, and that with the results they found, I would be looking at the same recommendations in six months – surgery and radiation.  I guess she just felt I needed more time to reconcile myself to the idea.

So for the past six months, I’ve been at the range every chance I could get, have been reaching out to bring other women into the sport (so I can have some friends to shoot with), and have even sought instructor certifications so that I can teach – and my skills and confidence level have improved daily.

I also spent the last six months really thinking about what I believe about God and healing, and while I won’t get into those details here, I realized that I truly do believe God is good and loving, and that it is His desire for me to be well.  Now, I can’t speak for others, and will be happy to talk to anyone privately that might want details; but I’ve spent the last six months building my faith and receiving support from those who believe the same – three very important people being my son, Kyle, and my pastor, Taylor Cole – who both introduced me to life-giving true grace – and my husband, Tom, who never lets me forget I am loved.

Two days ago, my six months was up – actually, it was a couple of weeks ago, but I inadvertently missed my appointment and had to reschedule.  So I did go two days ago, although I didn’t want to, because I knew in my heart that I no longer had cancer.  In fact, when I mentioned it in church on Sunday, I didn’t even ask for prayer, just made mention of the fact that I had my followup in a couple of days; but I began laughing as I said it.  It just sounded completely ridiculous to me.  It was as if I was saying, “Hey, everyone, I’m going to turn purple on Wednesday, so be thinking of me.”

After running through the same battery of tests, and waiting three hours to hear the doctor’s verdict, what I heard was what I truly expected to hear – my labs were perfectly normal, “lovely,” in fact, is the word the doctor used.  There was no sign of cancer, thus no treatment needed.  Praise God!

So what happened over those six months that made the difference?  First, I remembered that I really believe what I believe; it’s not something that just sounds good, but has no practical application – either my faith makes a difference in my life, or it is worthless.

Second, although I had invaluable support from other family and friends, my husband spent almost every day telling me how perfect I am, how I’m not broken, and how I deserve God’s best.  He has been my biggest supporter and greatest encourager for almost 17 years now, and I love him tremendously for that.  He also kept me supplied with a steady stream of ammo (not cheap at primarily 9mm) and began to make time to join us in our new favorite hobby (which has now become our favorite way to spend time together as a family).

Third, shooting really did come into my life at a time when I needed to feel empowered.  Receiving a negative diagnosis can strip you of all power, cause you to feel at the mercy of other people, and just completely deflate your sense of self.  Through shooting, I got those things back;  I began to feel confident, empowered, strong – and feeling strong physically helped me feel strong mentally and emotionally.  It gave me something to work toward, something to strive for; it helped shift my focus away from the problems and onto something else (that little black dot way down there).

Through those trips to the range each week, I really gained a sense of self, of who I was, and what I wanted to do.  It also gave me so many hours of enjoyment with my youngest child, that we will both always remember.

So did shooting heal my cancer?  No, God provided for that a long time ago (again, details if you want them).  But shooting (and my husband) did give me the strength to stand firm in my beliefs.  And although there are many paths to healing, and everyone has to find their motivation, their reason to fight through, for me, shooting played a major role.

And now, there’s no stopping me.  I’ve been voted in as Women’s Director at my range, I run women’s leagues, I have tons of activities planned for ladies who shoot or who are new to the sport, and now I have new friends across the country because of my blog.

So do you think cancer would dare come near me now?  Please.  This chick carries a gun, and she’s not afraid to use it!