Firearms / My Experience

Sociology of Guns Class Field Trip to ProShots Range

In my opinion and that of my students, the highlight of my two previous Sociology of Guns courses has been our field trip to the gun range (in fall 2015 and fall 2016).

Because I wasn’t expecting to teach the guns seminar this spring, I initially didn’t make plans to have the field trip. I worried especially about visiting an outdoor range in January, since the field trip is designed to take place at the beginning of the semester.

But as I was putting together the syllabus over the winter break, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the class wouldn’t be the same without the field trip. So, I contacted the manager of a local indoor range and gun store, Richard Talbert, who has been a guest speaker in my guns seminar both previous semesters.

Richard agreed to host my class at ProShot Range and talk about guns, gun safety, and the gun business, as well as allowing any students who wanted to shoot on the range. So, on February 1st, my students and I made the short drive from Wake Forest to Rural Hall, North Carolina.

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Richard began by talking to the students about gun safety, explaining the 4 rules of gun safety and why they matter.

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He then discussed the basics of shooting: grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, recoil, repeat.

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After gun safety and shooting basics, Richard answered a long list of questions that my students posed ahead of time about guns and the business of guns, as well as questions they raised in the moment.

90 minutes later, after signing the appropriate releases, 11 of my 15 students took to the gun range. ProShots provided a semi-auto .22, two 9mm semi-autos, a .38 special revolver, and accompanying ammo. One of the range staff, Chris, took the .22 and supervised my 3 students who had never shot before on one lane, while I took the other 8 students and the larger caliber guns.

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2 of the 8 students who had some experience shooting hadn’t shot handguns, so altogether 5 of the 11 students were shooting handguns for the first time.

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In our debriefing in class this week, the students appreciated the opportunity to shoot, even though the new shooters said it wasn’t something they would necessarily rush out to do again.

I am really glad the field trip came together, and thankful to Richard, Chris, and ProShots range for making it possible.

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16 thoughts on “Sociology of Guns Class Field Trip to ProShots Range

  1. For your first trip to the range and this one, ~25% of your students declined to shoot (I didn’t see mention of the proportion for the second trip). For those who declined, what reasons have they given, if any? Did any who declined stick around to watch the others participate?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone who stays at the range shoots. For the 25% who don’t go to the shooting range, the typical reason given is the need to get back to campus. This year a group of four students (all women) rode to ProShots together and all left together. I do know they were inexperienced with guns and tend to have more pro-control attitudes. So, whether they “really” had to get back to campus, or just didn’t want to be around the shooting, who knows?

      I don’t require them to go to the shooting range, just the gun information class, but I am glad that in the three times teaching the course a number of students who have never shot a gun before have tried it. I have no interest in converting the students to being shooters, but I think it is a valuable experience in and of itself.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I brought my wife to the range on one occasion. Backfired, as she told me that more than ever she could not stand guns. Of course, the fact that my former neighbor, the former county sheriff, and I were firing his full auto Thompson submachine gun (yes, he has all the paperwork) probably didn’t help….I thought it was a hoot but man, that’s an expensive rather than a cheap thrill.

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  2. I find it interesting that you described your class excursion as a “…field trip to the gun range” rather than the traditional “shooting range.”

    Recently, I overheard another shooter tell his guest; the gun they would be shooting used “9mm bullets” that fired “bullet heads” at the target. He continued, describing how the gun would eject each “bullet casing” and automatically reload another “bullet.”

    Are these terms reflective of “gun Culture 2.0?”

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      • Speaking as a fellow Southerner, the common use of “gun range,” seems to have emerged in the common lexicon of print and speech, only in the past decade; as have the other terms in question. Although the misapplication the word “bullet” has a much longer history as a term used to display the ignorance of the user, Perhaps the phrase “…You never know when a girl’s gonna need a bullet” uttered by the character played by Shelley Winters in the 1950 film Winchester ’73, most accurately portrays this usage.

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      • Agreed, “gun range” is ubiquitous, and has been as long as I’ve been shooting. (live in Alaska, 46 years old, been shooting since childhood)

        The one guy’s grasp of the proper terminology is lacking, but at least he seems to have a decent handle on what is going on when firing. Hell, he differentiated between the bullet and the casing and summarized the firing cycle reasonably well. I wouldn’t say all uses of “bullets” are “ignorance” as much as the “verbally-imprecise shorthand understandable in context” we use for almost everything in speech when not being formal (or pedantic).

        When discussing Logistics in the Marines for instance, the shorthand was “beans, bullets, and bandaids.” For all I know that phrase was invented before I was born, yet no one is going to (or better 😉 ) say that was “ignorance” of proper terminology, rather than simply better alliteration and a more effective mnemonic..

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      • Since my home range has archery, I don’t know where I picked up the language “gun range.” It has one less syllable than “shooting range,” so perhaps that’s why I resort to it.

        In terms of the question about “bullets,” to be sure, some people do not know the difference between a bullet and a cartridge. But I agree with Matthew that I hear alot of people who DO know the difference still call cartridges “bullets” as shorthand — to abbreviate Matthew’s more precise and elegant formulation of it.

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      • As I mentioned above, we have archery at my home range, too, so not sure why I call ranges “gun ranges.” I don’t know that it particularly matters, but the question did make me think about where I picked up the language.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was thinking about it as well. It’s not like there are that many non-shooting-related ranges we could be going to, Archery (like you said, often co-located for understandable reasons), and Driving (golf) and…?, so “gun” probably isn’t added to reduce confusion.

        And like you point out, Khal, there are a lot of -other- terms for a shooting range, and the activities different people do there, that are either more precise or more “in the know,” like “the Club.”

        Since we all use multiple terms, it’d be interesting to see if they are interchangeable or if there is any pattern in which term we use around whom, and where. See where “gun range” falls in social context.

        Wonder if I could bootstrap that into a Thesis for my Masters… 😉

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