Sociology of Guns Gun Range Field Trip 2018

My Sociology of Guns seminar got off to a slow start this semester with the cancellation of classes last week due to snow. This canceled our our field trip to the gun range — an annual highlight of the class (see 2017, 2016, and 2015 editions) — but thankfully our hosts were able to reschedule the visit to this week.

We once again visited ProShots Range, a short 20 minute drive from the Wake Forest campus. I really like ProShots as a gun store and range because it is clean, safe, and professional, and from the perspective of Gun Culture 2.0, very welcoming to new shooters, families, women, and racial minorities. I took my first ever formal gun class there, back in 2012, a free 3 hour class that included supervised live fire on the range.

ProShots Range Manager Richard Talbert discussing different types of guns. Photo by David Yamane

ProShots Range Manager Richard Talbert once again led a discussion of different guns to give students, many of whom have no experience with firearms, a basic understanding of types and actions.

He then covered the legal process of buying a gun in North Carolina, reviewing ATF Form 4473 with the students and the state’s pistol permit system. He also discussed ProShots specific business practices, such as not selling guns to individuals whose NICS checks comes back “delayed” as opposed to “proceed,” and not dealing in black powder guns that are sometimes used by people otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.

Richard Talbert of ProShots Range discussing BAFTE Form 4473 with student. Photo by David Yamane

Talbert concluded his presentation with some brief comments about firing a handgun and a range safety briefing covering general rules of gun safety and specific range rules for ProShots. And then we headed to the range.

As a newly minted NRA Certified Range Safety Officer, I ran one line with a Smith & Wesson .22 target pistol and encouraged those who had never shot before to try the .22 first then decide if they wanted to shoot the 9mm. I had about 6 students (plus or minus) who had never shot before try the .22.

Sociology of Guns student getting ready to take her first shots. Photo by Kiya Khalil.

Richard ran the other line with a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. Because I was busy with my shooters, I won’t know how many students shot the 9mm until we meet as a class next week.

Student shooting under guidance of Richard Talbert. Photo courtesy of Kiya Khalil

My course requires students to attend the field trip, including the presentation and observation of the range, but does not require them to shoot if they do not want to. I am looking forward to finding out how many of the 17 total students shot.

Student shooting Smith & Wesson .22 target pistol. Photo by David Yamane

The purpose of the field trip is to educate not convert. It provides an informational and experiential basis for our discussions throughout the semester. Next week students will submit short (500 to 1,000 word) essays reflecting on the field trip in connection with their existing understanding of guns:

In this essay, you will describe your experience participating in the introduction to firearms class and range visit. The essay is a subjective recollection of your experience at the range, so the content is largely up to you, but it must answer the following question: How did the experience fit with your prior understanding of guns in the US?

Each iteration of a course is different, depending on what the students bring to the class. As before, I already know I have students with a range of backgrounds, from never have seen/touched a gun to a competition shooter. I also have only 2 men in the class, the fewest ever.

As before, I am excited to get started with this educational venture, and hope to have time to report on its progress over the course of the semester.


  1. Because I have all sorts of good ideas for your time, a bound collection of the class essays might make an interesting project. I read a lot of themed essay collections as they provide a host of viewpoints on one subject from multiple eyes, and the student’s views might make an interesting counterpoint to your own writing. Borrow a TA from the English Department to pawn it off on with a promise of an editorial credit and as much thin gruel as they can eat. 😉

    Also, not to be cynical, but aside from the risk of felon sales, stocking black powder firearms requires carrying a host of specialty supplies that do not cross-over to smokeless, and the storage and tracking requirements for black powder (considered an explosive) are one more layer of bookkeeping and cost. Here in Anchorage, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a drive-up coffee stand or gun store, there are only a few gunshops that bother, given how small a market it usually is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So happy to hear this is actually a thing at wfu. As a alumni 95’ very happy to hear. If there is any help or assistance you need please send me a note. I am in ws. 3gunner, IDPA, senior thesis on media bias of gun control in 1995.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I remember you put student writings up on follow up posts in the past. I found them to be good looks at the thoughts of the generation often disparaged by Gun Culture 1.0.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So glad the field trip got rescheduled so soon!

    I think this exposure, more than any reading or debate, will give the young folks an opportunity to make their own decision about guns.
    They’ll forever have a frame of reference when the topic comes up in the news or amongst friends.

    Great work, David!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting.
    I’ve never heard of a shop denying a sale to ‘delayed’ people.
    Delays are most often minor flags for possible name matches. Theyre looked into and found to be mere similarities…then the ‘proceed’ is given.

    I’ve found delays occur when NICS is extremely busy. I have no inside info but it seems they’re just swamped and have no time for a ‘further reciew’ bump up to a supervisor during the same call…so the first tier just ‘delays’ and calls back with the ‘proceed’ when the call volume subsides.

    No argument from me, though. Their shop, their call!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Letting folks start with the .22 is a great. I do the same thing with new shooters, I even have access to a .22 short pistol which is even less scary somehow than the .22 long rifle. (It helps that it has a flip-up barrel so you don’t need to wrack the slide, which always seems to elude people at first.

    Also one the things that usually scares new shooters is the kickback of large weapons. Too many people hand a new shooter something inappropriate. Sure, the little Ruger pistols are great guns, (LCR, LCP) but they have tremendous recoil.

    I look forward to hearing more about your class, and their responses. Nothing dispels fear like knowledge.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agree on that. My stepdad got me started with a very lightweight 20 ga single shot shotgun shooting trap. All that succeeded in accomplishing was giving me a devilish flinch, so I stopped shooting trap as my scores were abominable. It took some mental effort for me to convince myself that all a shotgun was going to do was kick, not bite me in the hind end.

      Pistol is not much different. A 22LR is pretty innocuous and a good starter for concentrating on form as well as function. For that matter, the Rock Island Tactical 9mm I bought a few years ago is quite heavy (all steel construction) and the recoil is quite mild, even with +P loads. That would be another option. I do notice more kickup with my little 9mm Beretta subcompact Storm but am used to shooting 45 ACP.

      Getting new shooters used to the physical and mental act of shooting before handing them heavy artillery is a good idea. I had not shot a pistol in quite a few years when I started college as my stepdad (who was my shooting coach as a kid) and I had a few alienated years before we put things back together again. So while on NROTC summer cruise I had to shoot the 45 again in 1911 form in classic slow, timed, and rapid fire. My first ten rounds were all over the place and so my slow fire score was atrocious. I had to remind myself of long dormant skills. The coach had given up on me after slow fire, thinking it was all downhill from there. I proceeded to take a few deep breaths, sturdy my mindset, concentrate, and still made Marksman. If I had not blown the slow fire, I would have had Sharpshooter.

      Its all between the earlobes but if the gun is nasty to the beginner, the process never makes it inside…

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.