Range Day Reflections from Sociology of Guns Seminar, Spring 2018

After a week delay due to snow, my Sociology of Guns seminar students and I made it to our field trip to ProShots Range. Last week we met at a class on campus at Wake Forest University for the first time.

This gave me the opportunity to learn more about my students and their experiences at the range. Although I have not yet read the field trip reflection papers the students submitted, I did learn a few things about their background in firearms.

Of 16 students in the class (14 of whom are women), only 2 students chose not to shoot (both women). One of those students had been to the gun range before with her mother, but her mother had only recently gotten into firearms – “like some sort of midlife crisis,” she said – and I sense she is not very comfortable around guns. The other student who chose not to shoot has no background with guns and has a father who is very anti-gun. She did not want to offend his sensibilities by shooting.

Of the 14 students who shot, 5 students had never shot any gun before and 2 had never shot handguns before.

4 students had shot occasionally, but not extensively. 3 students come to class with more extensive shooting backgrounds, including one woman who has traveled around to shoot USPSA and IDPA matches with her father for six years.

I will know more about their reactions to the field trip when I read their papers in the next couple of days. With permission, I may post some of the more interesting ones here.

Also, I should note that one of the reasons I pursued my National Rifle Association Range Safety Officer certification is so I could help with the shooting when I take my classes to the range. It’s not quite what I learned in my NRA RSO course, but I like to encourage the students to “lean in” (not in the Sheryl Sandberg sense) when shooting. Or at least not to lean back. So, I lightly rest my hand on their shoulder and brace them if they begin any backward tilt. Not sure it is the best technique, but it seemed to work.


  1. Good. When firing heavy duty mode, combat fire and combat reloading, often, instructors with male students including myself, instructors would grasp the shirt mid-back, or place fist or hand in that position, to gently push if necessary when shooters veer backwards when firing. At times, when outdoors and full barricade, if a stoppage or any reason, I called “Backing Off”, then moved to cover. One instructor knew, another did not. I explained it is better to announce and move rather than hold a bad position or be in a less than optimum position and have to clear a stoppage or combat reload while having to fiddle with something. Communication, is required. Once an instructor sets up with a student, the instructor becomes part of the firing team. Student must communicate, emergency or necessary communication, not chit-chat. Instructor must also have communication to, the student. Students arms are too low, call “raise weapon to line of sight”, or the student’s head will start lowering. Student backing up, call, “Brace!”, to have student to recognize they are moving and unstable in firing platform. Empty weapon practice of drawing and five-point coming onto target. Fluid motion going to, firing position, and fluid five-point motion going back to holstered position. I have observed some, whose left hand meandered around, even to the point of the left hand going in front of the weapon muzzle. Dangerous. The only setback, is when students have different types of firearms, rather than one common type. In other words, if everyone has a S&W Model-10, or 1911, or Glock (whatever model), and so forth. Before any range activity, a safety check and cleanliness check of weapons is advised by inspecting officer. All kinds of things are discovered from dust and fuzz mice, to mismatched off caliber (!) ammunition. Things such as dry squeaking guns, to over-lubed soaked guns. Then the holsters. Cheapies. Damaged. Neglected. Unserviceable. All that, prior to, any student stepping onto a firing line. Then, if you want to add a word or two, on jewelry. Personally, I do not like to wear any however, a wedding band and wrist watch, I believe, for myself, is maximum. Everything effects shooting. Anything can cause a student to start backing up or divert attention and concentration. The student must be aware of that and, the instructor must know, for safety and integrity of the firing line.

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  2. I usually hover my hand flat just behind their shoulder. They will bump into it if they lean back – and will adjust to lean forward again when they do — but otherwise they’re not going to even notice my hand was ever there.

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    • Pax – This is probably a much better approach, both practically and for the reasons suggested by Khal and Brittius above. It reminds me of when I shot a full auto rifle for the first (and only) time. It drove me back on the first burst and so the guy supervising me put his hand on my shoulder, then hovered it. Video is here: https://youtu.be/4NadCgX5_6U


      • David: sorry to be so cynical about academia. I guess all I would do if I were in your ear protectors would be to tell the students what I was doing before doing it, i.e., the stabilizing hand is standard rangemaster procedure. Especially if the students are absolutely unfamiliar with firearms handling and shooting.

        First time I shot a full auto rifle offhand was a Thompson submachine gun owned by my former neighbor. He did warn me though that the design liked to climb. I shot an M-60 in NROTC back in the day, but it was on a bipod (tripod??) and I was in the prone position.


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