Sociology of Guns Student Field Trip Reflection Essay 3

Third installment of Sociology of Guns student reflection essays on our field trip to ProShots Range last month (see also the first and second essays).

A reader noted that I did not include the essay prompt, which would be helpful in understanding why the students wrote what they did. Here it is:

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?

To answer this question you might benefit from thinking about the following related questions: What did you find surprising? What did you learn? What did you find appealing (or disturbing)? Although you can (and should) reference particular events, processes, or experiences, this essay should not be a mere “play-by-play” of what you did during the field trip. [Assignment from Brett Burkhardt, Oregon State University]

By Riley Satterwhite

I grew up in a town called Mechanicsville, Virginia, so going to the shooting range with my father was a fairly normal activity starting around the age of ten.  My dad wanted to introduce me to firearms at a young age, so that I slowly became comfortable being around them, to eliminate the mystery and fear children might associate with guns.  I started with little 22 caliber rifles and pistols, and slowly moved up to 9mm pistols, shotguns, and even fully automatic machine guns.

As I became more comfortable around these guns I was introduced to the sporting component of shooting.  I would occasionally go skeet shooting with my dad, but my main involvement is in competitive pistol matches.  There are two main sports within this category; United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and I compete in both types of competitions.  Although they are both fairly similar and involve pistol shooting, they have different intentions and concentrations.  USPSA is more of a sport where you want to try and be as fast as you can while still being decently accurate.  On the other hand, IDPA focuses more on the practical defense purposes of a pistol, so some of these matches might involve hiding behind barricades, shooting down hallways, or shooting in the dark.  I also competed in a few three gun matches, but carrying the rifles and shotguns was a little too exhausting for me. Overall, all of these sports have allowed me to become very comfortable with being around firearms and shooting them.

The field trip to the range was very exciting because due to age restrictions (I am only 19), it is harder for me to practice shooting and go to the range while I am at school.  Stepping into the range and hearing the loud booms and smelling the gun powder gave me a sense of security, making me feel like I was back at home.  It took me a few shots to get acquainted with the guns because my competition guns at home have very different trigger pulls and features, but once I started shooting I did not want to stop.  First, I shot the Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm, and after I moved to the 22.  The Smith and Wesson M&P was actually one of the first 9mm my father introduced me to.  Although I shoot often, it was very exciting to see the other members of the class who had not shot before smiling after shooting for the first time.

On the range, there was a father/grandfather with his two sons that were probably elementary school aged children.  A lot of people seemed shocked to see children that young shooting, but it brought me more excitement and happiness than shock.  Part of this is because I started going to the range that young, and I also know the type of bond going to the gun range can bring between a child and their father.  One thing extremely important to me is gun safety, and it was nice seeing the father reinforce safety rules and being very strict with the kids, which is crucial with bringing children to the gun range so young.  A lot of people and societies as a whole might condemn this behavior, but I think it is important to introduce guns early to children as long as it starts out with over emphasizing gun safety.

I found the informational discussion at the beginning of the trip to be very informative.  As much as I shoot, I am not that well educated on the different type of guns and their original functions.  It was also interesting discussing the reciprocity of concealed carrying licenses and the variation of laws from state to state.  My dad and I travel from state to state for competitions, so he pays close attention to the different laws, especially when we drive through or around D.C.  I never travel alone with guns in the car, so I haven’t paid as much attention as I should, but I am glad I got to learn a little more about it before entering the range.  Overall, this field trip was not anything new for me, but I really enjoyed watching other people’s reactions, and it allowed me to see shooting from a slightly different perspective.


  1. Speaking of 22 LR. I picked up my High Standard Supermatic Trophy this week and cleaned it up as it had been stored in the NW Adirondack lowlands since 1987. When the FFL in Santa Fe brought it out, I was both overjoyed and worried as it was in the same ammo box in which I had left it when I went off to take a job at the Univ. of Hawaii. Back then, I had no idea where I would be living or what Hawaii’s gun laws were. Basically, I was broke and needed to start a job as my school loans loomed. Well, fortunately, I had packed a big bottle of drierite in the box. Still, drierit has its limits and there was some damage to the grips as the brass snap on the holster had corroded. Most of that I got off with some rigorous elbow grease. Rest of the gun is fine, other than some wear and tear as my old man used it a lot Back In The Day.

    So I brought it to the range on Friday. I had forgotten what a precision instrument this was. Very light and crisp trigger. 1.5 inch group at 25 yards, with bench support, after not shooting it for 31 years. Then I took out the 45 GI version to get in some practice for my CHL renewal later this spring. At first nothing happened when I tried to fire, but I realized that once I had adjusted to the Trophy trigger, I was not pulling the 45 trigger enough to make anything happen.


    p.s. One thing not mentioned in the essay regarding pistol competition is NRA Precision Pistol, if that has not been lost to the sands of time. That’s what I grew up doing when I went to the range with my stepdad, who was the original owner of the Trophy before he “retired” from competitive shooting and handed it off to me. Like the Zen of archery (which I love and can do again since my shoulder surgery) the Zen of Precision pistol is about mastering the pistol and mastering control and accuracy in a detached and zen-like way. Not imagining one is shooting at people. I wish some aspects of GC 1.0 were not lost to the vagaries of time. Or as L.P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Because most of our I&I staff were big shooters, my Marine Reserve company ended up bringing in several of the National Match M14’s (1990’s) and Smith Mdl 41 .22 pistols.

      Since I shot competition in high school, worked at the local indoor range, and spent a lot of time around the unit on orders, I checked one of each out to use at home. The rifle was nice, but the Mdl 41 was a dream. Whisper light trigger. Could punch bulls like a machine… until the day it started doubling on me. Apparently the sear was nearing its service life when we got it. Thing still kept both shots in the black.

      Traded it in on one of the others until, shortly after, we got a new I&I and IIRC he made us send the guns back since we didn’t have an actual team and he didn’t want them on the books nor issued out to “reservists.”


  2. Riley makes a good point that even knowledgeable shooters don’t necessarily know the nitty-gritty of gun laws and the extant science on gun violence.

    “Rational ignorance” is a large part of that. Many active shooters live places where restrictive gun laws and crime simply aren’t a big factor in their day-to-day lives, so they don’t think about them any more than non-shooters, until something happens to raise awareness… or they decide to take a college class.


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