Learning to shoot a Glock.

Yes, until today I was a shooting virgin.

Can you tell I've been wanting to try this for awhile?

Yes, yes, I know—a cheesy title—but the nervous, sweaty-palmed ineptitude while handling something that has devastating power—well, the metaphor works for me.

I’m visiting my son in San Diego at the end of an epic two week vacation, and two of his roommates in their sprawling bachelor pad work at a place called The Glock Store.

My ears perk up as I sip bad sangria from a big red plastic cup while getting to know a roomful of twentysomething young men (much like teensomething young men, only bigger and hairier—interests remain girls, video games and weaponry of various kinds.) “I’ve always wanted to learn to shoot a Glock,” I say. “I write cop mysteries and my protagonist uses one, but I’ve never handled one before.”

Well, that’s how my son and I ended spending two (more like three) hours at The Glock Store, doing all the things I’d watched YouTube videos to learn—loading, unloading, stripping, cleaning, and shooting the Glock .40, standard police issue weapon of choice and most reliable handgun in the world.

It was, in a word, intense.

When I fired the gun for the first time today, it was also the first time I’d ever heard a gunshot up close. Even with the muffs on, I was deafened and terrified—by the noise, and the kick, and especially by the shell casing flying out and hitting me in the forehead. I screamed, and stumbled backward, somehow hanging onto the weapon and not discharging it elsewhere. I kid you not, and I wish it weren’t true—but if the instructor hadn’t caught me I might have fallen, and it could have been Very Bad.

As if that weren’t awful enough, Brady Pesola, our square-cut ex-military instructor, asked me if I was okay and gave me a gentlemanly side hug (while pointing my wobbling pistol away from us to the “low ready” position) and I burst into tears.

It was just f*cking scary as hell.

This had all the dudes come comfort me, including my son, and I was just mortified.

“Let’s get on with it!” I said. Or I think I said. I still couldn’t hear much.

And so after much patting, soothing, and a double layer of more ear plugs administered by a different guy, they re-aimed me at the targets.

I felt like I had a big red target on my own back: UNSTABLE WOMAN SHOOTER IN THE HOUSE.

Lei wouldn’t have put up with that shit. I wasn’t going to chicken out either.

So I pressed through the sweaty hands and overclocked heart rate, and darned if I wasn’t showing some real potential by the end of the lesson. It was really kind of exhilarating, from the tremendous noise to the destruction potential, and by the end I was hoping to do some tactical moving shot approaches with multiple targets, but Brady told me we’ll have to save that for my next visit to San Diego.

What I’ve taken away from all of this is that YouTube videos aren’t as good as real field research. For instance, I wrote a great gun cleaning scene in Blood Orchids (that Stevens finds sexy) from my YouTube videos and reading. It was a good scene.

Well, now I’d write that scene with how physically stiff racking is, how pulling down the little side tabs to release the slide rips the pads of your fingers and tears your fingernails (forget about a manicure.) Your hands really have to be strong to handle a Glock .40 with confidence and authority, and it takes hours of practice to have the ease with it that would lead to real safety.

I’d write that scene with Lei’s sturdy hands and unpolished nails doing each part of the cleaning ritual with that kind of confidence, and I’d have much more of an idea of what that really meant. I might still do that, in a future book.

I’m glad I had today’s lesson—and it was great to share this adventure with my son—it was a blast, literally. We decided that from now on when I visit, we’re going to do something new and challenging, outside of our comfort zones, that I can write off for my book research. Ideas for my next visit so far include learning rock climbing, flying in a glider or ultralight, spelunking, and having mixed martial arts lessons.

I want to thank Lei Texeira for all she challenges me to—she’s made me a braver woman. Also thanks to Brady and the kind and supportive staff at The Glock Store. It’s a really classy place, if you’re ever in San Diego and want to try something different than the zoo and Sea World. Finally, thanks to Caleb for being the kind of son who will happily indulge his mother in yet another bizarre adventure.

When have you challenged yourself to something new and intense, and what did you learn from it?

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