A day at the gun range with Kerri Miller and Moose

By Madelyn Mahon, assistant producer, The Daily Circuit

While preparing for this week’s focus on guns, Kerri read Dan Baum’s book, “Gun Guys: A Road Trip.” Baum wrote that the experience of firing a gun was thrilling, and his observation peaked Kerri’s interest. When we started to plan a show about women and guns, she said it was time to take some lessons so she could have an insider’s view on the conversation.

(Read Kerri’s account on The Daily Circuit page.)

We arrived at Bill’s Gun Shop in Hudson, Wis., on Tuesday afternoon, unsure what to expect. I’d been told that a man named Moose would meet us, and that we’d be “sure to love it.” Neither Kerri nor I had ever been to a gun range, and while our photographer, Jennifer Simonson, had shot skeet outdoors, the indoor space was a new experience for her as well.

Right away I was surprised at the number of people shooting in the middle of the day. Most of the indoor lanes were taken by people shooting, alone or with instructors, and the noise, even behind the glass in the range, echoed through the building. The clientele was pretty evenly split between men and women, and most of the shooters seemed young.

Moose was waiting for us in a room with a spread of books and pamphlets, and he got Kerri started right away, covering safety and background. We learned about the limited radius in which it’s safe to point a gun and the rules for making sure a gun is empty. Kerri got to practice loading a magazine &mdash which is harder than it looks.

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Kerri loads practice ammunition into a magazine. (MPR Photos/Jennifer Simonson)

At first, Moose had Kerri hold dummy guns — blue plastic pieces that mimicked the size and weight of the guns she’d be shooting later &mdash and learn how to position her hands and arms away from her body. “Bend your knees!” was Moose’s mantra during this practice session, and after a few tries, Moose declared Kerri a natural.

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Instructor Steve “Moose” Hallin reviews with Kerri how to hold a gun correctly.

Then came the real deal. Moose brought out five different guns. We’d been told that the hardest part for women was grip strength; it takes a surprising amount of power to pull the trigger of the larger guns. Moose wanted to make sure Kerri got the experience of trying them all.

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Kerri practices holding and aiming a handgun in the classroom.

Finally, it was time to shoot. Moose took us to a private range used for police training, so we’d have space to record and take pictures. He strung up a paper target on a wire and sent it back down the range, which was filled at the end with ground-up tires to absorb the bullets.

Moose gave Kerri a pistol. She seemed a bit nervous holding the gun, but her first shots hit near the bull’s-eye — and her confidence skyrocketed.

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After her classroom training, Kerri goes to the range to practice shooting.

For Jennifer and me, it was astonishing to be so close to the noise and power of the gun. I wore headphones to record the sound, and every shot seemed to resound in my head. At the end of it, Kerri said that she was glad she’d come, and that firing a gun had demystified some of the allure around sport shooting. It takes skill and focus to fire a gun, and Moose provided great instruction.

So will I be going to take lessons of my own? Probably not soon. The noise and the power of the guns were a bit overwhelming. But I did come away from it, like Kerri, feeling more informed.