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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

  • tstpaul

    Kerri: Glad to hear you received “gun safety” training yesterday. Now you might know what that means (point the gun in a safe direction, etc.) vs. the “gun safety” label attached to gun control proposals. I think the demand for true gun safety courses is very high-watch how quickly DNR hunter safety fill in MN. It would be interesting to see the public reaction to legislative proposals to make true gun safety education more available to both women and men vs. more restrictive legislation.

    • Here’s information about gun safety programs from the DNR.

      • Gary F

        Take your children 11 and older to firearms safety training. Sign up for the class for yourself too! You don’t need a firearm, you will need to shoot on your field day, and one will be provided if you don’t have one!

        And if you are interested in trying hunting, the DNR and Pheasants Forever help sponsor a Youth and Women’s hunt. They will bring you and/or your children out pheasant hunting. They do a great job. The cost in minimal.

        Also, many gun ranges have a “ladies night”. Women instructors and woman shooters. Classes available.

  • bkmn

    Please also address how often gun owners should be practicing.

    Anyone can buy a gun and take a gun safety course once but still be a threat to others if they don’t maintain their skills.

    • Rob Doar

      “threat to others”? How So?

      • KTN

        By missing.

        • Rob Doar

          How much training does one need for self defense? Alaska, Arizona, Vermont all have no training required to carry, and there has been no problem.

          More importantly, is there any evidence that more training prevents collateral damage? The NYPD would disagree…2 officers shot 9 bystanders when trying to shoot 1 suspect.

          • KTN

            The first rule of firing a gun is “know what you are shooting at”. Absent that knowledge, why would you pull the trigger. Training teaches you that axiom and others too. Are you arguing less is better or that owners have no obligation to be at the least, proficient with their firearm.

          • Rob Doar

            Actually the first universal rule of gun safety is treat every gun as if it’s loaded. (Always know your target, and what’s behind it is #4, not that the ranking makes is less important)

            I am not at all arguing that less training is better… I’m a firearms instructor, and firmly believe that everyone should have as much training as they can afford.

            My point is that self defense is a right, and your statement that people who carry are a “threat to others” is unfounded.

          • KTN

            It was not my statement, I merely pointed out that if you carry, you had better be prepared to be accurate, otherwise you are a threat to others.

          • CMD

            If you haven’t ever been in a gunfight you don’t understand what “accurate” means… there is a major difference between practiced range marksmanship and “combat accuracy”

            Basically, in a critical incident where you need to draw your firearm, Tunnel vision, adrenaline rush, loss of fine motor control and sporatic breathing will throw marksmanship to the wind. You can punch paper all you want but it wont make a lick of difference if you havent mentally prepared yourself for an incident like that.

            (which most training courses dont train you in anyways)

          • MAI

            Thank you, Rob for stating the first rule of gun safety: treat every gun as if it’s loaded. My dad pounded this rule into my head when I was in grade school many, many years ago and it has rang true throughout my life and has reminded others to double check their guns.

  • Webmail dastarr

    Keri, I’m impressed with your investigating the issue in-depth. The experience really showed in today’s show. And in reference to fourth photo – finger off the trigger, until you’re ready to shoot.

  • tstpaul

    bkmn: Good point. Regular practice is important. And, if gun owners did not always need to fight proposals to ban ownership, they might focus more on responsible ownership and increased training. And I think most owners want to act responsibly, although I also think the attitude towards training is much like that with driver’s ed-we get it in high school and we’re good for life.

    I have kids in school and a spouse that works in one. It is unfortunate that true gun safety can’t be taught in school without creating a political firestorm. I think kids need some direction to stay safe. I’m sure one thing Kerri took away from her visit is how easy it is to load and fire a revolver-preventing kids from learning anything about guns does not necessarily make them safer. Parents could be offered safe storage information. One of the easiest things that can be done, especially for those who own long guns, is to pull the bolt and store it somewhere else. If you’re not keeping a gun for self-defense, that should be a no-brainer.

    • Rob Doar

      My kids have fire safety and knife safety in school. If we really cared about making kids safer from gun accidents, we’d make sure they understood them.

      The mystery is what’s dangerous. Once kids know, with good parenting, they respect them. Just like kids know not to touch knives, or hot stoves.

  • Jason Chong

    Practicing gun safety is one thing and responsible gun ownership is another. Proficiency with a firearm is a different thing yet. In response to bkmn’s post, I would believe the more important categories would be safe handling of a firearm and proper and secure storage of both firearms and ammunition. One need not be a skilled marksman to avoid being a threat to society, however it is a good idea to know how your firearms function.

    With the number of firearms available in our nation, I would like to see compulsory firearms safety in schools just like drivers’ ed. Unfortunately, as tstpaul mentioned, it would be a political nightmare. I am a gun owner and avid hunter and have taught firearms safety. It is my observation that children and young adults often do not understand or appreciate the amount of power a firearm can deliver and their curiosity combined with this ignorance can lead to tragedies. Of course, firearms and ammunition that are properly locked up can prevent accidents, but we are only human and mistakes happen. I believe with proper exposure and education at a young age, we can create a generation of people who will be more cognizant of responsible firearm ownership and handling.

  • Gary F

    I think more anti-2A people, like Keri, should actually take a lesson or two and actually shoot a gun. Good job Keri.

    • ScottM1A

      I don’t think she is an anti I think it’s more being an upper middle class person likely living in a pretty safe neighborhood she just doesn’t see them as necessary for most people unless it’s for hunting or sport. One of the reasons we tend to win is that shooting is way more fun than banning it.

  • speedjohn

    Maybe we should put gun ranges in all the schools so the kids can learn proper gun safety. That way, the “good guys” will have guns too, not just the “bad guys”. What “bad guy” would attack a school if he knew all the kids had guns inside.

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