Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Girl & A Gun Conference 2014

When I started on my quest to write a novel, I wanted a female heroine that was tough. Eve Dallas tough. But I didn't want to make her a cop so instead I decided she'd be a competitive shooter raised by an ex-spec-ops dad and surrounded by gun-totin' alpha-males growing up on the ranch where her dad made his living now, a tactical training ranch. Once I figured that out, I thought I'd done the difficult part, but I was in for a rude awakening.

There was so little online about what I needed to know for my book and even less related to women. So after a few ridiculous emails to dudes that actually work in those tactical training ranches (can you say "No Joy"?), it became clear to me that the only way I was going to learn what I needed to know was to do what I always do. Yep, you got it, I took a class and another class, and another class.

While I'm finally just now getting into classes advanced enough to be relevant to the things my heroine should know, what I've found, or stumbled into, is that this whole world that opened up for me is something that I truly love and I'm actually halfway decent at it too. 

Although I started off on the wrong foot, I eventually found a trainer that not only met my expectations, he exceeded them.  (Yes, that'd be Karl Rehn at KR Training).  And after my first day of training with him, I actually had the confidence to sign up for the AG&AG Conference up in Waco, Texas.  I didn't know anyone going. But that didn't stop me. 

It was the second annual conference and attendance TRIPLED this year.  Over 300 women attended the 5 day conference. Tiger Valley hosted the range portion supporting over 20 live-fire courses and the conference hall supported over 35 non-fire courses. There was everything from aerial gunnery (shooting short-barreled, suppressed firearms typically restricted to military personnel while flying in the same type helicopters the military and SWAT teams use) down to very basic entry level no-experience-required classes for those who'd never held a rifle before. There was truly something for everyone that attended.

I brought a box of parts I purchased from Brownells to one class and 4 hours later I had a fully functional AR-15 to take home with me.  All the tools were provided along with expert instruction, thanks to J.J. Schroeder from Brownells. J.J. even helped me after the conference to put together my tool order so that I could start with some high quality basic gunsmith tools from Brownells.   

I also learned how to prepare and operate a reloading press to produce my very own ammo by the gals at Barnes Bullets, Coni Brooks and Jessica Brooks-Stevens.  I didn't win the reloading equipment donated by RCBS, but that just gives me an excuse to put a progressive press on my wishlist!  (They used inert powder and strikers, allowing it to be performed in the conference hall.)  When I brought home the fired bullet "flower" keychain, my husband was so impressed with it that we bought some Barnes pre-made ammunition.

I also took a Simunition Simulator course taught by Tamara Shelley called Shooting and Moving which was taught in the conference center. Tamara did a great job of forcing us to swap mags in every single exercise we did. We students took turns recording one another as we each went through the increasingly more complex scenarios she had us work through and afterward reviewing my video, I was appalled at how long it took me to swap my magazines!  To my defense, all of the guns she provided were Glocks, and since I'm a Walther Woman, not a Glock Girl, I really struggled with the thumb mag release (yes, I'm a paddle-lovin' PPQ princess).  But that's for another blog entry.  It was a great way to learn without the added stress of live fire.  Yet another tool in the toolbox! 

Because of my classes with Karl and my late registration, I was a bit over-prepared for the track in which I was placed for range work.  But Vicki Kawalmacher (Women's Shooting Academy) and Tracy Hughes did an AMAZING job with the time they were given to teach those of us in the Purple Track. Tracy even had us running and shooting by the end of her class, and I was allowed to run and shoot one-handed with my secondary hand which was really difficult with Tiger Valley's aerial drone buzzing over my head distracting me at the time. I had an opportunity or two to teach some of the new gals things that Karl taught me and I can see the allure of getting into firearm instruction. Just seeing their faces light up when they learned something that helped them was awesome! I met a few ladies from the San Antonio chapter that basically took me under their wing for the rest of the conference. They made my solo-event into a social-event. Thank you, SA Chapter ladies!!  

I also took Karl's Tune Up Skills class but I didn't realize at the time that this was all going to be refresher material for me.  It was still worth it because I learned about the Tap Rack Training Aid by which I purchased when I got home. Now I can rack the slide while dry firing without it locking the slide open. Woot!!  

I won a pink MOLLE (MOdular Lightweight Load Equipment) backpack from Voodoo Tactical.  Walking around with it, I think if I still had my long blonde extensions I'd feel like "Tactical Barbie". But I seriously want to get the Voodoo Tactical MOLLE rifle case, already added it to my wishlist, although I'll get it in black, to match my range bag. 

My major splurge during the conference was the SureStrike laser dry fire training system. It adapts a firearm into a SIRT trainer (laser points when trigger is pulled),  It inserts into the barrel of the gun. LASR software can be customized to run different timed simulations and records your shot placement and shot time.  It comes with adapters for 9mm, .40ACP, and .223. I may have to buy a Glock since that is the only reset trigger kit they offer to allow you to pull the trigger multiple times.  I haven't tried it yet but maybe the TRT I bought will work with it?  I need t buy a USB camera for my computer so I can get this set up and try it out! 

I really wasn't sure what to expect from the conference, but it was such a positive experience that I already know without a doubt that I'll return next year as long as it's hosted some place warm.  Hopefully I'll be in the green track or maybe even the orange track by then!

1 comment: