Home on the range

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Women of all ages learn the essentials of firearm safety Tuesday at the Sheriff’s Office Training Facility.

The 23-year-old Troy University student smiled as she moved her finger away from the gun’s trigger and said, “That one felt really good.”

Sauls was part of a group of women who took part in a Pike County Sheriff’s Department gun safety course Tuesday morning.

While she already owned a gun and was familiar with shooting, Sauls said she was taking the class, partially, for empowerment.

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“It’s just always good to get familiar with your gun and even look at other options,” Sauls said.

Sheriff Russell Thomas said his department has seen an increase in pistol permit applications recently and a rise in the number of women interested in becoming more familiar with firearms.

While the sheriff’s department has offered a couple of gun safety classes each year, Thomas said Tuesday’s class was number four this spring and there were at least three others behind it.

“I think by the time demand for the class is over, we will have registered about 200 people to take one of the courses,” Thomas said.

Tuesday’s class started in a classroom setting at the Pike County Sheriff’s Department Training Facility with instructors Sgt. Henry Wentland and Deputy Kevin Childs discussing how guns function and what sort of weapons they recommend for self-protection.

For ladies, both lawmen agree a .38-caliber revolver is the way to go.

“It is one of the safest guns you can own,” Wentland said.

“It’s easier to shoot, accurate, and it will function every time. It’s not like an automatic. It won’t jam.”

Wentland also recommends revolvers with hammers for better control when time allows.

The women in Tuesday’s class all said part of the reason they enrolled was due to two recent sexual assaults and two home invasions in Troy.

“I needed the practice and I was interested to hear what they suggested for safety,” said 23-year-old university student Jessica Shirah. Shirah and Sauls both live in Hunter’s Mountain Mobile Estates where two sexual assaults occurred on March 26.

“Survival is a choice,” Childs told the women. “You have the right to protect yourself at whatever cost.”

Instructors reminded the class that guns have to be loaded and ready for use to provide any protection. They recommended placing them in accessible locations in the home. The officers also told the class that the sheriff’s office has free gunlocks if people are concerned about keeping weapons in homes with children.

“Even if you have a gun,” Wentland said, “if you don’t have the right ammunition, it can’t do its job.”

The instructors suggested guns used for self-defense be loaded with hollow-point bullets which they consider to be “stopping rounds.”

The men said that type of ammunition is more expensive, but will offer the most protection.

“The human body can take a lot of punishment. It can take a lot of beating,” Wentland said. “You want a round that is designed to stop a human.”

Shotguns are also recommended for self-defense at home. For women, youth size guns provide more control.

“Just point it down the hall and pull the trigger,” Wentland said. “You will stop anybody coming toward you with one shot. It is probably one of the most deadly things you can hold in your hand.”

After classroom time, the ladies and instructors moved to the gun range and practiced different techniques for shooting at both close range and farther distances. Instructors helped the women become more proficient at loading and unloading their weapons and allowed them to fire a shotgun and a handgun.

Barbara Senior said she’s taken a safety course before, but it had been a long time since then and she wanted to “brush up on a few things.”

“I feel more comfortable and confident learning about the laws and that I can defend myself,” Senior said.

Classes will continue until there is no more demand, Thomas said. The gun safety course is free and guns and ammunition are provided for people who don’t own their own weapon.

Permits are required to carry a concealed weapon, but Thomas said permits are not required for guns that don’t leave the home.

“It’s important to be familiar with your gun and to practice,” Childs said. “If you’ve got the correct mindset you will be able to protect yourself and protect your family.”