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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year starts with a bang, bang, bang, bang, bang

Be careful what you volunteer for.

It's a lesson I've never learned, no matter how many times I've volunteered.

You'd think the hours of work that follow, or the use of personal time, would prohibit me from repeating these actions. But you'd be wrong.

I just can't say no. Whether it's working with kids, or flying upside down in an airplane -- I'm always game for a new challenge.

Joining the Marines? They had me at "rope bridge."

Yes, you read that right -- I'm joining the Marines.

Well, OK, I'm not joining. I'm technically visiting. For four days.

Next week, I'm joining with a group of area educators who will be learning just what happens when their students head off for basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.

We're due to see what these recruits go through: breakfast at 5 a.m.; a chance to walk the rope bridge; a crack at the tower; a pass at the obstacle course; and 20 shots with an M-16.


That last one posed a little problem for the woman who's never held a weapon. Good thing I know Jeffrey L. Frischkorn.

The News-Herald's veteran outdoors writer has for years been trying to get me on a shooting range. I've never been sure if he wanted to fire at me, or with me.

I found out on Jan. 1.

Korn, as we call him, arranged an outing that included his wife, Bev, and his brother, Rich, who are all experienced gun users whose focus was on weapons safety and ensuring I had a good chance to try all the weapons they brought along.

And they brought a lot of them.

Yes, my new year started with a bang. A lot of them, in fact.

I liked the rifles better than the handguns. First up was the Target .22-caliber rifle with optics. Be very afraid if you see me holding it, because my first three shots were in the center of the target. Two of the next five also hit in the orange center circle.

Next up was the reason we hit the range in the first place. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16, which is the weapon used by the military. Korn's brother owns an AR-15 and allowed me to shoot a few clips of ammunition to get over the fear of firing a weapon.

You don't have to be as afraid of me with this one, because it's too heavy and I'm too much of a chicken to be able to do anything but squeeze off a few rounds. It has an amazing recoil, which made me afraid that it was going to come back and hit me in the face each time I squeezed the trigger. A few times I caught myself as I was preparing to pull it while my eyes were closed.

After I got the hang of the big boy, as I have come to describe it, Rich Frischkorn told me to fire five rounds as fast as I could. It took about three minutes of preparation to work up the courage to keep my eyes open and know that it would be jumping backward on me. But I did it.

"I know you can do better than that!"

"I thought that was pretty fast!"

"You can do better!"

Well, I pulled it off. They seemed about the same speed to me, but he was satisfied and then we moved on to the handguns.

They're loud. They have recoil. And the Bersa .380-caliber pistol cut my thumb. More specifically, the hammer coming back after I fired cut my thumb.

It's not a bad cut, but it drew blood. I immediately realized why Rich Frischkorn kept reminding me to position my hands properly.

I also knew that I was going to tell people that Korn's gun shot me. True? No. Funny? In my opinion. And, frankly, that's what matters here.

But safety matters more. I saw these owners take great care in setting up for my 20 or 30 shots per weapon. They held the weapons in specific ways as they passed them from their cases to the person who'd be loading them, then teaching me their use. They stressed ear and eye protection, and busted me when I tried to go without when someone arrived to practice with a muzzleloader.

As I walked away from that firing range on Jan. 1, I knew I could handle what the Marines will throw at me next week. I also know I won't be using these skills in the future.

Guns are not for me. They're too loud, there's too much to remember and I don't have good enough aim to make it a regular hobby.

I guess I can say I know the limit for my volunteer activities. Bring on the next challenge!

Laura Kessel


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