I have a love/hate relationship with target stands. In fact, you might say it was a target stand that got me started down the road to the life I’m currently living. That’s because my first handgun buddy used to take my family and me out into the woods for a day of casual plinking. A contractor by trade, he hand-built the target stands we used. After the third or fourth trip, he told me that I’d better go take a class, because he was tired of me shooting his target stands instead of his targets. (Ouch!)
A few years later, I was working hard at passing the difficult Handgun Master test from the Firearms Academy of Seattle. This test requires the shooter to perform several necessary self-defense skills – shooting in low light, reloading, shooting moving targets, shooting accurately at distance, etc – all under time stress and all without missing a single shot. Because I wanted to pass the test before the year was out, I signed up for a late-fall class that covered those skills and several others. It turned out to be a cold and blustery weekend; sleet and hail slashed out of the sky, alternating with freezing bucketfuls of icy rain. My most vivid memory of the class involved a target stand. Picture a soggy, tired instructor trudging out into the downpour to re-set a target stand that had fallen over. Everything in his body language said he hated to leave the covered shooting area, but the job needed to be done so he manned up and did it. Just as he finally got the troublesome target back on its feet, there was a gust of wind and every single other target on the line fell over at the same time. Now that I’m an instructor myself, I feel a great deal more sympathy for the look on his face when he turned around and saw what had happened.
The first class I taught away from my home range happened on a blustery February weekend in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The wind was blowing so strong that we had trouble keeping the targets on their stands. The staples just wouldn’t hold. Finally, someone ran to the classroom and came back with a giant roll of Gorilla Tape. We were saved! Well, no, not quite. As soon as we’d solved the coming-off-the-stand problem, the wind picked up a little more and started blowing the stands over. I knew what to do about that one. Several students and I grabbed all the big, heavy rocks we could find. We used them to weight down the stands, so they absolutely could not blow over again.
And we all lived happily ever after… uh, no. Not quite.
Did I mention the wind was really blowing? We had fixed the coming-off-the-stand problem, and we had put heavy weights on the base of the stands so the stands could not possibly blow over again, so what else could possibly go wrong? You guessed it: the upright posts to the stands started snapping like matchsticks in the strong wind.
People, I’m here to tell you: I’m a good instructor, and a determined one. I can teach in hot, humid weather. I can teach when it’s raining or snowing or sleeting or hailing. I can teach in the sun and in the shade, indoors or out, in mud or muck or snow. When something goes wrong, I can shrug (or sometimes shiver), adjust and drive on. But it’s really hard to teach without targets. Especially the ones on their way to Mexico, waving adios with the remnants of dead target stands dangling in the wind behind them. 1
- Nope, we did not cancel the class. We stepped into the classroom and did use-of-cover and moving-while-shooting footwork with empty hands until the wind died down. Adapt and overcome! ↩