What a week I’ve had with classes on the range. Temps in the area soared to 100F, not long after some COVID restrictions were slightly eased. Gun owners old and new flocked to the range to test rusty skills and build new ones. A couple people frightened me with potentially serious health effects stemming from not being prepared for a bit of physical exertion and/or being in the midday heat.
It’s safe to think that, under the circumstances, my local observations aren’t unique. Here are some range war stories of preventable misery, plus common-sense tips for staying fit for fun and fighting at the range and beyond.
Yours truly worked in health care for many years and has a master of public health degree---something I don’t often discuss or use, but it’s being put to use here. This is not just blowing smoke; I really want you to enjoy the range and be ready for living life after lockdown!
The sun. It burns.
I was shocked to run into a gent who’d taken a class four days earlier, nod the top of his bald head in my direction and say, “see what happened to me after class?” It was then evident that even dark-skinned people who don’t sunburn easily can and do with sufficient sun exposure! His scalp has painful blisters and unsightly peeling.
Wear a hat with a brim on the range. Not only will the brim reduce UV radiation damage, including burning, to your skin and eyes, it also serves to deflect flying brass from your neighbor. Shade your skin with UPF-rated clothing if possible, or at least slather sunscreen on exposed skin.
Don’t forget to shade little ones who may accompany the family on range days. A sunburn before age 5 virtually guarantees a diagnosis of melanoma in adulthood.
Intuition about heat is not always right. Many people feel that stripping down to a bare minimum in hot weather enhances cooling, but it also increases the risk of serious sunburn and hot brass injury—or, God forbid, a negligent discharge injury or death related to dealing with hot brass inside a garment or sunglasses! On a bright day, you’ll still tan a bit through clothing and will still process the Vitamin D that is necessary for a healthy immune system.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration can kill, or at least embarrass.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion or life-threatening heat stroke can appear suddenly. This is near-common among my female students who spend most of their days in climate-controlled environs. Countless female students have expressed the sudden onset of weakness or nausea. Two showed a bit of dampened enthusiasm—which I now recognize as a warning sign—before collapsing to the ground, one vomiting, after only about 30 minutes outside their air-conditioned car.
Study the symptoms on this chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If they do occur to you or someone around you, take immediate action to get to shade and a cooler spot—usually that’s an air-conditioned vehicle at my local range. It’s not unusual to have a female student who can get out of the car, fire ten or so rounds, and return to the car for another dose of AC before continuing.
Heat-related illness is preventable, but requires planning on your part. Again, shading the body with a brimmed hat and lightweight, long-sleeved shirt is a start. Have a cold beverage at the ready, preferably one that includes salt and a little sugar like Gatorade or, a recent favorite Liquid I.V. powder as an additive. Having a cooler of ice or icy water on hand is great for dousing. An icy neck wrap, stored in the household freezer, is a real benefit for people who easily fall into heat exhaustion. Such wraps are inexpensive and easily found online.
It’s always an inspiration to watch Instagram videos of Rene, Bravo Concealment’s owner/CEO, when he talks about his physical fitness routines. There is no boss at work telling him he must meet a certain PT standard, yet he holds himself to one. His habit is wise for anyone who doesn’t want to be a victim of violent crime or natural disaster---the more fit you are, the better able you are to rescue yourself or someone else.
Unfortunately, not everyone carves time out of their day for fitness. In the last week I have been shocked to see two twenty-somethings complain of the effort it took to hold a gun up to fire multiple rounds. Though not at all overweight, both these people have failed to use their extra quarantine time to stay fit! Self-protection is never only about the gun. If you’re serious about not wanting to be a victim, you’ll do something to improve your physical fitness. That’s regardless of age, disability, or injury. We can all improve and maintain conditioning in some way.
Get outside and do stuff if at all possible. Walking, riding a bicycle, gardening, and the like are great for gentle improvements to fitness. When you’re stuck inside, YouTube offers a plethora of fitness classes of every type and level, all free. Spend at least 20 minutes per day doing something physical. This will not only build strength and endurance; it’ll also help the last category addressed here.
Mindset—the basis of it all
Some may feel this is going out on a limb, but some of the shooters I saw last week who struggled on the range seemed to also suffer from some “stinkin’ thinkin’.” After spending months being told how to dress (in a mask), where to go or not go, how far apart to stand from others, and such, it’s easy to develop a sense of helplessness or to farm out what psychologists call the “locus of control”—your decision-making powers.
It is absolutely critical to grab your locus of control by the horns and plant it under your feet. Most of us carry a firearm because we realize that police, well-intended as they mostly are, usually cannot save someone in a moment of violent crime. In a larger sense, the autonomy that uniquely defines Americans hangs in the balance now. Do not give yours up if you want a free Republic! How you think matters and is under your control. Whether you comply with a given rule or not is a personal decision, of course. Do your research about current events and make informed decisions. You and what you do matter, a lot!
Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and concealed carry instructor living in the American Southwest. Today she works full time as an instructor and writer in the gun industry. Flanigan loves helping new and old shooters alike to develop the skills needed to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.