- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

BLUE SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - Chris Maynard has had one more lesson than her friends, so it made sense her shots had more stopping power.

One a sunny spring day in late March, she stood in a line at a firing range next to Joy Kellum and Linda Hale, as they shot 9 mm rounds at cardboard targets vaguely shaped like attackers.

All of Maynard’s bullets hit the chest area, while both Kellum and Hale’s shots were grouped together in their targets’ lower abdomens.

“Don’t worry,” instructor Steve Carter told Kellum and Hale. “Your guys would be just as down. Hers just didn’t take as many shots.”

It didn’t happen all of the sudden, but the three Tupelo friends slowly came to the realization that they should learn to handle pistols.



Carter has been Maynard’s neighbor for about 20 years, and she found out last year that he teaches lessons. She was the first of the three to attend Carter’s classes at Whitetail Ridge Outdoors in Blue Springs.

“I’ve always had hunters in my family, but I’d never been comfortable with guns,” 56-year-old Maynard said. “The idea was to have a handgun for myself for protection if I needed it.”

Carter’s been teaching for more than five years. He’s certified by the National Rifle Association and the State of Mississippi, and he works with students three or four times a week.

“It’s more women than men, probably a ratio of 2-to-1, maybe 3-to-1,” he said. “Women always come to class knowing they need the education and are willing to accept my instruction.”

About half of his students don’t know anything about guns or gun safety.

“They show up with a gun they’ve never fired, don’t know how to load it, don’t know how to be safe with it,” he said.

That almost described Maynard, Kellum and Hale, but they didn’t arrive with their own handguns.

“He let me use his guns and see what feels good to me, and he went with me when I bought it,” Maynard said. “I fell in love with mine because the site is so easy to use.”

Hale selected a Smith & Wesson, while Maynard chose a Springfield. For Kellum, the best choice was a Glock 43.

Once they had their handguns, they needed to learn how to use them. Carter said each student is unique, but the goal for the first lesson is to get them comfortable with their weapons and what they can do.

“I don’t talk about killing people. I’m a big fan of running away,” Carter said. “If they can’t run, then what I do is train them so they have a choice to defend themselves if faced with an adversary.”

Learning to shoot properly is a process that starts while guns are unloaded and put away. The biggest rule could be considered the First Commandment of all firearms.

“You treat every gun as a loaded gun, because you might be mistaken,” Hale said. “You might have a bullet in the chamber, even when the clip’s not there.”

“Steve preaches safety constantly,” Kellum said, “which is good for me.”

Students need ear and eye protection. They have to know how to load a clip with bullets, then insert it into the pistol. They need to know without a doubt when the gun’s safety feature is on and when it’s off. Carter also teaches them the proper stance and how to hold their handguns properly.

“The hammer can bite your thumb if you don’t hold it the right way,” Hale said.

Even with the focus on safety, there was a slight injury on the range. Maynard had trouble after a round of shots.

“She got a piece of brass down her shirt,” Carter said, referring to a spent 9 mm shell ejected from her gun’s chamber.

It didn’t slow her down. On her next round, her bullet pattern was once again centered around the target’s chest.

“We’re all so interested in each other learning to do it correctly, so there’s no competition,” Maynard said.

Kellum said the lessons are serious, but they’re also fun. She and her husband, Dr. Mark Kellum, enjoy shooting rifles and pistols together, which makes her more likely to reinforce her new skills.

“It’s like anything,” she said. “You need to practice.”

Hale isn’t to the point where she’s ready to carry a loaded gun wherever she goes, but she’s pleased with her progress.

“I think if I had to defend myself, I could,” she said. “I don’t ever want to shoot somebody, but I think I know enough where I can stop them from hurting me or somebody else in my family.

Carter said he trains a lot of widows and single mothers who’ve decided they need more security. One woman had to be coaxed out of her car, but she was comfortable holding a pistol by the end of the first lesson.

Carter has never pulled a gun on another person, and Hale, Maynard and Kellum hope for the same thing. But all four have made the choice for themselves to be prepared for what might come.

“I train them to know how to make sure the adversary stops what he’s doing, to take the initiative away from the adversary,” Carter said. “It puts them in charge of the situation.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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