Romance on the Range:
Keeping Your Relationship on Target by Training as a Couple
by Kyla Doyle /Photos by Straight 8 Custom Photography
Watching the firearms industry as it attempts to cater to the reported influx of women gun buyers is like watching my husband trying to buy me a dress—they think they know what we want (pink holsters and bedazzled ear muffs), but are surprised to find we’re far more practical, if not philosophical, about why we shoot. While “looking tactical” isn’t on our list of priorities, (at least according to the 2015 National Shooting Sports Foundation report, Women Gun Owners) safety, home protection, and self-reliance (i.e. hunting) are.
Still, I find that I’m regularly being asked, “How do I get my wife to shoot with me?” This is usually from my husband’s male friends, who see social media posts of the two of us enjoying range time together and with our two daughters. Again, there seems to be the same disconnect.
Whether a person hopes to share an enthusiasm for shooting, motorcycles, or art—developing a shared hobby can be a great relationship builder, as long as it’s something both of you can take an individual interest in. ‘How do I make her interested’, you ask?
My answer is always, “Make it a date.” Because I’ve never met a woman who didn’t like being asked out on a date by her significant other; In fact, “range dates” have become one of my favorite things to do with my husband of 20 years—and approached in the right way, can add some spice and variety to any relationship while you both become more safe and better skilled with your firearm.
My First Time
My husband and I, on first impression, might be considered opposites. Tall, dark, and ruggedly handsome (emphasis on the rugged), he is a retired Recon Marine and a self-described “knuckle dragger” whose fashion sense exists somewhere within the strict boundaries of tan, olive, and black (multi-cam is his neutral). His military heritage and Texas roots are a far cry from the shinier parts of Southern California where I grew up playing sports, making honor roll, and hanging out at the mall.
On our first date to the movies, he took a look at my four-inch beach wedges (standard-issue gear in my zip code) and informed me they were not the best“E & E” (Escape & Evade) shoes—you know, in case we had to sprint for the exits or jump a fence in the course of our date.
Miraculously, we had a second date, and he brought me to the local gun range, where I would shoot a pistol for the first time in my life. It wasn’t that I was anti-gun, just Californian. In my experience, guns were movie props, not personal property.
I enjoyed my first time, but it was “his thing”, not mine. Being another Type A personality, there was only so much instruction I’d take before moving on to something I’m good at and that didn’t require such an ugly belt.
Shooting & Sushi: Making it a Date
Now you’re saying, “Wait—he took you on a shooting date, and it didn’t work!” That’s true—the first time it didn’t. After that, I married him but spent the first 10 years resisting his attempts to bring me back to the range, until one day he said the magic words again: “How about we go on a sushi and shooting date?” A What? He continued, “You and I can go to the range, then we can go get some sushi for lunch afterward.” This sounded like a real date—and with years of marriage, 2 kids, and several deployments under my belt, I wasn’t going to pass on it.
Taking Turns Taking Charge
Even though it happens to be my husband who is the “expert” when it comes to shooting, he goes out of his way not to dictate what we do in training. We take turns deciding what we’d like to work on in any given training session. He likes to train with the rifle more often, and I like to spend time working with my concealed carry pistol. We balance our time doing things we both like, so we both have a good time doing it.
Tip: It’s important for the more experienced shooter to instruct in a way that will result in their partner wanting to train with them again. Nobody likes to get bossed around or criticized for an hour, so if your goal is to start training as a couple, refrain from both. Get that second date!
Bring in an Expert
Lucky for me, my spouse is a great instructor (it’s what he does for a living), so when he puts on what I call his “Instructor Buck Hat” our typical husband/wife dynamic gets put aside and he works with me just like any other student. Having been a competitive athlete for many years, I consider myself coachable and we do well working together in those roles. Aside from some playful smack-talk, we don’t let our egos get in the way of training.
However, not every couple has the patience or communication skills to pull this off without some level of stress (particularly at first). Just because one of you has basic, or even advanced firearms knowledge doesn’t always make you a skilled instructor. In either case, it may be wise to bring in an expert. Attending a training course together, taught by a qualified instructor, can alleviate this stress by providing an initial skill set and a foundation from which the two of you can work from together.
Watch Videos Together
If attending a professional training course together is cost or time prohibitive, there are several good sources of firearms instruction online or in DVD format that can provide variety and new ideas to “spice up” your next range date. I’m a visual person, so no matter how many times I hear, “Tap, rack, assess,” when I’m dealing with malfunctions, I’m quicker to learn when I can see it first. I’ve even started watching clips on my off-days or when my spouse travels and we can’t get to the range. It’s not all bad when I can spend a Thursday night with Pat McNamara—with my husband’s blessing!
Accessories for Him & Her
When it comes to—well, pretty much anything—I’m all about the accessories. Just like I’m not going to borrow my husband’s belt to wear with my new jeans, I don’t want to borrow his holster, his shooting belt, or share range bags. Apparently I’m not the only one, NSSF research showed that women who purchased a gun in the last 12 months spent an average of $870 on firearms and another $400 on accessories. It wasn’t until I stopped borrowing his stuff, and found what was comfortable and practical for me, that I really owned shooting as “my thing.” Make an evening out of a trip to the gun section of your local sporting goods store. Add some dinner and we’ve turned what used to be “his thing” to a sushi & shopping date. Nice.
Low-Light Lovers: Role Play & Other Ways to Spice Things Up
The first time my husband suggested we stay home for our date and “rehearse low-light scenarios,” I imagined doing 2-person room clears through the kitchen and den wearing night vision gear. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.
Instead, we practiced hand-held and mounted light techniques and scenario-based role play and rehearsals—focused on developing our home defense plan. We walked through the house, discussing everything from proper target I.D., considering the location of other family members in the home, to the safe yet accessible location of weapons.
Not only was it fun, but I came away feeling 100% more capable and confident about protecting myself and my family in our home.
The Happy Ending
Let’s face it—with all of life’s distractions and responsibilities, finding time to “connect” with our partner isn’t always high on the daily To-Do list. But part of the magic of combining range time with date time is that, by it’s very nature, it requires you both to pay attention to what you’re doing (and hopefully to each other). In other words, you’re far less likely to find your honey-bunny with her face pressed to a smart phone when she’s focused on sight alignment, trigger control, and follow through. In that way, it’s an ideal date.
A recent article in the Wall St. Journal explains, “Relationship researchers have long believed that couples that try new interests and recreational pursuits together—especially active ones—are happier…Shared experiences bring novelty to a relationship and prevent boredom and complacency.”
After several years of “range dates” with my husband, have I become a shooting expert or a 3-gun champion? Hardly. But I do consider myself an enthusiast who truly enjoys shooting, and a safe and competent gun owner who can protect myself and my family if needed. And to top it all off, I’m dating my husband again…
Buck's Note: Kyla Doyle is not only my wife, but is a freelance writer and co-owner/administrator (webmaster, foot-in-my-ass, battle buddy, and confidant) of Follow Through Consulting, LLC.