Albuquerque · hunting · New Mexico · rifles · Sports

Learning to Love a High-Powered Rifle

It wasn’t long ago that I shot a gun for the first time. I was with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I described the experience here. I remember feeling curious, but nervous. Was this really a skill I wanted, being able to shoot a gun?

That day, I shot a .22 pistol, everything went fine, and I wound up enjoying myself.

My subsequent gun lessons have been good, but sporadic, and earlier this year, Robin Hood (that’s my husband) called my bluff. He convinced me to enter the draw for an elk tag this fall, and wouldn’t you know? I got that darn tag.

So long, friendly, fun .22…hello, high-caliber firearm that can kill an elk and feasibly dislocate my shoulder!


This summer, we drove to a remote desert area south of Albuquerque several times to practice. We would start with a .22 rifle and end with a 20-gauge shotgun. In those sessions, I would hit my emotional limit with the shotgun, and we would call it a day.

Think it sounds silly to hit an emotional limit when shooting a 20-gauge shotgun? Do you remember the first time you shot one?

Frankly, I was proud. I was testing myself, pushing my limits, and learning a hard skill. The first time I fired that shotgun without shrieking or crying (yep, did both), I felt strong. I felt capable. I was Sarah Connor in Terminator 2!

I knew, though, that a bigger test awaited: the .270 Winchester. This is the gun I’m going to carry into my elk hunt, so this is the gun I need to learn.

Last weekend, it happened. We drove to the desert, and Robin Hood only brought two guns for me to shoot: the .22 rifle (to warm up) and the .270.

If you’ve never shot a high-powered rifle, I can assure you that it is not as easy as it looks in the movies.

Like the shotgun, the .270 requires very deliberate shoulder placement so I don’t hurt myself (much) when shooting it. However, Mr. .270 also has a telescopic sight which, yes, helps with longer-distance targets, but requires concentration to get the hang of.

Nope. Not easy.

Between getting a firm, comfortable grip on the rifle; confirming a bullet was in the chamber and the safety was off; establishing a solid visual on the target through the sight; remembering to breathe (hello); and oh yeah, casually brushing off the anticipation/anxiety that always comes right before you make something go BOOM, it took me a while to pull the trigger.

As in, I had to put the gun down, drink some water, and try to feel as Zen as one can feel when sitting in the dust listening to gunfire.

But I didn’t have a choice. I needed to learn to use this gun for my hunt. Period.

I plunked myself back down in the shooting chair, and started over again. It came a little easier this time. I peered through the sight at my target: a 2-inch-square piece of fluorescent tape on a cardboard box, 100 yards away.

Aim small, miss small. I’d heard that from Robin Hood at the first archery shoot he ever took me to, and I’d heard it again in American Sniper.

I pulled the trigger. It was still scary, but I didn’t shriek. Or cry. And, just a few minutes later, I did it again.

I discharged a total of five rounds that day. Not a whole lot, but those five rounds increased my respect for that rifle and VASTLY increased my respect for myself.

Now that’s high-caliber.




6 thoughts on “Learning to Love a High-Powered Rifle

  1. Wow – moving right up to the big dogs with a .270. Kudos to you! And I understand completely about needing emotional courage to shoot a weapon like that. I have had those moments! I don’t feel like that shooting my personal rifle anymore (a 7mm.08) but when I pick up something larger, I have to do a bit of psyching myself up.

    Best of luck as you continue to prep for your elk hunt and get comfortable shooting. And the marathon prep. Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could find yours. I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

  2. Also wonderful! Yes, high-powered rifles need quite a bit of warm-up and courage. I first shot a bit with our .35 whelen… and then moved up to our Heym .470NE (double rifle). hehe. That takes quite a bit mental preparation before I shoot. But it is so much fun! And it gives me so much reassurance that should I need to use it one day (for a charging Cape Buffalo, etc..) I have the knowledge and confidence to do so.

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