A Girl and Her Gun

Sometimes, a student needs a break when she’s navigating through school in the big city of Houston, Texas. After being born and raised in Texarkana, I found Houston to be a tough concrete jungle. While I was only there for school, I felt I had a lot on my plate; the horrible traffic jams, the headache of nursing exams and demanding college activities overwhelmed me. I would often sit alone at my uncle’s apartment on the weekends. I desperately needed a weekend activity. After discussing some options with my uncle, my Saturdays and Sundays soon filled up.

My uncle, Ryan Alicaya, is a competitive shooter. For about two years, my family and I listened to his shooting stories and watched his competition videos. I always knew about my uncle’s weekend shooting matches, but I initially had no interest. Even after he won his division in the 2019 Nationals in Utah, I did not feel inspired to pick up his gun. However, after one Saturday match at Area 59 in Rosenberg, Texas, it became a ritual to drive out to that range every weekend.

The drive was far, but worth it. On an early weekend morning, the lanes were spacious, making it a smooth drive. You could actually see the transition from city to country. Instead of seeing traffic jams and tall office buildings, the scenery was replaced with open spaces and beautiful greenery. The outdoor range reminded me of being in Texarkana, which I greatly appreciated. Out there, I didn’t have to think of nursing exams or textbook chapters to read. It became my happy place.

Surprisingly, I did not have nervous jitters when I shot my first competition. Leading up to the match, my uncle continuously called our time at the range “practice,” so naturally my guard lowered. I thought to myself, “this will be a relaxed morning with free shooting and a bonding moment with my uncle.” Only one of those was true since my uncle neglected to tell me I would compete against other professional shooters.

Unfortunately for me, I misunderstood what my uncle meant by “practice.” For competitive shooters, practice means competing in multiple types of competitions, including beginners. Although I was put in a not so ideal situation, I found the new activity that would relieve the stress of college and city life.

In early January 2020, I began my shooting journey when I shot my first steel challenge. After that, it became a habit to drive out to any outdoor range that hosted a match and shoot competitively or learn from other shooters. One week after my first shooting competition, I competed in my first United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) match. I have had the privilege to meet some big names in the shooting world, including Max Michel and J.J Racaza. I even competed at Jerry Miculek’s range, who is a world record holder for speed and competitive shooting. The shooting community is not at all what I expected. Although intimidating, they are all welcoming. At any match, they encourage involvement and teach gun safety.

It was the shooting community that led me to dive into competitive shooting. Without their encouragement and helpful teaching, I would not have the same passion for the sport. I had the privilege of knowing insider information that would shape my shooting proficiency. One match led to another and then another until COVID-19 hit.

When COVID-19 broke out, I was put on a mandatory hiatus. I knew it was for the best because finals for the spring semester were coming around and I needed to be reminded that my shooting was only a hobby. After finals were over and I made my way back to Texarkana for summer break, I still longed to be out on the shooting range. COVID-19 would not stop me.

Although I would be on unfamiliar turf, I discovered various places around Texarkana that helped me enhance my skill and learn from other shooters. I shoot at Smith Park Gun Range in Doddridge, Arkansas and Texarkana Gun Barn for practice, and I have had the privilege of shooting two summer matches with my uncle at Texarkana Gun Club. I was enjoying summer break and allowing myself to experience something pleasurable before I would go into another stressful semester of nursing school.

I am very thankful my uncle introduced me to the shooting world. I am also grateful that my parents have continuously supported my competitive spirit. Coming back to Texarkana gave them a chance to see me live instead of through video. When a summer match came around, my dad would take off of work to watch me shoot and my mom even accompanied me all the way to Louisiana. Their love and support were a strong encouragement. After less than a year of shooting, I placed third in a USPSA match at Area 59 in Rosenberg, Texas for rookies and snagged the “Top Junior” title. In a male dominant sport, I am proud of the things I was able to accomplish during this crazy year.

I started this shooting hobby intending to win and become a skilled shooter. However, the sport of competitive shooting has many layers. It teaches you discipline, patience, and courage. Every time I enter a match, I am reminded of the discipline it takes to use a gun correctly to ensure the safety of others. When I practice, I am reminded that it takes time to mold a well-trained shooter. I may know that I am not the best shooter at a match, but I know that I can learn from others in order to become one. There are many components of learning to shoot correctly that are nerve racking. Holding a gun reminds me that I have overcome my fear. Besides the skill, I do not see shooting as different from any other sport. Like a man and his basketball or the woman and her tennis racket, I am “just a girl and her gun.” 


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