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Visit to shooting range induces a case of nerves

Week 7 of Princeton’s Citizens Police Academy

Princeton Police Sgt. Adam Gutshall walks me through my first experience of shooting a gun during this week's Citizens Police Academy.
Princeton Police Sgt. Adam Gutshall walks me through my first experience of shooting a gun during this week's Citizens Police Academy.

My palms were sweaty, my heart was beating fast, and I could barely feel my feet, one in front of the other, carrying me up to the line to shoot a gun for the very first time.

To say I was a little nervous during Week 7 of Princeton’s Citizens Police Academy is a bit of an understatement.

Wednesday’s class took me miles out of my comfort zone. The class was all about firearms, and for this reporter who has never shot a gun, not even a BB gun, and who doesn’t know much about guns at all, I felt totally timid walking into class this past week.

Week 7’s class was led by Prince­ton Police Sgt. Adam Gutshall, who is the department’s firearms officer. He leads trainings with his fellow officers on nearly a monthly basis.

He said Princeton is very lucky to have the ability to train as often as they do. Many departments don’t have the time or budget for firearms training.

Gutshall gave a rundown on the types of guns Princeton officers carry during various hostile situations. Of course, most people are familiar with the handgun officers carry on a regular basis, but they also are trained and equipped with shotguns, AR-15 rifles and even a sniper rifle for very rare hostile situations.

Safety is paramount when handling firearms, and Gutshall gave extremely important safety tips on how to handle each weapon.

After the class got the chance to familiarize themselves with how to properly handle the handgun, we then carpooled to the edge of town to the shooting range where the officers train.

There, each member of the class got the opportunity to try shooting a target with the shotgun, the handgun and the AR-15 rifle. Prince­ton Police Sgt. Dan Jaeger assisted at the shooting range.

I was shocked at how quickly my fellow classmates lined up to shoot the weapons. It made me feel like an even bigger chicken. I stood sort of hidden in the background, and said politely “no, thank you” to the opportunity to shoot a shotgun and AR-15 rifle.

As for the handgun, however, with it being a smaller weapon, I felt less intimidated to try it out.

When I walked up, last in line, Gutshall was very patient, and didn’t hurry me one bit. With my mind racing a mile a minute, he once again explained how to hold the gun and where to aim on the target.

Honestly, my adrenaline was running so fast, I can barely remember what it was like when I actually pulled that trigger. It happened so quickly. I can’t remember what the recoil felt like, and I can’t describe the noise. I just remember being told I hit my target all three times I shot, which I was pretty ecstatic about.

While this week at the academy scared the heck out of me, I’m grateful for the experience. I now can say I’ve shot a gun, and I can say I’m more informed about the kind of weapons our officers carry.

Thank you to Princeton Police for this opportunity. I know my fellow classmates were extremely impressed with the class, and we should feel thankful for getting one of the best firearms trainers in the area to show us the ropes.

Note to readers: Goldie Rapp is a senior staff writer for the Bureau County Republican. She can be reached at or follow her on Twitter @bcr_grapp.

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