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Shots Fired

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Orange County Indoor Shooting Range owner Lisa Stevenson helps women overcome their fear of guns.

After the fun is over, it's time to clean up the empty shells.

Take a Shot at It
Reservations must be made in advance for
classes, which are usually scheduled at least
once a month on Saturdays at 8 a.m. and can
always be found on the range’s website.
:: ocindoorrange.com

When Lisa Stevenson first held a gun, it wasn’t anything like it is now. The closest she had come to holding a weapon was a wooden baseball bat, stowed away in her closet for protection.

The thought of ever holding a firearm made Stevenson “break out into hives,” she says. So when the man she married asked her how she would defend herself in the event of an emergency, Stevenson reached for the baseball bat in her closet.  

To relay his message, her husband, who is an accomplished marksman and certified shooting instructor, pulled out an unloaded pistol and held it out in front of her. She looked at the pistol then back at the wooden bat in her hands and knew at that moment, it wasn’t enough.

Before Stevenson owned and operated the Orange County Indoor Shooting Range in Brea, she was a single mother with two kids, and did not allow the word “gun” spoken in her house. She was terrified of guns. But when she met her husband, Scott, who has more than 20 years of experience with firearms, things changed.

Stevenson opened the OC Indoor Shooting Range in 2001, after purchasing it from its previous owner who also ran the place as a shooting range. Her establishment attracts a lot of regulars who have become so well acquainted with the staff that they often participate in shooting events and competitions together over the weekend.

Newcomers are usually introduced to the scene when the range hosts private lessons for people who have never fired a weapon before. They also host a Basic Firearm Training Class, covering fundamental information that anyone who shoots a firearm should know, no matter where their interests lie. And for those who are familiar with the sport and are interested in becoming a certified instructor, the range also offers an Instructor Training Class, taught by TJ Johnston, the chief instructor for OC Indoor Range.

Some participants in the Basic Firearm Training Class have had little experience with shooting a gun prior to taking the class. For them, Johnston starts off with the least impactful ammunition, which is .22 calibers, to help them adjust better to the recoil or “kick” of the gun after firing (there is less of a kickback from the firearm when using a lower caliber ammunition). From there, shooters can work up to .45 calibers if they feel comfortable with transitioning, and even attempt 9mm shots by the end of the lesson.

Stevenson has been a certified instructor at the range for seven years now. Her favorite students are usually mothers and their children, and any female who “comes through the door with a look on her face, where you can see she’s scared,” she says. Stevenson has been in their shoes and understands that fear.

“Just because you can shoot, doesn’t mean you can teach,” Stevenson says, explaining that male instructors can’t always resonate with women as well as she can. “That’s my one big thing. If I see she’s not comfortable with a .45, then I stop them, take her out and start with a .22. You’re not going to scare her. And if she’s still scared by the end of my lesson, she’s not paying.”

These women usually take shooting lessons to learn how to protect themselves with an effective defense mechanism. Stevenson can relate personally. As a survivor of sexual and verbal abuse that played out in two different eras of her life, Stevenson decided she would no longer be a victim when she learned to shoot a firearm. It took her three years to transition from .22 calibers to 9mm, a transition that takes some people only 25 minutes.

Some women who have been victims of abuse or feel defenseless are now turning toward shooting ranges as their outlet. An all-female shooting range in Texas called Sure Shots is similar to OC Indoor Range in providing women with the safe environment they need to overcome their fears about shooting and set new goals for themselves.

Thirteen years later, Stevenson feels confident in her abilities and is secure knowing her children are safe. She even enjoys competing out in the field and in the range with her favorite Glock, a 1911. Her husband and their staff often play Dueling Tree when the last customers leave – a game that hones shooting accuracy and one that Stevenson often wins.

“I love it here. I’ve met some of the best people,” she says.

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