gun safety

David Esco fires his gun down range at Wetumpka Police Department Firing Range as he takes part in the Citizens Firearm Safety Course Saturday.

Weapons instructors with the Wetumpka Police Department were on the gun range Saturday training members of the public on how to safely handle and fire handguns.

WPD Sgt. Darrell Spraggins has been with the department since 2006 and said he has helped with the gun safety glass ever since.

“We do two a year,” Spraggins said. “We do one in the spring and one in the fall.”

Spraggins preached to the students, many of whom have limited gun experience, that practice makes perfect, even if it is basic.

“I don’t care if you’re an advanced shooter or a beginner, we take baby steps,” Spraggins said. “We do the same thing with the officers when they come out here. I know if you are doing the fundamentals you will be all right.”

Spraggins and others with the Wetumpka Police Department led the 15 students from around Elmore County through a series of drills to get them comfortable with properly handling a weapon before loading ammunition to fire at targets. 

Spraggins even shared one of his daily routines with the students, one of which he said his wife questions.

“Every morning I will go in the closet and holster and unholster my weapon, changing the magazine,” Spraggins told the students. “I will do it until it is smooth — like clockwork. ‘Why do you do it?’ my wife asks. She asks 6 million questions. I do it because if I can do it in complete black dark looking straight ahead, then I can do it in a high-stress situation and keep my eye on that target.”

Other members of the Wetumpka Police Department showed the students some of the other equipment police officers carry, such as new Tasers purchased with donations following the January tornado.

Frank Bertarelli of Bert’s Tackle Box was at the range to help the police department with the class. It is something he enjoys, as he wants to make sure people who have guns know how to properly use them.

“We are glad to be a part of this,” Bertarelli said. “We are pleased to be able to help people learn to use firearms in a safe environment and get comfortable with them so if they ever have to use them in a stressful situation they are prepared.”

Four students had never fired a gun before. LeAnn Esco had limited experience with a gun and her husband David has a good bit more experience. The couple chose the class for David to freshen his skills and for LeAnn to learn how to use a gun properly.

“I have a good bit of experience with guns,” David Esco said. “Bad habits are harder to break than to learn good habits.”

LeAnn Esco said, “That is the reason we are here to make sure I don’t learn any bad habits. I have only shot once or twice. They made me feel comfortable. They were talking me through each step and I was able to comprehend.”

Although an experienced shooter, David Esco said he learned on the range Saturday.

“There is stuff out there that even someone with experience can learn from,” he said.

Spraggins encouraged the students to continue practicing even with the guns unloaded so they feel comfortable with handling and carrying a loaded gun whether it is in a holster or concealed in a purse or on the body.

“Do it where it is comfortable for you,” Spraggins told the students. “Keep it consistent. Keep it where there are no hangups and able to get that weapon on target. If you never have to draw your weapon on someone, thank the Lord, but if you have to, make sure you can and know how to do it.