Dawn Brandt peers intently through the scope of her custom-made rifle. She lies on her stomach with her elbows propping up the firearm, her right index finger squeezing ever so gently on the trigger as she gauges the target, some 300 yards in the distance. Her breath is imperceptible. Her mind, completely still. She’s at one with her rifle – a vignette of equipoise in action.
The College of Charleston’s budget data recording manager is a relative newcomer to the sport of F-Class shooting. But, even though she’s only been at it about a year, she’s shown uncanny ability as a marksman – eh, make that markswoman.
“There aren’t a lot of women involved in this sport,” says Brandt, whose husband was into long-range shooting before she picked it up at the local Palmetto Gun Club. “The members couldn’t have been more welcoming and supportive. One of them lent me his gun for a couple of months to see if I liked it. And another person let me borrow his scope.”
Brandt’s natural talent as a shooter immediately impressed others at the club. They couldn’t believe how proficient and accurate she was from the beginning.
“Some of the best shooters at our club customarily score 198 or 199 out of 200,” says Brandt. “At one of the competitions I entered, I ended up with 185, which is pretty good for someone so new to all of this.”
Brandt ascribes her competence in the sport to two things (well, three if you count her “lucky” pink earmuffs).
First: “I’m definitely a Type A person and a perfectionist, and shooting is truly a precision-oriented pastime. It’s all about perfection,” she says. “You have to factor in all the variables, such as distance, gravity and wind. And there are a million ways you can position yourself on the ground. All of those variables are critical, and dealing with them intrigues me.”
Second: Yoga. Wait: Yoga?
“A lot of what you do in shooting relates to breath,” she explains. “You have to be very controlled when aiming and firing. In addition, you have to get into a zone. You have to quiet your inner conversation, which is a big thing in yoga. I am accustomed to doing that and have practiced it for a long time, and that helps me be a better shooter. I really like that aspect of precision shooting. I like relaxing and getting out of my head. If you start thinking about dinner plans or stresses at work, you won’t shoot well.”
Marrying her yoga experience with shooting makes Brandt something of an anomaly in the sport – a position that is accented by her general outlook on guns.
“The ironic thing is, I don’t really like guns, and I’m a proponent of greater restraints on gun ownership,” she says. “That’s not what you would expect from someone who is passionate about precision shooting. But I don’t associate this sport with my political outlook. I separate the competition from that feeling.”
Speaking of feelings, Brandt wouldn’t mind one day knowing what it feels like to win a local competition. For now, though, it’s all about practicing perfection.
“I’d just like to keep doing my best,” she says. “And, ideally, I’d like to gain enough confidence to go to a longer range and shoot 1,000 yards with accuracy. For me, that would be a true accomplishment.”
The outlook is good – because, as we know, when Brandt takes aim, she tends to make her target.