That Time When Lindsey Graham Taught a Public Radio Reporter to Fire a Shotgun

Oct 9, 2015

As presidential candidates flock to New Hampshire every four years, it's our duty as local reporters to fire questions at them and hold them accountable.

But while covering a recent visit from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, it wasn't questions I was firing -- it was a rifle, my first time shooting a gun. And my coach that day? The candidate himself.

Lindsey Graham shoots a 12-gauge shotgun at Samson Manufacturing in Keene.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Our first stop that day was Samson Manufacturing, a company that makes gun accessories in Keene. After Graham greeted all the employees and toured the factory, his entourage headed out back to the shooting range, where the real action began.

First up was Graham. He grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun off the table, loaded it and fired away -- hitting nearly every target in sight.  

"Who's next?" he asked, glancing at me and the one other reporter following him that day.

As a gun novice, I thought starting off with a 12-gauge shotgun might be ambitious, so I politely declined.

But when Graham took out the RK-15 assault rifle, a gun similar to what U.S. soldiers use in Iraq, Graham said I had to try it. And after seeing the glee in Graham's face after he fired away, I couldn't say no.

So I handed my recorder over to one of Graham's staff members, grabbed the gun, loaded it and did my best to hit the target nearly a football field away. 

That Time When is NHPR's blog about the quirkier side of the First-In-The-Nation primary

 I was taken aback by how loud it was. In a panic, I thought to myself, "I'm a radio reporter -- what if I can't hear again?" But after my worry subsided, I was more shocked that I was actually hitting a few targets, and even got a compliment from the South Carolina marksman himself (see the video below for proof that this actually happened). 

When we arrived at the next campaign stop, The Cheshire County Fish & Game Club, there were more guns involved, but I wasn't so impressive when I tried firing a shotgun. That's when Graham stepped in and loaded my gun for me, advising me how to hold it and where to shoot.

The shotgun was much heavier and had more of a pushback when I pulled the trigger. There was also no laser pointer like there had been on the RK-15. But like any good coach, Graham lied to me, saying I was improving with every shot as he encouraged me to keep trying. 

I may have started out my day with an idea of gleaning some insider knowledge on how Graham is running his campaign or gathering intel on his new policy ideas, but I'm not sure how much of those things I walked away with.

But thanks to Graham, I did end the day having learned a thing or two about hitting a target.

Video: Watch Paige Sutherland fire the RK-15 as Graham eggs her on in the background.