Using a gun isn’t something to be taken lightly, and while being formally educated on how to do it properly isn’t required, it’s not a bad idea either.
Raymondville resident Dianna Bennett is a passionate gun owner who understands both of those points, and does something about it. She’s certified by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in both pistol and rifle instruction.
“My goals in teaching are that every person who takes my class is able handle a firearm properly,”Bennett said. “I’m not out to teach people to be marksmen, but I do want them to be able to hit their point of aim.”
Bennett began her path toward firearms instruction in 2009, taking classes from local expert R.C. Atterberry, of Mountain View. Before becoming a firearms instructor, Atterberry – who died in 2014 – was in the military and was a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.
“He was a sturdy man, and I miss him,” Bennett said. “One of his main goals, and something he instilled in me, is that you have to be able to protect yourself, because there’s often not going to be anybody else there to do it. The police are trained to protect people, but they can’t be everywhere.”
Bennett is the only NRA-certified female instructor in Texas County, and does her training under the umbrella of S.D. Training (S.D. stands for “self defense”), a company founded by Atterberry. Her clients represent a true cross-section of Americans.
“We’ve had preachers, police officers, moms, dads, old people and young adults,” Bennett said.
The process is not all about simply learning how to point a gun and pull a trigger.
“I educate people about laws, and ‘what if’ scenarios,” Bennett said. “I also want people to understand that there can come a point when there is no alternative other than to use a gun, but I also want them to truly understand when that point actually arrives and that using a firearm should be a last resort.
“I’m really into having people not only know how to protect themselves, but when.”
Helping clients find a gun that works well for them (and the best ammunition to put in it) is also a priority.
“I worked with a 70-year-old lady who was the wife of a police officer,” Bennett said. “Her husband told her she didn’t need anything bigger than a .22, and that’s what she got. But she couldn’t hit the board with it at all.
“R.C. told me to have her try a bigger caliber, like a 9-millimeter. She did and she hit the board on the first shot.”
Bennett owns several various types of pistols and rifles. Her favorite is a .45-caliber Ruger 1911.
“It’s a full-sized firearm and you really can’t conceal it very well, but I don’t care if you can see a bulge on me,” she said. “I’m most accurate with it, and that’s why I use it. Small and compact is not accurate for me.”
In addition to guns, Bennett is well versed in other forms of self-defense, and shares some of that knowledge with clients. She’s a fifth-degree white belt in karate and will test this week on reaching yellow belt status.
Bennett came to Texas County 13 years ago from Illinois, and almost immediately ended up in a touchy situation that led to her interest in carrying a gun. Her husband, Mike, is also a firearms fan and encouraged her to obtain a permit to carry a firearm.
In addition to being a gun trainer, Bennett is also a dog groomer, and is the owner of Diane’s Pet Styles in Houston. A friend summed her up with a funny Facebook post of a sign saying, “Warning: Crazy lady armed with dogs and firearms!”
“That’s me to a ‘t’!” Bennett said.
When instructing people about firearms, Bennett’s satisfaction comes from knowing a student has gleaned something from her work.
“The coolest thing is at the end when someone has learned something and is visibly happy about it,” she said. “I love it when they realize that an assailant is a whole lot less likely to cause them a problem since they know how to protect themselves.”
Proper firearms instruction could be vital, Bennett said, and people should consider a professional when in the learning stage.
“Find a competent instructor who’s willing to work with you,” she said. “Don’t necessarily take the advice of your husband, wife, neighbor or friend just because of who they are. Find someone who’s educated and impartial so they can guide you in the right direction.
“That could be very important in preventing you from digging yourself a bigger hole.”
The bottom line is, pulling a gun isn’t something to be done unless there’s a viable reason (and intent) to use it.
“I tell people to try anything you can to avoid it,” Bennett said, “but if you fear for your life and you just know someone is going to kill you, you need to protect yourself.”