Guns are a big deal in Arizona. Everybody, it seems has one or forty three of them. This is NRA country. So, Sal and I went to the local gun range yesterday to ‘go local’.
The store and range are set in a shopping mall. It’s a big box store, maybe the size of a Safeway or Winners. The retail and reception area is a pretty standard store layout with a perimeter counter and a few aisles of products in the middle. Tons o’ guns on the walls and under glass counters. It is bright and clean and all the male staff wore matching red t-shirts. They looked good. They were pleasant. It was all very ‘normal’.
We, of course, confessed our innocence and ignorance of the sport and were given a two minute introduction to loading and safe practices. There are big signs everywhere repeating the rules and procedures so the message of safety and conformity was strongly made.
Then our guy, Dave, gave us a 9 mm pistol, two targets and 100 rounds of ammo. We picked up ear protection and crap plastic eye protection that diffused our vision sufficiently well that no target could be accurately focused on. But, our skills were so poor, that was not really a problem.
We went to the first door and the noise was already pretty bad so we donned our ear muffs. Then we opened that first door into a small antechamber and reached for the second door. The noise got noticeably louder. But we were now just in a second small room. It took three steel doors and two separated small spaces to get into one of the two shooting ranges.
And the noise was crazy!
Some guy was in there shooting what sounded like a small cannon. The place reverberated with BOOM! BOOM! Sal claims she actually felt shock waves.
It did give the old adrenals an uptick, I’ll admit to that.
So we went to the cubicle at lane one and pressed the button to pull in the target holder. Sal clipped on our first target, a grouping of five bulls’eyes on a sheet about 18″ by 36″ and sent it down the lane about 25 feet. I loaded the magazine with ten or so shots and slipped it into the gun. There was no safety. The instruction was to ‘jack’ the mechanism (kachick!) and doing that put the first bullet in the chamber. After that it was just aim and pull the trigger.
The kick and attendant ‘bang!’ was pretty much what I expected. You can’t watch Bruce Willis and other naughty boys kill really bad boys in the movies for thirty odd years or more and not learn a thing or two about guns. So I was not surprised at the speed at which the bullet traveled but the ‘ka-pow’ was quite attention-getting. So was the fact that I had missed the target completely. So I focused the second time and hit it square and hitting my first target at such close range became easy. Nine shots in a palm sized grouping. Number ten? No idea.
Then Sal got up to bat. I loaded the magazine for her ’cause getting all the bullets in is not an easy, natural procedure. Maybe it becomes that way after starring in a few movies but, at first, it’s an awkward exercise. She made a few bad shots as she, too, figured out what was happening and then put the remainder in a relatively tight grouping although, a bit high. Sal tended to shoot a bit high.
Half way through her first shots she wanted to say something to me and half-spun in my direction with her hand holding the gun and her finger in the trigger space. That is a major violation of range protocol and I was tempted to hit the floor and cover. Screaming ‘don’t shoot!’ But a quick ‘no-no’ gesture sufficed and she turned and placed the gun down. It was not worthy of America’s funniest home videos but neither of us looked very cool during that brief moment.
As I worked my way through my 50 rounds, I sent the target further and further down the lane until my last barrage was focused on a smaller target about 60 feet away. It was about 12″ x 16″. I hit it nine times. I shot rapidly, a la Arnie or Bruce. It was not from the hip but it was not aimed either – just pointed. I was encouraged by the results.
I chose the point-and-shoot style because I was wondering what I would hit if I was in an actual encounter and less than disciplined and NOT using the sights or slowly pulling the trigger as instructed–instead just freaking out.
And, of course, when using a narrow range with cubicle walls, it is hard to do a flying, horizontal, slow-mo, two-gun budda budda fly-by shooting of bad guys like Bruce does. So, the casual point and shoot ’em up style was employed. It works. The bullets were not as centered as well as if I had used the sights but nine of them hit the small target. I felt ready to lock and load, swagger and wise-crack and blow away the enemy on a whim.
Sal is generally a better shot. But she was content to aim at the 25 and 40 foot distances. She wanted bull’s eyes. She doesn’t crack wise or swagger. She’s more focused on dishing out hot lead. We were done in half an hour. ‘Outa ammo’.
So, we took the gun back and paid the bill. “Did you enjoy it?”
“Um, yeah. Kinda. The initial ‘kapow’ was a fun surprise and the subsequent shots a bit of a kick excitement-wise. MY adrenaline is definitely up. And, when I actually hit what I aimed at, it was pretty cool. But, a half hour is enough. No more. Probably not ever again, actually. Once was good. Not my sport, really, but glad I did it.”
Sal didn’t answer.
We got in the truck. “Happy Birthday, honey. Waddya really think, Dave?”
“Weird. Not fun, really. I like targets and shooting but not gun ranges and all that noise. I think I’d prefer to shoot in the forest or when flying in slo-mo but, even then, probably only once. Maybe not even that. That was enough.”
“Lots of people here do this every week or even more often. They seem to think it’s pretty great.”
“Honestly? I just do not get that. NOT one bit. This is just NOT a hobby to me. So you hit a target! Then, after a gazillion dollars you hit smaller targets. If we don’t get the much anticipated zombie apocalypse, what’s the point? I don’t like depending on zombies to give my skills-building meaning, ya know?”
“I agree! No zombies and it’s just not our thing.”
I had this experience in my twenties while visiting the big island in Hawaii. I would agree with you Dave, once is probably enough. I’d rather go for a hike.
“I’ll give ya a running start on that hike, hombre. Wear camo.”
I am more ambivalent than repulsed. It just seems silly to me. Of course there is a visceral feel to the whole thing….power, explosion, destruction, pointlessness…what’s not to like? But as a steady diet? As in ‘regular’ pastime? Seems odd to me. Mind you, some like video games in the same way. Maybe I am just too old to learn new tricks?
I own several handguns.
I used to go to an indoor range quite a bit but the novelty wore off fairly quickly.
It took me longer to clean them than it took to shoot 100 rounds.
I was constantly amazed at how fast you can go through a 10 shot clip. Seconds.
I havent even looked at my guns in over a year.
9mm is a good all around gun for men and women.
.45ACP,… yeah baby, that packs a punch. People will be hitting the deck at the sound it makes…That might have been what you were hearing
You guys did very well for beginners
Ive seen guys miss the entire paper target 10 out of 10. I never could figure THAT out!
I also watched two Chinese guys( ex Hong Kong cops).
Hit the same HOLE on the target 8 out of 10 shots with a 9mm. Amazing.
Watched a guy practice “quick draw” one day. pretty impressive.
You should see if the range has a quick draw competition on some day or if there is an outside competitive shooting match with bleachers to watch. Cheap entertainment for an hour.
Did ya keep the targets?
I give mine to friends who hang them in their garage.
“I DONT call 911!”…. scrawled across the top……….