Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Eye Opening Experience

For our nineteenth anniversary, my husband arranged for me to have a private lesson with a local firearms expert at a nearby shooting range. While this may seem like an odd anniversary gift, I was excited by the prospect. I have long been curious about guns. Part of me is attracted to guns in an abstract, Hollywood kind of, way. Another part of me fears and loathes guns, particularly hand guns, for the ease with which they allow one person to take the life of another person.

For a couple of years now, Goblin and I have discussed the possibility of living somewhere kind of rural. Part of this discussion has been based on the possibility that society/civilization could degrade drastically if energy, food, and water resources become threatened (which they really could be if governments do not remove craniums from sphincters). Under that kind of inspiration, the idea of owning a gun, or guns, for both home defense and, possibly, for hunting has been discussed.

Also recently, our son has expressed an interest in attending the Coast Guard Academy. I offhandedly suggested that maybe we should take him to the shooting range at some point so he could get a feel for firing a real gun in preparation for armed service.

All of these factors converged recently as in inspiration for my anniversary gift!

Prior to my lesson, I took note of the dozen or so young people milling about the exterior of the shooting range, several of whom were in camouflage. It was kind of daunting just to waltz through that crowd to get to the door. Once inside, I had to fill out a waiver form and attest to my mental stability and lack of illegal substance abuse. The facility was quite busy. Lot's of people shooting on the range, visible through bullet proof glass. The noise was muted but significant. The facility staff all seemed to have holsters on their belts. Several patrons were salivating over various used guns for sale in the showcases in the main lobby.

I met my instructor, Tom, as he was finishing up a firing session with a student. He was hauling a small gym bag and a large plastic tackle box. The first part of our lesson was carried out in a classroom down the street from the firing range. Tom was very personable and humorous. He could tell I was nervous from the start and tried to quell my anxiety. He made a lot of disparaging and humorous remarks about men and guns. I learned about the difference between single-action and double-action guns. I learned about revolvers verses semi-automatic guns. I learned a few safety tips for handling a gun, along with stances, aiming and trigger control. Then, we went back to the firing range.

At the firing range, I was outfitted with ear and eye protection. Unfortunately, the eye protection did nothing for my 'mature' vision issues. Aiming was going to be interesting. I can see far away, but close up is problematic, and the sites on the guns qualified as 'close up' for me. The ear protection was good, but it was impossible to talk when other people on the range were firing. Also, trying to concentrate on my firing while other people were firing was very difficult for me.

Tom outfitted the target with a big white paper plate and sent the target about fifteen feet away from me. The first gun he handed me was a 22 revolver. He had me load the gun on my own. He schooled me to squeeze the trigger very very slowly so that my body would not anticipate the recoil, and thus lean into the shot and foil my aim. I hit the paper plate with every round.

The next gun he handed me was a revolver which could fire either 38 or 357 bullets. He put five 38 slugs in, and one 357 (for the last shot). The first shot out of that gun startled me. It was much louder and had more kick to it than the 22 revolver. Also, you can actually see the explosion coming out of the barrel of the gun. My next shot went pretty wide of the paper plate. He got me to calm down so that the rest of my shots were back on the plate. However, I had forgotten about the last slug. When the 357 shot fired I nearly crapped my jeans. I really wanted to throw the gun down and run out the door. Huge explosion and EXTREMELY loud bang, not to mention the recoil!

We then moved onto a 38 semi-automated. That one was a bit more complicated to work with than the revolvers, but it had a little less kick. However, my shots were a little less controlled (a few off the paper plate).Tom decided that it would be a good time to introduce me to a 22 semi-automatic, Which had less noise than the 38 semi-automatic, so I was happy. I fired off a seven shots, and then Tom had me reload my own magazine. My hands were shaking and I couldn't see what I was doing. So, Tom turned on the overhead light for our lane on the range. That helped with the seeing, but did nothing for the shaking. My shots did stay on the plate and were grouped with in a few inches of each other. Admittedly this was a little to the right and south of center, but at least I was consistent with all seven shots. See:

Tom was ready for me to shoot some more, but I begged off. I was shaking like a leaf and I could tell I'd probably done some damage to my upper back, since I had been firing with really tense shoulders. So, we walked out to the lobby. We chatted a bit while we settled up for the lesson, the range time, and the ammo I'd used. He gave me my last plate as a souvenir.

After I got home, a lot of the anxiety that I had been holding at bey kicked in. I felt a little nauseous and light headed. I ate some pretzels and had a cocktail to calm me down. My husband came home about an hour after I did and asked me about my experience, which I relayed pretty much as above. He was surprised to discover how terrified I had been during the experience. He says that not much seems to scare me.

I am really glad that I did this. I learned a lot about guns and gun safety. I also know some realities about guns that I never understood before (how they work, what it feels like to shoot one, how loud it can be, and how expensive they are, in many ways). I would still like to fire a long arm, like a hunting rifle, I think. However, I do not think I will ever be comfortable enough to regularly fire a gun. I also doubt that I will ever become an actual gun owner. Then again, who knows. Maybe if I talk myself into going again a time or two some of my absolute terror will fade.


Summer said...

Guns are scary to me. I don't think I'd want to shoot one. It looks so easy on television but always thought it would be harder to do in person. Your post proved me right. You're not going to move to a shack in Montana are you?

Cobwebs said...

I think it's important for everyone to know how to handle a gun. My dad taught my sister and I the rules of gun safety (starting with, "a gun is *always* loaded) when we were young, and we learned how to respect them and use them properly.

When I was about 15, a very large man tried to force his way into the house when I was home alone. I called the police, but I also held onto my dad's .357 until they arrived. It was very comforting, knowing that if he got to me before the police did I'd be able to defend myself.

(And for those who argue that keeping a gun in the house means you're expecting to use it: I also keep a fire extinguisher in the house. I don't *expect* to use it, but should I ever actually need it I'll be very grateful that I had it.)

Monkeys in Paris said...

Give it one more "shot" and don't shoot with the big stuff. Don't wait too long to do it. I think you will have a different experience now you know what to expect. The outdoor ranges are much better, less noisy and you can run if someone decides to go bonkers. :)
Great of you to try something a lot of people would never do.
ps I (D) have to wear earplugs and the over the head ear protection too.