Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shooting at the range

I did something last weekend that I've never done before. In fact, it was something I'd never wanted to do nor ever, never, EVER expected to do.

I fired a gun. Actually, I fired three different guns, three rounds of ammunition.

And I did it voluntarily.

For this liberal, that was quite a feat, just getting to the point where I would GO to a shooting range, much less pick up a gun. And it took me the better part of an hour or so to get my head there while I watched Tony and another couple shoot.

Sounds were muffled with the ear protection I was wearing -- big, thick headphone-style pads covering both ears. Nonetheless, I jumped when a couple of the guns went off -- they were that loud. And I was a little jumpy anyway -- just being there.

The smell of gunpowder is unlike anything else, and it is an acrid, pungent odor that remains in the wood even if no one is firing. The ground was littered with brass casings from the bullets, and paper and brass shells from shotguns -- they sparkled all around the range and were thick in the shelter. It felt serious....smelled energy that is very powerful, but not friendly.

Another family was also in the firing shelter with us, including a little boy about 7 or 8. They were firing rifles -- or maybe shotguns, I don't really know the difference -- and there was a tiny one that looked like a toy for the little boy -- except it fired live rounds. The parents brought him to the front and began to get him in position, but he was apparently not in a mood to obey well, and they told him he could not shoot if he could not follow directions -- which didn't sit well with him, and he began to cry loudly. They left shortly thereafter.

So anyway.

After our group -- except for me -- had fired at the target several times, switching guns and reloading, Tony asked if I wanted to try it. I'd declined earlier -- come on, folks. Just being there was a big step for me! But I said yes and headed for the front of the shelter.

The first gun was a .22 pistol. Tony showed me the proper stance and grip, and how to fire it, as he did with each gun I tried. And I pulled the trigger, aiming for the target -- although I have no idea whether or not I hit it. There was very little recoil and only a little pop -- I was surprised and slightly horrified at how easy it was. A gentle squeeze, and poof...

The other two used larger caliber bullets and there was definitely recoil -- my hand flew up after each shot, and it was much louder and harder to pull the trigger -- which still was frighteningly quick and easy.

That was enough for me for that day. I do plan to take a gun safety course this fall and learn about them -- and why, you ask? I live in the country. We have snakes. We have critters. It would be a good thing to know how to safely and correctly use a gun should I ever need to == which I hope I don't.

I was very conscious the entire time I was at the range, and especially while holding the guns, that it is a lethal weapon. It can kill, pointed in the right direction. And it was easy to shoot -- one quick squeeze and that bullet was gone, honey. Safely into dirt in this case -- but it made me wonder how many shootings are really accidental or impulsive acts just because the gun is there and in hand -- someone loses his/her temper, or is high or drunk and angry, or just generally pissed off. One quick squeeze -- and someone is dead or injured.

It was sobering. It was thought-provoking. It was a little scary. And while I will likely shoot again and take a course, I hope I never, ever, EVER have to point it at anything other than a target.

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