My first trip to properly use firearms was none other than disappointing to say the least. We drove to a town that I was incredibly uncomfortable being in, especially if we were going to be around people toting deadly weapons. M told me not to worry, that they made sure that you weren’t dangerous, and the gun range was probably the safest place to be in that particular town. (Great, Thanks for the pep talk.) I was greeted at the fine establishment by quite the character. A young guy wearing a hoodie that read “Shady” across the front, Camo pants, and more holstered weapons than my darting eyes were able to count. We no sooner walked in the door and laid eyes on Mr. Shady for the first time and were ordered to stop. We were then interrogated as to whether we had cellphones on our person. (No.) We were then allowed to proceed towards the glass counters (complete with cracks and bullet holes) where M explained that we were interested in using the range. Shady continued the grand inquisition that is necessary to decide if one is worthy and capable of handling such a deadly weapon. Question 1: What is your name? Question 2: Have you ever fired a gun before? He then determined (by my own admission) that I was not a convicted felon. Apparently those three magic words (Kiki, No, No) were enough to satisfy this man that I was a competent contender in the art of brandishing a weapon.
The men took care of the man stuff– picking out ammo, targets, prices, etc while I read the posted rules and reminders. Things like: Do not aim weapons at people (Duh), No speed firing (How the man with the machine gun was not breaking that rule is still a mystery to me), No holstered weapons (Shady apparently is not required to follow that rule because I was able to count at least 3 infractions) and I quote “No head shots allowed. You assholes always miss and shoot up the ceiling tiles and we are now in trouble with the insurance compant. Do’nt do it! Thanks alot assholes.” (I hope to God I don’t miss and hit something I’m not supposed to!!)
Shady asked which gun I wanted to shoot. M answered for me this time as he did with most of the other questions. Apparently this is one of those places where the old adage women are meant only to be seen and not heard is still practiced. M asked if I could shoot the Ruger. Shady said no. Because I had never handled a weapon before I had a choice of two guns, the only difference between them being completely cosmetic. This was obviously a question directed towards me and not M as the statement “You can use the black one or the brown one” followed. (Sadly, there was no pink option. HA!) Clearly, color is not exactly something that men care about or even notice. M answered for me once again. I was shown how to load the cartridge which I am still confused about. The reason for that is that I was told that with this gun, there is only one way to perform the task and that it’s impossible to screw up. Why I was given a lesson on something so simple and “impossible to screw up” is beyond me. Apparently it is the only thing that one needs to know about said weapon because we were then dismissed with our protective ear and eye wear and directed towards the cave-like firing area. Okay, so Shady did sortof ask me if I had any other questions. “You don’t have any questions– do you.” With an emphasis on the period, not a question mark, at the end of the sentence. I shook my head “No” afraid that he’d shoot me if I started asking all of the things that I really wanted to know.
I noticed when I put on my protective ear wear that the beating of my heart was now amplified by at least a hundred times and I could hear the pounding reverberating inside of my head. I’m glad I wasn’t holding the gun or bullets at this point because my hands were also shaking. I was given the important task of carrying the targets into the range area. (One of the other “important” questions M answered on my behalf: “What do you want to shoot at?”)
This was not going to be the Blind Date-esque experience that I was expecting. There was not going to be a competent, trained employee guiding me through the process. I was on my own here (save for M’s “extensive” gun knowledge and expertise). We chose a booth and M started loading the gun. He said that he would fire it first to get me used to the environment. He showed me how the pulley system for the targets worked. I expected more of a bowling alley type of thing but with dividers going down the range, and in my mind I was going to have to walk down the alley to hang up and retrieve my target hoping that a bullet wouldn’t speed through the dividing wall and strike me dead. M thought this tidbit of information was hilarious when I shared it with him. He asked if I planned on asking everyone to stop shooting while I ran through the range to retrieve my target.
The first time he fired the gun I about jumped out of my skin. The second time was better. Shot number four I barely flinched (okay, I did– but only a little). Shot number five misfired and the confidence I built up over the previous 60 seconds that I could, in fact, go through with this was fleeting the moment M pulled the trigger once again and nothing happened. He said the trigger was sticking and he had gotten his finger pinched (There was already a blood blister forming) The gun would not advance so he laid it down and checked the bullets. He took everything out and reloaded it. The same thing happened again with the rounds not advancing. He reloaded it a third time just to be sure, and the same thing happened again at the same spot. He decided that the gun was malfunctioning and took it out to for Shady to look at. Shady didn’t bother to look at it, hung it back on the peg, and gave us the other color telling M that it was probably user error.
We went back into the range area and M once again went through the steps of loading the gun. I had zero confidence in the safety of this place as there were spent cartridges all over the floor with barely any clear space to walk. I tripped a little bit on the uneven ground and almost fell into a booth containing a guy with a gun that only Jack Bauer should be allowed to handle. I decided to be brave though and we went through the motions of loading the gun again. M started shooting the new gun and said that it was still very difficult to shoot and that he didn’t seem to think that it was the best gun for me to learn on. I told him I would continue watching for now. A couple of shots later some of the exhaust managed to burn my lip and I was scared to death (but still managed to look like I was keeping my cool) because I had no idea what happened.
As I said before, I know literally nothing about guns except that they propel bullets. I was expecting to be introduced to the gun. I was expecting to learn a little bit about how it worked, what the different parts were, how to hold it properly. Things like what to expect when I shot it (like how HOT dust can fly out the sides and back and burn your skin!!) and what to do if it didn’t seem to be shooting correctly. I did not expect to walk up get a deadly weapon and have to figure out for myself how to use it.
I guess it comes as no surprise that I did not shoot a gun that day. M felt horrible because he said that he didn’t do enough research about the place we went to. He talked to some guys at work who said that this place was much cheaper than the place we were planning on going to. (Because they actually instruct you at the other one!!) He said the moment we walked into the door we should have turned around and walked out because from that very moment he knew it wasn’t going to be the best environment for me to do something that would take such confidence on my part. He even admitted that the place made him a little uneasy. (I wonder if that was because there was a bullet hole in one of the display cases in the store– hmm? So much for the “No loaded guns outside of the range” rule) So on the way home I apologized about 40 times, managed to cry twice, and was completely ashamed and embarrassed that I could be such a coward and act like a complete girl.