Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 269 - "Going to the Range"/Firing a Pistol


I have never fired a pistol. While this may seem like a somewhat uneventful experience in any person’s life, the fact that I have gone 30 years without firing a pistol in the state of Wisconsin is quite extraordinary; even more so considering the fact I grew up in a very rural part of the state where plenty of homes contain more firearms than people. This fact is only possible because of the indifference I have maintained toward guns and gun-related activities throughout my life. The idea grabbing a gun and going on the hunt, heading to the range, or target shooting in the backyard simply never had any appeal to me. In my mind such activities were largely a waste of time that could be spent on more useful and entertaining endeavors. Additionally, my disconnection from firearms put some distance between me and the potential for a lethal accident, which I found to be a somewhat favorable benefit of my broad disinterest. Given this perspective, I didn’t fire a rifle until I was 17 years old, and the closest I ever came to firing a pistol was holding an unloaded weapon at a friend’s house a few years ago. For all the curiosity I had, none of it was directed at firearms, and I was fine with that.

When considering all of the crazy new experiences I have taken on over the past nine months, it was clear to me the fact that I had never fired a pistol was a little ridiculous. As a result, I decided I would set aside time during my “I have never...” year to learn how to use and fire a pistol. Of course, that required me to seek a full experience with the weapons, which meant pulling a pistol trigger once and walking away was out of the question. In turn, I began discussing the idea of heading to the range and experiencing a variety of handheld firearms with a few gun enthusiast friends of mine, which ultimately set into motion my first experience firing a pistol.

Heading to the range...
During my experience learning how to fly a plane earlier this year, I told my friend and co-worker, Dave, about my plans to fire a pistol for the first time during the course of my “I have never...” year. With knowledge shooting was one of Dave’s pastimes, I figured doing so couldn’t hurt my prospects of gaining the experience. After moving past the disbelief caused by the fact I had never fired a pistol, Dave offered me an enthusiastic response and an open invitation. “Yeah, man, let’s do it. I can put together a whole spread of handguns, and we can head to the range. Have you ever been to the range?” Dave said as the possibilities for the event ran through his head. I confirmed I had not before Dave offered me a succinct reply, “Oh, this is going to be good.”

The lineup
Over the following few months Dave and I put together our plans to go to the range together and fulfill my goal of firing a pistol for the first time. Eventually, that resulted in us narrowing in on this evening as a suitable time for the two of us to meet up and head to a nearby firing range at Gander Mountain. When we arrived at the location the smile on Dave’s face as he exited he car had me wondering what was going through his mind. “What are you grinning about?” I asked, walking toward Dave’s truck. “This...” Dave said simply as he opened the rear door on his vehicle and revealed a stack of pistol cases and rifle bags lying on the floor of the truck. Stunned, my eyes widened and I started laughing. “What?” I asked reeling from the sight. Dave promptly explained that in addition to bringing some of his own weapons he borrowed a variety of guns from family members and friends, including two .22 pistols, a 9mm pistol, a .45 pistol, a 9mm rifle, a shotgun, and an AR15 rifle. “You wanted the full experience,” Dave said chuckling, “So, that’s what you’re getting.”

Upgrading
The reality of the stockpile before me settling in, I grabbed a few bags, and Dave and I walked into the store. After a quick ammo stop near the back of the store, the two of us found our way to the range and prepared to begin the experience. A brief safety video and an employee check of our weapons later we were unloading gear in our booth, and preparing a target to send down range. With a veritable buffet of guns resting on the counter before me, I took a step back to take in the full scope of the moment. Laughing a bit I looked at Dave and said the first thing that came to my mind, “This is awesomely ridiculous.” Dave simply smiled in acknowledgement as he looked over the array of weapons. With a look of satisfaction on his face, he turned back to me. “Why don’t we get started?”

The first shot

Eager to get the experience underway, I confirmed I was ready before Dave and I approached the booth counter. Dave promptly gave me a breakdown of the pistols’ basic operations, which, despite my inexperience, was oddly familiar given my previous observations of such weapons in movies and television. Reminding myself of the critical differentiation between such depictions and the reality of the situation before me, I picked up one of the unloaded .22 pistols at Dave’s direction and carefully reenacted the procedures he had just explained to me. After confirming my understanding on a few important operations of the firearms, I looked at Dave. “Alright, let’s do this,” I said confidently. In response, Dave smiled and handed me a clip of bullets.

Dave's turn...

The 9mm

Carefully walking through each step Dave had showed minutes prior, I checked the safety on the pistol and slowly pushed the sleeve of bullets into place. A subtle click at the end of my movement let me know the gun was loaded, and with a pull of the slide on top of the gun I was ready to fire. Checking my position in the booth, I raised the gun, clicked off the safe, and took aim at the target down range. With my eyes focusing on the bright white triangle in the center of the target Dave offered me one last bit of advice, “Squeeze, don’t pull...” I nodded my head in understanding and put slight pressure on the trigger until I felt it start to move.


With a sudden pop and a slight jolt, the first bullet I ever fired out of a pistol carried down range and struck the target slightly off center. The feeling forced a big smile onto my face and caused me to pause momentarily. Holding my arms steady with the pistol pointed down range, I turned my head to Dave. “Nice!” he called out as he tracked the location of the bullet, “...Have some fun with the rest.” I nodded my head at Dave’s response before turning my attention back to the target and working through the rest of the ammunition in the gun. The barrel of the gun smoking, I dropped empty clip to the ground, check the chamber, and set it back on the counter. “Now, THAT was fun!” I bellowed as I stepped back and threw Dave a high five. In response, Dave moved to the counter and picked up a clip resting near the booth wall. Lifting the clip in front of us he smirked and said, “Just wait until we work our way up to the .45.”

Muzzle flash!

My turn with the .45

I did well...

After taking some time to fire off a few rounds himself, Dave offered up the 9mm pistol as the next phase of the experience. Unaware of exactly what kind of power to expect from the weapon, I let Dave demonstrate the pistol for the first few rounds before giving it a try myself. My first shot with the pistol made its increased power abundantly clear, but I was happy to find I was still able to control the weapon with ease. Like the .22 pistol before it, I took my time with the first few rounds before pumping through the rest of the clip. This pattern continued as Dave and I moved onto the much more powerful .45, which gave a jolt that made me laugh out loud after my first squeeze of the trigger. Stated plainly, I was having a lot of fun, and the bulk of the experience had only begun.

The AR15

Shooting a slug

Once Dave and I took our turns cycling through the pistols, Dave excitedly pulled out his AR15 rifle and prepped it for action. Although I will admit the very sight of the gun was a bit intimidating, I was surprised to find how easy and low-impact the rifle was in action. With nominal recoil and a body forming stock, the gun permitted Dave and I to fire off high-powered rounds with such accuracy and ease it was astonishing. Although the same could not be said about the 9mm rifle and the shotgun, we still made the most of our time with both weapons, which left us with perforated targets and sore shoulders. It what only seemed like a matter of minutes, Dave and I had worked from my first ever shot of a pistol through a battery of diverse weapons that each added a little more to the experience.

The results
As we neared the end of our time at the range I had learned a lot and had more fun than I ever expected, which were great things to take away from today’s event. As he has done previously, Dave offered me a full experience that exceeded my expectations on multiple levels, and he offered me some valuable lessons on a skill that I had no experience with before today. While I doubt I will run out and buy a handgun after today’s experience, I can easily say I would join Dave or anyone else at the range if I the opportunity came my way again. Going to the range is simply good fun, and when you do it with good company it makes it all the more entertaining. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason I shouldn’t make more time for both those things in my life, and with a new outlet to make them possible it is likely I will find myself at the range again in the future.

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