Two days ago I had a wonderful learning experience. After quite a bit of thought and after hearing stories from male friends, I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday at the local shooting range, Silver Eagle Group.
The night before, our friend brought over his two guns. The first one I handled was a Sig Sauer P229 similar to the one shown below. Carefully and methodically he walked me through a variety of the gun’s parts, loading, unloading, the non-standard safety, positioning, and grip.
The second gun was a Remington 870 he’d outfitted with an extendable pistol grip. It looked a lot like the one you see below. Even knowing it would be rather heavy, I was still surprised at how much effort it took to keep it horizontal. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, but I could tell that it wasn’t a weapon I could hold and shoot for more than a few minutes without causing some serious muscle fatigue.
Although I’d heard most of the information on loading, gripping, and safety in the past, I had never been through it while actually holding a gun. I was surprised at the weight and at how my sensitivity to my surroundings changed the moment the gun was in my hand. Hyper-awareness consumed me in a way I’ve never experienced as far as my surroundings were concerned. Both guns were unloaded and we were in our basement but the hyper-sensitivity made me more aware of just where I was positioned, who was holding which weapon, and to be sure not to just walk wherever I wanted to.
Saturday morning arrived and we took off shortly after the babysitter arrived.
My first surprise was how many women were wandering around the registration/check-in desk as well as those who were already in the lanes. I was probably one of the oldest women there which was equally shocking. I believe the other women were in their early twenties and they were clearly enjoying themselves. There were no men in any of the small groups of women except one (most likely a husband/wife pair).
At Silver Eagle Group, they have a flat $15 gun rental fee. So during your hour you can rent whatever or however many guns you want, one at a time. The only catch is that you have to use their ammo, so multiple guns can mean a variety of different boxes of ammo to purchase.
For a first-timer I chose a 9mm Glock. It was similar to the handgun I’d handled the night before and seemed like a good fit. Another member of our group chose a Russian bolt-action rifle. Then of course there were the 2 guns our friend had brought.
The range was much louder than I’d expected it to be, even with the headphones. The noise was bad enough that a 9 year old boy was on his way out in tears. He simply couldn’t handle the noise.
Once we were set up, I let my husband shoot first. He let off five rounds then handed the gun over to me. That first shot went about 10 inches low and 2 inches to the left of where I thought I’d been aiming. I’d been told it wasn’t unusual for a novice to compensate for the kick the gun creates with firing. It only took me another 2 shots before I was shooting within a 4 inch radius of my intended target.
As our hour progressed, I had the chance to fire the shotgun as well as an AR15.
There is something distinctly satisfying about the noise and feel of discharging the shell casing and reload on that shotgun. I’ve spent the better part of the last 13 years playing video games and the sensation of the reload on the shotgun was exactly as I’d imagined. The surprise was the smell and the smoke.
The AR15 turned out to be my favorite of the morning. It had a scope and my first shot hit smack-dab in the middle of the red bull’s eye. The other 3 shots all landed within 2 inches of the first, in spite of my eye-protection deciding to fog up and making the scope less effective. I had heard that the AR15 was a popular gun and having shot it, I can see why.
My experience has definitely changed my opinion on gun ownership. I’ve never had a problem with gun ownership as a general rule. I’ve always felt that if someone has proper training, a clear background and emotional state, and the money to keep the guns stored safely, then GREAT!! I just didn’t want to own one. I’d also felt very strongly that too many people owned guns and are all bent out of shape about their rights to gun ownership.
Having been to the range just once I’m already rethinking my decision to NOT own a gun. It became very clear to me that if I was to purchase a gun for home protection, it would be some sort of shotgun. That loading noise alone might be enough to scare someone off. If not, it’s easy to shoot and hard to miss, particularly with birdshot and in my small home. The birdshot would also make it highly unlikely that, if fired, the shot would go through the walls of our home and into our neighbors’ homes. We live in a townhome, so there’s nothing more than a wall between us. The 9mm rounds I fired could easily penetrate the adjoining walls.
And of course, if I ever did choose to purchase a gun, I’d ensure I maintained a membership as the shooting range and took lessons to be sure I could in fact shoot straight in a tense situation.
With my daycare business, gun ownership is highly unlikely. Should that change, I’d have to store the gun somewhere other than in my home. Even in a gun safe I wouldn’t feel right having it in the house
My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful little girls. Once they are strong enough to load the gun themselves, then they will also get to go to the range with us. Until then, they can enjoy time with a babysitter and keep to video games.