I’ve already mentioned the adage “Write what you know” in some of my other posts. I wanted to add “learn what you don’t know whenever you can” to that as well. So when all my colleagues at work decided to go to the gun range to start the new fiscal year “with a bang,” of course I jumped at the occasion!
Now I come from Europe, so I have never shot or even held a gun in my hands before. Yes, I know, for some of my American readers, that’s very hard to believe, but guys, we don’t carry guns in Europe. You can’t just walk into a convenience store and buy a hunting rifle. I’m sure there are such things as gun ranges and hunting clubs somewhere in Europe, but I would be hard pressed to point you in the general direction of one.
So for all purposes, I am a complete gun virgin. Everything I know about handling and shooting guns comes from the TV shows and movies I saw and books I read, which, as most of people familiar with guns would agree, is usually far from reality. But at least I knew the basics: always point the gun downrange, always assume the gun is loaded, put your finger on the trigger only when you are ready to shoot. If it jams, put the gun on the counter and scream for help. Okay, that last one is an Elena rule more than a real safety rule, but it worked like a charm when it happened to me!
Thankfully, most of my co-workers are retired military, so all of them own guns and are more than willing to bring them AND let others play with them as well. And are more than willing to spend some extra time with little clueless me who doesn’t even know how to load a gun, fumbles with the safety and is rather vague about how to hold a gun, how to stand and how to shoot… In the end, much fun was had by everybody, I think.
But for me, the main reason for this trip was research, even if it was a fun research. So here are a few things I learned about guns that TV and books couldn’t tell me.
1. Dang the guns are loud!
You never hear that in the movies and TV shows. I shot a 22, a 9 mil semi-automatic and revolver and several riffles, and I can tell you that those earplugs they give you at the gun range are absolutely necessary. Even the little 22 caliber sounds loud and the 9 mil is even louder, and the riffles would make your ears bleed without protection. Not to mention that you feel the “thump” of air when the gun fires like a wave in your entire body. Rather disturbing the first time it happens.
So now I wonder how people in the movies can go through a gun fight and then have a chat with each other in normal voices? Their ears would at least be ringing after all that, so they would be shouting!
- Either aiming is hard or I’m just challenged like that.
For a first time gun user, everything is difficult. First you need to load the gun, then you need to figure out how to hold it properly, then you need to find the safety and take it off (and the location of that safety is different on all gun models as well, to add to the stress). Then you lift the gun to eye level and try to aim it downrange to actually hit your target. I have to wear glasses to drive, because I’m nearsighted, so seeing my target had been a bit of a challenge. The whole scene went like this:
I aim very carefully and press the trigger. The 9 mil semi-automatic fires with a loud bang and the muzzle jerks upwards because I didn’t expect it to do so and hadn’t really gripped it hard enough.
“Oh wow, headshot! Not bad for your first time” my boss says. It’s his gun, so he’s been hovering behind me protectively, scared both about his possession and his office manager.
“I was aiming for center mass.”
“Erm, well… good job anyway.”
- Watch out for the recoil.
The characters in books and movies must have a steel grip on their guns, because the muzzle barely moves when they fire. How do they do that??? I mean, even the smallest 22 jerks upwards a bit when I fire, no matter how hard I grip it, with both hands at that. When I tried the 9 mil, my muzzle was all over the place after each shot, and I didn’t even try the “Dirty Harry” gun one of my co-workers brought, because just looking at him shoot it I KNEW it would hurt my wrist. And I still have a bruise on my shoulder from one of the rifles.
Not to mention that after 2 hours of shooting different guns, I felt like my hands were about to fall off. They don’t tell you that in the books…
So all in all, I think my field research trip was successful indeed, and very fun at that! I actually enjoyed it, even though I wasn’t sure I would. And I certainly have a new respect for firearms. They are lethal, but also beautiful and powerful.