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August 29, 2014
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A trip to the gun range


The first thing I notice when I pull into Red’s is the group of high school kids milling around in the parking lot. I’m transported back to my own days of loitering around Cinema 6 in Honesdale, PA. Big main difference? Red’s is an indoor gun range outside Austin, Texas.

As soon as I step out of the car I can hear the relentless POP BLAM POW of different guns going off. I hadn’t even considered the sound.

It’s my first time firing a hand gun and I’m a little bit nervous.

Red’s is a large, strangely shaped building, and it stretches out asymmetrically in one direction. Upon entering, there are guns everywhere—big guns, small guns, wall displays of guns and expensive guns in locked cases.

A tall guy smiles at us and directs us to the back of the store with a slow drawl.

The gun range looks basically like a bowling alley with lanes that stretch deep into the distance. People of all ages face away from us firing large caliber rifles on one side and hand guns on the other.

We are greeted by a sarcastic young woman with tattoos up and down both arms and a piercing in her lip. We basically sign our lives away, and I give her my license. (I’m the only one of the four of us who has to show ID because the gun is being rented in my name.)

She copies down my information as I wonder what kind of list I’m going on.

“Sign and print your name on the back,” she says slowly.

“OK.”

“Sign and print your name on the back.”

“Got it.”

“It’s amazing how many people get that wrong.” I nod, wondering about the fact that I’m about to walk into a room full of folks all carrying guns who can’t follow simple instructions. I gulp.

She gives us a quick rundown as to how to use the gun. And by quick I mean less than a minute. Load it here. Cock it here. Don’t do this.

“It’s a magazine not a clip; clips are what girls put in their hair, magazines are loaded into guns,” she says as she slams an unloaded magazine into the 9mm Glock we have chosen and cocks smoothly.

“I like the trigger on this gun,” she says.

“If you think you have a problem, put the gun down and come get my safety representative in the orange vest. Do NOT bring the gun to him. We don’t take kindly to people walking towards us with a loaded gun pointed at us. You point a gun at me and I’ll point mine at you, and I bet I’m a better shot.”

“Makes sense,” I say, as I chuckle nervously.

“And you’ve already signed your life away,” she says, her hand on my license.

“Then we get to take ALL of your money,” she laughs and winks.

It’s strangely quiet under the ear protection I’m wearing as we enter the actual gun range. The gunshots echoing all around me are muffled and I can hear myself breathing. The entire situation is very surreal. I make my way to lane two.

BLAM! I flinch as someone fires a gun in lane one, literally three feet away from me.

My hands shake with nervousness as I awkwardly load the 9mm bullets into the magazine. They click in one at a time, and I can feel the spring inside getting tighter and tighter.

I slide the magazine into place and pull back on the barrel of the gun. It’s live. Extremely carefully, I pick it up and feel the weight in my hand.

The target is attached to a pulley system with beat-up clothes pins. A silhouette of a person with a bullseye in the center of its chest. I slide the target away from me with a small silver button and raise the gun with both hands. I close one eye and shift my focus from the sight on top of the gun to the center of the bullseye.

I begin to squeeze the trigger as my body tenses, not quite sure when it’s going to go off. I squeeze it more. Still nothing. A little more.

BLAM! The gun in my hands explodes at the target. The slight kickback ripples through my body. A tiny grin on the edge of my lip, I squeeze it again. BLAM!

There is a strange dichotomy between the quietness of the moment inside your head and the sheer power of firing a bullet out of a gun.

I found the entire experience equal parts fun, nerve-wracking, Zen and upsetting.