Bang Bang, I am the Warrior
August 11, 2008 at 7:42 am
On Friday night, whilst out for a few beers and fried snacks, I decided I wanted to shoot a gun. I don’t know if it was the beer or what, but I found myself asking my friend Michael to take me to the firing range the next day. Hell, I’m doing lots of things I haven’t done before lately, so why not go do something that absolutely terrifies me? I figure I can work up to my bigger fears later and maybe jump out of an airplane next weekend.
(I am totally not jumping out of an airplane next weekend.)
I don’t think being terrified of guns is an unnatural fear. Guns kill, or at least the bullets they fire do. Sure, knives kill too, and I’m not at all afraid of knives. But then again, it takes a great deal more intent to do lethal harm when wielding a knife than when wielding a gun. I mean, people are killed accidentally with guns all the time. So, I suppose it’s not really guns I’m afraid of—it’s the humans that hold them. And I think I might be more scared of stupid or careless humans than I am of evil, murderous ones, because the former seems so much more abundant.
at this point I'm not scared, just nervous.
After I changed into my best Annie Oakley skirt and boots, we drove south for a few miles until we arrived at the Plantation Rifle Range, and turned left into the range for pistols and smallbore rifles. I heard the firing range before I saw it, and the sounds of explosion after explosion made my heart spin around in my chest a little each time – not unlike a spinning bullet chamber.
We brought foam earplugs for us both, but it took only a half minute on the range to realize the puny things weren’t going to cut it. I asked the parks employee who staffed the booth if he had any better ear protection, and he supplied me with some very stylish ear muffs.
Note the position of our target to everyone else's. We are terrible shots.
Michael seemed to want to throw me right in, but I told him I’d rather he fired a round before I did. We awaited the “cease fire” light to put our target up. Michael put the target up at 10 yards, which made me feel like we were losers, since everyone else had theirs at least 25 yards away.
I was even terrified at this point that someone from behind the bench would accidentally start firing. After all, the light is confusing! Green means “go” and red means “stop”, so surely CEASE FIRE should be red, not green. What if someone were to be confused? OMG MICHAEL BE CAREFUL OF THE MADMEN BEHIND THE BENCH!!!
Much like 80s band Scandal, Michael is shooting at the walls of heartache.
I calmed down and realized that no one was even touching a gun and had no intention of opening fire on all these nice people setting up their targets. When the red LINE HOT light came on and the ranger let us know we could all begin firing our lethal weapons, I stood by as Michael shot a round.
This thing is not a gun. It is a friggin hand cannon. Everything about the experience felt amplified—the decibel of the explosion, the weight of the gun, and the amount of recoil. Even when Michael fired the gun I was taken aback by how much of a kick it gave each time he fired.
After firing my first round, my smile is replaced by an expression that seems to say, "HOLY SHIT, I'M SURROUNDED BY LETHAL WEAPONS!"
To add to my anxiety, every other gun firing around us was spitting out its spent shell casings, some of which flew into the stall we were in. Luckily, a revolver is nice and tidy and keeps the shell in the chamber. Michael showed me how to remove them after firing the round, and then told me to load the barrel. I trembled, trying to put peg A into slot B and, after a minor freak out, I handed the revolver back to Michael and made him do it.
The first round was terrifying, and I shot the second round so fast, I barely remember it. I resolved to go slower on the third round as Michael put up a target that only I would shoot at, so I could see what kind of target shooting prowess I have.
Why yes, I did hang my target on the fridge. Please note the grouping by the lower 9.
This will probably come as a great shock, but the answer is: not that great. I am happy to report that I hit the target most of the time, but since that target was 10 feet away and the size of my refrigerator door, I’m not sure I can really consider this an achievement. I do have a pretty nice grouping near to the middle, so I think with practice I could be really scary. And the amazing thing is, I think I actually would go again.
What’s funny, though, is that I’m still afraid of guns. But the nature of my fear is changed, to something less like seeing guns as a bogeyman and more like seeing them as powerful instruments to respect, and I now have a grave respect for that power having wielded it.
This is what I was shooting. Everyone seems extremely impressed with the loudness. I was. Again, VERY grateful for the ear muffs.
What also occurred to me, as I sat with Michael over coffee after we left the range, is just how emotionally taxing it must be to be in the military or to be a police officer; to know that in your line of work, you will likely (with varying degrees of likelihood between the two professions, obviously) have to discharge your weapon at some point. That, when you do, it won’t be at a paper target on a piece of plywood. You will probably not be wearing ear protection. You will be scared far more than I was shooting at that paper target, because the reason you’re firing that gun is that, if you don’t, someone else will. At you. You will need to, as Michael puts it, turn off your human brain and turn on your lizard brain, to do your job. I’m not sure I even have a lizard brain to speak of, but maybe I do. Maybe we all do. Maybe it’s just something automatic we switch on when our only other choice is to lie down.
Don’t get me wrong, I had fun when all was said and done, but it was a very new sort of scary fun, not like a roller coaster or speeding down a hill on my bicycle with my arms up. Because it wasn’t just the risk of hurting myself that made it scary, but the fear of hurting someone else. And I must admit, that fear is far greater that I could ever have imagined. It was a humbling experience, as terrifying and chilling as I’d expected, and I kind of can’t wait to do it again.
Actually, that’s not true. I think I’ll need a while. But I definitely want to do it again, to see if I can improve my control and breathing and the involuntary trembling of my hands. I figure, if I can shoot a veritable hand cannon without losing my shit, and manage to do so with a fair amount of accuracy, I can handle just about all the stress I’ll most certainly incur this upcoming school year. The perspective alone would be tremendous, since I can be grateful that in my line of work I’ll never have to discover whether I have the mettle to fire a weapon at another human being.
Entry filed under: life stuff, work. Tags: anxiety, cheesy 80s music references, confronting fears, guns, stress.