Adventures at the Gun Range!

Nice shootin', Tex

Nice shootin’, Tex

So I shot a gun today for the first time.

Don’t worry. I haven’t finally let the monster out and become a crazy person, or one of my own characters (*stares at Belial*). This was actually part-research and part-bucket-list item. I’ve been writing about characters who use guns since high school, basically, and so this was a great learning opportunity for me to grow as an author and as a person.

Gun knowledge isn’t uncommon, of course. I’ve done oodles of research on handguns, rifles, shotguns, and so forth for scenes in The Black Parade series, but it’s one thing to see images and lists and paragraphs of information and another to actually handle a gun.

For one, the most surprising thing of all is the sound. Gunshots are…loud. Very, very loud. Like, you think you know how loud, but you absolutely do not. Remember that running gag from Archer about him getting tinnitus from so many guns being shot close to his head? That’s a brilliant gag for a reason. It’s unbelievably loud, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a handgun or a rifle or a shotgun.

Hollywood definitely took liberties with gunshots in action flicks or crime films. Don’t believe for a second that you can squeeze a few off and no one’s gonna come running or call the police, and I hear silencers do NOT muffle the sound to that quiet whisper we always see. So that was my first thing to note. The first time we went outside to the range, I jumped like twelve times because I didn’t realize how loud gunshots are.

The second thing that was interesting about handling a gun was the weight. The standard at the Gainesville Target Range is a Glock 17, which is a 9mm handgun. It’s heavy, whether loaded or not. I have long fingers, but my hand overall is on the smaller side. It was surprisingly difficult to chamber a round into the Glock 17. My instructor walked me through the process: how to load a magazine, how to pull the slider back, and how to cock the gun to chamber a round, but it’s actually a little tricky when you have smaller hands, even if you have good upper body strength. I had to practice a few times to get it right, and they always make it look easy as pie in the movies.

The third thing that was different than I thought it would be is loading a magazine. The practice gun gave me so much trouble that the instructor gave me a speed-loader. It’s a nifty little device that depresses the bullets down and allows you to slide the new one in there with little to no effort. If you’re a beginner, getting the bullets in there is kind of awkward, and again, my hands are small. The mag I had held 17 rounds, which is pretty cool because I didn’t realize there are two bullets lined up side by side inside the mag.

After we went through the gun safety course, we went out to the range itself. Amusingly enough, my very first shot ever with a gun was a neck wound. I hit the target between the meaty flap at the neck and shoulder juncture, which I’m pretty sure is either a killing blow or a crippling injury (you wouldn’t get much use of the arm after that, trust me).


Another nifty thing to note is the recoil. It’s actually rather mild with a Glock 17. I was able to fire without flinching or my arms/shoulders getting pushed back. Aiming is pretty difficult, but I imagine after practice you know where you’re looking instead of where you think you’re looking. I did have to overcome a slight reflex problem of wanting to close my eyes when I squeezed on the trigger, though. As I said before, gunshots are no joke and you have to wear protective ear muffs to save your poor eardrums from an unfortunate death.

The most hilarious thing about the entire experience was the fact that the casings kept landing on my head. Each time you shoot, the casing gets cast aside, but for some reason, 80% of mine bounced off my head or landed on my chest/shoulders. This is also something Hollywood really glosses over. The casings always bounce off screen. One of my favorite anecdotes from Maggie Q is when she was shooting for Nikita and she was running and shooting her handgun, and a hot casing went down her blouse and gave her a mild burn, which can totally happen in real life, just not in movies.

We were given a box with 50 rounds in it so we split it between the two of us. My first five shots I did at 5 yards out, then I jumped to 15 yards (at which point I seriously only hit the target once out of five shots), and then did it at 10 yards. For the final five shots, my date challenged me to see who could get the most head shots at 10 yards.

This is what happened:

Can you tell I kill people for a living?

Can you tell I kill people for a living?

Seriously, the last shot I took was a perfect headshot right through the forehead. What are the odds? I actually won the bet, which is pretty damn cool for a first-timer. Lucky shot, of course, but still cool. I kept the paper target and a casing as a memento for the occasion. I’m a dork like that. Also, I’m proud of my one-in-a-million perfect headshot.

Overall, I quite enjoyed myself. I will personally never own a handgun, but I appreciate the hell out of the power and precision that is involved with safely operating them. It’s an entertaining experience, and if life permits, I might venture out there again one day to try my hand at a rifle.

Thanks for reading!


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