How to Shoot a Gun Like a Sane Person

Guns skeeve me out. Yes, people kill people, but access to weapons that unleash nearly instantaneous internal bleeding and cause organ and tissue damage at the press of a trigger doesn’t do much to discourage people from killing people. But I’m not here to hurl bastardized bon mots at the theoretical bunker walls of the gun lobby, I’m just here to say this: shooting guns is fun.

A brief history of my relationship to guns: I first shot a BB gun at age 8 at summer camp, and I gleefully riddled my target with so many tiny holes that I won the blue ribbon for riflery in my age group. At age 9 I got in deep trouble for shooting my brother’s Daisy rifle (yeah, the one from A Christmas Story) at tin cans balanced on our fence while our landlord was riding his tractor in the fields behind said fence. That was my first lesson in not pointing weapons at people, no matter how plastic and relatively powerless they are (the guns, not the people).

Then I didn’t shoot a gun of any kind until last Christmas, when my husband was gifted an air gun in the shape of a pistol. We took it out back in his parents’ orchard and had a grand ol’ time shooting at dirt; I even ricocheted a BB off a rock and left an impressive, albeit tiny, dent in my knee.

The pistol set off an intense debate between my husband and I, namely whether or not we would ever own a real gun. I argued that, though we have no children and don’t plan to for several years, I would never want a gun in the same house with my child. I didn’t grow up with guns in the house, and I’ve always had an irrational fear of one of my children finding one and winding up the lead on the 6 o’clock news.

My husband did grow up with guns and countered that he and his brothers were taught how to handle them safely, and benefited from the same (though he did admit to doing 6 o’clock news-bait things like playing with the strictly off-limits 20-gauge shotgun his grandpa kept under his couch).

So fast-forward to this Thanksgiving weekend, with the gun debate safely cobwebbed in the back of our minds, behind more relevant issues, and our cute little air pistol relegated to something we keep under our bed as a joke (though it is strangely comforting when I sleep in our house alone).

A couple we’re friends with suggested we drive up into the mountains and do a little shooting, and we agreed. Our friends own an arsenal of 13 guns, along with a whole lot of doodads like holsters and flintlocks and black powder and ramrods and clay pigeons (which, color me surprised, are shaped like hockey pucks, not dirty, grey, little birds).

We set off in the wee hours of the morning (ok, 10:00 a.m., which is only wee for Black Friday if you’re not a traditional shopper) and hit up Wal-Mart for ammo. Observations: shooting is a very expensive hobby. We dropped nearly $50 for a box of Co2 cartridges, a box of BBs, and two boxes of “real” ammo (.38 handgun rounds and 12-gauge shotgun shells). I wasn’t thrilled, but in the interest of social experimentation, let the price tag go.

We drove up into the beautiful Rocky Mountains and found a secluded area (where shooting was legal; we definitely vetted that point, since none of us wanted to spend the rest of the weekend in the sheriff’s lock-up for rabble-rousers).

Thankfully, our friends are experienced at setting up ranges and brought wooden stakes and a board to pin targets to, as well as a few cute, neon green, cardboard cut-outs shaped like gophers, which we placed farther back in the woods.

Then the bonanza began! I didn’t shoot as much as everyone else, opting instead to warm myself by the bonfire we made, but I did give into my friends’ coaxing and test out a few weapons. My cheek was sore after just one go at shooting a particularly bad-ass 12-gauge shotgun, and I found the kick on an iconic .357 magnum revolver intimidating. However, a tiny .22 semi-automatic Taurus was more my speed (probably because it handled like a BB gun!).

In other news, I was very glad we had toilet paper to shove in our ears in lieu of actual earplugs (our friends had those, but earwax isn’t the right sort of gift-that-keeps-giving). Also, while the pistols were all difficult to aim, I had better luck with steadying a rifle on a stump, even shooting down a clay pigeon sent skyrocketing through the atmosphere with a hand-thrower.

You know what? I had a great time. Nobody got hurt. We picked up all the trash we left behind, reclaiming most of the shells and all of the intact pigeons.

After two hours, I’d reached my limit of shootin’ and hollerin’. And while I was glad I didn’t have to spend all afternoon cleaning guns (another bonus of owning a mere BB gun), I can definitely see myself going on another shooting outing and enjoying it.

While I’m still undecided on the prospect of buying a gun for my own household, I think it’s a legitimate hobby which brings a lot of non-psycho people joy, and that’s some perspective I was lacking before. So to anyone who’d curious about shooting as a recreational sport, I say give it a try. You might find that you’re either a) really good at it, or b) really like doing it, or c) both.

Will I become the 21st-century Annie Oakley? Hardly, but count me in if you want to go rough up some clay pigeons.

One thought on “How to Shoot a Gun Like a Sane Person”

  1. My husband and I had the same argument. We ended up compromising with a heavy-duty fireproof gun safe with a combination lock. I didn’t even know the combination till I had learned how to do everything but clean the guns. He takes the boys shooting periodically to teach them about safety and handling and stuff, but the only way they’re getting into the safe is if they sit down and physically try every single combination one at a time.

    I’m still not a huge firearm fan, but you’re right, it is more fun than I thought it would be.

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