Friday, September 20, 2013

The One Where the Bleeding-Heart Liberal Goes to the Target Range

Several years ago, I wrote about my bucket list. I'm too lazy to link to it and it probably wasn't very well-written anyway, so just try to remember.

One of the items on it was...firing a weapon. As of yesterday, I can cross that sucker right off the list.

It was a big day. I first met my sister to sign off on the final paperwork to close my mother's estate. (The holdup after the sale of the house? A final $8 water bill and a misfiled IRS form. Incompetence for the win!) And then I just, I don't know...felt the desire to shoot something.

No, it wasn't that sudden a decision. A dear friend offered to help me put this one in the "Done" column weeks ago. It just worked out that I was able to celebrate life moving on (by holding a deadly weapon) after closing that particularly painful chapter of my life.

I was thrilled that the range we went to had zombie targets. So instead of refining my aim on a figure modeled after a living human, I could pump lead into something modeled after a theoretical dead human. This actually made it easier. Point a weapon at a real live man, even if he has broken into my home? Scary for me. Point a weapon at Osama bin Zombie? All in an evening's entertainment.

The first shot left me completely overwhelmed and frightened by the power I held in my hands. The sound and kickback were nearly enough to make me put down the firearm and walk away for good. This was not a toy. This was not a game. This was not a TV show or movie. This was a deadly weapon. Made for one purpose--killing. I felt neither worthy nor qualified to be responsible for an object and action with that kind of power. I am not sure what I expected. But it looks so easy in fiction.

The truth is that it takes intent to squeeze the trigger of a firearm. It took physical and mental focus and a fight against my most base human instinct--do no harm. That might have just been a paper zombie I was pointing a gun towards. But looking down the barrel, lining it up with his body, aiming, firing...I knew that whatever I did in that moment was irreversible. Destructive.


I am exactly as good a shot as you would expect. Which is to say I'm not a good shot at all. Against an extremely slow-moving Walking Dead zombie who hasn't fed in a while, I might be able to save my life. Provided ammo is plentiful and I get multiple tries and he eventually just stands still about five feet away from me. You know, as hungry zombies are wont to do. Against a 28 Days Later zombie, I'm still going to need a shooting partner with terrific aim and an infinity clip or I'll be lunch.

And against a living person who may or may not also be armed himself...yeah, I'd be a goner.

I did improve after going through a crap load of my friend's ammunition. And it wasn't so scary after the first few reloads. It became more comfortable, more natural.

Which, come to think of it, might be the most unsettling part.

Some other observations from this experience--

We shared the range with several people firing guns of the variety where you don't really need to aim and squeeze so much as point and spray.

"You got him 4 times in the chest that time, babe!" I heard a guy tell his girlfriend.

Seeing as how you fired about 100 rounds in that thing's general direction, I should hope so, I said. But only in my head. Because that gun was SCARY.

I guess I thought we'd all be separated from each other in some secure, concrete fashion, seeing as how we were all in a room with only one way out, trapped with a bunch of complete strangers holding guns and ammo. That was not the case. I worried, sincerely, that I was either going to accidentally shoot someone or get purposefully shot myself, because again, POOR AIM. I was a terrific target for any crazy who maybe decided blue paper forms were a little boring and not nearly bloody enough for true shooting practice that day. It's a miracle that there's not a daily headline along the lines of, "MURDER AND ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING AT LOCAL FIRING RANGE. AGAIN."

Also, gunpowder smells. Two showers and multiple hand washings later, and I still think I smell it on my hands. I worry for the respiratory health of anyone who practices regularly at the range, especially if that's part of their job. But I guess if you have that job, you kinda have bigger job hazards. Like death. Law-enforcement-type people--I respect you more than ever.

After all this, will I do this again? Or was this a one-and-done? Would you judge me if I said I would like a second shot (!) at it?

Because I think I might.

Because of the zombies.

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