Sunday, November 2, 2008


I did it.  I shot a real gun.  Twenty times.  I even hit the target most of those times.

How did I come to shoot a gun, you may ask?  This peace-loving woman who captures bugs between a cup and a piece of cardboard so she can release them outside instead of squishing them?  

It was for a good cause.  The shooting range was hosting a benefit for Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome or some such malady.  $20 at the door bought two rounds of ammo and a promotional sticker.

But seriously, how did I come to this converted warehouse, in the town of Gormley, population 30, 000, to shoot a gun?  Ken brought me there.

Ken is good at target sports.  He was into archery for a while, and next on his list of interests was firearms.   A couple of weeks ago he finally followed up on his curiousity and visited the shooting range in Gormley.  His instructors were amazed at his steadiness and accuracy.  He came home with a poster-sized paper, riddled through the middle circle with bullet-holes, and a burning desire to share the experience with me.

I didn't start to feel nervous until we had parked the car by the side of the building.  I could hear sound of shots echoing through the walls and the metal fire doors.  There was a notice posted by the entrance, stating that if you entered the premises the owners were absolved of all responsibility for your safety.  That gave me a moment's pause for thought.

A lot of people were there, waiting for a turn on the range.  As the line inched forward, I grew paradoxically more at ease and more nervous at the same time; the sound of gunfire became less alarming as I grew accustomed to it, but of course ever step closer to holding a gun in my own hands was a scary one.

We signed elaborate waivers, stating in lengthy legalese that if we got shot it was just tough beans for us.  I stuffed foam earplugs in my ears, then donned safety glasses and earmuff-style ear protection on top of that.  It was cold enough that I kept my coat on.  Finally, the door to the range opened, and an employee beckoned us in.

Ken shouted that I would go first and that I wanted to shoot the Glock 9mm handgun (the smallest gun available).  Each round for that gun consists of 10 bullets.  Each station had a range employee carefully overseeing a shooter.  There were a lot of us first-timers there.

My minder didn't seem perturbed that I had never handled a gun before.  He gave me some brief instructions, most of which were swallowed up by bursts of explosions.  I read his lips and figured out enough that I felt moderately confident when he gave me the gun.

I had a loaded gun in my hands.  It didn't seem real.

I lined up the sights, pointed at the target, and squeezed the trigger.  Bang!  The gun jumped and a small hole appeared in my paper target, very far away from the spot I'd aimed for.  But I'd done it!  I shot the gun; no one was bleeding; and I even hit the paper!  

It was after that first shot, when I felt the powerful kick-back and heard the noise ricochet around the range, that my adrenaline really started pumping.  Now it was real.  I fired again. 

It was a good thing I'd been forewarned that the shell casings would fly back and might hit me in the face.  The instructor had shouted through my two layers of earplugs, "Just don't freak out!"  The first one hit me in the forehead, the second bounced off the tip of my nose.  I didn't freak out.  A third plonked down on the crown of my head.  I was cool.

By the time I was mostly through my second round of ammo, I was getting pretty shaky from adrenaline overload.  That was when a burning-hot shell casing flew back and lodged itself between the arm of my safety glasses and my left temple.  At that point, I did kind of freak out.  Still gingerly holding the loaded gun in my right hand, I frantically clawed at my face with my left hand, trying to dislodge the burning metal from contact with my skin.  My minder swiftly plucked the gun away from me and laid it down on the barrier.   

After yanking off my safety glasses and releasing the casing, I was truly rattled.  I made my last two shots with shaking hands, and was relieved to put the gun down and back away quietly.

Then it was Ken's turn.  He shot one round with the 9mm, and got all his shots right through the middle of the target.  Then he decided to move on to something bigger: a Glock .357.  

The range was set up with the smallest guns at the right end and the largest at the left.  This station was second from the left.  

I didn't like that end of the range.  The gunfire was much louder, and I couldn't help but jump at every explosion.  Someone was shooting the biggest gun, a 10mm.  I found myself holding my breath every time I saw him take aim, bracing for the impact of the sound.  I could not quell my startle reflex.  I thought about how scary it must be on a battlefield, with sonic shocks booming all around, the violence, and the fear of being hit.

Ken finally used up all his ammunition, and I was more than happy to follow him off the range.  

In the ladies' room, I hung my coat up on a hook.  Something went "Ting ting ting!" on the floor.  A shell casing had fallen out of my hood.  Now, that is unusual, I thought to myself.

I checked in the mirror.  I had three black dots of gunpowder on my chin, and an oblong pink burn on my left temple.  I washed off the powder with special heavy-metal-removing soap.  The burn remains.  I had been ritually scarred as part of my rite of passage.

I wouldn't say that I enjoyed the experience especially.  I was asked by a friend if I found it empowering, and I'd have to say "no".  Mostly it was nerve-racking.  But I am proud of myself for going through with it.  I might even go back.  We'll see. 


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Cool. I've always thought it very good have a healthy respect for guns and how they work rather than fear them. Hmmm sounds like fun, maybe I should find a gun range around here, but I have a feeling it might make my friends uneasy to think of me playing with guns. I'm crazy after all.

Anonymous said...

Bang! Bang! Take that bowel disease!

Sabrae said...

Love shooting guns! That was the best thing about being in the army!!! lol I could go target practice all the time for free! :) It is such a stress releiver!

Nicole said...

Cool - I would like to try that one day myself.
I'm sure the noise is enerving.
And I didn't know about the shells coming back at you :D

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'd consider Gormley a town. Isn't more of just a community that exists within parts of Richmond Hill and Stouffville? I don't think it has it's own rule.

(Yeah, I picked a weird part of this post to comment about.)

Karen said...

I love shooting. My dad has been on a competitive pistol team and shoots a few nights a week. I used to love to go with him. I think it is a great skill to have.

Nilsa said...

What an amazing story. Living in the big city, where all you hear about are unnecessary killings by gunshot, the last thing on earth I'd want to do is try my own hand on the gun. But, in some ways, I'm intrigued by what it feels like to shoot one. Thanks for your detailed recap ... I felt like I was right there with you.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Just don't shoot the groundhog. Everyone else is fair game. ;-)

Unsigned: I think they must have made a big pile of money for that charity! There were a LOT of people there.

Sabrae: I can imagine that once you get used to it, it could be a lot of fun.

Nicole: Yes, I'm glad they warned me about that. It's kind of startling, when you're already on edge.

WIGSF: You have a point there. There isn't much to Gormley, aside from one intersection and the sign claiming Gormley's existence. I don't know if it's supposed to officially be a "town". Maybe I should fire my copy-editor/fact-checker...

Karen: Really! It's interesting to get feedback from Americans on this issue, because the U.S.A. is so much more comfortable with guns as an everyday-ish item. Most people in Canada find guns terrifying, because they're so rare here, or at least that's the case with people I've spoken to.

Nilsa: If you ever have a chance to give it a try, I recommend that you go for it. Even the bragging rights are worth it! ;-)

desi said...

Hey Red. Shooting ranges make the sound ridiculously louder. I hate them. But then again, I live on miles of ranch - and not everybody can just take their gun with them into the yard , tack a target up on a fence post, and start shooting. It's called plinking, and I highly recommend you try THAT, and with a smaller "lady sized" gun before you give it up entirely. I also recommend that everyone who is reasonably sane become proficient in some form of weapon. It reduces tragedies.

San said...

A well-written description of an activity I'm not inclined to engage in. I believe I will, however, attend the next swordplay event dedicated to the eradication of acid reflux.

Kathie said...

I grew up shooting and love it. Really enjoyed reading your post. It was interesting to see how someone who has never shot before felt about the experience.
Blessings to you from Costa Rica

mythopolis said...

I think it probably good to have some level of comfort with a gun. I am not a hunter but I have killed small game for food. I don't do it unless it seems necessary and I have been in this position where killing a squirrel or dove was better than going hungry. Bang Bang that awful sound! Bang Bang I hit the ground! Bang Bang my baby shot me down!

Jenski said...

Glad you made it through the experience. I have only shot a gun a couple of times. The first time ever was a shot gun and I hit a can right off. The second shot the can didn't move so my boyfriend at the time and I thought I had missed. But NO, there was a hole right through the can's center of gravity. I am still proud.

ANYWAY, I hope your burn is healing. That would definitely shake me. I am glad your minder was paying attention and took the gun while you saved your burning temple too.

Sparkling Red said...

Desi: I have a yard the size of a postage stamp. On the bright side, it would be very easy to stand at the edge of my yard and shoot a target pinned to the tree in the middle. The barrel of the gun would literally only be a foot away from the target!

San: How about Lobbing Hand Grenades for Gingivitis? ;-)

Kathie: Thank you. Blessings from Costa Rica are unique and special.

Mythopolis: I think it's psychologically healthy to have the experience of killing the animal food we eat, unless we want to go vegetarian. If I had the chance, I'd do it, although it would be really tough.

Jenski: Wow! Marksmistress Superstar! That's amazing.
Thanks - the burn is on the mend. It's a fetching shade of fluorescent pink at the moment, but it's small, so I can hide it under my hair.

Claire said...

Sounds like quite the adventure!


Dianne said...

I keep laughing at - "Just don't freak out"

Hell of a thing to tell a woman with a gun LOL

Duck said...

That shell casing thing would have freaked me out!!

Sparkling Red said...

Claire: it was!

Dianne: Yeah, it was kind of too late anyway. I was already freaking out - just in a very subtle way.

Duck: Indeed - it's been 5 days and that burn is still healing!

Anonymous said...

i ABSOLUTELY LOVE GUNS!! FOR REAL!! As a kid (age 12-16) I won the shooting award for the whole big camp every year

Since then I have shot some (shotguns) that threw me on my butt!! But I still got the cans and skeet!!

Once (in my days before I grew up.. age 40, I think!! I fired a few shots behind Wall World (Walmart) fortified by demon alcohol, i Believe.. it was out back of the store



Anywhoo, wuvvvvv me some gun stories ALMOST as much as a good Drug story (IE narcotics, esp!!)

That said, i will go on a limb and say.. WHO cares if yr spirituality was "outed" I have been reading PSALMS amost every day (better than Proverbs, imo.. where it seems like the woman is the lesser creature) ANYWAY, I LOVE PSALMS... ESPECIALLY 121.. reads like a song.. read it aloud, you will see) But what I have learned is.. or RELEARNED.. is GOD WANTS his word spread.. every day in every way

Sorry.. did not mean to preach

You know who i am.. but Just in case...



wuvvvvvv u, gurlie:)))

Anonymous said...

oops.. I meant to say PSALM 119.. the LONG one.. isnt that 119?

I m not quite the scholar yet, but I am practicing!!


Sparkling Red said...

Syb: You rock! I so love that you shot guns that threw you onto your butt and still hit the target.

I totally believe what you said: God wants His word spread as much as possible, in the spirit of brave love. That's what I kept reminding myself as I sat at my desk, absorbing the fact that my spiritual life was going public. I thought: it must be what God wants, so I'm going to suck up my fears and let it happen!

I don't know the Psalms so well, except for #91. I picked that one at random to memorize one day. I didn't succeed in memorizing it, but I do like it a lot.