One of my very best friends married an Englishman last year. I had the pleasure of attending the wedding in England, but because many of her friends and family could not, Anna and her husband Ian came to America to celebrate with those of us on this side of the Pond. The following story is what happens when an Englishman wants a real American experience.
“So Ian—what do you want to do here in America?” I asked after pleasantries like “So good to see you!” and “How is your family?” and “How are you coping after the recent changes on Doctor Who?” had been exchanged.
The English Ian—all spiffed up in a suit beside his American wife of (almost) one year back in her wedding dress for this, their American wedding celebration—grinned and said, “I want to shoot a gun.”
Having only been on American soil for a few days, Ian had already visited a Bass Pro shop and was astounded that Americans could go “gun shopping.” You know that American right to bear arms? Yeah, the British don’t have that. Apparently.
This experience and Ian’s wish to shoot a gun are what led Ian, Anna, our friend Brooke, and myself to a shooting range on a Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t really know what to expect. I had done a little research on guns and the American gun culture when I was writing my first manuscript last year, but reading about something is, of course, extremely different than participating.
We started off late because someone (cough, Ian, cough) forgot his ID and had to run home and get it, but eventually we were filling out paperwork, signing wavers, and watching a gun safety video. The guy at the desk then asked us what kind of guns we wanted.
“A glock,” said Ian.
“I’ll share with him,” Anna said.
“I’ll take a glock, too,” Brooke chimed in.
The guy looked at me. “I want the easiest gun you have,” I said. “I want it to be simple to load, and I want as little kick as possible.”
“I think they sell water pistols next door,” said Ian.
“How about a revolver?” the man asked. He reached down under the glass counter and brought out a small silver gun, with one of those spinning chambers.
“Oh, how sweet!” Anna exclaimed. “It’s like a little lady gun!”
Once we had our weapons, we were given ear protectors and glasses, plus ammo and targets. Then we were taken out to the shooting range.
It was LOUD. I mean, I know guns are loud, but I didn’t realize how loud until I was enclosed in a concrete room with about ten of them going off.
We were taken to lanes 4 & 5 and educated on how to load and unload our perspective weapons. Since mine was a revolver, I was able to load quickly. The magazines for the glocks appeared a little trickier.
The first target—five circles scattered about on a sheet—was set up 20 feet away. I gripped the gun like I had been taught, cocked it, lined up my sights, and prayed that I didn’t scream. I pulled the trigger.
I hit the target in the center ring. Not quite a bullseye, but close enough.
It was so much more fun than I thought it would be.
I tried Brooke’s glock, and I about screamed when I first fired it. The kickback terrified me. And hers was the smallest of the glocks! I can’t imagine what it must be like to shoot a bigger gun.
About halfway through our time, Ian and Anna traded in their glock for a Ruger pistol with a silencer. Anna said she asked the man at the desk for the most James Bond-y gun they had. They graciously allowed me to try it out. It shot even easier than my revolver.
(So a silencer muffles the sound of a gun, but there’s still a noise when you fire. Instead of a bang!, however, it’s more like a huff. Like an annoyed sigh, or the sound of a bowstring letting loose an arrow before it thunks into the target.)
The people at the range were incredibly friendly and helpful. I was surprised by how many women were there as well. And no one looked like they had just left their trailer. I guess shooting isn’t as redneck as I thought, although after hanging around there for two hours, my accent was getting pretty darn thick.
I think the others had fun. I know Ian did, and I did, too. In fact, I want to go back sometime.“Now all I need,” Ian said as we left the shooting range and stepped into the setting sun, “is to buy a Stetson.”
Stetsons are cool.