Project Adventure: The Range


Growing up, the closest I came to shooting was turning my brother’s paintball gun on a tree in our backyard. (He was going to let me shoot him to test his paintball vest, but he decided against it at the last second. Apparently he’s not a fan of the muzzle drifting towards his face.) My S.O. offered to take me to the range shortly after we started dating, but I kept putting it off again and again. Not from any desire not to visit the range; more because I’m a creature of habit and rarely leave the apartment on my days off. He insisted just recently, and so we headed to the range.

What struck me the most when I walked into the indoor range was how small the whole setup was. My shoes squelched on the gray sticky-mat (which the informational video later told me was to avoid tracking lead), and I found myself in a yellowish room that was longer than it was deep. A flat-screen TV was mounted to the same wall as flyers for firearms classes. On another wall were windows that looked into the range itself. And directly across from them sat a waist-high glass case with shelves of pistols inside; it looked like a grownup prize case from Chuck-E-Cheese.

S.O. and I had already browsed in the attached store, so I was starting to feel more than a little intimidated with the whole situation. I felt intensely outside my element and probably would’ve backed out if S.O. wasn’t there.

We picked out a pistol for me to shoot–the Smith & Wesson Shield EZ 0.380–before donning our hearing protection and heading through a set of doors and into the range. S.O. mounted the target before walking me through the basics of how to safely fire a gun. He reminded me to keep my fingers away from the slide, told me to relax my shoulders, and encouraged me not to worry about recoil making the gun fly out of my hands. Then he took a few shots to show my how it should go before letting me take over.

The best way to describe the feeling that rushed through me when I pointed the pistol at the target for the first time has to be dread. Dread that I’d miss the target completely or the recoil would knock the gun from my hands.

I aimed for the center of the target and squeezed the trigger. The bright muzzle flash caught me off guard, as did the kick of the recoil. But when my eyes readjusted, I spotted a hole in the bottom six inches of the target. I went through a magazine-worth of rounds, always hitting the neon green target but not where I thought I was pointing.

S.O. popped out of the range to grab another target. He then showed me how to use the sight–and it’s three little white dots–to better line up my shot. And boy did that make all the different. I went through the remaining bullets, firing from about seven yards away. Everything hit pretty damn close to where I’d wanted. I even shot half a dozen shots or so through the X at what would be center mass.

Did I feel more comfortable when I left the range than I had walking in? Absolutely. Do I feel like I’m confident enough to go back solo? Not quite. Will I be going back? Absolutely.


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