Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I’m Annie Oakley.
My dad has recently picked up a new hobby: shooting. Not hunting (yet…), just going to the local gun range and firing off a few practice shots at a big orange impression of a faceless criminal mastermind. When I found out, my first reaction was obviously fear. I’ve heard the horror stories of people cleaning their guns and accidents at the range that come from delayed fire. My love for murder mystery shows didn’t help calm my nerves, either. I was nervous and scared for my dad.
When Dad finds something that he likes (movies, food, the latest real estate listings in Western Ireland), he shares it with everyone. So about a month after he started training, my dad began suggesting that we (my mother, sisters, and myself) go with him to do a bit of shooting at the range. The four ladies of the family are pretty pacifistic, and the idea of actually shooting a gun was terrifying. The closest any of us had gotten to a gun was in Wii Sports, shooting ducks and targets out of the sky. My mom held off as long as possible before she was suddenly inspired to join my dad at the range. Needless to say, Mom was terrified, Dad was entertained watching Mom freak out, and they both had a great time. After Mom bravely blazed the trail, her three daughters were next up. Guess who was the first to come back home…
Fortunately, I was able to go back home for Thanksgiving this year. So, Dad thought it was a good time to take me to the gun range. I still hadn’t done a bucket list this month, so I stuffed all my fear and illogical “What If” situations deep inside (where I usually keep my stress, regrets, and bad decisions) and go to the range. The morning after Thanksgiving, Dad sat me down and showed me the basics of how to hold a gun, load a magazine, and what to do in a worst case scenario (in my mind, a worst case scenario means I’m dead. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.) After the world’s shortest lesson on gun safety, I was beginning to regret my decision. The “What If” situations began to resurface as we drove over to the indoor gun range. You know when someone cancels plans you didn’t want to do in the first place, like going to the gym or attending a party full of strangers? I was waiting for that to happen. Any excuse to get me out of potentially killing someone. Unfortunately, no excuse came. This was happening whether I liked it or not.
We arrived at the range around noon. Walking in, the lobby was full of giant safes that seemed to come out of a old Western film and a display case of rifles, pistols, shot guns, and all the accessories they come with. The sound of gun shots could be heard throughout the building, bringing back my old friends Worry and Anxiety. At the check-in desk, I signed my life away with a couple safety papers, then rented a .22 Smith and Wesson (a beginner’s pistol). You’d think that I would need some sort of three-week boot camp before even touching a gun, but nope. It was all a bit too easy, but that was probably because Dad was with me to vouch for my “readiness”.They gave me a box of bullets, a gun, a target, and I was good to go. As the lady behind the counter placed the gun in front of me, Fear joined the party going on in my chest cavity. My hands were visibly shaking as I cautiously picked up the S&W. It wasn’t loaded, but I naively thought I could still kill someone if I accidentally pulled the trigger. With safety gear on and guns not-yet loaded, Dad and I were ready to enter the Danger Zone.
From the lobby, there were two doors you had to enter: one door led to a sound proof chamber, the other led to the Danger Zone. I opened the second door and was met by a wave of gunfire. The sound was so loud, I could feel the pressure hit me in the chest, like when your driving and the car next to you has their bass at maximum volume. You feel it before you hear it. Dad and I found our lane at the end of the range (where no one could see me panicking), all the while, I flinch at every shot fired from the rifle being tested a few lanes down. This was not a time to play the Don’t Flinch Challenge.
Loading the gun was more challenging now that I had no control over what my hands were doing. My hands shook, I kept jumping at every gun shot, but my feet were planted firmly on the ground to avoid a flight response. Eventually, I loaded the magazine into the handle of the pistol, cocked back the slide, and aimed at the orange man with no face. With the whole motion of loading and aiming, I felt pretty badass. But like a terrified badass. Then I realized I was now holding a loaded gun, so the sudden wave of confidence left just as quickly as it had arrived. I aimed at the target ahead of me, took a breath, and slowly pulled the trigger. The gun fired and hit the unknown orange assailant. I stood there in shock for a couple seconds. My heart raced, my hands still shook, but my feet were Super Glued to the ground in attack position, ready to absorb the blow of the next couple shots. So I finished off the bullets, removed the magazine, placed the gun on the counter in front of me, and turned to Dad for some sign of approval. He did not disappoint.
The next hour, we took turns shooting at the target, each time finding a different area to aim for. What was a terrifying experience soon became a game. It’s safe to say the Orange Man was dead by the time we were finished with him. By the time we left the range, the gunshots no longer bothered me, my hands stopped shaking, and I evolved from a terrified badass to a not-as-cool-as-she-thinks badass. I walked out with a spring in my step, ready for a lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Would I go shooting again? Hell yes! It was on par with the adrenaline rush I got from riding a roller coaster. It’s not for everyone, but now I can say I had my James Bond moment.
Until next month (LAST MONTH!!! How did that happen so quickly?),