I’ve always liked guns. I think I got my first BB gun when I was 8 or 9, and I had a pellet gun soon after that. When I was in junior high my friends and I would go hiking with a .22 long rifle and shoot holes in stumps, cans, whatever. When my brother was young, he and I would go out to take shots at fence posts. Somehow in high school I lost interest in guns as a hobby, but I’ve always thought they were cool and I still enjoy shooting.

A year and a half ago (July 4th, 2005) I went out to a ranch where several people were shooting at targets, and was really looking forward to getting to shoot a few times. Before I got my chance, a buddy got hit in the chest with a shell fragment that ricocheted off of one of the targets (read about it). Jason is alive and well now, but this incident completely freaked me out. I can still vividly recall him walking toward me with a bloody hole in the middle of his chest. Honestly, I haven’t been too eager to handle a gun since.

One of the guys I study with recently started telling me about his gun collection. It piqued my interest, so we’ve been talking about going to a firing range since. He & I went to the local gun show last month, I enjoyed seeing the guns in a completely safe environment. Then I caught a few episodes of Future Weapons and that sealed it, I wanted to go shooting again.

Wednesday afternoon Philip & I went to a local range. He brought two guns, a 9mm Springfield XD, and an AK-47 rifle. I was excited and more than a little nervous when we walked in. We stepped into a 25m handgun lane first, and pulled out the XD. The guy in the lane next to us was firing a revolver, the crack of his gun made me jump a couple of times. Philip let me have the first magazine, and I think my entire body was shaking. I did hit the target, but I was all over the place.

We had taken turns firing through several magazines when he told me to take the rest of them, so I went through the last 4 or 5 clips by myself. By the end I was calm and steady, and had consistent groupings on the target. I hit the bullseye dead on once, and the head of the target five times. By the time we put away the 9mm I was much more comfortable with a gun, and was even enjoying it. Very cool. The XD was comfortable in my hand, and had surprisingly little recoil. It was a lot of fun to shoot.

We then stepped a couple of lanes over, to a 100m rifle range and Philip pulled out the AK. I’m pretty confident that it was an AK-47 shell that fragmented when my buddy got hit in the chest, so the mere sight of the rifle put my nerves back on edge. Philip fired the first couple of shots, and this gun was noticeably louder than the handgun. Once again I found myself jumping when shots were fired. It didn’t help that sparks were flying off of the backstop each time the gun was fired (this was totally safe, but it still freaked me a little).

When it was my turn with the rifle, I set the target at 25m and placed the gun in the tripod. The crack of my first shot scared even me. I quickly fired a second shot just to loosen up a little bit, then focused on my aim. I got 6 shots in a small grouping right in the middle of the target. SWEET! Philip took a turn, and when it was my turn again I moved the target back to 50m and aimed for a smaller spot on the target. Once again I got a small grouping exactly where I wanted it. The AK-47 has enough recoil that you have to be aware of how you’re holding it, but I was having so much fun that it didn’t bother me. Not only was I having fun, I was getting my confidence back. Philip and I each took a few more turns with the rifle before the recoil started to get to me. After about 30 minutes with the rifle we packed up to leave.

It was a pretty fun afternoon, I’m glad that I went. I have a lot of respect for guns, but I don’t want to be afraid of them anymore. I’m not ready to start speaking on behalf of the NRA or anything, but there’s just no need to be afraid of guns. I hope I get to go to the range again soon, because it really is cool to hit a target dead on.