Does anyone else have that friend where everything they say or do is peculiar at best and cause for alarm at worst? Trying out for the Rollergirls at age 38? Taking up the accordion? Rather than just humoring me a little, wanting to seriously learn how to juggle?
So, when I casually said to this person, “What do you want to do?” on a recent weekday night, thinking along the lines of a nice walk, ice cream or shopping for my replacement hip, I shouldn’t have been surprised when she said “Let’s go fire lethal weapons at pieces of paper and scare ourselves shitless!”
Actually, it was much less spontaneous than that. The dubious suggestion was made a week in advance, giving us time to figure out the one, and possibly only, place in the Twin Cities where you can walk in off the street having never touched a real firearm in your life and be fretfully squeezing off 9mm bullets in a matter of minutes, Bill’s Gun Shop.
We were full-on terrified before we even touched the guns we eventually chose: a Springfield EMP and a Beretta 92FS. This was largely due to the nonchalance of the nice man that helped us get started at Bill’s basement firing range. We were candid about the fact that we’d never touched handguns in our lives, so he patiently demonstrated and explained the pros and cons of several guns during the decision making process, including a ludicrously enormous ‘bear gun’ that looked like it could vaporize a rhino.
However, once we’d settled on the guns, he was like “OK, here you go! Enjoy!” And we were all “Um, can you show us how to use these so one of us doesn’t commit an accidental murder-suicide?”
Actually, the firing range guy was far more cautious than I make it sound. It just seemed as if that there should be more, you know, supervision before handing over semi-automatic weapons to two people turning stark white with panic.
He demonstrated the barrel slide twice at our request. Showed us the safety, how to load, how to hold the gun so as not to get ‘bitten’ by the hammer, and where to point the gun at all times or else.
It was finally time to throw the birds out of the nest. We donned our dollar-store eye and ear protection and inched into the firing range through the double muffler doors just as an overly-confident, overly-compensating man was demonstrating his shotgun proficiency to his young, impressionable girlfriend. It was very loud. The sound alone felt like I was being shot in the brainstem and my sphincter narrowed to first-night-in-prison tautness. We shakily loaded our clips during this racket and my companion, forgetting that this was all her idea, shoved me forward to take the first shots.
For such a tiny gun, the Springfield had a kickback that felt like I was catching Johann Santana’s warm-up pitches. Every time I pulled the trigger it felt like the gun was going to explode out of my hands and embed itself three inches into my beautiful, beautiful forehead. The Beretta’s kickback was less violent, but it felt as if my aim was less accurate. I say this as someone who only made a passing effort to aim, being far more concerned about averting death-by-self-pistol-whipping.
The Springfield clip only held eight rounds, so it was quickly my companion’s turn with the Beretta (15 rounds). Going completely wooden and succumbing to alarm that was plainly visible through the back of her head, she carefully and admirably emptied her clip into the bull’s-eye target we’d picked out. I learned later that she’d held her breath for about five minutes. When you factor in the near-asphyxiation, her aim was exceptional.
After another round, we switched to the human outline target, passing up more creative targets like Osama bin Laden and douchebag-with-your-sister photos.
Though Tiny Dick Shotgun Man had left, someone new had arrived with a handgun that was just as loud, which caused no shortage of distraction and involuntary flinching as we went about blasting our 100 rounds of ammunition.
All told, we were only in the gun range for about 30 minutes. The post-traumatic stress took about three hours to shake off, even with the help of an M&M Blizzard at DQ. The upshot is that apparently my ass looks really hot when I’m firing a gun. Yours would too if you were flexing enough to dead-lift a car.
And you know what? It wasn’t all that expensive.
Gun rental: $15 (first gun), $10 (second gun)
Range fee (two people sharing): $30
Hearing/eye protection rental: $4
50 round box of 9mm ammo: $13.99 x 2 = $27.98
Total: $94.90 or $47.45 per person
It was a memorable experience and despite the purposefully self-inflicted anxiety that most people pay good money to medicate, we enjoyed ourselves. It was fun like jumping out of an airplane is fun when you’re afraid of heights. Once pretty much does the job. Needless to say, however, I get to pick what we do on our next outing. I’m thinking a Valium tasting.
Incidentally, why don’t they have Valium tastings here? Sometimes I wonder why I ever came back to America.
Bill’s Gun Shop & Range
4080 W. Broadway Ave N.