In an English class in high school, we read an essay written from the perspective of a woman shooting a gun for the first time. I can't remember the make of the gun or the purpose of her using it--those details were beside the point. The woman, at first afraid of the gun's power, soon became enchanted, maybe intoxicated, by this power. She discovered, by shooting the gun, a version of herself that she hadn't before cultivated. She had been afraid and now she mastered her fear; she had been weak and now she felt strong. Shooting the gun was empowering, arousing, exciting; revealing on a personal level.
As a birthday present, Ben took me and my birthday twin Hillie to the shooting range at the Mill Creek Sport Center in Dexter. Ben had shot a shotgun before during his first hunting trip about a month ago, but none of us had ever used a pistol before. I'd never even held one. Armed with the expectations of that essay and a rented .22 caliber pistol, I shot a gun for the first time on my twenty-fifth birthday.
The experience was revealing, though perhaps not in ways suggested by the essay.
The man at the front desk seemed well-versed in firearm rubes: he set us up with his two wimpiest models, the .22 and a 9-mm, and gave us step-by-step instructions on loading and discharging the guns, as well as a quick-and-dirty gun safety. (Only point the guns at the paper target or at the floor, only have the guns loaded when you are at a station in the shooting range, leave jammed guns in the shooting range and come ask for help unarmed, etc.) Everything--save the unprecedented amount of camouflage clothing worn by the store's clientele--seemed pretty sensible until we gathered our paper targets. Most of them were regular bull's eyes, but one gave us pause.
The shooting range gave a nod to the discomfort potentially created by providing photos of human beings as targets in the house rules, which were posted in the shooting range. Read the last one:
So, there was that.
The actual practice of shooting a gun turned out to be underwhelming. At first, despite our earmuffs and eye shields, we jumped with every shot from the neighboring booths, whose guns were much louder than ours. With jittery fingers, it was difficult to load the magazine (or "pez it up," per Hillie's term), and we jammed the .22 twice in the beginning.
Ben "pezzes up" the .22 caliber magazine
After a while, though, the loud shooters left and we had the run of the place. We all got remarkable close to the bull's eye at least once, and I think Ben hit it a few times with the .22. I worked my way up to the 9 mm, which was much more powerful. Instead of surging with its power and delighting with its release, like the essayist, I found it mostly unpleasant.
By the end of it, shooting felt tedious: between the three of us, we went through one hundred bullets for the .22 and fifty for the 9 mm. I'm glad I tried it, but I was ready to be done.
Added bonus: unlike any parking lot in Ann Arbor, it was easy to find the Connor Barries' silver Prius at Mill Creek.