hand off the trigger, always.


my coworker took me to the gun range, this place called wade's, over in bellevue. he took with him his own .45, and his brother's 9 mm. i didn't know anything about guns, and the only time i had ever shot one was the time i fired a shotgun outdoors, probably a little over 17 years ago. it was a shotgun, and the recoil left my right shoulder hurting for days afterward. somehow, though, i hit the target, a little clay disc, and everyone called it "beginner's luck."

inside wade's, my coworker told me to pick out some targets. they had all kinds of different ones - ranging from simple silhouettes of a man to zombie osama bin laden. i really thought about the target i was going to choose. what if from far away, osama looked like just some random brown-skinned dude? i didn't want to shoot that. i thought about the silhouettes, and why were they only black and white? did it mean that people who fired guns wanted to kill either white people or black people? i couldn't have it on my conscience. of course, i didn't voice any of this out loud, as the slightest hint of my crazy over-analysis of everything probably would've gotten the both of us thrown out. he chose some simple circle targets, and i couldn't argue with those.

before we went into the firing range, we had to sign releases. there was that line about risk and possible death. i signed my life away. i asked my coworker, "are you going to tell me what to do?" he shook his head, no. "i'll tell you when we're inside." i didn't see how that was possible, though, since i could already hear the pop pop pop mayhem through the soundproof doors. whatever. i goggled and earplugged up, and followed him through the double doors.

he uncased his guns, and unlocked the wire that ran through the butt and chamber. he showed me how to load the cartridge, and i struggled with it. he showed me how to pop the cartridge into the butt and how to release the switch to make it ready to fire. while he loaded up some more cartridges, he told me how to get the feel of it. one of the workers showed me how to properly hold the gun, as i obviously wasn't doing it right. "hand off the trigger, always," he said.

finally, it was go time. the target was in place, and the gun was all set to blast. i realized then how nervous i actually was, and my hand was all sweaty. what if the sweat plus the recoil lead to me losing my grip on it, and it backfired, and i shot myself in the chest? oh well. only one way to find out. i squeezed the trigger, and the recoil wasn't as bad as i expected. i fired another. i finished a clip. "knock yourself out," my coworker said, and i loaded another clip.

a different employee came up to me after i finished the second clip. "can i give you some tips?" he asked. "of course," i said. he told me i was standing wrong, that i should stand with my feet spread apart. he told me my arms should be out more and curved, as my upper body was supposed to absorb most of the recoil. he told me that i was anticipating the shot too much, and that i needed to relax more when i squeezed the trigger, that the gun should do all the work, not me. they were good tips, and when my target came back, my coworker said, "that's quite impressive."

back in the car, we talked about women. he asked me why nothing ever happened between me and this other girl he knew i liked. i didn't have an answer for him. "sometimes," he said, "you've just gotta go in there and pull the trigger, see what happens. you don't want to be the guy ten years from now who thinks back to all the things he didn't do." i just nodded. "that's just a bit of fatherly advice i have for you," he said.

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