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Erm, that's actually a gun. A real one.

Today was a first for me. I went to a shooting range and fired a variety of handguns. Now, I’ve shot shotguns before, but this was a completely different experience.

We (there were about 9 of us) turned up at this shooting range in the middle of nowhere, completely not knowing what to expect. And I don’t think the guy there knew what to expect from us either. Seeing as St Louis recently passed a carrying concealed weapon (CCW) law that basically lets anyone on the street carry a gun, this seemed like the sort of place you’d go to just to fire a few rounds as practice. Not especially geared to a bunch of English guys walking in off the street.

To his credit, the instructor was amazing. We spent a bit of time in the classroom learning about the different types of handgun and basically how to hold, stand and fire it safely. Most of this was common sense, but as with most unfamiliar skills, there are little things that exist for a good reason which aren’t entirely obvious. Subsequently, we were let loose on the range with a .22 revolver and a .22 semi-automatic. Even with ear defenders, we quickly learned that this was a fairly loud passtime, but one with a fair bit of fun-factor built in. After that, we all had a go at firing a 9mm Glock, which again was a surprising experience. Made the .22s seem a bit tame, to say the least. All of it paled in comparison to some other guys also on the range who were shooting a Hungarian-built AK47. This brought an entirely new definition to the word ‘loud’ and we were warned that indoors, removing our ear defenders whilst that was being fired would result in some fairly serious permanent hearing loss. You didn’t so much hear it being fired, more feel the actual shock wave go through you.

Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to move onto some of the more powerful and higher-calibre things, but there’s talk of going back some point next week. Given how surprisingly fun the whole experience was, I can see that happening. Even the people in our group who are fairly anti-gun were quite surprised about how enjoyable the experience was.

The gun debate is one that will rage for a long time to come and I’m not sure I can commit to being on a particular side. All I know is that I went and shot some bits of paper in a safe and controlled environment and that it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I’d recommend to anyone who’s never done it to at least give it a try if they ever get the chance.