December 09, 2002
A Day at the Range

This one's inspired by Rachel, who just now related her own experience on the shooting range.

My brother likes big, noisy things. The bigger and noisier, the better. He has a 77 Trans Am with the biggest, meanest, loudest engine he could stuff in it without having to tie the hood down with bungee cords. He has a riding lawnmower (with headlights!) that can seat 2. Hell, even his computer has something like seven cooling fans inside it... it sounds like a 747 starting up when he turns it on.

He also has, I kid you not, a Desert Eagle .50 caliber handgun. Take the biggest, meanest, most unreasonable ur-gun you've ever seen, and then make it twice as big and four times as loud. A pavement-black poster child of everything that's both right and wrong about America's gun culture, that's a DE .50.

And it was exactly what my brother wanted. And purchased. For defense? Nope, that's what the 10mm Glock he already had was for. He wanted it precisely because it was the firearm equivalent of a monster truck. It's a gun you only read about in magazines or see in movies. Nobody actually owns one of these things.

Now, I like guns. But even I will admit to thinking my brother had gone right out the other end of redneckville and had instead landed within walking distance of Colonel Kurtz himself when he pulled this thing out of its case. I mean, even the slide action was enough to wake the neighbors. I knew it was only a matter of time until I got drug to the shooting range to go kill some targets. So, rather than fight the inevitable, on our next visit I quite willingly hopped into his car and he drove me to his favorite shooting range.

The decor of the place was a liberal activist's nightmare. The posters fairly dripped red-white-and-blue (this was before 9-11 mind you). The NRA not only had most of the signage, they also had those little tear off pen-and-pad "sign me up" displays I normally associated with the timeshare condo crowd. And of course there were guns. You name it; they had it, all on display in the glass cases like so many Nikon or Cannon cameras.

Even I was expecting this to be a place where they had a pegboard meant especially for KKK robes, but I couldn't have been more wrong. While the ownership was white, the clientele was everything... I saw black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latino folks, pretty much every kind of folks under the sun, both native and -American. The staff was friendly and helpful, and because of the kind of place this was, everyone was very, very careful.

You could already hear the snare drum "tak! .. tak! ... tak!" of people inside the firing range proper. After buying targets and renting hearing and eye protection we went through two doors, rounded a corner and there it was... a dozen or more classic stalls just like in the cop movies, with targets held downrange on motorized guy wires, shaped for all the world like a half-finished bowling alley.

It was with a combination of bemusement and worry that, as instructed, I put in my earplugs and then put the mouse-ears over them. Because it had been awhile since I'd shot anything we decided to go with the "smaller" of his two guns, the 10mm Glock, first. We went through a few clips of this while the rest of the range booths slowly began to fill with patrons. With so much hearing protection it wasn't a din, more of a rhythmic, percussive music:

"taktataktakBANG[the glock]taktakBOOM[someone brought a shotgun]tatatakBANGtakBOOMtaktaktatak" ... the sound of people earnestly trying to ensure they're not more of a danger to themselves than to a potential attacker. Unfortunately I merely proved to be good at frightening our paper bad guys. Oh, I knew which way to point the thing and the proper moment at which to take the safety off, but I've just never gotten the hang of pistol shooting.

After making fun of my inability to deal hot lead death to our erstwhile enemies for a clip or two Jeff decided it was time to bring out the "real" gun. A Glock 10mm is a big gun, probably the biggest handgun on the range that day. But next to that absurd Warner-Brothers-cartoon-made-real monstrosity it looked little more than plastic cap gun.

Jeff's grin kept getting bigger and bigger till I thought the top of his head would fall off. He checked everything out, pushed a fist-sized clip into the butt end, made sure I was a safe distance away, then took aim. "[WATCH THIS]" he mouthed to me as he popped the safety off:


I only thought it looked absurd. Each time he pulled the trigger on this monster the concussion, standing two feet away mind you, was like getting slapped by a gloved hand. Even with two sets of hearing protectors it still felt like I was getting smacked in the ear with a ball peen hammer. And it wasn't just the noise. There was also the two foot flame that shot out of the barrel with every round, making me worry we might actually set the wooden walls of our stall on fire. Even more impressive was how the cadence reacted to it:



taktaktak taktaktak


tak ... tak ... tak ...


tak ... ... tak ... ... ...

Now, remember, we had someone with a shotgun firing in this place. But, compared to that godawful .50, the shotgun was simply a hoarse cough. Everyone slowly stopped firing and at first looked our way, then put their guns down and actually walked over, wanting to investigate what was making this outrageous racket. We actually had to stop and let them have a look. Jeff removed his ear protection for a bit (nobody was shooting at this point) to explain the finer points of this Rosy O'Donnell nightmare in gunblack steel.

After everyone had left it was my turn to shoot the damned thing. It wasn't the noise or the flash or the kick that was bothering me, it was getting my hand caught in the action of it, which slid back the entire top of the gun as it worked. I'm sure it would've just given me a nasty pinch, but at the time it looked quite capable of taking my thumb off. I carefully widened my stance, popped the safety, aimed, took a deep breath, let it half out, and

KA - BOOM!!!

The kick sent the gun rocketing straight up in the air, allowing the evil thing to spit the hot, spent brass straight between my eyes, which, given the weight, actually hurt! I immediately grabbed my forehead, making Jeff think I was going to let the gun go spinning into the standing area behind the range. He grabbed it just as it topped the arc my arm was moving in and helped me pop the safety back on.

Did I hit the target? Good lord how could you tell? You can't see around the muzzle flash, you're expecting your head to crack open from the sound, and the kick causes it to do a convincing imitation of a shuttle launch. I could have sworn it was actually trying to wriggle out of my hand and rush out the door, giving me the finger as it went. By the time I got everything reassembled neither of us were sure which, if any, of the new superholes in our paper bad guy were mine.

But by that point it didn't matter. I'd fired the damned thing, hell it was even fun. But I was still too worried about the action to want to fire it again. I handed it back to Jeff, and for the remainder of our ammo he shot the .50 while I shot the Glock.

As we were driving home I realized the purpose of such obviously purposeless machines. They're not for defense, although they can do that. They're not for killing, although they're quite patently capable of that as well. They're for people who enjoy controlling fire and violence and solid sound, who like being the only one on the block with a toy everyone's heard of, who use their machines as a method of introduction, a social calling card capable of holing an engine block at fifty paces.

And really, what the hell is wrong with that?

Posted by scott at December 09, 2002 05:59 PM

eMail this entry!

Ahahahahhahahahahaha!!!!!!! (Whew)!!!

Man, that is falldownrolloverkickin'anscreamin'fermore funny!

Also....having been privileged, some time ago, to fire the aforementioned cannon....I reaaaaly know EXACTLY what you mean!!!

Now I know what's gotta be first-place on my personal Christmas list!

I already own a .44 Mag with an 8" barrel (courtesy of Messrs. Smith and Wesson), so this will be Utterly Purposeless Cannon # 2.

Great blog, by the way.

Posted by: JB on December 9, 2002 07:49 PM

I love the .50. Was shot at once with the .50's on a P-51, and was behind a Quad .50 once while it was hosing down a hillside.
God's own gun!

Posted by: Gene 6-Pack on December 9, 2002 07:51 PM

I saw one of those bad boys in a local pawn shop, it was gold plated! I sh*t you not!

Posted by: Dave on December 9, 2002 10:30 PM

I haven't laughed this hard or this long in many years. Thanks, I'm thinking about buying one now.

Posted by: Mace on December 10, 2002 01:24 AM

The .50's a lot of fun to shoot (Though it's a PITA to clean afterward) It sure does get everybody's attention though.

I took it to a bowling pin shoot (This is where they put 5 bowling pins on a table about ~25-30 Feet downrange and the goal is to knock them off the table in the least amount of time) I sat there waiting my turn as I watched various folks in front of me do this (The range is always full on Pin Shoot Days) I had both the Glock and the DE with me. As I sat there watching these folks I noticed that several hit the targets but they didn't knock the pin off the table (They were using .22s and .38s etc). My Turn came and, with my group of folks, I went out onto the range. The guy who had shot just before me in my booth had his custom .44 Mag 6 shooter (A La Dirty Hairy) And was a regular at this. He was talking to the range folks about how well his special loads (He loaded his own ammo for his gun) did on the pins etc. The all clear was given and we headed back downrange to set the pins back up on the table. As I looked around I was impressed with how far this guy's .44 had knocked the pins (Around 5 feet behind the table. Now this may not sound like much until you realize that bowling pins are VERY HEAVY and made out of SOLID WOOD) the pins had a bunch of entrance holes but no exit holes. I noticed that there were black dots painted on the table where we were supposed to set the pins. One row of dots were at the front of the table, the other row of dots were at the back (The table being about 3Ft across) so stupid me decided to make sure that if I hit the pins I would knock them off the table and put them on the back row. After we set the pins up we all went back to the firing line. The range person went from lane to lane timing folks as they knocked the pins off the table. Finally it was my turn. The range person held his timer and a loud tone went off when it started. So you heard EEEEEEEEEEEEP KAAAAAAAABOOOOOOM, (Shibit I missed. I always seem to miss the first shot with this thing.... Go Figure) KAAABOOM, Pin disappears, KAAABOOM pin goes away repeat until all five pins are gone. The range guy had this funny look on his face as he marked my score down and moved on to the next person. When everybody was done we all moved back downrange to set the pins back up (You get three chances at knocking the pins off the table and they take your best time) as I walked up to my table I started to look for my pins. "Hmmmmm WTF are the pins...." Then I notice 5 bowling pins up against the wall at the very back of the range (Around 75 Feet away where they setup the pins for those folks with rifles that want to take part in this) I walk all the way downrange (by this time the folks who were shooting with my had already set back up and were watching me) sure enough they were my pins. With HUGE bulges in them (The rounds didn't go all the way through, Almost, but not quite) the range person helped me retrieve the pins and with a smile said "Lets put the pins on the front row, I don't think you have to worry about knocking them off the table." I grinned real big at him and told him I was going to break there record for the quickest time. I was just going to shoot the leg of the table. The guy with the 44Mag was very impressed. It's a pure testosterone gun.

I used to tell folks I got the DE in case an elephant attacked me. Now I just tell folks to go watch the Mel Gibson movie Signs.

Posted by: Jeff on December 10, 2002 07:49 AM

Har! har har! I knew about the bowling pin thing, but didn't know enough details to make it a story. :)

Posted by: scott on December 10, 2002 09:06 AM

Oh, and gene, exactly why was someone shooting at you with a P-51? And why are you still around to tell the tale?

Posted by: scott on December 10, 2002 09:13 AM

MommaBear bought one of the first DE.50's sold in the USA and has had an absolute ball with it ever since. A lovely feeling of power when properly handled. No limp-wristing, or the action will short-stroke. Seated in the right spot in the grip hand, it is a manageable handful. The roar and fire-ring are just sheer delight !!

Posted by: MommaBear on December 10, 2002 05:03 PM

Now you guys didn't tell everyone that Jeff's wife shot that DE too. No limp-wrist going on, steady and strong.
A woman that can shoot and hit the target isn't one to mess with either, heh MommaBear.
Females that are not in training in those places are treated with respect and revered.
(Every once in a while men need hints! right, men of mi familia?)

Posted by: Cindy on December 11, 2002 12:16 AM

I am just going to ignore all the gun totin' people in my family. Guns scare me to death.

Posted by: Pat Johnson on December 11, 2002 06:35 AM

Great story! I am normally a "lurker", reading forums but never commenting, but I couldn't help myself on this one. Laughed my ass off.

Posted by: tim on February 1, 2003 07:55 PM

hhhhmmm 'wot the hells wrong with that''
just about everything, i know what your saying mate -a gun like that is nothing more than a talking point, it also sadley demonstrates americas obsession with guns. its like the gang on the corner they got a bunch of .10 glocks or whatever, the gang on the otherside of town are toting .50s, the gang on the corner have to compete so buy the same-what you left with is a bunch of people with weapons they cant fully control walking the streets. Because it is THE thought that everyone owns a gun which makes everyone go and buy one. Whats the point? makes small guys with limp dicks feel like a man. take the guns away from americas streets and all of a sudden people have to revert back to earning rather than taking, then you find out who the real men are. a gun can make a 10yr old the most dangerous person in a room. but the trouble is people dont think like that they see the gun as an extension of themselves, they think that THEY are dangerous, its not them thats the danger its the gun-take it away and...well you know the rest.
guns are such apart of americas culture its just plain SAD, they actually make people feel bigger like somthing they are not-carryone for long enough and before long they'll believe it-but only when they are carring it........the whole- ''i betch u wouldnt fuck with me if you knew wot ive got tucked down pants'' attitude from the weedy 16year old spotty store clerk. im from the england by the way.just my 2pence worth.

Posted by: simon on March 7, 2003 11:37 AM

That's right, and your country does not even allow police officers to rightfully defend themselves with guns either. Just a stick.

You british are so polite, it's a wonder you're able to reproduce. "Excuse me? May I place my dick in there? I don't want to be rude."

My father is a retired police officer. He has many guns. All of them locked away in a safe in his house. Not just with keys, but a combination lock. His guns were used with a purpose in mind.

People who buy guns designed to kill people (I'm not talking hunting rifles ok?)for the sole purpose of showing off are compensating for other shit.

Thats MY 2 cents.

Posted by: Ellen on March 8, 2003 09:05 PM

Us brits find it pretty funny when we here comments like 'you british are so polite blah blah blah'. It shows just how little you know about us. Its also shocking that you manage to label an entire country with same tag. We are ALL polite. We ALL talk in upper class hugh grant accents and say words like 'bugger'. Do you really think we are all a bunch of fumbling idiots who stutter and stammer through 'yardy yar' upper class waffle? YES you probably do...and we dont give two shits because deep down we credit ourselves with a better grasp on life, and most importantly a better understanding of the world around us. We do not see ourselves as having the most disirable country on earth to live in, but we LOVE our country. People from the US stereotype from nothing else than their main educational tool, the TV. You also niavely (ignore my spelling-it has always been shite)think that we love all 'you guys' we DONT. In fact maybe its not that bad, being polite i can handle stereotypes but can you handle yours!! Lets face it if McDonalds had an open day there would be 4 of you lard arses to every bus, and if you not first in line you can always shoot a path to the front, where of course you have more right to be than the other hungry people because you've had a bad day havn't you.bless. and then after that dramatic day you can waddle your fat arse home and right a book titled 'im fat my husbands sleeping with my mom, and i live in trailor park'. If your countries so fucking great, how come your so fucking divided. How come most americans would rather stay at home than bother to go out. Summary: Your are so out of touch with the rest of the planet its a wonder why you bother to leave. Lets face it, the rest of the world would prefere it if you just stayed.

Lots of Love,

Posted by: simon on March 10, 2003 05:10 AM

ok, i meant 'write' not 'right'!! ahem.

Posted by: simon on March 10, 2003 05:19 AM


touchy eh?

Posted by: Ellen on March 10, 2003 06:52 PM

i have my moments x

Posted by: simon on March 11, 2003 04:49 AM

are you gun slinging boys related to me.I am born and raised in california.John wesley and Jean are my if you are curious

Posted by: gordon yardy on December 2, 2004 02:42 AM

are you gun slinging boys related to me.I am born and raised in california.John wesley and Jean are my if you are curious

Posted by: gordon yardy on December 2, 2004 02:43 AM
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