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:
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
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?