Nathan S. 's avatar

I Shot a Gun For the First Time & Didn’t Die

Posted by Nathan S. on 04/22/14 | Filed under Opinion, True Blogger Stories

I have a very simple relationship with guns: they scare the shit out of me. As a general rule, I've enjoyed not being shot, and I've found the surest way to continue to not be shot is to be nowhere near a gun. Growing up in a large city, game hunting wasn't exactly an option, so guns were strictly a human shooting enterprise. Being a human who did not wish to be shot, the few times I encountered a gun, I subtly but quickly got the fuck out of there.

Case in point, I remember being in Austin for SXSW and stopping in a CVS for a lemon Snapple. As I perused the fridge for said Snapple, out of the corner of my eye I saw a plain clothes cop with a gun strapped to his waist. I immediately left. Was that cop going to shoot me? Well, it wouldn't be impossible, but realistically, no. Definitely not. Was I going to get caught in the crossfire of an impending CVS robbery? It wouldn't be impossible, but realistically, no. Definitely not. However, even if my chances of being capped in that store were .01%, my chances of being capped in a place without any guns is zero percent. I'm a fan of that zero percent. 

Believe it or not, before I moved over to (usually) writing about rappity rap, I was one of those actual journalists who covered, you know, the news and what not, and one of my main beats was the gun control/gun rights debate. Accordingly, there wasn't a week that went by where I didn't call both the NRA and Brady Campaign for quotes around a gun issue. So believe me, I am intensely aware that it's almost impossible to write anything firearm related without being consumed in political and legal debates. To whatever extent this is even possible, this is not that piece. This isn't about our nation's relationship with guns, this is about my relationship with guns. Me, me, me. Me, myself and I. Me. 

Speaking of me, so far 2014 has been the year of doing shit that scares me. I was scared of getting in front of a camera, I did it. I was scared or running a half-marathon, I did it. Next up? You guessed it. In classic bucket list fashion, I didn't feel like I could continue to go through life having never even touched something that scared me so much (pause), so I texted the homie, "I've never shot a gun. I should shoot a gun. Let's go shoot some guns." He said yes and boom. Just like that I was headed towards a date with destiny handguns. 

As fate would have it, a couple days before I was scheduled to go shooting, I got to talking to some random dude at a barbecue who turned out to be a shooting enthusiast. He said that indoor ranges were creepy as fuck, and if I wanted a good experience I should hit an outdoor range in a scenic setting. Done deal

I didn't even have to get out of the car to start hearing a nearly continuos barrage of "pop, pop, pop". The first thing we saw entering the range was the skeet shooting range, cue the Duck Hunt jokes, and then turned right to the handgun range. Continuing down the path we started hearing a new noise. The skeet shooting rifles were pops, this was more like bangs. Even from a hundred yards off, it sounded like someone pounding on a door five feet away. If this was a war, and I heard that sound coming from over the next hill, I would have run the other direction. (Again, the theme of this piece, I'm a coward.) Getting closer. we found out the bangs were coming from a SWAT team training exercise - you could tell because they were all wearing full SWAT gear, including those visored helmets - and then finally turned into the handgun range. 

Before going to the range, I assumed having someone place a gun in my hand would entail some amount of training, at least watching one of those instructional videos you get at go kart racing places - nope. Not even close. A loosely recalled transcipt of my conversation with the very nice guy working the counter: 

Me: "I'd like to shoot." 
Guy: "Great. Let me see a driver's license and fill out this form."
Me: (I fill out form, hand it to him.) 
Guy: "So what gun would you like?" (Points to wall filled with at least 40 different handguns.)
Me: "Actually it's my first time, so what would you recommend?"
Guy: "I'd start out with a 9 mm. (Places gun, clip and ammunition inside plastic bucket). You're going to insert the bullets here, then push the clip up until it clicks, then pull back here to load it. This is your safety. If it's pointed at S, it won't shoot. And here's some ear and eye protection, you can't go through those doors there without them on. Have fun." 

And that was it. With less conversation than I usually have with my mechanic, I was headed towards a gun range carrying a weapon capable of killing someone, or at least Plexico-ing myself. I won't front, the ol' heart rate was up a bit, but considering several of my fellow shooters appeared to be retirees, it felt ridiculous to be intimidated. After fumbling with the clip for a few minutes I finally got the hang of loading the bullets, couldn't help but feel like some guy in a movie as I cocked the gun, aimed at the nearest target, and fired. 

It feels like an exaggeration in retrospect, but truthfully, it was exhilerating. I spent the first clip just getting over the "holy sweet baby jesus I'm shooting a gun" novelty factor, but by the third I was comfortable enough to start going for moving targets. Shane and I kept going back into the shop to try new guns, and my favorite was the Sig. Compared to the 9 mm it felt like a cannon but it was smooth, and even as comfortable as I eventually got, the feeling of holding something so powerful never really left me. As you can tell, I went for a very straight arm, staggered stance because I don't fucking know, no one told how to shoot and that's just what I ended up doing naturally. 

If this were some thinkpiece there'd be some moral to the story, but it isn't, so the lessons I learned that day, if any, aren't so clear. I learned it's exceedingly easy to fire off some weaponry if you've got a driver's licence and some money. I learned that it's actually much harder to hit even a close target then I thought. I learned that getting hit in the face with a shell casing if you're withing five feet of a firing Glock is a legitimate danger. I learned that if a SWAT team ever comes at me with one of those whatever-the-fuck-guns they were shooting, I'm surrending immediately. I learned that firing guns is a lot of fucking fun and a real rush, probably because I never completley got over that sense of danger. 

So while I can't really say that I've conquered my fear of guns, I'd probably still leave that CVS, I can say I know my fear better. I've shaken hands with that fear, attempted to knock over some metal ducks with that fear; at least I've truly stared my fear in the face. So while I won't be buying a gun anytime soon, I probably will go back to the range sometime to relieve some stress, and if anyone in RefinedHype Nation wants to come along, let's do it. 

Yak yak yak indeed my friends. Yak yak yak indeed. 

[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth, the proprietor of RefinedHype, and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]

RefinedHype has merged with The DJBooth. It's the same articles you loved on RefinedHype, new address. For more info, check out the official announcement.

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