We switch back to the US travelogue...
When I was in Baltimore with my friend, for the first time, he showed me around Baltimore. There was the aquarium and all but there was one thing that was very special in that trip.
It was late in the evening and my friend casually asked, “Do you want to go shooting?”
“Shooting? Just like that?”
“Yeah; want to?”
“Sure. No need of a shooting license and all?”
“Nope. It’s been a long time since I went; not sure if it’s still there.”
Am allowed in the shooting range
I was excited and anxious. I’d never even held a real gun in my hand. He drove around trying to figure out the spot based on memory. As we went on the main road, he remembered the block and turned around to the other side of the street. In a side lane there was this building with a board “Select Fire”.
We walked into the shop slowly; the walls were filled with guns. This was it.
“We wanted to use the shooting range,” my friend asked.
My heart, for some reason, was lubbing and dubbing heavily.
The man behind the counter casually pushed across a couple of forms to fill out. It was a simple form. My friend clarified if I was allowed to use it and he just asked for my passport. They kept my passport and my friend’s driving license while we were in the shooting range. After filling the form, he told us that we could only use the pistol to start with. After we put 5 shots (or maybe he said 10) in the center, we could use another weapon - an automatic and so on.
He took two guns but my friend said one would be sufficient. He also handed over a box of ammunition. He gave us a big headset - the one you see used by pilots and people working on airport runways. He also gave goggles.
“Put it on before you cross the door.”
He also handed us a couple of huge sheets of paper. On them were the target practice diagram - the sheet you see in movies when the hero is practicing shooting. Basically the outline in the shape of a man with a few concentric circles. It was thicker than a bond paper but thinner than chart paper.
Ready, aim, fire
We opened the door and could hear gun shots inside. This was an indoor shooting range; about 4 lanes available and there was a group of 4, including a lady, who were using the last lane. Each lane had a switch box that would move the target clip hanger down the lane - so you don’t need to walk to the end of the lane and fix the target sheet. You just flick the switch and it would come to you; you clip on the target sheet and flick the switch again to move it away. So there I was with a real gun and real ammunition. It was a .22 pistol.
My friend, who had some experience before, opened the ammunition box and showed me how to use the pistol. The ammunition box had 100 cartridges. He showed me the safety catch and he showed me how to load the bullets in the revolver. And then he fired a round. After that you have to empty the revolver of the used cartridges. And then I tried my hand at it.
I used my left hand to keep my right hand steady to handle the recoil. The recoil isn’t a huge one; you can fire with a single hand but the left hand helps keep aim. After firing a few shots I realized that the recoil was taking my shot to the upper left from my aim. After emptying a round of cartridges, we’d retrieve the target sheet to see how we did. I struck a few in the center! I had to aim for the lower right to get the shot right.
The gun was very similar to the toy guns we played with except for the recoil and the fact that a bullet was being fired. The sound was pretty similar. A few rounds later, someone occupied the first lane and fired a machine gun. The headset doesn’t completely eliminate all sound; you could still hear gun shots.
Armed, dangerous and worrying
You certainly need a lot of practice with shooting to get a perfect aim; even shooting a stationary target is not easy; imagine shooting a running target. And imagine how in movies the hero picks the gun for the first time and shoots a person who is more than 50 feet away - need a big dose of luck to do that!
The thought that I had in hand something that can kill very easily was worrying. It was a strange feeling - and the cost of shooting wasn’t high; for $25 or so you could use the gun for an hour in the shooting range. Buying a gun also wasn’t that costly - you could buy guns from Walmart - they had one section for guns.