Thursday, May 22, 2014

44 - The Shooting Birthday

As with all men having midlife crises, I feel a need to do something I've never done in my misspent youth.  Unlike most other men, I don't want to waste it on an overpriced phallic symbol of a car and a young blonde girl.
Well, until I found this picture.
Instead, I need to dye my hair odd colors, do dangerous things, and eat at expensive restaurants.  This year was no exception.  You've already seen the hair...
I'm trying out for Ron Weasley in "Harry Potter - The Musical."
The restaurant this year was Manresa.  Here's the meal in one, quick image:
Quickie review: most of the dishes were great.  A couple of the fish dishes were more fishy than I would have liked.  The lamb was terrible.  The first appetizer looked exactly like the last dessert, which was awesome, but made me wish the entire meal did tricks like that.

But enough of all that.  Let's talk about the crazy part.  Let's talk about
  me shooting guns

That's right; little old Matthew from East Central Illinois never fired a gun before.  I'd been afraid of them ever since the famous Time Magazine issue where they showed every death from a gun in the United States in one week.  Pages and pages of children shooting themselves, suicides, and murders.  Almost none were "good shootings" (self defense, police firing on criminals, etc.).

After the waves of mass shootings (Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and so on), I got into arguments online with gun owners.  The evidence that guns caused more harm than good seemed overwhelming.  However, as many of my gun nut owner friends pointed out, I really didn't know anything about guns.

I did know this argument as people post it ad nauseum.
So I wanted to fire a gun for my birthday.  Knowing nothing about gun laws, regulations, and best practices, but knowing the meme above, I assumed learning to fire a gun would be a lot like learning to drive a car.  I assumed you had to be at least 16, took classes before you got a learner's permit, and then only got to fire one under strict supervision.  I looked into classes that took you to a gun range at the end and taught you how to shoot, but found them hard to find.
Note the pro-anarchy bumper sticker.
Then my wife mentioned that her father (a retired soldier) and brother-in-law (a police officer) both owned guns and enjoyed shooting them.  She contacted them and they set up my shooting day, bringing along the whole family to shoot for the first time.

Earmuffs make everyone sexy.
Let me just take a moment to thank my brother-in-law for all he did.  He borrowed guns from friends, so there was a variety to try.  He patiently showed several of us how to use them.  He answered numerous, goofy questions with grace.  So, thank you Art, you are my hero.  Also, you should read my blog, as you'll probably never see this.
The range.  The coffee cans are, sadly, not for spitting tobacco.  It's for shell casings.
I started with a .22 handgun, firing at paper targets.  Then I moved on to bigger handguns, revolvers, and rifles (one with a scope).  Here's what I learned:
  • Bullet sizes make no sense.
    .22 bullets are the weakest and smallest.  .357 are the most powerful.  .44 is in the middle.  Obviously, size doesn't determine effectiveness.  Men rejoice.
  • Shooting a .22 is like shooting a bb gun.
    I could barely tell I was shooting a .22.  When I moved up to the .357 it hurt my hand.  My father-in-law's revolver was so loud I could feel it in my chest even several feet away.
  • I'm glad the NRA doesn't run the DMV.
    I expected more safeguards.  You can go shoot at the range if you're ten years old, but they don't check your age. No training is required.  Some guy hands you a gun and you just... shoot things.  If we treated cars like guns, we'd hand them out to kids in 5th grade and wave goodbye.
The rules we were given at the range.
The rules they actually enforced.
  • Hot metal things hit you in the face.
    Most of the guns we used ejected the shells into the air after each shot.  They're burning hot and somehow always ended up hitting me in the face (which, I was told repeatedly, was better than getting them down your shirt).
Most people call these "shell casings."  I call them "Stop shooting next to me!  Ow! Hey! Ow!"
  • Cops have serious advantages.
    My brother in law had just bought a gun with the sticker NOT LEGAL IN CALIFORNIA prominently displayed on the box.  How did he get it?  He's a cop.  We used his hollow point bullets (Also not legal.  How?  Cop.), and he had to buy more because he's required to use ammo that's illegal for the rest of us.
The bullet opens up inside you, just like a meal at McDonald's.
Gun rights advocates have told me people need guns to protect them from the government.  Yeah, good luck with that. 
  • Bullets are kinda pretty.
    Some bullets are shiny and gold, which is odd because they're supposed to be made from lead.  Isn't lead grey?
  • Sniper rifles are as cool in real life as in videogames.
    I love rifles with scopes in games.  In Mass Effect 3, I killed a whole wave of enemies with one shot (then stood around waiting for the bad guys to come).  When I fired a real one, I kept missing.  Turns out you aim higher than what you want to hit.
You can get these in the hidden levels on The Citadel.
  • You don't have to shoot far.
    When I mentioned the targets seemed awfully close, I was told most gun battles take place between people standing six feet apart.  Seems we could get rid of guns and give everyone spears for protection.
My first time using a rifle.
  • Shooting is really, really easy.
    No, seriously.  Look at the two targets I fired on.  I hardly missed (after the first four bullets).
Some of these weren't mine, but I'll take credit for the good ones.
  • Shooting isn't all that fun.
    Certainly not as much as in a videogame.  Perhaps it's because, after a few shots, you can't see where you hit the target anymore.  Perhaps I need a big "LEVEL UP" sign.
  • Guns are not safe.
    If you drop a gun, it can go off, and most guns don't have safeties.
There was a (probably deaf) bird living at the range.
  • Gun owners want to shoot people REALLY BADLY.
    It's hard to talk at a gun range (because of all the BANG BANG going on), but the one conversation I repeatedly overheard was about the legality of shooting someone.  I learned the best time to shoot someone is when they're invading your home.  I learned I should to make sure I hadn't invited or lured the person into my home first.  I was told to be on the phone with the police when I started shooting.
In short, from my experience, I'm less afraid of guns than I was.  Gun owners, on the other hand...  Well, they scare the bejeezus out of me.

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