Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


First Trip to the Range.

Well, I'm a pistol virgin no longer. SayUncle and I headed out to the range where he gave me my first lessons in shooting handguns. I learned quite a bit about shooting, both practical information (Don't touch the trigger until you're ready to shoot.) and legal (requirements to purchase a gun, requirements for concealed carry, training courses etc.)

When we first got to the store, there were about 10-15 people wandering the store, waiting their turn on the range. While we were waiting for my orientation tour, Uncle took me over to the counter and showed me several guns that he would recommend, and some he wouldn't. He stressed that in firearms, as in everything else, you get what you pay for.

Looking at the guns, I was struck by their singleness of purpose. A knife can be used as a tool as well as a weapon. A steak knife doesn't look intimidating, even though it can cut and stab as well as a K-BAR. But looking at a gun, you know it has only one purpose.

That's a sobering realization.

The orientation tour was brief, but thorough, and the attendant made sure I didn't have any questions.For those of you who've never been at an indoor range, it's loud! I had on earmuffs, and it was still loud. The range we were at had 9 lanes and all were in use when we went in. Eye and ear protection were required, and double hearing protection was recommended if you wanted it.

The rules of the range were simple, and related to safety. One gun and one ammo type at a time on the line. Additional guns, ammo, etc kept behind the line. Do not cross over the line for any reason. When the alarm sounds, stop shooting and set you gun on the table. Always keep the gun pointing down range. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot. Never hand anyone a loaded gun.

After the orientation, Uncle showed me the basic operation of a Glock 30 .45. Yeah, I started with a big gun. He showed me how to insert the clip and work the slide to load the chamber, then how to remove the clip and clear the chamber to insure the gun was empty. Then, he went over some basic rules of gun safety. Always assume the gun is loaded. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot. (Yes, this one is that important, that's why I've repeated it several times, but not as many times as he did.)

Then we loaded the clips. I'm typing with one less finger today because the tip of my index finger is sore from loading those clips. It takes a lot of force to load a clip, especially the last bullet because the spring is fully compressed. Uncle showed me the technique, but I'll have to work on it before I get comfortable with it.

Uncle showed me his preferred stance while telling me that other people would give me other advice, and to find what works best for me. He showed me a basic, two handed grip, squeezed off a couple of rounds, then set the gun on the table.

It was my turn.

Keep in mind that while we're going through all of this, there are 8 other people shooting almost continuously. I'm flinching with nearly every shot, particularly when a guy 2 or 3 lanes over shoots. I didn't know what it was he was firing (Uncle later said it was a .44 Mag if I remember right, but not only could you hear it, you could feel the concussion of each shot. I stepped up to the line and assumed a comfortable stance with my left foot in front, my right about 18 inches back and turned to the side (what we called "sugarfoot" in wrestling). I picked up the gun with a two handed grip, and carefully sighted along the barrel to the target 7 yards away.

7 yards doesn't sound like much, and it isn't, but it was plenty for a first time out. My hands were shaking with adrenaline, and I took a deep breath to settle down, and began to squeeze the trigger. Uncle told me that the pull was around 5 pounds, which sounds light but is a lot stiffer than I'd expected. I slowly increased pressure and the trigger moved back until it hit a slight resistance.

Then the gun went off.

That's how it felt, anyway. I wasn't concious of the trigger moving any further, or increasing pressure to break past the resistance. I hit the resistance, there was a heartbeat, then the gun roared. The recoil wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated, but it was still a little overwhelming to feel the gun move with that much power. It didn't tear my hand off, but I knew right away that controlling the recoil would be a challenge, particularly since Uncle warned me against it. He said a common problem among first timers is a tendancy to anticipate the recoil, pulling their shots down.

Oh, yeah, I did hit the target.

I finished the clip, and afterward, Uncle told me that I'd drawn quite the crowd as people stopped to watch the newbie shoot. The last 5 or 6 rounds, I began to get a little control, and achieved a decent grouping. Oddly, shortly after I fired the first couple of shots, I was concentrating so hard, I didn't really hear the other folks shooting anymore. Except for the guy with the cannon.

After the Glock, we went to a SIG 9mm, which had a few different features, like a decocking lever. Still the basic setup was the same, and the 9mm clips were much easier to load. The biggest difference on the SIG was that the first shot was a double action shot, which really jacked up the trigger pull. (If I understand it right, single action means the trigger releases the hammer; it has to be pulled back (cocked) another way. Double action means the trigger cocks and releases the hammer. The Glock we fired earlier had what they call safe action. The hammer is cocked when you work the slide to chamber a round.) After the first shot, the hammer is cocked by the action of the slide and the trigger pull is single action at around 4 pounds. I really didn't like the difference between pulls, but once I adjusted to it, I did OK with the SIG.

We went through 2 boxes of ammo, with Uncle letting me do the lion's share of shooting. Before we left the range, we had to clean up all the casings by sweeping them past the line, where the store would collect them for reloading later. After leaving the range, we went to the washroom to wash our hands to get rid of the lead residue, important if you don't want to wind up like the Roman Emperors.

Range time, ammo, targets and orientation came up to just over $50, which may or may not be expensive; I have no basis for comparison, but seemed reasonable to me.

Holding and shooting the gun felt differently than I expected. I searched myself for feelings of power, or invulnerability, and was happy to find instead feelings of responsibility. The gun in my hand didn't make me feel strong or invincible, but cautious and careful. Every second that it was in my hands I was aware that I held a powerful tool. A gun is a tool like fire is a tool, and just like fire, it can turn on you. Properly controlled, both serve vital purposes, but if you fail to control either, they can destroy everything.

Anyway, I plan on doing some more research, and trying several more guns before making my first purchase. Of the two I've shot so far, I think I liked the Glock a little bit better.
Posted by Rich
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Again, welcome to the "Dark Side." I'm glad you found that holding a gun didn't expose you to any brain-decaying death-rays that turned you into a homicidal monster, as some people apparently fear.

Next I suggest you try a .22 pistol to develop your skills with less concern about the flash and bang and recoil that you get from a full-power handgun.
Posted by Kevin Baker  on  01/12  at  04:00 PM

Ditto about trying a .22. It's good for developing good shooting habits. I have a Browning Buckmark Camper and I (and Laura) love it.

I'll also recommend professional instruction as a supplement to what sounds like a great beginning. The NRA Personal Protection class is excellent, informative, and inexpensive. It goes into detail about legal issues concerning when to shoot. They also talk in detail about coming up with a defense plan for your home. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Also, since everybody has their favorite guns, you'll forgive me for recommending mine, as well. Before you buy, I'd suggest shooting a box or two through a model 1911 .45. Dozens of companies make them. This is, essentially, the same pistol that was introduced in 1911 (duh) and was the official U.S. Military sidearm until the mid 80s. The gun is probably the best loved by American enthusiasts -- of all skill levels. It shoots a great caliber, it's solid and has mild recoil, and for many shooters, it has the perfect grip angle. This is a gun that for many, simply "points" perfectly.

I bought a Springfield Armory 1911 as my first gun, despite a few people who tried to persuade me that it was "too much gun". Today Laura and I own five handguns, but the 1911 is still my favorite.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should buy whatever you're comfortable with, but that's my sales pitch for my favorite.
Posted by Spoons  on  01/12  at  05:41 PM

Congrats on your first "handgun experience"!
Posted by  on  01/12  at  08:10 PM

oops, forgot my name above...
Posted by justin  on  01/12  at  08:10 PM

You wimp! wink

All you had were those wimpy 10 round _magazines_. When I carried, I had a Glock 21 and I loved it. I had the 13 round _magazines_ with a +2 extender. With a spare _magazine_ I had 31 shots available. If I couldn't handle a problem with that many shots, I was for sure in over my head.

I underlined magazines because that is the proper term. A clip holds the rounds semi-exposed, like the M1 Garand.

Also, a Glock is a constant double action. You are pulling the hammer back every time you pull the trigger.

Good luck and choose wisely. It may save your life.
Posted by Mark  on  01/12  at  08:28 PM


My vote for a favorite 9mm is the venerable Browning High-Power. Single action. Been in almost constant production since 1935. You can get very good surplus ones, new manufacture from the original manufacturer (Fabrique National in Belgium), new manufactured clones from Argentine (made on FN equipment, from FN plans, under license) or Eastern Europe (reverse engineered). As well as buying used examples of all of the above.

I second the idea of a .22 for learning control and playing with changes of stance and grip and such. Revolver or semi-auto, doesn't really matter. There are lots of good ones out there, but I like my Ruger Mark II. My dad had a Smith and Wesson Model 41 that was a dream, but those are very spendy! Ruger makes a very nice single action revolver in .22, the Security Six. I've read good things about the Browning Buckmark, but have never handled one.

Although you do get what you pay for, some of the less expensive manufacturers put out good solid guns.

The point is to do as much research as possible about the pistol you choose, and the manufacturer. If possible, find someone that will let you borrow theirs, or rent one at a range. If you lived near Portland Oregon, I'd take a trip to the range with you and my pistols and let you try them out. You'll find that most good gun owners would do the same. Uncle sounds like the same type. smile

Good luck!!!
Posted by Freddyboomboom  on  01/13  at  09:01 PM

Sounds like a great first experience to me! I stumbled on this site after doing research for Glock .40's v a nice Sig P229 .40. I've shot my fathers High Power countless times and its a BLAST to shoot, but it would not be that great for me to carry concealed(5'10 175). I have the opportunity to shoot both a Glock .357 and a Sig. 357 and will probably make a decision after that to see which I like the feel of better.
Posted by Travis  on  01/21  at  04:37 PM

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