My friend and I decided to enjoy a summer day in 2013. Before we knew it, one day turned into an entire weekend of being outside and enjoying each other’s company. We took the jet skis out, took a break from the water and fired up the BBQ, we danced, laughed and hung out. The standard for people in Canada during the summers, we must take advantage of the weather when we can. What came next was completely unexpected! My buddy asked; “Hey, want to go shoot?” “Shoot what? like…guns?” My mouth “yeah sure” but my face gave him the “are you nuts” expression. I was secretly trying to evaluate why in god’s name would we do that? Being from Canada, the government doesn’t want us to shoot and the majority of the people don’t either. Being a woman, firearms were never something that I had really thought about…until now.
So, there I was standing there watching him pack up the truck with everything thing we needed. Chattering away about how much fun this will be and how much I would love it, he could hardly wait until we arrived at the range. I was unappreciative of his excitement then. I was scared to death….and curious at the same time. I adore this guy, and completely trust him and his judgment, so what was there to fear?
Before I knew it, there I was, at the range. The sounds of guns expelling ammo, the smells associated and the welcoming banter of avid shooters. “Uh Oh, we have a rookie today”, “Have you ever shot before?” I let my nerves get the best of me. I know that the banter and rhetoric were aimed at me in good fun, but try as I might I was still scared to death!
Here we go…Time to put up or shut up! I watch my friend unload what appeared to be an arsenal of guns on the bench. I’m jumping every time someone else fires a shot. I’m looking at everything and even though I’m smiling, my fidgeting was a dead giveaway that [in my head] I was living a nightmare. What if one back fires, what if one of these guns spontaneously discharges by itself on the bench. It is a summer day, the sun is beaming directly on the ammo, won’t it get hot and cook off? Ridiculous, right?! Up to this point, I listened to what a culture that is not accustomed to firearms led me to believe. I was utterly clueless!
In the United States, firearms are a staple. “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass”, a quote by Japanese Emperor Isoruku Yamamoto during the onset of WWII. Though this quote was not meant in its literal terms, suffice it to say that Americans are more than comfortable with firearms. Guns do not come as a shock, or “taboo” to most as they do in Canada. Finally, firearms do not “offend” nearly as many people from our southern neighbors as they do up here. This summer day, four years ago instantly changed my complete perspective on firearms, the gear that goes along with them and the people who cherish the sport and the activity of shooting!
After a brief firearms safety explanation and a quick question and answer period, it was evident that my chaperone knew his stuff and was extremely passionate about guns. I already knew that he is a responsible man, but he drove the point home with me when teaching me and anyone who would listen to him about the firearms he brought with. He dispelled my initial thoughts of guns discharging by themselves and explained that the sun had no effect on the ammo sitting on the table. Side note: knowing what I know now; even if there were a possibility of a cook off (outside of a gun) there is no chamber pressure so there for making the round a little firecracker]
It was my turn. I was more comfortable, and my scared anxiety is now anticipation anxiety. I couldn’t wait! First gun; a pistol. A beautiful 9mm. A CZ 75 shadow with gorgeous red grip panels clad with an etched maple leaf. I picked it up to familiarize myself before we went hot. Everything that I had felt leading up to this point instantly went away. It felt natural, almost like it belonged in my hands. Once I was ready to get this “show” on the road, I picked up its accompanied single stack magazine. Inserted it and released the slide. After going through the mental checklist that my friend explained moments before, my first round broke just as it was explained to me. The first round slammed into my target and the gratification was instant. Nine more rounds followed until the CZ’s slide locked back to the rear. Pistol unloaded I set it on the bench and soon heard that familiar voice tell me “I told you that you were meant for this”.
The Range Officers (RO) came over to pat me on the back and reinforce the positive feedback that the targets confirmed a few minutes earlier. I was assured that most people don’t come close to hitting paper their first time on any gun, especially a pistol, from 15 yards. That was all the affirmation I needed. I’m hooked!
By now everyone at the club knows my novice (at best) stature with firearms. I have one type, one caliber and one model under my belt. Many who belong to the club have forgotten about more guns that I will ever shoot. I am the noob; my friend and the RO’s were relentless in making sure everyone present knew that I was…I considered it my rite of passage into the shooting sports. Though semi-automatic 9mm is one of the more common pistols on the planet, I was not satisfied with my outing thus far. There was a pistol that my friend kept telling me about. One that looked more intimidating than the CZ and the rounds accompanying it appeared to be miniature heat-seeking missiles. I had to shoot it!
The Coonan Magnum in .357. Some referred to it as a fire-breathing dragon. It was much heavier and much more cumbersome than the pistol I had previously shot. The revered 1911. A lot less forgiving, yet leaps and bounds more satisfying after I shot it. Words like recoil were only words up to this point. I appreciated the minimal “kick” of the 9mm but what was in store coming from the .357 was hardly imaginable for me. The steel plates were reset and I loaded and took aim. Once the trigger broke I was instantly able to relate to what recoil and managing it meant.
When a .357 is fired, it tends to gain everyone’s attention. After the flame and pressure of my first round, the feedback from the target assured my satisfaction. I looked at my friend and said, “you’re not alarmed, so I am to assume that was supposed to happen?” Now everyone is looking at the noobie shooting the hand cannon. I consistently rang the steel targets.
What would be a range day without shooting the AR? Oh yes, the publicly shamed rifle that is overtly frowned upon from…pretty much anyone who talks about it (that doesn’t shoot).
I picked it up, it didn’t feel evil, it surely didn’t start randomly shooting at people, and it didn’t appear to fire 100 rounds in one second. Something else that I have been led to believe by the public. This being the first time shooting a rifle, I quickly familiarized myself with it. Once I was ready, I tucked it to my shoulder, it still did not randomly start firing. Sights were lined up to my target and I pulled the trigger once…one round came out. I pulled it again…another one round discharged. Rumors dispelled instantly. We checked my target to find clean and beautiful shots, in the precise area that I intended them to be.
In a few short hours, everything that I had been told about firearms had been proven lies. From my perspective, guns were therapeutic. They united a group of people who were not related and who hadn’t previously met. In Canada, there is a small percentage of our population who have been enlightened the way I was.
The day one of my best friends took me to the range will be a day I will never forget. Everyone at the range opened my eyes to an entirely new sub-culture that I found myself relating to better than any I had been exposed to in my entire life. I can be myself, I can say what I want and nobody will judge me. As a matter of fact; it’s the exact opposite. My narrow mind [up to this point] was molded to believe that Military and Police and a few hunters were the only people who needed or used firearms.
I am embarrassed to admit that up to my first outing at the range, I viewed gun owners the same as many judge bikers. The presumption of if you are not police or military, and you have guns, you are a criminal or a deviant. I grew up encouraged to keep an open mind about most things, firearms were not one of them. I am now part of that sub-culture that continues to be looked upon as deviants, criminals, rednecks or other adjectives that are used on a common occurrence. I am proud to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way!