Most of the time I don’t go to bed thinking, I’m going to learn something I never thought I would tomorrow. For all that we humans crave excitement, it’s easy to forget that one day will not be the same as the last, even if the last 3/15/45 have seemed that way.
This morning was one of those not-so-usual days. While turning off the alarm on my phone at 6:30, I saw that my friend Howard had sent me a text from the night before—inviting me to go to the shooting range with him.
Howard isn’t someone you’d imagine being into guns. He is a gentle but strong guy, funny and kind, a life coach and advocate trainer for rape crisis organization. He learned to shoot a gun because it scared the crap out of him, and he wanted to face it. I admire that. And while I am not so much into physically risky activities (ie the bungee jumping kind, although I do rock climb) I have always been attracted to ones that push my emotional edges. So I said yes.
Although there is a range in the East Bay, Howard is a member of one over in Larkspur because he prefers the professional/grounded atmosphere, and I have to say that I agree. Although I was the only woman there at the time, I didn’t feel weird or patronized. Everyone working there seemed to be a bit of a character, but down to earth, professional and calm (enough). I couldn’t help but think, though, how often does a gun store face attempted robbery? (Later over lunch Howard told me more often than you might think, even when a cop car is parked outside, so most of the guys who work there, who are retired military or law enforcement, are carrying).
I signed away my rights to sue for damages, handed over my ID, put on my safety glasses (science experiment style!) and ear protection, and we entered the range. Back in the parking lot Howard had already explained to me the basics (how to hold, always point downrange); as we stood in our ‘lane’ he proceeded to show me how to organize and load, the various mechanics, how to aim, the stance, and more. His explanations were clear and understandable, but it was a little hard to concentrate with gunshots going off around me in other lanes–it reverberates through your body a lot!
First we used a .22mm. For those of you unfamiliar, those are small bullets and there is very little recoil. It felt powerful–in what I would call an archetypal, not ego, way–to hold the gun. I tried to remember what Howard as well as my sister and brother-in-law (who have gone shooting numberous times before) told me–have a good stance with your upper body weight over your hips, lean forward some, focus on the forward site, breath and shoot halfway or at the end of your outbreath. I did pretty well for a beginner, getting at least half overall in the black and maybe 3-5 in the red. I think I can say that I liked shooting the .22. It is an interesting challenge to coordinate the movements and to engage with such an intense symbol of power.
The .9 mm was more overwhelming. The bullets look at least twice as big, and the recoil was mildly distressing. I fired 5 or 6 times, and stopped in part because my trigger finger was sore from the recoil. Someone a few lanes down was shooting a .45, even bigger, and I can’t imagine dealing with the energy of that.
I thought that I might reach a distressed tipping point, but when we left I felt grounded enough, not freaked out but definitely adrenalized. The bullets are lead, so you have to wash your hands aftewards, with COLD water so your pores don’t open and absorb the lead. I looked around more of the shop before we left, and it was definitely a little frightening to seem the semi-automatic weapons on the wall and thinking of someone using one. Before leaving Howard scheduled a ‘situational awareness/self-defense’ course for his crisis advocates to be taught by Josh, one of the employees who used to be a sheriff. I appreciated Josh’s combination of expertise with his apparent capacity to relate to a non-gun-toting audience. Although most of us have no need for the depth of information he possesses, we could all use better skills to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.
Upon leaving we both agreed it was time for a burger. Whenever I’ve experienced something that moves a lot of energy (two extremes of that would be a deep cranio-sacral session and firing a gun), I find that I need to ground myself, and (vegetarians/vegans cover your ears) animal protein, plus some fries, is a good way to do it. So we went to the brewpub in Larkspur and sat outside in the sun, enjoying our burgers and the idiosyncracy of life.