I have never before in my life fired a gun, and in fact it's rare that, beyond TV, I've ever even seen them in real life. My mother is of the mindset that boys even having toy guns in the house leads directly to mass murder; what my father's view on guns is I have no idea, because he never tells anybody anything, but I gather from what clues I've put together that after serving in the Pacific in WWII he had his fill of them.
So naturally, my older brother is a partner in a local gun shop now. He also wantonly rides motorcycles, as part of a carefully crafted plan to make my mother shriek. But let's not get into that. :)
As for my own relationship with guns, like most boys I had my cowboy phase, my Soldier Joe phase, and of course due to timing, my Star Wars phase. I rather bought into my mother's view of guns when it came to real life for many years, reinforced by TV's portrayal. ("When bad people use guns, good people get killed. When good people use guns, baby gets ahold of it and it goes off, making everybody cry. Plus, the only people who actually LIKE guns are drunk rednecks or gangsters. Therefore, guns = bad.") It wasn't until later in life I came to my senses on the subject. I'm not quite the libertarian stereotype of believing everyone should carry a six-shooter on their hip on general principle, but I do think society would definitely be safer if more of the good people did have one during emergencies.
Anyway, putting all of that aside, I have always thought that every adult should have a little training with guns if for no other reason to de-mystify them. If you've never encountered a gun before, when one appears in your face at the ATM machine on a dark night, it's a shocking experience -- you can't move, you can't think, all you can see is OMG THAT'S A GUN IN MY FACE! At least if you've held one, loaded it, fired it, etc., it becomes less of a Scary Alien Thing and more of a tool. (A mis-used tool in the case of the ATM robber, but a tool nonetheless.)
So anyway, all this preamble leads up to today's trip to way the heck out to Fauquier County , to the Clark Brothers Gun Shop and Outdoor Range. For those who don't know, that's way the heck out in the boonies by northern Virginia standards, practically in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (In other words, it's where all the young couples are moving now because it's the only place you can afford to buy a decent house. It will remain boonies for maybe another 5-10 years, then be indistinguishable from western Fairfax County. But I digress.)
The shop itself seems a pretty typical specimen of the breed; it didn't have "BAIT-TACKLE-GUNS" painted on the roof, but it did have a big plaster bear and lots of pickup trucks. Stepping inside was a bit surreal, given my fairly urbanite, gun-free lifestyle ... because there were guns everywhere. Big guns, small guns, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, automatic pistols, even a WWI Mauser-manufacture anti-tank rifle hanging from the ceiling. And there was ammo, ammo, and more ammo; it was a bit startling to look at all the little neatly-stacked boxes and realize that they were full of live ammunition.
While Tye and Camstone haggled over their purchase of the day's ammo, I surveyed the weaponry on display. I am always surprised, when I see a real live gun, at how BIG they are; on TV they look so very small. And when we went out back to the shooting range, I was in for another wakeup call.
Guns are LOUD.
Not just "TURN IT DOWN, YOU DAMN NOISY KIDS!" loud ... guns are "BY ALL THAT'S HOLY WHAT WAS THAT?" loud! It's not just the noise, either; when a gun goes off in your proximity, the air pressure around you changes and a vibration comes through the ground and goes up your spine. You FEEL a gunshot easily as much as you hear it. Even a tiny little popgun (such as the one Tye started me out on) is a concentrated stick of raw power. Those high-power, high-caliber, mounted rifles that the guys down at the other end of the range were firing were like a bolt of lightning striking again and again.
Guns are not something to be taken lightly, folks. 0.o
Fortunately, with a big pair of mufflers over my ears, I got to the point where I could be in the range and not twitch every time somebody fired, but it took probably a good hour of getting used to. For the first several minutes, while Tye was trying to explain the basic use of the first gun he was showing me, a guy at the next stand over was firing a 9mm and I kept jerking every time he did. I'd read about how guns worked, and was familiar with the whole expulsion of gases and spent shellcasings flying out thing in theory ... but to experience it in real life (and have shellcasings pelting my actual head) was very different.
Tye started me out on a .22 caliber Baretta semi-automatic pistol, which is a small, light gun that fires a small, light bullet. First he had me "dry fire" it, just to learn how to properly hold and aim it; once I had the basics down, I watched him load it, and he handed it to me.
I gotta admit, I was plenty nervous to actually pick up a loaded gun. Philosophy aside, this was the real deal. "Hello, Gneech, this is your brain speaking. You have a primed and ready to fire lethal weapon in your hand. Please act with due care. Thank you."
Line it up ... gun held in right hand, aimed with left eye ... BANG! Itty bitty hole in target. There was some kick, there was noise, but y'know, that wasn't so bad. :) Heck, I used a stapler gun that was scarier. If only my aim had been better...
After some pfutzing around with different ideas, finally Tye realized that I am so left-eye dominant that in fact I have to close my right eye to aim. "Well no wonder! Shoot with your left hand!" I gotta admit, he was right ... I spent the rest of the day shooting with my left hand, and while my arm got tired a lot faster than my right hand would have, my grouping was a lot better.
As the morning progressed, Tye had Laurie and I each try the Baretta .22, a Llama .380, a Firestar 9mm, and a classic 1940s vintage Colt .45 automatic. Of all of them, I was the most accurate with the Llama .380, but I liked the Colt .45 the best. The heft, the feel of the grip, and some undefinable sense of personality made the Colt seem like more than just another gun.
NOTE: Laurie cleaned up with that Colt. With the lighter guns, her shots were all over the place, but with the Colt, she was a regular Annie Oakley. We brought her target home as a trophy. ;)
Tye also had me try his Smith & Wesson .40 cal, which he had affectionately named his "Lil' Mule." It was an apt name -- a much lighter gun than the Colt, but using a round that was almost as big, the S&W also had a hair trigger, so it went off before I was expecting and jerked three times as hard. Yikes.
Camstone had to leave around 11:00ish IIRC, at which time Tye pulled out the 12-gauge shotgun and clay pigeons for some skeet. Once again he showed us how to load it, put a pigeon in the launcher, and had me step up to the firing line. We started out again with me aiming with my right hand, and sighting with my left eye.
Having missed the pigeon entirely, I picked my arm and shoulder up off of the ground where the shotgun had knocked them off, reattached them, and said, "I wanna go back to the Colt .45!" Wow, that hurt.
Switching over to fire with the left hand was much more successful. Not exactly brilliant marksmanship, but serviceable for my first time. My best set was 4 out of 5 hits, so I can't really complain. Laurie also did quite well, although it was fun to watch her shoot -- every time the shotgun went off, she rocked onto her back leg and had to keep herself from pitching over backwards. 0=) One shot made her reel so hard her earphones went flying off! =:o
Did I mention that firing the shotgun hurt? 0.o
As we were finishing up our last skeet set, shooteroo and the kiddies came up, and we all adjourned to the Subway-plus-gas-station-plus-mini-mart across the street for lunch, refreshments, and a lopsided grasshopper on the window. Tye and family stayed to continue at the range for the rest of the afternoon, but Laurie and I, having both been viciously beaten about the upper body with the stock of a 12-gauge shotgun, decided to head home for the day.
All in all, it was fun and very cool, in a 2nd-Amendmentey sort of way. ;) It certainly gave me a lot more appreciation for both guns and gun aficionados. It also enabled me to check off "fire a gun" from my list of things that I need to do sometime in my life. I still want to get back and have a go at rifles ... I'll also have to make a list of "requests" for what kind of gun from Tye's impressive collection I'd like to try next. I mentioned the Desert Eagle and he just sorta chortled; he specifically said he didn't have a Walther PPK ... I wonder if he has a Browning High Power...?
Thanks, Tye, Cam, and Shooteroo! ^.^ See ya next time!
 Heheheheh ... he said "Fauqier" ... heheheheh...