Ready, Aim, FIRE!
December 16, 2004 7:06 AM   Subscribe

For our monthly new experience, my wife and I decided to "shoot guns." That is the extent of the plan at this point. Neither of us has ever fired a gun before and, barring some unforeseen development, neither of us will ever fire a gun again after this. How do we go about this? [MI]

I envision going to a range, getting some safety and skill instruction, renting some handguns and shooting. Is that reasonable? How much should we expect to pay for this? Any recommendations to make the experience more enjoyable or educational?
posted by probablysteve to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total)
 
That's reasonable, I looked into doing the same thing, with the specification that I wanted to shoot machine guns, preferably at paper targets of Osama if that was available., just for the extra red-state frisson. I don't remember the costs, but the calls I made, the guys supplied the guns, the ammo, and zero experience was not an issue, as they give you a few minutes of training right there. Have fun, I never did get to go but it's a dream for 2005.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2004


Find a range that allows you to bring your own targets. I have a 1990 SantaBear with multiple exit wounds in the back of his head and buckshot embedded in his torn fluff.
posted by adampsyche at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2004


Pay attention to the safety rules, because they will freak out if you break them. A lot of new people are bad about pointing the gun in dangerous directions.
posted by smackfu at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2004


I did this. I don't remember how much I paid... $30 maybe, but that was a few years ago. The people at the range showed me a bunch of guns, taught me how to use a machine gun, gave me ear protection and a target and let me loose. Afterwards, I even got a little pin.

The experience definitely brought up some weird feelings, though. There were people there who were obsessed with guns, and everybody was touching them and passing them around like it was no big deal. I found just being in the presence of a gun to be somewhat scary, although the shooting part was exhilirating. And they let me keep my paper target as a souvenir.
posted by bonheur at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2004


There was a similar question asked a while back with answers that might help you as well. Have fun!
posted by jessamyn at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2004


There is a previous thread about some Canadians visiting the States and wondering about doing some shooting at a range, but I've searched AskMe with every possible related search term I can think of and it just doesn't come up...

There was some good advice in the thread. You can just go to a range and rent whatever gun you want. Usually they'll sell you cheap reload ammo, though, and the accuracy sucks.
posted by Shane at 7:34 AM on December 16, 2004


Wait a minute - you have a "monthly new experience"? That's the best idea I've heard all week.
posted by booth at 7:34 AM on December 16, 2004


Oops, thanks jessamyn. You must have posted that while i was searching AskMe. Guess I gotta learn to preview latest comments before I post.
posted by Shane at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2004


You might want to start out shooting rifles, even (or especially) .22's, they don't kick and they are pretty easy to aim and then you get the satisfaction of actually hitting targets. Handguns are hard to aim and kick back quite a bit (excepting target .22's like a Ruger Mark II, but they are still hard to hit targets with until you've ran a couple hundred rounds through them). You can get dissapointed pretty easily at the outset. What it costs depends on where you are. Skeet shooting is also very fun (shotguns, clay disks) and satisfying.

As above, never point a gun at something unless you intend to shoot it. Any gun, even if you have personally unloaded it and cleared it's chamber is still loaded and should be treated as such.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2004


I second the rifle recommendation. A semi-automatic .22 is loads of fun. Other fun targets to bring include pieces of fruit, cans of cheap soda,shaken up, etc. Some ranges have reactive targets that explode when hit, which is also fun.

It's unfortunate that the debates on gun control overlook how fun shooting can be as a hobby.

Oh, and see "Panic" with William Macey before you go :)
posted by mecran01 at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2004


I second the rifle recommendation. A semi-automatic .22 is loads of fun. Other fun targets to bring include pieces of fruit, cans of cheap soda,shaken up, etc. Some ranges have reactive targets that explode when hit, which is also fun.

It's unfortunate that the debates on gun control overlook how fun shooting can be as a hobby.

Oh, and see the movie "Panic" (starring William Macey) before you go :)
posted by mecran01 at 7:52 AM on December 16, 2004


Wait a minute - you have a "monthly new experience"? That's the best idea I've heard all week.

sort of. we try to to come up with a new thing each month, but probably only execute 8 a year. i jokingly said "shoot guns" a couple of weeks ago and, to my surprise, that's our idea for December.
posted by probablysteve at 7:59 AM on December 16, 2004


Just go to a range. They would more than happy to set you up and give you some quick lessons. I was talking to an old coworker when I mentioned I had never fired a gun. He was like "let's go to a range during lunch." While I found it a really odd thing to do, I figured why not. So we went and fired handguns (9mm, I think).

It was a crazy experience. I am glad I did it, and I came away more afraid of (slash respectful of) guns and certain I didn't want anything to do with them.
posted by xmutex at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2004


If you were in Cambodia, there's a great target range just outside of the capital where you could shoot water buffalos with RPG's.

I'd actually go against the .22 recommendation. If this is a once in a lifetime event, get the biggest, baddest gun they have available. The .357 is a good choice. If they have a .50 BMG, that's even better (but single-shot). If they have a Gatling gun, better still. I don't think any indoor firing ranges that would have those last two.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2004


I don't know where you live, but if you are within driving distance of LL Bean in Freeport, Maine, you can have a great experience shooting guns there. I am a mild-mannered pacifist chick and I loved it.

They have these things every day, at least in summer, called Walk-on Adventures. For a measly $12, you can do a 2-hour workshop in kayaking, fly fishing, archery, or skeet shooting. I had a great time with my shotgun in skeet shooting. It's fun, challenging, and doesn't feel creepy - it's just a target sport. The clays (targets you shoot for) are launched into the air like birds - in different patterns - or even rolled across the ground like rabbits.

If you aren't near LL Bean, look for skeet shooting nearby you somewhere. I left there swearing I would take it up as a hobby but haven't done it again.

What are some of your other new experiences of the month?
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2004


OK, probablysteve, you're piqued my curiosity- what are some of the other things you've done? I dig your idea.
posted by mkultra at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2004


You don't tell us where you are, so I can't give you any specific recommendations, but I have shot at ranges all over the US.

Check the NRA Registry of Shooting Ranges for a location near you. Although I am no great fan of the NRA's lobbying arm, they are actually quite strong on gun safety and responsibility, and my guess is that a range in the NRA registry should meet basic safety standards and not be too skeevy.

Also--there's a range with machine guns near Las Vegas. ;)

I, too, think that probablysteve et ux's "new experience of the month" idea is the keenest.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:44 AM on December 16, 2004


C_D:
Oh no, I was never saying just leave off at .22s that's like saying sex begins and ends with handjobs. I was just saying start with .22's and then move on to something more fun and memorable.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2004


As other people have said, most ranges that rent guns will be happy to give you a basic use and safety lesson, call and ask.

As for what to shoot, I agree with rifles being a poor choice. They just don't have that "I'm Dirty Harry and blam blam blam take that you filthy paper target rat" feel of a handgun. But what I would recommend over anything else is going trap/skeet shooting, something I've only done once and whoo was that fun. However I suspect the whole shotgun rental and training thing might be hard.

Go with handguns, and then tell yourself skeet shooting is another experience, because it really is, and this way you have another thing to add to the list.
posted by aspo at 9:38 AM on December 16, 2004


I'm with mkultra. It's such a wonderful idea, but I think that I'm so boring I'd run out of new experiences after two or three goes arounds. What kind of stuff have you done?
posted by rafter at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2004


The experience definitely brought up some weird feelings, though. There were people there who were obsessed with guns, and everybody was touching them and passing them around like it was no big deal. I found just being in the presence of a gun to be somewhat scary, although the shooting part was exhilirating. And they let me keep my paper target as a souvenir.

I have felt the same thing being in the presence of people (cops, guards, etc.) with guns. I think it is weird and unfortunate that we've gone from being a gun totin' self-defending people to little sheep that depend on police for protection. Especially when the supreme court has ruled that police have no obligation to help you, even if your life is being threatened. I think we need to grow our balls back and learn to defend ourselves, and this includes owning guns.
posted by knave at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2004


You will find that shooting afficianados are usually very cordial and willing to help newcomers with the experience. Sure, there are some scary nutballs, but there are scary nutballs in every hobby. I think you'll be surprised at how many women, professionals, and non red-staters you'll find at your nearby range, especially if they cater to handguns.

Any responsible range will offer you a primer in operation and safety of whatever gun you chose to rent. They may or may not go over the three fundamental rules of gun safety. Whether they do or not, you should keep them in mind at all times:

1) The gun is always loaded. Even when it's not, act as though it were -- you never know when it may be, against your expectations. That's how people die.
2) Never aim the gun at anything you do not wish to destroy. Know your target, and anything near or behind it.
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

If you're going to be handling guns regularly, you should internalize those, but for a one-off range trip, just try to bear them in mind. Number 2 is the most important. If your range is any good, the safety officer will be very unhappy with you if you start waving the gun around. Unless the magazine is out and the action is open, always keep the gun pointed downrange. Even if the action is open, keep the gun pointed at the floor and away from people. See rule number 2.

Be prepared for the noise. Most people are surprised at how loud guns are. You never get the full experience in a movie or on TVs. Even a handgun gives a good loud POP. In an enclosed space, a powerful rifle has a concussive blast that can be felt a good distance away. If the range is busy, you'll probably find yourself flinching with every shot at first, but you soon get used to it.

Your range will almost certainly have ear protection for you to wear, but you might wish to bring your own earplugs to put in first. It helps tame the noise a bit more.

Rates vary, but for two gun rentals, an hours range time, and enough ammo to shoot in that time, you're probably looking at between $50 and $100.

Just remember to relax, be responsible, and have fun. You may just enjoy it so much you decide to do it again!
posted by jammer at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2004


My friend and I went to a local range because we were bored and ended up dropping around $100 for the two of us for handgun rental, targets, ear and eye protection, and a box of rounds.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2004


I did that once... signed up for the handgun safety course for our university shooting range (the University of Toronto no less... who knew there was a shooting range within 200m of Queen's Park?) to try something new. So long as you sat through the hour, paid your $10 fee, and fired a few shots from a .22 revolver and semi-automatic handgun you had access to the club's guns, and just had to pay for ammo. Of course, I never went back.

Another time I went to a shooting range in St. Catherines with a friend's dad. Alas, he forgot the slide on his gigantic Desert Eagle type pistol, so we had to make due with a rather intimidating .357 revolver.

After that, shooting off a glock at a North Carolina 'training facility' was easy. The look on the faces of the people with me was priceless... like 'how did you learn to do that?'
posted by maledictory at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2004


Years ago, a friend of mine returned from the army. He went to shooting ranges all the time, so I just tagged along. He taught me to shoot a variety of guns that they let you check out. It was really fun. Maybe you have a gun-nut friend who can show you the basics.

I ended up paying about $50, but we did shoot off more than just a few rounds.
posted by SAC at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2004


OK, probablysteve, you're piqued my curiosity- what are some of the other things you've done? I dig your idea.

It's been as mundane as trying a new place to eat, driving to a town within a couple of hours to check it out, building a computer or learning how to make some exotic food. More exciting stuff has included kayaking, hiking up a mountain, off-road driving (had to use the wife's 4-wheel drive for something), driving over a certain speed, scuba diving, parasailing (lame), running a marathon, trying to learn a new language and doing a triathlon. There are some more interesting things but I'm not telling you about them. ;)
posted by probablysteve at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2004


Emily Yoffe has a ongoing series of "Human Guinea Pig" articles in Slate. In November she posted one on learning to shoot a pistol, at a range, that seems quite on point.
posted by WestCoaster at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2004


There's probably a public range associated with your local sherrif's department or community college. That's a great way to do things, because you'll get

Don't be afraid of the "gun-nuts". They're usually some of the more upstanding guys in the community ... the true gun nuts are typically asked to leave the public ranges and not come back, because they scare the safety-officers more than a neophyte does. Guns really aren't inherently dangerous if they're handled properly, and although they may be passing guns around very freely, if you'll watch you'll notice very subtle things about their behaviour ... for instance, they ALWAYS keep their trigger finger straight out along the side of the housing unless they've got the gun pointed downrange or at a 'safe' target, they never point a gun at a person or something that a person could be behind, etc. In fact, going to a range that has a lot of 'gun nuts' at it is probably one of the safest 'dangerous' things you can do.
(Safety-wise: One of the ranges I went to, at Oregon State University, had never had an emergency cease-fire called in the university's 70-some-odd year history. That means that, out of all of the crazy students that were using the range, everyone stayed safe enough to enjoy the sport without doing something dangerous while the range was in operation.)

Follow instructions at all times, though. If you follow and pay attention to them, they won't be worried about you and you'll be accepted into the community and may get offers to try a whole bunch of stuff and get a lot of extra hings that will make things more enjoyable.
posted by SpecialK at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2004


Sure, there are some scary nutballs, but there are scary nutballs in every hobby.

However, to be fair, the scary nutballs in this hobby have guns.

I recommend shooting rifles if at all possible. A guy I used to work with has a Czech-made (IIRC) reproduction of a WWII-era German rifle, and actually scored a few boxes of authentic period rounds for it. There was a tiny swastika etched on each casing. It felt weird to shoot those rounds, because they emanated pure evil, but that was all in my head. It was a real connection to history that most people don't experience.

He also has an AK-47 with a collimator sight (the "red dot"). Fun to shoot because it's so easy to aim and the kick's not too bad. You can get a nice tight grouping on your Bin Laden target.
posted by kindall at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2004


Last time I went shooting was with a college friend who went to a local range to let off steam. I came along, not having shot since I was in Boy Scouts. I had him give me a safety lesson for every weapon and I wouldn't touch it until I knew what everything did. I strongly recommend this process.

I shot his .22 Ruger target pistol, and I'll say that quite frankly, I was very proud that I was able to put 27 out of 30 rounds in the black on a standard target at 3/4 the length of the range, and that 20 of those 27 were in the center or the next outer ring. Therein lies one of the joys of target shooting: doing it well.

I tried out his .45 and his pump shotgun. I hated the .45. Hated, hated, hated. It had so much pull to it that it was hard to fire accurately. It was instinctive to grip tighter to compensate for the kick which made the pull worse. Awful weapon. I shot exactly one round from the shotgun and thought, "what's the point?" The shot shredded the target and there was a large visible hole from the wadding.

Try them for the experience and find what you like.
posted by plinth at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2004


Lots of good advice here. I'll add a couple of points:

Shoot whatever the heck you want if it's a one-time deal. .22s are a highly advisable way to start out learning to shoot, as you won't tend to develop a pre-emptive recoil-flinch before learning good technique. But if you just want a fun *kaBOOM* experience, rent something more substantial.

Double up on ear protection, especially indoors. Plugs + muffs.

Shoot outdoors if that's an option where you are.

Don't try to appear more comfortable than you are. Sometimes people feign casualness, when they've never held a gun before. *They're* the ones who end up dropping a full magazine, pointing the muzzle at the clerk, or other fauxs pax.
posted by Tubes at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2004


Lots of good advice here.

Yes, thanks for all of the advice. I can't afford another hobby so I hope this is fun but not addictive.

Don't try to appear more comfortable than you are.

I treat my nail gun like it might fire accidently at any moment. I imagine I'll be even worse with a real gun.
posted by probablysteve at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2004


If you actually want to learn to shoot, then, yeah, rifles and gun safety and all that stuff. But if this is going to be just a one-off experience, rifles are going to be kind of a let down.

Indoor gun ranges set up for tourists are what you want. I've seen them in Waikiki and Las Vegas. The guns are actually chained down so it's impossible to point them at yourself or anyone else, so the safety instruction is minimal. For $50 bucks you can fire a full clip from a half-dozen different pistols and a few shots from a shotgun as well. Shotguns aren't much fun for (paper) target practice (as plinth says), but damn you will know you've fired a gun.

I've fired a machine gun at the Vegas range, and that's a blast too, but not the way to start. It's short, hella expensive and, again, no fun for target practice.

The ultimate, but I've only seen this in on the island of Lanai, is Sporting Clays. Think of it as golf - with shotguns. Buy a box of ammo, get a few minutes of instruction, then they turn you loose on a "course" (paved road) that has a series of stations. Each station has a few different clay pigeon launchers hidden in the brush that mimic different animals - high arc, low and fast, towards you, away from you, that sort of thing. Even a "rabbit" that rolls across the ground. You take two shots at each different "animal" and move on to the next station.

Have fun.
posted by zanni at 12:59 AM on December 17, 2004


I had a mate who took me down to the pistol club to make "bang" noises a couple of times, and what I learned was this: if you're shooting a semi-automatic handgun and you want to use a two-handed grip, don't wrap the thumb of your outside hand around the back of the grip and over the top of your inside hand. I still have the scar - those slides are sharp.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 AM on December 17, 2004


Take a handgun safety class at the range, lasts an hour or two. Make sure the instructor is NRA certified. You'll enjoy the subsequent shooting a lot more with a little basic knowledge.

It's fun, and amazing for relieving stress. Enjoy - no fear or frissons necessary.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:56 PM on December 17, 2004


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