Home at the Range
A day spent playing with guns.
by Elizabeth Lemond
have a Scully complex, fueled by years of idolizing Princess Leia,
Lady Jane from G.I. Joe, and the X-Files ice queen herself. But
instead of satisfying my somewhat ill-conceived craving for firepower
by taking an FBI entrance exam or staging a Waco-esque siege followed
by a shootout with the Memphis Police, I decided to try my luck
at a less perilous round of target practice. Joined by a friend,
who also happens to be a second lieutenant in the munitions-loving
U.S. Army, I set off for an indoor shooting range in Millington.
As was not unexpected, I felt somewhat out of place when we first
set foot inside the smoky interior of the quaintly named Top
Brass (okay, so I felt out of place the whole time). Not only
was I not wearing any camouflage or leather, which distinguished
me from about half of the denizens of the smoky lair, but I had
breasts, which distinguished me from just about all of them. I
quickly slipped into passive mode and decided I would much rather
let my companion, Jay, do all the talking than feign that I knew
anything about guns. While he pored over the glass case full of
lethal firearms, I surveyed the lounge-like sales area. Two young
children, one of whom was dressed in a wee set of fatigues, sat
on a sofa watching cartoons, while on the other side of the huge
pane of bulletproof glass two feet behind the television, their
fathers stood next to each other sweating pure testosterone and
shooting up a storm.
We decided that we should try our hands with a Glock, a 9mm Austrian
handgun a favorite of gang members and the FBI. One of the employees
of the store was nice enough to let us use his own gun although
there were ample firearms in the case for public rental (a much
cheaper option than shelling out $600 for your own). The gun was
black and fairly large for a handgun, not one of those shiny,
tiny numbers you see a rich housewife whip out of her purse in
a made-for-TV movie. Besides being a fairly popular brand name
as far as guns go like the BMW of guns the Glock owes its
popularity and infamy to the fact that many of its parts are plastic.
Its lighter than other guns, and in the early 90s many airline
security experts feared that it would be an easy toy for terrorists
to disassemble and tote onto a plane. I prepared to brandish the
After we were assigned a lane in which to shoot this venture
was not unlike bowling, on several levels another assistant
behind the counter called over:
Why dont you show them the bite zone? This was probably more
or less when I started to freak out. Of course, I tried to mask
my trepidation while it was being explained to me that if I let
my hand slip too far up the grip of the gun when I fired, the
kickback of the gun would probably rip half of my hand off. His
exact words were: If your hand is in the bite zone, you will
bleed. Pause. And Im outta Band-Aids.
Then he showed me how to load the clip, hold the gun, pull the
trigger, and take out the clip. He let me practice dry-firing
the gun; Im sure that as he was watching me, my polished nails
tipped him off to my expert status.
After our buddy behind the counter was sufficiently convinced
that I probably wouldnt shoot myself in the foot, we were then
given some protective gear for our eyes and ears and directed
back toward the lanes. I walked behind Jay like a 7-year-old,
toting the targets and our two boxes of 50 rounds each, which
he affectionately referred to as our ammo. I wasnt feeling
empowered just yet.
As we passed through the second of two doors leading into the
range area, I became a little nervous. The butterflies in my stomach
were not soothed by the unpredictably intermittent and deafening
blasts of guns being fired around me. It was a little like drinking
eight cups of coffee and then playing a game of Operation.
It was very unnerving to be in a room full of complete strangers
with deadly weapons, any of whom could have turned around and
plugged me. Though I was not truly worried that anyone would go
postal, it was hardly an impossible circumstance to imagine. I
recall the man behind the counter teaching me to shoot the gun.
I dont recall him asking if I was a felon.
Pushing my paranoia of dying a brutal, tacky death in Millington
aside, I watched Jay nail a few rounds right through the center
of our paper friend and stood behind him dodging the brass shells
being ejected from various guns. I found it hard not to let my
eyes wander to the lovey-dovey couple next to us with matching
leather jackets who cooed at each other while pumping lead into
an 80s movie poster.
When it was my turn to do some damage, I loaded about six rounds
into the clip. This took me what seemed like an eternity because
I was deathly afraid of either getting my finger pinched in the
clip or breaking a nail. I still cant decide which is more idiotic:
breaking a nail while shooting a gun or worrying about breaking
a nail while shooting a gun.
I stepped forward between the metal panels that divided the lanes
from one another and took a few tips from my friend. Despite his
capable instruction, I was pretty nervous, and it took me an interminable
amount of time to actually fire a round. The more I thought about
how much I was shaking, the more I shook. Thinking, according
to Jay, is apparently a big deterrent to successful marksmanship.
I filed this mental note away with my other appraisals of the
I eventually fired off the rounds, despite the fact that every
time I stared down the concrete lanes and relaxed almost enough
to shoot the gun, my friend would command me to Relax! which
made me feel like a tense, shaky idiot again.
After I finished and ejected the clip, we retrieved the target
using the clever mechanical pulley as featured in so many cop
shows. Gazing intently at the target, which was riddled with bullet
holes, Jay proudly announced:
Whatever it was, we killed it.
Surveying the target, I was pleasantly surprised with how well
I had done. Most of my bullets had actually found their way onto
the target somewhere. Jays shots had found their way to the big
X in the center of our gender-devoid victim, although I began
to regret that I didnt bring my high-school yearbook, since we
could have chosen to shoot at about anything we wanted except
a can of kerosene. I remarked that he had done quite a bit better
than I had, and he chuckled, At least your taxes arent being
A flat fee of $12 secured us a lane for as long as we wanted (thats
$8 for one person and $4 for each additional gun-waver), and after
we depleted our 100 rounds (which cost about $14), we both decided
wed had enough for one afternoon. The total cost of the hours
of fun was only about $18 a person, which included the rental
of everything we needed: a lane, bullets, a gun, and targets.
As we sauntered back out of the soundproof chamber into the lounge,
Jay dragged me over to the glass case of guns for sale. He was
hoping to check out the Beretta, the standard military-issue gun
that hed have to get once he went back on active duty. I was
surprised when the person who appeared behind the counter was
the co-owner of Top Brass the female co-owner. She was knowledgeable
and quite personable, but she was set back in her mission to annihilate
the stereotype of the gun-ignorant female when her sweater got
caught in the chamber of the gun and she left it swinging from
her sleeve while she called to someone for help. When assistance
arrived, she asked him a question about the gun Jay was examining.
He turned up his nose and walked away saying, I dont do Berettas.
He delivered the line with a nerdy flair, not unlike what youd
expect when asking Steve Jobs a question about Windows 95.
Though I didnt leave feeling like RoboCop, I did enjoy the indoor
shooting-range experience. I got to pretend to be a bad-ass for
a nominal fee, and I gained a little more respect for those who
responsibly wield firearms. For anyone (barring those with general
panic disorders) who wants to learn to shoot a gun without becoming
an NRA enthusiast, or for anyone who simply wants a little macho
in their weekend, an indoor shooting range could represent a bounty
of untapped amusement and enjoyment. Though as a person who is
decidedly anti-gun, I did not find solace in the hundreds of
witty bumper stickers in the lounge that proclaimed things like
Guns dont kill people; people kill people! and Have you hugged
your NRA supporter today? The experience did not make me want
to buy a Glock or an AK-47 or an Uzi, or even a bumper sticker.
So my Scully complex goes unresolved, and I remain decidedly un-macho.
I have yet to decide whether to let my interest in packing heat
die a quiet death or to go back to the range and take another
small stride toward becoming a deadly babe. n
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