It’s a weekday afternoon and my friend Phil and I have just walked onto a gun range. Phil and I usually get together twice a year and blow stuff up. For some strange reason I find it very therapeutic. Phil brings the guns, I buy the beer. To be safe, we drink the beer after we go shooting. We’re not professional football players.
To say Phil is well armed is an understatement. Actually, he has more guns than some Latin American countries. One day I expect him to show up with an anti-ship missile in the back of his truck. Today, however, we’re contenting ourselves with shooting a Model 1911 semi-automatic handgun. Trust me, that’s enough.
As Phil and I take up position in a shooting port and start unpacking the hardware, I notice that we’re not alone at the gun range. Several uniformed men are clustered at the opposite end of the shooting gallery. I recognize the patches on their uniform sleeves. They work for a nationally known armored car company. They’re also armed with shotguns.
“Oh great,” Phil says. “The armored car company must be qualifying their guards on shotguns today.”
“Qualifying?” I ask.
“Before they let a cop or security guard carry a gun,” Phil explains, “The state requires you pass a test to prove you can hit what you’re aiming at.”
“You’d be shocked what bad shots cops and security guards can be. You can shoot better than many of them.“
“Yes way.” Phil says, shaking his head. “Some cops only shoot their weapons twice a year.”
“Are you serious?”
“That’s not a lot of practice.”
“No, it ain’t.”
After we finish setting up, Phil places the 1911 pistol and a magazine filled with .45 caliber ammunition on the shooting bench.
“Now listen up,” Phil says. “This gun’s a little different than the others you’ve shot before.”
“How so?” I ask.
“This is a single action pistol,” Phil says. “That means the only function the trigger has is to drop the hammer and fire the round.”
“And the other pistols I’ve shot were double action,” I reply, “Right?”
“Correct,” Phil says. “When you shoot a double action pistol pulling the trigger performs two functions. It cocks the hammer and it fires the round.”
“I get it.”
“No you don’t,” Phil says sharply. “The trigger on this gun is very light. It only requires four pounds of pressure to set it off.”
“That’s not a lot.”
“Remember the .357 Magnum you shot a while back?”
“That was a double action trigger. That took 12 pounds of pressure to pull the trigger. That’s about the same resistance you get picking up a gallon jug of milk with your index finger.”
“So this gun has what’s called a hair trigger?” I say.
“You better believe it.”
While Phil shows me how to load and unload the pistol I overhear the range master instructing his security guard students in the proper usage of a shotgun. Soon the range is filled with the thunderous cacophony of double-0 buckshot blasts. I’ve fired shotguns before. In antipersonnel mode they’re nasty weapons. Basically, they’re designed to shred people to ribbons.
“You understand everything I’ve shown you?” Phil asks after he’s completed his tutorial.
“Yep,” I reply.
“Let her rip.”
I pick the 1911 of the shooting bench and transfer it to my left hand. One of the things I’ve discovered shooting with Phil over the years is that I’m cross eye-dominant. I may write with my right hand, but I shoot with my left. (Insert appropriate Freudian joke here.) I slip the magazine into the pistol, rack the slide to chamber a round, engage the safety, and level the gun’s sights on a man shaped target 10 yards away. Once I’m satisfied I have a good sight picture, I snick off the safety and pull straight back on the trigger. The gun fires.
To my surprise, the fluorescent light above my target lane disintegrates into a million pieces. The target itself is shredded and knocked off the target carrier. The wires holding the target carrier twang like they’ve be struck by a demented guitarist, snap in two, and crash to the ground. I feel piece of something hit my face.
“Holy shit!” Phil shrieks.
I turn my head. “Did I do that?” I ask, bewildered.
“No,” Phil says. “You didn’t. Put the pistol on safe and step away!”
After I put the pistol down I hear the range instructor screaming at one of his students.
“You IDIOT!” the instructor yells. “How the fuck could you shoot a target on the opposite end of the range?”
“I don’t know,” the hapless student says, shrugging.
“You guys all right over there?” the instructor asks.
“We’re fine,” Phil says. “You are fine?” Phil asks me. “Aren’t you?”
I run a quick check over my body. No holes. “I’m fine.”
“Tell me what town you’re gonna be working in, son!” the instructor bellows at his student. “Because I can knock off any bank you work at in total safety. You really couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn!”
“My first time with one of these things,” the trainee says.
“Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!,” the instructor yells, throwing up his hands in despair. “This is what I have to work with! The gang that couldn’t shoot straight!”
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Phil says, tugging on my arm. “I need a soda.”
Phil and I go to the lounge and get some Cokes out of the machine. I brush some plastic fragments from the light fixture out of my hair.
“You’re lucky the buckshot didn’t bounce of the target carrier and hit you,” Phil says, fuming.
“I’m okay Phil,” I reply. “Besides what does it say on the door? ‘Enter at your own risk?”’
“I’m okay,” I say. “When you finish your soda let’s go back inside.”
“Let’s wait until the security guards are done shooting up the joint.”
After a while the guards leave, their tails between their legs. Phil and I go back inside, get a new lane, and start blasting away. To my surprise, I’m very accurate with the 1911 – shooting 2 inch groups at 25 yards.
“I think you’ve found your gun,” Phil says.
“I think so,” I reply.
“Ready to get some beer?”
“You forget the way to Hooters?”
As Phil and I pack up our gear, an older man with a badge clipped to his belt comes up to me.
“Hey buddy,” he asks. “You on the job?”
“No, sir,” I reply, “I’m not a police officer.”
“Well,” the cop says. “I was watching you. You shoot very well.”
“Thank you sir!” I say, beaming.
“Have a nice day kid.”
“You too, sir.”
I turn and look at Phil, a shit-eating grin spreading across my face.
“Oh God,” Phil says. “You’re going to be insufferable now.”
“Just call me Dirty Harry,” I say.
“I told you you could shoot better than a lot of cops,” Phil replies.
You think my shooting prowess will impress the Hooter’s waitresses?”
“Get a life Steve.”