In the wonderful world of Groupon, you can try new and exotic activities for incredibly cheap. How can there be a downside that scenario? Unfortunately it’s incredibly easy to buy buy buy in a fit of excitement and lust for adventure and then return to reality some months later and never use the the thing; we’re too busy, forgetful, or chicken out. In the case of my first ever Groupon, having purchased only two in total to date, this is exactly what happened to me. After trying unsuccessfully to pass it off to someone else before the expiration date, I just abandoned it because I never had time to get out that part of town. So second go I had to do something when I had the time to go, interesting enough that I wouldn’t forget, and scary enough that I’d almost want to back out. Almost.
In some parts of the world, shooting a gun is a pretty down home, pedestrian activity. For a suburban California turned Bostonian twenty-something like me (age left intentionally ambiguous), a gun is something I only see in movies. I never thought I would ever pick one up, and blissfully assumed liberal states had no conceal and carry laws. Thanks Groupon, you’ve successfully corrupted my youth.
So down to the firing range I go, originally on a whim but now full of morbid curiosity. The “MFS,” or Mass Firearms School is kind of in the middle of nowhere, far outside of Boston where I’m annoyed I have to pay $2.75 in tolls and drive past far too many butcher shops and gas stations. The school itself is surprisingly small, and so is the only other girl in my Learn-to-Shoot class. There only four of us, however, so the tiny girl looks sidelong at her two tall guy friends thanks me for evening out the estrogen in the room. She’ll regret that comment later.
The problem with being the odd one out amongst a friendly threesome? I have to go first in everything. Our instructor has surprisingly affected speech and looks like an Army dude but speaks like a game show host and who is, somewhat disconcertingly, drinking the largest bottle of “Monster” I’ve ever seen. He shows us a laser gun and gives us three rules to try, demonstrating on me in front of the enthusiastic threesome, who seconds before were sniggering over their signed consent forms absolving the school from accidental deaths by (…yes they list them) but are now confidently nodding with their “this will be easy” eyes. I’m too taken aback by rule number 3 to really care, which is let it be a SURPRISE when the shot goes off. Wait, what? So I’m to just start shooting…but not know exactly WHEN I will be shooting at something. What he meant of course, was to slowly squeeze the trigger until it actually triggers, rather than squeeze to shoot. It became obvious when I tried to shoot something with the pistol for the first time. The trigger is much stiffer than you assume it to be from watching all those movies, and if I were to try and get it to trigger faster I would be applying so much force I’d probably move the gun too much and never hit my target. Better it be a surprise, then.
Practice once with a laser gun, and shockingly, that’s all it takes to get you on the firing range with real ammunition. Wait, seriously? We walk to the range donning eye and ear protection. It’s unfortunate the inside isn’t air conditioned like the rest of the school so in yesterday’s 90-degree weather it was a veritable oven. My goggles fog up immediately. He tries unsuccessfully to give me defogging strategies but in the spirit of fairness I’m first up again and time is up. We get to shoot three guns: a Pistol, a Revolver, and finally a Rifle, all from 15 feet away. I don’t know if I’m sweating because of the heat or because I’m nervous, but I line up my sights and get of my first shot. Excruciatingly slowly. Bang. Is it possible to hit yourself with the ejected casings cause….I somehow managed it.
Ten shots is what I get for each gun, and it takes me ages. It goes like this: Plant feet. Line up sights. Finger on the trigger and Sssqqquuuueeeezzzeee…line up sights…Bang. Oh shit. After each gun we got a look at the paper targets up close. The other tiny girl was suddenly afraid of me. “I’d never want to piss you off…you’re deadly” she says. She didn’t say anything else to me after that. Her friends are much more enthusiastic but much less accurate shots.
She has archery skills. I have never shot anything in my life and yet…hey not that bad.
After shooting three different guns for the first time, my impressions were not at all as expected. I thought I would feel exhilarated and empowered, full of adrenaline. Instead I felt like it was just a lot of work and concentration to steady the gun, think about my feet and the target and my hand positions all simultaneously. My shoulders and neck would tense, my arms would get sore from holding up the (heavier than expected) gun for ten minutes at a time. Not my idea of a recreational activity.
So would I do it again? Not sure. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked, too much anxiety surrounding the whole live fire thing. I would probably have more fun with paintball, although I was never any good at laser tag. The only reason in my opinion to get licensed to carry a firearm is apparently in Massachusetts at least, you need a permit to carry pepper spray. So if I want to have legal pepper spray in my purse when I’m walking downtown Boston after a late night at the lab, I might want to take their course. But for now, me and guns are on a hiatus.