A day at the gun range
Los Angeles, California
By Jill Kitchener
If a guy wanted to take me to a gun club for a date, I don’t know how I’d react. Growing up near Toronto, Canada, guns have never played a role in my life – most certainly not my dating life. Shooting guns as a recreational activity has never caught on in my social circle.
Yet I found myself at the Los Angeles Gun Club with photographer Lucy Nicholson while on vacation.
After a nice lunch at a neighborhood cafe we thought we’d try our luck in getting permission to shoot at the gun club – with our cameras. To my surprise, the manager was more than happy to have us document the action. She kindly provided us with headphones to save our eardrums.
We met a family with a young girl learning to shoot (the minimum age to shoot at a gun range is 10, as long as they have parental supervision). We met couples on dates, and groups of male and female friends out for some fun. Some were there to shoot the guns they owned, and some were there to try new guns before buying their own. There were tourists looking to shoot, and a swell of frat boys from a local university. Whether young or old, male or female, it seemed everyone was eager to have their shot on the range.
I wasn’t expecting the level of excitement to be at such a high.
Before entering the range, customers picked their guns. I had to laugh at the cartoons of seemingly angry men drawn on some of the targets up for grabs. But before taking aim at the paper perpetrators, everyone had to learn the safety procedures. “Never point a gun at another person.” It made no difference if it was loaded or unloaded – this rule was a non-negotiable. And I was glad to hear it.
The Gun Club staff were knowledgeable and thorough with each and every person. They would go over and over the proper way to handle a gun, load a gun, point a gun, shoot a gun… and if the person they were teaching looked at all confused, they would go over it again. And again.
“Are you going to try shooting?” I was asked more than once. “No way,” I laughed. I had no desire to handle a loaded gun, let alone point it at one of those creepy looking cartoons.
Yet I became more at ease as the time passed. The atmosphere wasn’t at all threatening. In fact, I got the sense that this was a somewhat normal and innocent hobby for most. The pops of the guns became less piercing as time went on.
After Lucy and I interviewed some customers (funnily enough, many couples were on dates) and staff, and got enough photos and videos to put together a multimedia piece, it was time to leave. We loaded our gear into the car, and at that point I turned to Lucy and said, “I think I should give this a try. When am I ever going to have this opportunity again?”
I admit I was really nervous, and was paying utmost attention to the safety precautions and the proper shooting technique. I didn’t want to have any slipups at all.
After loading eight bullets in my designated booth and carefully picking up the handgun, my heart was pounding. I pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. I will never forget the feeling of that first shot; the recoil knocked me back a bit and my mouth opened wide. I had shot a gun… and it was easy! A little too easy. My adrenaline had kicked in immediately and I became focused on hitting my target (a man in a suit who had a gun drawn).
Lucy and I took turns loading 8 bullets and shooting 8 bullets until they were all gone. I had my fix and enough was enough.
It was a fun experience and a great story to tell my Canadian friends, but I don’t have the urge to go back any time soon.