In my 54 years, I had never fired a gun — until yesterday, when my good friend Chuck invited me to join him at the AimHi Shooting Range on Route 62, just north of New Albany. AimHi is a combination rifle range/pistol range/retail store that sells safes, guns, ammunition, targets, and other security-related items. It also offers gun training and the classes that must be completed to get a concealed carry weapon license under Ohio law.
For a newbie like me, the first step is to sign in, give up your drivers license, and then watch a 10-minute safety videotape about the rules that must be followed when you are in the range — things like when firearms can be loaded, where and how loaded firearms must be placed, where to stand, and where not to go. Believe me, the thought of actually handling a loaded firearm made me pay close attention! Then, I donned my safety glasses and my ear coverings and we went out onto the range, where Chuck gave some additional instruction on how to load the guns, how to hold them, and how to aim and fire.
The range looks like what you’ve probably seen on TV shows and movies with police themes. You stand in a little open booth — there were six on the rifle range, where we went — unpack your gear, and put the guns on shelves at the front of the booth, with the muzzles pointed down the range. You bring your own paper targets, attach them to clips on the target holders and use a keypad to program the distance, and the machine moves the target to the point you’ve requested. (Nazi zombies seem to be a popular target choice, incidentally.) Then you load the guns in the booth, take your stance, and begin firing.
It was loud — I mean loud! — in there. If you’ve only seen guns fired on TV and in the movies, you don’t realize how much noise they make in a closed space. For some of the guns, hot bullet casings come springing out with each shot and litter the floor with bright, shiny metal, and firing the guns produces a distinct smell, too. And, of course, when you are shooting you feel the kick from the gun, and you are focused intensely on handling the gun correctly and trying to hit the center of the target. In short, going to a shooting range is an adrenalin-filled, sensory-rich experience.
We shot .22s, .45s, .357s, 9 millimeters pistols, and a kind of assault rifle. One of the guns had a laser sighting, which was a little embarrassing, because it shows all too visibly how unsteady my aim is. As we experimented with the feel and accuracy of the different guns, I couldn’t help but notice the other folks on the range. If you think about it, you are placing a lot of trust in your fellow range-users, who could just step back and plant a slug in your gut. But the people on the range were careful and serious, and all were darned good shots. One appeared to be a policeman engaging in some target practice, another was ex-Navy, and a third was a marksman shooting what looked like a long sniper rifle and putting shot after shot into a hole on the target that was about the size of a quarter.
I chatted briefly with the ex-Navy guy, told him it was my first time firing a gun, and complimented him on his marksmanship. He grinned and said he thought shooting was “therapeutic” — and I knew just what he meant.