Where does the good go

Happiness is a warm gun

Last month, as I was preparing to fly out to Vegas and planning some other trips, I realized that I had pretty much conquered my fear of flying. I used to stay up the whole night before a flight. First, because I couldn’t sleep; and second, because if I stayed up all night, I’d be so exhausted that I would pass out on the plane and sleep till it landed. It was a formula that has worked for me since senior year of college when law schools would pay for me to come visit, but I’d have to fly out of New Haven’s shitty Tweed Airport on these prop planes fastened together with paper clips and rubber bands. They never exactly asked the passenger to help push the plane down the runway…but it was close.
These days, I take the whole thing quite in stride and I can’t even remember when I overcame it – I feel cheated out of my big breakthrough moment. Anyway, it occurred to me that if I, scaredy cat Dawn Summers could overcome that fear; I should tackle my other fears. And well, I was feeling sad, vulnerable and kind of pissed off at the time, so I chose my fear of guns.
I went online to get the application for a handgun permit. I had been told that I wouldn’t even be able to learn to shoot a handgun within the city limits without a permit. The NYPD promptly informed me that it would take four months to process my application. (Which reminded me of that Simpsons episode where they tell Homer that he has to wait seven days to get a gun and he goes “Five days…? But I’m mad now!” HAHAHAHAHA.)
I’ve blogged about my distaste for guns before. It’s kind of a sad post, and I’m glad I didn’t read before today…or I might not have gone as far as I have toward embracing my inner second amendment. Guns in the wrong hands really are so dangerous. Anyway, when I was told about the waiting period, I was all “four months? But I’m feeling brave now!” They didn’t care.
I figured that I would try to hit up a firing range when I was out in Vegas where there are no laws…but while I managed to find many an ad for 25% off any firearm, I didn’t find any advertisements for firing ranges, so I waited till I came back home.
I ended up signing up for a shooting lessons at a firing range on the West side. The building was very nondescript. I hesitated about going in even when I saw the little “Rifle & Pistol Range” sign on the side of the building because it just seemed like a regular office building.
But once you descend the two flights into the basement of the building, you very quickly know where you are.
Hunting jackets, and targets and gun leaflets are everywhere. Signs advertising membership deals and sales for ammunition tell the whole story. Have guns, will shoot.
I signed in at the front desk and was escorted to the classroom in the back. There were about ten other students already waiting. .I took my seat between two guys and waited.
A few more people trickled in and I took a glance around at my classmates. There were about eight women, three black chicks (including me), four white girls and an Asian. There were seven men, four white guys, a black dude and two Asian fellows. Our instructor, who was wearing a piece on his hip, was covered in tattoos from shoulder to wrist and neck to chest. He introduced himself as Joe.
He had us sign these waiver forms – essentially agreeing that if we get Dick Cheneyed we would not complain. It also warned us that we could be maimed, killed or suffer “social consequences.”
“They mean your liberal friends won’t talk to you anymore when they find out you’ve been shooting guns,” one of the white chicks in the front piped up in a surprisingly thick Southern drawl.
Joe proceeded to warn us that the guns we would be using were not toys. “Do not aim it at something that can be killed.”
He said in a deadpan way.
“In fact, the first rule you should know about guns is that you should never aim one at something unless you intend to kill it.”
Our weapons that day were .22 rifles. He passed them out to us, three at a time and we would grab one and pass the rest back. You know, much the same way the proctors hand out SAT booklets. I resisted the impulse to name my rifle. And so I will not be referring to it as Tommy for the rest of this post.
Tommy was heavy. Though the guy to my left, Sammy, commented that it was much lighter than he thought.
Joe showed us how to hold our rifles.
I anchored Tommy on my shoulder, taking care to keep the nozzle pointed at the ceiling. I pressed my eye against the sight and lined up an imaginary shot. My heart was beating faster. But in a good way. This was cool.
Joe handed out magazines for the rifles. Again, we took one and passed it back.
“Now, before you load the magazines in, remember to make sure your safety is on. Press that little switch to the right. An easy way to remember which way is locked…you’ll see a red stripe when the safety is off. Red means dead.”
I had some trouble loading the magazine, so Sam helped me shove it in, but I promptly pulled it out again to make sure that I could do it on my own later. And I did. Okay. Rifle? Check! Holding the rifle? Check! Loading the rifle? Check!
Joe told us we were ready to hit the range. We followed him outside and we were each given three boxes of bullets, goggles and huge noise cancelling headphones.
“Do not go out on the range without your earphones or goggles.”
“After you are done on the range, please sweep up the shells and put them in the garbage. Remove your target sheets, so that the range is ready for the next person.”
Joe showed us how to load the bullets into the magazines. Each magazine held ten bullets, but as hard as I tried to keep count, I was too focused on getting my bullets in correctly to keep track. So, instead, I would just injure my index finger each time I tried to jam an eleventh bullet inside.
I was in the first wave of students on the range.
I dragged Tommy behind me and propped him up on the shelf while I clipped my target to the string and rolled it out about halfway down the range. I then grabbed a magazine clip, made sure I did not see the red line and snapped it into place. I positioned the rifle on my shoulder, closed my left eye, aimed for the black circle in the middle of my target and squeezed the trigger. I braced myself for the recoil, the popping sound, the ripping of paper. Instead…nothing happened. Oh. Safety.
I put the gun down, switched the gun to dead and set myself up again.
It wasn’t the bullet firing or the tearing of my target that startled me – it was the falling shell hitting my foot that made me jump.
“Oh my God! I’m hit!” Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I quickly put the gun down and checked my foot for holes…and blood.
But I was fine.
I wheeled the target back to me to see how I had done.
Good, not great. I was a few notches below the center.
I wheeled it back out and picked up the gun again.
I adjusted my aim and fired again. This time I was pretty near bull’s eye. I fired again. Again. Each bullet pretty much ripping into the hole of the bullet before it.
I was so surprised about how calming shooting was. I always imagined guns to be weapons of furious anger. It’s how they’re portrayed in all the shoot em up movies, anyway. Someone pisses you off, you get your gun and you give them what for. But the real life thing is just the opposite. You’ve got to be perfectly still, your eye trained on your single spot in the distance, and you’ve somehow got to squeeze the trigger without moving an inch. Anger could never shoot straight. Standing at the head of the range, a rifle on my shoulder, earphones blocking out the noise of the world, I marveled at how well suited shooting was to my temperament. I could wait, watch, and then, when everything was just right, I could destroy. Joe came over when I finished my magazine and he looked at my target sheet of eight tightly crowded shots around the bullseye and two errant ones and said “girl, youse a natural shot.”
I smiled.
I know.
And then I reloaded.

29 Responses to “Happiness is a warm gun”

  1. Ken Says:

    I don’t remember your position about online dating, but you should totally use that last photo for your profile!

  2. Casca Says:

    Ah, the Ruger 10/22, my favorite 22. I got my first one when I was 13. You should get one of your own. They’re inexpensive to buy and operate, and a great weapon for learning site picture and trigger squeeze. Before your asshat friends voted to limit magazine sizes, you could buy enhanced magazines that would hold several hundred rounds. BTW, the bullet is the piece that launches down the barrel. A round is the complete cartridge; casing, primer, charge, and bullet. You might want to avoid the use of the word “nozzle” too, relative to firearms. Someone will eventually laugh at you.

  3. pearatty Says:

    You’re looking just a little too happy in that picture. You might want to erase this post before you start your sniping career.

  4. Dawn Summers Says:

    Really? I was thinking it would be good advertising? Like “You’ll enjoy my job just as much as I do call 1-800-Summers”

  5. maxomai Says:

    Great post. I started shooting ten years ago more or less the same way. Welcome to the club!

  6. Adelheid B Says:

    Wow, that’s pretty cool overcoming your fears by learning more about it. That’s how I overcame my fear of creepy-crawlies. Now, I’m kind of embarrassed and ashamed that I used to squash spiders, and throw things at garden snakes in my yard, after I found out how they help keep pest populations in check and are actually pretty neat creatures. I actually think some snakes are kind of cute, now. It was an eye opener, and I’ve noticed since overcoming that fear, I approach a lot of my other fears more objectively. It’s just too bad so many other peoples can’t learn to become more objective like that.

  7. Wesley Says:

    Welcome to the gun culture – Safe & happy shooting!

  8. Dawn Summers Says:

    Thanks! I’m excited to get my handgun permit…then I start my gun blog…and yes, casca, I will count on you to teach me the lingo so I don’t get laughed at.

  9. Rauch Says:

    glad to see you had an enjoyable experience at the range Dawn, and like Wesley said “Welcome to the gun culture”

  10. KaT Adams Says:

    Good to see a positive take on this. Shooting for fun is a great hobby, and it’s sad that even a citizen like yourself is stuck with NYC’s overbearing laws on the subject. I’m here to and the legal hoops and fees just keep me at melee and thrown object range for self-defense. Ironically, the times I’ve been mugged or pick-pocketed have been dealt with without the weapons I had–except my hands and mind, of course 😉 As you’ve just experienced, it’s all about training. Cheers, and enjoy shooting! .22’s are a lot of fun (And don’t let anyone tell you they’re whimpy even if they are–treated with respect they’re just as much fun as the big-bores!)

  11. Jamie Says:

    Do you not read other people’s blogs? Ok, bad question.

    I blogged about my visit to the Vegas Gun Range (a mere 10 minutes from the strip) back in March ’07!

    Get the net (um, but don’t get mad at me). I always knew you’d be a sniper one day.

  12. Phil Says:

    Dawn, I’m glad you had the opportunity to learn that “sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar” – or, a challenging hobby is just a challenging hobby. You’re absolutely right about the state of mind – it’s almost impossible to hit anything if you’re shaking with rage. If you want to be able to consistently hit anything, you’ve got to be calm and focused. It can almost be a kind of meditation. When you really get into the zone, there is no you, there is no rifle, there is no range, there is only the shot.

  13. Nello Says:

    Kudos. Personally, and as a new shooter, I find target shooting to be very zen-like myself. If you’re interested you may want to look into a ‘local’ IDPA chapter, once you receive your permit.

    And by the way, next time you’re out in Begas, look up the Las Vegas Gun Range and Firearm Center on Blue Diamond rd. They rent firearms and you can shoot things that are not available here in NYS.

  14. Wolfrick Says:

    The FOUR RULES* of Firearms Handling:

    RULE ONE: TREAT firearms as if they are loaded, no exceptions.
    RULE TWO: NEVER point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to kill/destroy/buy.
    RULE THREE: KEEP your finger off the trigger and outside the
    trigger guard until your sights are on target and you’re ready to shoot.
    RULE FOUR: KNOW your target, what’s between and beyond, and what your ammunition can do.

    *There are many different sets of rules for firearms handling, but

    they boil down to these irreducible four. Learn and live these

    FOUR RULES and treat all the other “rules” as good advice.

  15. Wolfrick Says:

    I offer free gun training to anyone who wants it. This basic orientation includes safety and firearm handling and storage, as well as actual hands-on shooting with my weapons on my range.
    Why? I believe everyone has a responsibility to know how to safely handle a firearm. Whether you wish to own one or not, you might encounter a gun in the course of your daily life. Could you handle it safely and calmly? Get trained, and your fear will disappear.
    I am a Texas Certifield CHL Instructor and a lifelong hunter and shooter.
    If you’re interested in my offer of free gun lessons or to ask questions, please feel free to email me: rick dot berry at gmail dot com.

  16. Wolfrick Says:

    Good for you! I wish everyone would approach things the way you did. Only through exposure and education can we overcome the fear and hatred which divide us from each other.
    I’d love to take you shooting! If you’re ever down in Texas, look me up.

  17. Bill Says:


    The 10/22 (Tommy) you are pictured with is one of the best and most fun entry level rifles you can find.

    How is your pistol permit application going? Have you started the process to own one yourself? If so, please document the process.

  18. Fearsclave Says:

    I was interested to read the evolution of your views on guns. I used to feel much the same way, until I moved out to the country and decided to take up hunting. I went from mild anti to self-avowed gun nut, member of the gun lobby and occasional gunblogger in the space of a couple of years. And my second rifle was a Ruger 10/22, like Tommy, but with a wood stock and blued finish. They’re great little rifles.

    Exposure to and actual experience of firearms is the best possible way of dispelling the fear, misinformation and prejudice that gets spread with respect to guns, shooters, and the shooting sports. It shows people that guns, when used responsibly, make people happy. Shooting things is fun, and the sport brings people together.

  19. Turk Says:

    Bravo madam. Well done. It’s interesting how calming the range is isn’t it? When I’ve had a really bad day at work, I like to go down to my local pistol range and put a box through my Smith and Wesson. The goggles, ear phones, and individual range booth cut you off from the world. The concentration and breathing, it’s like meditation. Zen archery with a gun.

  20. falnfenix Says:

    kudos for joining the ranks of lady shooters. :) i love seeing fellow women overcoming their fears of firearms in the most logical way possible.

  21. Dex Says:

    Welcome to the gun culture! Your comment about anger reminds me of a time I was in Philadelphia in ’00. My employers were having their convention in Philly. Having checked my hotel’s location, I decided not to spend ten days in that neighborhood, naked. I applied for, and got, a PA nonresident permit.

    During convention week, I’d scheduled an afternoon off. Right before I took off, one of our delegates came running up and demanded the use of a computer and printer, to run off some “floor resolutions”. He pulled up the document, and started printing out something resembling the Communist Manifesto. I sat there, repeating to myself, “Mustn’t choke a delegate, mustn’t choke a delegate…”.

    As it happened, there was a pistol range near my hotel. I went over there, with my target-shooting magazines and some targets. Got into the range, and started in on a box of ammo. My first group was splattered all over the paper, in annoyance. As my groups tightened up, I could literally feel my blood pressure dropping from the Zen of it.

    Incidentally, our officers told said delegate to sit down and shut up, when he raised his “motions”.

  22. Gib Says:

    Somewhere, Charlton Heston is smiling.

    Not as big a smile as yours, but still, he’s smiling.

  23. Andrew Says:

    Excellent! Welcome to the dark side. The 10/22 is, as many have said, an excellent rifle to start off with, and I still regret selling mine many years ago. Just wait until you try shooting pistols. There is even more fun to be had there, especially when you get the opportunity to shoot absurdly large impractical guns, just for the fun of it.

    Remember, you are an American. This means you can, just because you want to.

  24. Helen Says:

    Hey Dawn, what a great photo, with the fabulous Dawn Signature big smile. Hummhh…have you considered to be the spokesperson for the shooting range?

    So, what’s next…skydiving? You know, the next time you come to California…that’s what you will get :)

  25. Ugarles Says:

    24 comments? Regular Clareified readers can expect to see a lot more posts about guns.

  26. Dane Says:

    How can you have not seen all the ads for firing ranges in Vegas. I lived in Vegas for 7 years, up until the end of 06. Every hotel and restaurant that has those placard advertisement walls, the ones that have ads for shows, parks, excursions, etc., has about three different cards for gun ranges. You can fire fully automatic weapons for a $1 a round!!! I miss Vegas. Anyway, if you’re ever there in Vegas again it is worth the money to fire these weapons. MP-5s, HKs, AKs, Uzis and more. Also, if you can find someone with the bolt-action .50 cal. I highly advise you them take you boulder breaking :-)

  27. kiwano Says:

    Your post reminds me so much of my own experiences, except you will find over time that gun ownership will make you angry. I mean last year, I got quite angry when the University that I studied at decided to basically evict the student gun clubs which had introduced me to the sport.

    Of course if you place the blame where it belongs, on the regulators and not on the guns themselves, it’s still really enjoyable. :)

  28. RonL Says:

    Good for you.
    Hopolophobia is socially crippling condition.
    Shooting is fun. It teaches focus, responsiblity and control. To shoot well, one must also learn to control their breathing and, eventually, their heart beat.

  29. K Says:

    Congrats, new sister in the club! BTW, many gun shops have firing ranges, so when you’re travelling and feel like cooling down, just call them and ask. If they have ranges, they usually rent weapons, too. You can try out different things for a nominal rental fee. That’s how I selected the models I ended up buying. :-)

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