I finally checked something off my life’s to-do list: I went to a gun range and fired a variety of weapons, including a 5.56 mm AR rifle, a 9 mm Glock, and a .30-06 hunting rifle.
Having grown up in small-town America, I had fired guns before, but only sporadically and on a small number of occasions. Further yet, it’s been more than a decade since.
I had been wanting to get to a gun range for some time but just never got around to it. My friend, an Army veteran who recently signed up for Officer Candidate School, invited me out to the gun range before shipping out. For me, this was a tremendously valuable experience.
Yes, I got access to his small but considerable armament of professional-grade weapons. More importantly, I received some expert oversight into gun training and safety, and, I have to say, it was quite invaluable. I believe in gun rights; however, I also believe in responsible gun ownership and handling.
To be honest, I knew almost nothing about any of that before hitting the range. Sure, I read up online about how to properly handle a gun, but that can never compare to hands-on experience. This is true with most things, but especially with guns.
As a relative gun newbie, having a military-trained gun expert on hand sure as hell helped. Being honest, until my time on the range, I couldn’t have loaded a clip, let alone a gun. Probably, I would have figured it out on my own through trial and error, but with guns and ammunition, that’s not exactly the best route.
Sure, shooting guns isn’t rocket science. However, whenever you are using anything powerful and dangerous, which guns certainly are, professional oversight and ad hoc training go a long way.
I would have never known what to do when a gun jams. I only had a cursory idea of how gun clips are loaded. I vaguely knew how to clear the chamber, but seeing a YouTube video of it and actually clearing chambers in real life are two very different things.
None of it was particularly difficult. However, practice makes perfect, and while I still need a lot more practice to reach “perfect” (or, more aptly, “professional” standards), I definitely feel more confident now.
Until now, if I had encountered an abandoned weapon on the street, I would have figuratively poked at it with a stick. At this point, I’d feel confident enough to handle it, properly clear it, and of course secure it. Most likely, I’d still just call the police and babysit any abandoned weapon, but at least now I know.
I learned some other things as well. Previously, I had shot some small-caliber rifles and some large-gauge shotguns. I had never shot a pistol. Having fired off about a hundred rounds now, I have learned they are far harder to aim than I ever realized.
It ain’t like the movies. Point and shoot really isn’t possible if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Even at five yards, I generally counted myself lucky to hit the target, especially through the first 20 rounds.
Firing larger calibers, like a .30-06? Oh boy, that rifle had a lot of kick by my newbie standards. I already knew that I needed to keep the butt tight against my shoulder, but feeling that recoil in real life really drives home the point. To be honest, when I do buy my own rifle, I’ll be starting with a lower caliber.
I believe that anyone buying a pistol for concealed carry or home protection should learn how to accurately and reliably fire that weapon.
I improved with each round, but it was definitely a learning experience. I still wouldn’t trust myself with a pistol in a live-shooter situation. At this point, I’d be more likely to hit an innocent bystander than the intended target.
I wouldn’t trust myself with a 5.56 mm AR rifle in a live situation either, but between the two, I’d feel a hell of a lot more confident with that rifle. I was able to hit the target quite accurately and got decent grouping, at least most of the time, by my newbie standards. Granted, the AR was equipped with a pretty nice scope, but the fact remains: In my experience, a rifle is much easier to fire.
As a gun newbie, if I were to buy a weapon for home protection, without question it’d be a rifle. If the ambitions to purchase and use a pistol emerged, I would be spending a lot more time on the range. Having spent a bit of time, I do believe that anyone buying a pistol for concealed carry or home protection should learn how to accurately and reliably fire that weapon.
Besides that, always keep your gun pointed down range. Fire until the clip is empty, or remove the clip when done. Always clear the chamber, and treat an unloaded gun as if it were loaded.
That means safety on and always pointed away from targets you don’t want to shoot.
Brian Brinker is an OpsLens contributor and political consultant. He has an M.A. in global affairs from American University. This OpsLens piece is used by permission.