“You’re going to shoot this,” explained Yuri Zalazman, owner of Philly Gun Range, as he held two Smith & Wesson 500s, some of the most popular models of revolver in the world, and looked a bit like Yosemite Sam when I showed up at his shooting range.
But it’s not all fun and games. Shooting guns is serious business. Apparently, when you shoot a gun, your body releases oxytocin, the love hormone, along with adrenaline. So you fall in love with a dangerous weapon that can kill someone or yourself. Thus, training is so important.
Staff at the shooting range, located right off Spring Garden near Ninth Street, took my driver's license and made me fill out the standard Q&A for a gun purchase (like, "Are you pregnant?" – apparently the womb water serves as a sound amplifier), and I was on my way.
A friend and I spent the first hour training with Yuri and our two empty Smith & Wesson guns. These standard police and military guns look almost fake, are light, black and fit my hand well – even with my “long thumbs.” Learning how to hold a gun is important. This makes sure you don’t end up with some nasty kickback bruising and bleeding when the gun shoots. And you always keep your finger off the trigger unless you are ready to shoot.
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Once we finished training, we put our goggles on, some earmuffs and went into the firing range. There, shell casings were everywhere. The first few gunshots of our neighbors made me jump as it would any civilian who hears a gunshot. But I told my monkey mind that this was why we were here. I always loved shooting games, paintball and BB guns, and this didn’t seem too far off.
We started with a smaller gun with a longer barrel, a Ruger Mark II with baby bullets. That first bullet was pretty damn exciting. “You’re a natural,” Yuri encouraged me as I killed the target. “There’s still some central PA in you yet, blondie!”
I was flying high until one of the casings kicked back and pinged me in the neck. Another flew back and burnt me as it seared its way down my arm. Perhaps wearing a summer onesie wasn’t the best idea (hey, I had multiple events that day).
Like Pavlov’s dogs, I was now trained to be scared of the flying, burning casings, and I assumed that was not a good mental state for shooting guns. Plus, we were running late for the next adventure. So after two rounds each, we called it quits and were on our way.
I still have the burn marks, which will fade eventually, and I am not mad about it. And I have, not surprisingly, fallen in love with shooting. But next time, it will be outside. Perhaps in the country, where my roots run deep and guns are plentiful. Maybe if I’m lucky, my dad will even let me in his gun closet, finally!