Went to Philly over the weekend, for my friend Erwin's bachelor party. Saturday night, we went to a Gentleman's Club where we enjoyed entertainment that caters to gentlemen. Erwin's bro, Brian, got us a special package deal that included food. We were in this VIP section and they brought out this massive fucking platter that was just absurdly, hyperbolically piled high with fried things: ravioli, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, chicken strips. The package included booze and we all got pretty well trashed by the end of the evening.
Sunday, hungover, we went to shoot guns.
The place looked scary from the outside. It looked like a place where problems are solved.
From the outside, it looked like something out of HOSTEL. A place where bad urges are sated.
I'll be honest, the promise of shooting guns was one of the biggest draws of the trip. Bachelor parties in general can be pretty routine. Strippers, donkeys, etceteras. (Yawn.) The idea of shooting some guns made it a little more thrilling. I've written about characters using guns in scripts, I've got a gun tattooed on my arm, it only seemed right to experience it firsthand.
And yet, when we got to this place Sunday afternoon, my skull still slightly ringing from a hangover, I started to get nervous. I guess I imagined the place would resemble some pristine law enforcement training facility
. Or the neon-tinted gun range from Beverly Hills Cop 2
. Or something out of Robocop or Lethal Weapon—any number of the 80s movies that taught a generation about how cool guns are.
This place, at the edge of town, did not scream out "fun". From the nondescript warehouse exterior to the faint popping sound that sporadically and matter-of-factly peppered the air, this place screamed out, "Run, you fools. Run for your fucking lives."
As soon as you walked in, there were buckets filled with spent bullet shells.
Up a narrow flight of stairs to a dimly-lit gun shop and firing range. Gun-lover propaganda plastered all over the walls.
Since we were basically all first-timers, the package we got included a lesson with an instructor who chaperoned us as we went at the guns, two at a time.
A 9mm and a hefty 40 caliber. Semi-automatic pistolas.
The instructor was this 50-year-old mustachioed man with an appropriately grave demeanor. Told us he'd been shooting guns since he was 18, and he had this booming voice as if he was just used to talking over the sound of gunfire.
The other guys in the party started taking pictures of each other posing with the empty guns, like that Virginia Tech kid. For some reason, the guns looked fake to me. Like the cheap plastic toy guns I could buy as a kid—before cops started shooting kids with cheap plastic toy guns. Regardless, as we all picked up earmuffs, I was a lot more nervous than I thought I'd be.
There were some people shooting as we entered the firing range. Even with the earmuffs, every shot made you jump a little, at first. Erwin said it made him think about those school shootings, and how those kids didn't have earmuffs to dull the sound.
It was warm and slightly humid in the room. All that firepower.
I was fairly skittish about touching the guns at first. Altogether, we went through 4 boxes of bullets—and I got to be more comfortable loading the bullets into the magazines. But it turns out, I'm a terrible fucking shot.
The recoil on those babies was jarring, even though I was bracing for it. It's a strong kick, especially the 40. Playstation rumble-controllers do not prepare you for it. And the spent shells just fly back at you. My first round, one of the shells hit me right in the face. Freaks you the fuck out. But you are surrounded by guys so you try to act like it doesn't phase you.
Even with the targets at a "minimum distance", I had trouble getting a shot. I certainly wasn't drawing smiley-faces on the target paper, like in Lethal Weapon. You're trying to line it up and your hands are trembling. Even when you get over the fact that the piece of metal you're wielding is designed to end lives—and you relax into the idea of just trying to hit the paper target somewhere identifiable—it's a whole lot trickier than you'd imagine.
In hindsight, it would have been cooler if we were shooting at something with more substance than paper targets. Like cans of baked beans or beer bottles or watermelons. Something to give a better sense of what the bullets can do to a target. A more palpable sense of cause-and-effect.
I may not be a gun nut convert, but I've got a whole new respect for people who have to use these tools. Me? I'll stick to knives and poison.