Gun n00b

Although the citizen’s police academy here formally wrapped up a couple weeks ago, they’d set up an appointment at the local police department’s gun range for us. After about 2 hours of reviewing the functioning of a gun, gun safety, and such, they brought us into the range.

Their standard department weapon is the Glock 23, a .40-caliber handgun. A few comments:

  • They’re very strict about gun safety. (As they should be.) As they talked to us in their classroom, he began with a safety note: all the officers in their room had locked their guns up. The “guns” he used in class were non-functioning demonstration units. He had real ammunition, but, because they would later bring a .40-caliber pistol into the room, had only a single, orange, rubber bullet in the .40-caliber size. The “Range Master” came in later with his unloaded weapon, being very careful to demonstrate that it was unloaded. As he demonstrated proper technique holding the weapon, he was insanely cafeful to never point the weapon, which he had all just witnessed was unloaded, at anyone. When we finally got into the range, they stood right beside us in the booth.
  • He had us determine our “dominant eye.” I’m right-handed. My right eye has decent vision (maybe 20/40 uncorrected, but 20/15 with contacts), but my left eye is comically bad, 20/300 uncorrected. As he joked, I’m “one of those weirdos” whose dominant eye is different from their handedness (that’s an actual word?!). The way he had us determine it was interesting: hold your arms out and make a hole about the size of a golf ball, and focus on some distant object. And then slowly pull your arms back to you, maintaining the gap you’re looking through. Eventually, your hands end up in front of one of your eyes. That’s your dominant eye. An added wrinkle to the fact that I can’t see out that eye all that well is that, being right-handed, the instinct is to hold the gun towards the right side of your body, and you end up pulling your head over to your right. Of course this must look ridiculous, and the proper thing to do is bring the gun more to your left, keeping your head steady. But as he pointed out, it’s not intuitive.
  • He said it’s “optically impossible” to keep the rear sight, front sight, and the target all in focus. Thus, even if it weren’t for my poor vision in my left eye, I’d still have ended up doing what I was doing: focusing on the target as I bring the gun up, and then focusing on the gun’s sights, firing at a blob in the distance.
  • Recoil! It’s pretty common knowledge that the gun will recoil and ‘kick back.’ But until you’ve tried it, it doesn’t do it in the way you imagine. He joked about the stereotypical fear of the gun flying back and hitting you in the face. In actuality, the gun goes more upward; in my case, a little to the left. He mentioned that, with most people who’ve never shot before, their first round will hit dead-center, but then we start trying to “compensate” for the recoil which screws us up. And that’s exactly what I did. I took time to aim each of my five shots perfectly, so my shots are pretty much in a perfect vertical line. Just seeing someone shooting, it’s tempting to think, “What idiots! If you hold the gun a little more steady, you can hold it steady when you fire.” You can’t. You hold the gun nice and firm, and, as soon as you pull the trigger, you’re holding the gun in a totally different place. You see people firing one-handed in movies; I think the gun would fly off your hand if you tried that. In addition to being impossible to prevent the gun from recoiling, he pointed out that it’s actually bad to try to control it: you end up pushing the gun down right before you fire, which throws your accuracy off.
  • I think shell casings are something that’s viewed like recoil: people know that shell cases get ejected out the side, but don’t give them too much thought. I was firing to the right of someone else. My biggest fear wasn’t that I was holding a loaded firearm with no experience, that I was going to shoot myself in the foot, or that I was going to get my finger sliced as the gun’s slide moved. No, my biggest fear was that one of the red-hot shell casings from the guy next to me was going to hit me. They didn’t, but it’s apparently a fairly common occurrence, hence why they’re big on wearing eye protection. One of the officers we were with was telling us that last time he went to the range, he was wearing a shirt tucked-in but with a loose collar, and ended up getting a shell casing down his shirt, which was apparently not an enjoyable experience. Further, my mental image was that the shell casing would just kind of flop out the side onto the floor. They actually go flying out the side, probably at least six feet.

Anyway, it was kind of fun, but now I see why they spend so much time training: there are so many little things that you need to practice before you’re able to pick a gun up and fire it (with any hopes of hitting your target) in under, say, ten seconds. Which, if you actually need to fire a gun, would probably be the situation.

As an aside, the target was a vaguely human-shaped “blob,” with a very faint “Q” in the middle of it. (They didn’t explain why it had a Q on it.) Part of me wonders if anyone has ever made a T-shirt that just has a very faint “Q” in the center. You’d just have to be careful where you wore it…

One thought on “Gun n00b

  1. Casings come out hot but not quite red hot. I’ve had a couple land on me over the years and never gotten a burn. Though it does happen if the casing falls somewhere that it is held in place. I keep some burn ointment in my shooting box but it gets more use after accidently touching a hot barrel after a lot of shooting.

    Casings fly in a fairly consistant and predictable direction. It’s a little different for each firearm though. When shooting outside I try to place a drop cloth in the right place to make it easier to clean up the casings afterwards. Not just to not litter, though that is important, but because casings can be reloaded to save money. I don’t reload myself – though I have most of what I need to do it – but some places let you turn in fired rounds for a discount on reloaded ammo.

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