Over the Easter weekend I had the absolute pleasure of spending some time in Mackay, Queensland. Thank you to the lovely Steve F for his hospitality, and the always delightful TK for well, other stuff. ☺ The views were magnificent and the area a world so far removed from my own. True to form the weather was humid, but otherwise generally pleasant with a breeze to keep things comfortable. More on the trip some other time. For now though, this blog is about guns!
I will kick off by saying that guns are not my thing. I grew up on a farm and there was always a gun in the house, but it was always understood that it was not a toy. It was kept locked up, with the bolt and bullets kept separately and far reaching parts of the house. The gun was a tool which had a specific, rarely required, job and that was it. Respected and otherwise ignored. It wasn't a part of my life and I never really cared to change that.
Those who know me will know that I love to try things. New things, experience things, touch things, taste and smell and engage. I do this through travel, through the people I meet, the places I go, the things I read, my photography, and just living in general. And for the most part, I love it!
The recent trip to Mackay gave me an opportunity to try something new that was well out of my comfort zone; shooting. In a controlled environment, with experienced people, I had the chance to try my hand at shooting targets until they were dead (or anything within the general vicinity of the target ~lol~).
Pistol - Walther PPQ, .22
Rifle - Springfield Tikka 30-06
I'm not going to linger on this. Basically because I am ultimately the world's worst shot with a hand gun it would seem. I killed a good amount of air though. That air had no chance! Three clips* (ten rounds to a magazine), so thirty odd rounds and I think I hit the target twice... well, the target I was aiming at. I may well have hit Steven's and Tony's targets once or twice too. When I look down the site of a pistol the little red dot at the end that I'm supposed to be lining up shakes like I have Parkinsons! No really. I could blame age, the morning after a boozey night, low blood sugar, excitement, nervousness... ultimately though, the weight of a gun in my outstretched hand (in spite of using my second hand to steady myself) has a natural wobble that I simply could not control. Other than that, short of being at point blank range, if I am pointing a pistol at anything then the world is pretty safe. Disappointingly, there will be no Double-Oh Franwella.
*Using the lingo like a pro now.
Holy hell on earth! That thing made me jump every time it fired. It was loud and it was letting everyone know it was the boss. Steve and Tony put a significant amount of time into lining up the scope which made life easier for me. I saw how that kick impacted on them though. What on earth was I thinking? For the beginning of the day my mind hovered between wanting desperately to know what that whole experience felt like, and sheer terror. There is nothing like seeing something that powerful to confirm your thoughts that guns are about one thing and one thing only, killing! And perhaps the fact that it's not easy, it hurts, and it's loud and scary is a good thing.
I wasn't letting fear stand in my way though. I was not going home without knowing what it felt like to pull the trigger on that gun. So, with the lads bruised and the scope set... I stepped up.
OK. There's no time to be a princess when it comes to holding a gun. Firm grip. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you're prepared to pull it. Righty-oh. Eye in line with the scope, lineup the site with the dot on the target, pad of finger on trigger, breathe in, breath out, and squeeeeeze!
In their combined wisdom both Steve and Tony thought it best I get a feel for the trigger and the gun without the live ammunition to start with. Damn good idea! Now I know what I'm feeling for. What the gun does mechanically. The order of events. Time to man up and load up now though.
Magazine loaded (five jolly big bullets!), bolt cocked (chunk-chunk - that kinda felt cool), butt pulled in tight against the shoulder. I know this is going to kick, I've seen the physical jolt when the boys pulled the trigger. There was no self-delusional thoughts that I wasn't going to feel this. Follow the steps again... line up target, breath and fire!
FUCK ME! ... No really. I am not saying that for effect. That is exactly what happened. The gun fired, it punched me good an hard in the shoulder, I squealed like a little girl and swore like a sailor.
That thing hurt. The power was swift and fast. There was something primal to it though.
And you know what... I hit the target! I hit it! I HIT IT! I was goooooood.
I'm pumped. Again! Again!
Cock. Line up. Breath. Squeeze. BOOM!
Holy faaark! There's that squeal again. And the swearing. That's not voluntary now. It just comes out.
Repeat - cock, squeeze, swear, squeal, ouch.
Five shots down and you know what... I hit the target every.single.time!
OH YEAH BABY!
This is my calling. Look at that grouping*. I'm all over this shooting thing. My fingers are tingling. My shoulder hurts like hell.
*More shootin' lingo.
The adrenaline is firing. I'm shaking. I'm pumped. And I loved it! I'm scared of that gun. I am proud of my efforts. I'm stunned and genuinely surprised.
On reflection, the whole experience was absolutely worth it. It hasn't changed my opinion on guns or Australian gun control laws. In fact it validated my thoughts that these things are incredibly powerful tools made for a single purpose; to kill, and to do so effectively and swiftly. They're not toys, they're not something that should be in the hands of anyone who does not have a healthy respect for both the gun and the lives of those around them.
I have no desire to point one of those things at a living being. Not in anger, not in defence, not for food, not for anything. I would go back to a range in a heartbeat. I would kill that cardboard until I hit that little orange dot. I hope that I will never be in a position where I would need to point that barrel at a living, breathing being.
I have to add that I was nothing short of impressed at the respect and way the people of the Mackay SSAA Rifle, Shotgun, and Pistol Club conducted themselves. When I arrived there were the good old boys in their jeans and cowboy hats, holsters, and six-shooters. They were so laid back the world seemed to slow down around them. It's hard not to judge when you're faced with Billy-Bob and Jed.
They were also diligent and serious about the rules; all those shooting had to be with a licensed gun owner, the appropriate paperwork had to be completed and signed, ID was checked and signed off by the relevant authority, no unlicensed shooter was unsupervised by a licensed shooter when shooting a pistol, when anyone was going out on the range no one, NO ONE had a loaded gun or piece in hand. That meant magazines out, bolts out, chambers cleared, step away from all paraphernalia. When that red light was turned on, there was no tolerance for anyone stepping outside of the rules. On all ranges.
I never saw a single person take for granted the weapon they had in hand and the potential to maim and/or kill. This was a sport and they were bettering their skills. This wasn't about anger. This wasn't about authority or some kind of power game. It wasn't about men being men or some equally offensive gender generalisation. It was about respecting a piece of machinery for what it is; a gun. No grey areas. No arguments.
I want to thank both Steve and Tony. Neither pushed me to do anything I didn't want to do. They were patient in taking me through everything from the very first step right through to pulling the trigger. They answered my constant stream of questions (of which some no doubt seemed inane). There was never any pressure to do anything. I could have said no and that would be it. No questions, no commitment, no obligations. They didn't tease and laugh when I missed a shot by miles, they didn't protect me from the reality of what I was handling, and they congratulated and celebrated with me when I was winning. They were honest and they included me. Thank you boys. For everything. xoxo
And so there it is... double-oh Fran shall never be, but sniper Fran... it could happen. If I can just learn not to scream and swear when I get punched by a gun. I think it may blow my cover. ~lol~
In reality, the only thing I'm likely to be shooting is a camera and I think that is best for everyone, me included.