Home on the Range

Like many people driven to collect experiences, my bucket list tends to get longer rather than shorter with every passing year.  Shooting a gun, however, was never on that list.  So how did I find myself firing a 9 mm glock last Friday night?


When writing a story, my scenes will sometimes take an unexpected turn, as happened recently when my protagonist was handed a gun.  Huh!  Did not see that coming!  My own experience is limited to firing a shotgun at clay pigeons thirty years ago.  I remember the bruised shoulder that accompanied that foolishness but little else.  What would it be like to hold a handgun?  Would it be heavy?  Would it kick back?  How would that feel?

Enter DVC Ventures in Port Coquitlam.  Opened in 2007, DVC was the first indoor shooting range in British Columbia to offer the use of rental firearms to members of the public without the need for a gun licence.  Solo shooting isn’t allowed, so I send the message out to my friends.  Who wants to join me?

Cue the crickets.

I manage to cajole a friend into tagging along for Ladies’ Night when the day card fee is free for women.  Free is a good incentive but I’m still surprised by the crowd lined out the door when we arrive.  Unless you hunt, guns aren’t really a part of Canadian culture.  Friday nights, however, have become so popular visitors are limited to one hour on the range.  Group reservations are even available for stags and stagettes, birthdays and corporate events.

Dirty Harriet?

After a few questions and a brief run-down of the scene I’m writing, we’re recommended a gun, issued our safety glasses and hearing protection, then ushered into the safety orientation.

Law laid down, we enter the range to the sulphuric scent of gunpowder.  The floor beyond the benches is littered with hundreds of brass shell casings from prior visitors.  Even with the hearing protection, the room thunders with gunfire.  There is little conversation.

Handing a neophyte a loaded weapon is serious business and our instructor hovers nearby, yelling out instructions that are barely audible with the ear protection firmly affixed.  “Lean forward,” he admonishes.  I lean forward but it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  I straighten up.  A moment later I hear it again.  “Lean forward.”

I grip the gun in my right hand making sure to place my trigger finger along the side of the barrel.  I push the clip into the grip, pull back the slide and let go.  The slide locks in place.  Left hand over right.  Thumbs parallel.  I line up the sights.  Deep breath.  Finger on the trigger.  Fire.

I barely feel the trigger depress beneath my finger.  The gun jumps with a flash, the barrel rising toward the ceiling before settling level in my hand.  I’m sure I closed my eyes at the last second, so am surprised that I not only hit the target, I landed my shot dead centre, exactly where I’d aimed.  The shell casing has landed in my shirt.

Casing retrieved and feeling pretty proud of myself, I line up the sights for the zombie kill shot.  Bullseye!  I’m a natural! . . . Or maybe not.  My nerves have calmed but my shooting gets progressively worse after that.

Fifty rounds pass quickly and while I want to shoot more, determined to recreate my initial success, my arms are tired and my hands shake.  The gun may be light but the effort of holding my arms at shoulder level  for so long  reminds me I should probably hit the gym a little more often.  My friend is feeling the same.  I have what I need to finish the scene, so it’s time to pack it in and head for a celebratory beer.

Asked if I would go back, the answer is yes, if I can find someone to go with me.  My friend has decided to move on to axe throwing.

The Range

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