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Rootin’ tootin’ pistol shootin’

I have this tendency to date guys who have guns. It’s not like a bad-boy thing, they just happen to be owners of firearms, for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s from being raised in a rural ranching community. A little bit of small-town that I just can’t escape. But that’s neither here nor there.

A few weekends ago, I went to a firing range out near Vancouver, Wash. My sister gets a dozen roses, I get a membership to the English Pit Range. Whatever that means.

So, we get to the range, which is indeed in a pit formation with berms that rise up into the forest and protect the God-fearing citizens of southern Washington from stray bullets. The range master, a salty man with a moustache and a cowboyish hat, gives me a list of range rules. Most of the rules are pretty common-sense. Don’t point your gun at anyone, listen to the range master, pick up your garbage. He watched me to make sure I read and comprehended them before I was allowed to blast holes through pieces of paper and wood.

The people at the range were very interesting. They were unfortunate stereotypes of rural residents. John Deere caps, tight jeans and big belt buckles. The only other shooters upon our arrival were two men with their sons, about age 10 or so, and two random pretty boys. They were all dressed up, which is odd, because it’s really easy to get dirty when shooting guns.

The young boys were learning to fire BB guns. Somehow, my boyfriend thought this was hilarious and stupid, but I don’t know why (other than firing a BB gun is nothing like firing any other type of firearm). The little boys were shooting at targets with Osama bin Laden’s face. Some patriotic slogan was twisted over his forehead, but I couldn’t read it.

The pretty boys were shooting what looked like antique handguns. Those make big noises and take forever to load. I don’t know why those guys bothered with the copious amounts of Polo Sport, because it wasn’t covering the smell of gunpowder. We gave them one of our targets, the coolest one, with a Hogan’s Alley picture of a bad guy pointing a gun.

The other shooters in our range were a 30-something couple who looked like they just came into some money and wanted to spend it on guns. They had no clue what they were doing, which is stupid, not to mention dangerous. They didn’t step out of the range house when it was time to go out into the field and change the targets and the range master yelled at them. “Step out of the range house when people are in the field. It is forbidden to be in the range house when people are in the field.” But the range master had this weird rictus to his mouth while he spoke that really scared the couple. The minute we were finished changing our targets, they left the range. They were pretty embarrassed. They could have avoided that embarrassment by reading their range rules and regulations.

We got yelled at, too. My boyfriend decided to shoot from a kneeling position, which is apparently against one of the more obscure and unclear rules of the range. The 10-year-olds stared at us like we’d just said the F-word to a teacher.

Once I managed to quit holding the gun the wrong way, I shot pretty accurately for a person who seldom fires a gun. I busied myself with the Glock 9mm, which was lightweight and felt good in my hands. I was even able to load the bullets into the clip, or magazine if you want to be snotty about it. I could even rack the slide, something that a small girl with little upper body strength can do with most semiautomatic handguns.

I didn’t do so well with the Baretta. When I was putting the magazine into the gun, I pinched my pinky in between the clip and the handle. It hurt so badly that I couldn’t even tell my compadres what was wrong with me. All I could do was swear until I choked out, “pinky stuck, ow!” They laughed at me and released my finger from its trap. I still have a blood blister from it. Very embarrassing. I still get teased about it.

Now that the weather is changing, I won’t have so many opportunities to see if I can shoot accurately at distances of greater than 15 feet. I’m not so interested in guns and shooting that I feel the need to slog around in the mud shooting at pictures of Osama bin Laden or Hogan’s Alley criminals. The FBI is just going to have to wait for me to hone my crack shooting skills before they hire me on as an expert sniper.