A trigger-happy time

Flying down Fowler Avenue toward Thonotassasa while photographer Marlow Gum and I popped and locked to the manic beats of Fergie’s hit single “Fergilicious,” we made an uncharacteristic but planned turn just past the Big Top Flea Market into the parking lot of the Indoor Shooting Company. I parked between two trucks that loomed monstrous in comparison to the Kia Sephia that I was driving with the express intent of shooting a real gun for the first time.

As a city boy born and raised in suburban Denver, the only previous experience I had with guns was my occasional destruction of a can or bottle that met its end in the crosshairs of my pump-action BB gun. This promised to be a completely different experience, as the bullets were real, and the consequences were potentially long-lasting.

I sat down with the owner of the Indoor Shooting Company, Ken Zellars, who took about 15 minutes to go over the basics of gun safety. He equated the “Olympic sport of shooting” to a Thanksgiving cornucopia of sports including but not limited to golf, basketball, soccer, football and darts.

Emphasizing a solid frame stance and tight grip, Zellars had me “practice swing” by dry-firing the .22 caliber Ruger pistol.

The laid-back but professional atmosphere lent itself to a first-timer. The genteel Zellars more closely resembled an uncle or grandfather than the typical backwoods, gun-loving loony that the thought of a rural gun range owner might engender. He was meticulous in promoting gun safety and the appreciation of shooting as a sport, and he was patient as a teacher.

Appropriately bespectacled and donning ear protection devices reminiscent of air traffic controllers, we entered the shooting range itself. Gunpowder tinged the air, and intermittent explosions rendered the room an eternal Fourth of July.

In the dimly lit range, I called on my experience of Duck Hunts past. However, unlike in the Nintendo version, the guns recoiled and there were no annoying dogs.

I fired three different guns: the .22, a 9 mm Glock and .45 Caliber Remington.

Having watched too many movies and heard one too many tree-and-orange sporting hunters decry the unrealistic qualities of on-screen gunfights, I sidled up to the range. I knew the guns would kick, especially the .45 caliber, which was rumored to have a mule-like quality.

I was slightly nervous when firing the larger-caliber weapons; Gum openly cowered. But we pulled through the experience together.

Bullets flew, and I followed the sage-like advice of Zellars, who told me not to look at the target but keep my eye on the sight of the gun. When he flipped the switch to bring the targets back, I found I was a deadeye. I shot a total of approximately 50 shots and missed the 10-point area surrounding the bulls-eye only four times.

Zellars attributed this to lacking bad habits, having a good teacher and having close targets. I, on the other hand, felt it was my repressed inherent ability to be an action hero spilling forth.

To be honest, when I was approached to do this story, I partially anticipated the liberation experienced by Annette Benning’s character in American Beauty and dreaded having to compare myself to her. However, I am somewhat saddened to say that I neither had a mystical experience nor became automatically addicted to the power that guns offer.

I did, however, have a good time doing something that made me appreciate the ability to grow a beard that much more. It was a Sunday, and the pump was primed for some beer, a whole turkey leg and some NFL football.

The Indoor Shooting Company offers classes and various specials including couples night, during which couples are admitted to the range for the price of one. A complete list of services is available at www.indoorshootingco.com.

On average, a visit to the range including lane rental, gun rental, targets, safety equipment and bullets runs around $38.

All guns cost the same to rent, though the price of the bullets varies. Be warned: There is a .44 Magnum reminiscent of Dirty Harry’s available. I unfortunately failed to notice and take advantage of this fact – which may call for another visit.