I could not help but reflect, when I read the article under the Odds N’ Sods section about a person being at a range and looking like they did not belong. This was me, too. I appreciate the lady protecting her children. However, I, too, once walked onto a gun range and did not know what I was doing.
My first outing at a gun range was while I was in college. I received a Concealed Carry Permit (CCP) from our Sheriff before I was 21 under the circumstances exception rule, as I was driving two hours to college and living in an area in which I did not feel safe. It was my first time being away from home. My father gave me two guns to try at the range we found when we visited campus. The first was a Model 36 Smith & Wesson .38 Chief’s Special. The second was a Ruger Blackhawk .30 Carbine. I was as green as new growth on a pine tree, just living on my own and studying hard. It was a welcomed relief to get to go to the range and have some fun.
I had never been to an indoor range. I walked in and the only person working was the owner. I did not even have a gun with me; I just wanted to look around. That was my first mistake. The first question I was asked was “Are you some left-winged, anti-gun, chicken s**t pansy?” I said, “No!” and looked him square in the eye. He said something like, “Good. I’d throw your tail out of here so fast it would pass your head on the way out the door.” Then he gave me a tour of the facility, and I told him I would like to come back on Saturday. He recommended I come early. He opened at 7 AM. He also told me that the range master was really fond of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee. It came across that buttering him up would help me be accepted.
I was nervous. I did not have any fancy gun carriers. I just stuck the guns and ammo in my backpack and went bee-bopping in. However, the range master stared at me as I walked into his range. He kindly put his arm around me and asked if I was a student at the university. He quickly took to me and me to him. Maybe it was unusual for a college student to be at the range at 7 AM on a Saturday morning. Since the owner told me to bring the range master a cup of coffee and some doughnuts from the Krispy Kreme, it could also have been the doughnuts I had in my hands, the cup of coffee, or the green pine he could smell. Regardless, the range master would soon confront me.
The range master was glad to see doughnuts, as were the other employees. He got me started, and we discussed gun range etiquette, how to handle the gun while at “his range”, how to use the target system, and his rules. There was a red revolving light. He told me that if I see that light go “hot” to stop immediately, lay the gun down, and back off.
I shot 50 rounds through the .38 special at 15 yards with nice grouping. Then, I pulled out the Ruger. I steadily moved the target to 50 yards. I was pretty cocky, and I could not wait to squeeze the Ruger’s trigger. I shot the Ruger, and I heard a “bang” and then a “plink” as the bullet rambled into the armor plating in the back of the indoor range. The bullet struck the plating very, very solidly. Immediately, the glaring red revolving light went hot! It was flashing like a fire truck driving at midnight down the road. I laid my gun down and backed off. I felt like an idiot. The range master came running to me as the other shooters were gazing at me, further making me feel like an idiot. The range master placed his arm around me and asked, “What kind of cannon did you bring to my range?” Everyone walked over to see this gun. I did not realize it was exotic. I just liked a cowboy action gun. Yes, it had the original 0.75 pound trigger. The range master asked if he could shoot it. He was bringing it to sight, and he bumped the trigger. There was the same “bang” and “plink” I heard earlier, with an additional “clunk” in the middle. He shot the floor, and it then struck the back wall. The people were laughing and ducking all at the same time; well, that was everyone but me. I was too stupid to know to duck. The other employees then gathered around me and wanted their turn with this gun.
At the end of the session, I was friends with the employees, and we were laughing about it. However, I was asked to not bring that gun back. Then the range master pulled me off to the side. He told me the University has a strict policy about no guns on campus. I would be expelled if they found the gun with me driving through campus, even with the CCP. This was my first taste of an education system imitating a monarchy and destroying the United States Constitution.
I was very careful from then on. If I had a weapon with me, I would circle around campus. Luckily, I never lived in university housing. It would have been impossible for me to have a weapon. The drive I made was through some heavily congested big cities and country back roads where I knew nobody.
My confidence grew, with the range master’s help, and I became a good shot. I made it a point to go shoot once every two weeks and bring a box of doughnuts and a cup of coffee. I never went later than 7 AM, and I gained the respect of the gun range guys. However, the reason I did this was so that nobody would see me go in the range. Nobody saw me with guns in my apartment complex. My roommates did not know I had a gun. Every kid on campus has a backpack. By carrying guns in a backpack, I did not stand out. I wore clothes like a college kid would, to not stand out. The bottom line was that I wanted to blend in while in plain sight.
Only once did we have a problem at the apartment complex. Some of the city’s native citizens thought they would come over and rummage through our cars and steal radios and other items. My roommate woke me up just after midnight and said that people were busting car windows. He called the police, and I watched out our window. There were four of them. Two groups of two were breaking in cars and laughing. While they were in the car just outside my window, I took my gun, went out the door, and circled behind the car without being seen. I then came behind the car and ordered them to show me their hands and lay on the ground. My neighbor stopped the other two with a shotgun. The police showed up and told us we were stupid protecting car radios with our lives. I disagreed. I was protecting my property. At that point in life, all I owned was a car. I was protecting my property. Yes, it was the principle that I would not be a victim.
I found out how unresponsive our legal system was and is. The four intruders got off with probation and time served. Their timed served was 48 hours. I know we cannot lock up everyone, but at that time I felt like I was unrewarded for my duty to my neighbors.
Then it came time for me to graduate. I interviewed with the U.S. Customs Agency. It was tempting to use both guns and my degree to make a living, but with an accounting degree I knew I needed a little experience and the ability to earn the title “CPA”.
Being at the range, I learned that no matter where I am, I had better know the rules concerning guns. The second thing I learned was that my education would come from real life experiences as well as from a text book. Finally, I learned that it does not matter where I am, if I can blend in, I can go undetected. That is until now, with the increasing use of new surveillance systems, I may never be able to blend in again.
I, too, wanted to be protected, and I wanted to be responsible. That was why I practiced. Through repetition, I was able to train my muscles for proper shooting. Later in life, I became a reserve deputy for the same department that issued me an early CCP. There again, the lessons at the range made it so I could help the other deputies and not be a liability to the deputies.
However, in typing this article, I have realized that I’ve never repaid the kindness afforded to me forward. Someday, I will have the chance to help somebody at a range, and I hope I will accept the challenge. We have a responsibility as gun owners to help other gun owners not be a liability to themselves or the people they live with.