Week 7: Ending the Year with a Bang!

I was nervous as I wrapped my hands around its hard touch. I adjusted my fingers over the grip, and I was ready to pull the sensitive trigger. The power of its release surprised me, and I had to take a step back. For the first time in my life…I shot a gun.

A 9mm Beretta 92 FS semi-automatic handgun to be exact.

Last week I spent time with my mom as she showed me how to make lumpia. So now it was my dad’s turn to teach me something I had never done. There’s no better skill for a father to teach his daughter than how to shoot a gun. It was about time.

My dad has always had a fascination with guns — we won’t go into details. After we put our names on the waitlist at the American Shooting Center in San Diego, we spent some time looking at all the weapons in the store. You can tell my dad enjoyed perusing all the available guns for rent and sale. Pointing out the differences to me as some were semi-automatic or revolving handguns, the different long guns of rifles and semi-automatic weapons. The intricacies of why certain guns are better for certain purposes.

Personally, I was looking at the pink camo items, I think I need a pink pepper spray gun. Every girl should have one. And they had some fun target shooting mannequins, the bloody clown one was creepy – I wonder if the boys would like that for Nerf gun practice.

Frankly, I was quite surprised at the number of people there on a Sunday afternoon. We were told it would be a 45-minute wait for a lane, and there were many more signing up behind us. I thought we were going to miss the Chargers game, and don’t these people watch football?

There were all kinds of folks there. Not really sure what kind of crowd I was expecting, but probably rednecky looking white people. (I’m being stereotypical again.) In fact, there were a rainbow of people. There were your crewcut military types with the camouflage rifles, the Latino with an AK-47 (talk about power), and the fathers with sons and daughters (like us). Some tough looking chicks that I would not want to get into a fight with (even in mud), whose male companions better not get on their bad side. And a few Filipinos — I could understand them talking in Tagalog. (Filipinos love their weapons.) Most brought their own weapons, some long, some small. All in well-maintained cases. You can tell they care about their guns.

Am I in the south here? I didn’t realize this gun business thing was so popular in San Diego; I guess we are a military town.

Once our names were called, my dad picked out the gun for me. He was worried at first it would be too much power for me, but I assured him I could handle it. We got our ammo, goggles, and earphones. When I first put on the earphones and goggles, I thought do I really need these – yes you do! After going through their two-door soundlock system, man it was loud, and I forgot those bullet casings ricochet. That is why my friends, I was happy to have those earphones and goggles.

indoor range

We were in lane 9, right next to the AK-47 guy. Standing there, when each time he shot watching a large spark escape from the barrel, especially during his rapid fire shots, the vibrations through my body felt like I was in a war zone. Plus he had his tri-pod, and a scope for shooting at the furthest distance. This guy was serious…I wonder what he does for a living. I didn’t ask, he didn’t tell.

Meanwhile, in our lane, this virgin shooter precisely tapes up the target – a basic black and white form, making sure it was nice and even, like it would make a difference. I let my dad show me how to load the bullets, and he points out all the parts of the gun – the grip, the barrel, the trigger and safety (careful because the trigger is very sensitive), how to load in the magazine, and when to know when you are out of ammo – no bullets come out right?

loading bullets

I let my dad go first. He takes his shots, brings back the target and is slightly disappointed. His vision is not as great and his grip not as steady. It’s been awhile since he’s held a gun in his hand.

dad shooting

My turn. Okay, I can do this. So I hold the gun out, with both my arms extended out, legs slightly apart for steadiness (I’ve watched a few police-type TV shows). I aim. I lightly put my finger on the trigger, what am I waiting for…and BOOM! Wow! I wasn’t expecting that kick. So I shoot again. More kick. Okay, I need to adjust my aim, because I could tell that after that much of a kick, I can tell my shots are going high. I aim a bit lower, and shoot some more. When my bullets were done, we bring back the target, and look at that – I did pretty good – most of my shots falling in that rectangle area of the chest. Huh.

Jemma shooting

My dad and I continue to take turns. My dad does better and does some rapid fire shooting too. I am doing really good but I stay in my same extended arm position, slowly shooting one at a time. I aim a few shots to the head, and make them. Too bad there wasn’t a pelvic region to shoot at…

My dad talks to a few of the guys who brought their own guns, admiring their weapons, some historic. There was a Colt 45, an original AR 15, a Winchester gold-plated repeater, and much more. There was basically a really nice group of people there, sharing their weapon’s characteristics info with my dad, and letting him hold their guns. I’m not into holding strange men’s weapons, so I didn’t ask to touch.

long guns

To be honest it was really fun, especially since I did well. I credit my accuracy to the times when the kids were younger, and we would go on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride at Disneyland over and over and over again. You get to shoot with laser guns for points, and spin around for better targets. I usually got the highest ranking of Galactic Hero, thank you. One time the ride was stuck at a certain spot, but your lasers still worked, so I got to just stay at that stationary point and rapid fire shoot and rack up the points. As I recall, I accumulated the max of one million points. Now that was fun – not that I’m competitive at all, not even (insert sarcastic tone).

I guess this gun experience will further my fantasy of being some sort of undercover spy, or rogue agent. Which one of Charlie’s Angels would I be? Or maybe some non-descript suburban housewife looking private detective…hmm. I did attempt to take a Russian language class while at USC, thinking it would be a good asset to have if I applied for the CIA. They did recruit on campus. But that daily 1-unit class I was taking for fun, which gave me a 19-unit schedule, had to go. So my undercover agent dreams went into the trashbin. Can you go into those services at 50? Oh well, I think we all fantasize about that, don’t we?

I’m not planning to buy a gun, join the NRA or anything like that, but I really, really enjoyed shooting. I wouldn’t shoot at people or animals (unless they’re attacking me or people I care about – if I don’t care about you, well, we’ll see), but shooting at the target was fun. It’s like a game. Maybe like golf (although I don’t really golf), the fun is in doing better each time you play.

Shouldn’t that be a goal in life, trying to better yourself all the time. Whether you want to do better at your career, in your family life, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, volunteering for causes you care about, or making your bed. You don’t need one specific resolution this new year, just be a better person overall. You don’t have to be perfect, but in your heart just try to do better. Maybe that should be a morning mantra…”Today I will do something better.”

And since my dad only has daughters, I will take it upon myself, as the eldest daughter, to carry on the firearms interest. Oh, and also to make sure that everyday, I will try and do something better. I think that would make my daddy proud. Thanks for showing me how to shoot a gun Dad – love ya!

target w holes

Notebook:  American Shooting Center, 5590 Ruffin Road, San Diego, CA 92123, 858.279.7233, www.gotammo.com. Range rates are $15 per person, with additional shooters in the same lane at $10 (up to 3 per lane). Firearms rental $10, plus cost of ammo. Annual memberships and firearms training courses available. (I may have to take an Intro to Personal & Home Defense course.)

***

After our time at the shooting range, we had a list from my mom of items to get at the 99 Ranch market to make more lumpia. (We didn’t make enough for all the New Year’s celebrations.) Well, if you’ve ever been there on a Sunday afternoon, it’s crowded and some people just have no manners. So after my brief stint with shooting a gun, believe me, I did not succumb to crowd pressures and rudeness. I quickly found a parking spot, worked our way around the maze of people in the store, and finagled my cart to an open check-out lane. Not so bad. Hey, I’m a gal that can shoot a weapon, and I’m not afraid to snake around some little old Asian ladies — I’m so brave. The power is already going to my head.

Oh, and we got some freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice on the way out. So sweet.

making sugar cane juice

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