Friday, May 21, 2010

Show, Tell & Do: Researching in the Real World vs. Cyberspace

I've been researching guns, shooting ranges, and more for my current WIP. Most of my research is done online. But I was fortunate enough to know a few people who had guns and a place to practice target shooting. So my family and I went to a friend's house where I took my first shooting lesson. I posted about my experiences and have incorporated them into my WIP.

Yesterday I went to an indoor shooting range located behind a Pawn and Gun Shop. This was how my Darling Hero wanted to spend his birthday. And, given my recent WIP's hero's line of work, I happily went along.

Confession: When I saw the bars on the windows and doors, I did get a little wigged out. And the location of said shooting range wasn't in a savory part of town. Yikes! But I did go in.

The front of the shooting range is a gun and ammo store. Stepping inside the store was like entering Super Testosterone Mart. Men of varying ages and sizes roamed the interior looking at the guns, ammo, shooting equipment, scopes, rifles, paper targets and antiques. The sales clerks stood behind tall glass cases that rose up to their chests. Inside the cases there were guns. Lots and lots of guns. Huge rifles, big black Uzi looking machines, hung along the walls behind the clerks.

Confession: I felt intimidated.

The Gun & Pawn shop was uber man world. This was not going out to the country to shoot in the open air at a target. This was not a place where I knew all the people and a nice cookout followed my first shooting lesson. This place smelled of man, sweat and gun metal. The sales clerks weren't like the women at the cosmetics counter at Macy's. They weren't trying to be friendly or push a gun on you. They figured if you were there, you were there with a purpose and already persuaded.

After we signed the proper paperwork and purchased our ammo, we went through a door in the back of the shop and walked down a long, windowless hallway. We were met at the end by a man, older with short cropped hair, and wearing shorts "for the first time in ten years." He asked us what kind of guns we wanted to shoot. I let DH lead the way on the choice. After all, it was his birthday present, and I know squat about guns.

Guns selected, we were asked about the targets we wanted to hit. About fifty different kinds of targets lined the wall in the hallway. There were bird targets, animal targets, people targets (in color and black silhouettes), bulls-eye targets (large and small), and zombie targets. Yes. Zombie targets. For a wild moment, I imagined having a themed birthday party at the shooting range featuring the Zombie targets.

Confession: I kind of wanted to shoot at the Zombies.

We chose a man target, small bulls eye targets and large bulls eye targets. Then our guide set us up in booths one and two. We could have shared a booth, which was good to know since my MC and his brother stand side-by-side at a shooting range in one of my scenes, but chose not to as there was plenty of space.

Confession: Every time a shot rang out, even though we had on protective gear, I jumped (inside and out).

The place was noisy, shots echoed off of the gray, concrete walls and flooring. My target hung in the distance, too far, and we brought it in closer. It zipped along a metal line and I thought it would hit me. It didn't, but man that target didn't slowly eek forward toward the booth's front, it flew. DH was happily shooting his Glock and then his Ruger revolver in the booth next to  me while I practiced with the long barreled 22.

Confession: It's hard to concentrate on lining up a site when bullet casings are flying into your space and hitting your body.

I finally figured out how to use the sight marks. I lined them up, and shot my target. Successful hits. All of the shots were clustered to the right of the bulls eye. Wow. The guy that was there helped me with my stance and my shoulder position as well as with how to adjust for things like my dominant eye vs. my dominant hand.

Turns out my left eye is dominant despite my being a rightie. Who knew? He had me put my hands together to make a little circle and then look at the target with my arms outstretched. Then I had to bring my hands slowly to my eyes, both open, while keeping the target in sight. Well, what do you know? I'm a leftie in vision. Adjustment: close RIGHT eye, slide the gun a little to the left and bang, better accuracy.

I shot four different guns. The guy was so cool. He didn't just tell me how to load the guns and the magazines. He showed me. Then he watched me do the task. Each gun had a different loading mechanism and size bullet. The hardest gun to load was the Glock. The bullets were huge (38s) and the spring action was tight. The more bullets I tried to push in, the greater the resistance. The easiest gun to load was the revolver. Flip open the barrel, load six bullets into the chamber and flip it closed and you're ready to shoot, in succession, 6 bullets.

The heaviest gun was the revolver. The lightest gun was the short barrel 22. I learned that a shorter barrel is harder to aim for a beginner. The longer barrels make it easier to line up the target. How? I shot out of both kinds of guns. And while the shorter barrel was lighter and easier to hold, the longer barrel gave me greater accuracy in my shots.

Confession: I prefer accuracy.

Darling Hubby was tickled to see me shoot. After all, he's a Texan and was shooting his Grandpop's gun when he was a boy. I have a picture of him walking next to the man. He's holding a huge gun, probably a S&W revolver. The gun barrel is inches from the ground and my DH's head doesn't even reach his Grandpop's waist. Guns are a way of life, of the culture he grew up in, and he has been badgering me to get a gun for the entire length of our marriage.

We're approaching the quarter century mark. I'm not a pushover. I've held my ground till now because I grew up in Canada. We don't carry guns there. I was afraid of having one in the house and I wasn't going to bring one into my world. They intimidated me.

Amazing how one book, one need for understanding via research, has changed my feelings about guns. I  was afraid of what I didn't know. I was intimidated by what I didn't understand. For me, personally, this has been a revelation about myself. I like shooting guns. It's fun. And it's empowering. I know it's not for everyone, but once again I've been reminded that until you experience a situation first hand, you can't know if you'll like it or not.

Now DH is very excited. He has permission to go buy his Man Toy. And I, very secretly, am excited, too. Maybe I'm not bringing home any cash as a writer, but my writing has restored a vital part of my DH's history back into his life. A positive outcome of my many hours slaving over this book.

Confession: The next time I go to the Gun & Pawn shop to shoot, I am asking for the Zombie target.

5 comments:

JustineDell said...

That sounded like all sorts of fun! My dad taught my and siblings how to shoot when we where younger, it was fun and a good learning experience. I'm a good shot with a 22, not to shabby with 9mm, but I have issues with the shot gun. Kicks to hard and scares me. LoL.

~JD

Christine said...

Wow, how cool that your dad taught you how to shoot. I love it. I don't know if I could handle a shot gun. My brother hunted and had a rifle, but I'm not sure if he shoots anymore. I can imagine it hurts when it kicks back. I'm sore today. Holding guns and shooting them is HARD!!

Piedmont Writer said...

I had the same experience once with a man friend only he took me out to the desert. Boy howdy, how much fun was that. I had a whole bunch of different guns too, but we shot at plastic milk jugs and cans. I love the long scope .22.
Of course, I would never own a gun, I'm still afraid of them, but the exileration I felt while shooting was beyond compare, in a testosterone man kind of way. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Christine said...

Hi Piedmont Writer: I personally would only want to shoot at a range or outside target range, but I know DH is beyond thrilled about getting his Man Toy. Oh, I feel the testosterone levels rising in the house. Hmmm. Maybe I will have another side benefit from this experience ;-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great post, Christine! Sorry I'm so far behind on reading. I'm still for some gun control, but I've always thought shooting targets was fun, and like you, I'm more interested than ever because of my characters.

I loved: "Confession: I kind of wanted to shoot at the Zombies." I think I'd feel the same way.

I'm excited because my law enforcement friend in DC has promised to take me to the range after we move back. I think we'll make it a double date (with our respective spouses that is). =)