Post #486

Shooting things

16th September 2004, early afternoon | Comments (28)

A photo of the first bullet I fired

A few weeks ago I hooked up with Jonas, and his new co-worker, Ram, for a trip to Jackson Arms Shooting Range. I’ve never fired anything more deadly than an air-gun (or a ‘beebee’ gun for the americans among us), but I’ve always wondered what a real gun would feel like, so when I saw on his site that Jonas had membership at a range, I asked him straight away if he would give me a lesson:

So, will you?
Oh ya, ve vill go and shoot ze paper men, unt den you vill love ze guns!

Jonas picked me up from South San Francisco Cal Train station and we headed on over to Jackson Arms to start the fun.

I'm not a gun advocate

A montage of photos showing Dunstan as a child dressed in army gear

Now, before I continue and run the risk being labelled a gun nut, I should say that I’m not. I’m not a gun nut. I know that’s not much of a rebutal argument, but it’s the truth.

Sure I spent every waking moment from the ages of four to eleven dressed in combat gear; and yes, each christmas my wish list was topped with: (1) New Machine Gun, (2) Actual Working Bazooka, (3) Real Hand-Grenades; and granted I once got my mother to dye all my underwear camo-green, but I tell you, I’m not a gun nut.

And you know why I’m not a gun nut? Because at the age of eleven I realised that I wasn’t the only one allowed to own a gun, that other people had them too, and that because of that, I could die. Once I realised that not every enemy soldier shoots like Colonel Decker’s Men in the A-Team, I didn’t want any part of it. The fantasy ended.

So, now you’re no longer viewing me as an NRA devotee, let me continue…


On arrival at the range we presented our IDs to the guy behind the counter, and were asked to fill out a series of forms, disclaimers, and questionnaires, like the one shown below:

A spoof questionnaire

With our paper work complete, Jonas carefully picked out a gun for Ram and I to use. He chose a Glock 17, which is by all accounts a pretty amazing weapon, and suitable for both experts and beginners.

Here’s a few images of the gun, so you have some idea of what we were using (images courtesy of some random site I found):

Photos of a Glock 17 handgun

Once we’d been approved and had our gun prepared, we popped on our ear-protectors and safety glasses, and Jonas led us into the firing range.

Entering the range

The noise when we first entered the room was incredible. Standing in the shop we’d heard the crack of distant shots, but once in the range, without walls and doors to act as filters, the sound really was very loud indeed. Trying to ignore the shots being fired around us, Ram and I listened and watched as Jonas explained the workings of our Glock, the target system, and the idea that a weapon is never considered empty, no matter what it looks like.

About halfway through his commentary a noise like overhead-thunder ripped through the range, drowning out Jonas’s words, and causing my internal organs to go numb. I leaned back and looked around the partition that divided us from the shooters in the next stall. What the hell was that? I asked the three guys standing there. They turned, grinned, and said proudly, .44 Magnum, holding the gun up so I could see. Jesus, that was… loud, Damn right the shooter said, before he turned back to his target, and I turned back to my lesson.

When Jonas was satisfied we’d taken in everything he said, Ram and I had one shot each to get used to the feel and sound of the gun, and also to experience its recoil. I’d been harbouring the fear that I wouldn’t be very good at shooting, but my first effort hit center at 21ft and all my worries vanished.

After few more warm up shots on a shared target we switched to firing six rounds at a time and using our own targets, so we could keep track of our performance. I fired twelve rounds from 21ft, six rounds from about 35ft, and a final 12 rounds from 50ft (the maximum distance on this range). I had a few stray 8s at 50ft, but all in all I was pretty pleased with my scores. Never having shot before and hitting mostly 9s and 10s from 50ft ain’t bad.

How I shoot a gun

Photo of a paper shooting target
My target with the hits highlighted

If you’re interested, here’s a breakdown of what I did each time:

  1. I walk up to the shooting table.
  2. I attach my paper target to the target clips (two bulldog clips welded to a metal frame, suspended from two wires which run the length of the range).
  3. I flick a switch, and run the target out to whatever distance I chose.
  4. I pick up the empty gun magazine in my left hand.
  5. I push six bullets into it, one after another.
  6. I pick up the gun in my right hand.
  7. I push the magazine into the butt of the gun, and click it home.
  8. I swap the gun into my left hand.
  9. I use my right hand to pull back the gun’s slide, and then let it slip forward until the gun is set to fire.
  10. I swap the gun back to my right hand and rest my right index finger along the side of the gun.
  11. I take my stance: hips almost square to the target, left foot slightly forward, leaning slightly into the waist-high bar in front of me.
  12. I rest the butt of the gun in the palm of my left hand, place my left index finger underneath and along the front of the trigger guard, and curl the rest of my fingers around my right hand.
  13. With the majority of its weight resting in my left hand, I raise the gun and align the front and rear sights at the centre of the target.
  14. My right index finger slips into the trigger guard, and lightly takes up pressure on the trigger.
  15. I breathe in 2/3rds of a breath, hold it, and gently squeeze the trigger until the gun goes BANG.
  16. The recoil forces the gun up until my elbows are bent to about 120 degrees. The empty shell casing ejects out the side of the gun, hitting the wall next to me and ricochetting past my head.
  17. My senses recover from the noise, and I peer down the range to see where my shot struck.
  18. I either nod, or shake my head at what I see, breathe out then in, and raise the gun for the next shot.
  19. When all six bullets have been fired, the gun slide jams in the open position.
  20. I push the button that ejects the magazine, then place the gun and magazine on the table.
  21. I flick the switch that reels in the target. I take a good look at where the new holes sit, remove the target from its clips, and step back to allow Ram his turn.

Ram was kind enough to take a wee (384kb MPEG) video clip of me shooting two shots from 35ft, and while it’s pretty small and dark, you can at least get some idea of what it was like at the range. (The other shots you can hear are from the guys next door to us. They were firing a similar 9mm gun to us at that point.)


All in all I had a very interesting time, and I’m glad I went, so thanks to Jonas for taking me, and to Ram for the company. If you’ve never shot a gun before and wonder what it’s like, I can recommend giving it a go. Just be sure to remember what it is you’re handling, and that by visiting shooting ranges you’re probably helping fund arseholes like this.

Note: Please keep any comments relevant to the experiences I’ve written about here; I’m not interested in you re-hashing the pro-/anti-gun debate and I’ll happily remove any rants that get posted. Merci beaucoup.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Darice De Cuba:

    Well that was something else form your regular things. That question form really made me laugh but again it makes you want to cry. If they ask a lunatic if he's a lunatic I'm sure the answer is no.

    Nice shooting for a beginner! You'll be pre-approved to be a recruit if you wanted to. And how did you feel in between rounds?

    Posted 20 minutes after the fact
  2. Jonas M Luster:

    Oh, btw - Jackson is one of the few non-NRA places around here and dedicates quite a bit of money to causes of gun education and positive firearms legislation. I wouldn't go there, otherwise :)

    Posted 30 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  3. Dunstan:

    Ah, excellent, thanks Jonas, I feel much better about that.
    What a responsible chap you are ;o)

    Posted 34 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Jonas M Luster
  4. Scott:

    Wow Dunstan, I would've never thought of you as a person who shoots a lot, after looking at your pic in the colophon.

    Posted 38 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  5. Dunstan:

    I don't shoot 'a lot', Scott (hey, that rhymes) — if you look again you'll see I say I've never shot anything more powerful than an air-gun before. (And the only time I fired an air-gun was when I was a kid.)

    Beginners luck, maybe :o)

    Posted 42 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Scott
    Inspired: ↓ Lee
  6. Benjamin:

    Certainly a change! I'm going to bookmark this as my favourite post _ever_.

    (By the way: why the American spelling for "favourite"?)

    Posted 53 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  7. Dunstan:

    Because the damn spell checker that's built into apache is American. I'm working on adding in a UK version though...

    Posted 57 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Benjamin
  8. Geof:

    Well, I am a member of the NRA [or at least I was ... I think I let my membership lapse], but I'd like to assure you that we're not all nuts. Unfortunately, the extremists do drive the bus. :sigh:

    I think that most law-abiding citizens should know how to handle a handgun, just in case. If you treat 'em with respect, you'll be fine. The important thing to remember is that death is always a trigger pull away. [That'll sober you up right quicklike!]

    Gun education is a great cause, as is reasonable limitations on the Second Amendment.

    Posted 1 hour, 1 minute after the fact
  9. Joel:

    I've never fired a gun but I'd kinda like to experience it. Thanks for your post.

    Posted 1 hour, 43 minutes after the fact
  10. Geof:

    Oh, and Dunstan ... that's not the first *bullet* you fired. That's the casing from the first round. The bullet is the pointy thing that goes really fast. ;)

    Posted 2 hours, 39 minutes after the fact
  11. Lee:

    - Beginners luck, maybe :o) (Dunstan)

    First person arcade games more like.

    I'm not a gun nut either, but I'd certainly like to fire one (in a range) at some point.

    Great post, as usual.

    Posted 9 hours, 15 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  12. Tony:

    Great to hear that things went well for you at the gun range.
    Trying something new and having it work out is the best. I myself like to shoot at targets. I find that focusing on aiming, the concentration, is a skill that I work at. I only compete with myself but it is fun. Thanks for your open mind in trying it and sharing your results.

    Posted 10 hours, 3 minutes after the fact
  13. Al:

    Good report. Reminds me of the first time I fired a gun at an outdoor range. It was an SA80, the rubbish British Army issue rifle. Hunkered down in my pit on the range we were displaying our prowess for a visiting Colonel. I didn't hear the 'cease fire' order (due to being deaf in one ear - in retrospect, never give a deaf person a gun...) and kept firing after everyone else had ceased.

    I was unceremoniously yanked from upright and the rifle was ripped from me by some hulking brute. My impression on the Colonel probably wasn't that impressive. Stay safe around guns (stay well away from the deaf... and blind for that matter)

    Posted 14 hours, 2 minutes after the fact
  14. Andy B:

    I'm a member of the UK NRA (yep, we've got one too). I shoot small-bore (.22 Rim Fire) and full-bore (7.62mm), in two different county teams, and have shot in the world championships. You'd be surprised how many .22 ranges there are here in the UK. Full-bore shooting is a lot more expensive and almost the only place left to shoot (south of Watford Gap) is Bisley in Surrey. When you're back in the UK you can come with me to Bisley and have a go shooting 1000 yards if you like.

    We're not all loonies.

    Oh and the spell checker is very good.

    Posted 15 hours, 3 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Richard Rutter
  15. Jake:

    Hmm... That's an interesting post compared to normal. I dunno if I'd ever do something like that more than once. The first part reminded me of what it was like to be a kid. I think I used to carry around this water gun that's similar to the one you used and pretended I was a secret agent or something.

    Nowadays I get really uncomfortable around guns even in movies if they're not being carried by police officers or hunters or something. I had a friend call me up a while ago threatening suicide by gun and I still have problems with things related to it. It probably didn't help the cops told me there was a gun with fresh prints on it. Debunking claims that it wasn't serious.

    Sorry about the rant, glad you had a fun learning experience. :)

    Posted 16 hours, 8 minutes after the fact
  16. Richard Rutter:

    This post reminds me of the time I went clay pigeon shooting (, which I enjoyed thoroughly. It was the first time I'd shot anything other than an air rifle and it only served to highten my appreciation of the destructive power of guns.

    As it happens I spent my formative years just outside the Bisley that Andy B mentions. Bisley is also situated very close to Army training land so I grew up with the almost constant sound of gunshot in the air (albeit gunshot in extremely controlled conditions).

    Posted 18 hours, 58 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Andy B
  17. Richard Rutter:

    Sorry Dunstan, I screwed up the link in that post. Should have been a link to (feel free to edit my post accordingly)

    Posted 19 hours after the fact
  18. Turnip:

    I've never fired a gun like that, but I've fired other guns. I was in the UK Air Training Corps (aka. Air Cadets) for a while, and got to fire two different weapons. Can't remember either of their names...

    *Looks for his record book*

    *5 minutes passes*

    Woo, found it.

    I got signed off to shoot the ".22 No. 8" rifle on 15/7/03 (wouldn't have a clue how to fire it any more :P). I only got to fire it once, with five rounds. I had something like a 1.5 inch grouping at I dont know how many metres, but I fired at the wrong target for one of them, otherwise I could've got a badge thingy :(.

    The other weapon I fired was an "L98 - A1 Air Cadet GP" (I got signed off for that the day after). On that I had 5 shots grouping, and 10 shots rapid fire, but I sucked at that.

    I'm sorry that I can't give any actual figures on either of them, it's not written in the book (I mean the scores, the record that I did it is).

    I didn't go to Cadets for ages soon after that, and then I quit (lots of reasons for that).

    I got to go in planes a few times though, which absolutely ruled. Twice I went in a light aircraft, which I got to fly myself some of the time (it was dual control), and the pilot took us in nice spinny loopy things (I loved that). Also, I got to go in the front of a Gazelle helicopter (only time I've been in a helicopter in my life), and we also got invited along in spare seats on a Tristar KC1 doing a air-to-air refuelling practise over the north sea. For 6 hours. I have photos of a Tornado doing a top gun style pull off thingy from the left wing of the Tristar where they turn with the bottom off the Tornado facing the Tristar and whizz off (really fast). I also have a photo of 4 Harriers lined up on the right wing waiting to be refuelled. I could see planes refuelling from the cockpit through a camera, but I don't think we were allowed to take photos in there.

    Sorry, went a bit off topic, but that was really fun :D.

    Posted 20 hours, 9 minutes after the fact
  19. Seth Thomas Rasmussen:

    I have a buddy that has asked me several times to come shoot with him. I want to do it someday.

    Great write up, most boring video of all time. ;)

    Posted 1 day after the fact
  20. Daniel S:

    We've got mandatory military service here in Norway, so I've done some shooting with an AG3 rifle ( It's a powerful beast that *will* give you a black eye and a sore shoulder if you don't use it correctly. It's also got a full-automatic function which is useless as no living man or woman can use it without shooting straight up-wards after 0.5 seconds. Also, it's a hell of a job to clean the weapon, and I wasn't too sad I had to hand it in when I left the military. Good riddance :)

    Posted 1 day, 1 hour after the fact
  21. Geoff:

    What's more dangerous, you with a gun or you with a blog ?

    Posted 1 day, 20 hours after the fact
  22. Donnie:

    My gosh - that was the most informative gun post ever.
    The idea of you shooting a gun makes me laugh, probably because your photo in the "colophon" section is the only image I have of you.

    Posted 2 days, 3 hours after the fact
  23. Biggest Apple:

    **I apologize for the length of this in advance.

    I had a passing fascination with guns. Growing up in NYC I knew they were nothing to fool around with but my mother's side of the family came from South Carolina where having and using guns for sport was perfectly acceptable. My uncle had a mini arsenal (that means he had some guns - not a small football team). One summer as I was on my school break, he decided he should teach me how to use a gun responsibly rather than risk my picking one up and going out and shooting at a duck or something when no one was home. Nice sentiment but a little misguided. Guns were cool in my 12 year old eyes but they were damn scary.

    So there I was at his side ready to learn and taking the whole thing very seriously. Sadly my dear uncle was not taking things quite so seriously. I believe he had been drinking a bit which was illustrated by a swaying in the wind of afore mentioned uncle. He had also not chosen the best gun to teach me with. He had gone for a antique Mauser handgun. The gun was illegal as the wooden case that it was kept in could be locked onto the handle of the handgun which then turned it into a rifle. Yes, as a fan of Transformers this was cool to me but again we're talking about a real gun - not a cartoon car that morphs into a robot.

    Drunk uncle clicked everything together rifle style, raised it to the side of his cheek, took aim, mumbled something incoherent, and fired. The gun exploded and fell apart in his hands. Remarkably he and I were both fine. He stood looking shocked for about five minutes then turned to me and said - "don't shoot guns". It was sound advice and I've stuck to it.

    Posted 3 days, 22 hours after the fact
  24. Francesco:

    you'd better come back to europe before it's too late. (or at least move to canada)

    Posted 4 days after the fact
  25. Joe Clark:

    You keep complaining about the noise. Surely you were wearing ear and eye protection? (The former was apparent from the wee MPEG.)

    BTW, noted pervert Dan Savage had nearly the same experience, finding out that he's a natural shot (_vide_ _Skipping Towards Gomorrah_).

    Posted 5 days, 21 hours after the fact
  26. Dan McCormack:

    Your first shooting experience sounds so much more organized (and safe) than mine. As background, I went to college in South Carolina, USA, where stereotypes are alive and well and there is no inspection or emissions testing required for vehicles, else all the mud-covered lifted pickup trucks with 33" tires would not be street legal. Apparently, shooting ranges are much more informal in the South. My friend took me out to a shooting range, which consisted of a series of booths at one end of a clearing, with a dirt hill at the other. There was no organizing body, access was freely available to anyone (you had to bring your own gun, of course). "Preparing your target" consisted of walking up to a booth, asking the other shooters to please hold their fire, walking out on the field (counting on good old Southern politeness to prevent the other shooters from taking advantage of this tempting new target), and setting down some coffee cans or water-filled two-liter soda bottles, then returning to the booth and opening fire.

    Still, it was a fun experience, and it definitely does provide a better appreciation for the real power that guns have, which can be shocking if you're used to the world of television where every shooting victim either dies immediately or gets a cast on their arm for a week. I think sometime I'd like to try going to a shooting range more like what you described, though -- something consistent and formalized that actually provides you some indication of how well you're shooting, rather than simply doing it for the thrill of watching water-filled two-liter soda bottles blow up (*unbelievably* satisfying though that was).

    Posted 6 days, 1 hour after the fact
  27. Anon:

    mate your weird and yes i do rub sweet oil into my testies but why are you putting stuff like that on you website. anyway that a fake gun, i'am sargent at u.s.a lakenheath airbase in washington, get yourself a 9mm gold colt eagle. if you wont some real kickass power.

    Posted 11 months after the fact
  28. Tom J Couper:

    hello kid, i'am sergant T.J.Couper, based at U.S.A Washington AIR Base,
    your gun isnt as good as you make out it really is and if you wont some real kickass power in your guns then get, a 9mm desert eagle golden range colt.
    now thats some god damn power and let me tell you what, you wont one send me a letter to the address below. thats my ammo boss, George Hamond.

    George Hamond. (G.H Ammo Supervisor)

    29 Washington Road
    Washington D.C
    AW1 2DC

    he will sort you out and say i said you could have one but i will have already paid for it.
    all you need to say is your name , what you are ordering, who from, your address, telephone, and a message.
    have fun.
    yours, sergant T.J couper

    Posted 11 months after the fact

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