When in America, do as the Americans do – especially because England doesn’t have any legal shooting ranges that I know of where you can shoot with SWAT style guns and AK-47s! (Although, after a quick Google, I did manage to find a few places in the country which offer clay pigeon shooting and an air rifle/pistol experience, which I want to go to solely to wear a corduroy blazer and tweed trousers).
So when we went to Vegas for my Dad’s wedding, it was a given that we would be going shooting – indeed, my Dad and my brothers spearheaded this whole movement – and a few days before we left, me, my family and my bestie found ourselves being thrown about in a huge Humvee vehicle careering down the wide American roads, AC/DC blaring as the army clad driver yelled, ‘this is just what it was like in ‘Nam!’It was over the top and exhilarating and I loved the drive. The sun kissed our skin as the wind threaded through our hair, and my brother’s excitement for what was to come was infectious. None of us could quite believe, as we bumped along, that we were about to go shooting.
My nerves kicked in when we entered the range.
Because call me stupid, or oblivious, or ignorant, but it was pro-gun. Very pro-gun. And as someone who is very anti-gun, this was a shock to me. Pro-gun paraphernalia and souvenirs littered the room, and posters depicting cartoons of Osama bin Laden with shots throughout his body were tacked up high and proud. ‘It’s My Right’ slogans were everywhere. To be honest, I had no idea what I was expecting – perhaps something less serious, and more kitsch? but when I took in the atmosphere, that’s when my heart started to thump.
In ode to my love of Russian history, the package I chose was dedicated to Russian 1940s war guns. My Dad chose the SWAT package, my brothers the kid’s one, and my stepmum and bestie the GI Jane. Hearing the safety briefing before loading up on our sound-reducing ear phones and protective glasses, it became real when we entered the shooting range and I heard the sounds of bullets and saw them pelting the targets in front of us.
I began to sweat and shake, and my anxiety was on high alert. These were guns damn it. These things were designed to kill! And how some of them were so loud despite the earphones? I was certainly quaking in my sandals.
I went last. I had to see what everyone else was doing and how they felt after, and let me tell you, there’s something quite disconcerting about seeing your 10-year old brother shoot a pistol and a machine gun and enjoy it. I found it very unsettling at least. Luckily, my mate said that after the first shot,the nerves lessen.
Yep, mine didn’t. I shot my Russian pistol, rifle and machine gun with the same level of jitters that I had going into the room. The guy directing us even commented that it was ‘unusual’ I went for such a large package despite it being my first time. Hell, I even got physically as well as mentally wounded by the experience, having accidentally placed the rifle against my collarbone instead of my meaty shoulder. Luckily, I just got a huge-ass bruise instead of a shattered bone, and thank goodness we went shooting after the wedding, where I had worn a strapless dress. Yet, there was one thing I laughed about, and it was that my rifle started smoking after a few shots. The smell of burning really added to the authentic experience that I was a soldier in the Soviet Union, shooting (albeit badly) at Nazis.
I’m happy I’ve had the experience, but I see no reason that I need to do it again. I was left cold for hours after all of the anxiety slowly drained out of my system, and all I wanted to do was grab an iced alcoholic drink from Fat Tuesdays and head to the Bellagio to see the fountains and gather my wits. I’m one for adventure and exhilaration – I live for excitement, otherwise I wouldn’t travel how I do – but something that kills? It’s not for me to do again. Call me a hippy and a vegan (I’m certainly attempting the latter, and I’m currently 5 months free of any animal products!), but I don’t see myself being there monthly, as some of the patrons were! Would I recommend it however? Yes, I would, because come on… where else do you get to shoot machine guns legally if you’re English?