Shooting guns isn’t for everyone. There is a section of deer hunting, beer swilling, county music listening, redneck guys who shoot. No one else shoots.
In so many ways, wrong! I attended the first day of the two day open house at the East Elgin Sportsman Association on Saturday and saw no stereotypes at all. There were older women and gentlemen, pre-teens, lots of young guys but also a good number of young women. Middle aged men and women also were there. It was a great spread of people, many of which you may not have associated with shooting. A lot of people were first time shooters, experiencing the power of a firearm, smelling the gun power, finding the thrill in holding and firing such a powerful instrument.
For myself, it was the third time shooting, once previous at the EESA. There were a large number of visitors, even at 3:00pm. There were line-ups for all shooting ranges, which although took time away from shooting, did allow you to get acclimatized with the sounds and the smells as well as give you time to decide on which firearms to shoot. Another bonus was to listen and try to work out which firearm made the loudest boom. And when I say boom, I am talking about weapons that not only go boom but can move the air so much that you feel it feet away.
First we, that is myself and Chuck, a first timer, went to the 100 metre range. I picked up a Heckler-Koch HK SL-8 semi automatic rifle. The instructor was great, explaining loading, safety and firing techniques, taking time to make sure I was comfortable before I shot. Although there was a line up, he took time to answer my questions. The one problem with shooting a firearm is that it always seems to go way too quickly. I fired two magazines although even at 100 metres I was unable to see my results. Not that it mattered, I was enjoying the experience.
Next were the hand guns. I picked up a Glock first. For those of you unaware of Glocks, they are incredibly popular, and incredibly light weight being mainly made up of composite plastic. Yes you read that right, a plastic pistol. The only metal was the slide. My instructor again took the time to remove the slide to show me just how light the rest of the Glock was. I have used water pistols that weighed heavier. Again, the magazines went too quickly but I really enjoyed firing the Glock, It was a very comfortable weapon and although my shoots were off to the right, my instructor was impressed because they were still tightly grouped. It fired .40 bullets for those who were wondering.
I got to fire another handgun, this was a 1911 model. This design as been around for decades, with slight alterations, and with several manufacturer producing their own versions. I was too caught up in the moment to check who made this one. As the caliber of the bullet goes up, so does both the sound and the recoil. The 1911 fired a .45 bullet and so was louder and a little more difficult to keep on target although again, I was able to group the shoots fairly tightly. Obviously heavier than the Glock (which I may have a little crush on) it was still an enjoyable weapon to fire. The bonus of shooting handguns is that you get to keep your targets. A good memento.
Lastly I headed over to where the biggest booms were coming from, the 300 metre range. I was lucky enough to be able to fire a .50 Steyr HS .50. If you have not heard of a .50 round think of a roughly 130mm long bullet with a diameter of 20 mm. Think of a slim lipstick case, it’s that big. This is not a weapon to be messed around with, although no firearm should ever be messed around with. This is a firearm that is capable of causing damage to the firer as well as the target as the recoil is similar to being kicked in the face by a disgruntled donkey. As such is is a bucket list type of weapon. Firing it causes a very large sound and a recoil that kicked my head back. One of the instructors recorded my shoot and had great pleasure in showing my reaction to the recoil to me after the shot. At this point I should mention that ammunition was purchased by way of tickets. 2 tickets for this, 4 for that. To fire the .50 it was 15 tickets and then another 5 tickets to keep the shell casing, which I just had to do.
Finally, to use up my final remaining tickets, I choose two shots with a Savage Arms 110BA. This was the weapon, albeit firing a .50 rather than the .338 that I would be firing, that holds the record for the longest kill shot, at 8,120 ft or 2,706 yards or 2,474 metres. That is a long, long shot. Luckily I was on the 300 metre range so it was a little easier for me. The 110BA also kicks like a mule. For the challenge I set myself, I aimed at a white balloon that was at the 300 metre target. My first shot missed but the recoil didn’t. It was a little shocking to experience, it almost felt more powerful than the .50. My second shot however took that balloon out. Second shot ever at 300 metres and I hit the target. I think the instructor was a little shocked to see that I was on target and it totally made my day. I am glossing over the fact that the recoil the second time nearly dislocated my jaw and shook my teeth.
Over all, the day was a huge success. I am pretty sure the EESA will surpass last years total of visitors. When they do come to visit they will find incredible instructors who won’t treat them like idiots but rather take the time to make sure the shooter is comfortable before going further. Yes there were line ups as if it was Disney but it didn’t detract from the wonderful experience. As usual when driving away from such a day, I am left feeling the need for more shooting. I find shooting has the same addictive qualities that tattoos have. If you have never shot a weapon before, I heartily recommend trying it, and if you can’t make it this weekend, you can call up the club and make a group booking.