Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Monday, July 21, 2014

A gun scare resulting in a shooting lesson

I was at my community garden last Thursday night, minding my own business, watering the plants, when all of a sudden I heard screeching tires, vehicles crashing into each other, then a bunch of officers yelling expletives at men to get out of the car, face down, get out of the f****** car, get your f****** hands up, not a hundred yards away from me in the parking lot across the street. There were a lot of black police vehicles and officers in camo - not the uniform. I didn't know what I was witnessing. Police? FBI? Military? Who were these bad guys?

More to the point, as I was watching this I thought "ho hum, this is just like the things you see on TV".

But wait.

1. I don't watch TV.
2. The one TV show I watch is Game of Thrones and there are no guns.
3. I'm not in Canada anymore, and if I were still in Canada, this takedown would have been a shocking event.

Like seriously, if one of those firearms had been discharged, I could have been in harm's way and shot by a stray bullet. For real.

Dan and I have talked about learning how to shoot - mostly for protection against things like rattlesnakes (a real threat here) and crazy people. But I also wanted to be able to handle a gun and not be afraid of it if I ever needed to disarm it.

I have a Twitter friend @NotAssa who, it turns out, is a gun enthusiast, and when I asked him if he would teach me, he eagerly agreed to do so. Now just so you know that I haven't completely lost my mind in going off to the hills of Utah with a complete stranger to shoot guns... I had met him in person a few times before and one of those times was for breakfast with a bunch of new Twitter friends where Dan was present, and Dan figured this guy was okay for me to spend an afternoon alone with guns. (Spoiler: he's not a psycho killer).

It was an entire day of serendipity. We agreed to meet a parking lot but didn't check beforehand what the other would be driving. We coincidentally pulled up next to each other at the same time. What timing! We all got out, said our hellos, Dan dropped me off and I went up the mountain with Asa.

We had not spent much time together prior to this, and he's one of those super-serious yet thoughtful guys who is reserved yet well spoken. To be honest it was a bit awkward, but I'm used to drawing people out of their shells (if you will forgive the pun). When I'm nervous I talk a lot and ask lots of questions, it seemed go go okay.

On the way up we heard pop POP pop and we thought it was just the balloons Asa had blown up beforehand to use as targets. We gained a lot of elevation in 20 minutes and maybe the air pressure changed so much that the balloons were popping? When we arrived at the site, no, it wasn't the balloons. It was the right muffler.

What you are seeing above here is the exhaust pipe having become detached from the muffler by heat degradation. We had no TIG welder nor wire with us, so we decided to just do our shooting lesson and deal with the muffler later.

The first thing we did was attach the targets (balloons) to the bushes with clothes pins. There was really a lot of litter in this site, clearly a popular spot for target practice. There were cans, broken bottles, broken clay pigeons, spent shells, milk jugs, and even vinyl records (what heathen would use Haydn as target practice!) We agreed that after we were done shooting we would pick up some of this trash.

I started with the .40 Smith & Wesson pistol. After firing a few rounds and missing all the balloons, I declared the gun broken because it was not hitting the targets. I must admit I was getting discouraged. I finished a magazine and declared I was done with that one, let's move on to the rifle.

Next up was a .22 rifle. I was to learn that the guns would get progressively heavier and have progressively stronger kickback. Dan warned me beforehand that I would have a bruise on the part of my shoulder where the long guns butt up against it, so I sort of knew what to expect. The .22 was WAY easier to shoot and hit the target. Turns out rifles are in general easier than pistols. (TV and the movies lie). It was very gratifying hitting the target but I found myself feeling bad for shredding the bushes and trees, hoped I didn't kill any small critters.

The next gun was a super fancy one. I never thought I would find myself holding a semi-automatic rifle but there it was. This is a .223 AR-15.

If I was a bit more muscled I would probably have felt more confident firing that one (I mean, it does look pretty badass) but it truly felt dangerous. Didn't spend much time with this one. I think that it scared me a bit made my aim weak too.

After that Asa handed me the 12 Gauge shotgun. More noise, more kick. Here I learned you can just point and shoot, rather than aim. Pop, Pop went the balloons. Okay, I was getting the hang of it.

The last one was a .300 Savage rifle. By this time my left forearm was getting very fatigued at the twisting action of holding weight that I'm not used to. If I was a golfer I would have had no problem, probably. Even now, two days later, my forearm is a bit sore from that motion. This gun had the most kick and sure enough, the next day I had a smallish bruise (looks more like a hickey!) on my shoulder.

So the shooting lesson lasted probably about an hour, then with the bags we had we picked up as much garbage as we could. We also looked around for some useful wire to perhaps string up the muffler with, since it was hanging by one end and would no doubt bounce a lot as we went down the gravel road. The only thing potentially useful was the wire holding this fence together but we had no tools to get it with.

View from where we are parked. We gave up, got in the car ready to leave, when a US Forestry Service truck pulled up behind us. Then they started to drive away. Turns out they had come to that spot to pick up garbage but, on seeing it had been done, were leaving. Asa jumped out and flagged them down, explained our predicament, but they had no wire. One of the agents suggested using the fencing wire (serendipity!) and he had wire cutters. What luck! So we traded him for the garbage we picked up.

The next step was to jack up the car and string up the muffler. The Forestry guys left and we got to impromptu car repair. Having lived with Dan for so long, I know a thing or two about cars.

I held the muffler in place while Asa attached and tightened the wire. That would at least get us down the mountain. 

Feeling triumphant and proud of ourselves for our amazing skills, we toodled somewhat noisily down the mountain back to meet Dan at the same parking lot. Along the way I regaled Asa with tales of when Dan and I had the van and the accident we had on our honeymoon camping trip and other such yarns. We had bonded by this point, having been in a potentially difficult situation if either one of us had different dispositions (I am a woman who is not afraid to get dirty, who sees minor setbacks like these as a part of the adventure). 

In all, it was a fun afternoon.  

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