Well, I had to do it. I really did. Anyone who's going to write a novel which employs firearms needs to handle them so they can get a general idea of what they're talking about. Writing a crime novel without ever actually handling a gun is a lot like writing about the Tour De France without ever having ridden a bike. In order to get my savvy together I went to the Los Angeles Gun Club in downtown Los Angeles, an excellent indoor shooting range where you can either rent a gun and buy bullets or BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun).
I went with my friend Alex (aka Axis) not only because he was into it but also because the Gun Club has a mandatory buddy system. There are no lone wolves allowed to shoot - you must bring a friend in order to use the facilities.
Showcases of guns are by the front desk and you're presented with a very large choice of pistols (there may have been rifles, too) to choose from. Axis chose a 9mm. Glock and I chose the Sig Sauer 1911-45, the 1911 because it looked powerful and intimidating.
I saw the legendary .357 Magnum made popular in the Dirty Harry film series and couldn't see myself firing a gun with a barrel that large. I learned later on that the Magnum was originally designed as a hunting pistol meant to shoot deer and other wood creatures and not psychopathic killers in San Francisco.
After a quick safety lesson on how to fire a gun and a brief tutorial on how to load bullets into the magazine we were off and running to the firing range. The Gun Club also had a wild selection of targets to choose from, varying from the standard round bullseye target to a drawing of a zombie girl in a string bikini whose skull and arms were decayed but still managed to have a prodigious set of breasts and legs.
We were given headphones because the combined gunfire blasting from a dozen firing booths is positively deafening! I went first and have to confess that the experience was fairly intimidating at first. My gun felt heavy in my hands and just squeezing the trigger felt like I was shaking hands with Death. And it was!
The Sig Sauer 1911-45 is a powerful piece of work. The gunshots were deafening and with every shot a burst of flame leaped out of the barrel of my gun, followed by the bullet shell flying out of the breech like crazy right by my face. An attendant walked by every five minutes with a garden rake pushing all the spent bullet shells off the floor. Too many bullet shells on the floor would have sent everyone slipping and sliding all over the place.
While I was firing the gun it dawned on me at how frightening and powerful a gun can be and how ridiculously flippant it gets treated on TV shows and the movies. When you see guns tossed around as if they were toys and fired with one hand oh so casually it defies credibility. Once a pistol is held in your hand you realize it takes both your hands to fire it properly.
Axis let me try out his 9mm. Glock and it was a much lighter pistol that was easier to load and fire. The action was a lot smoother than the Sig Sauer but the sheer terror that the SS struck me and the other shooters - people were staring at me with the fear of God, no small feat at a firing range - was enough to sell me on using it again when I return to the firing range.
Like a lot of ignoramuses I expected to see a lot of fatsos in Army fatigues busting caps to their heart's delight but that wasn't the case. I saw a lot of young couples, mostly Asian, making it their Sunday afternoon dating rendezvous having fun shooting zombie targets and laughing. I don't think anyone there fantasized about shooting the President. Sorry.
I'm glad I spent some quality time with a gun, a good, scary one - I honestly believe it helped me with the novel I just completed (out soon!). Any asshole can write about guns as if they're just an average tool like a monkey wrench but they're nothing of the sort. When a gun's fired it seriously demands the drama it's inspired through the years in books and film. Like shaking hands with Death.