Saturday, June 25, 2011
What I Learned at the Shooting Range
Yesterday I was writing a tense action scene that I can't give away, except to say it involved a shotgun. At least I thought it was a shotgun. Might have been single barrel, might have been double. Obviously something to research. But for sure, it was loaded. Might have been birdshot. Or buckshot. Or...what else do they shoot? And now that I think about it, which packs the biggest punch, and which might give the biggest kick, and is it enough to throw the shooter off balance?
The easiest answer was to call my daughter who has used a shotgun for target shooting. She was with her fiance, who knows even more about guns, and tried to help. As each question got more involved, he finally said, "Why don't you come over and I'll take you to the shooting range?"
It turned out we couldn't use birdshot at the range, but we could fire all sorts of handguns. There are no handguns in my current novel. But sooner or later one of my future characters will pick up a handgun and shoot someone - it's happened in the past. And I'd have no idea what the gun will feel like or how to load and fire it. I had to fill in this gaping hole in my knowledge. So we rented a 9mm Glock, a typical policeman's gun, and 100 rounds of ammunition. And wow, the things I didn't know!
First, you know that acrid smell of gunpowder that's supposedly evident after shooting a gun? I never smelled it, not even with other guns being fired in there. And you know that bang-bang-bang you hear on TV when cops shoot at bad guys? Not even close to how loud it is, and I had earmuffs on. And I never saw spent shells flying around on TV, hitting cops in the head like they were hitting me. And those lady cops who impress their male partners with their shooting skills? They better have a lighter weight gun, because that Glock 9 kicks like an angry donkey. Admittedly, I'm not big, but I can swing a sledge hammer without embarrassing myself too badly, so I'm not a total wimp. But I couldn't squeeze off two fast shots without the second one zinging over the target's head into some theoretical innocent bystander.
So I learned a lot of things that I need to know. Also, spent bullet casings and shotgun shells on my writing desk give it a nice edgy feel.