November 01, 2004

Date From Hell

When I was in college, I became friends with one of my professors who was also head of the Social Science department. He and his wife had me over on occasion for dinner. Once I graduated and before I started law school, Professor was most interested in hooking me up with a good friend of his, Jon. Jon was a nice older (by about ten years) guy who had been a cop and was a DEA agent. Unfortunately (at least for me), Jon was not much on personality or conversation. The most interesting thing about him was his father had played professional football for the Green Bay Packers under Lombardi. His father was a large man with an even larger personality! I adored the father.

For my twentieth birthday Jon asked me out and told me that he and Professor had something "special" planned. Gamely, I went along, most impatient as to what was in store for me! When Jon stopped by to pick me up, I was "dressed" and ready for a fun evening. He took one look at my short skirt and heels, shook his head, and said: "No, this just will not do." I was crushed. I thought I looked rather nice. After all, it was MY birthday!

He sent me back to change into shorts, t-shirt, and something called "sensible shoes." Nonplussed, I changed and re-emerged. My attire finally met inspection. With a glance at his watch, he rushed me into his truck and off we went, destination (to me) unknown.

After traveling in silence for what seemed like hours, but probably more akin to forty-five minutes, we pulled up to what purported to be a firing range out in the middle of absolute no where. With a big smile, Jon jumped out of the truck and walked over to open the door for me. Confused and not believing that THIS place could have anything to do with MY birthday, I refused to get out of the truck. I knew it must have been a joke, a bad joke, but a joke nonetheless.

It was only when I saw Professor walk up to the truck and stand next to Jon did it dawn on me THIS was the surprise: A firing range! Jesus Christ! What were they thinking?! My birthday is at the end of JUNE! Anywhere in Louisiana at the end of June is DAMNED HOT and HUMID! We were outside! Were they nuts?!

Apparently, they were. Smiling like a couple of proverbial baboons they pulled me from the truck. The stood on each side of me with gear bags either slung over a shoulder or gripped by one hand.

I was stunned speechless. I knew that the topic of firearms had come up during a meal a time or two, but rather than yawn in complete disinterest, I engaged in polite conversation. After all, my father may have neglected sending me to Miss Post's finishing school, but he made damn sure both his daughters knew how to ride motorcycles, clean fish, and use guns. A man has his priorities I was told.

It would appear Jon had gone to great length to secure the firing range for our use, particularly because Professor and I were "civilians."

Within moments, we were at the first "station" and each man eagerly opened his respective gear bag. With near relish, they outfitted me with eye protection, ear protection, and gloves. Imagine, GLOVES, in June! I declined the gloves, but was most grateful for the eye and ear protection.

It would appear my escorts were enamored of 9 mm hand guns. One had a Beretta and the other a Lugar. My only experience at that time with a 9mm was my father's Browning. (I now have a Walther P38).

My instructions from Jon were to first watch him and plan to do what he did. With precision, he inserted a clip into his Lugar, loaded the chamber, turned the safety off, nodded his head (at which point Professor pushed a button), and began firing at a paper target dangling some many yards away. After a few seconds, the target moved further away, stopped momentarily, then moved away a final time. At least once during this exercise, I saw Jon change clips and continue firing. After the target had reached a point the furthest on the track away from where we were, the button was pushed again and what was left of the target returned to within a few feet of where we were standing. Jon had made nice little groupings approximately three inches in diameter within the rings denoting the heart and the head of the target.

It all appeared simple enough.

Next up was Professor. He appeared to go through the same motions with his Beretta as Jon had with the Lugar. This time I tried to count the number of rounds during each of the three stops the target made so I would have some idea how to pace myself when it came to my turn. If I recall correctly, there were about twelve shots per clip and twenty-four over the three stops, or eight rounds per stop of the target.

Now, I must interject I am not fond of hand guns. I much prefer to shoot anything I think needs to be shot with a rifle. My experience with hand guns at that point in my life was what I considered perfunctory, at best. My optimum range with my father's Browning was ten to twelve yards because, as my father had once explained, lethal force should not be necessary to defend one's self beyond that distance.

Despite my lack of experience and ill ease with handguns, I was competitive and was not going to pass up an opportunity to hone my skills, such as they were.

The targets were changed and it was, at last, my turn to play. Jon and the Professor asked which gun I would prefer. I answered simply: "Both" with a smile. I explained I did not want to have to change clips half-way through because time was such an issue. I asked for the Lugar first, checked how the safety worked, and tucked it into the waistband of the back of my shorts. It was heavy. I then picked up the Beretta, turned the safety off, and immediately began to open fire.

Instead of trying to spread the number of rounds evenly over the three target "stops," I decided to take full advantage of the proximity of the target and pumped as many rounds as quickly as I was capable into the target early on. I even managed to unload the first clip before the target ever moved. Professor saved me from "burning" my backside by relieving me of the Beretta as I reached for the Lugar. The weapon was HOT (no pun intended).

Because of the distance and the weight of the Lugar, as well as probable fatigue, I did not fare as well with the second clip and was not able to unload it before the final stop. However, I then took my time and finished what was left of the clip before Professor pushed the button to return to the target to us.

As the target approached, a frown of disbelief washed over Jon. When it came to a final rest before us, it was obvious there were no tell-tale holes or rips anywhere on or near the head or heart of the target. However, a bit further south and center on the target there was an area of approximately six inches in diameter where the target's groin once was. With incredulity, Jon turned to me and asked me what the hell had I been thinking. With a smile and quick glance over to an amused Professor, I merely explained to Jon: "What was I suppose to do, the target had no knees?"

Posted by Christina at November 1, 2004 10:19 PM

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