When we pulled into Clayton’s Hunting, Fishing, and Indoor Range in Horsham, PA this past Saturday, I realized that we didn’t exactly need our GPS. The NRA bumper sticker covered parking lot and Ryan/Romney poster taller than me where as good indication as any.
As soon as we stepped out into the parking lot, you could hear the muffled sounds of ammunition. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t helping my nerves. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Now, I’ve grown up in Northeastern PA, and somehow up until Saturday have never actually held or fired a gun. I’m not anti-gun per se, but I don’t hunt and have a healthy respect for the fact that firearms kill and maim.
I was also expecting the place to be a little bigger. Sandwiched next to a large Italian restaurant, Clayton’s looks like any other store you’d find sitting along a busy business route. Had you taken away the pickup trucks, and political endorsements, and the iron cage on the glass doors and the men in camo smoking outside, then it could have been a hobby shop or small mattress warehouse.
As I mentioned, I’m unversed in firearms, so when we entered it was a lot to process. The right hand side of the store looked like your typical outdoor section of any sporting goods store. There were racks of fatigues, fishing equipment, and targets. The right hand side was cordoned off from the rest of the store by a glass counter, not unlike what you’d find in a jewelry store. Instead of watches and bracelets, rows of handguns were beneath the counter. Behind that, the wall was a veritable armory lined with rifles (see picture above) Anywhere there was free space was dedicated to antlers or taxidermy.
The process of renting a gun was quicker and cheaper than I’d anticipated. It costs $10 to rent a gun and a lane. We were in charge of purchasing our own targets and bullets. All in all it was $30.00 experience (I wish I could say the same for the remainder of the night).
After signing two waivers, the guy behind the counter gave us a rundown of the rules. Once inside the range, you needed to keep your glasses and ear plugs on, you always were to keep your gun pointed down range, and you were never to come out from the protective with a firearm. He made it very clear that they didn’t take safely lightly.
He wasn’t kidding.
Once we were on the range, a guy a few lanes down from us pointed his muzzle towards his companions. The instructor was in there chastising him and threatening ejection within seconds. Usually I hate when people go off on someone’s first mistake, but with guns involved, I’m glad they were more strict than lax.
He then showed us the various guns we could rent. We chose a Glock 17 because it’s what he recommended beginners and it was cheapest. A box of bullets costs about fifteen dollars and there was a bevy of target to pick, from standard issue police practice to life size Al Quaeda men. We picked two police issued targets and one mutated zombie each.
For my first time firing a gun, I wasn’t given much instruction. In fact, the guy just told me to have my two buddies, both of whom were familiar with guns, show me what to do. Looking back on Clayton’s website, for $100, they offer a beginners gun safety course. If I decided to go back, I’d legitimately look into this.
He did offer very astute advice. Let my friends go first. I should simply acclimate myself to being in a room with shooting going happening.
He was right. It took a good five minutes for me not to jump anytime someone fired. Shooting was exhilarating and was nerve wracking as hell. The fact that I was holding a gun kept flashing through my mind. I’m accident prone and I kept envisioning dropping the gun and accidentally shooting someone, or worse: myself.
Luckily I proved to not be a terrible shot, and by my third go round, while I don’t think sniper school will be calling anytime soon, my nerves were in check and i felt comfortable taking my time lining up the target before I shot.
The gun range took me way out of my comfort zone, but it wasn’t bad. I was however, relived that our next stop was somewhere I could have a few beers and reaquaint myself with the sort of shots I’m good at (and that was the portion of the day in which I spent a lot more than $30.00).