LAGRANGE, Mo. — The day started out like many of our Muddy River Road trips, with Ashley and me in her jeep.
(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: We are very excited to announce the first Muddy River produced television series will be the reboot of the 80’s hit TV series “Cagney and Lacey” starring Ashley Conrad and Brittany Boll…haha. JRG)
We were headed to the indoor gun range that day for a shoot and a shoot that day. These bad jokes are just the beginning, folks. I joked and told her how my nerves were centered on being in a classroom for two hours and I wasn’t too sure my attention span could handle it.
“What?! A two-hour class?” She had no idea as our publisher, Bobby G., didn’t communicate that one clearly to her. This time it was Ashley that didn’t understand the assignment…(Do you remember that one time I curled my hair to caviar fish?).
She frantically rearranged some things in her day to accommodate and my joke about my nerves bombed.
But the real reason for my anxiousness was the thought of shooting a gun.
To my surprise, Ashley told me she had never shot a gun before. She is one of the bravest, most outgoing people I know, so that just goes to show gun virginity knows no bounds. An average of about 30 percent of American adults say they have never shot a gun.
I told her about my short gun shooting history. The first time I shot was with Bob Havermale, the owner of the gun range where we were headed. It really is a small world as Bob’s three children are all great friends of mine. The day I shot my first gun, Bob had just watched me try to row his boat back to the dock with one oar for ten minutes before informing me why I was going in circles. I don’t know why we ended up shooting that day. I guess he thought I needed to broaden my horizons. I don’t get out much. And I don’t remember that day very well. It was almost twenty years ago, and my memory is smoked.
But I knew I was in good hands.
The second time was in the year 2014, with my husband Mike, and his buddy Cam. These two grew up around guns and are avid shooters. Like Riggs and Murtaugh good. They taught me stance and made me feel safe while shooting, but I still had a bit of Hoplophobia (the fear of weapons, specifically firearms). But the whole thing was shrouded in mystery. Bullets were loaded, metal things were clicked and clacked, and then a loaded and fire-ready gun was placed in my hands for shooting. I didn’t understand what was happening, and ignorance is scary.
There we were, two gals in a jeep, on our way to the gun range in La Grange, Missouri. Betty Friedan would have been proud. I was proud. And simultaneously absolutely petrified. My fingers were crossed that the third time would be the charm.
Practical Tactical Plus is the most high tech, innovative indoor gun range within 1,000 miles. It’s ballistic rubber-lined walls surround the range and help reduce the noise. No corners were cut in the construction of this facility. The ventilation system alone cost close to $500,000, and it shows, as there is no haze, and no lead in your lungs. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, which includes the Chief Firearms Instructor and General Manager, Brian Hooley.
Brian was our instructor that day. I’m not sure how to say he was the best instructor because I have never had an actual gun 101 class before, and nothing to really compare it to, but he is. When entering the classroom, I sighed, and Brian heard. I told him it was the fear of the two hours in the classroom and my weak attention span, but really it was the sight of the guns. I see a gun and immediately go all 8 Mile.
Here come’s Mom’s spaghetti. Brian knew. He saw panic in my eyes. And instead of focusing on fear, he got right down to business and explained that guns are dangerous. So are kitchen knives. It is the operator that determines how dangerous they both can be. Knowledge is power and all politics aside, those NBC public service announcements were on to something.
I learned how to unload, load, and shoot a gun in that den of knowledge. Two and half hours seemed like thirty minutes. Now I still do not have the terminology down, but I feel confident enough to talk myself through the steps. I will forever refer to one step as “glocking” it, thinking I for sure was making some 90’s gangsta rap reference only to realize I was still in Bob’s boat with one oar. It was a good laugh. We paused for a Colt 45 and two Zigzags before busting some caps in the gun room (More bad jokes, I know. I figured identifying and labeling them makes them acceptable. That’s how that works, right?).
Anyway, we were completely sober while learning about and operating firearms that day. The only high we experienced was sheer adrenaline.
Adrenaline rushes are one of humans many natural vital defense mechanisms. After a stressful situation, for example, a gunshot, the brain rapidly releases cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The “Fight or Flight” response sets in and the rush is meant to help you overcome the situation that is causing you stress. After the danger has passed, the nervous system responds by releasing all sorts of chemicals to then calm the body back to normal. The initial response and “come down” that follows can lead to a strong sense of pleasure in some people. People’s chemical and hormone levels are different, thus explains the very different reactions people put off after adrenaline rushes.
Ashley yelled “Shit”, with a strong sense of liberation. I cried.
After Brian assured me that I wasn’t the only one to have cried and help me pull myself together with some deep breaths, I started to enjoy myself. It’s hard to believe that I went from literally getting sick at the thought of a gun to then actually having fun.
So that’s it. We didn’t rescue someone’s daughter from ruthless mercenaries or stop a South African smuggling operation, but we had some fun and learned a thing or two. As it often is with new adventures, the real lessons only stand out in the afterglow. I realized that the fear I felt going into this was just my body’s way of keeping me safe. A reminder that guns can be dangerous, and they shouldn’t be handled irresponsibly. But I also found that a proper education is empowering. Understanding how guns work and how to handle them safely is to be more at ease around them. And that understanding allowed me to truly enjoy myself. I had a blast. We’re already making plans to head back to Practical Tactical for some weekend fun.
Third time’s the charm, indeed.
Brittany Boll writes for Muddy River News. When she’s not on assignment, she can be found pouring drinks at Spring Street Bar or North End, or spending time with her family.
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