To Hell and Back Reliability
So: last Sunday, a Jew, a German, and an Italian walk into a shooting range.
Actually, it was an Italian, a Jew, and a German, in that order. When I arrive at the West Side Pistol Range, strangely - or not - located in the Flatiron District, 99 is already sitting at a plastic table in the lobby, accompanied by a tall, plastic cup of iced coffee. He’s staring into the distance, five feet away, into a wall. The normal niceties we greet each other with aren’t present. It’s 11 AM. I’m sitting at the table, mumbling some shit about getting work done, and sipping away at my paper cup of coffee - emblazoned with The New York Times* logo - and we sheepishly make excuses for The German, who has yet to arrive. 99 is an on-time kind of person: this is somehow contradictory, I find, to the idea of being self-employed.
Me, I’m a disheveled, ugly mess. I stayed up late watching Michael Clayton for the first time, and woke up thinking that everyone could be out to fuck me; a great mentality to take with you to the gun range. I arrive two minutes to 11, which is exceptionally early for me. I was told via Curt - our organizer - that the “people at the gun range are really strict about being on time,” and if there’s anybody you don’t want to be late for, it’s some grizzled Heston fan who works at a gun range in New York City.
Someone fires off a few rounds in the range behind us, and I nearly piss myself and/or fall over, coffee cup and all. The first gunshot you hear in the morning is a loud one (but not nearly as loud as the guy later firing off a fucking hand cannon two stalls down from us - we don’t know what gun he was using, and like we were going to ask). Trying to have a “catching up” conversation while someone is gatting a piece of paper five feet behind you is relatively jarring.
Curt rolls in ten minutes later - our voices had been low; tired. He yells from across the lobby: “Guys! Good morning! What’s up?” What’s up? Keep your fucking voice down, man. These guys have GUNS. Fucking GUNS. I guess it’s worth noting that Andrew made some excuse for not coming, but we know he’s a pussy and can’t really handle a gun anyway, so, you know, that’s cool.
We file into a makeshift classroom and sit at desks, filling out paperwork that releases the West Side Shooting Range of any liability in case they have to take me out for loading the gun inside out and putting a hole anywhere but down the range - an entirely likely outcome.
ENFORCEMENT AGENCY?, one of the questions asks. I lean over to Nic: “Is this where I fill in ‘YoungManhattanite.com’?”
"Look at the back," he wearily notes. "I think we might be in trouble." There was a list of, "If you are’s" as in, IF YOU ARE A USER OF OR HAVE EVER BEEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MARIJUANA OR ANY OTHER DRUG, YOU MAY NOT SHOOT HERE. IF YOU ARE ON TRIAL FOR OR HAVE EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR CRIME, YOU MAY NOT SHOOT HERE. Etcetera. We met at least three of the criteria for not being able to shoot there between us, but Curt tells us that it’s fine. “Just be cool.” It was, and we were.
The room was mostly women, one of which was a young Asian lady, there by herself, with an abundance of lipstick on. I was worried about her - 99 might ask for her number, which I’d have to stop. People who go to a gun range by themselves, for the first time: worrisome. Small women who go to a gun range by themselves, for the first time, on a Sunday morning, in an abundance of makeup: stay the fuck away.
Our instructor was a nice, well-to-do type - he didn’t sound like a New Yorker, which was good: I felt I was in the hands of a professional with limited psychopathic reach. He even helped me tape up a pair of safety goggles, because I’m a right-handed, left-eye-dominant, which means I’m too much of an invalid to be able to close my left eye. Whatever. After twenty minutes of a class that was mostly DO NOT SHOOT ANYBODY WHO WORKS HERE WITH A GUN, we stepped out of the classroom. We sat at a table. We loaded our magazines. We stepped into the stalls. We started to fire. And then, with our Ruger 1022 semi-automatic rifles, some of us aimed.
The most thrilling thing about shooting a gun this morning wasn’t hitting the target, which I ceremoniously - and much to everyone’s surprise - actually did. No. It’s firing a semi-automatic weapon. “Most guns are semi-automatic, dickhead,” my roommate later reminds me. This is true, but the last real gun I shot was a single-action lock-and-load at a summer camp^; before that, an air-pistol BB Gun on a camping trip. So I guess this was my first semi-automatic weapon, which I was about to compare to eating my first Eggs Benedict**, but it’s different than that. But you know both are dangerous as fuck and probably not good for you. Except one you eat, and the other one can put a bloody fucking hole in someone. So, you know, different, but the same.
Anyway, the thrilling thing about firing a semi-automatic weapon for me was pulling the trigger a bunch of times and hearing the loud BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG, and then clicking the cartridge release, letting it drop to the floor below my stall, and slamming another five-bullet cartridge back in. I felt like Dirty Fucking Harry. In the stalls next to me, Curt and Nic were taking their time; I heard about five or six seconds between each shot. They probably heard about three between every five, for me.
Anyway. I did okay. I hit the center of my target a few times and after the thrill of hitting the target was gone, I just went for the loud noises. I am a luddite with no regard for precision, talent, or skill. Just loud noises^^.
We finished 100 rounds. We sat at the table, rolling up our shot-out targets. Curt did far better than I did - that wasn’t hard - but even he admitted to the thrill of popping off rounds with little regard for aim.
99 starts rolling his targets up, and Curt stops him. “Woah, man. Jesus.” He had more or less pumped 17 rounds into the center of his target. “Holy shit.”
"Yeah, you know, I just saw what was happening with the first one and re-adjusted my aim here, held the gun this way, until I finally knew where the bullet was going." Spoken like a true by-trade designer. Just, you know, put this thing here, put that thing there. And then SHOOT IT DEAD-FUCKING-CENTER. It was like that moment where R. Lee Ermey discovers Private Pyle is a marksman - not entirely unexpected, totally impressive, and a little scary. Except I’m Private Pyle and I couldn’t shoot the broad side of an N-Train.
Leaving the place, I noticed a sign on one of the counter-windows: SIG SAUER - TO HELL AND BACK RELIABILITY. I jam a finger at the sign: “We should have that somewhere near our masthead.”
At brunch, we didn’t save. We had orange juice with bubby wine in them, and Curt ordered soft-boiled eggs, which I just don’t understand - so much work! Nic didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was fascinated with watching Curt eat them, with precision. Kind of a European thing, those soft-boiled eggs.
We starting talking about sketch comedy. Curt noted that it’s “for retards,” and quickly added an “I apologize if you have any mentally deficient people in your family. But it really is.” I almost convinced him my sister was retarded, but then told him I didn’t have a sister.
The takeaway is this: who’s the bigger pussy? The guy who walks out of the West Side Pistol Range with his own gun, or the guy who walks out and has a mimosa?
I’d like to think it’s the former, but it probably isn’t. Then again, I guess I’d rather be a pussy: I really do enjoy having brunch. It’s nice.
Anthrax, Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun (Beastie Boys cover)
*This is worth noting because someone is still stealing my fucking Times subscription, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this until I got to the gun range, sans paper, with the only New York Times-issued paraphernalia I had on me this morning being that goddamn coffee cup. Listen, you dickless thief: if you’re reading this, and there’s any takeway for you, buddy, remember: I am a fucking marksman. Or someone I know, is.
^Not the Jewish summer camp; they would never have rifllery at a Jewish summer camp. Most Jews don’t like guns. Figure it out. Also, really, though, it’s kind of a Goy thing.
**Definitely a Goy thing (ham and dairy). For the record, so is mayonnaise, or so my grandmother says.
^^ This also describes approximately 30% of the YM Masthead’s Writing Style, so at least I’m in good company.