Monday, May 6, 2013

The closest I've ever come to getting shot

I really don't want to get into a gun control debate; I don't think there's any way to say anything particularly useful given the current framing of the issue. But, as an amusing personal anecdote, I would like to tell you about the closest I have ever come to getting shot.

It was not, as you might expect, while I was rescuing diplomats from a military coup in some plausibly-deniable location. I mean, I can understand how you might leap to that conclusion, but no: that wasn't what happened. Nor was I hijacking a convoy of food and supplies from the forces of an evil dictator so that I could take them off to feed widows and orphans. Though, again, perfectly natural that you might think that.

No, it was actually on a college campus. Given recent news, I should probably go ahead and reassure you that it was not any sort of school shooting scenario. Nor was it one of those cases where some idiot is keeping a handgun in the dorm room in defiance of about half the rules in the student handbook. In fact, it was just about as far from those scenarios as it's possible to get: it was on an indoor rifle range, during class, with at least two instructors supervising.

This particular college, you see, had an ROTC chapter. As a result, one of the classes available was Rifle Marksmanship. A friend and I decided to take this as an elective. Now, you have to understand, this was ROTC Rifle Marksmanship, so we're not only shooting with military rifles, we're also breaking them down and reassembling them - timed, of course. And everyone else in the class was ROTC - well, for that matter, everyone else in the building was ROTC, one way or another.

At one point, midway through the semester, one of the instructors discovers that one of the students has never fired a pistol. Which, y'know, if you're going into the Army, seems like something you should probably have done at least once, right? So he brings in a revolver, and he walks her through the process: stance, grip, cock the hammer, squeeze the trigger. And it's not like he's just turned her loose with the pistol, either. He's standing a little bit back and to one side: close enough to be in reach, but not close enough to distract her by looking down her shoulder.

Well, she fires off a shot. This is where you can see that she's never shot with a pistol before. For one thing, it's louder than the rifles - a lot louder. For another, it kicks in her hand in a way that rifles really don't do. So she gets this surprised look like, Oh my God, on her face. And she turns her head - just her head - to say something over her shoulder to her friend.

And the barrel of the pistol turns too, tracking with the movement of her hand. It was an odd movement, because it was really just the wrist that turned. She was still in a shooting stance, her arms were still extended forward toward the target. But her eyes moved, and her hand moved to follow.

I was, just at that moment, coming in the door from the back. So I stepped into the range proper (as opposed to the offices and storage areas) just in time to see the pistol sweeping around to point at me. And I had a very nasty moment where I had to choose between diving back out the door and onto the floor (embarrassing, and probably unnecessary, but just possibly lifesaving) and standing there staring at The Wrong End of a pistol (dignified, but potentially life-threatening).

Fortunately, while I was standing there frozen, the instructor stepped up, reached around, and realigned the pistol to be pointing downrange.

The student looked around, surprised - she hadn't been at all aware that the pistol had moved.

Anticlimactic? Absolutely, and I'm persistently grateful for that. If there's a lesson here, it's mainly that you have to be extra careful with handguns; it's a lot easier to swing one around without noticing where you're pointing it, than it is with something the length of a rifle. But, again, this isn't intended to make a point. It's just an amusing personal anecdote: the closest I've ever come to getting shot.

1 comment:

  1. Yep. Muzzle awareness is not something quickly learned. Even seasoned soldiers and shooters can break this fundamental rule.


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