As soon as we bought Imagine Dragon tickets, I told my guy I wanted to shoot a gun. Vegas indulges tourist fantasies, and that was mine.
Guns aren’t a part of my life, but in A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS, my character Avie must learn to fire one. I worried for a long time about whether I got the scenes right, because I’d never fired a gun myself. What if the scenes I wrote were embarrassingly wrong?
I’d spent hours talking to relatives who either owned guns or were fascinated with weapons. Still, I was nauseous when my editor shipped the manuscript off to Trent Reedy, author of DIVIDED WE FALL, and a National Guardsman.
Apparently, I captured firing a gun well enough that Trent gave it a thumbs up, but I still wanted to know what it was really like.
At the Gun Garage, I passed up the Zombie Apocalypse package in favor of the beginners package: a glock handgun and an MP5. I thought I’d be thrilled, but I was actually nervous.
As the instructor handed me the glock, I was surprised by how stripped down it is. There is nothing seductive or decorative about the design. It’s ugly: a matte black surface, inelegant and square.
I took the stance, placing one foot in front of the other, and wrapped my hands around the glock and lined up the sights. All you have to do is line up the tip of the pin with the top of the notch as you hold the gun steady out in front of you. The gun wasn’t heavy, but it was hard to keep the the tiny pin and notch lined up as I aimed at the red oval in the center of the target, then calmly and firmly pulled the trigger.
Even with ear protection, the sound hits you. I’d thought the recoil would throw my hands up higher than it did. My brother had told me the gun would pull my hands up and then they would fall back down into position after I fired.
I didn’t anticipate how hard it was to line up with the target even though it wasn’t that far away. Or how impossible it would be to aim while the guy in the stall next to me was firing a fully automatic weapon and shell casings were flying in front of my face. I have new respect for soldiers trying to focus in the midst of battle. And I was thrown when my safety glasses fogged up halfway through a round, because despite the sixty degree room, heat was pouring off my body.
When it was time to switch to the MP5, I couldn’t believe how light and small the gun is. I have short arms and it fit nicely against my shoulder. But holding an MP5 is totally different from holding a handgun. The weapon fits into your body and your cheek almost touches it. It is intimate–unlike firing the glock which you hold it away from your body.The MP5 recoil which I’d dreaded, wasn’t bad, but the gun is so powerful, that shooting off a round of ammo felt almost intoxicating.
When we finished, the instructor gave me my target, and I was again surprised that the pattern of shots was different for the glock and the MP5. The shots I took with the glock hit to the left of the red bullseye, while those with the MP5 hit above and slightly right of where I’d aimed.
I wished I’d gone to the gun range while I was writing A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS instead of after, but I came away satisfied with how Avie narrates her experience. It’s a mix of emotions–of respect for the killing power of the weapon, pride at having learned how to use it, and trepidation, knowing she might have to, even if it’s the last thing she wants.