Home, home on the shooting range

Erin Wood
Marilyn Brown, secretary for Central School District 51, fires a .38-caliber revolver during the Citizens Police Academy trip to the Washington Police Department shooting range.

Veterans of the Citizens Police Academy were not far off when they said shooting a gun for the first time will “knock you on your buns.”

Fortunately, no one ended up on their buns last week during the CPA’s visit to the Washington Police Department’s shooting range.

But the guns did have some recoil.

“I think people are surprised by the kick of the gun and how hard it is to zero in on the target,” said fficer Jim Fussner, who leads the 12-week class. “Plus, when you have all the guns going at the same time, it makes it harder to focus on the target in front of you.”

Instead of the normal classroom at the Washington Fire Department, the class met at the shooting range, located at the end of Woodland Trail behind the city’s sewage treatment plant.

Six wooden targets were set up 15 yards away from three, long card tables. The targets resembled men, and each had an orange 8 1/2-by-11 inch sheet of paper taped to its “chest.”

Behind the targets is a large, muddy hill, so even the worst of shooters cannot do any harm.

Fifteen yards may not seem like a long distance, but hitting the target was not easy, especially for the first few rounds. It is fair to assume most of my bullets, and my classmates’, too, ended up

somewhere in that hill.

We started by putting on ear and eye protection, then, after a brief lesson, we stepped up to the tables and got ready to shoot.

The first one I picked up was a .38-caliber revolver. It was heavier than I expected it to be. We were told to keep our fingers off the triggers of the guns until ordered to shoot.

Right-handed shooters like myself were also instructed to place our left thumbs over our right thumbs on the handle of the guns for better stability.

I got a good grip on the gun, closed my left eye, and lined up the two dots on the back of the gun with one on the end of the barrel.

Aiming at the center of the orange sheet of paper, I pulled the trigger for the first time. The gun recoiled and pushed me back, as we were warned it would do.

It felt like the gun was controlling my arms, rather than the other way around.

My first five rounds missed the target. My sixth went into the bottom left corner of the orange sheet.

I did much better at the next station, with a .45-caliber pistol. This is the gun all the Washington police officers carry while on duty.

The recoil was even stronger on this one, but all of my six rounds hit the center of the orange target.

Then it was on to the 9 mm pistol. Even with Fussner holding my shoulders in place, I could not quite keep my aim straight. I guess my arm muscles had given up at that point.

But we had one more gun to shoot — a semi-automatic assault rifle. It seemed intimidating, so much so that some people opted not to shoot it. But it had the least amount of recoil and was the easiest to aim, in my opinion.

Most people, even those who had some reservations about guns, seemed to have enjoyed the session by the time it was over.

“For most people, this is their favorite part of the class,” Fussner said. “It kind of shows them it’s not so easy to hit those targets. It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with the gun and feel like you could do what you need to do in any situation.”