50 First Dates
Getting Out There
Trying out different guns on the "rental board" is a bit like dating ...with less drama. You don’t have to commit right away, there are no expectations, and you can go back for a second or third date with those you liked better without anyone getting jealous.
To rent a gun is to test drive a gun. To test drive is like dating. You'll find yourself circling back to those that you feel "click" with you.
To give you an idea of how my “first dates” went before I settled down, this is what I tried:
- A Glock because I had heard of Glocks. That’s it. Brand familiarity.
- A Sig Sauer because I had read somewhere that it was a Navy SEALS weapon of choice. Intrigue.
- A Beretta because I heard of one in a TV movie. Curiosity.
- A Ruger because that’s what I shot in my NRA class. Comfort and familiarity.
- A “1911” - a model made by several different companies, including Wilson Combat - because it a size larger ("caliber") ammunition. Feeling bold.
- A Smith & Wesson “Shield” because that’s what the range employees recommended after I tried the others above. Variety.
- A Springfield “XD-9” which is similar in genre to the Shield. Another recommendation from the range employees. Comparison.
Keeping Their Names Straight
You will find each gun has a first and last name: Manufacturer name + model number. (Ex. Glock 17, Glock 19, Colt 1911, Wilson Combat 1911.)
I could only remember their first names in the beginning. If it wasn't for the names inscribed on the guns, they would all look the same to me. The numbers meant little at first, so I had difficulty remembering them. My iPhone pictures of the guns helped as visual notes for later.
Sometimes I designated my themes to my range visits. For example, “Smith and Wesson Day” was where I only shot that manufacturer’s guns. Sig Sauer Day was followed by Glock Day. You got a better feel for each maker. On Glock Day, for example, I would go through one magazine of ammunition with a Glock 19. I would then exchange it for a Glock 17 and do the same. Next was the Glock 26, and so on. Many of the gun's features (the magazine release button, how to lock/unlock the slide) were consistent from Glock to Glock so it became more second nature as I kept shooting. It's like sitting in a Honda Civic and then a Honda Accord. You know you're in a Honda from certain features consistent in each car, but you know the two models are distinctly different due to other features. Same with guns. With certain of those features becoming more uniform, I could more easily pick up each model's individuality, such as what made the Glock 26 different from the 19. The model numbers started to make sense. They started to stick.
"I like you, I like you not..."
As I got to know each gun better, I also learned what I liked and didn’t like. Forget what you think you like. You'll surprise yourself as you continue to try out different guns.
- Heavier gun versus lighter gun – I thought a lighter gun would better suit me. Turned out my hands felt surer with a heavier gun.
- Safety or no safety. I thought for sure I wanted a safety. It sounded safer. Again, I changed my mind.
- Thicker grip or thinner?
- Exposed hammers. I did not anticipate exposed hammers to influence my ultimate acceptance of a gun, but they did.
Those are just a few examples. Ask the range person to show you how the features. Ask them how it’s different from the others you rented. There's a very good chance he has shot it himself. And there’s nothing more helpful than hands-on anecdotes of the very gun you’re about to use. Also, if they see you taking the time to learn about each gun, they will take the time to teach you and make helpful recommendations.
Etiquette Tip: If you do wish to try another person’s handgun, i.e. another private customer on the range, do so respectfully. Many people form a personal attachment to their firearm so it’s bad form to baldly ask without brief rapport first. After all, they don’t know you and you want them to hand you a deadly weapon.
Ask them about their gun, how they like it, etc. You don’t need an in-depth discussion. Just make them comfortable with you.
Ask if you can look at it.
Ask politely if you can fire a round or two, if you want.
Remember ammo is not cheap, so don’t blow through their whole box of ammunition. Fire a few shots.
Handle their gun with all the safety measures you learned. It shows respect to the owner and their firearm. Plus it will save you from being chastised by the range master.
You will find no shortage of online reviews of guns but they only help partially. Each reviewer will ultimately tell you to just go out and shoot them. Just go out there and “date.”