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Zen and the Art of the Muzzle Blast

At home on the range (Photos by Timothy Norris)

don’t like yoga. I tried it once, so I know. I just can’t relax in a roomful of strangers while staring at someone’s sweaty crotch in front of me, knowing someone else is staring at mine. During meditation they tell you to clear your mind of all things — I can’t. My brain just won’t be still; there’s just too much silence, not to mention all that New Age crap you have to put up with just to relieve some stress.

No, my friends, this twisting my frame into a pretzel is just not for me. When I really need to chill out, I head to the firing range. I know promoting guns is not very cool in these post-Columbine days, but I’m talking about shooting as recreation, hand-eye coordination, like darts or tennis, in a controlled, supervised environment. It’s not all about aggression — if you try it, you’ll be surprised at the deep state of relaxation required to shoot well. You can’t be tense; as with yoga, it’s all about focus and technique. Breathing is the most important thing: With shoulders straight and feet apart, you take a deep lungful, then ease back on the trigger. You’re supposed to let the discharge be a surprise — don’t anticipate the kick or the flash. The blast will startle you, but the more you focus, the less it will affect you. And that’s ?when you get to that ?meditative state.

Sure, it can be a little intimidating, especially if you’ve never shot a gun before, but you’ll find the folks friendly and professional. They won’t test your skill level, but they will ask about your experience with firearms, so if you’ve never shot a gun before, let ’em know. Classes or one-on-one instructors are generally available. So if you’re like me and you’re looking for an alternative to public displays of flexibility, check out one of our local firing ranges.

Burbank Firing Line

There were people lined up outside this popular range about 10 minutes before opening time. They were champing at the bit to fire a few rounds on their lunch break. One tall, bearded guy asked if he could at least wait inside until the minutes passed. Just waiting inside would make him feel better. (No, these aren’t gun nuts, they’re more like people who go to the gym and really look forward to that hour of release.) “We don’t get a lot of women,” said the man behind the counter. He was trying to pick out a “lady gun” for me. I asked instead for his most popular weapon — a .38 Kimber semiautomatic pistol. I was given some ear protection that looked like those Princess Leia–type headphones from the ’70s, and shop-class goggles, which are required at every range. Not the coolest look, but after nearly getting dinged in the eye with a bullet casing, I was very happy to have them. A brief safety lesson was included — ­the basics on holding your weapon, finding the safety release, lining up the sights. Then my partner and I were ready to fire. It does get crowded here — just a few people firing off weapons of various calibers at various intervals can sound like a war zone, so be prepared for the noise. Handgun classes are offered on Saturdays for beginners. 1060 N. Lake St., Burbank, (818) 954-9810 or burbank@firingline.net

Los Angeles Gun Club

This huge range, located downtown, offers a wide selection of weaponry, everything from Lady Derringers and revolvers to rifles — you know, just in case you don’t have your own and need to rent one. (As at all ranges, you can bring in your own registered firearm here and pay only a lane fee — kind of like bowling if you had your own shoes and a ball. You can buy ammo here too, or bring in your own, but hollow points are a no-no.) I shot a Taurus .454 Raging Bull revolver, which my safety instructor, J.T., referred to as a “hand cannon,” adding, “It’s used to hunt wild boar.” J.T. seemed more like a yogi as he reminded me to take deep breaths and exhale as I pulled the trigger. Then I fired off the hand cannon, and the bullet ripped through the lane. I nailed the target, almost dead center. “Like yoga, but wooo!” shouted J.T. “Makes you feel more alive, doesn’t it?” Oh, yes it did. 1375 E. Sixth St., downtown, (213)-612-0931 or www.­thelosangelesgunclub.com

LAX Firing Range

This place actually sells the meditation angle, offering classes to those who “seek stress reduction and enjoy euphoric rushes of energy combined with inner peacefulness — much like yoga.” Nolan, the manager, says many of his clients claim to get stress relief from shooting: “I think it’s because it requires a lot of concentration. When they focus their unused energy on a small dot and send a high-velocity projectile through that small space, they feel not only relaxed from their efforts to focus but also like they kind of accomplished something.” An extensive roster of beginning and advanced classes here includes security-guard training and tactical instruction. The latter involves an indoor course that requires no previous shooting experience, but does require attending an hourlong lecture and lessons on the fundamental skills of marksmanship. Then it’s on to the course, where targets pop out at you, and you have to shoot steady as you walk through. If you’re really advanced, go for “shotgun night fighting,” a tactical course run in the dark. 927 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 568-1515 or www.laxrange.com

To Shoot Near You

Most ranges charge moderate fees for gun rental and/or lane usage; bring your own ammo or buy it on-site.

NORTHRIDGE FIRING LINE

18348 Eddy St., Northridge, (818) 349-1420

or firingline@bizla.rr.com

INSIGHT SHOOTING RANGE

17020 Alburtis Ave., Artesia, (562) 860-4365

or www.insightrangeinc.com

JAMES W. BRISTOW MARKSMANSHIP RANGE

6364 Zindell Ave., Veterans Park, Commerce, (562) 928-3119

(Must be certified through an NRA program to use lanes.)


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