toronto shooting ranges guns

GTA Tripping: Shooting Guns

It's a pretty common value we all have: killing people is not cool. Strangely enough, I've recently found that playing with the tools to do so, on the other hand, most definitely is cool. Examples: lighting fires, blowing stuff up, driving too fast and juggling chainsaws -- and have you ever swung a mace? Neither have I, but like jetpacks, I don't have to experience it to know it's awesome.

But also like jetpacks, if I had the opportunity to try it, I'd jump at it in a second. Which is why when the opportunity to try shooting guns came up, I promptly performed that usual emotional dance that I do before doing anything worthwhile: a moment of dizzying panic and then, "Yes!"

Target Sports Center

Target Sports Center in Stouffville is unique in the GTA for being the only shooting range where, for $40 and the price of ammunition, unlicensed people off the street can walk in and shoot guns. Like, real, serious guns.

But Target is more than a gunpowder and lead free-for-all; the club has over 600 members, a Ladies Night and offers various courses. They offer hunting licenses but can also fit people with the legal right to possession of non-restricted fire arms (like a rifle) to possession of restricted firearms (like an Uzi) to (my favourite) transporting a restricted firearm (though, even with this license one still isn't allowed to carry a 9mm around town in the waistband of a pair of sweatpants -- I asked).

In addition to offering a Ladies Night (hosted today's lovely, warmly accommodating and laser-blue-eyed hostess Kim), where women can come in and for $30 fire guns, eat pizza and do whatever it is that women do (as of publication my research on this subject remains incomplete). Couples make up a significant portion of those who come in to blow targets to smithereens, and families seem to make up the rest. There is no age restriction -- as Kim said, if they can see over the firing line they can shoot. Birthdays, anniversaries, corporate team-building functions and bar mitzvahs, we learned, are all occasions for squeezing off a few rounds of ammunition.

But enough about that. Let's get to the cold steel, hot smoke and bristling power.

Target Sports Center

Before last Saturday afternoon I would have said that guns were something insane that Americans did, like beauty pageants for children and talking about death panels. Being the sort of fellow who says a few words when flushing spiders down the toilet, guns - and the fact that most of them are designed to murder humans - have always terrified me. They were evil; Michael Moore and I stood side-by-side hating Charleton Heston and lauding this country for disallowing handguns in society.

But then I shot one.

Target Sports Center

The first was a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, a half steel/half polymer beaut' that had a pink handle. The trigger-lock that came off the piece was pink also, emblazoned with the logo for Kim's other job, a company called Packing In Pink. It took forever to finally build up the nerve to pull the trigger for the first time. And then, with my eye running down the barrel and beads of sweat running down my forehead I finally let it go with that distinctive POP.

Next up was the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow, a full steel classic out of the Czech Republic that Kim identified as her favourite gun. It was really heavy in the hand, but the perfect precision you could feel when you pulled the trigger was pure satisfaction.

Target Sports Center

By the time we got to our third gun - I higher caliber SIG p220 .45, we were happily identifying ourselves as "gun people". We had three more weapons to go through, but the adrenaline, the challenge of hitting the target, and above all, the undeniably sick but absolutely human sense of power we felt had us completely sold on the experience.

Target Sports Center

Throughout the day Kim spoke in the heightened cadence of any zealot, extolling the virtues of the hobby - her own described as "a gun fetish". She spoke of her lifestyle in the same way that a kung-fu master would: it's not just about combat; it's a way of life. Focusing on that target, our hands shaking from the weight of the gun and the morbid, terrifying thrill, it took several deep breaths before each shot -- Zen, mind-clearing breaths, the higher-caliber gun going off with a deeper BLAM (iii).

That feeling goes with her whenever she leaves the range, said Kim, "That asshole honking at me on the highway doesn't stress me out any more."

But then again, if that asshole knew what was in Kim's trunk, he probably wouldn't be honking in the first place. The next death machine, from Kim's private collection, was her prized Brüger and Thomet TP-9, a beastly looking Swiss military number. This was Petia's favourite gun - a 9mm bullet with a shoulder brace making it deadly accurate and very comfortable to shoot. The magazine holds 30 rounds, but our government requires it to be "pinned" to only allow ten at a time. I hit almost straight bull's-eyes with the TP-9, but the thing that really stood out for me what the smell. Perfectly toasted lead - delicious.

But my favourite gun, perhaps the only gun I ever truly need to shoot again, was the Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver - the "Dirty Harry". The "Magnum" distinction means that the bullet is longer, packing more powder and thus a massive, massive punch. The hand cannon was heavy as hell, and when I finally worked up the guts to pull the trigger for the first time it recoiled almost back over my head and reddened the flesh of my gripping hand.

Target Sports Center

Last up was the classic Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun. Our range officer for this weapon was a burly guy with a steel handshake. He loaded the gun with five rounds of birdshot for my female travel partner, which kicked her firmly in the shoulder as she sprayed the pellets all over the range. When it was my turn I noticed that the colour of the bullets was different. I asked about it, and the guy smirked, saying that I wasn't supposed to notice. Buckshot, he said, and a little too big for him. Every shot was like donkey kick to the shoulder - it still hurt hours later - but I completely obliterated the target and it felt all kinds of sinister, nasty good.

Target Sports CenterTarget Sports Center

Photos by Petia Karrin.


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