One Thing you Learn from Shooting an AR-15

Wes X
5 min readFeb 13, 2023

Notes from the Range

A gun, a hotdog, freedom fries and the american flag
“‘Merica”, photo by Dall-E

My wife was part of a mass shooting (see story). As part of her new-found activism, she’s traveled to Washington D.C., and worked with senators to figure out how we, as a country, can have some sort of smart gun management. The problem, she says, is not the lawmakers who agree with us. It’s those, mostly republicans, that don’t.

A question occurred to my wife this week — if she’s never shot an AR-15, how can she argue against them to pro-gun legislators? How can she speak their language and try to find common ground?

To shoot an assault rifle, we had to drive an hour north into Wisconsin. Illinois recently passed a ban on assault weapons, and Wisconsin had less stringent gun laws. She brought along her friend T., a journalist, who also wanted to see for herself what people love about shooting guns.

My wife called around and found a shooting range just over the border that had an AR-15 to rent and shoot.

For $98, you could rent the rifle, 20 bullets, a lane on the range, and a target with a Zombie on it.

I wasn’t a noob. I grew up in northern Michigan. There is no shortage of guns and hunters there. I was expecting the gun to be huge and heavy, like the 12-gauge shotgun with which I blasted plastic milk jugs full of water. Or loud, like the .38 special I once emptied into a tree. I certainly didn’t think it would feel any tamer than my dad’s old Korean war era .22 rifle.

For $98, you could rent the rifle, 20 bullets, a lane on the range, and a target with a Zombie on it.

We got to the range in the afternoon. The diluted winter sun fell on a gray, nondescript building squatting in the middle of two farm fields. The building doubled as a gun store and range.

As we entered a man greeted us. He turned out to be the guy my wife talked to over the phone.

My wife explained that as part of her healing process, she wanted to shoot the same gun the shooter used, or something similar. She wanted to experience the firepower firsthand. She was no noob either. She had once owned a handgun.

The guy, Andrew, was friendly and very helpful. He grabbed a Smith and Wesson M&P15 .300…

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Wes X

Politics, gun safety, & society–with a curious mind. Join the conversation!