This week’s 101 Thing To Do Before You Die is supposed to be about having a stressful office job, going down to the gun range to shoot a gun for the first time. But as you’ll read, my experience with firearms has meant I’ve had to change things a little.
This is also the last “Full-sized” 101 entry for the foreseeable future – at this stage all future 101 posts will be the shorter “compilation” style posts of 2 or 3 items at a time.
42 – Hit Your Targets
As many of you could have guessed, I had a pretty big hard-on for guns when I was younger. I’m not sure which came first – the exposure to firearms or the interest in them. All I know is one of my first memories is going rabbit shooting with my Dad in country Victoria when I was 4 – shortly after I’d chased down and broken the neck of a rabbit with my tiny toddler hands for the first time, and being allowed to fire Dad’s .22 rifle off into a valley.
Such fond childhood memories…
So when it came to filling out the details this entry on the 101 Things List, I had to ask myself a question: Just how many firearms have I used? Because before I joined the British Marines, even back before I served with the Australian Army & Navy; I’d been involved with both competitive rifle and pistol shooting all through high school. So it’s fairly safe to say I’ve done a fair bit of shooting. It’s also safe to say I’ve really lost my taste for it over the last few years - without being too self-assured I’m a pretty damn good shot (as you’ll read in a bit), but I’ve firearms are also really noisy and often leave a lot of evidence…
So rather than sounding like a total gun-nut and listing off the obscene number of weapons I’ve used over the years, I’ve picked out a few of the more notable ones so I just sound like some sort of creepy psycho instead…
Shortly after Dad and I started competitive pistol shooting, one of Dad’s friends decided to sell his Glock 17C. And it being one of the most recognisable pistols in the world (and disturbingly, designed by a polymer engineer with no experience with firearms whatsoever) Dad had to have it. And ofcourse, I had to have a go.
Holding a Glock without ammunition is weird – it’s all top heavy and unbalanced. But put a seventeen round magazine in it, and everything comes together perfectly. Put it in the hands of a pre-pubescent 15 year old ginger kid (shut up, I was a very late bloomer) and it all goes horribly wrong again – even after years of furious, pointless masturbating my dainty little girl wrists couldn’t hold the pistol firmly enough to handle the recoil. It didn’t fly out of my hands, but it also wouldn’t cycle correctly – firing when I pulled the trigger, but immediately jamming the next round. So thanks to me the most reliable semi-automatic service pistol ever created was turned into a single-shot plastic toy, as well perfectly for-shadowing for every sexual relationship I’ve ever had.
On the flip side, those American kids don’t seem to have any issues handling recoil – even when they’ve fitted fully-automatic conversion kits…
The F88 Austeyr – the Australian variant of the Steyr AUG. They’re incredibly expensive to produce (about 6 times more expensive than a Colt M4 last I checked), the scopes are a nightmare to repair or replace, and the magazines can’t be used in any other weapon. But if you’re being given one by the Australian Government, know how to treat a weapon sight with respect, and like having reliable translucent magazines that show you how much ammunition you’ve got; then THESE RIFLES ARE MADE OUT OF RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS.
An unnervingly accurate chrome-plated barrel, incredibly well designed stock and fore-grip, trigger-pressure select fire – basically they’re everything a marksman could ask for from an assault rifle. So after a few years of competitive rifle & pistol shooting, I went through basic training with the army in early 2004 and met my first Austeyr. And it was a match made in heaven – I broke the recruit record in the final shoot of the course, and to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t been beaten in the 8 years since.
Which is fantastic! Unless of course you’re a female medic on a shooting exercise a few years later, and you’ve just had a funny little combat engineer added to your group for a shoot. You probably thought he was a bit of a laugh – cracking jokes in the ammo tent, flirting with you and your cute medic friends, and making fun of all the ape-like infantry guys. But then it turns out as soon as you put a rifle in his hands, he turns into a complete asshole that shoots his own pop-up target and 4 other people’s targets before any of them gets a chance to pull the trigger. And continues to do this for the next 5 minutes whenever a target pops up anywhere on the range. In the end, one of the Infantry sergeants booted me in the back and told me start firing automatic to burn through the ammo quicker, so the ladies could have a go.
On the flip-side, the SA80A2. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you take all the great ideas of modern weapon design, brew them in a melting pot of despair, pour it all out in a carpark and take a monumental dump on it. Maybe I was spoilt by 4 years of using Steyr’s gift to assault rifles with the Aussies; maybe I just don’t like having a weapon I have to clean constantly to stop it rusting because it’s clearly made from pig iron. I don’t know. What I DO know is that I’d rather try to kill someone by throwing rabid ferrets at them, than ever try to shoot them with one of these.
I have a final confession to make – I don’t miss firing machine guns. Or rifles. Or pistols. Hell, I don’t even miss firing rocket launchers. But I do miss firing 40mm grenade launchers. The two types I used are both strapped to the bottom of a normal assault rifle – the GLA fitted to an Austeyr, the UGL to the SA80A2. Line the sights up on a target up to 400m away, pull the trigger, and you’re greeted with a satisfying boot of recoil – heavier kick a shotgun but not as sharp. And then you see this little black dot spiralling away into the distance… It flies up… Arcs over and begins to come down… And then, sure enough when it hits the ground…
For the aspiring grenade-connoisseur, you’ll be pleased to know the 40mm is also available in;
- “Marker” – turning your grenade launcher into the paintball gun from hell
- “Riot” – turning your grenade launcher into a double barrel shotgun with only one trigger
- “Smoke” – turning your grenade launcher into a must have item for your next dance party
Happy hunting, campers.