November 15, 2010

Let The Bullets Fly

The shells ricocheted off the walls as the loud rat tat tat of heavy gun fire resonated all around me. I took my position, gripping the trigger of the sniper rifle firmly in my hand. I looked carefully through the scope, one eye closed, fingers steady, before squeezing down on the trigger. The bullet left the barrel at blazing speed. As it was my first time using a gun, the force of the kickback caught me by surprise. I paused to adjust my grip before emptying the remainder of my cartridge.

I put my glasses on to see if I had hit my target. I was at the China North International Shooting Range. The attendant beside me started giggling. The black and white rings on my target paper remained unscathed. I had completely missed. Usually these sheets of paper are given to participants as souvenirs, but mine was reused since it looked brand new. With steely resolve in my veins and eyeglasses back on my face, I switched to an AK-47 assault rifle and a Beretta handgun. I rarely missed the mark in the remaining sessions of target practice.

Half an hour before, I had been taken to an exhibition room displaying the various forms of pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers I could try out at the shooting range. After selecting my arsenal, I had gotten into the back of a military vehicle that took me to the actual outdoor firing range. Located near Beijing on land formerly used for army barracks, the ballistic bullet park provides a controlled environment to try out the deadly devices. Starting from 10 RMB per bullet, prices rise steeply as the weapon of choice becomes exceedingly ridiculous. For instance, the child beside me in the shooting gallery was using a mortar to pound large holes into a mound of earth a hundred meters ahead of him.


"If you make a gun, you are either going to sell it or you are going to use it. And if you're going to sell it, someone else is going to use it." ~ Arthur Boyd