Monday, March 1, 2004

“If this is your first time at Fight Club …”

It seems at a range of 10 metres I have about 80% accuracy in hitting a 10 cm square target and can get about one in five shots within the black centre of the target. I even managed three nine- or ten-point bull’s-eyes.

Mostly I had a quiet weekend, but Sunday I managed to something I’d never done before.

I went air-pistol target shooting.

Yup, boys and guns.

Not that I’m the kind of person who wakes up of a winter’s morning saying: “You know, I want to learn how to shoot stuff.” However, it seems I am the type who – when a flatmate (and president-elect of the student pistol and rifle club) asks of a Sunday evening “Hey do you guys want to come target shooting?” – will reply, “Why not?”

Frankly, the weirdest bit of the experience was finding the range. We drove out past the Grafton centre towards the Ring Road and the light-industrial strip of panel-beaters, tyre salesmen and mechanics’ workshops towards the Cam, aptly clustering around the looming plinth of the technology museum smokestack.

We parked in a tiny set of parking bays next to the Elizabeth Road overpass bridge and walked down, in the dark, to the tunnel leading under the bridge. It was one of those graffitied abandoned spaces with jaundiced low-watt electric lights a succession of sturdy doors set into the concrete. The one we stopped at had a piece of yellow card pinned to the lintel with a name and mobile phone number on it.

My flatmate unlocked the door and fumbled inside for a light-switch. I followed him into a fluorescently lit corridor of cinderblock walls and wooden partitions, a crude ramp leading to a rough concrete floor.

“Welcome to Fight Club,” I muttered.

The empty clubroom (pool table, chairs, kitchenette, green carpet squares) concealed beyond another door was functional but looked surprisingly little like a cavern beneath a bridge. After signing in as guests, a brief tour collapsed when, at the end of several further corridors (cold, flickering lights, randomly placed lockers and lockable cabinets) no-one could find the light-switch for the final passage to the twenty-yard range. I suggested we turn back before I convinced myself we were on the set of a horror movie. (Thety were totally that sort of darkened passages full of steel-cabinet clutter.)

We went back to the ten-metre range visible through a long window in the club room.

It was terribly, terribly cold. Bar heaters did not make much of an impact on the big bare concrete space.

It was interesting. The small crack of the compressed-air pistols, the ping when a shot went too high and caught the metal frame above the targets. The whir of the little electric pulleys that take the small card-targets out and back. Learning the discipline of it: feet at 45 degree, close one eye move shoulders to 90 degrees with wall, sight along shoulder, bring arm up, try and get the wavering halves of the sights to meet up in one neat rectangle against the blurred image of the target, squeeze with light pressure.

The flatmate told me I did fairly well for a fist time.

Not saying I’m a convert mind you, but I enjoyed it more than I’d expect, and the air pistols – while expensive – are a long way short of deadly weapons (though we were solemnly instructed on safety measures and the fact that if our weapons could kill a rat, they could certain hurt us).

I think I may put my pocked target-cards up on the back of my door.

Still, someone was talking about joining the fencing club next term. That might be more my scene.

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