I’ve owned many guns in the past, both handguns and long guns, but I’ve always bought and sold them, usually at a loss…
It never occurred to me to just go rent a handgun that I might want to shoot. Since we’re full time RVing now, I can’t really carry a 1000# gun safe in the travel trailer, so I had to pare down my collection severely. I sold most of them, but I managed to keep a few of the best ones to pass down to my grandson. Anyway, I probably won’t be buying any more guns in the foreseeable future. When the boss suggested renting one every once in awhile so I could do a story on it and keep my skills up, I jumped on it like a hungry dog on a rib bone!
Of all places to rent a handgun California is the last place I expected it to happen.
We are staying at an RV park near Hollister, CA and when we googled “gun range near me” we found one called Markley’s located in nearby Watson, CA. This is an indoor range with approximately twenty five shooting lanes. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed! I was shocked. We had to park about a block and a half away because it was so crowded.
We walked inside and were promptly and politely waited on. The lane rental was just ten dollars! The weapon rental was just ten dollars and the ear and eye protection were free! The box of ammo was $25.00, but to be fair – everybody upcharges for ammo. The boss smiled at these prices and started questioning the employee about why it was so cheap, while I dealt with my dilemma. I’ve owned so many handguns that it really has to be something special to attract my attention. There were surprisingly quite a few rental guns to choose from, (appropriately 50) or so. I asked for a Glock 29, 10mm, but they didn’t have one.
I’ve been wanting a Smith and Wesson model 629 with a three inch manga-ported barrel in .44 magnum, but funds aren’t falling from the sky so that hasn’t happened yet…
They did have a rental 629 with a 4″ barrel though, so I choose that. I used to own a Smith and Wesson .44 magnum back in my early law enforcement career, so I am very familiar with this weapon. The boss agreed to be my videographer so we got her some ear and eye protection too. They did charge her to go on the range, but that is understandable because that is how they make a living. The firing line was crowded with people and you could hear the “pew-pew-pew” of lots of 9mm rounds going off and empty brass flying everywhere.
I set up my B-27 man sized target at the 15 yard line (45 feet) and loaded up the big Smith and Wesson with six .44 magnum rounds. I adjusted my glasses, hearing protection and told the boss I was ready. Next, I took a look down the adjustable white outline rear sight to the blaze orange front sight, thumbed cocked it to single action mode, tightened my grip, and gently squeezed the trigger.
Boom! The .44 caliber projectile headed towards the target at 1400 feet per second.
The firing line was well illuminated, but I’m sure if it had been dark that bright muzzle flash would have illuminated the whole place. The shooter next to me stopped firing his 9mm pistol for a few seconds, I’m sure just to get adjusted to the big .44’s report. I immediately felt a familiar twinge of pain in my right hand caused by so much shooting over the years. Friends the recoil from full power .44 magnum rounds ain’t nothing to sneeze at. If you’re not used to it you can get hurt with this powerful handgun, and I’m not talking about shooting yourself with it. I’ve seen and heard of many people injuring themselves with a recoiling handgun hitting them in the face when they didn’t expect it. My first shot was dead center of the ten ring, so I knew the handgun sights were spot on for me. I finished firing all six rounds in the ten ring, with two of them in the same hole. I haven’t lost my ability, that’s always a good thing.
The boss took some video in slow motion mode, and you can clearly see the big revolver recoiling and the muscles in my right arm straining to hold on to it. I’m not quite as strong as I was in my twenties, it sure seemed easier to shoot this hand cannon back then. I carried a .44 magnum on duty for about two years in the late seventies. I had to trade it off for a Smith and Wesson model #66 when I got hired by a municipal department. The #66 was a good revolver, but I always missed that big .44.
The boss took some pictures of my California approved non-descript, (non-black) target, and I was able to keep all of the big slugs within the ten ring when shooting in single action mode. However, when I started firing double action, the group opened up considerably. Hopefully, if I’m ever unlucky enough to be confronted by a charging bear he’ll be kind and give me time to thumb cock whatever revolver I’m carrying at the time..
By the time I had fired all twenty five of the factory fresh PMC Bronze .44 magnum 240 grain TCSP in the box, I’d had enough for the day. I had my Glock 26 9mm with me, but I decided discretion is the better part of valor, so no more shooting for me today. We packed up and went to the counter to pay the freight and the boss went into reporter mode with the man who checked us out.
She asked him how he could have a successful gun range in California with the current political climate?
He explained it like this; “All of California’s big cities are near the coast, and that’s where all of the liberals live and vote. Once you move inland from the coast you get into ranch land and most of the ranchers are very conservative. Their votes are overshadowed though because the majority of the population lives in the big cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento. etc.”
With that information we looked around for a few minutes and here is what I saw.
There were very few handguns, no semi-automatic rifles, a few lever action rifles, and a few bolt action hunting rifles. If I had walked into my favorite gun shop in Texas, I’d have thought they were having a going out of business sale. While the gun range was doing a booming business, it didn’t appear the gun shop portion of the business was flourishing at all.
Well that was my first experience at shooting a rental gun, and it came out okay. I have to say it was worth it and I will probably be doing it again in the near future. As always, protect your ability to protect yourself and your loved ones by voting pro second amendment. You can be a gun supporter from either side of the political aisle.