Guns can be fun. Seriously. In the right hands at the right place for the right reason, they can make for some great outdoors activity, camaraderie and around-the-braai discussion material. Target shooting, wing shooting, rifle shooting – you name it – can all be wonderful family activities, teaching responsibility, instilling a sense of ownership and pride and a sense of accomplishment when you hit the bull’s eye. You also gain the confidence to know that you will be able to protect yourself and your loved ones should the need arise.
But which firearm to choose? Well, it seems that there is no perfect handgun, no perfect calibre and no perfect bullet.
Chris van den Berg of the Accredited Firearm Training Association (Afta) in Northcliff, Johannesburg, says larger pistols are more accurate than smaller ones. This is because of their fit to the hand, weight (which reduces possible recoil), and longer sight plane. On the other hand, smaller pistols are easier to conceal and lighter to carry.
“Other things to keep in mind are that smaller calibre mean less recoil, which makes for faster and more accurate consecutive shots, with less energy and force. Larger calibre weapons have more stopping power and can cause more damage per bullet, so depending on your eventual usage of the firearm, this is an important factor.
“My advice to first-time firearm owners would be that the best firearm for you is the one that works perfectly for you.
“Even if other people don’t like it, or it doesn’t look as cool as someone else’s firearm, the best one to use is the one you can use the best. Simple as that. So going to a shooting range and trying various pistols or revolvers before you invest in anything is extremely important. What works for the husband might not work for the wife. Women need to choose their own firearms.”
Once the desired hand weapon is decided on, after they have been tried out at an indoor shooting range such as Afta’s venue in Northcliff, regular visits to a range should be a top priority – regardless of the reason for acquiring it in the first place.
“What people tend to lose sight of is what they actually want to achieve. To master your firearm, controlled speed-firing is the eventual aim and not just rapid firing. Unless you are within an arm’s length of your target, you must be able to balance both speed and accuracy.”
Practice is key. Join a club or execute regular drills at home – especially if the reason for owning a pistol is self-defence.
And what about selecting the ideal calibre weapon? Should it be a big and bold 45 Colt, or a tiny and easy-to-carry .635 Beretta?
“There is no perfect bullet,” says Chris. “Each has its pros and cons. What is important is bullet placement. If you don’t hit the target, it’s all in vain. So again, this comes down to practice and really getting to know your firearm – whatever that may be.”
Where: 219 Beyers Naude Drive, Northcliff, Johannesburg
How much: Fifty rounds with a .22 will cost about R50, plus R50 for the use of the range. Ammunition for a 9mm will cost R100 for 50 rounds, plus R50 for the use of the venue. If you have a licence, you can take the balance of your ammunition home.
What do you get: The duration of each R50 session depends entirely on the client. No one is limited to any amount of time, but generally the time it takes an individual to use all the ammunition they have paid for is considered a session. Ear muffs and protective eyewear are provided.
What do you get to shoot with: Unlicensed individuals may use a .22, a 9mm or a shotgun. Licensed individuals are free to use any of their own licensed firearms or use those from the range that are allowed to be used at an indoor shooting range.
What’s it like hitting bull’s eye: Fantabulous! Being in control of the weapon and knowing that the bullet is going right where you intend it to go is amazing. While it remains a challenge for most first-timers not to flinch, not fearing the sound of the bullet being unleashed is already a step in the right direction.
Contact: Tel: 011 782-1217; 082 574-5750; [email protected]
Chris’ Top 10 tips:
* Watch that muzzle! Keep it pointed in a safe direction at all times.
* Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. It might be, even if you think it isn’t.
* Be sure of the target and what is in front of it and beyond it.
* Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. This is the best way to prevent an accidental discharge.
* Check your barrel and ammunition. Make sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions, and carry only the proper ammunition for your firearm.
* Unload firearms when they are not in use. Leave actions open, and carry firearms in cases (and unloaded) to and from the shooting area.
* Point a firearm only at something you intend to shoot. Avoid all horseplay with a gun.
* Don’t run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload a firearm before you climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch. Pull a firearm towards you by the butt, not the muzzle.
* Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely. Store each weapon in secured locations beyond the reach of children and careless adults.
* Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting. Also avoid mind- or behaviour-altering medications.