First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back in Blog! First up: Gun Day

Hello, everybody! Long time no blog! This will probably be a long one as I recount several days worth of activity, but I’ll try to keep each bit short. However, to keep the promise I made before my hiatus, I start with last Saturday’s ‘Bachelor Day’ with my boss and another coworker.

It’s not uncommon for Hong Kongers to come to Beijing – lots of booming business, money to be made, career opportunities. But often, their families are quite settled in Hong Kong. Such is the case with my Executive Creative Director and an account director here, both of whom find themselves – like me – bachelors in a new city.

So we’ve taken to getting together many weekends. They are amusing themselves, and I get personal guides to parts of the city and activities I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Still, I wasn’t prepared to be asked: “Want to go shooting?”

Now THERE’S an experience off the beaten tourist path. I agreed.

We met for breakfast, then had a private driver take us an hour out of the city to a military R&D facility that also hosts a private firing range. Inside was a reception area – plenty of traffic on a Saturday morning – and a gift shop.

Opening off the reception area was a display room filled with guns in cases, everything from hunting rifles to military arms to non-lethal crowd-control guns. They weren’t just Chinese, either. There were guns from around the world and a variety of eras – Chinese-made AK-47s (called the Type 56 here), an American M-16, Israeli Uzis, a Steur AUG (my Counterstrike/TacOps gaming friends will know that one), revolvers, pistols, bolt-action rifles from WWII, even a display of heavier machine guns on bipods and tripods.

You go in, pick your guns, and an employee takes your order – Which gun? How many bullets? – and then leads you to the range itself. (Because of some connections my company has, it was arranged that we could choose some of the larger guns.)

Safety was well established. Each firing position was in its own room overlooking the outdoor range. Each room had a guide who loaded and mounted the rifles to a ring on the table so it couldn’t be swung around, then sent the target down. In the pistol rooms, the pistol is chained to the table, you reach through a small hole in a plexiglass partition and the gun is handed to you from the other side of the plexiglass, so you can’t pull it in or aim too far left or right.

I fired 30 rounds from a Chinese Type 56 (aka AK-47) rifle, 10 from a Russian sniper rifle, and 15 from a Chinese 9mm pistol. I did all right, including 99 out of a possible 100 with the sniper rifle, and did as well as I could have expected with the other two.

Mostly, though, it was a surreal experience. There were whole families with kids. One time I heard some huge belt-fed machine gun blast off 200 rounds in one continuous stream –BADADADADADADADADA!!! – then looked to see a grandmother turning in her chair away from the smoking gun, laughing hysterically along with her family as the completely unscathed target was reeled back in. One room had a small armored car built into it – you could climb into the turret and shoot the dual-machine guns at a target WAAAY downrange.

In China private gun ownership is only allowed in special circumstances in rural areas, so maybe firing guns is a novel occasion. In any case, it’s safe to say a fine time was had by all – myself included!