It’s not easy being a journalist in America these days. The pay sucks, the business itself is financially questionable, and fewer people believe what you write every day. But you have to applaud the level of want-to that keeps those plucky scribes out there, wearing down the shoe leather, reporting all of the really important news in order to keep Mr. and Mrs. America informed.
That’s probably what motivated Kevin McCallum — a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less — who writes for something called Seven Days Vermont to visit the Green Mountain State’s first and only indoor gun range. Unfortunately, he managed to do his best impression of the famously fragile Gersh Kuntzman in the process.
Kuntzman, you may remember, is the hearty New York Daily News correspondent who was physically and emotionally undone by the experience of shooting an AR-15 back in 2016. As Mr. K described the life-altering experience . . .
The recoil bruised my shoulder. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary case of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.
In a follow-up article justifying the emotional wreck he had become as a result of pulling the trigger on that fearsome rifle, he wrote, “I simpered because my experience with the AR-15 bruised me, body and spirit.”
The poor dear.
You have to appreciate what these ink-stained wretches endure, though, risking their physical and psychological well-being to bring us the truth.
So, in the grand Kuntzmanian tradition, Kevin McCallum screwed up his courage and ventured into Parro’s Gun Shop in Waturbury — which looks like a first-rate facility — to chronicle the experience of pulling the trigger for Seven Days Vermont’s dozens of loyal readers.
Unfortunately, after that experience he may never be quite the same. But remember, Vermonters…he did it for you.
McCallum managed to peck out the following with undoubtedly tremulous fingers . . .
I’m not a gun guy. I haven’t handled a firearm since I squeezed off a few rounds from an old .22 rifle at summer camp more than 35 years ago.
All the more reason to appreciate what he chose to expose himself to, right? He was intrigued by the fact that Parro’s rents firearms for use on their range. After a nice description of the store and its amenities, McCallum reveals what happened when he rented a Ruger 9mm pistol and an HK AR-15.
Inside one of the 10 available lanes, I stapled my target to the carrier, then tapped a touch screen that could send the target sliding out up to 25 yards. I started with five yards.
[RSO Josh] Noble showed me how to load the 9mm bullets into the magazine, shove the magazine into the grip, slide back the surprisingly stiff bolt, release the safety and prepare to fire. I lined up the sights as best I could, gently squeezed the trigger and — BAM!
Yes, that’s what happens when a trigger is pulled. Go figure. After an indeterminate number of rounds launched from the pistol, McCallum switched to the big black rifle.
While the pistol was manageable, even comfortable to hold and fire, the rifle was a different beast altogether. Everything about it — its weight, tactical scope and overall lethality — was downright intimidating.
Hang in there, Kevin. You can do this.
When ready, I lined up the target in the cross hairs, pulled the stock onto my shoulder, squeezed the trigger and — BA-BOOM!!!!!
Again, he seemed unprepared for what resulted when a trigger is pulled. Anyway . . .
It is difficult to describe the impact — physical and personal — of that first shot. It felt like a meteor had struck the earth in front of me. A deep shock wave coursed through my body, the recoil rippling through my arms and right shoulder with astounding power. Being that close to an explosion of such magnitude — controlled and focused as it was — rattled me.
I composed myself and continued to fire round after concussive round, the puffs of acrid gunpowder smoke carried downrange by a powerful ventilation system. My accuracy gradually improved until it became easier to hit the target with the rifle from 25 yards than with the pistol from five.
It’s nice that McCallum was able to compose himself enough to finish out the magazine and put rounds on paper. However . . .
It was exhilarating, but I never got comfortable firing it. I’m not sure what scared me more — the power of that weapon or the fact that I could have taken one home that day.
Yes, owning an AR-15 is quite an emotional experience. One that only about 20 to 30 million Americans have been able handle so far.
We sincerely hope that the effects of shooting a firearm like an AR-15 hasn’t been too psychologically jarring for Mr. McCallum. A case of acute Kuntzmania can be quite debilitating, but frequently passes in time. We suggest he take a Ruger Mark IV and a couple of magazines and call us in the morning.