Two weekends ago, I spent a few days in Austin celebrating my sister’s 26th birthday. Being only 2½ years younger than her, we have always had a good relationship, and as we have gotten older, we’ve even shared a few friends.

For the most part, the plans for this extra-long weekend were set. We would drive down Friday morning and meet seven of her close high school and college friends at a craft brewery in north Austin.

We spent about four hours there, drinking strong beer, eating pizza and catching up.

Then it got interesting, when we sat down and looked for our next activity. At 4 p.m., the downtown bars and clubs didn’t entice us. Someone pitched go-carts, which seemed like our best bet until we discovered its $60 price tag.

Slightly frustrated that nine adults couldn’t find a fun activity in Texas’ capital city, someone jokingly blurted, “How about a gun range?”

A collective laugh erupted. But as the laughter disappeared, light bulbs flickered above our heads. We called the closest gun range to ask if they had a birthday special. They did not.

But we thought, “What the heck? Shooting sounds like a perfect way to kill a few hours.” We piled into our cars and raced down the highway to the nearest gun range we could find on Google Maps.

We arrived at our destination and, before heading inside, pumped ourselves up in the parking lot. We hear bullets loudly popping. I’d like to say I never got nervous, but that would be a huge lie.

We stormed inside the little gun range and immediately got lost. None of us had ever shot at a range, so we were a little confused about the process.

I spotted a cash register with an old cowboy standing behind it. In fact, I noticed every employee in the building looked like an extra from the movie “True Grit,” and they all were looking at us funny.

We stepped up to the register and filled out the six-question questionnaire, selected our guns and quickly found ourselves in the range.

For my first experience handling a deadly weapon, I briefly considered firing a small-caliber handgun. But after setting eyes on the .45 Glock, I knew it was the gun for me. I loaded her up, cocked the barrel, aimed at the paper target and BAM!

We shot for the next hour, completely losing track of time. As we left the range, I could not believe how much fun I had.

While I don’t completely agree with gun laws, it’s amazing how a fun outing at a range can change your point of view.

Herald/Erik Papke​

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