An Afternoon at the Gun Range

A lazy Sunday afternoon, my friend was itching to bring her new guns, a brand new .308-caliber Browning bolt action hunting rifle and .22-caliber Winchester Wildcat rifle, out to the range and invited me along to come shooting with her. We meet out in Eagle River to load up the Browning and Winchester rifles and her fiancé’s pistol, which is a Colt 1911 .45.

We went to the Kenny and Patti Barber Shooting Range out by Palmer, which is free. The road that leads out to the range is unmaintained and gravel.

At the range, you are greeted with the sound of gunfire and the scent of gunpowder in the air. Make sure you have some good ear protection and safety glasses, the bullet casings go flying when you shoot..

Once we arrived, we unloaded the guns and targets and carefully transported everything to one of the booths. The range was not very crowded. Only two other groups were there, so social distancing was easy.

Gun safety is of the utmost importance for yourself and everyone else at the range. Always make sure the safety is on and even if you know it’s unloaded, still treat it as if it were loaded. Never step beyond the firing booth until everyone at the range is in agreement to cease fire.

We placed our targets and got to the fun part. The first gun we fired was my friend’s .308-caliber rifle, she warned that there is intense recoil.

Photo by Rachel Jetton.

I always get a nervous feeling before firing. I know to anticipate sound and recoil, but I can’t guess how much. We loaded the .308 rounds into the rifle. I make sure that I’m seated properly and that the butt of the rifle rests in the “shoulder pocket,” the muscular part by your shoulder and under your collar bone.

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With slight butterflies in my stomach, I looked through the scope and took deep breaths. After I prepared myself, I switched off the safety, pulled back the bolt loading the round in the chamber. .The rifle bucked back hard, but thanks to a good stance and anticipating large recoil, the rifle stayed seated in my shoulder pocket.

After that first shot, butterflies went away and I was left with the adrenalin of firing that beast of a gun. We fired 5 rounds out of the Browning rifle. With each shot, you could hear it echoing off of the mountains. The target was well used and the gun kicked so much I couldn’t tell you if I actually hit anything, but it was just fun to shoot.

We moved on to the .22-caliber Winchester rifle, which was lightweight and easy to handle, so I was able to stand up to fire this rifle. The recoil was almost nonexistent, and quieter, which allowed me to actually aim the rifle and hit the target.

We fired the .45 pistol last, which ended up being my favorite gun. After taking extra time to ensure I had a good grip and posture, I fired the first shot. The pistol felt more intense to shoot because you could see the spark and smoke from the bullet being shot, feel the heat on your hands and you could watch the brass casing expel itself from the gun.

After about an hour we ended the evening firing some hefty rounds with the Browning rifle. We carefully packed up the guns, targets and ammunition and loaded them into the vehicle. The smell of gunpowder faintly lingered on our clothing as we drove back to Eagle River. There is a satisfying feeling that you get after some safe shooting, which left us both in higher spirits.

Recreational shooting can be very fun. It is always very important to be extra careful and practice gun safety at all times. There are several rifle ranges and various safety courses you can sign up for to practice and learn gun safety. One place is Alaska Tactical in Muldoon. They offer various lessons with different types of firearms, concealed carry, and more. You can check out the courses and schedule on their website