I step into Oscar’s shoes and fire a Glock
I am not a gun nut; I don’t own a gun, and I had never shot a ‘real’ gun before this past weekend when I visited a shooting range in Phuket, Thailand. Of course, there is no way to get this sort of hands-on experience in Singapore, where guns are banned for all except law enforcement, security, and the military.
My choice of weapon, a Glock 26 (9mm) from the ‘High Powered’ section their list of semi-automatic handguns. From what I read online, Oscar used a Glock 27 40-calibre the night he shot Reeva, which is fractionally more powerful than the 9mm version I shot. (The shooting range did not have the Glock 27 model, else I’d have chosen that one.)
The only major differences between the Glock 26 VS 27 are that the 27 has more grain in each bullet and a milimetrically larger bigger bore (10mm). But for simulative purposes, the 26 provides all the elements necessary for me to gauge just how easy it is to get the bullets discharged from these handguns to land on a target.
Let it rain lead!
There is something that detaches in the mind when one has a high-powered, deadly weapon in your hands. Wielding a lethal weapon just speaks to the caveman genes still embedded in our DNA, and I can certainly see the appeal gun nuts have with guns of all sorts, let alone iconic ones like the Glock.
Before I discharged my first shot from the firearm, I was mesmerised by how solid and well-built it felt, while being comfortably light and manoeuvrable. There was no safety mechanism on the model I shot with; you simply load the bullets into the magazine, slip the magazine into the handle, and the angel of death is on standby from that moment on.
My paper target was set at ~5 meters distance, and after the briefest explanation on safety in some of the most broken English to assault my hearing sense, I aimed the Glock with both hands, holding onto it with all my might (for I had no idea how powerful the recoil would be),… steadied my aim on the black silhouette painted on the target board ahead and pulled the trigger…
BANG!!!!!!!!- off target, but still on the paper. Not bad considering I flinched a split second before pulling the trigger; nerves, I suppose.
The recoil was much, much lighter than I expected. In fact, the recoil felt very different from what I imagined it would: I expected the barrel to fling up violently; instead, the pistol became ‘lighter’ for a fraction of a second during recoil, with just a gentle flick of the barrel in an upward direction. There was no shock on the wrists whatsoever.
After the first shot (and every shot thereafter), the barrel promptly settled down again, ready for me to take my next shot. A regular pistol needs to be cocked to discharge the spent bullet casing and load the new bullet in the chamber. Not this baby: A Glock pistol requires nothing more than pulling the trigger again—the advantage of being a semi-automatic handgun—and the faster you can pull the trigger, the faster you can pump lead into something.
Each shot was so loud and so powerful that I contemplated all the forces the barrel and the rest of the gun had to cope with, every time I pulled the trigger. You can literally feel the expanding forces that are violently trying to rip the gun apart. It is an amazing feeling. The engineering on these firearms is just perfect; they use as little metal as possible to stay light, yet remain strong enough to reliably cope with the forces and heat from firing shots in rapid succession.
It took me about 4 missed shots to get on target (the black silhouette), and three shots on target to get within the 5 inch-wide ‘kill zone’ ring that suggests you know what you are doing. My last three bullets would have turned a real person’s liver into puree, guaranteed!
I realise this is pathetic compared to people who have experience shooting firearms, but the brief experience left me with the thought of how I went from never having fired a real gun in my life to landing three lethal shots on a target, 5m away, without any professional training or serious practise.
Handguns have come far from the Musket days of yore, which prompted Winston Churhill to utter his sarcastic retort, “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.”
Muskets were notoriously slow to fire because they used an external ignition that had a delay sometimes for several seconds before the bullet would hasten out of the barrel, which itself was somewhat larger than the bullet, causing gas blow-by (which reduces projectile velocity) and reduced accuracy by the foot as the bullet spread out at one of an infinite number of paths within what is called the ‘spread circle.’
Also, if you have ever heard or used the saying ‘flash in a pan,’ it refers directly to a common misfire that Muskets had. Sometimes the gunpowder would not burn all the way into the bullet chamber, but merely burned off in the pan—casing a flash in the pan (and no result).
But today’s weapons are lethal, and clearly don’t require exhaustive amounts of preparation or training to use with deadly precision. That said, I think the ease of use is a double edge sword: One’s confidence swells with every shot landing closer to the target area. Muscle memory quickly takes care of the recoil and re-aiming aspects. And if you are a reckless person and carrying one of these babies on your person, tragedy is likely to find you,…in time.
I fired 10 shots in total (a full magazine) from the Glock, and if the goal was to kill still-standing people, I’d have injured one person, seriously injured 2 more people, and killed at least 3. How much more dangerous would someone who actually knows what he is doing be with this weapon?
I’d be lying if I said that the experience didn’t trigger some mild level of gun obsession in me. If I had the opportunity to purchase a Glock pistol for myself, I’d leap at the opportunity! The engineering and the power are exactly the sort of thing that impresses someone like me.
I would definitely carry it around with me (wherever it was legal) as an active deterrent or backup in a hairy situation involving an intruder or attacker intending harm to me or someone close to me. I can even see myself getting several more guns to complete my transformation into an urban Rambo of sorts.
On the flipside, I can only imagine how many lives will be saved from curtailed tragedies alone, if the general population were prevented from owning and harnessing the power of these weapons, as and when they see fit. That is how things work in Singapore, and helps ensure that falling trees, road accidents, and the occasional drowning in a reservoir are the only real threats to one’s life on the island.
Don’t mistake my contemplation for me being for the banning of guns, though. I firmly believe that every person has the right to personal safety and to protect their families from armed criminals, rapists, and murderers, and few things do a better job at stopping an intruder than pointing (and, if necessary, shooting) a loaded firearm at them.
It is with mixed feelings that I conclude this article, but I’m glad to add the experience as a reference for my occasional commentary on the ongoing Oscar Pistorius trial.
I’ll simply say that I can easily see myself going trigger happy if I felt that my life or the life of a loved one was threatened by an unidentified and unexpected intruder.
We can all cite the imbalanced South African law that demands one first having identified the ‘intruder’ and ascertained the level of ‘threat’ they pose, but when your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and you genuinely fear for your safety and the safety of your loved ones in the vicinity, you don’t care about or even consider the legal repercussions that will result from shooting a lesser-armed intruder. All you would care about is coming out of the situation with yourself and your loved ones alive and uninjured.
And therein lies the potential for tragedy, because once you pull the trigger in shock (or several times if you have a semi-automatic) and then come to your senses, it is too late…
Did this experience, brief and limited as it may be, change my opinion about Oscar’s guilt or innocence? No! It most certainly did not, for I was not there that night; I don’t have the facts, and, as such, my opinion remains unformed.I can simply say that I judge myself far more likely to end up like Oscar did than I would have thought likely just a few days ago. And that after just a brief introduction to the world of personal firearms.