donovan, ar15
Fun at the range is different now. David Veksler via Flickr

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Everyone gets old enough to disapprove of or just be baffled by the next generation. That would be me, now, looking at the newcomers to shooting. I don’t understand them. They don’t like to shoot things—they just like to shoot.

For years, the range at my local WMA was nothing more than an excavation in the side of a steep hill that went by the name of the Pit. It was completely unsupervised. People dragged old appliances and computers into it, then shot them to pieces, and DNR employees would have to haul all the bullet-riddled junk out. I joked with one of them once that when my old hunting vehicle died, I was going to pull the license plates, park it downrange at the Pit and leave. He was not amused. I used to go there myself at off hours, when no one was around, if I had to sight in a muzzleloader or a slug gun.

That was then. Today, there are no off hours. The DNR put in benches and a fence to prevent people from hauling appliances into the Pit. Use of the place exploded. My friend Dave came was hired as a part-time range officer to keep people from shooting glass bottles, tannerite, one another, and so on, and he does a good job taming the reckless element that frequents semi-supervised ranges.

Every time Dave clocks in, he tells me, there are people there, shooting. Even during this last cold snap, when we had highs below zero for about a week, there would be a dozen people at the range banging away, he reports. Often, shooting is all they’re doing. Not shooting at anything, just shooting. That’s the part I don’t understand. The other day, Dave said, two men showed up in a Mercedes, parked, and left it running for two hours while they shot. They would burn through 30-round magazines in their ARs as fast they could, warm their hands over the ventilated handguard, and then reload and shoot some more. At nothing. Not once in two hours did they go downrange to set up a target.

He’s told me similar stories, like the day four people with Glocks and ARs came out. They set up a box downrange, and all four would empty an AR mag at it, switch to Glocks and empty those, then shoot ARs, then transition to Glocks, and on and on. The range was busy that day, and people were waiting for a spot, but these guys shot and shot until they finally ran out of ammunition and left. They never changed boxes. Instead, they shot the original to tatters, then shot the tatters.

I mentioned this to a friend who works in the industry. “Making noise is their hobby. It’s their golf,” he said. “They like to hear the gun go off. They load magazines Friday night so they don’t have to waste time loading them at the range on Saturday.”

I have a hard time understanding this. No doubt this brands me as a aging and hopeless Fudd, but personally, whenever someone hands me a pistol or a semiautomatic rifle with a high-capacity magazine, I am ready to give it back after eight or nine shots, even if there is a target to shoot at. This isn’t because I don’t like rifles and pistols (although a pistol in my hands is a waste of ammunition), but because pulling the trigger over and over gets boring.

I know there are a lot of new shooters that work hard to become proficient with pistols and black rifles—for self-defense, for games like 3-gun, or with proficiency as an end in itself. I get that. What I don’t understand is shooting to shoot, just to make noise and heat gun barrels, but that seems to be what at least some of the new gun owners are after.