"See how the design of the gun seduces your finger, drawing it toward the trigger? For your own safety and the safety of those around you, you must resist its temptation."

In a small, paneled classroom at the Bulls Eye Shooting Range, in St Louis, MO. we are learning the proper way to handle a handgun from a man who depends on his skills with such weapons for more than his daily bread. In the course of teaching us the difference between a single action, double action and automatic pistol, we learn he has recently been living under a death threat from a local gang for putting one of theirs behind bars. He's not complaining. He did what he had to do, and accepts the situation as a consequence of fighting back.

"The word 'predator' has gotten a bad rap in our society," he explains. While showing us the strengths and weaknesses of each weapon. "The (animal) world has always been predator or prey. If you accept that, then what do you want to be? If you're not prey, you're a predator. If you take what you want and I have something you want. I have to be a bigger, badder (sic)predator than you so you will leave me alone and go on to the next guy."

He raps his chest and his knuckles sound off against a chest plate hidden under his dress shirt. "I don't live in fear, but I am always aware. I live in the moment. So while I may be measuring the threats around me 24/7, I also see more sunsets, appreciate (your) smiles and live... in the moment."

He has our complete attention.

I am the first person he calls up to demonstrate that I have been listening. He places an empty gun on the folding table and directs me to pick it up. I do so in the manner that he taught us and although he is pleased, my jaws ache from gnashing the gum I chew to relieve my tension. When five of us have passed this first test he hands us off to an associate who leads us to the tiny office that shares a glass wall with the indoor range. While we receive our "eyes and ears," (safety glasses and headsets) the concussions from shooters next door assail our bodies. The sound proofing is doing its job, but the displaced air still gets through. I pretend calm, but chew harder. Someone is firing off a cannon in there as every third of fourth round feels like pillow bumping my chest.

For all my success in the classroom, I fumble while trying to load the 22 's magazine. While I wait for the range master to work his way back to my shooting station, I try to open my senses to the moment. The space is tight and ten stations take up no more than twenty five feet across the front of the seventy-five foot long bay. Battered fiber acoustical tiles are secured to the walls and ceiling. Several feet of tumbled rubber batting extend toward me from the back wall. Everything is designed for containment, yet water has found a way in to stain the tiles over my head.

I lean back and bump into the range master coming to assist me. He quickly sets things right and all at once, I have a loaded weapon. The man in the paneled room was right; it is tactile seduction. The back of the gun fits snug against the webbing between my right thumb and index finger. I keep that finger pointed along and just above the trigger guard, while wrapping the rest of my hand around the raised cross-hatching on its grip. As instructed, I press my left palm against the butt's left side just below and behind my right thumb, wrap left fingers over right and press the tip of the left thumb into the tip of the right. I am deliberate and calm, but my right index finger quivers with anticipation.

I take a few deep breaths and try to acknowledge the seriousness of my actions, but damn it, all I want to do is fire the gun. So I do. Tiny holes appear in the paper human silhouette ten feet down range. My first three shots punch through the red at seven, five and four-o-clock, three inches below the x in the center of the bulls eye. I like that so much my next shot is an inch into the black and the next- four inches below that. I pause, re-sight and begin again. Two more shots in the red, a quarter inch below the x. I remember to breath and squeeze the trigger again, but nothing happens. I am done with the 22.

The 9 millimeter is next and its weight and recoil are substantial. After two low shots; six and four inches below the red, I adjust my stance and empty the rest into the red in three sets of two's, plus one, so close they overlap and tear into each other. And then the slide locks. The magazine is empty and my body is feasting on adrenalin.

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