On Saturday, Will, Doug and I went to Anthony Arms.
Josiah had been planning to go as well, but he was busy, and Doug hadn't been planning to go, so I guess it evened out. The place was a bit of a pain to find, mostly because I looked at the instructions Yahoo Maps had given me and said “Why the heck does it have us take this weird route to the airport? I'll just take the parkway” and Will initially agreed with me, but then we realized that it was the Allegheny County airport, not the Greater Pittsburgh airport. I had no idea there were multiple airports in the area until now. We did eventually find the place, anyway.
It was a good thing we had decided to go fairly early in the morning, because that day the range was closing at 15 for a shooting course. (Incidentally, I should find out the schedule there.) Before we went downstairs to the range, though, we looked at the guns.
I had been led by some fanciful thought process to believe that there would be rows and rows of guns on display. This was slightly inaccurate, but there were about 40 or 50 feet of glass display cases full of handguns—probably somewhere between 300 and 500 different revolvers and semi-automatic pistols on display. We looked at and held probably 30 or so. I compared the Glock 19 (9mm compact) and Glock 26 (9mm subcompact) and confirmed my suspicion that the subcompact was too small to comfortably hold.
Finally we went down to the range. I rented a Ruger Mark II (.22 semi-auto) and Will rented a Sig of some caliber or other. Doug stayed out of the range to start with. We gradually worked our way through probably 10 different guns—the range officer was extremely friendly and allowed us to shoot a single magazine from many guns without paying anything. I shot one clip from a Glock 19 and was reasonably pleased with it. I also tried a .357 Glock and concluded that yes, the recoil really does throw me off, at least at this point. Some people have told me I'll get used to it, but I think I'll let that happen in its own time, and in the meanwhile stick to that with which I'm comfortable.
At the end, Will rented a Smith & Wesson .50 caliber revolver (and purchased 5 rounds, at over $2 a round), then a Desert Eagle (also .50 caliber, though a different one). I shot one round from the Desert Eagle. I wouldn't want to carry that thing, but I really wouldn't want to be on the other side of it when it goes “bang”.
Then we went back upstairs and looked at guns some more. I was looking mostly at .22s. I wasn't 100% sure that I wanted to purchase one, but I had been advised by so many people to get a .22 as my first gun that I knew if I did buy one, it would be a .22. (The logic being that ammo is cheap, so you're likely to practice more, and that in practical terms there's no recoil at all, so you don't develop a flinch reflex.) I was inclined to be fairly price-conscious since this wouldn't be a carry gun anyway, but as the salesman had told me earlier, “there isn't really such thing as a cheap .22 any more” (referring to cheap .22 revolvers which apparently used to be widely available). I don't think I would be comfortable owning a “cheap” gun anyway (would it blow up in my hand or something?), and to further cement the point, Anthony Arms doesn't even sell such weapons.
I asked to take a look at one of the Ruger Mark IIs in the case, but I tried manipulating it and it had some sort of a mechanical defect (I forget exactly what, though). I asked to look at another one. It was blued, with a black frame and a 5" bull barrel. It cost about $270 before taxes and fees. I had previously been advised by several people that Ruger made good .22s. I was sold.
It took probably half an hour after that until we were out of the store, but the process was still much easier than I expected. In particular, I thought there was a waiting period to purchase a handgun, but it seems that I was wrong—I filled out some paperwork, they called up the state police and did an instant background check, and minutes later I was on my way home with a new firearm. The total came to just over $300.
I thought that being a gun owner would be one of those times where a change in status would actually feel different (unlike all those birthdays when someone asks “and how does it feel to be n years old?” and all you can answer is “about the same”). It does feel different, but mostly in that it's a little surreal. I suppose this is because it's a target gun, not a carry gun, and probably pretty useless for defense (though still likely better than my fists or a knife, given my strength and skill), and also because I haven't actually had a chance to shoot it yet, though I will later today (Thursday), when Josiah and I go to the Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club. It does feel good, though. I like the feel of my gun in my hand. Need to give it a name (I have a potential, but I need to actually shoot it before I can be sure).