A Trip to the Shooting Range

Posted: October 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
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On Sunday, I finally accomplished something that I’ve been trying to do in Russia for five years, which was to find a place where I could fire a Kalashnikov machine gun. It turns out that this was much easier to do than I anticipated. After a quick google search of “shoot Kalashnikov Moscow” I was rewarded with a shooting club, where it’s possible to fire a number of famous Russian guns. I went to the range with two of the French Canadians, another American, and a Russian.

Getting to the range was its own ordeal. It was about a fifteen minute walk from the metro station. Then, we had to find a specific building on the street, which was nondescript and had no signs on it. Inside that building, there was a security guard and a turn style. I had to give the security guard a password, which was given to me over the phone by the shooting club when I called to make the reservation. After giving the password, we proceeded into a large courtyard, which we had to cross. In a slightly frightening moment, I noticed that the building we had to enter had burned down, or rather some of the upper floors had. The shooting club was in the basement, along with a gym for training for hockey.img_2033

We entered the club, handed over our passports, and then filled out some paperwork before choosing which guns we wanted to fire and how many bullets we wanted to shoot. This process was a little complicated, as there were some strange minimums for the bullets. I selected 50 bullets, which could be divided across a number of guns, but the minimum number for each gun was 15 bullets. I wanted to shoot 30 from a Kalashnikov, 10 from a Makarov pistol, and 10 from a PPSh, but instead I had to do 20 from the Kalashnikov, 15 from the Makarov, and 15 from the PPSh. I also got 10 bullets for a Dragunov and 10 for a Mosin Nagant.

After paying, we waited in a hallway for a while before being led into a shooting range. There were two men who set up the range and organized all of the bullets. One guy was our instructor. He asked if we spoke Russian, and we said that we did more or less, so he gave the instructions in Russian and the Russian guy and I ended up translating what he said for the others.

First, we all fired some bullets from the Makarov pistol. I did not get the clip all the way in at first, so it took a second before I realized why my gun would not fire. I was 15/15 with the Makarov, though I was consistently low on the target.

The Makarov pistol, the standard side arm of the Soviet and Russian military and police from the 1950s to present.

The Makarov pistol, the standard side arm of the Soviet and Russian military and police from the 1950s to present.

After the pistol shooting was done, we moved further back in the range to fire the rifles. The first rifle I shot was a Kalashnikov. Sadly, it wasn’t actually an AK-47. It was probably an AK-74 or even a newer version of the basic Kalashnikov design, as the gun was stamped “Made in Russia.” The recoil from the Kalashnikov was not as bad as I thought it might be, though I only fired single rounds. I did not hold down the trigger or try it on auto, which I probably should have done, though I’m also not entirely sure if the gun was set up to fire fully on auto or not. I was 20/20 with the Kalashnikov.

The Kalashnikov, probably the most famous gun ever.

The Kalashnikov, probably the most famous gun ever.

The next gun I fired was the PPSh, or the main machine gun of the Soviet Red Army during World War Two. This gun is fairly simple and fires pistol ammunition. Again, I fired only single rounds and didn’t try to use it on automatic. It seems that I only missed one bullet on the target.

One of the guns that won World War II.

One of the guns that won World War II.

After I fired the machine guns, I fired two different rifles, the Dragunov and the Mosin-Nagant. The Dragunov is a Soviet designed, semi-automatic sniper rifle. I was 7/8 with the Dragunov, and was horrendously afraid to fire it. My friend in Ulyanovsk has one, and his wife told me that their elder son is not allowed to fire the Dragunov due to the bad recoil on it. She told me that if it’s not held right, you can break your jaw from the recoil. This fear was only increased by the instructor who warned us about the scope. Because of the recoil, if the scope is too close to your face, the scope can hit your face or eye. I was terrified at first, but then shot it without too much trouble. I did have some issues using the scope and looking through it while also trying to keep my face away from it. I then let Slava fire two bullets from the Dragunov, because he had always wanted to try one, but he had elected only to fire a Mosin.14591675_1154702487949185_4955745673888114101_n

The final gun I fired was a sniper version of the Mosin-Nagant rifle. The Mosin was designed for the Tsarist forces and served dutifully in World War One, the Russian Civil War, and the Second World War. It was the rifle of Soviet snipers during World War II, such as Vasili Zaitsev from the Battle of Stalingrad as well as numerous Soviet female snipers, some of whom had over 300 confirmed kills. Like the Dragunov, the Mosin had quite a bit of kick, and I was again warned not to have the scope too close to my face. I was 6/6 with the Mosin and then allowed Jean-Louis and Jacob to each take two shots with it.

You can see the cartridge ejecting in the photo.

You can see the cartridge ejecting in the photo.


After the excursion to the shooting range, this week has been shaping up pretty well. On Monday I worked through more of my Ulyanovsk files in the military archive. It was business as usual there, but it was confirmed that one of the employees at the reading room window speaks decent English. There were two German women who came to register at the archive. One clearly spoke little to no Russian, and the reading room window woman explained how to order files to her in English. I felt a mixture of being smug for having handled all of my business there in Russian, but also a little peeved that I could have had some frustration relieved at other times because at least someone in theory could explain stuff to me in English.

On Tuesday I worked from my room and then went to Taekwondo as usual. I found out that the boxing coach that I get the locker room key from is Sofya Ochigava, who won a silver medal in boxing at the London 2012 Olympics. She speaks fluent English and is super kind. I hope that one day she might give me a few boxing tips.

Today I worked out of GARF. I worked through my microfilm reels and then went to order a few more documents. Nina Ivanovna again gave me one microfiche folder immediately from the back room. She told me to keep the paper request form in my notebook and to just show it to her when I want to see the file. Per Wendy’s instructions, I also passed on greetings from Wendy and Nina Ivanovna was very happy to hear them. She also seemed to smile when I said that I was Wendy’s student. Hopefully this means I will stay on her good side. I also spent an hour in the side reading room, which has its own, different hours of operation. The same woman works there, Irina, and this time she was also nice to me. Perhaps the staff is just meaner in the summer, but I’ve had only good experiences with the staff this time.

This evening I was invited to Jacob’s host mother’s apartment for blini night. His host mother cooked us a fabulous dinner of chicken cutlets, crab salad, smoked salmon, and blini with butter, sour cream, and red caviar. She also baked us a heart shaped cake with apples in it. Dinner was fantastic, and we had a good conversation for about three hours. She told some good jokes about Russian history, and told me that I have to go to Tyumen to find a good Russian husband. She also remarked that Jacob and I look similar. Evidently Alla liked me, because we are now Facebook friends and she told me to come over again, and frequently.

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