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'Rattled' reporter compares shooting an AR-15 to a 'meteor' strike: 'It was exhilarating'

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Reporter Kevin McCallum is making headlines for his recent story for Vermont's Seven Days, in which he described his very first experience at the state's first indoor shooting range.

In the article, the self-described "not a gun guy" detailed how he was "rattled" when he first shot an AR-15, a moment he described as similar to a meteor striking the earth.

What are the details?

McCallum began the article by admitting the last time he used a firearm was more than 35 years ago when he "squeezed off a few rounds from an old .22 rifle at summer camp."

"Nor have I felt the impulse to own a gun for personal protection, whether due to privilege or delusion or both," he wrote. "I've also figured, rightly or wrongly, that owning a gun — statistically speaking — would tend to make my family's home less safe, not more."

Recalling the moment he first entered the shooting range, he continued, "[O]ne novel feature caught my attention: firearms for rent. I've rented cars and skis and stand-up paddle boards — even a snowmobile once — but I'd never heard of a place where you could walk in, plunk down a credit card, and minutes later be firing an assault rifle."

Owner Henry Parro told McCallum that the new range — a whopping 20,000 square feet and which is said to resemble an "elaborately refurbished dairy barn or tourist welcome center" — was designed to be a "destination."

"We're going to be drawing people from all over the Northeast," he said. "We already are."

McCallum said that Parro hopes to "break through the fear factor surrounding guns" — which he said is mainly manufactured by the media — by cultivating an airy and open retail space that permits hands-on displays and try-before-you-buy opportunities in order to make comfortable firearm enthusiasts and novices alike.

What did he do next?

He then recalled his experience at the range.

"To experience the offerings of this temple to the Second Amendment, I paid for a lane for an hour ($18)," he wrote. "I rented a Ruger 9mm pistol and a high-powered, semiautomatic AR-15-style rifle made by a company called Heckler & Koch ($35 each)."

Pointing out that Parro and his staff reject the term "assault rifle" as "inflammatory and imprecise," McCallum said that he moved on to trying the AR-15 after firing the pistol.

"While the pistol was manageable, even comfortable to hold and fire, the rifle was a different beast altogether," he admitted. "Everything about it — its weight, tactical scope and overall lethality — was downright intimidating."

McCallum said, "When ready, I lined up the target in the cross hairs, pulled the stock onto my shoulder, squeezed the trigger and — BA-BOOM!!!!! It is difficult to describe the impact — physical and personal — of that first shot. It felt like a meteor had struck the earth in front of me. A deep shock wave coursed through my body, the recoil rippling through my arms and right shoulder with astounding power. Being that close to an explosion of such magnitude — controlled and focused as it was — rattled me."

He concluded, "It was exhilarating, but I never got comfortable firing it. I'm not sure what scared me more — the power of that weapon or the fact that I could have taken one home that day."

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