Release 7.0: Colorado Springs, 14 Aug 1999

The day after the Milpitas event, I flew to Colorado to do talks for an R&D group at Hewlett-Packard and the Pike's Peak Linux User's Group. The day after the talks, a bunch of us went shooting at a local range called Dragonman's.

Dragonman's is a trip in itself. As you drive up the dirt road from his front gate to the range and the shop, you pass a number of wrecked cars all of which appear to have been extensively shot up by .50-caliber machine guns. The cars are inhabited by plastic mannequins in poses of distress and death, creating an effect poised between macabre and comical. These tableaux are illuminated by signs bearing legends like THIS CUSTOMER DIDN'T BUY ANYTHING, THIS GUY GAVE DRAGONMAN A BAD CHECK, CAUGHT STEALING FROM DRAGON MAN -- SHOT FEB 1 1992 and THIS WOMAN TRIED TO TAKE DRAGONMAN FOR CHILD SUPPORT. Other signs conveyed Dragonman's unique perspective on customer relations and night business.

The entrance to Dragonman's shop looked like a set for a movie version of Farnham's Freehold -- barbed wire and more warning signs. The dominant feature of the interior was a tasteful floor display of tripod-mounted .50-caliber machine guns, quite possibly the same ones with which the cars outside had been shot up. The walls were covered with automatic weapons, assault rifles, shotguns, and sundry other destructive hardware. The overall effect was remarkably tranquil and serene -- you knew there would be no messing with these folks...

Dragonman himself is a burly biker with lots of tattoos, clear intelligent eyes, and a sly sense of humor. We paid our range fee, he sold us a bunch of paper targets featuring pictures of Slobodan Milosevic and Bill Clinton (among others), and we moseyed on out to the range.

The range was run by a cowboy-hatted, revolver-toting older gent with a drawl and an earthy sense of humor straight out of a Zane Grey novel. We quickly discovered that for all his casual air he was damn good at his job; I learned a few techniques (like requiring all shooters to raise their hands before taking the range either hot or cold) that I'll use if I'm ever the range officer myself.

Tim Chambers, the local organizer for my trip, had brought a scoped .213 rifle. The rest of our guns were all pistols; a .22 semiauto, a .22 Magnum revolver, a single-action 9mm semi, and a Glock 9mm subcompact. Then there was the fun gun of the day, provided by Kevin Fenzi (principal author of the Linux Security HOWTO); a .45 "Grizzly" WinMag. This thing is a monster semiauto hand cannon that fires a special long .45 round heavier than ACP. While not quite as rude as a .44 magnum, it is supposed to be able to take out a charging grizzly bear (hence the name).

While I had some fun with the Grizzly, for the first hour or so I didn't hit my stride. I wasn't shooting very well and consequently was not enjoying the proceedings as much as I might have. Not for lack of good company though; my fellow Python fans and co-conspirators Sean Reifschneider and Evelyn Mitchell were with us. Kevin Fenzi turned out to be a big, cheerful, easygoing guy who looks a bit like a Grateful Dead fan and has a lively sense of fun; I liked him on sight. A couple of Tim's friends from HP were along too -- nice people, but I interacted with them less and wasn't able to keep their names straight.

Here's a picture of about half the gang at our bench on the 50-foot range. One of the guys from HP is standing behind the fence. That's Kevin Fenzi with the red hair and me next to him in the black User Friendly gimme-cap (placed in my hands by Illiad himself two days before). Tim Chambers is wearing the sunglasses. And here is Kevin shooting the Grizzly, Sean with the .22 semiauto, and me with the spotting scope.

Things started to pick up when I noticed that the two guys over at the next bench were firing some kind of extremely wicked-looking automatic weapon (in single-shot mode, alas). Now, one of the things I like about gun folks is that they tend to respond well to polite curiosity. If you're respectful and look responsible and don't act like you presume a right to mess with their weapons and their business, they'll often be very open and willing to share not just knowledge but a bit of ammo, too. So I wandered over and looked interested.

Shortly thereafter I found myself shooting single rounds from a genuine, Israeli-made Uzi submachine gun. Pretty interesting, though I found it's harder for me to maintain accuracy with the peep sight on those things than it is with the conventional notch sight on a pistol. So that was my first educational experience of the day.

My second educational experience of the day, and even more fun to boot, was when I discovered bowling pins. I hadn't been doing too well with the paper targets at 50 feet; I had persistent trouble setting up a clean sight picture, I think because the features on the targets just weren't very distinct to my less-than-perfect vision. But then we set up a row of bowling pins. Finally something I could focus on! I had heard of bowling-pin shooting, but never tried it.

I hefted Kevin's Grizzly, took stance -- and downed six pins in nine shots, the first three without a miss. There was a general murmur of admiration, and even the rangemaster allowed as how that was pretty good. I had found my groove. Of course, I then got too attached to my performance despite my best efforts to be Zen about the whole thing, and my accuracy dropped embarrassingly until I managed to calm down a bit.

Suddenly everybody was interested in bowling pins. During the next cold interval, we scrounged a good thirty of them from various resting places all over the pistol range and set up a serried rank in front of the timber baulk at the 50-foot line. When the range went hot again, everybody happily blazed away. At one point I inadvertently double-tapped -- and knocked over two pins! My confession that I hadn't really intended that second shot was greeted with hoots of good-natured derision and ``Suuuure you didn't''.

Amidst general merriment, we reset the pins, took a `before' photo, blew them all down in a hail of pistol fire, and took an `after' photo. The guys at the next bench with the Uzi were grinning. The rangemaster was eying the Grizzly joking about not recalling authorizing any cannons. It was a good day.

We packed up about 1530 and, after some caucusing, repaired to a local Outback Steakhouse for an early dinner. Later we relocated to a local bar/lounge for drinks and conversation well into the evening. Another successful Geeks With Guns for the record.