You are quite busy, dear website enthusiast. It’s summertime and there are not enough weekends for Pool Parties and ‘Coolouts’ and BBQs and softball or kickball or whatever it is that you find yourself doing when the days are filled with sunshine and the nights are hot and sweaty. Yet, something remains unfulfilled, doesn’t it? There is this irresistible draw towards Northern Virginia, isn’t there? Like you just might be missing something across the Potomac. It seems like just last week that big, bad HBO stole our dreams of summer nights spent enjoying classic films on the mall, right as some fatcats in Crystal City ‘saved the day’ with their Super Hero Outdoor Film Festival. Big loss for the District, big win for NOVA. Maybe there’s something really special about that land of milk & honey that lies just on the other side of the Potomac River.
I know what you’re thinking, though: “Northern Virginia is enormous. The breadth and scope of it’s cultural heritage is remarkable. The number of different cities and towns is wide and varying. It’s landmarks are many. It can’t possibly be seen in its in entirety in 15 months, let alone 15 minutes!” Once again, grasshoppers, we are here to argue that, YES YOU CAN see/do/hear something in 15 minutes, and we’re here to show you how.
But why, you might ask, would I spend 15 minutes of my hard earned time leaving the relative safety and comfort of my home in the District to venture out into the wilds of NOVA?
It’s very simple, boys and girls: GUNS.
Guns. Great big, fancy guns. Little tiny guns. Guns with silencers. Guns with clips. If there’s one thing that really separates the District from the Commonwealth, it’s the guns.
Unfortunately, Brock Boss, my usual ’15 minutes’ compatriot, is tending to some sort of official business over the pond in London and couldn’t make it this month. So for this installment, I enlisted the help of my brother (Ryan Jetton) and the lovely Victoria Contreras. And, as always, dear reader, enjoy the photo prowess of Mr. Dakota Fine.
Blue Ridge Arsenal is located in Chantilly, VA, roughly 35-40 minutes outside of the District. It’s owned by a guy named Earl Curtis. He’s a great dude and he voted for Obama. That’s right, the owner of a gun store voted for Obama, which makes a lot of nutcases quite angry (as evidenced by some of the haterade on the internets).
From some crazy gun-nut website: “Please do NOT go to Blue Ridge Arsenal. The owner of BRA voted for Obama. Yes, I know that’s hard to believe, but the owner of a gun store actually did vote for Barack Hussein Obama. I know a number of people that have boycotted Blue Ridge because of this. Go to the NRA Headquarters Range in Fairfax. It’s a very nice range and it’s cheaper to shoot there!”
Seriously, all the more reason to go to Blue Ridge, that guy who wrote that won’t be there.
Now, 15 minutes is a relatively short amount of time when you are dealing with a stockpile of weaponry this large. You can pretty much rent whatever you need to rent to satisfy your urge to feel like a true Virginian. You are going to have to move quickly, though. You might want to do a bit of prep work, studying up on the laws of the region. For instance, with a bit of research, you’ll know that Virginia allows unlicensed open carry of a handgun that has a capacity of twenty rounds or fewer, unthreaded barrel and no collapsible stock (most handguns fall under this category). ‘Open carry’ defined as the gun’s true nature is not “hidden from common observation” (wording per VA State Police website).
You’ll probably want to get an instructor, too, if you haven’t shot before. Blue Ridge Arsenal has an ‘army’ of qualified professionals to help you get the maximum amount of firepower during your range visit. We’ll call it getting the most ‘bang for your buck’. Zing. We were put in the talented, capable hands of Mr. Brandon Mawyer. Ask for Brandon.
You’ve got your instructor, now just a few more items that you’ll need and you’re ready to find out why Virginia is for lovers.
Eyewear: you’ll most certainly need proper eyewear if you are going to hit the range. You can bring your own as long as the lenses are not made of glass. Otherwise, the stock rifle glasses will do. But we suggest opting for something in a purple or yellow tint, perhaps by Esprit.
Earwear: guns = loud. Really loud. Louder than that time Animal Collective played 9:30 club for the Strawberry Jam tour and all of your friends were plugging their ears because the bass was popping their eardrums. And your one friend left with his wife halfway through the show even though you guys all got free tickets because one of your friends is in the band. You get the picture. Loud. B.R.A. provides the eargoggles. They’re pretty damn fashionable. Kind of like DJ headphones without the cord.
Target: this is quite an important step in your pre-range preparation. The choice of target is a difficult one. My first inclination was to choose the standard ‘black silhouette’ that brings back memories from so many 80′s cop movies. But really, it’s difficult to say no to ‘Osama Bin Zombie.’ Take a good 30 seconds to a minute and really make your decision wisely.
Guns: at Blue Ridge, you get a choice of about 15 different guns to choose from. We asked our instructor to just suprise us with a few different ones. You’ll probably want to spend a few minutes really pondering what type you want to shoot. Prices vary. Some restrictions may apply. Unfortunately I forgot to write down the make and model of each of the guns that we shot, but you’ll have fun choosing your own.
You’ve got your gear, your guide and your guns, and that should have only taken about three minutes. Are you ready to enter the range?
Victoria was instructed to bring proper footwear as a safety precaution along with the eyeglasses and ear protection. Although some Washingtonians might not be aware, every Virginian knows that proper footwear for a female when shooting automatic weapons is high heels.
Saunter on up to the range slot. You’ll get a number. Ask loads of questions of your instructor, he’s there to help.
I’m sure many of you will not have ever shot a gun before. The thought of pulling a trigger probably offends your liberal sensibilities. But, wait, Parker Posey, you might not realize that our nation has a long history of patchouli-wearing peaceniks like yourself loving up on guns like they were two-week old kittens. Susan Sarandon, Jimmy Carter, Alec Baldwin, Bono, Oprah Winfrey and John F. Kennedy Jr. all have been known to pack heat. Jimmy Carter slept with a loaded revolver under his pillow for the first two years of his presidency.**
A side note: if you are left handed, you stand at a distinct disadvantage to your right-handed neighbors. Dammit if the guns don’t empty the burning-hot shells out of the barrel to the right of the gun, bouncing them off the wall and directly at your neck (and possibly down the back of your shirt). And ladies, try not to wear any low-cut shirts as the shells have a tendency to find their way right down your bosoms. Not cool (very hot, actually).
Step into the booth. You’ll need to take some time to load the clip. If you’ve ever put Pez into a Pez Dispenser then you know how to load a clip. For some reason, loading bullets into a gun will give you a giddy feeling inside. Your brain knows that your finger is about to unleash these little suckers out of a piece of steel at a speed of 2700 feet per second. That’s a lot of ground covered.
Normally you wouldn’t fire an automatic weapon at an enemy combatant at close-range. We were asking situational questions, though. Such as ‘what if the U.S. happened to find Osama Bin Laden and kill him (doubtful) and what if it just happened that he is partially revived in a botched voodoo ceremony and made to walk toward some hidden treasure whenever he hears music (am I the only person who has ever seen Weekend at Bernies II?), how would you take him out if he were coming at you with an AK-47 from 3 to 5 feet away?
Good thing we asked, because this is the exact type of situation that Blue Ridge Arsenal instructors are trained to answer:
Once Brandon is done answering SERIOUS questions, he’ll give you some pointers on shooting straight when going full-auto. You don’t want to be looking like a fool, spraying bullets everywhere. It’s almost an art form, killing with precision is:
Take a minute to sweep up your shells. I know that you’ve only got about fifteen minutes to experience Northern Virginia, but there are rules, people. Nobody likes a jerk who leaves a bunch of shit around. And if you don’t follow the rules, they WILL kick you out.
You’re about 11 minutes in after getting a crash-course in shootin’. You’re kinda all growed up and ready to shoot all by yourself. A couple of last second pointers and I think you might be able to waltz back into the shop and take pretty much anything they’ve got for a spin (I highly suggest the AK-47).
It was kind of cute watching Dakota morph from a whiny, hemp-loving, Birkenstock-wearing, Marin County liberal into a guy who ‘definitely wants to own a handgun someday’. I think I heard him say something about possibly getting an Uzi and joining Mossad. Hooray, then I can have TWO friends who are in the Foreign Intelligence Agencies
Pull that target down. It’s a keep-sake. If a coworker is bothering you, you can always sign it and put it up in his/her cubicle after they go home from work. Sends a clear message. Unless you completely missed. Then it’s just embarrassing and awkward.
Survey the damage. It’s not really about where you hit, it’s about where you were aiming. If you were shooting for the heart and you got Osama Zombie right between the eyes (or eyesockets, it looks like he doesn’t have any eyes) don’t congratulate yourself. You were way off.
Love that grill:
You’re almost there, son. 15 minutes is winding down and at this point, you’re probably qualified to do a little teaching of your own. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but in Virginia the shooting range is a hot spot to take a lady friend on a date. Something about the rush of adrenaline getting your girl all ready for romance. We suggest coming to the range a few times by yourself before bringing your crush for some one-on-one instruction.
You’ll want to move in tight to give proper ‘close-range’ pointers. Be sure to advise your pupil on all of the safety information that you’ve learned over the course of your trip(s) to B.R.A.
Remember, though, just when you think you’re an expert, there’s always somebody around the corner with more experience that can show YOU a thing or two. Never get cocky.
I’m really not kidding, this seems to be a well-known date spot in Virginia.
You’re running out of time, Annie Oakley. In fact, you’re probably running out of ammo, too. Maybe only a few bullets left in your cartridge. Time to empty it:
And, you’re done shooting. Pack up your gear and head back to the shop. I know, Duke Nukem, parting is such sweet sorrow and unclutching your hand off that weapon is giving you some serious separation anxiety. Well, since you’ve got a few minutes to spare, ask the boys behind the counter and I’m certain they’ll let you pose with a few of your favorite shooters. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up loving one of them so much you’ll want to take her home with you. These things can be arranged (depending on your local laws).
You’re almost done, Rambo, just take your last remaining moments to play with the in-house dog. His name is Vader. He’s cute as hell. And a real pansy, which is kind of awesome considering he’s a dog who spends most of his time at a gun range.
Yes, all these guns really are for sale:
So there you have it. Thousands of square miles, lots of guns, 15 minutes, one happy customer. Northern Virginia in 15 minutes. Who knew it could be so easy?
A quick sidenote. Dudes were coming in and buying guns like it was Macy’s Memorial Day Sale.
Let’s be honest, all these gun laws are pretty much bullshit. I shouldn’t be able to carry around a handgun any more than I should be able to carry around a bottle of cyanide. Guns are for killing, everyone knows that. Protection, my ass. The situation gets so much more complicated, though, because there are so many people out there who already have them and because our founding fathers actually needed them for protection when they were starting this country. Now they say that Thomas Jefferson was a very forward thinking individual. Way ahead of his time. Yet I still don’t think he could have imagined the type of assault rifle that can spray thirty bullets in less than ten seconds:
But I digress. We weren’t there to make a judgment call on the right to bear arms. We’ll leave that to the comment section. We were strictly there to observe and report. And by observe and report, I kind of mean lock and load.
Blue Ridge Arsenal
14725 Flint Lee Rd # K Chantilly, VA 20151 – (703) 818-0230
More ’15 Minutes’ fun: