There are plentiful types of interesting experiences one can try out each day. Be it new hobbies or skills we want to learn, it’s good to know what we are getting into between actually engaging with them. This goes double when you are considering recreational shooting as your next experience. While it’s easy to get carried away and assume you won’t be surprised by gunfire, assuming that it can’t be that much different than seeing it on screen, the reality of the situation is far different. It doesn’t even matter how you usually act in cases of high stress because shooting a gun is a very unique experience for our organism.
It can cause some unexpected physical and mental reactions that first-time shooters could get scared by, which is why we’ve decided to cover the most important ones. That way, you won’t be caught off guard and can rationalize the sudden effects your body generates.
1. The initial reactions could be discouraging
While you may have firmly decided that you do want to shoot the gun, your body’s subconscious reaction may be quite different. One of the frequent responses our body has when shooting a gun is entering a fight-or-flight response. This is how our body usually reacts to danger, the loud sound of the gunshot and sudden release of force are more than enough to trigger this in people who’ve never been around guns before. Even standard models like Glock 19, Glock 19 gen 3, and Glock 19 gen 4 can cause this reaction despite the latter generations being easier on new users.
Not only will the novice shooter be startled after their first shot, their brain will also immediately react by releasing certain chemicals. These include adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and others which can lead to intense emotions. They can also provoke a sudden surge of anxiety, so make sure to simmer down after shooting.
Even experienced shooters can get these responses after years of training so do not be too flustered. You should also not feel embarrassed about it, the staff and other people at the shooting range had similar experiences and will be happy to help you get more comfortable with shooting.
2. Heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing go up
Following up on the fight-or-flight response, we get the additional effects that affect our body. The idea of the whole response is to give us a fighting chance even in the most fruitless of situations. However, while the initial aspect of fight-or-flight response relies on spiking our body with hormones, it also draws some automatic reactions. One such is faster breathing which is meant to get enough oxygen throughout our body for the sake of achieving top performance.
This makes our heart work a lot harder, causing it to beat quickly. The blood pressure goes up a lot from this as it rapidly pumps blood to support our muscles. Needless to say, these effects can be rather terrifying for somebody to just suddenly experience. To some people who already have issues with either breathing or heart, it can cause excessive discomfort and even trigger their health issues. Make sure you don’t have any conditions that could be adversely affected by shooting a gun before stepping into the range.
3. Your palms will get sweaty and your pupils will dilate
The responses we’ve covered aren´t the only actions our body takes when something pushes us into this distressed state. Our hands will also start to sweat, regulating heat that spikes due to the faster heartbeat and all the other stimulation our body feels during fight-or-flight. We will also start to feel our senses become a lot more aware, with the physically noticeable trait of our eyes widening their pupils. This is done as another part of the whole process that’s supposed to keep us safe and aware. This eye change is supposed to improve our ability to detect dangers within our area, especially under conditions where light is scarce.
While sweaty palms won’t distress you all too much the heightened senses could. Once they are coupled with other side effects, the sudden change in vision can result in a fight-or-flight response persisting longer than it usually would. If your eyes are usually sensitive, closing them may be a good call, it will allow them to rest and avoid being stressed out while these effects last.
4. Latter responses are a lot more positive
Once your body has gone past the initial shock of firing a gun, things start to calm down. Your heart rate will normalize and you won’t feel intense emotions anymore. It will allow your body to calm down after the spike, even though the sudden increase in chemicals will persist for a while. This feeling can be a lot more pleasing as the imbalance is slowly being corrected, hitting that sweet spot of positive chemicals affecting us rather than the excess of all the mixed hormones causing negative effects.
The rush of serotonin during the shooting can invoke a similar feeling as doing extreme sports. Although that feeling will become less intense the more often you shoot, the whole experience is still rather pleasurable. After some time, the thrill of a new experience gets replaced by the thrill of getting good at a skill. As your training sessions go by, you’ll note a sharp improvement in accuracy which is pretty satisfying. That’s why sticking with the recreational shooting is worth the initial shock.
5. Stress relief
Just like with other high-intensity actions, shooting a gun can be a great source of stress relief. While the act of shooting and aiming requires a lot of focus, it also allows that focus to create an incredibly relieving sensation once the trigger is pulled. As you get less and less startled by guns, the action of shooting them can become extremely good for dealing with stress.
As we’ve seen, the initial reactions to shooting a gun can be very overbearing but if you stick around the effects turn for the better. What’s truly important is that you are certain there won’t be adverse effects on your health. Check with trained physicians if the side effects of shooting a gun are too harsh on your body. It’s good to consult people in the shooting range as well, they could have some advice on how to make the initial reactions less extreme. After getting through the initial backlash, you’ll become able to spend some great time at the shooting range without the side effects affecting you much.