An afternoon at Autrey's

Tue, 06/24/2008 - 12:10pm
By: The Citizen


When summer time hits and the high school ball fields are empty, the sports pages need to be filled. We receive news of little league baseball teams, soccer teams, roller hockey teams, swimmers, golfers, drivers of all ages and track athletes. In addition to all of these stories, my colleague Kevin Wandra and I have started a summer tradition of challenging each other to sporting activities around the county and seeing how we stack up. Last year, we went miniature golfing at DixieLand Fun Park. I won the first course and Kevin won the second, also eking out a one-stroke overall win.

Click here to see Mike and Kevin at Autrey's Armory

This year, we decided to up the ante. We wanted more challenges and we wanted to try some activities that neither of us were very familiar with. We decided to start with competitive shooting.

When Autrey’s Armory in Fayetteville first opened, I met with owner Ben Autrey and did a story. Ben let me take a gun out on the indoor shooting range and try my hand. I did pretty good, nailing that silhouette in numerous vital organs. But I didn’t pick up a gun again until last week. Kevin had never fired a gun so we had Ben walk us through the whole procedure from loading the gun to firing it safely. He showed us a Glock 9-mm, gave us protective glasses and headphones and we were off to the range.

I was selected to fire first and I was a little jumpy. I anticipated a loud bang coming from the gun and it didn’t disappoint. What did disappoint me was how far from the bulls-eye on the circular target I was. There was no consistency.

Then Deadeye came up. Kevin was comfortable with a firearm in his hand, almost like he had been waiting his whole life to hold a weapon. As if he were starring in a version of the film “Juice,” set in his native New Jersey, Kevin fired a number of shots with a comfortable and relaxed demeanor, clustering his shots together and much closer to the bulls-eye than I did.

“I think the FBI will be calling you soon, Kevin, asking you to join up,” I said. Ben shook his head and said, “No, that’s more like Secret Service shooting there.”

My confidence completely destroyed, I vowed to have a better showing on the fresh target and it was nominally better. I did have one shot an inch away from the bulls-eye (the closest of either of us, I think), but Killer Kevin bested me again.

Overall, the indoor gun range at Autrey’s was a lot of fun and also very informative. Ben knows and loves his products, his customers and his store.While I didn’t win the competition, I did learn a lot about gun safety and the Glock itself. If you are interested in guns, gun safety or testing your mettle on the range, drop by or visit them on the web at to see when the next competition is.


I always enjoyed playing with toy guns as a young kid; running around and taking out imaginary Commies in my small backyard in Jersey with a plastic AK-47 bought from Toys R Us was part of my childhood fun.

Once I hit my teenage years, I put the toy guns away and never thought twice about actually shooting a real gun. I felt guns were too violent.

Hearing the firsthand stories of two of my best friends in Jersey being held at gunpoint on two separate occasions helped my disdain for guns grow significantly.

But I recently wondered if I decided to try firing a gun at a shooting range, would I enjoy it, and would my feelings toward guns as a whole change?

With the end of the high school sports season upon us, my editor, Michael Boylan, came up with the idea of setting up a summer challenge each week; we would compete against each other in a wide variety of events.

He asked me for some ideas for our weekly challenges. One of the first that came to mind was firing guns.

Autrey’s Armory, Inc., a gun shop and shooting range in Fayetteville, has been one of The Citizen’s longtime advertisers. Mike thought we could learn more about guns and set up a showdown at Autrey’s Armory.

Thanks to Ben Autrey, owner of Autrey’s Armory, our first challenge of the summer was scheduled for Thursday of last week.

When Mike and I entered the shop, we walked every corner of the store, viewing the impressive (and vast) collection of weapons, including every gun imaginable.

Mike quoted Clint Eastwood from “Dirty Harry” as he drooled over the wide array of revolvers, and I became enthralled with the prettiest bunch of black beauties since Halle Berry, Beyonce and Nia Long: the Glock collection.

After strolling around the store for a few minutes, we met Autrey, and he took us aside and described each and every detail of loading and firing a Glock 9mm, the gun I chose for us to shoot and the one we would be firing later in the store’s indoor shooting range.

Once our brief lesson concluded, we strapped on our protective headphones and glasses, and it was off to the indoor shooting range.

I must admit, I was nervous. I was worried that I might accidentally drop the gun and shoot myself, Mike or someone else. Heck, I already lost the tip of my right ring finger in an ice skating accident last year. I wanted to keep all my limbs intact.

And I certainly didn’t want to accidentally gun down Mike, leaving his wife without her husband and his kids without their father. (Message to Mike: wearing a Boston Red Sox or Patriots hat or shirt probably would have increased the likelihood of that “accidentally” happening. Just kidding, buddy.)

Once inside the shooting range, I told Mike he should shoot first. I impatiently waited to see how Mike, who, unlike me, had experience shooting a gun — he blasted away at Autrey’s on one previous occasion — would do shooting the target set up by Autrey.

Mike and I each got to practice firing our weapons before our official showdown; both of us fired five practice rounds.

Mike was up first. While recording Mike with our video camera, I noticed three things right away: the small fire emitted from the barrel of the gun, shell casings flying out of the Glock and Mike’s target, which had holes from top to bottom.

It was then my turn, and, surprisingly, once I loaded my gun and held it firmly in my hands, I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be, even after Autrey told me, loudly, to move my left thumb down (it was another case of my darn fingers getting in the way).

The gun felt comfortable in my hands. I felt a special relationship developing. (Don’t get jealous, Dawn, you’re still my No. 1, baby.)
I focused intently on the target and fired my first shot. It left a hole inside one of the circles in the target.

“Hey, at least I hit the target,” I said to myself. My next four practice shots also hit the target, and each crept closer to my goal, hitting the bull’s-eye.

Mike and I were ready to do battle. We each had 10 rounds to fire.

Again, Mike was up first, and once he completed his “Dirty Harry” experience, we examined his target, filled from top to bottom with holes, including one that came awfully close to nailing a bull’s-eye.

It was time for me to wrap me hands around the black beauty again, and I was ready to win our duel with a hail of well-placed bullets. I wanted to make my target look like a piece of Swiss cheese.

Shot after shot, I enjoyed the sound of the gun unloading bullets and the shells scattering across the floor. And, more important, my last few shots were consistently near the bull’s-eye, eliciting a “good job” from Autrey.
Mike was impressed, as well, giving me a new nickname, “Deadeye Dick.” He also mentioned I should work for the FBI. I’ll stick to the much safer field of journalism.

I won our competition, but I was happier to experience something exciting that I probably would have been afraid to attempt a few years ago.

Many thanks to Autrey, who eased my fears and made shooting a gun an experience I will remember for a lifetime.

I wouldn’t call myself a gun lover now. I am, however, considering eventually purchasing a Glock so I can have more memorable moments at the shooting range.

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