January 06, 2005 News » Cover Story

Initiation day at Dragon Arms  

click to enlarge BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott

The tall man was smoking a cigar, gazing stoically into an expanse of exploding dirt.

I approached; we exchange pleasantries. The day's festivities clearly made him proud, Lee Greenwood proud. "Makes you glad you live in a free country, doesn't it?"

The question had all the makings of a political conversation I didn't want to have. So I moseyed on up to the firing range. There, a 40-year-old woman in a red sweater and a smile that could launch a thousand minivans told me she had a crush ... on a vintage 1920s Thompson submachine gun. After unloading a few rounds, she excitedly swiveled 180 to face onlookers, who quickly reminded her that her barrel was pointed in their collective abdomen.


"I love the Thompson. I love it, I love it, I love it!" She squealed with delight.

On the far east side of Colorado Springs is Dragon Arms firing range, paintball playground and military museum complete with its own Nazi wing. On Veterans Day, every year, they dust off their finest guns and artillery and for a small fee let folks shoot till their heart's content. Teenagers with blue hair, middle-aged men by the truckload and me: A New Yorker whose gun experience was limited to those formed by my thumb and index finger.

That was the day I fired my first machine gun: 1,100 rounds per minute they said. That pile of dirt got a lesson it won't soon forget ... and I scared myself into a tizzy. I won't even tell you about the anti-tank cannon.

Next time I try playing "man's man," I think I'll stick to beer and the collected verse of Marshall Mathers.

-- John Dicker


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