What You Feel When You Shoot

Bearing Arms links to a study that tries to understand how new shooters feel when they fire a gun for the first time.

Firing a gun can be startling. In response, first-timers can experience a fight-or-flight response – the body’s way of automatically responding to what it perceives could be mortal danger.

I remember the first time I shot in an indoor range, and I remember being startled by the noise, but I think that’s more aptly classified as the startle response. Even today, I can get that from gun fire if I’m not expecting it. But I’ve not experienced any of the feelings he mentions here.

The initial response and come-down that follows can lead to a strong sense of pleasure and reward in some people.

“That rush of serotonin feels good,” Fleming said. “A lot of people don’t like being scared, but there are people who like to jump out of aeroplanes or bungee jump.”

However, Fleming noted that most professional shooters he’s met – primarily police officers and military personnel – aren’t adrenaline junkies and espouse a “healthy respect for guns.”

Maybe people who don’t have that reaction are the ones who get into shooting.

8 thoughts on “What You Feel When You Shoot”

  1. I actually don’t remember the first time I shot a gun and how I reacted. But I do know that as recently as last week I jumped at the sound of a gun shot at the range. But that’s just the startle response, that’s it.

    I haven’t felt any of the other feelings mentioned their either. Of course there is some excitement, because shooting is fun. But I think riding a roller coaster is way more “exciting”. Its a different feeling. I never felt a “danger” or “fight or flight” feeling.

    Seems like this person is reading in to things for an agenda.

  2. All I know is the first time my kid shot my .357 686+. There was an oooh, an ahh, and then a grin.

    It was a huge mistake because now the .22 does not get much use. The .22 would be a lot cheaper, and tamer. Its not merely the adrenaline, although I think that is part of it.

    There is a sense of accomplishment and immediate gratification of hitting what you are aiming at. Plus, being able to control yourself while the adrenaline is dumping. You really have to concentrate and focus. My oldest reports target practice as “relaxing” even when shooting the 686+

  3. I noted that all the things he describes are normal reactions in new situations or to combat/stress whether a gun is involved or not.

    Also the individual interviewed is not a ‘Neuroscientist’, he’s a psychologist.

    Definitely an agenda driven piece.

  4. I started with .22 rifles at Boy Scout camp. I remember being let down by the barely noticeable recoil and snap rather than a “bang”.

  5. I teach Hunter Safety, and probably about 10 percent of the kids (and adults) haven’t fired a gun before. We start them on .22’s on Range Day. The usual result is to be all tensed up for the first shot, followed by a big smile when they see it’s really easy to do.

  6. The first time I fired a gun was my dad’s 16ga. I was about 8. I think my dad thought it would knock me down. It didn’t and I was surprised then proud it didn’t.

  7. I punch paper for the same reason my father plays golf.
    It’s zen. It’s just you and the club/ball and the hole. No excuses. Just you.

    Same for me at the range. Just me, the gun and the target. Relaxing, sight picture, breathing, slow steady squeeze. Stress from a busy day leaving the body.

    What’s not to like?

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