Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take a walk to Midtown. I had already taken the Metromover downtown and I was feeling brave. I got two blocks west of Biscayne when I realized I was in serious danger. I don’t know what’s scarier in those parts, the insane drivers or the leering pedestrians looking for a new iPhone. I had no intention of going up on a Tuesday like that, so I turned right around. The experience was a stark reminder that South Florida packs more than just 99 degree heat. Ironically, a few blocks down, you too can get trained in one of Florida’s favorite pastimes: shooting AK-47s like Scarface.
Lock & Load Miami is a shooting range that specializes in machine guns and assault rifles. It’s basically the Wynwood chic version of a normal shooting range. You don’t go there to practice shooting as a hobby; you go there to see what a 9 mm submachine gun feels like when it pops off 25 rounds in 4 seconds. I generally hate guns, gun ownership, and violence. But when my friends from Seattle visited a few years ago and wanted to go to Miami’s highest rated attraction on TripAdvisor, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it. Seriously… it’s #1 in the Fun and Games category. Sorry, Arcade Odyssey and CineBistro. People from Miami like their fun with a lot more recoil than pinball can offer.
I admit, shooting assault rifles actually did end up being pretty fun. And also a little terrifying when you realize these kinds of weapons are on our streets. But I’m not going to get on a soapbox about it. After all, I was there to have a good time. It’s more like a boutique than a gun range. You sit down in their chromed out reception area where all the guns available to shoot are on display for you to hold and play with before actually trying them out. They have a menu of options, a literal menu, where you can choose a pre-determined package which includes three to four guns. Like Miami Spice for assault rifles. You can also supplement any of the packages with their a la carte options.
I chose the Express package which includes a nice variety of guns for you to shoot. When your party is ready, you submit your requests and you wait for them to prepare your ammo. At first, I was a little hesitant about spending $150 (including tax) for something that was going to last less than a minute, but they managed to create an interesting experience out of it. When your guns and ammo are ready for you, you are joined by a specialist who gives you a quick safety briefing while you put on protective eyewear, earplugs, and a set of headphones that block out the sound of gunfire but not voices.
Then you’re brought inside where you actually get to shoot the machine guns, rifles, submachine guns, and handguns of your choice. It’s not a free-for-all. The entire experience is guided by your specialist, who is combat veteran. He (or she) will give you some information about each gun before you shoot it. They may even share their personal experiences with the weapon. And everyone in your party takes turns shooting, so you can all watch each other try out different guns and it doesn’t feel like it was all over in three minutes.
So what does it feel like to shoot one of those monster killing machines? Intimidating, scary, but totally thrilling and fun. First, your guide instructs you on how to load your gun, remove the safety, use the scope if it has one, and then tells you to fire away, He stands behind you, holding his hand at your back to make sure the recoil doesn’t literally knock you off your feet and send your bullets up into the air. Some of the triggers are really sensitive, something which you will be warned about before you pick up your gun. It’s an extremely weird sensation to give something a feathery squeeze and have it explode in your arms. You only have 25 rounds, so after you take one or two practice shots just to see what it feels like, you should empty out the chamber of at least one of your guns in one sitting. Because that’s really where the magic happens.
After you’re done with your rounds, you can opt to try another gun or buy more rounds, in case you’re still in the mood for some carnage. When everyone is ready to go, you get your target, which will be pretty beat up no matter how bad you are at shooting. When you’re using a machine gun, it’s pretty hard to miss. You may end up with a sore shoulder from absorbing the massive recoil, but at least you’re ready for the zombie apocalypse. Or just a regular Tuesday afternoon in Overtown.
If you have a few hours and a couple hundred bucks to kill, I highly recommend the experience. It’s Miami, so you can write it off as survival training on your taxes.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Miami articles on GPSmyCity here.