Rambolina

It's ladies' night at the shooting range.

Marisol, a lovely Latina with sleek brown hair, blended bangs, and skintight jeans, saunters down a quiet hallway when, suddenly, she stumbles. Perhaps it's because she's wearing stilettos. Or maybe it's that her husband is dragging her by the wrist.

No. Most likely it's due to the fact that she's distracted by a beast of a semiautomatic weapon called an FN FS2000 that's hanging on a wall at Ace's Indoor Shooting Range & Pro Gun Shop (2105 NW 102nd Pl., Doral, 305-717- 3277). The place reminds me of a scene from Rambo. Or Scarface. Or maybe even Iron Man — if Iron Man popped a 'roid, stepped on a land mine, and had all of his lethal bits — pistols, AK-47s, and wrist cannons — mounted neatly on a wall.

Just as Marisol regains her balance, the blast of a rifle abruptly sounds.

"I don't want to do this," she says.

A few minutes later, hubby, who sports week-old beard scruff and a Miller-time gut, hands his trophy lady a pair of clear plastic shades, earmuffs, and a semiautomatic Glock.

After a 10-second tutorial, Marisol aims at a target and squeezes the trigger.

Bam!

The recoil flings her girly arms back, forcing her to sock herself in the nose. She drops the gun. Men scurry around fretfully, hoping to avoid a stray bullet. A staffer sweeping shells berates hubby. Hubby yells at Marisol and again gives her the gun.

She takes a deep breath, aims, and starts popping away like Angelina Jolie's stunt double.

A few minutes later, hubby throws his arm around her shoulders as they leave the range. "That made me feel ... good," she says. "You know, tough."

Eleven to 18 million American women own guns, by one estimate. There's enough female interest that the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., has for almost two decades published a magazine called Women & Guns. And just a few weeks ago, when considering a handgun ban in our nation's capital, the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional to deny Americans the right to bear arms.

Thursday is Ace's ladies' night, but few of the feminine persuasion are here tonight. Why? Could it be Grey's Anatomy?

"I'm not sure," says Jose, the night manager, who claims the typical ratio between the sexes is 70 percent men to 30 percent women. "Maybe it attracts men looking for women who like to shoot guns."

Richard, a 21-year-old with long, frizzy hair and plugs in his lobes, has his own philosophy: "It could be because of the recoil. I know my girlfriend doesn't like it."

Richard's friend Saul, a skinny 17-year-old with moppy hair and a jailbait smile, walks by carrying a poster-size paper target under his arm. When the target unfolds, it's nothing but a turban, floating above a flurry of bullet holes. "It was bin Laden," he explains. "But not anymore!"

Turns out Osama bin Laden is the only target with a face approved by the NRA.

"If I could, I'd like to shoot at Fidel Castro instead," Saul says.

What would you think of a girl shooting at Castro?

"That'd be hot," Saul admits. "A girl with a gun is powerful. Instead of me saving her, she can save me, you know, in case of an emergency."

Is there anything sexier? According to AskMen.com: wet nurses with guns.

"Yeah," Saul says with his signature smirk. "A girl driving a fast car. I once raced a girl for a phone number and won."

A few minutes later, I rent a .22 caliber, walk into lane number one, and struggle to load my pistol's magazine. Paul, a thirtysomething in loosened business attire, comes to my rescue. He gives me a few pointers on how to aim, and soon I actually hit the target. It's not a great shot, but the fluorescent green ring that appears around the bullet hole helps me get closer to the bull's-eye.

I ask Paul, who got into shooting after serving in the National Guard, about his favorite target.

"Maybe Elmo," he says.

I like Paul.

He tells me a story. "I once overheard a co-worker bragging about how his son, a soldier over in Iraq, finally killed someone. He kept on talking about how his kid was so proud of himself," Paul says, crossing his arms in front of his chest and clenching his jaw. Then his eyes soften. "A week later, my co-worker's son was killed."

Paul introduces me to his friends — all men — who have been meeting at the range on Thursdays for the past two years.

"Women come and go around here," says Walter, a good ol' boy with a solid sense of humor. "Thursdays just fit into everyone's schedules."

I ask Walter and his friend David, a tall, rough-looking man who resembles Walter, what kind of targets they'd choose.

"Because of my first daughter — Cookie Monster," David says after some coaxing. "And because of my second daughter — Barney."

"Jeffrey Dahmer," Walter says without missing a beat. "First I'd shoot off all his fingers and toes; then I'd aim right between the legs. And once he was really suffering, I'd shoot him between the eyes."

A hot shell lands on my collarbone. I quickly sweep it off.

"Good thing you did that," David says. "That happened to my daughter once, and she ended up with a blister in her cleavage."

Has that happened to any other ladies?

"A sorority of 20 from FIU came in once for an initiation," Walter remembers. "They had no idea what they were doing, but I don't think they cared. They just wanted to shoot guns all over the place." Their collective boobies, all 40 of them, survived unscathed.

"Women are usually better first-time shots than men," Paul says. "I think it's because they're more empathetic. Guys are sometimes blinded by machismo."

Just then, Megan, a 23-year-old newbie with full lips and blue-green eyes that match her elaborately beaded turquoise necklace, pulls the trigger of a .22 pistol. As the bullet hits a target and her pretty eyes open wide, a scorching shell flies up and tangles itself in her necklace.

"That was awe-ouch!" she yelps.

And as the boys and I fumble through her aqua beads and dig in pockets and duffle bags for Band-Aids, all I can think is: Hot!

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