Orlando – Florida mall and shooting (not photography!)

My flight back to the UK was a 18:30 on Wednesday afternoon, meaning we had some time to do a bit of sightseeing. We all strolled down to the Florida Mall in Orlando. It’s biiiiiiiig, well, big compared to what we get in the UK. I was surprised by a few things; namely nothing seemed to open before 10am. We arrived around 9:30 and most shops were still closed! This (fortunately!) limited any expensive purchases

M&M’s World – more on that in a bit!


Wandering around, I found a photography studio. The lady was charming and most welcoming so we had a nice chat and I was particularly interested to compare how the business side was run; I was rather surprised to see how expensive their premises’ monthly rental costs – it was not cheap! And apparently, this was the “cheaper” side of the mall; get a place near the central food court and the prices skyrocket even more! The quality of their work looked really good, and they’re set up to do some nice bunny shots (easter coming round the corner!). Check them out on their facebook page.

The rest of the mall looked decidedly bland so I allured by an overdose of colour, I headed back to m&m’s where I was able to “get some colo(u)r while I was in Orlando” 🙂

The choice was rather impressive. We don’t get quite such a selection here in the UK, and I found one of the rather nice sales girls and asked how successful they were as a business selling nuclear-coloured chocolate / peanut shells. “Very much” was the answer, and when I commented how we don’t get anything like this in the UK, she quickly pointed out that m&m’s were going to open a store somewhere in London in a place that she said “I think it’s some name like leicester square. Do you know where that is?” :O

She then said that our colours wouldn’t be quite so bright and colourful. Something to do with our EU health and safety laws prohibiting the use of certain artificial colourings in our foods! Oh well, that’s a shame! Note: I didn’t boost the colours or saturation in these; the retina-burning colours of all those m&m’s are realistic!

From outside, it didn’t look quite so exciting.

I’m no videographer maestro, but thought I’d try and get a snippet of how many flavo(u)rs there are. I guess I was reminded of Charles’ Swiss Chocolate Factory video we put together back in Lugano!


Walking back to the car, we did spot some lovely examples of US motoring.

The US version of the Mini estate. It’s about three times the size and made by Ford.

No trip to the US would be complete without a shot of Orlando’s finest motor vehicles. In the evenings, we did hear the ol’ sirens go off every now and then. I was just waiting for Brucey or Arney to appear round the corner brandishing their peice, but it was not to be. More on pieces below…

Orlando is home of course to Cape Canaveral and NASA’s main launching base for the Shuttle. And they’re proud of it too! Although I do find it slightly odd that the two Shuttles listed are the ones that blew up on take off and didn’t make it through re-entry… Maybe the VIN is an acronym of some sort.

As we left the mall, there was one last thing we wanted to do before coming back: fire off a few rounds at a local gun range as this is certainly not something easily done in the UK or EU. A Dutch colleague had done his homework and found Oak Ridge Gun Range which was conveniently on the way back to the hotel 🙂

The four of us walked in. A nice gentleman greeted us, we said we wanted to try out a gun or two before heading back to the UK. “Sure thing, that’s no problem. Have you ever fired a gun before?” We all looked at each other and responded “no, not really”.

“Well, that’s no problem, any idea what you’d like to try? You can fire pretty much anything you see here!” Wow we thought! I wouldn’t mind a go at that M60 on the wall 😀 In the end, we followed his advice and went for a .357 Magnum, the iconic revolver used by Clint and many others.

The really scary bit for us was that we only had to sign a disclaimer, hand over some form of photo ID (our EU driving licences were fine), and he just handed over the weapon with a bag of 50 .38 special rounds and said off you go. There was a very brief “you hold it like this”, but that was it. :O

Magnum ready to be loaded

Taking aim. It was just like Hollywood Police training scenes. Clip on your target (the one we took seemed the most reasonable of the lot available!), then hold down the button to move the target down the range. You can chose how far away you want it to go. I think I put it to about 20 metres.

Quick snippet. Ear defenders most definately required especially with the echo in the room!

As there were four of us, and we had 50 rounds in total, it worked out really well – each of us had two full 6-round chamber’s worth of shooting 🙂

Marking up the kills.

Of course there are rules to follow for everyone’s safety. I particularly like 7 and 10. Maybe 7 doesn’t apply in Texas and 10 prevents you from going in after being out on the piss. Shame really…

Being civilised, we tidy up and put our spent casings in the bucket.

The whole experience was (worryingly) enjoyable and there’s an addictive quality in wanting to perfect your accuracy. I even contemplated buying one as a souvenir – there’s no lack of choice (only joking!).

The last thing that surprised me was in Florida, if you want a shotgun, then you don’t need a licence; a licence is only required for a small hand pistol! :O Apparently, that’s because the licence is a licence to carry a concealed weapon which is kind of difficult to do with a pump action shotgun!

Also, all of the shotguns on display weren’t chained: you could pick them up and have a play. Of course they’re all empty and there’s a security lock preventing you from pulling the trigger. Still, nice selection to have a play with. And if I go back and find time to go to a range, I might just try one. It’s a hell of a thrill.

As we left, an amusing thought suddenly dawned on me: we were about to hop onto an intercontinental flight. Our bags and clothes would be stinking of explosives, cordite, and whatever other residues those lovely dogs at airports are trained to sniff and pick up. To make things even more entertaining, I kept my target and brought it back with me in my suitcase. I suppose that might have required some explaining had I been sniffed out and had my bags searched…

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