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Got Testosterone?

Manly men doing manly things

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Spring has sprung, so naturally a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of firearms. Rifles, semi-automatics, automatics - I can feel myself becoming more manly just writing about it. Actually, I haven't fired a gun since I was about 12, when my grandfather took me bird hunting, put a 12-gauge shotgun in my arms, pointed skywards, and imparted the sage advice, "Shoot that way." So I'm not exactly what you'd call an NRA candidate. But no matter, I decided to start off this new Urban Explorer column with a bang — and since our theme this week is "Got Testosterone," what's more machismo than shooting a loaded weapon? (Keep the penis extension jokes to yourself.)

If you want to release your inner Clint Eastwood, Shooters Express in Belmont is a good place to start. They have one of the largest indoor pistol and rifle ranges around, with over 50 different rental guns from .22LR to fully automatics. And, hey, if you're looking for a good alternative to bowling, they also have a Monday Night Pistol League.

There's also FIREPOWER, Inc. in Matthews, which, in addition to having a well-stocked firearm store, has the only public shooting range in Mecklenburg County — a state-of-the-art facility with electronic target retrieval systems, CCTV monitoring and partitioned shooting bays.

But perhaps guns aren't your thing, yet you still crave the feeling of sending potentially deadly projectiles hurtling through the air at great speed. That's easy — truck on over to Barefoot Archery on Old Pineville Road, where owner Jessie Morris or one of his staff members will show you the basics of archery, including testing your accuracy at their 20-yard regulation indoor range. These are no rookies — Barefoot Archery's been around since 1961, and offers both traditional and compound bows, accessories, bow repair, and professional archery instruction. Leam and Dawn Hall visit Barefoot Archery every week for their Tuesday date nights, and they both hit the bullseye from 20 yards out like clockwork. "It sounds corny, but doing this helps make us feel like we're still newlyweds," says Leam, who recently celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary with wife Dawn.

While shooting arrows and guns is cool and all, nothing is more testosterone-fueled than pummeling another guy with your fists. For those looking for a little instruction in the sweet science of boxing, go no farther than Southside Boxing. Owner Joe Mayer, 37, first got into boxing in 1987 and, over the years, competed in various amateur and Golden Gloves competitions. In 1996, he slugged his way to victory in the Kings Mountain Toughman Contest, and started Southside Boxing in 1999. The gym on Tyvola Road isn't your typical pretty boy health club where folks come in wearing coordinated exercise outfits and check out the opposite sex. It looks — and smells — like a real boxing gym. There's a full-size ring, two heavy bags, a speed bag, two double-end bags and a fully equipped weight room. Mayer offers an introductory six-session package, where he first covers the basics — proper footwork, how to throw jabs, straight rights and combinations. Next, he works on body positioning, and how to circle and move around your opponent, while keeping proper distance and form. Finally, he tackles key skills like slipping punches and countering with hooks, uppercuts, body blows and more elaborate combinations. In addition to learning self-defense and boosting your confidence, boxing is a tremendous workout.

If all this weaponry and violence is a bit too much, and yet you're still looking to release some pent-up energy from the long cold winter, why not test your mettle in the batting cages at Celebration Station in Pineville? Out back near the miniature golf course are about a dozen batting cages, where you can choose between softballs or baseballs, and slow, medium, or fast pitches. Give it a shot, you'll be surprised how tuckered out you are after just 20 pitches. Or maybe it was just me. And if you're not completely spent afterwards, you can go next door to Crown Golf Center and get a large bucket of balls for $8 and see if you can drive one out to Tiger Woods-land of 300 yards.

And speaking of balls, you don't really need those testosterone-producing glands to take part in any of these activities. In fact, they're fine for a great girls' night out. But if you're going to the shooting range, I'd save the martinis for afterwards.

Shooters Express, 2 Caldwell Drive, Belmont, 1-800-358-GUNS. Range Rates: $8 per 1/2 Hour; $120 per Hour.

Firepower Inc, 1200 Industrial Drive Matthews, 704-849-2828. Beginners required to take a $59 basic handgun training class before using the range.

Barefoot Archery, 4410 Old Pineville Road, 704-527-1110. Rates: $8 per hour to use bow range; $25 per hour to use range, rent equipment and receive basic instruction.

Southside Boxing for Fitness, 1405 Tyvola Rd., 704-527-8624. Six-session introductory package costs $125. Southside Boxing has a second location at 1111 Hawthorne Lane.

Celebration Station, 10400 Cadillac St., Pineville, 704-552-7888. Prices start at $1.50 for 20 pitches. Cage rentals: $16 for half hour, $22 for an hour.

We're looking for interesting people, places, events and experiences. If you have an idea for the Urban Explorer column, please send it to: sam.boykin@cln.com.

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