Larry Hoagland fires off several rounds from a Glock pistol, while Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Troy Hawkins looks on at the county law enforcement firing range on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Larry Hoagland fires off several rounds from a Glock pistol, while Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Troy Hawkins looks on at the county law enforcement firing range on Tuesday. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
With his shaky hands wrapped around a 9 mm Glock, Larry Hoagland took a deep breath, aimed the gun at a paper target 10 feet down range and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

Hoagland was a little rusty. He was handling a gun for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half. But once the 73-year-old got his first shot off at the target, he was back to feeling just like a young gun.

Health issues this past year have prevented Hoagland from handling a gun. Last year the avid hunter started going to Thornton Terrace in Hanover for rehab, and he wound up living at the facility.

Hoagland was having trouble walking and said he kept falling down. He's now bound to a wheel chair.

When Thornton Terrace's Activity Director Sheryl Burke and her assistant, Sonya Watson, found out Hoagland is a gun lover, they knew he would be a perfect fit for the facility's Live a Dream program.

Through Live a Dream, staff members are encouraged to find things that residents have never done, but always wanted to do, or would like to do one more time, and help arrange it.

Hoagland wanted to go hunting one more time. While the staff didn't think that would be safe, they wanted to find a way to let Hoagland shoot again.

"He's a really special guy. We all love Larry," Burke said.

Burke and Watson contacted Jefferson County Sheriff John Wallace who arranged for Hoagland to spend part of an afternoon at the Madison Police and Sheriff's Department gun range on the hilltop.

Wallace also made Hoagland an honorary deputy for the day, presented him with a hat and shirt, and gave him a police escort to the gun range.

"He was thrilled to be coming over here," Burke said.

After his initial trouble with the Glock, Hoagland settled in and fired off several rounds.

He was beaming after emptying his clip.

"Absolutely (I'm excited,)" he said. "I could pee my pants right now."

After a round with the Glock he moved on to a 45- caliber Kimber, which he said felt a little more comfortable. Sgt. Troy Hawkins, a firearms instructor for the Sheriff's Department, loaded the handguns for Hoagland and walked him through using the weapons.

During his second time firing, Hoagland ended up hitting the target twice at dead center.

"Hey, Lar, you got him right in the ticker," Wallace told him. "That's some pretty dog-gone good shooting."

Hoagland said he fell in love with guns when he joined the Navy in the 1950s, and he's been a gun enthusiast ever since.

"We used to throw plastic milk cartons off the ship. They would break out some small arms or whatever and we'd get to shoot at them occasionally," Hoagland said.

While Hoagland had never shot at the police range before, it wasn't his first time trying to get in. When he was younger, he tried to shoot at the range, but was told it wasn't open to the public.

"I've tried to get in here before," he said. "So this was a thrill."