In her gray suit and sensible shoes, Linda Hooper would blend right in with a crowd of downtown bureaucrats -- if it weren't for the Heckler & Koch MP5A2 submachine gun cradled under her arm.
Special Agent Hooper, indoor range coordinator of the FBI's Pennsylvania Avenue NW headquarters, is the woman behind the firepower show at the end of the tour half a million people stand in line for every year. The H&K is one of four firearms demonstrated in that show.
"We also fire the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, the SIG Sauer 9-millimeter and the new Smith & Wesson 10-millimeter," Hooper says, displaying the revolver and two semi-automatic pistols. She
clips a microphone to her lapel, steps onto the range that's separated from the foot-weary tourists by a glass partition and introduces herself. Murmurs about "how small she is!" (5 foot 3) ripple through the
crowd. That doesn't bother Hooper.
First she plugs away with the noisy .357 Magnum, center-punching a life-size human silhouette target 20 feet downrange with all six shots. A magazine full of 9-millimeter rounds from the SIG Sauer yields similar results -- the bullet holes revealed by backlighting. The 10-millimeter Smith is even more spectacular, with brilliant muzzle flashes punctuating each shot.
But the submachine gun is the obvious crowd pleaser. Hooper lets loose with several bursts from the H&K, and the volley of 9-millimeter slugs
Swiss-cheeses the target before thunking into the angled steel plate backdrop. Ooh's and aah's erupt from the audience; it's theater at its best.
Hooper conducts about 10 shooting demos a week. Another 90 are rotated among 30 other agents. After the show, the agents take questions from the crowd. Some concern FBI educational requirements, salaries and such. But the tourists are bedazzled by the gunmanship, so the agents spend much of the time explaining the FBI's firearms policy. And just giving the facts -- for instance, that in 1989 the FBI's 9,500 special agents were involved in just 28 shooting incidents, according to Hooper.
"We can only shoot to save our own life or someone
else's," she says. "It's not like on TV."