EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a preview-only version of Matt Bomer's cover story in the JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 issue of Men's Fitness. For the full story including exclusive content, download the app >>>

There’s a canyon at the end of a dusty lane off the I-5 freeway, down some lonely roads built to access landfills and water treatment plants, where Greater Los Angeles ends and America begins. Here, through some iron gates and down a hill lined with hedges, is a portal to a land of pickups and full-brimmed caps, where old men wearing tan vests stuffed with ammunition openly carry shotguns, where not one but two giant stuffed grizzly bears greet visitors in a dark lobby, and where the sounds of live fire echo off the sandstone walls. This would be a terrible place to steal a car stereo. Or wear a Bernie Sanders shirt. And into this scene arrives a man in a black luxury station wagon, wearing very stylish jeans, a snug green Henley, and a 49ers cap that is well cared for.

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“Aren’t you on TV?” asks a clerk inside the pro shop of the Oak Tree Gun Club, in Newhall, CA, from behind a counter where visitors can purchase or rent various firearms. Matt Bomer nods and smiles. “I am,” he says. Celebrity sightings do not seem to be a regular occurrence at Oak Tree; unlike basically everywhere else in Greater Los Angeles, there’s no wall of fame of signed head shots, at least that I can see.

“I hate to ask you this,” the clerk replies, “but my wife and I love your show, and she would kill me if I don’t get a picture.” He gives his phone to a colleague, hunches in close to the star of the megahit American Horror Story: Hotel—as well as the films Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL—and then gives us a very quick instructional on safe handling of a .22 Ruger pistol, which Bomer selected by name from a wall of handguns. “It’s the assassin’s choice,” he tells me. “You’ll see why when you fire it.” 

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Bomer, it turns out, has some experience with firearms. “I’ve been handling guns since I was a kid,” he says, out on the trap range a little later, popping a shell into a 12-gauge Dickinson shotgun. “I got a .30-30 for Christmas in the seventh grade. It wasn’t what I asked for, by the way. And it wasn’t my only present.” It was a gift from his father, a conservative Christian and avid hunter who “clears the decks for deer season.”

Bomer was born outside St. Louis but spent his formative years in Texas. He reckons he was “somewhere around 8” when his father first introduced him to guns. As a kid, he hunted birds and ducks but hasn’t shot at anything live in years. “It’s nothing that I’ve elected to do in my adult life,” he says. “In Texas, it’s a way for men to bond together. I was down with that when I lived there, and I haven’t really done it since.” 

He’s not sure when he first handled a firearm on a set. It could have been on Guiding Light, the soap he starred on for a little more than a year in the early 2000s. “I know I killed several people on that show,” he says, but decides that most, if not all, of those murders occurred offscreen. Probably, then, it was the 2006 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, in which he is murdered by Leatherface in extravagant style—“He strung me up for a while, and then he knocked me out and carried me to the basement, strapped me up, partially skinned me alive, then gutted me with a chain saw.” This gratuitous death wasn’t without purpose. “Leatherface becomes Leatherface with my face.”

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Bomer aims the gun over the top of the wooden trap and yells, “Pull!” causing a neon-yellow clay target to shoot across the range. He fires. It shatters. For someone who hasn’t shot at a bird, real or fake, in eons, he’s pretty good, hitting four out of five clays in his first round. “City boys out in the country!” he hollers. When one shot of mine barely nicks a target, he gives me encouragement. “If you hit it at all, you’ve killed the bird.” Bomer takes the gun and pats me on the back. “If that were the case, we’d be going home with some dinner.”

When the ammo is exhausted, we go in search of lunch, but in Oak Tree’s café, the air is heavy with fryer oil. I suggest we try elsewhere. 

“Probably a good idea,” Bomer says, looking around. “I have to be naked on camera at 9 a.m. for a love scene with Lady Gaga. So maybe it’s not a good time for, like, french fries.”

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Get the full story: Download the digital edition of the Men's Fitness January/February 2016 Issue, available now at mensfitness.com/gettheissue.