Thursday, July 9, 2009

Super Cowboy

Some months ago, my wife’s nephew came into town for a couple of days, so I invited him to go with me to the gun range. He had never gone shooting before, and, as usual, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce someone else to the hobby.

At my house, we went over the safety rules, and I had him load and unload the firearms using snap caps. We arrived at the range and made our way to the only open lane, the last of the eight lanes. The range has a motorized target carrier, which has the target clamps about a foot or so above the bull’s eye of their normal target. We set up, reviewed the safety rules again, and I let him have at it.

Meanwhile, a small, yet loud crowd was forming over at the first lane. Every few seconds, there was a very loud bang, followed by cheers and high-fives. I glanced over and saw a young man, shooting a .50 caliber revolver at a target on the 7 yard line. Eventually, the crowd at the range thinned out leaving our super cowboy and his friends in the first lane, another gentleman somewhere in the middle, and then the two of us at our end. By this time, my wife’s nephew was shooting my Ruger 10-22.

Right after the revolver spoke again, I felt a painful pinch near my thumb. I tried to pull up my sleeve, thinking my watch had caught on a hair. I looked down at my hand and noticed that I was bleeding and had a piece of copper jacket embedded in my hand. I pulled it out and saw that the piece was relatively large, and had left a nice cut.

I grabbed a small towel from my range bag, wrapped it around my hand, and went to see the range officer. (Note to self: pack bandages in the range bag.) I found out I wasn’t the only lucky one. The shooter in the middle had also been hit by splashback. While we doctored ourselves, the range master walked into the range to investigate.

What happened? Apparently our local super cowboy had fired his hand cannon and hit the target clamp, which, if you remember, was at 7 yards out and is about a foot or so away from the bull’s eye. The bullet hit the steel clamp, broke apart and splashed to the right, hitting the other gentleman and me.

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Look, I know that shooting a .22LR caliber rifle is not as cool as a .50 caliber revolver. In fact, you mentioned, quite loudly, that my rifle sounded like an airsoft gun. Your friends thought that comparison was funny. I guess that just makes you a better man.

Or so you think.

It makes no different how big your gun is, if you can’t control it, it’s worthless. A .50 caliber miss at seven yards is less effective than a .22 caliber hit at 15 yards. It’s also more dangerous, since you obviously have no control over where you are sending it.

Chances are pretty good that I’ll never see you again. Moreover, you don’t seem like the person who would be interested in any kind of education, but, just in case you happen to drop by, here are some tips for you:

1. Don’t go to the range if your only goal is to impress. The range is the wrong place to engage in showmanship. In any event, there will almost always be someone at the range who shoots better than you do and you'll end up looking stupid.

2. Unless they’re coming to shoot or learn, leave your “crew,” or whatever you call them, at home. Your activities at the range require your full attention. You cannot take time to play to the crowd.

3. Learn how to handle the “baby step” basics before you start your shooting exhibition. To do otherwise will endanger all of us. Learn how to properly grip a gun. Learn how to properly line up your sights. Learn proper trigger control. Do all of this before you use a gun too big for you. And yes, believe it or not, that revolver was too big for you.

4. Understand that a big gun you can’t handle only makes you look like an idiot. Every shot my nephew made with my little “airsoft” 10-22 found its way to the target, as did his .40 caliber and 9mm shots as well. Many of yours did not. In fact, one of your shots injured two people. All you succeeded in doing was making a lot of people very angry at you.

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