Take Some Newbs Shooting
I take my own advice as often as recognize that I have established the existence of some advice for me to follow. The latest started as an off-hand comment by a buddy (Lee) to take him shooting sometime. I said, sure. How’s next weekend? Well he accepted so it became time to prepare. What would come out of the remark was an actual adventure and a great time.
We planned out and agreed on a Sunday. My range is 2.5 hours by car away but I knew I could have the range to myself and that would make the whole thing a lot easier. We have everything on that range. Sighter benches, 200-500m silhouette course, 900m long range course, walking precision rifle course, pistol pit, trap range and even a rimfire only range (actually .22lr only). I packed up more than a dozen of my favorite guns and a couple thousand rounds of ammo and we all met up.
Lee (my buddy) was supposed to bring 6-7 other people and I’d planned on bringing 2 of my own. My coach went stag and brought the tri-tips and a chihuahua. Lee turned out to be about 4 hours late getting there and ended up only having himself and 3 others. We had hoped they’d be there earlier before the heat started getting bad. Worse, the guest list went from a dozen to a half dozen and we’ve brought 3 tri-tips and so much side food that we were sure 12 people couldn’t finish it. Not too bad a hitch, more tri-tip for the rest of us. Lee managed to get his son and mother and girlfriend to come out though and as reward for braving a long trip, we made sure they had a good time.
After they’d arrived and we’d exchanged greetings and introductions were completed I took Lee and his family around the facility for the grand tour. It was burnin’ hot by then at 100F and maybe 20% humidity. Before too long the need to burn gunpowder itched too badly to ignore and so I took Lee and his son up to the high power rifle range and we started the day with a quick AR-15 mag dump for each of them followed by a turn on the .50 black powder Hawken rifle. It’s got double set triggers and with a 110gn load under a patched .495 ball it’s a riot to shoot. Being African-american and of the educated upper-middle class and not being into outdoorsy stuff neither of them had ever considered the possibility that they’d get to try out a black powder rifle and something about it resonated strongly with them. The age, the bore size, the pain in the ass that it is to load and that it wasn’t really that long ago when men were fighting wars with rifles that were functionally identical. We went so far as to converse about that last bit. How terrifying it would be to do battle with a front stuffer. I can’t think how those heroes did that without piss running down their leg. Well, bravery is what you do to yourself for your brothers and he who hesitates is lost so I think they might have had other concerns but urination at the time. I digress.
I mention the color of anyone’s skin only because I’m about as white as folks can be for a white/indian mix. I’m a genuine redneck and a bit of a born hick but one with intellectual tendencies that have long caused me grief. Those traits are hard to reconcile next to each other. I’m very aware of the existence of race issues but the issues themselves have never made sense to me so I maintain a sort of morbid and confused curiosity which is a thirst never slaked. Even when questions of race relations are answered and answered well and clearly, I don’t understand the answer many times because it’s an answer to a question I don’t understand. The answers are usually simple enough. If someone were to give a reasoned answer as to why it is that black people are not treated the same as white people even when the honkey’s try to be fair it would sound to me like, “seven fence diaper happy playpen” no matter what the answer were to be. Yeah, I just don’t get race issues. Call me a peckerwood and I’ll stare at you with a confused look on my face but I won’t be upset about it. Lee and I have had some shared experiences (one of which showed me that race is still a problem even in the most liberal areas) which confused me and we’ve had many discussions from which I felt I might be starting to understand and what I’m understanding is that I wasn’t meant to understand bigotry. It’s not understandable.
There are cultural differences between whites and blacks in the US. Denying that is just blind willful ignorance. One of the things that’s no different is that we all like to have a good time with good company. Taking any new shooters out for a safe and fun day of shooting is immensely rewarding. Taking a family out that are as different to me in race and education and upbringing and life experience as anyone could be somehow was vastly more rewarding. They previously never really had the chance nor the burning desire to try the sport out as a sport. Having them comment occasionally about how weird it was to dip their toes into a world where up until recently in our country’s history they have not been traditionally made to feel really welcome and to find it a welcoming and inviting place seemed for some of them to be something of an epiphany.
Apart from getting to have a great time with great people I was gifted the opportunity to experience black America and to see that I have some of my own prejudices. I got to teach 4 people to shoot and I got to let them shoot a wide array of types and calibres. They got to spend some time learning how to be around guns and not be unnerved by the gun. They can tell for themselves now if a gun is actually loaded (rule 1 notwithstanding). They got to do mag dumps and shoot black powder. They got to shoot magnum rifles and .223 bolt action rifles and .308win rifles. They got to learn to shoot an auto-pistol and a revolver. Best of all they got to learn that guns are more than just weapons. They can be a pretty darned good way to make some pretty darned good friends.