I’ve always had a fascination with guns. When I was a kid, my dad had a gun cabinet where his handgun and all of his rifles were on display. Some of them were ancient, given to him by his father (who probably got it from his father). Others were more recent, like his deer hunting rifle and his .22 pistol. Occasionally he would take me with him for target practice (not that I was the target – because I’m sure that is a felony). If I was lucky, I got to shoot a few rounds with the handgun and I always loved that powerful feeling – that kick as a round was projected out of this small conglomeration of metal and plastic – that satisfying “ping” when the tin can flew off the fence post (or more likely in my case, the “thud” and puff of dust as the bullet slammed into the ground).
When I got to be a teen, I was…difficult. I was pretty pissed off at the world and the fact that my parents and other adult authority figures wanted to tell me what to do…well, that didn’t sit well with me. I rebelled – staying out too late, sneaking out of the house at night, drinking, being sullen and withdrawn or loud and in your face. I also stole my dad’s pistol and I would take it up to the foothills and target practice by myself. I should clarify here that I’m not a good shot – I never have been – and the extent of my gun knowledge was how to load the magazine with bullets and then to point and shoot. I don’t think I even realized there was such a thing as a safety. It’s kind of a wonder I didn’t shoot myself in the foot…or somewhere worse.
As an adult, I went to the shooting range every once in a blue moon – favoring tiny handguns and celebrating when I managed to get a shot anywhere in the target. Doc, who was a sharp shooter in the Navy, would cluster his shots neatly in the head or heart of his target. My son and daughter are naturally good shots and would also manage to hit close to where they were aiming most of the time. Me? Well, most of my shots went high or wide, missing the target altogether (and probably making the gun enthusiasts on either side of me very, very nervous). I came to the conclusion that, should I ever need to defend myself with a handgun, my attacker had better be only 3-4 feet in front of me, standing very still, patiently waiting while I struggled with the safety and finally took my aim.
I never fired a rifle until I was almost 50-years-old. Daughter #1, her husband, and my grandbaby invited us to join them and her in-laws at a dude ranch in Arizona. It was something my son-in-law’s family had done annually since he was a small boy and he was practically giddy with excitement. Since it was a chance for me to spend quality time with the grandbaby oh, and everyone else, of course) we decided to come along. It was…rustic, with small individual cabins that were heated by wood stoves, no electricity after dinner (when they turned off the generator) and lots of rain, and mud, and horses. I liked the horseback riding, but let’s face it – one can only do so much horseback riding until one can’t sit or walk due to protesting muscles that are not used to horseback riding on a daily basis. I was walking like a bow-legged lawman from the old West!
When the owner of the dude ranch let us know that they were taking people on an outing to shoot guns, I was all for it! We piled into the pickup trucks and made our way to a small landfill that was nearby. Guns and rifles were passed out and we took turns shooting at bottles and cans. When it was my turn, I confidently hefted the rifle to my right shoulder, shut one eye, aimed, and fired…and missed the target. I mean, I really missed the target. I tried again, with the same results. About this time, the owner started to laugh. I cradled the rifle in my arms and turned to face him, contemplating if I could get away with shooting him and calling it an accident – but then he explained that the reason I wasn’t hitting anything was that I was sighting with my left eye, while the rifle was raised to my right shoulder. He encouraged me to close my left eye and sight with my right – and that’s when I learned I am not ambidextrous when it comes to winking. I cannot, to save my life or shoot a can, close only my left eye – unless I hold it shut with my fingers – and that doesn’t work well when I have a rifle in both hands. He then suggested that I hold the rifle up to my left shoulder – but as I’m right-handed, I just couldn’t get comfortable or hold the rifle steady enough to aim. I resumed my original position and then tried trying to compensate for sighting with my left eye by aiming to the left of my target. Doc even attempted to stand behind me and hold my left eye shut for me. It didn’t work. I cannot – nor will I ever be able to – fire a rifle with any degree of accuracy.
So, be warned – if there is a zombie apocalypse and we have to fend off a massive hoard of the undead, I will be of absolutely no help to you (because, let’s face it – I also lack the upper body strength to wield a machete or a sword to decapitate the walking dead). If we are ever lost on the arctic tundra and in dire need of food, I’m not the person who can take down a moose at a hundred yards (or even two or three). But I have other skills! I hoard survival food – so when the zombies come, we’ll have plenty to eat. I also am pretty good in the kitchen, so I could probably butcher and cook up a moose in a pinch.
And I’m not giving up – I’ll still visit the shooting range from time to time and rent my pretty little six-shooter – because practice makes perfect.
Do you like shooting guns? Are you any good? Can I count on you when the zombie apocalypse comes?