September 07, 2008

Gun mettle

I stand there in shock. At my feet is a mangled piece of metal. I mean, it is seriously mangled. Long tears, sections bent at crazy angles, one whole section ripped off and deposited several feet away. This used to be an olive oil can, filled with water. Now it's just scrap metal. And I'm responsible.

Or am I?

Well, I pulled the trigger on the gun that shot a bullet into the can. Am I responsible?

My friend Jim is a serious hunter and gun enthusiast. He has several guns -- rifles and pistols, though I'm not sure those simple names apply in every case. He even has a bow with several arrows, and he uses that to hunt deer. Last night over dinner -- appetizer: venison jerky, from a deer shot and cured by Jim -- he told me about his guns. Said he would show them to me and have me shoot a few rounds.

With the .45, he tells me, you need to hold it pretty firm, because it kicks pretty good. But I think you'll be OK, your forearms are pretty beefy.

They are? Of my forearms, I've thought such terms as "spindly" and "skinny" -- but if he thinks "beefy", who am I to argue?

This evening, he emerges with a long case. The rifle. Two smaller guns are in a shoulder bag. The case goes in the back of his big GMC pickup, the bag in the cab, and we're off to his sister-in-law's place out in the woods. She lets him shoot there. He points out the blind he has built -- a plush little cabin with heating, with a feeder set up outside to dispense corn. In hunting season, he sits up there and waits for an animal, attracted by the corn, to show up. With a swish and a thump, his arrow might find its mark and goodbye deer.

Not this evening, though. It's not yet hunting season. Instead, Jim sets up two targets at the back of the property, at the base of some trees. Low, of course, because you don't want bullets whistling through the trees.

He pulls out his .22, a handsome wood-handled revolver. Puts 6 cartridges into the chamber, pulls earmuffs over his ear, hands me a set, aims and fires from perhaps 15 yards. A small hole appears in the target. He hands me the gun, explains what I need to do to aim.

I pull the trigger. There's a puff of dirt from beyond the target. Three shots I squeeze off, and we walk down to the target. Jim points out a small tear on the edge of the target. Looks like you nicked it, he says.

He switches to the .45, a compact Croatian-made thing. Same routine. Squeezes off two shots, then hands it to me. I aim and squeeze. Puff of dirt and the gun kicks mightily in my hand. Again. One more puff. Again, and then again. A small hole appears on the extreme outer ring of the target. Slightly better than nicking it.

He switches to the rifle, a sleek .237. This time he sets a plastic bottle filled with water next to the paper targets. Watch this, he suggests, sits on the grass so he can rest his elbow on his knee, and fires. The bottle explodes, there's no other word for it. Jim says this is because of the "hydrostatic shock" to the plastic when the bullet strikes.

He hands me the gun and walks down to the target area, olive oil can in his hand. Sets it down and returns with a smile. Go for it, he says. I too sit. Rest my elbow on my left knee just like he did. Sight through the scope on top, position the crosshairs correctly, and ...

... slowly, I pull the trigger. Just like the bottle did, the can simply explodes.

For the first time in my life, I have shot a serious gun. I stand there looking down at the result. This is what I did, yes. Something about it disturbs me.


Sidhusaaheb said...

My own 'first shot' story is at


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Thanks for the chance to brag.

I used to get a pretty good grouping with a Sturm & Ruger .32. Averaged 5 in the bull or Ring 1 from 12 ms.

Never tried a .45, though.