Social Security Shotgunning
By Mark Wynn
If you haven't gone shotgunning by your Social Security years, when will you? Whether you have fired shotguns all your life or never, many active senior citizens 60 and above are quality candidates for clay target shooting such as Skeet, Trap, 5-Stand and Sporting Clays. One of these is sure to offer the safe shooting excitement you have always wanted.
Social Security Shotgunning is a double-entendre: a good shotgun not only is great recreational shooting, it is often considered an excellent household defensive weapon. However, the short barreled shotguns esteemed for home defense are inappropriate (or in some cases not allowed) for the clay shooting sports. Even where short-barreled guns are allowed, they are usually not competitive with longer barreled shotguns. Shotguns with barrels measuring between 26 and 30 inches are a much better choice for normal wingshooting purposes.
If you must rely on only one shotgun, you will probably wind up with a longer barrel doubling as a home defense gun, which is effective if not optimum, instead of a shorter barrel doubling for clay target shooting. If you hunt, that is another story; you probably already have one or more shotguns and have been enjoying them all your life.
Clay shooting eluded me until my late 60's, when paper targets for rifles and handguns finally got a bit stale. Shotgunning promised lots more stimulation, but I always thought shotgunning was what good ole boys did to critters and what rich old boys did for diversion. I was neither a hunter nor rich.
However, when I finally investigated a public clay shooting range, I found people pretty much like me, except they were making big guns go boom and having a lot of fun. Fun I could handle, but what about cost?
As often noted, clay shooting proved no more expensive than a round of golf. Not cheap, but doable once or twice a month. Similarities to golf also have also been noted in everything from equipment to course layout to ambiance.
For example, careful shopping in Northern Virginia can find (as of Spring 2009) a 25-count box of 12 gauge or 20 gauge shells for around $5. Bull Run Shooting Center fees for 25-shot rounds are $5.50 for Wobble Trap, Skeet, or Trap and $8 for 5-Stand (a condensed form of Sporting Clays). A 50-shot round of Sporting Clays is $20. Lotta bang for the buck, literally.
What about equipment? Peruse the many shotgun articles right here on Guns and Shooting Online and you will find everything you need to know.
My next 18 months probably were typical for a neophyte shotgunner. In both 12- and 20-gauges, I became well acquainted with a couple over/unders, a couple of semi-autos and a couple break-opens. For targets, I tried a foot-stomp launcher on a farm, a table launcher behind a gun store, then finally Wobble, Skeet, Trap, 5-Stand and Sporting Clays at the excellent Bull Run range.
I experimented with seven sizes of choke plus a PolyChoke II. I tried four brands of No. 7-1/2 and No. 8 birdshot. I patterned, I studied and I read a dozen books and innumerable articles on and off line. I talked to experts, enthusiasts and fellow beginners. I took a couple classes and I watched a lot of shooting on screen and in person. I practiced with computer shooting games. Sometimes I broke real clays. Not many at first, and not a whole lot now. However, I am sure having fun!
Social Security Shotgunning is all about making memories and treating yourself to a good time. If you want to compete for highest score with every shot, fine. If you don't care about score and just want to enjoy the next shot, fine. If you get excited about premounting a 12-gauge over/under with different chokes in each tube tailored to each station, fine. If you favor low mounting a 20-gauge semi-auto using only modified choke everywhere, fine.
I have never yet shot 25 of 25 in any variation and I do not care if I ever do. It is more interesting to figure why I probably missed that last shot. The insight helps the only shot that counts, the next one.
Do not fret about misses. They are inevitable. Temper them with achievements like that first "rising teal" target broken at 50 yards, 21 of 25 in wobble trap, two skeet with one shot and hilarity like the adjacent shooter who shouts in triumph blasting his first incomer, just as it touches the ground! (Wow, I was doing that all wrong, trying to hit them in flight!)
Just learning the course can be memorable, e.g., there is not enough mosquito repellent in the world to save those who insist on shooting Sporting Clays on a muggy summer afternoon next to a swamp.
Good equipment can dramatically improve your experience. My list includes comfortable clothes and shoes (never flip-flops, sheesh!), hat with visor or brim, all-weather shooting vest (e.g., Bob Allen mesh), shooting gloves (e.g., Bob Allen Mesh – I put rubber tips in the thumbs to alleviate skin abrasion from shoving all those shells into a semi-auto), polycarbonate slipover shooting glasses (e.g., Guardian, gray and clear), slim external ear protection (e.g., Peltor Shotgunner), sunscreen on all exposed skin, a bottle of water, a package of almonds, a few hard candies and a small towel in hot weather. Above all, pay close attention to all range rules and requirements; they are there for your safety and pleasure.
What are you waiting for? Clay shooting beckons. Play nice. Share. Pick up your empty shells for reloading or put them in a discard can. Leave the place a little better than you found it. Add a little more positive karma to your life.
Copyright 2009 by Mark Wynn. All rights reserved.