The Column, No. 98:

Why Go Shooting?

By David Tong

As regular readers of my little missives know, my interests in shooting are deep and eclectic. While I have certain "must haves," gear wise, I think it was high time I wrote something about why.

As a conservative pessimist, I tend not to be addicted to brands. In other words, I do not genuflect toward Hartford, Springfield, or Geneseo, though I have owned many of their products over the years. I like many of them, yet I am aware of their good points and bad, and they ALL have both.

My major interest in shooting has long revolved around the handgun. However, I started out shooting surplus military bolt action rifles, any .22 rifle I could get my hands on, the less expensive service pistols and a Winchester Model 12 pump-action shotgun.

Being raised in the great maelstrom known as Los Angeles, after I moved to Oregon, my quip to Oregonians who asked me if I hunted, was that, "In Oregon, we hunt deer and elk. In LA, we hunted each other." Tongue in cheek of course, but somewhat illustrative of the perception I have about some bad places in that huge city.

Never being a wealthy guy, I looked for firearms that were versatile, cost effective and could do multiple things. Those days in the 1970s and 1980s were good times, before stupid people of criminal notoriety got themselves on television to accelerate the politically correct need to enact gun control, rather than deal with the destruction of families and social mores.

In those days of cheap and plentiful ammunition, I still took the time to learn to reload my own ammunition, because it was even less expensive. I went to formal target ranges to test the mechanical accuracy of both handgun and rifle, learned to shoot American trap, spent time shooting "combat" matches that were the closest simulation of defensive shooting available at the time. I went small game hunting and hunted once off the coast of Oxnard on Santa Cruz Island for wild boar. I shot metallic silhouette shooting with an iron-sighted revolver, my dad's Colt Python.

After I moved to Oregon, I shot a few combat handgun matches with IPSC and IDPA using a 1911 .45, as well as service rifle matches at the local rifle club with my Springfield M1A .308. I worked as a Range Officer at the club during the annual spring machine gun shoot in May for three years straight.

Shooting can be a very social sport. One can be attracted, as I was, by the sheer history of technology and finding members of that club who could recite minutiae best left to computer hard drives.

There is a fair amount of time to talk and relax at the trap range, to hang out in the club drinking coffee in the lounge, compare notes with people about handloads, even exchange shooting experiences with other people's firearms.

I have no idea how many attorneys, CEOs, physicians, or other working stiffs as myself I have met over the decades. I have met them at work and at church. A retired pastor and I have sent .22s downrange to be able to sit and talk afterward; ministry by burning powder.

If you are just starting out, I would highly recommend joining a gun club, like the wonderful Albany Rifle and Pistol Club I was a member of for five great years. You can glean the experiences of people who have shot longer than you've been alive, everyone sharing the discipline, fun and knowledge of wielding things that go BANG. Go with your dad, mom, uncle, or Grandpa. Soak it up.

Read Guns and Shooting Online, books and magazines that are general in nature, because you will learn about more than one topic. I am fascinated by history and technological development; you might care less.

Have a go at all of the different shooting disciplines; do not limit yourself to any one type of shooting. Get a well-rounded education in all that shooting has to offer. I still am not much of a hunter, mostly because of the sheer amount of time required to learn the field craft and habits of the animals, but perhaps I am too concerned about doing it well, rather than being willing to do it at all. I suppose one can learn either way.

Shooting can be a trans-generational thing. My dad, who was never a shooter, still let us kids fire his old WWII Smith & Wesson M&P revolver. My five year old son has already spent time with my old .22 rifle and I hope he never loses the wonder and the fun of it.

My final suggestion: do not attach yourself to people who think there is only one way to accomplish anything in the sport. Experience of the breadth of the things you can do in the shooting sports. Start off slowly and modestly in terms of both cost and recoil, but give it--and us--a try.

You might find a lifetime of enjoyment. That's the point, if there is one.

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Copyright 2015 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.