Firing a free pistol with serious intent

Firing a free pistol with serious intent

“I don’t understand. Why do you want to shoot guns?” my yoga teacher asks again.

“Because its fun,”  I respond.  I smile.  She smiles back and senses that my smile is a bit insincere.  It  used to be fun, I think to myself, but it isn’t fun anymore.  If it isn’t fun now, when did it stop being fun?  And why do it if it isn’t even fun?  And why am I having all these thoughts while sitting in front of my yoga instructor?

“Are you a policeman?”  she asks, scruntching up her brow.

“No.”  She leans back a bit and her eyes seem to get bigger.  Oh, oh.  She’s trying to read my aura again.  I get a distinctly uncomfortable feeling every time she scrutinizes my aura.  I resist the urge to cover myself.

“I told you the first day of class that I was taking yoga lessons so I could learn meditation and improve my shooting score.  I shoot competitively.  And when shooting I want to learn how to tune out the noise of the guns around me.  I want to feel calm and confident when I walk up to the line.  I don’t want to feel the other guy’s bullet cases hitting me in the face.  I fact, I don’t want to feel anything or hear anything or see anything but that X-ring–  the center of the bull’s-eye.  (She nods.)

Indoor shooting range

Indoor shooting range

I still don’t think she knows why I shoot pistols.  But I have a feeling that something about my psychic aura or what I said is disturbing her, so I bow respectfully, thank her for the lesson and leave.

Dry firing a free pistol against a wall

Dry firing a free pistol against a wall

‘Why do I shoot, anyway?’  I ask myself.  ‘Why do I practice countless hours on and off the range firing expensive loads or just dry-firing at a boring blank wall in my living room?  Why have I tied up thousands of dollars in match grade firearms, reloading equipment and shooting accessories?  And why do I put myself through the grueling experience of a two-hour match firing 60 rounds at an itty-bitty target 50 meters away?  I’m not sure why I do this.  But there’s one thing I do know–  it ain’t fun; it’s just plain old hard work.’

Later that week on the firing line, I feel a tap on my shoulder.  “Gonna go find some fun facta’ ”,  Danny smiles and walks to the other end of the range.  I look where he’s heading.  I don’t see any fun down there either.  I open the action on my pistol and place it on the shooting bench.  Then I walk over to watch Danny shoot for awhile–  he’s smiling!
‘Fun factor,’  I mutter.  ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’  Maybe Danny is joking, I reason.  It’s often difficult to tell when my coach, a former Olympic pistol shooter representing Hong Kong, is pulling my leg or just deliberately being cryptic to piss me off.  But then I think maybe he’s giving me another subtle prompt, a nudge.

Hammerli Free Pistol--olympic class pistol

Hammerli Free Pistol—olympic class pistol

I raise my Hammerli Free Pistol again, my right eye carefully following the front sight up from the bench, over the target and finally settling under the black.  ‘Get back to work,’ I think.  I take a deep breath, slowly exhale half and gently release the trigger, sending another .22 caliber slug on its way to punch a hole through paper.  ‘Ten o’clock, eight ring,’  I mutter.  Then I squint through the spotting scope mounted on my gun case, confirming that the shot was at ten o’clock.  But it was only a 7, not an 8.  ‘Flip the page,’ I command myself, trying to push away the disappointment of a poor shot.

“Why do you shoot?”  I ask the guy methodically firing an Olympic class air pistol.  “Is it fun?  Do you shoot to have fun?” I prod.

He pauses in thought, the pistol resting on a shooting pad.  He slips his hand out of the $200 customized pistol grip and flips up the optical attachment on his shooting glasses.  “No, I can’t say it’s actually fun,” Bryan replies carefully.  He thinks a moment.  “I think I shoot because of what I learn from the sport– the discipline, how to focus and totally apply myself.  When I get into that zone, time stops, you know?”  (I know.)   The pistol is me and together we’re holding a tight group.”

‘Now that’s a real answer,’  I think.  ‘That’s why I shoot, to become a better person, to hold a tight group.’  I leave feeling vaguely disturbed by our conversation.

“Why do you shoot?”  I ask the grizzled range master in the back office of the elaborate indoor shooting range.  Fred scratches the marine tattoo on his left biceps, lifts his chin in defiant thought and before he can respond I interject,  “Is it fun?  Do you shoot to have fun?”

“Don’t put words in my mouth!”  Fred barks.  “It ain’t about fun.  It’s about being challenged.  I shoot because its damn hard to do.  It ain’t like riding a bicycle, you know.  Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget.  But shootin’ . . . that’s something you got to keep at.  You don’t just pick up a gun after a few months and expect to squeeze of six 10s in a row.  You got to continually push yourself to meet the challenge.  Now get out of my office and quit bothering me.”

I walk away, hearing the veteran national champ muttering to himself,  “Why do I shoot?  What kind of stupid question is that, anyway?”

‘The challenge!’  I think triumphantly.  ‘I shoot for the challenge.  Yes!

Later that night while driving home from the range my thoughts drift, for some strange reason, toward the image of a Rubik Cube.  Now, I’ve always hated Rubik Cubes.  I find them frustrating and rather pointless.  Besides that, I can’t solve the damn things.  But what about the people who like to work on a Rubik Cubes, who can solve them?  There must be some FUN FACTOR hiding within those plastic puzzles or people wouldn’t work on them, wouldn’t spend hours patiently twisting those little squares this way and that.  They intend to be challenged.  The more difficult it is to solve, the greater the challenge; and somewhere within this puzzle of challenge lurks FUN FACTOR.

‘That’s it!’  I slap the steering wheel.  It’s all about intent.  A beginning shooter goes out to a range to have fun–  that’s his intention.  If it isn’t fun, he just quits and looks for fun elsewhere.  However, when intent changes from ‘just out to have a good time’ to doing well in a match or to showing consistently higher scores, then FUN FACTOR inevitably fades.  Now, with serious intent the objective,  then hard work, total concentration and dedication are needed to meet the challenge.

Danny had walked to the other side of the range to shoot,   focusing all his being to enter the FUN FACTOR ZONE, that elusive zone of perfection.

I let out a deep breath.  Now I know.  I should have told my yoga teacher that somewhere within the ‘rubric’ of shooting lies FUN FACTOR, hidden and confined.  And I shoot to meet the challenge of finding it and setting it free.

That would really freak her out.