I really like shooting but can’t imagine shooting living things. I haven’t been at this long and the whole enterprise is still abstract for me.
There are different things going for different armed people. It’s like the difference between a portrait or house painter. It’s not that you can’t find art and utility in both, but there’s more art in one and more utility in the other.
So I’ve developed an interest in the history of firearms. Guns are fascinating. They were always meant to kill, but history makes the unsavory aspects distant. If I wait long enough the practical application of an object becomes part of its romantic allure. If I saw antique dental equipment in use at an office I would run out of there screaming. But the same equipment on display in someone’s home might be beautiful. It would be so far removed from its originally intended purpose that I would only see the design.
To feed my interest Clint and I try different old weapons when we go out.
This morning we’re firing a reproduction of an arquebus. The great-grandfather of the rifle.
It’s a very heavy weapon by today’s standards. It requires custom shot to be made and fires at a very low velocity. Even in its own time it was incapable of piercing suits of armor at practical distances. I’ve only been handling it for a half hour and I already feel that if it came down to self-defense I’d prefer a stick.
“Don’t be afraid of it.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to break it.”
“It’s a replica, so don’t worry about that.”
“Why don’t we work with longbows?”
“We will. Just see what you can get out of it.”
I’d be happy with getting the shot out of it. An over-sized pellet serves as ammunition for this thing.
I know he means what I can get out of the process of learning to use it. It’s tedious and bulky and inefficient, but that’s just the sort of thing that Clint claims forces concentration at the highest levels. I hunker down, steady and slow my breath, and focus on the target.
“Remember what you’ve got there.”
“I do Clint.”
“Remember how much power it has.”
“Or how little.”
He and I fired a few pellets earlier just to get a feel for the old gun’s dynamics.
The explosion of the matchlock mechanism is loud and produces a momentarily blinding cloud of smoke, but the recoil is tame.
It’s mostly bark. The bite is a nibble. We are out in the boonies and were shooting at a barn (its broadside, actually) from about twenty feet away. The shot knocked tiny holes in the wood most of the time. I hit a load-bearing beam that was all of a four by four and the shot bounced back towards us and landed in the dirt with a thud. Like a small stone thrown by a small girl.
“What use is a gun that can’t get through wood?”
Clint just looked at me and pointed down at the weapon.
I get it. My target now is a tomato balanced atop of tree stump.
“Think about how it felt before. Don’t think about shooting in general. Just shooting this.”
I take my time and graze the tomato.