Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Remington Blue Steel Wingmaster with folding metal stock.

the shotgun sings the song (The Who, Won't Get Fooled Again)

I used to read a lot of Little Miss Runner Pants' blog, back when she concentrated on running. Her writing is absolutely hilarious. Then she went over to the dark side and started biking, and I don't read it so much anymore. My loss.

She recently posted about men and guns, and women shooting big guns. She titled it chik chik BANG! She caught the essence of shotgun shooting right there. You hear chik chik, you freeze. If you then hear Bang, you're dead. I can say that without drama, because for seven years I was a State Trooper.

Each patrol car had a Wingmaster, with metal stock folded up over the top of the barrel, nestled in a locking cradle set on the floor behind the driver's heels. The shotgun, magazine loaded with slugs, had a ready pistol grip until the stock was folded back down. It potentially was all that stood between a Patrolman and a deadly encounter. Chik chik. The universal sound of a shotgun round being chambered. Everyone freezes.

Our greatest worry was that a scumbag would know where the quick-release button for the locking cradle was and get to the weapon before the Trooper could in, say, a roadside fracas with a wanted felon or a drunk. Troopers don't have the luxury of ever losing a fight.

But the bad parts of potentially deadly work aren't what we remember afterwards, mostly it's the humorous parts. A. Maria's howlingly funny post and pictures on her first trip to the shotgun range brought back memories of my first trip to the shotgun range, when I was in the State Patrol Academy.

I grew up in suburban NYC (on "rural" Staten Island) so I didn't ever shoot as a boy. I didn't even know anyone who had a gun. At the Academy as a young man, I was not a particularly good shot. But the skeet shooting session, which was meant to familiarize us with the shotgun, was a personal disaster.

In skeet shooting, a spring-loaded device flings a clay "pigeon" across the sky when the shooter, standing a short distance away, is ready and yells "Pull!" The shooter tracks the "bird" across the sky and fires at it before it falls to the ground. If there are two pigeons thrown out at once, the shooter fires at one, pumps the handle back and forth which ejects the spent shell and loads a second round (chik chik), and tries to bring down the second bird as well.

It was the tracking part I didn't get. I'd aim at the bird and fire. I never brought one down because you have to fire at a point in front of the soaring target in order to hit it. You have to lead it.

Twenty-five shots, twenty-five misses. Everyone else, mostly boys from Colorado where hunting is widely practiced and many pickups have rifle racks in the rear window, scored multiple hits. Sometimes the clay target would burst apart with an explosive sound when it was hit dead-on, sometimes a fragment would fly off with a loud chink when it was nicked. Nothing ever happened to my targets except they all sailed out of range and crashed to the ground.

I went with the rest of the recruits to lunch after the target practice. Everyone knew that I had been skunked. I was eating in sullen silence in the bustling mess-hall, the butt of much humorous and not-so-humorous banter, when a busboy dropped a heavily-laden buspan. All the dishes in it fell to the floor with a loud crash.

In the moment of shocked silence that followed, the class clown jumped up and shouted excitedly, "Hey, did you hear that? Peter finally hit a target!"

The room exploded in laughter.

5 comments:

Rainmaker said...

Funny story...well..at least from my perspective anyway - probably not at the time from yours. ;)

jeanne said...

i have a sticker on my car that says, "Save the Skeets."

just sayin...'

:)

peter said...

They were safe with me.

David said...

Ah yes. I can feel that love.

Bex said...

Very funny story! I kind of want to try skeet shooting now. An NRA-loving uncle was going to give me a gun for my 18th birthday (don't ask). My dad took him aside and told him not to. I'll tell you why in an email.