The unifying power of the shooting sports. Pass it on.

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Maybe if we paid more attention to what we have in common and less to what separates us we’d be better off. Especially in the shooting world.

My best friend has a brother named Maurice. Both of them are without a doubt superb shooters, but for Maurice long guns are where it’s at. He’s a tremendous shot with a rifle; in fact, the only time I’ve ever been able to best him was on a day he was recovering from the flu — and then it wasn’t by much!

Hand him a shotgun, though, and be prepared for magic. Maurice grew up hunting small, fast birds in his native country (they really don’t have many large migratory birds) and as a result knows how to handle a shotgun. During his formative years ammunition was in short supply and that, combined with the nature of the game he hunted, meant that he was fast and accurate. If it was in the air and in range of pellets, Maurice could knock it out of the sky.

One day the three of us decided to shoot some trap at the club we belonged to. It’s not something we’d done before (despite the fact that the club had been running these matches a couple of times a month since the 1950s) and we all thought it would be a fun change of pace from handguns and rifles.

Now I must confess that I’ve only shot a clay birds a handful of times (the shotgun being defensive tool for me) and that I wasn’t much good at it. Maurice, on the other hand, found standard trap a little too easy (or, more precisely, boring) and concentrated on nailing the birds as fast as he could as they came out of the trap.

He’d yell “PULL” and the bird would come sailing out of the traphouse. Maurice would then shoulder his gun and just as the butt touched flesh he’d trigger the shot and hit the bird. He had no problem dusting the bird when it was perhaps 40 feet out of the trap, and sometimes he could get it earlier than that.

When that got boring he’d take to leaving the gun empty, and as he the bird came out of the trap he’d lift the gun to his shoulder, pump one into the chamber and hit the bird — all in one incredibly fast motion. It was amazing, if a little humiliating, to watch.

Now, while this was a standard trap range the folks who shot there regularly didn’t run a regulation match (in the same way that long-time poker buddies will typically not play regulation poker; they have their own rules to make things a little more fun.) In this case after everyone had a round of plain ol’ trap they’d start to mix things up; the person who broke the most clays would get a prize from the money pot, for instance. Then they’d form up two-man teams and the side bets would start.

That’s when it got interesting for Maurice.

Here were a bunch of old, fat white guys who were quite set in their ways. Given some of the jokes we heard, I surmised that as a group they weren’t what you’d call tolerant, either. In fact when the three of us walked in — me flanked by two swarthy men with very odd accents — we got a little bit of a cold shoulder. (I’d like to think it was my lousy shotgunning, but in reality it was just good, old-fashioned redneck prejudice.)

About the time Maurice dusted his first couple of birds, however, things warmed up a little. (At least for Maurice; they were still ignoring his brother and me.)

When it came time to pair up, however, Maurice was suddenly the belle of the ball. Gone was the hesitancy and wariness; the other shooters realized they were in the presence of another real shooter, and that was all that mattered. Maurice actually had to switch partners a couple of times because everyone wanted to shoot with him.

He also walked away with a pile of cash. Damn him.

That’s what the shooting world should be about. When we talk about guns, shooting, hunting, the Second Amendment, or anything else related to our right to keep and bear arms, there should be no division. Politics and religion? Leave those things at the range entrance, please. We should be focusing only on what unites us and be smart enough to recognize that we’re not going to agree about everything.

Heck, even in our own little areas of specialization we’re not going to agree all the time, but we can at least acknowledge that we all want the same thing: the recognition of, respect for, and perpetuation of our Second Amendment rights. Everything else is superfluous.

You may not like the way the shooter next to you votes, or that she’s an atheist, or even that he has no interest in hunting. The fact that they’re there, exercising and enjoying the same right you are, should be enough.

It was enough for Maurice and his new friends that day. That’s the way it should always be.

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

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