Saturday, December 17, 2011

Liberal with a Gun

I’m an unabashed liberal, and I’ve got a gun. Two, in fact. And one of them is a real prize.

‘Twasn’t always thus. I grew up and have lived most of my life in a weaponless family and friends milieu where gun ownership was not only nonexistent but often held in contempt. I continue to regard parts of the American gun world with dismay.

And yet, here I am today, owner of two pistols and member of the local fish and game club.

What brought this on? In essence, intimations of mortality. Timor mortis conturbat me.

I got to shoot a handgun way back in the mid-1980’s, enjoyed the experience, but for a number of reasons never pursued it then. Over the years I’d occasionally toyed with maybe taking up shooting, then put the idle thought aside – some day, maybe.......... And there were all those, for me, unpalatable aspects of the American gun culture – did I really want to wade into that world?

The cardiac scare I had in late April of this year reminded me that I am not, in fact, immortal; that I am going to die, not somewhere way off in the dim future, but relatively soon. My father died in the recovery room following open-heart surgery in his early 60s. I am a couple of months away from 63, with a much healthier heart, but still...... I don’t have all that much time left to waste, that much future to put things off to. Dammit, I’m running out of somedays. Ever since spring, I’ve been thinking off and on about dying – me, myself, DYING. Not obsessing, not fretting, but with a newfound awareness of the sands running out. If I’m going to do stuff, I better do it NOW.

There’s another issue, as well – I’ve been rolling along in a comfortable but narrow rut for quite some time: Working at home, doing some photography, taking care of the horses, seeing a few long-time friends, but otherwise not venturing outside of my snug little lair very often. I need to shake things up. To push my envelope. To get out of the rut, out of my comfort zone. And boy, this is one helluva way to roar past all that, innit? It was an odd feeling, to sit through the multi-hour gun safety course required for a Class A license (yup, I went all the way for concealed carry – same cost, same process as a more limited license), chatting with people who probably despise much of what I hold politically dear; to walk into that gun shop for the first time – me, the bleeding-heart liberal, the Obama-lover – and become absorbed in picking out just the right lethal weapon for me. (The guys at the shop couldn’t have been nicer to a self-confessed newbie, by the way.)

I’ve been granted membership in the local fish and game club, giving me range privileges so I can shoot my new toys. I plan to lie low as far as political discussions at the club go – envelope-pushing will go only so far – and simply enjoy developing a new skill, making new friends. I didn’t get a gun for self-defense; my town recently had its first murder in over 20 years, of a restaurant owner who made a habit of counting his money on the bar in front of his patrons. It’s target shooting I want to do, and have been doing over the last couple of months. And ya know what? It’s fun! It’s absorbing. When I shoot, it’s my whole focus, and everything else goes away. And the guys at the range have been sweethearts about helping a newbie, even a frumpy old woman newbie.

It still feels odd to be doing this. Still gives me at times a “Who are you, and what have you done with Laura?” feeling. I think that’s a good thing.

Ahhhhhhhhhh............. By now, anyone who’s (a) read this far, and (b) interested in what guns I bought will no doubt be hollering at the screen: “So what did you get anyway? What’s the real prize already? Give!” All righty, then.

First gun, what I picked out on my initial trip to the gun shop, with much helpful advice: A .22 caliber Ruger Mark III 22/45. It fits my hand well, has an easy trigger pull (a necessary consideration given the arthritis in my dominant hand), not much recoil, eats any ammo you care to feed it without jamming, and shoots with encouraging accuracy even in the wobbly hands of a newbie. I put 200 rounds through it the first time I shot it, and had a blast. Very tired hand and wrist by the end, but definitely a good time.


And the second handgun? Why get a second one when the first one suits me just fine? Why take a further step on the road toward gun nut damnation? Why, when on an ammo-buying trip I spotted it on the bottom shelf of a far-corner display case, did I succumb to temptation and (after researching it online; I’m not entirely bereft of my senses) did I pay twice what the Ruger cost me to own it?

Because it isn’t a new gun; it’s an old and very handsome Colt Woodsman Match Target .22 pistol. Its serial number (MT 23XX) indicates it’s from the first year of manufacture of the First Series Woodsman (the “Bullseye” model), which was made between 1938 and 1944. It came without the original box but with the original four-sheet manual. From what I’ve read online about it, it’s a finely crafted, very good target pistol. Well, okay, I’ve discovered it’s fussy about what it eats, but feed it the right ammo and it shoots beautifully. Looks mighty fine doing it too. Fits my hand even better than the Ruger.


And this particular pistol is extra-special in two ways: It has the original walnut “elephant ear” grips, which are valuable by themselves, plus a previous (its first?) owner had it engraved, making it one of a kind. The engraving included the person’s initials, which perhaps is why, even though it’s in fine shooting shape, it was mine for a price well under others I found online for the same make and model.


I guess collectors want stuff that looks fresh from the factory, but not me. To the contrary; the engraving tells me that “SAG” cared a lot for this pistol, and I feel a kind of kinship with that person in our appreciation of a finely crafted implement. This gun will be spending its time at the range, not in a display case.

If you’d told me a year ago I’d be writing this, I would have collapsed in giggles. And yet, here I am. Life is strange.

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