Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Not a Sport for Me

Well, my weekly handgun class met for the third time today, and it was our first day that included time at the range. Now I've shot a gun.

Two, actually. Both were revolvers. My reaction to the experience was interesting enough I decided to blog about it.

First I used a S&W 617 (.22 LR cartridges, 10 shot cylinder, 6 inch barrel). This is a pretty ideal recreational gun if you like that sort of thing and can afford it. Revolvers are easy to maintain and use. The small caliber ammunition is inexpensive and minimizes noise. The small caliber combined with the gun's weight almost eliminated recoil. The 10 shot cylinder made it sensible to reload and put up a new paper target at the same time (at least at this range, targets are scored after either 10, 25, or 50 shots).

This gun was pleasant to shoot. My archery experience really helped. It turns out the ability to keep both eyes open while focusing only with the dominant eye transfers completely to pistol use, and is much more significant than having an optimal grip or smooth trigger pull. For my own recreation I'll stick with archery since it's free. But if a friend had a gun like this and invited me to go do some target shooting I would happily go with him.

Then I used a Taurus 617 Magnum (.38 special cartridges, 7 shot cylinder, 2 inch barrel). Among revolvers, this is a typical conceal-and-carry gun. It is lightweight titanium, concealable, and fires a medium caliber bullet.

This gun was very unpleasant. It was much louder, and its noise hurt my ears. The recoil was significant enough to make me sore. The trigger was difficult enough to pull that (unlike before) my single-action shots were quite a bit more accurate than my double-action shots. Since I wanted to keep using ten shots per paper target, I had to partially reload and then index the cylinder. All of these factors fed an emotional dislike I had to using something so obviously designed for harming people rather than recreation, even if it is clearly a self-defense pistol rather than what a criminal would prefer to use. I have no desire to ever see or use this gun again.

For me personally, neither gun is as attractive a thing to own as an inexpensive spring-loaded air gun to shoot biodegradable BBs out in the woods, or to use somewhere appropriate indoors during a month so rainy I go through archery withdrawal. But I have no plans even for that. Today I found out I can skateboard in the rain. (I was worried it might be like roller blading, in which the plastic wheels slip on any water, but my "softie" skateboard wheels have much more contact with the pavement.) I am enjoying Chen style Tai Chi. I still have plenty of new athletic activities for entertaining myself.

UPDATE: Actually, I might have to change my choice of what gun I might most likely buy. I found out today that Nerf makes a sniper rifle as well as other dart tag equipment. My co-workers in the math/science building get a bit stir crazy in the middle of Eugene's rainy season. I bet we could organize some amazing after-hours games once the students left the building. It's a...colloquium, yea, that's it. (As an aside, I asked the instructor of the handgun class what makes a toy gun a toy. His criteria: "If it can't puncture a piece of paper, it's a toy. Anything else is a real gun and should always be treated as such.")

UPDATE: Even James Rummel finds the Taurus 617 uncomfortable. (He appreciates its value as a portable self-defense gun. I do intellectually, but not emotionally. A gun people too uncomfortable to practice with, so much the opposite of a target-shooting gun, proclaims the brokenness of This World too much; it grates on my spiritual awareness.)