Friday, January 27, 2012

Shooting is like sex, but without the humiliation

American Shooter gave me the opportunity to dig through a carton of spiral-bound journals dating back to teen years (yes, those are on paper, not on animal skins written in sheep's blood -- I'm not that old). This excavation showed me (a) what a windy goon I was between occasional bursts of inspired literary elegance and (b) how many adventures, trials, victories and important decisions in my life trace back to a substitute for sex in a basement when I was 12 years old.

Sliding a greased bullet into a rifle's breech, easing the bolt forward in its receiver channel and locking down the handle; aligning the sights on a black circle target of concentric rings 50 feet distant and applying pressure to the trigger with my breath held in my throat, waiting... The mechanism's sear drops from its notch and the firing pin darts forward like a snake's tongue. Ignition. A puff of released gas and the bullet spirals out of the muzzle, corkscrewing down range to punch a hole in the paper target. Whap. Release. Unlock the bolt handle, withdraw the steel cylinder to the rear bringing with it the spent and empty brass cartridge case until the mechanical ejector snaps the case free of the extractor's grip and, like the sucked-dry husk of a dead insect, the brass shell shimmers briefly in its flight and then disappears into the darkness as another of its kind is slipped into the rifle's still-smoking breech. Score.

My first shot was a bulls-eye, dead center of the target, a "pinwheel" in shooter jargon. After years of failure at virtually every sport known to man (except possibly Buzkashi headless goat carcass racing, the premier sport of Afghanistan) Mom and Dad finally had a keeper!

What about the "sex" part? Try sliding bullets into the lubricated breech of a fine rifle or well balanced pistol with the anticipation of pumping those hot slugs down range at a distant target and try to not think of sex. Sure, once the process of shooting begins, your libido becomes entangled in the foreplay of trigger control, breathing, grip and lining up those pesky sights, but brother -- or sister -- you are caught up in an adrenaline-fueled orgasm of shoot and reload until that last round leaves the muzzle. You are spent, but unlike sex, you can begin again right away, time after time after time...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Liberal in the NRA

That tag assigned to my new book "American Shooter" (Potomac Books, Dulles, Virginia) by my publisher fairly describes my situation thrust squarely into the center of America's current gun culture. Gun ownership has long been a hotbutton topic in the United States, and the National Rifle Association has the reputation of being an organization of primarily politically conservative members.

American Shooter provides a unique look at gun ownership, handgun bans, shooting sports, and the controversy over how to interpret the Second Amendment from the point of view of a liberal gun owner and enthusiast.

I examine the history of firearms in the United States, from the settlers who carried matchlock muskets ashore at Jamestown to the citizens who purchase guns in record numbers today. Recent Supreme Court decisions that uphold the right to bear arms have galvanized citizens on both sides of the debate, making the gun issue hotter than ever.

To provide a personal view, I weave in tales of my own experiences with guns, including sport shooting as a young man, hunting and bonding with my father, and facing the smoking end of a muzzle as an international photojournalist.

American Shooter is both a history and a personal journey that traces the path of American gun ownership culture from the Revolution to today. It recounts how the country has lived with guns from the flintlock hung over the fireplace to the concealed-carry, laser-sighted Glock semiautomatic pistol tucked away in the hidden pocket of Mom's purse.

This blog invites opinions, memories, debate and recognition that exclamation points do not necessarily make the exclaimer correct. Also, I admit that I was wrong once back in 1947 and I never forgot the humiliation, so if you judge one of my opinions to be pure unrepentent stubborness, you are probably right.