Rifles and Pistols and Guns, Oh My!

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Oh, ho!

 I received a snarky email from someone in response to the blog where I mentioned I make my living testing firearms. It was not the most articulate email I have ever gotten, but the implication seemed to be either that I liked guns because I am a lonely little man, or that I am a lonely little man because I like guns.

I assume that by “little” he or she means psychologically or intellectually little, since physically I am right in the middle of the pack. (Literally. When I boxed, I boxed as a middleweight.)

Psychologically, I am also pretty much in the middle of the pack. I’ve had my share of troubles (notably PTSD and its handmaiden, Depression) but I don’t hear voices, I’ve never been taken to outer space by little green men, and I don’t believe I’m really Marie Antoinette or a polar bear or anything, so I don’t think I’m in immediate need of a room with soft walls.

A lot of teachers over the years told me I was intellectually negligible (this was usually accompanied by a hearty whack on the side of my head, remedial teaching being a trifle more primitive in those days and those countries) but as I have managed to make my way in the wide world using whatever wits I do have, without ever having to resort to manual labor at minimum wage, here too I would say I’m staggering along in the middle of the pack.


But what really intrigued me about the email was the implication that, if you like firearms, there must, by definition, be something wrong with you. Wow. Those who dance are thought mad by those who don’t hear the music. Putting aside Olympic and other competitive shooters who enjoy using their unique skills to get a projectile from point A to point B (sort of like throwing a football or baseball or basketball), and putting aside the artists who love creating works of functional art using wood and steel as their canvases (sort of like the people who build and restore vintage cars or motorcycles or boats), what reasons might one have for liking guns?

I shan’t enter into any discussion here about need, or personal rights, but why might I like firearms?

For the same reasons Olympic shooters do. I may not have their skills, but just as they enjoy exercising a certain skill set and achieving certain goals, so do I. In my shotgun case I have saved those little patches you get for shooting a straight set of twenty-five. There are embarrassingly few of them, but I’m proud of the ones I do have, and I derived great enjoyment and relaxation from the process of earning them. I have never done any competitive pistol or rifle shooting, but I get great pleasure and relaxation from those activities too. And pride, when I shoot well.

I like fine guns for the same reason that people go to watch regattas or concours d’elegance. I have zero interest in building, restoring, owning, or even driving an antique car, but I can’t look at an immaculate old Duesenberg or a Jaguar Mark IV or practically any pre-war Mercedes or Packard without a gasp of delight. You may be terrified of water, but how can anyone with a soul not be thrilled by the sight of a brigantine under full sail, or a gaff-rigged ketch heeling in the wind? London “best” shotguns, exquisite rifles built by American custom makers on classic and greatly re-worked actions and capable of fantastic degrees of accuracy, those may be things I can never even dream of owning, but I can appreciate the skill, the artistry, the lifetime of commitment that goes into creating such things. It’s like looking at a great handmade watch, something by Patek Philippe, or Breguet or Audemars Piguet; you are looking a piece of exquisite working art that is also capable of performing extraordinarily accurate tasks. And when I am lucky enough to have someone like Joe Smithson, Ryan Breeding, Pat Holehan, Hill Country Rifles, or Kilimanjaro send me one of their works of art to test, I am profoundly grateful.

And if anyone reading this is a financial bracket that allows them to own a Patek Philippe or Breguet or Audemars Piguet, how would you like to adopt a nice middle-aged man?


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