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Bob Shooter of the Shooting Shooters Association - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Bob Shooter of the Shooting Shooters Association
Ignore the in-joke header plz.

On Saturday, Joe and I went clay pigeon shooting for our friend Aaron's birthday. Joe did some rifle work in the Air Force, but I'd never fired a gun before - heck, I'd only touched a gun once in my life. When we got to the range we were shown the trophies to be given out at the end of the day - Best Male Shooter, Best Lady Shooter and 'Turkey'. That turkey trophy was epic; a beautifully-sculpted fat golden bird. I have always been bad at sports (besides rollerskating and go-karting, it seems) and I had my eyes on it, assuming that I would probably be shite at this whole shooting dealie too.

For the practice round, I was indeed shite. For some reason, I'm so retarded I can't close my left eye. I can close my right eye just fine, but when I try to do just my left I wind up grimacing like Quasimodo. Every shot I took missed by a few feet - due to stereo vision, I was seeing two guns, and aiming with the wrong one. Then the instructor put his hand over my left eye and asked me to try again. BLAM! The clay exploded. And again, and again, every time he covered my eye.

"Of course," the instructor said, "You can't have me standing behind you grabbing at your face when you're shooting for Australia."

I could see him thinking. He took my safety glasses and handed them to an omnipresent wizened little nut-brown fella who seemed to be some sort of odd-jobs guy, and told him to put tape over the left lens. My practice turn was finished and I rejoined the others and ruefully showed off my taped-up glasses to a round of laughter. I could see a turkey trophy in my near future. A one-eyed turkey trophy.

Joe was fantastic, taking out about 80% of the clays he aimed for, and Aaron did brilliantly too. While I chilled out with the other party-goers, the boys practised shooting doubles, where both barrels of the shotgun are loaded, and a clay is fired from the left, and then the right of the field - so you don't have time to lower the gun between shots. You shoot the first clay, then quickly turn and take out the already-airborne second clay. Aaron got both on his first go, and turned around with such a massive high-watt grin I could see it from fifty meters away.

Practice was over, and the official contest began - shooting doubles as described above, which was something I hadn't practised yet. We were sorted into two teams, eight shooters per team. My team included Aaron and Joe, happily... I really, really didn't want to be the reason our team lost, so I hoped that their awesomeness would carry my weight and my performance wouldn't matter. Round one began. Aaron went out and did amazingly, only missing one clay out of ten. Joe did brilliantly too, with much the same result (ultimately he scored 17/20 in the contest!) Our team was all about team spirit, clapping for shots where the shooter scored one out of two clays, and whooping and cheering for shots where they took out both.

I was second-to-last to go out, and I could feel my heart racing. I went out feeling pretty bleak, not wanting to make a total cock of myself in front of my friends who had performed so awesomely. I put on the taped-up glasses, took the shotgun, clicked it closed. And you guys, you have no idea what a satisfying feeling that is. Also, ejecting the smoking spent cartridges is heaps fun. Pop! They go flying over your shoulder. Anyway, enough of this tangent. I raised the gun, noting that with my taped-up glasses it was just ONE gun in my vision. Lined it up. Elbow in the right position. Cheek against the wood, vision lined up straight down the long, sleek barrel. I shifted my left hand further back down the grip so my other elbow was bent too, and that kept my arm from hurting too much under the weight. Knowing my arms aren't very strong, I decided not to delay. "PULL!"

The first clay shot up into the air. My whole world dwindled down to nothing but the immense blue sky and that tiny black oval. It seemed to hang there forever. I fired. The gun kicked into my shoulder and as the clay shattered I was already turning to the right, scanning for the second clay. A moment of panic and then I spotted it, rising up into the field of blue. I pulled the trigger again and it dissolved into a cloud of dust.

I lowered the gun, amazed. Through the earplugs I dimly heard my teammates cheering. I was so flustered the instructor ejected the shells for me. "You alright?" he said.

"Fine, it's just heavy - thanks." My heart was still racing. Now the other team took their turn, and I rested my arms with the gun balanced on the stand in front of me, and figured I must have fluked it. But it had seemed so simple. So pure.

My turn again. And again, there was nothing in the world but the sky, the clay, and the barrel of the gun. I did it again. How could I not? When everything moved so slowly how could anyone ever miss?

My round ended before I knew it. I had missed at least one of the ten but I wasn't sure how many. I walked back towards my team, trying to hide a grin, feeling oddly shy and very undeserving - very lucky. Turns out I'd got 9/10.

The next round began, our team ahead. We all switched to the other side of the field. Suddenly people started performing badly, as though they'd gotten used to aiming and firing in a certain direction and the shift had messed up their perceptions. Even Aaron started missing. I got nervous again; our team couldn't be that far ahead and what if this side-switching malaise got me too?

While I waited, little-brown-nut-man walked up and handed me a tiny clay with a grin. "Get 'em to use these ones your next go."

I stared at the little orange disc and laughed. It fit neatly into the palm of my hand. "No bloody way!" I said, but I folded my fingers around it and kept it, feeling kind of proud.

My turn came up, I went out. Heart fluttering again. But the gun felt right now, stock nestling into the hollow between the triangle of ribcage, shoulder and breastbone. I know guns have evolved over hundreds of years to feel just-right but I'm not used to ANY equipment feeling just-right to me; I'm small and short and stocky, and everything is too long, or too tall, or too heavy. The gun was still heavy, certainly, but since I'd started holding it right I didn't notice anymore. Even the kick didn't bother me. Joe was turning black and blue, poor bony thing, but I'd finally found something my well-padded stocky little German-crafted frame was good at. And when the kicks came, I barely budged.

I shot and shot again, and everything I shot at moved in slow motion and exploded as cleanly and magically as though I'd willed it with my mind, and my feet moved naturally beneath me, and the instructor murmured, "You're on fire today."

And eventually, "Only two to go." He loaded the final two cartridges into the gun. I hadn't missed a single shot yet. Now I had something more than clays to aim for... I was aiming for perfection.

Those last two clays dissolved in puffs of smoke. Perfect.

Even through the earplugs I could hear my team going apeshit behind me, and I handed the gun back to the instructor, who congratulated me, and for the first time in my life, I walked towards sporting team-mates and they were cheering for me.

Long story short, I took home the "Top Lady Shooter" trophy (I like deliberately misreading that phrasing, haha.... ladykiller!) with a score of 19/20, beaten only by one guy who had been shooting before and got a perfect score. But the tropy isn't as awesome as the feeling I got while shooting - not the feeling of success afterwards, but that feeling during: pure, clean focus, the same thing I felt on the track while go-karting, or back in the day when I was an avid skater: the calm, meditative peace that comes from focusing everything in the world down to one instant when the mental and the physical meld. I am not a sportsperson but I understand more than ever why some people are, because when the clutter of noise, action, thoughts and worries of everyday life sink away, the world is a simple and beautiful place. When the rattling of the car, or the weight of the gun, or the force of the kick, or the beating of your heart all fade to a dream happening to someone else... in that moment lies peace.
15 have fought ~ fight the power!
ameliabeare From: ameliabeare Date: July 27th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Mmm.. target shooting. I LOVE target shooting. Though I've never done any clay target shooting.

I'm also a right-eye dominant shooter, which was a bit of an issue since I used a sniper rifles and not shotguns. It's only a small margin to adjust a scope, but it's harder to hold the weight with my left arm instead of my right.

Which is why we used a tripod and I got to be all down-n-dirty on the ground in a 'hide'. :D

My teacher says I make a 'great cluster' - 1 inch at 500 metres. /chuffed
tania From: tania Date: July 27th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, that sounds like it'd be fun! Do you know if there are any shooting ranges around Hobart at all? I wouldn't mind doing a bit of this as a hobby once I'm down there - and trying other types, like your sniping! Man, it's awesome that there are sports out there that aren't entirely reliant on height / strength / speed, but rather on accuracy... when it's not your body that matters so much, but your mind.
ameliabeare From: ameliabeare Date: July 27th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Shooting is a wonderful sport for coordination! I'd love to do more of it, and dream of one day doing cross-country ski-shooting. That'd just rock! But definitely in the wrong part of the world.

I was also in Sweden when I did target shooting, so I have no experience with Australian ranges, but I think there's at least two (that I've heard of) in the area. If I had a car and licence to drive it, I might have registered, but they're definitely not within walking distance. lol

Congrats on your mighty triumph with the clay targets! \o/

Pics of the trophy?
tania From: tania Date: July 27th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Az is going to bring in the pics tomorrow, so I'll be sure to upload. :) Hey, when I'm in Tas, if I do get into shooting of some description, maybe we can go together sometimes. I think one of the main ranges is located somewhere between New Norfolk and Hobart.
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: July 28th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I think mine are pretty even, that's why I struggled with it - when I did the 'hold out your finger' test I seemed to come up right-eye dominant again and again. But when it came to shooting it worked out the other way. Anyway, the eyepatch worked wonders for me, so no complaints here - and I prefer shooting right handed, it just feels more comfortable.

Plus, eyepatches are awesome. ARR! :D
xxbalaaxx From: xxbalaaxx Date: July 27th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
You have a way of telling stories that pull you right in and keep you gripped. Congrats on the win :D!!!
spotweld From: spotweld Date: July 27th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Randomly, did you see this: http://e621.net/post/show/37499
Specifically the picture in the 3rd row, second from the end?
tania From: tania Date: July 27th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh, no, I hadn't seen that. Geez that's embarrassing. XP Vix and I only really ever intended Crikey Duck as a for-fun thing, I'm not sure I like the idea that it made an impression...
spotweld From: spotweld Date: July 27th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
It was a good story with good art...

.. and you left its fans wanting more.
tania From: tania Date: July 27th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Hopefully next time I embark on an epic project it'll be better still. :)
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: July 28th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I saw that comment but didn't take it personally - he could have been talking about any one of those artists. In fact, based on what he says, he doesn't KNOW any of those artists and is thus not qualified to comment on their personality anyway. ;)

Cool gun info - they certainly put you through the wringer for gun ownership, but I absolutely approve.

'sides, I'm going to be too poor to consider something like that for a long time, and even IF I owned one I wouldn't want it kept on my house or property, and I intend to give this a go as a hobby IF the price is right for a very long time before I actually purchase equipment for it. So for now it's all pretty much a moot point.

As to the anti-gun lobby, I think they're beating a dead horse. Australia has great gun control laws. The rate of deaths from shooting is extremely low; as low as you can reasonably expect. I don't support the pro-gun lobby trying to have laws loosened, but nor do I support the anti-gun mob trying to have them obliterated entirely. I think that heavily-regulated hunting of feral animals and roos can be a very positive thing (but it should be extremely difficult to get the licence; if there isn't already a psychological test component, there should be), and I think it's great that the SSAA has noticed a rise in the number of people switching from hunting to shooting clays too.
tucker620 From: tucker620 Date: July 27th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Congratulations on the trophy--and on having found something sporty that you like and that likes you back.^^
alby_lion From: alby_lion Date: July 27th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
"You can't have me standing behind you grabbing at your face when you're shooting for Australia." That explains a lot, actually...

Nah. Congrats!

Wait, one more: "Everything I shot at moved in slow motion and exploded as cleanly and magically as though I'd willed it with my mind." Guns and drugs don't mix.

XD Sorry. Would resist the wank.

Congrats again. :) That actually is impressive.
ruggels From: ruggels Date: July 27th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Outstanding. Put that Trophy on your mantle and grin. I used to shoot League Skeet and Trap in the late 90s and it was a way to forget the cares of the week. Being able to compete with a $120.00 Mossburg Pump, agaisnt folks that had $400 Baikuls, and $1200 Baretta over/unders was the extra spice.(though under the weekly constant competative shooting, the shotgun fell apart in my hands and i didn't have the money to replace it)

Your experience of seeing the world slow down, and the focus being the sky and the bird and the "highway lane" of the shotgun's toprail.." I only got that when i was "on", but you seem to be a natural. Keep at it. Target shooting is a bit less mobile and active. If you do itMilitary style there's a bondage element too XD.

Glad you did this fearlessly too. Nicely done.

From: asathena Date: July 28th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
15 have fought ~ fight the power!