Shotgunning Clay Pigeons for Sport and Pleasure
By Alec Rawls © 1996/1998. (1150 words) From The Stanford Review, 5/20/96

"Pull." A mechanical arm whips a fluorescent yellow disk across the perfect blue sky and... BLAMM! The disk is shattered into space. "Yee-haw" crows the peanut gallery. "Clack-clack," a second shell is chambered and.... "pull," whang, BLAMM! "Two for two! Somebody's finding the range."

Action open, check to see that the magazine, receiver and chamber are all empty, safety on, replace gun muzzle up in the rack, ready for the next shooter.

It is a Review outing to the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club up on Skyline (just south of Rt.9). Jeff, Lucas, Thorvin and myself are smiles all round. "Step it up. You're lagging Rawls." I'm getting such a kick out of watching the others shoot that I keep forgetting my turn. I pick up two shells and head for the shooting platform. "What were you doing there," I ask Thorvin on his recent success, "leading, or sweeping through?" "I was just... aiming" comes the bemused reply. I laugh and ponder my own strategy, but first, procedure:

Pick up the gun and look into the action. Verify that the magazine and chamber are empty and that the safety is on. Close the action and load two rounds into the magazine, keeping the barrel pointed downrange. Push in the slide release and work the action to chamber a round. Safety off, trigger finger still outside of the trigger guard. O.K. Time to do some damage.

I shoulder the weapon and get ready with the barrel low, pointing out in front of the mechanical arm. "Pull." It's a high one. I come up on it -- slowly as I get close -- and pull the trigger as I come across the disk. Annihilation! You can tell how dead on you are by whether the clay pigeon just breaks or if it is blown away. On my next shot I come up on the bird too fast and have to correct. Clean miss! Oh well, I'm used to that.

I bought this home defense shotgun recently to complement my revolver. It's funny how an appreciation of firepower grows on you. The first time you need a weapon and don't have one, you realize it's time to buy a gun.

For me that was several years ago when, pulling an all nighter, I heard a woman crying and pleading outside my window, then a black male voice crushing her: "I'll teach you what its like to satisfy a man." I grabbed a knife and slipped out the door but realized my mistake too late. They were in a car and had taken off before I could get around the house. I must have been too engrossed in my work to hear the car pull up.

I was haunted for years -- my lack of preparedness, my ingrained distrust of the police after growing up in an age when the war on drugs was a political war on the counter-culture. I didn't call the police until after I had spooked the car! And that poor woman, whom I utterly failed to help...

So I made my own amends with the police, promising myself to call them in an emergency if I possibly can, and I bought a gun. But then, the first time you need a weapon and do have a gun, you realize that what you really need is a bigger gun.

Last week I was ballroom dancing at a club in a bad part of The City -- an industrial neighborhood where no one hangs out, but where the gangs cut through all the time. If they see patrons leaving to go to their cars, they follow them and rob them at gun or knife-point.

Just after I get in my own car I see a little piece of gang trash pull a U-turn and slide into a spot on the other side of the street where he can scope the entrance to the club. His front seat is way back and low, so that when he pulls over he can put his head behind the door-post and see without being seen. I have my gun under my seat but in California I'm not allowed to have it out of it's locked container or loaded except to defend against imminent threat of deadly force. "Can I load it now?" I wonder. The stupid Bay Area prosecutors are harder on citizens who use guns to stop crime than they are on criminals who use guns to commit crime. I shouldn't have to think about such nonsense.

Two ladies approach the gangster's car unwittingly, but they are still in sight of the people at the front door, where there is a security guard. A smooth predator like this one will wait until someone heads down a side-street. "What's the matter?" my lady-friend asks as I watch out the rear side window. "We've got a robber lying in wait over there" I tell her. She does not know I have a gun, which complicates things. By coincidence a car pulls up behind the gangster to pick up the two ladies. The driver of the second car fumbles with his controls and puts his beams into the gangster's mirror. The gangster gets spooked and bolts. He'll be back for sure, another night.

There was no chance to call the police here. If this criminal moved he was going to move fast. With a passenger, I'd have to go after him on foot. Cover would be whatever I found. Hopefully I'd get the drop on him, but inevitably, armed only with my snubby revolver, I would have been stuck trying to stop him at shootout range. If I had the shotgun in the trunk, along with some rounds of 00 buckshot, I'd still be stuck with shootout range, but at least I 'd have overwhelming one shot stopping power. Most mortal wounds from a 38 special won't stop a criminal from shooting back. 00 buck will.

Like bird shot on a clay pigeon. "Pull," whang "BLAMM! However far you have or havent progressed in thinking about citizens having guns to defend themselves and each other, recreational shooting is pure fun. Unfortunately, while the Rod and Gun Club sell s all other necessaries, it does not rent guns. If you want to try shotgunning, you will have to buy your own shotgun, or go with someone who has one.

Stanford University does not allow firearms on campus (preferring to present its student as sheep to the slaughter if we ever get some murderous maniac on the loose). But if you live off campus, you might think of stepping up to some of your adult responsibilities by purchasing a gun. Trap shooting would give you the perfect excuse amongst your P.C. friends.


Alec Rawls is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics.


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Date Last Modified: 8/27/99
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