Time to Get Guns off the Rack and Shoot ‘Em


Recently, some fellow historical reenactors and I went to my primitive log cabin in northwestern Ohio for a few days of camping, shooting and just general fellowship. We had more fun than the law should allow, especially when it came to shooting. I had encouraged my pals to bring whatever firearms, and as many as they wanted. Among those fired were three 12-gauge shotguns, several black powder rifles and smoothbores, .22 handguns, both single-action and semi-automatic, a cap and ball pistol, an old .22 single-shot rifle, a .38 Special snub-nose revolver, two .357 Magnum revolvers, an SKS semi-auto rifle in .762×39 and a vintage Marlin lever-action rifle chambered in .35 Remington—lots of firepower.

We camped for days and shot some of the guns every day. Part of the shooting was at close-range targets—a can of pumpkin pie mix really splattered—and part of it was at long range. Of course, we were careful of our backstops, the proximity to any neighbors, we wore proper eye and ear protection and followed all rules of safety.

In a small woodlot across the road well away from any semblance of danger to anyone, we set up a “woods walk” for our primitive firearms. This was a test of skill, consisting of shooting at stationary targets such as a chain suspended from a tree limb, a round piece of wood with an orange dot in the center, small bags of flour that sent up a plume of dust when struck and so forth. Prizes for the winners were refreshing bottles of juice, which tasted great on a warm day.

After the woods walk had concluded it was time to get out the smoothbores, both primitive and modern versions, and bust a few thrown clay pigeons. We did not do too much damage to the birds, but we did have fun. White smoke filled the air, accompanied by scathing remarks when we missed and congratulatory remarks when we hit. The best part of it all was that while we made a lot of noise, we were off by ourselves in the country where people often shoot for whatever reason. No one complained, and we could be as violent as we wanted to be; no one was hurt because we were always careful, and, one of the guys is an NRA instructor. We had lots of fun, which recreational shooting is supposed to be.

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In addition to exercising our Second Amendment rights as free men, there was one other reason for our shooting: The hunting seasons are just around the corner and we all needed to practice with firearms that we might be using in the field. Yes, it was informal shooting, but it was an effective means of reacquainting ourselves with guns that we may not have fired for months or even years. In the weeks to come these same guns will be shot off of bench rests to properly zero them for hunting use, and they will be cleaned and oiled and ready to go in the fall.

So, here is my challenge to you: Do not wait until a day or two before hunting season, especially if you are a black-powder hunter. Take your smoke pole down off the rack or get it out of the safe and inspect every inch of it. Run a pick into the vent, inspect the spring of the lock and look for rust—which is the curse of black powder—and once you are sure it is in good working order, shoot it. If it hits where you aim, great, if not, this is the time to diagnose the problem. If you can’t find the problem yourself there should be a gun store somewhere nearby where you can consult a qualified gunsmith and get to the root of whatever ails your long gun.

Then, carefully clean it and lubricate all of the metal to avoid corrosion. I love to shoot “old-time” firearms, but I have to force myself to remember to take them out about once a month and give them a good going over. If cared for properly, they will last a lifetime and can be passed on to the next generation of shooters.

So, get out the guns, take along a youngster of proper age and disposition (with parental consent) and teach him or her the basics of safety and proper gun handling. And, make some noise and have lots of fun.