American Shooter: A Personal History of Gun Culture in the United States
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bang made us all jump. The soap bashed into the back of the steel trap. For the first time, we smelled the sweet perfume of real smokeless gunpowder. He latched back the bolt and ejected the empty shell casing. We examined it as if the glistening brass was some sort of antique artifact found in King Tut’s tomb. It was hot and blackened at the end and carried that lingering scent of action. The bar of soap had a hole in it the size of a half dollar and was almost split in two. That soap was a lot
shift from alto to soprano in the music class chorus. My hockey skates gathered dust, and my right fielder’s glove—I was always stuck out in lonely right field—had turned stiff from disuse. I was always the last to be chosen for teams in anything that required athletic coordination. But with a little practice, I could drill a bullet downrange into a bull’s-eye hardly bigger than the diameter of the lead missile. Every kid needs a ticket, something at which he or she excels, to earn the applause
your shoulder. Of course, having a hoard of howling, bloodthirsty Communist soldiers chasing you through a snow-covered Korean wood doesn’t allow for such civilized range practices. Being compact at five feet five, with a big butt and short legs (all of which would change radically in three years as I shot up to five feet seven and rearranged my other dimensions during a tour in the U.S. Merchant Marine), I shot in the low sitting position with my elbows propped on crossed legs and the low
class, marksmanship contests consisted of shooting at the mark. An X or V would be painted on a slab of wood, and each shooter would toe a line and fire to hit the center of the X or notch the crotch of the V. Instead of sherry, tea, and cakes served by the town ladies, the rustics favored corn whiskey, applejack, and a steer slowly turned over a pit fire, along with a slice of pandowdy. As a young man of sixteen, I had the opportunity in 1965 to attend a turkey shoot held in a field in Palos
I just wanted the hell out of there. The kick on the door never came, and instead of processing my film in London as had become my habit, I bolted for Heathrow and finally drew a deep breath as the wheels of my jetliner lifted off. I’d had enough automatic weapons shoved in my face by sweating young men to last a lifetime. I wanted to go home and stay for a while, to enjoy the company of my lovely and talented wife, my bright and busy kids, and our usual herd of cats who provided comic relief.