Recently, I've come to think of myself as part of what is coming to be know as Gun Culture 2.0 - people who came to shooting in a way other than the traditional path of being handed down from father to child, usually in the form of hunting. I was never exposed to shooting as a child. In fact, I didn’t take up shooting until I was over 30 years old.
I was thinking about this recently, and I realized that there actually is some history in my family with firearms, it's just that I was never a part of it.
My youngest brother went in the Army 19 years ago, to get money for college. It turns out he’s good at it. He’s currently a Staff Sergeant with the 82nd Airborne division staff, and he’s been all over the world, seen all kinds of places, and blown up all kinds of things. It’s fun for me to just hear him tell a few stories about things that never made it to the newspapers – it makes me feel a little better about America.
When he graduated from Basic Training, back when, we were all gathered at the family home, and he was showing us all the medals and badges he had won, especially the one for qualifying as Marksman with the M16. My father looked at the badge, and then quietly went back to his bedroom. In a minute or so he came out with a cigar box.
I knew my father had served in the National Guard back in the 60’s, as a way to avoid the draft after he ran out of college money. He did his Active Duty time as a company clerk, and I earned enough there to get back in college. But he never spoke of his time in the Service, and I never asked.
This cigar box had all his mementos from his time in the Service, and he pulled out a certificate I had never seen. It turns out that my father had been the top marksman in his Basic Training class! That's when he told us about how is father and uncles had taught him to shoot. It was a whole part of him that I never knew, and I asked him why he never taught us. He didn't have an answer, other than he really never had any interest in shooting after leaving the service.
I once joked with him that I could probably bring him and M-14 and he could field strip it and inspect it, even now, 50 years later. I really don’t doubt it.
Alas, my father’s health wouldn’t allow him to go shoot with me now, although he is aware of my shooting, and asks me about it. I just wish I had been able to share that with him.
As for my brother, he’s shot all kinds of guns, as you would imagine, from the M-4 to the Barrett .50BMG sniper rifle, to just about every NATO issued rifle, and most of the third world's choices as well. I’ve enjoyed his reviews. Coincidentally, his last tour in Afghanistan he shot an M-14 with a scope, since so many of the shots in the areas he was in were in excess of 400 meters. I once asked him if it was harder to carry an M-14 than an M-4, since it is heavier, and he laughed. He doesn’t carry the M-14, he explained, he just shoots it. Rank hath its privileges.
But, whenever we get together and I invite him to the range, he declines. He says he shoots enough for a living, and it’s not fun for him. I can understand. And I hope I never get to that point.
Maybe some day I'll go shooting with my brother, who knows. Until then, I'll just think about how it might have been different if my father had kept shooting.