Thirty years ago I used to go out with my friends to a special place in Rancho Cordova, California. It was just some land south and west of Mather AFB that a rancher use to own, or maybe leased from the government. I say was, because it’s probably developed by now. After a good bit of walking through grassy fields, avoiding cows, and their byproducts, we found the pit. It was a series of canyons that range from ten to over thirty feed deep, and looked like they were purposely dug into the ground for our enjoyment.
The pit was perfect for plinking. I can still remember as clear as yesterday driving to Rancho and stopping at the local hardware store to buy a few boxes of .22 long rifle shells. I could spend five bucks and have more ammo that I could use in the day, almost. We never left with any bullets left over.
None of us had any real gun safety training. No hunters safety course, no fatherly advice on handling lethal weapons, no adult supervision at all. Sure my friends were above average in intelligence, but we didn’t need it to understand the basic operation and consequences of our actions. It’s seemed painfully obvious to us that these devices were dangerous, that was the point, and they wouldn’t have been any fun if there were perfectly safe.
I can still to this day remember the fun of zipping a tin can at 50 yards with an open site .22. The smell of smokeless powder after a perfect shot, the sound from the report as the echo bounced back from the canyon wall. I never considered that what my friends and I were doing would be considered a cause for concern. Sure we kept it from our parents, but hey, we kept everything we did away from out parents. That was kind of the unspoken rule, if your parents knew, then by definition it wasn’t fun.
Times have changed. I hear that California is not quite as firearm friendly as it was when I was a teenager. Hardware stores don’t sell ammo, and the culture has shifted to one of fear and suspicion of anyone with a firearm. Am I way off base, or is what I hear true?
One of the things I love about Colorado and Wyoming is that our way of life, for the most part, is about thirty years behind California. It is still common to see someone in their late teens in a hardware store buying .22 ammo with friends. For me it’s like a walk back in time to when my friends and I used to shoot in the pit.
Its thirty years later, and I still go out with my friends for some informal target practice. We stop at the hardware store in Eaton to pick up some ammo and then head out to the prairie. New friends, different pit, but it feels the same.
I don’t know how to describe it but there is a bonding that takes place when shooting guns with friends. When alone there is a considerable amount of discipline required to be a safe shooter, when with friends the discipline and mutual consideration increases almost unconsciously. When plinking with friends I develop a heightened awareness of what is happening around me, every conversation seems to be more personal, every decision seems critical and well thought out. Sure we are just shooting at some tin cans or paper targets, but we are using deadly weapons. Life and death hang in the balance of our every action. Friendships formed on mutual trust, on this level, last a lifetime.
Or am I making too much out of this?
To all my friends back in California, if shooting is becoming more difficult or cumbersome, you’re welcome to come out to Colorado and play any time.
To all my friends who have never shot before and don’t know what the heck I am talking about, come on out. I will buy the .22s. We will go to the hardware store together.