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American Marksmanship Moments; Nailing the 10-Ring at 100 Yards With a Muzzle Loader (VIDEO)

CREDIT: photo/Dennis Santiago

Our Zig Zag Politics

The United States continues to walk a zig-zagging line back and forth across the Second Amendment. We have experimented with where we stand between the right of the people to keep and bear arms and the fear of each other possessing them. In the 1970s and ’80s, that argument raged over handguns. In 1989, the object of the debate shifted to semi-automatic sporting versions of military assault rifles, a class of weaponry that has better theatrical looks worthy of prejudicial treatment along with their owners, who are not the ones committing crimes.

I do not expect that this pattern of behavior is going to change anytime soon. Like clockwork, I fully expect that we will see political periods where so-called “assault weapons” are banned from new purchases followed by periods where huge numbers of new purchases to catch up to pent up demand will again be allowed. We have done this several times and we will do it again regardless of the political winds of the moment.  We just don’t know how to find a happy medium when it comes to things.

Despite all the acrimony, nothing really changes. The cycle of poverty remains along with the cycle of crime that goes with it. The patterns of intolerance remain along with the explosive tragedies that stem from deliberately ignoring pain in plain sight.  We will continue to blame inanimate objects for the human flaws we refuse to look at in our mirrors. Such is the theater of the political class.

Meandering Towards Unity

The rest of this article is not about divisive politics; that is the province of lobbyists, politicians and news bureaus chasing market share.

This is about sharing the pure joy and skill of responsible firearms ownership and good marksmanship. Millions of American are responsible gun owners. None of them are criminals. And for them, which includes me, the pursuit of good marksmanship is a means of recreation 99.999% of the time. It is something you do with friends and family.  It is part of a uniquely American bond that transcends great divides across politics, race, wealth, education and age.

I’ve done this a long time and what I’ve learned is that a member of the NRA, a Pink Pistol, and a Black Panther all have the same thing deeply in common, they all rely on having the Second Amendment to be the American citizens they dream of being for their country.

Maybe someday, that common discovery can be made by the political class. For now, I am content to know that is what lurks beneath the patina.

Enjoying Marksmanship

The American marksman can make good use of any firearm that comes into their possession. Good gun handling is an earned and perishable skill. It cannot be purchased; it must be patiently learned. The target is the arbiter of your efforts. You are either good at it or you’re not. And the patience you learn to apply to the skill pays off in many other aspects of your life. Being “good” is not about being the best; it’s about having the skills to pass muster at what the Bill of Rights calls “well regulated”.

What does that really mean? How do you explain that to people at cocktail parties? For the purposes of this article, let us reduce that to the simple question of can you consistently hit the 10-ring of a standard target at 100 yards?  For the NRA SR-1 target, that is a circle 3 1/3 inches in diameter, about the size of a tangerine a football field away. Here’s the thing, anyone can do it once they learn to apply basic skills and self-discipline.

Let’s stay away from the murky world of politically loaded imagery.  Just for fun, let us ask if you can do that with the original American rifle, a muzzle loading musket. In this case, a Thomson Center .50 caliber Hawken rifle firing a patched round ball over 70 grains of FFg black powder. About as back-to-basics as it gets. Here is my recent attempt at it.

To be fair, I have a bit of a head start here. I do have a Master classification shooting AR-15s in Service Rifle competition and I’ve been a firearms instructor for many years, which basically means I can dial myself into the center of the target a bit faster than others. But holding center once there; that anyone can learn. For teaching people, a Ruger 10/22 or something like that at 1/2 the distance on an appropriately scaled target is the better learning tool. Truthfully though, this is not that high a bar to achieve for anyone who puts the time in to become a responsible gun owner and makes the effort to become “well regulated”. I assure you, you can do this too.

Caveat: I am not on the staff of the CMP. I just happened to be wearing a t-shirt I got from helping run one of the matches they sponsor a few years ago. You don’t really think about “greeking” your outfit as they say in the entertainment world when you are out for a day of fun. Shooting is a come as you are affair. You know, like real Minutemen.