Monday, January 6, 2014

A Shooting Party

Shooting for the Beef, An 1850 painting by George Caleb Bingham shows Americans enjoying the national sport of agrarian America.
Longtime blog readers may know I once hosted Appleseed clinics on the farm, but those have been moved to the much better facilities at the Slippery Rock Sportsman's club. I still endorse the Appleseed as the best basic rifle course in America, but alas can no longer afford the time to volunteer.  Farm and garden work is a bit slack this time of year, so this Sunday afternoon, I hosted my own shooting party. With cold weather, it is easy for people to fall into very bad habits like television sports, video games or spending too much time on the internet. Shooting get us outdoors, and interacting with our friends and neighbors. After some very perfunctory planning, I ended up with a dozen shooters.

In rural western Pennsylvania, interest in guns and shooting is deeply part of the culture. It is the reason that though we are a "purple state" politically, there is not a lot of political will for gun control in Harrisburg.  Local interest in guns and shooting crosses all lines of ethnicity, education, age and culture.  My party guests ranged in age from 15 to 63. Education among the adults ranged from advanced degrees to GED's. There were veterans of three wars, and the descendents of immigrants from at least 8 countries.  The only unusual thing about the party guests was gender and occupation: a statistically high number of both full and part time farmers and all male.

When I made the invites, I said, "Bring whatever you want to shoot." Party-goers brought everything one  might imagine: a .32 pocket pistol, the latest in AR15's, beat-up Deer rifles, a match grade M1A, an "Ohio deer gun" set up for 12 gauge slugs, 1911's, Ruger auto pistols, etc. When I made the first invitations, one guest asked if he could invite some others. I said "Sure, its a party. Only two rules, no booze and use your head about gun safety." Five guests thus came as strangers and departed as friends. There were no violations of the safety rules. The party was not a match. The only prizes were compliments for good shots and a bit of hazing for misses.

We shot handguns first at my 25 yard range, then went out to the 200 yard rifle range. Inevitably, everybody ended up having a chance to try each others' guns. This was a great help for the youngsters, who could learn useful information, such as the safety locations and manual of arms for various types of firearms. In between shooting, we talked dogs, Turkey hunting, farming,...... and guns.

Shooting is a great sport for many reasons, but one is the lack of a generation gap. The young shooters actually listened to the adults' advice and were delighted to be there. There are few other realms of activity where teenagers actually want to hang out with their parents and elders.

After the party, I found out some wives and daughters wanted to attend, but did not want to be the only female in attendance. It would not have been the case, had they known other women were interested. I believe I will be hosting another shooting party soon.



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