I did something that some may feel is uncharacteristic of me– I went shotgunning Friday afternoon.
Some of Julie’s coworkers took half a day off and went to Coyote Sporting Clays in Morgan Hill, and we had… well… a blast.
Let me back up a few steps. I’m a bit of a gun nut. Now, I am defining “gun nut” as one that has an inordinate amount of information readily available regarding quasi-esoteric firearms-related data such as what “caliber” means and terms like “double action” as well as California laws.
Also I own a gun. That’s probably worthy of another topic later.
Anyway, I think my “gun nuttiness” arises from the fact that I’m both a gamer and a geek. Being a gamer, I’ve played almost every shooter out there and “in theory” handled all manner of firearms. I don’t believe that makes me in any way qualified to shoot said firearms, but that’s where the geek takes over. I will go on a research tear and learn everything there is to know about X or Y, and one day I picked gun laws and California and I learned all manner of things. That lead me to go to a firing range and actually handle firearms, and I learned that it’s pretty serious business. I have a hard time shooting recreationally because I approached it from a personal defense kind of perspective. I was very interested in Sporting Clays because it sounded like it was almost purely recreational. That being said, I had primarily been investigating handguns, so shotguns were kinda out there for me. I knew in Doom they were probably the best close-up weapon, and Rainbow Six taught me they’re the weapon for breaching a room and going in very hot and loud. The sheer intimidation factor of racking a pump-action slide is so ingrained from every movie and video game that I was a bit nervous as well as excited when Julie invited me to come along.
Coyote Sporting Clays is out down Santa Teresa on some big open land just behind the major hills to the southwest of San Jose. Sporting clays is like golf. OK, a quick rundown of terms… clay pigeons are the discs that are thrown for you to shoot at. They can be thrown by hand or from a machine called a trap. Skeet refers to a style of play where there are different shooting positions but the trap throws the same direction away from you (mostly). Sporting Clays is like skeet golf. There are different shooting stations and each one has a trap set up differently meant to simulate different animals and situations. In other words, not just birds flying away from you.
We met up with Bob our instructor who picked out a 20 gauge shotgun for us, and eventually Julie switched to a 28 gauge. As in most things in American measurement the number is almost useless and is derived in a wacky way. Look it up if you like. In short, a 12 gauge (the most common size) is a big shell, so a 20 is smaller, and a 28 is smaller still which means less recoil, and less weight on the gun, generally. We each had 50 shells and were given a counter like at Kinko’s (or fedex or mcdonalds or whoever owns them now) to count the number of clays that were used at every station.
Each station has different setups for where the and the land is not at all flat nor even clear. This means targets can come out from behind bushes as they track across or go straight up and come down or (my favorite) roll and bounce along the ground erratically when thrown on a side. We were new so there were a lot of tips, pointers, and practice. Bob was extremely patient and helpful in getting us acclimated, and was excellent at somehow seeing both how we missed the target (in terms of in front of, behind, above or below) as well as what we were doing to aim and shoot that made us miss. I don’t know if he has chameleonic independent eyes or what, but with every shot his instruction and encouragement really made it a great time.
The first target station had two birds, one that flew out and away in a traditional skeet style, and one that was thrown almost completely vertically. I never hit the tradtional one; after 4 throws we switched to the vertical bird, and my first throw was my first hit. Totally awesome describes it quite well. We proceeded to go through a few more stations and had some success. Bob ramped up the difficulty and on one had us shooting at two targets released simultaneously. On the last station, there were two targets: one was a bird flying left to right and one was a rabbit (the ground bouncing one) also left to right. I never got both, I would get one or the other only. Julie could get the bird some of the time and obliterated almost every rabbit.
Sporting clays is head and shoulders more satisfying than any handgun range time I’ve put in. The variety is really opposite to the constant and comparatively boring paper targets on a range. The shotguns we were using (double barrel, over under, break-action) also felt safer and more reliable than handguns to me. I think that’s because you’re holding it with four points of contact (both hands, your cheek, and your shoulder) vs. 2 hands waaay out in front of you; the targeting feels better. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the outdoors make a big difference. The ear protection required on a shooting range seems to be much more robust because of echoing. Also on a shooting range you are maybe 3 feet from any other person so even if the noise is lessened by the ear protectors just the blast pressure is strong enough to feel. Being outdoors with trees around and the instant gratification of the targets blowing apart makes for a much more satisfying time, and I can’t wait to go back!