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My dad, my brother, and I got together for a few hours and fired off a few dozen rounds of ammunition. I haven’t shot a gun in a couple or three years, so I was excited to get the chance again. I grew up with guns, for hunting, for target practice, and for just the appreciation of the things.

We first went by a store and picked up a couple boxes of ammunition and a package of paper targets, then we stopped by my dad’s house to choose the guns. We loaded the car trunk up and went out to my late granddad’s farm. A wooded area at the back of the farm has served as our shooting range countless times over the years. One particular tree must have a few hundred bullets in it.

There’s a dirt tractor trail that leads back to and into those woods a little ways. My dad backed his car to the entrance of the woods, and popped the trunk. We all got out and set about organizing the guns and ammo. Our armament for this day included a .22 semi-automatic target pistol, a .22 revolver, a .38 revolver, a .38 Special revolver, a .357 magnum revolver, and a SKS semi-automatic rifle.

I slide cartridges into my dad’s .357. It’s an old-style single action revolver, and we have a gunfighter rig holster, complete with leather straps to tie it down to our leg. I spent many hours in my teen years practicing with that gun in that holster. I was fast on the draw, and could twirl it like any movie star. But it’s been too many years since that practice, so I avoided showing off too much at this time (and never with it loaded). Still, it felt good sliding it in and out of that holster on my thigh.

While my dad and brother continued getting the stuff arranged in the trunk, I stepped on into the woods. The first thing I encountered was a snake. I heard a rattle about a yard from my feet, and I froze in place. Once I pinpointed the danger, I took a couple steps back. I heard a rattlesnake’s tail, but I saw a black snake’s head. Eventually the snake slunk out of the pile of leaves and slithered away, “rattling” its tail the whole time. It was at least three feet long, but the rattle was made by the black snake vibrating its tail in the dried leaves. My brother expressed that I should have shot it, but I didn’t see a need; black snakes eat rats, and it went off peacefully into the brush without a problem. It wouldn’t be a danger to us.

Then my dad and brother came into the woods with me, each carrying a loaded .38. We explored about 100 yards of the woods before getting down to shooting.

When I was young, there were a couple old cars in the woods, but nothing else. Many years ago, those cars were dragged out and taken away so some loggers could thin out the woods a little. Since then, the trees have grown back, and a ton of useless metal junk has been added.

My uncle still lives on the farm, and he is an unbelievable collector of junk. His yard, at the front of the farm, has piles of various junk machinery, and his junk collection has spread to the woods at the back of the farm. Walking through the woods, I counted 23 riding lawnmowers—rusted, busted, and completely worthless. There’s lots of other junk, too: cars, push lawnmowers, tillers, go-carts, tires, and piles of stuff I can’t readily identify. Fortunately, the alley to our favorite target tree was open and clear.

I called first shot, and tacked a paper target on the tree. We measured 10 paces from the tree (about 30 feet), and marked the distance with a stick. Thirty feet is not very far for target shooting, but we were all a few years out of practice and we wanted to actually hit the target. The target is 12 inches across, with 8 inches of black rings, and 1 inch of red bull’s-eye. I put all six bullets in the target, five of them in the black. I cleared my target and let my brother set up.

My brother put all six of his bullets in the target, even getting one in the bull’s-eye. My dad also put six bullets in his target. We weren’t doing too bad. Had we been a more standard distance from the target, I figure we still would have been hitting with most of our shots. Their .38 shots were putting nice, neat holes in the target, but my .357 shots were ripping the hell out of the paper and knocking out chunks of the tree bark. When you see something like that, you realize just how powerful and deadly a gun can be.

My brother and I then wanted to compare our skill with the .22 target pistol. He got first shot in this challenge. He rapid fired (about two shots per second) and got nine out of ten bullets in the target. I fired slower (about one shot per second) and put all ten in the target, all in the ring right around the bull’s-eye.

“I fired faster than you did,” he said.

“I thought we were looking for accuracy,” I retorted.

Then my brother loaded the SKS. We put up a fresh target, and measured out about 90 feet. He knelt and put the rifle to his shoulder. He took his time shooting at the longer range and put most of the nine bullets in the target. (I’ve forgotten exactly how he scored that time.)

After that, our time for the afternoon was running out. We made sure the guns were cleared, and then put everything back in the trunk of the car. It had been a fun little time, and I was so proud of my targets that I kept them and brought them home.

And for the record, we are not a group of stupid rednecks fooling around with firearms. We were careful and respectful. We used earplugs, made sure everyone was clear and behind the shooter, and never pointed a loaded gun anywhere but down. I don’t think more than three bullets went anywhere other than into that one target tree, and we picked up the spent shells after firing (except we couldn’t get all the 7.62mm shells because the SKS throws them out so far).

But, I’ll admit that I don’t think we could have chosen a more redneck location for the shooting. We all agreed that the next time we do this, we’ll go to a formal range.


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