by Frank Pauc
This first published in Frank’s blog on April 24, 2016. It is republished here with the author’s permission.
The day that Karin and I arrived in Texas, Hans asked me if I wanted to go out to the country and shoot with his friends. Karin heard him, and she asked if she could come along with us. Hans frowned and said, “Well, I guess you could, but I don’t know what you would do there.” Karin suggested that she could take her knitting along. Hans sighed deeply. Then Karin took the hint, and said, “It’s okay. You two just go and have fun,” and she gave Hans a motherly smile. He just shook his head.
The next morning Hans drove up to get me in his Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Cummins Turbo Diesel with the extended cab and the eight-foot-long bed. Hans usually needs two attempts to get the truck into a parking space. It’s a nice vehicle, except that Hans can’t open the tailgate anymore, ever since he backed into that big stump in his buddy’s front yard. Hans bent the hell out of the rear bumper, and he hasn’t had the time or money to replace it. He did put an “Iraqi Vet” sticker on it. I climbed into the cab with him and shoved aside the empty Pall Mall packs and Monster cans.
Hans told me that we needed to stop and buy some ammunition. What that really meant is that I needed to buy some ammunition. So, we went to Gander Mountain to get some shotgun shells and some .45 Long Colt ammo for his revolver, “The Judge.” It was breath-taking for me to realize how expensive ammunition is. Shooting a weapon is not cheap. Not at all.
Hans drove us out to his friend’s farm (Philip raises cattle) near Iola. The other guys were already there. A couple of trucks were parked under a tree near Philip’s trailer house. Boston, aka Jim, had the bed of his pickup full of weapons, literally. Philip and his father, Lenny, also had their various firearms with them. There was a card table under the tree covered with boxes of ammo, all kinds. Boston went out in the field and set up some targets. He placed treated wooden boards (4″ X 12″ X 12″) at varying distances: 100 yards, 50 years, and 20 yards away. To prop up the nearest wooden target, Boston placed an old tire on a metal rim behind the wood. Hans got his shotguns and his handguns out of the Dodge.
I lost track of exactly what we all had for firearms. I know that we had Hans’ 1911 45 pistol (special ops edition), and The Judge. Hans also had his Mossberg 853 over-under shotgun, and his side-by-side. Let’s see: for handguns, we had a .357 mag, a .44 magnum, and a 9mm. For longer range, we had a .22 rifle with a scope, 17mm bolt action rifle, an AR-15 assault rifle (with a forty round banana clip, and an AK-47. Philip had a couple of other shotguns, and I think there were a few other miscellaneous pieces.
Since I was the new kid, everybody there wanted me to try out their favorite gun. Lenny came up to me and showed me his .454 “Raging Bull”. He asked me if I wanted to fire it. Then he opened the chamber and showed me one of the rounds. He said, “I want you to know what you are getting into here,” as he smiled.
Now, the Raging Bull is an absurdly large revolver. It is almost a parody of what Dirty Harry carried. The rounds are huge. Lenny handed me the weapon, and I lifted it and balanced it with both hands.
Lenny said, “Y’all might want to cock the hammer back. The trigger pulls hard.” I pulled the hammer back and sighted the gun on the nearest target.
Lenny grinned and told me, “It’s got a bit of a kick.”
I took a deep breath and pulled slowly on the trigger…
I went completely deaf for the next five minutes. That was a bit disturbing. On the other hand, I was relieved to know that I hadn’t broken my wrist when I fired off the shot and the pistol kicked back. I shakily handed the gun back to Lenny. He smiled and said, “Let me give her a try.” He popped off another round at the same target. I bet it was loud when he fired, but I couldn’t tell.
Philip walked over to the target. He said, “Yeah, both shots hit the wood. One of them went all the way through the wood, and the tire, and the rim.”
We took turns firing for the next couple of hours. Philip tossed up some skeet for us to shoot. Hans hit all the clay pigeons, five out of five. Hans is remarkably competent with weapons of all sorts. That’s not a big surprise really. It was his profession.
I liked shooting the AR-15. It’s essentially just a civilian version of an M-16, except that you can’t fire it in a fully automatic mode. I have been informed that it is possible to fix that particular problem. When I shot it, it made me remember things. I hadn’t fired one for almost forty years, and the smell of the gunpowder and the tinkle of the brass shell casings reminded me of times long past. I managed to hit a few things, and that felt satisfying.
Philip asked me if I wanted a beer. I told him that maybe we should wait until we put all the guns away. Boston laughed and said, “Hell, Frank, you’re in Texas now. We don’t have to stop shooting before we have a beer!” I waited.
We shot until Philip and Lenny had to get ready to go to a wedding. Then everybody packed up their guns and ammo. We left Philip’s dirt driveway covered with brass. He didn’t mind. I enjoyed meeting Hans’ friends and I told him so.
We had fun.