The Wussification of the High Power Shooter
By Hap Rocketto
American high power shooting has gone through many changes, much of it evolutionary and the natural progression of technological development. The earliest shooters used matchlocks which led to the snaphaunce, the wheel lock, the flintlock, the percussion cap, and now the self contained metallic cartridges.
The barrel started out as a smooth iron tube. Later it was grooved laterally to help in reloading, the grooves filling with the black powder fouling allowed for more shooting before a cleaning was required. Smokeless powder more or less ended that problem but some how the grooves became twisted and the resultant rifling increased the accuracy of the firearms.
All firearms were originally loaded from the front but innovative minds came up with primitive breech loading mechanisms that increased the rate of fire. With the development of the metallic cartridge breech loaders quickly moved from single shot actions to self loading. The advancement in actions brought about a transformation of the cartridge from pin or rim fire to the centerfire cartridge as the need for a faster and more powerful cartridge grew.
Sighting systems went from a simple V notch and bead to micrometer sights’ Telescopic sight started as long heavy low powered tubes and a now are light weight variable powered, internally adjusted, waterproof marvels of optical science.
Even the target has changed. Giant painted metal plates were replaced with more easily handled window sash type target frames. The targets were pasted to heavy muslin, called target cloth, and now corrugated cardboard serves as a stiff surface which does not sag or tear as humidity changes. Even the method of pasting a shot hole has gone from painting over the dinged metal plate, to a paste pot and paper circles, to lick ‘em and stick ‘em rolls of gummed buff and black pasters, to the self sticking rolls of today.
These developments are natural extensions of man’s quest for accuracy and technological excellence. These advancements are not without a darker, more sinister side, the wussification of the American high power shooter.
For the first half of the 20th century of high power shooting the rifleman used a service rifle with sling, a home made shooting coat, drawtube scope, or in the case of the legendary “Dad” Farr-one half of a set of binoculars, issue ammunition, scorebook, a small bag to carry incidental items such as an O’Hare micrometer, and a simple shooting stool. There were no shooting pants or mats and gloves were rarely seen. A small wad of cotton wool stuffed into the ears gave some ineffectual protection from the firearm’s report. Life was simple.
After the Second World War the typical Camp Perry high power shooter’s equipment had not changed much. For a day on the range the shooter would fill the shooting stool with 100 rounds of ammunition, a few clips if using an M1 or magazines if an M14, scorebook and pencil, stopwatch, shooting glasses, earplugs, poncho, canteen of water, and a peanut butter and bacon sandwich for lunch that had been made economically in the Mess Hall from the remnants of breakfast and table condiments. Wearing the shooting coat, one slung the rifle over one shoulder; the scope and stand, with mat wrapped about it, was carried bindlestiff fashion over the other shoulder. Picking up the stool one headed out from the double numbered huts to the 200 yard line lightly, yet amply, supplied, not to return for ten hours.
Nowadays such a simply equipped and attired rifleman draws a judgmental sidelong glance from the children of “The Greatest Generation”-fathers who knew how to work the bolt of the ’03 or to load an M1 without tearing off a thumbnail. Indulged as children they are accustomed to creature comfort and have grown rich on the economic dynamo their parents created out of the GI Bill of Rights. They feel aggrieved if a boat wanders in to the impact area and delays the shooting while they lie in the sun; they are distressed if an alibi run disrupts the flow of the match and causes lunch to be late, they are unhappy if the “shooters shuttle” is off schedule. They are, in a word, wussies.
Their wussification is manifested by the range cart. The simple and utilitarian shooting stool is now a Shooting Utility Vehicle replete with rubber spoke wheels, rifle rack, scope stand, rain cover, desk, and assorted other add on features. Mentioning this to a fellow competitor, who was grunting as he lifted his overloaded cart from his truck, I was told that any fool could be uncomfortable. Now I am all for comfort and that is why I mostly shoot smallbore prone now, there is less walking and more shooting in less time than the average high power event and we shoot under cover. The sight and sound of Baby Boomer shooters harnessed to their SUVs is more reminiscent of a covey of gossiping grandmothers returning home from the market dragging their loaded shopping carts behind them than a rifle range in full activity.
My complaint with the SUV set is not the gear but the constant carping about it’s weight, capacity, wheel size, ability to fold into a neat package for travel, cost, and how they have to buy an SUV for their SUV because it won’t fit into their present pick up or minivan and how the price of gas is so high they may have to cut back on their shooting. A top of the line SUV, and what shooter doesn’t want a top of the line gadget, runs about $700 all tricked out. Even at today’s prices that is a lot of gas. Perhaps a snack might make them feel better? They ought to rummage around in their carts and see if they can come up with some cheese and crackers to compliment their whine.