The Feng Shui of the Shooting Mat

by Hap Rocketto

It was a typical early morning ride to a rifle match.  As the sun was breaking free of the horizon I was at the wheel, as always.  My brother Steve was riding shotgun and was awash, as usual, in an ocean of sleep in which he would, like a great Sperm whale occasionally broach the surface, sputtering an incoherent word or two out of his blowhole, and sound deeply into his state of unconsciousness like a harpooned Moby Dick.  Shawn Carpenter and Mark Wujtewicz were riding in the back seats both wrapped tightly in the arms of Hypnos.  I have paradoxically spent uncountable solitary hours journeying to shooting events in a van full of snoring companions.

About the only break I ever get in this routine is when we return from Perry and my traditional front seat partner is Charlie Adams, a man who lives to drive.  After a full breakfast we perform a little Kabuki dance. I start out in the driver’s seat and, as the eggs, side meat, hash browns, and toast draw the blood from my brain to my stomach I carefully watch Charlie out of the corner of my drooping right eye.  It doesn’t take long before I sense him feeling me become drowsy and he begins to mentally double clutch, switch lanes, and try with all of his might to resist asking me to pull over so he can steer us home.  As soon as decently possible we stop, ostensibly for gas or a bladder break-but we both know the real reason, and I casually toss the keys to a relieved Charlie who happily take command while I, just as happily, nap away as much of breakfast and the endless Interstate 80 as I can.

This morning, as most mornings, the radio was set on public radio in anticipation of Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s Car Talk. But before one can get to Click and Clack-The Tappet Brothers-one must endure a myriad of stories about arcane, esoteric, and obscure subjects.  Listening casually, through the natural static of the nose and throat music of my companions, I heard the typical NPR upper crust nasal accented announcer, think Jim Backus as Thurston J. Howell III on the TV show Gilligan’s Island or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, discuss something called feng shui.

“Feng Shui, pronounced ‘fung shway’,” is part of an ancient Chinese philosophy of nature addressing the understanding of the relationships between nature and humans so that we might live in harmony within our environment and harness Chi, the natural energy of the universe.” droned on the broadcaster.

“It is also related to the sensible notion that our lives are deeply affected by our physical and emotional environs. If we surround ourselves with symbols of various forms of ugliness, we will corrupt ourselves in the process. If we surround ourselves with various expressions of the sweetness of life, we ennoble ourselves as well as our environment.” he continued.

“Masters” of feng shui charge big bucks to tell otherwise sensible people which way to face furniture in the living room of the refrigerator or dishwasher to attain a state of happiness in the kitchen.  Personally, if the food is hot, tasty, and plentiful then that is a happy kitchen, and that kind of happiness is never at issue when Margaret Rocketto is in front of the stove, no matter what direction it might face.

In the end I was as skeptical as H.L. Mencken, the Gadfly of Baltimore, who was right on target when he said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” or so I thought until I got to the match and laid out my gear.  With the radio program echoing softly in the back of my mind I noticed that I, like all of the experienced shooters about me, laid out loading block, scope, small tools, handkerchiefs, windmills, and the rest of the shooting ephemera in a very careful pattern which was repeated each time we moved on and off of the line.

Each had their own blueprint, although most were similar, but it was clear that the placement of the items was particular to that person and was repeated without change.  I had two whole days to observe these phenomena and collect sufficient data.  As a man of science I knew that anecdotal reports are trumped by recorded facts.  Additionally I was able to observe the placement of objects through 16 cycles, giving me a pretty good feel for the repeatability of the actions.

Now I don’t know for certain if the placement of each person’s shooting mat “furniture”, the “expressions of the sweetness of life” so to speak, in such a particular manner had any real effect upon the elements of nature, such as light, wind, and rain, which so concern smallbore prone shooters.  That weekend the wind blew and pushed bullets about as they flew down range and it didn’t rain.  Other weekends I noticed that the wind was more kind or the weather more damp and my mat furniture is always in the same place.

Perhaps the environment is not so much the larger area of the range but the smaller one of my shooting point that the shooting mat feng shui effected.  After all, I am happy when, without looking, I can pluck up a cartridge and load it into my rifle chamber while peering through my spotting scope.  There was is thought process involved when I reached out for my handkerchief and find it at my fingertips while checking out the conditions down range. All is right with my shooting world because everything is in its place.

Now I don’t really believe in feng shui, but my shooting pants have both suspenders and a belt so, maybe, I’ll hedge my bets and keep my shooting mat furniture just where it has always been in order to make the most of its Chi.

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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