Shooting from the hip

Mr A and brother in law (BiL) were at Bisley shooting (clays, not animals) this morning. Mr A returned sporting a sizable bump on his jaw, courtesy of his shotgun juxtaposed with arguably dubious gun-handling techniques. He will no doubt look like he has been decked with a right hook on Monday at the office and he claims he is going to inform his colleagues that his wife is a husband-beater. Charming.

BiL, on the other hand, returned waving the flag for James Purdey and extolling the virtues of teaching gun-handling at a young age, citing ‘gun safety and etiquette’ – I refrained from voicing my scepticism.

Fuelled with the testosterone only possibly derived from activities inherently manly as say, digging a trench, and rivalled only by the ultimate epitome of the alpha male, the caveman dragging home his freshly slaughtered sabre tooth tiger in one hand and waving his club in the other, there is something close to neanderthal about men with guns (or clubs, spears). Simultaneously, there is a sense of reverting to childhood (cf. cowboys and indians, police and robbers), accompanied by that child-like spark of boyish enthusiasm, which is hard to dampen or indeed frown upon.

When I was growing up, guns didn’t have quite the bad press they have today. Every other child (i.e. the boys) ran around wielding toy guns of every variety (ranging from the innocent ‘cork popping out the end’ type to the slightly more sinister, realistic replicas left to the more mature contingent. And those children without the guns (i.e. the girls) typically played host to the Barbie (or Sindy) who was either (a)infatuated with action man in his rambo-style fatigues and firearms, cruising in his tank; or, (b)Nurse Barbie, tending to her injured soldier, sowing the seed early for any nurse fantasies in later adolescence (and beyond). Bottom line was that the armoured warrior was revered, regardless of gender – guns were great; the hero’s weapon of choice.

My brother once thrust the barrel of his replica machine gun (complete with sound effects and red flashing lights) into the (fake) burning embers of our electric fireplace (this was back in the early ’80s, well pre-dating the era of obsessive child-proofing). He then proceeded to point the glowing (and melting) barrel at my unsuspecting sister. Fear not; no damage was done – not beyond that of melting her polyester puffer-style gilet (stylish bunch we were; I owned a similar, if not identical, one). The point is he clearly wasn’t berated sufficiently for his transgression; so much so that about a decade or so later in his teens we were graced with the presence of a policeman at our front door. It transpired that the neighbour had complained about the use of his cat in my brother’s air pistol target practice antics.

His collection of gun-related anecdotes wouldn’t be complete without reference to the long haul flight we were about to board that same year back in our teens. While going through the tedium that constitutes airport security, his bag was scanned to reveal the outline of his air pistol in his hand carry. What ensued was a flurry of activity amid hijack fears (this being the early ’90s, well pre-dating the real terrorist fears of more recent years). There was a genuine concern we might all be subject to a stint in police custody but the issue was eventually resolved by throwing the suspect weapon into the hold, supplemented with a solemn ticking off.

One thing I can be sure of in this modern era is that I’d rather see Baby-Bel toting Balenciaga than Beretta any day; much more airport security friendly for starters.


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