You ever have one of those moments when you realize that you might not know someone as well as you had thought? I had one of those moments with my father when I was a teen. I had always known that my father owned some guns. I can even remember going to the range with him as a youth while he competed. My Dad was a member of a black powder enthusiast’s group. It was something I never realized was as important to him as it was.
My moment came when my Dad decided it was time to take us out and teach us to fire a pistol. I’d been taught to fire rifles and I was a fair shot. My brother was completely new to the world of firearms. So, Dad loads a couple of pistols and two boxes of ammo into the car and we head out into the country.
Dad had brought, what in my opinion, were his two coolest pistols. Both were .22s. One was a miniature version of a Colt .45. This thing was awesome. It was semiautomatic with a 10 round clip. Only downside to the piece was it was four or five inches long tops, so you weren’t going to be doing any long range shooting with it. The other was a single-action revolver. Now growing up in my house watching westerns every Saturday, I thought this was quite possibly the coolest gun in the world. Being a kid, my perceptions of the pistol might have been a bit skewed, but I seem to remember it having a seven or eight inch barrel and it was blued so that it glowed in the sun.
Well, we get to the place we were heading to reap mass mayhem on some beer cans, and my Dad begins to unpack the weaponry. I swear you would have thought he was building a shrine. He lays them out in the back of the Bronco II that we got around in back then. He lays the boxes of bullets down next to the pistols and begins to load them.
The whole time my father is talking about his younger days and how he used to practice a lot. I’m about 16 at the time and I have very little recollection of this practice, but he tells us he used to fire between 300 and 500 rounds a week through the revolver. See, when my Dad was in school he was a quick draw fanatic. At his prime he was supposed to have been gods awful fast. The kind of fast that would make a man piss his pants looking at a gun that hadn’t been there a split second before. My thoughts at the time came right out of the “yeah right” part of my adolescent brain, but then I can remember my Dad doing some of these, what I thought were, tricks when I was younger. There are two that I can remember to this day.
The first is a coin catch. The technique goes something like this. Place a coin on the back of your hand. Pull your hand out from under the coin, don’t toss it up, and catch it over handed. (Don’t turn your hand palm up.) Repeat this with two coins. Now it gets tricky, because you have to catch them one at a time, not as a group, and not drop the ones you’ve already caught. Did I mention you start them waist high? Yeah, you do. At his fastest, I saw my Dad catch four. He tells me that in the 60’s, when he was a real enthusiast, the national champion in quick draw could catch five. Try it. I’ve gotten to three and I thought I was flying. Five seems almost superhuman to me.
The second one is showboating, but also works the reflexes. Have your opponent, victim, whatever, hold their hands out in front of them about 8-10 inches apart like they are gonna clap. Most times the person doing the drawing will say, “GO!” and the clapper is supposed to try and get their hands closed before the “quick draw artist” can get his hand between them. This is a rigged contest because the clapper has to react to the drawer. Here’s how my Dad played. It’s the same set up as before but the clapper initiates the draw. This time the quick draw artist has to react to the clapper. See the difference? The quick draw’s reflexes are the ones having to beat the clock. I have never seen my Dad lose to this day and he’s 63. Scary fast.
Any way, back to the guns. Dad lets my brother and I shoot for a bit. He offers advice and support and after about a half an hour we are getting pretty accurate. But being angst filled youth we eventually challenge Dad with the ever popular, “If you’re so smart you do it!’ anthem of teenage boys everywhere.
My brother has the semi auto and offers it to Dad, which he declines. He instead reaches to me for the single action revolver. I stress again SINGLE ACTION. He mumbles something about being out of practice and cracks off a shot at a Coors Light can on a fence post and missed it completely.
He opens the chamber and replaces the spent cartridge glances at my brother and I and he fires again. This time he hit it. Whoopee he hit it.
He opens the chamber and replaces the spent cartridge and repeats. He hit it again.
He opens the chamber and replaces the spent cartridge and this time I ask him why.
“Want all 6 shots,” was all he said and he smiled at us. There was something in that smile that said, “Are you ready?”
He lowers the pistol to his hip. Pulls back the hammer and draws. Crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, and crack, about as fast as you can read that, he fired all six rounds. I watched as 2 cans fell off the fence. Big whoopee do. Six shots and two hits, I could do that. I was mumbling something to that effect when Dad told me to go get the cans. What I saw there will remain in my mind until the day I die. He had hit only 2 cans; that much was true. BUT what was also true was that he had hit both cans 3 times.
I walked back to my Dad and my brother with the cans in my hands and a look of utter disbelief on my face. My Dad, master of understatement told me, “When I was in practice I could have put 5 or 6 in just one. It fell faster than I could follow so I shot the other one.”
Love ya Dad.