|One Day the Ice is Gone|
|The Next Day the Ice is Back|
|Setting Up a Shooting Bench|
|Defining a Target|
|Explaining the Target|
|Explaining the Mechanism|
The pond is uncertain about its ice, just as I'm uncertain as to whether or not I need that extra blanket on my bed. Like the ice, the blanket stays because it's still chilly enough.
From the bedroom beyond my office I hear the metallic clacking of a gun action. It's a common sound. My husband, former US Army Ranger Sgt. Mills, is either cleaning, building or changing out a part. A gun part. He reloads and tinkers with optics for scopes. If you want to know about Mausers, he can tell you when and where the models were made, for whom and why. He can spew formulas for ballistics like a rocket scientist.
My husband is my shootist.
In 1976, John Wayne made his last film, The Shootist. The storyline describes a dying gunfighter who spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. It was a poignant movie for John Wayne fans because the actor was already battling the cancer that would take his life in another three years.
In the movie, the term shootist refers to a gunfighter. Today, it can be a term to describe those who practice the sport known as benchrest competition. My shootist is not a hunter; he's not a gunfighter. He challenges himself to shoot the tightest groups possible at the farthest range.
A shootist has mechanical and mathematical precision. Former Sgt. Mills builds or modifies his long-range rifles for accuracy. He buys his own brass, bullets and gun powder to reload ammunition. Much of his accuracy is gained by his loads. Next he installs a quality scope with the proper range that can be dialed in to his targets.
The shootist targets paper. He marks and measures his groups to recalculate any changes he needs to make to his firearm, scope or reloads. He keeps journals like a writer with numbers filling the pages. He can tell you with expertise which loads are best for which distances and rifles.
Benchrest requires rests or sandbags to steady the rifle and demands a steady hand and calm breath from the shootist. It is an exciting sport that combines intelligence, mechanical aptitude and prowess as a shootist. It's a little like golf, settling into a shot that can be exhilarating.
John Wayne's shootist character comes to mind because the story is about a gunfighter seeking dignity at the end of his life. It is not unlike a soldier who is seeking dignity in the civilian world. Often, people express empathy for the homeless vets or ones in crisis, but many don't see that a great number of vets find dignity and healing at the local gun range.
My shootist educates others how to properly handle firearms and he's always willing to share his sport. Many times he has helped first-time shooters overcome their fear and realize that benchrest is an exciting activity.
When we traveled to Montana, former Sgt. Mills took time to instruct each person about the firearm, safe handling and how best to shoot it accurately.
Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills. Firearms by former Sgt. Mills.