By Stephen Masbad
There’s always that one person in the room who can’t seem to understand why I shoot. It’s often the same people who through snide, oft condescending remarks wonder how an intelligent, literate person could enjoying shooting. Surely I’m simply misguided, no? But what these people, and indeed many in the shooting community, fail to see is that beneath the veneer of camo, politics and showmanship that pervades the firearms industry lays an artistry in itself. Something that transcends simply a machine triggering a chemical reaction. It is these intangibles that have driven me to shoot . . .
Some balk at the suggestion such a mundane, earthy thing as shooting could ever be considered art, yet what is art, truly? It’s hardly something simple to define (though easy enough to defile), and yet paradoxically is simple at its core. Art, whether in a painting, a sculpture, or yes, even the act of shooting is a sensory experience that strikes a chord in us. It’s something that overcomes our lost innocence and forces us to bow in wide-eyed wonder. Certainly one could apply that to, perhaps, the Sistine Chapel or Milton’s verse, but are we so accustomed to the act of shooting that we are no longer thrilled by it?
It could be the naiveté of my youth to assume we all can remember our first pull of a trigger, but I certainly can. It was my grandfather’s Browning Semi-Auto .22, in my eyes ancient but flawlessly accurate and reliable. My short arms at the time led to me taking my first shot with my hand under the ejection port, but I still remember the pure joy that welled in me. It was an ambrosial experience, and one that I try to remember every time I do shoot.
This is the sehnsucht in shooting, that unnameable something that compels you forth, making you long for more. It is the same reason we stand in awe of beauty, be it at the Grand Canyon or the Louvre. Here, we can finally see the strands connecting these things. Here we can say, in position unassailable, that shooting is indeed art.
There lies the struggle, perhaps, for the shooter. Does one always focus on the admittedly practical nature of the shooting experience, or is there a time and place to be able to simply appreciate the act in itself? Too often what is lost in the adrenal haze is the sheer aesthetic beauty of a gun being fired. It’s a tempest of the senses; the resounding crack, the smell of burning powder, the surge back into your hands. Shooting is an innately sensual experience, yet one finds few who would approach a shooting range as they would an art gallery.
One may hear arguments even after contemplating the nature of art that proclaim with the whole fury of the bourgeois that such a destructive thing could never be considered art. Yet the dichotomy of art is that it is force directed. What is oft seen as the realm of purely creative force is just as often the realm of destructive force as well. Just as the fires of a forge or the sculptor’s chisel is the act of shooting. A force of destructive energy focused to create a sensual experience. What separates shooting from other forms of art is not its destructive nature; it is that the act itself is where the beauty lies, not in the product of the act.
It is this act that is why I will never put aside my guns. I’m not irrational, nor uneducated. I’m simply enraptured by the beauty of shooting. One might certainly hope others are as well; for what but art betters the world?