By Elliotte Want III
As the Rifleman’s Creed begins, “This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.” It is an old, bolt-action, .22LR Remington Scoremaster. It has a single 6-round magazine, a scratched and beaten wood stock, and iron-sights. There’s a screw from around the magazine well that I had to replace with a regular screw. It’s even old enough that it doesn’t have a serial number on it (something that was an occasional headache in college, but more on that later). Despite it’s simple nature, and likely low market value, this little rifle has become a priceless family heirloom . . .
This rifle once belonged to my grandfather who, as far as I know, is the one who first bought it. Although he and I share the same name (along with my father), I never met my grandfather. He died of cancer a few years before I was born.
This rifle, along with a scoped hunting rifle was rediscovered by my father while cleaning out the attic of my grandparents’ house. I was in elementary school when it was relocated to my parent’s house and hidden away in their bedroom. Like most any child, given enough time I found it, and occasionally when my parents weren’t home, I would pull it out and look at it. I had been taught and I knew well enough not to play with it or point it at anything, but I liked to look at it.
My parents weren’t anti-gun when I was growing up, but neither of them went target shooting or hunting. The only guns we had in the home were those two rifles (we didn’t even have any ammo for them). My first experience in the shooting sports came from Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Although my grandfather wasn’t in the Scouts, my father had been as a boy and he pushed my younger brother and I to join.
At summer camp they had air rifles (Cub Scouts) and .22LR bolt-action rifles (Boy Scouts). It fascinated me and I took every opportunity to participate in those programs. We learned all the safety basics, and eventually we got to shoot at paper targets. I was hooked.
Best of all, the .22LR rifles were very similar to the one at home. The shooting time at summer camp wasn’t the only reason I stuck through Boy Scouts, but it did help and I eventually earned my Eagle Scout rank, something I’m proud of and has helped me to this day.
On the other side of the family, my maternal grandfather served in the Navy, eventually retiring as a Commander. As my only living grandfather I learned a lot from him, and I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be an officer and earned a Navy ROTC scholarship, which I took to Virginia Tech, one of the largest Navy ROTC programs.
My roommate at Virginia Tech during my junior and senior years and I both enjoyed target shooting and on free weekends we would travel to a nearby public range in the national forest where we could shoot for free. I had brought my grandfather’s rifle to school, which was then required to be locked in the university police station (which was made more difficult without a serial number), and he brought a similar one of his own.
We would pick up a brick of ammo, some sodas and snacks, and spend the afternoon at the range, plinking away at paper targets, empty shotgun shells, and anything else we found left over at the range. It was a great time, although it’s probably spoiled me since I hate having to pay for range time now.
One time my mother and grandmother came down for a parent’s weekend at school. For some reason I can’t remember now, the three of us went to the range. We had my 70-something-year-old grandmother (who could see, but had enough eye problems she was legally blind) shooting that rifle from the bench. I’m sure the other shooters were worried when we were walking to an open bench, with my mom and I pointing out stuff on the ground so my grandmother wouldn’t trip. I can still remember her asking to make sure she was aiming at the right target, “I’m supposed to be shooting the little blue man, right?”
The last semester of my senior year I needed a single class to finish off a minor. It didn’t interest me much, but did have this cute girl in the class who sat next to me. One day our professor told us she had to cancel a class for later that week. In the course of talking about what we’d do with our free time, I mentioned I was going to the range for some target shooting. The “cute girl” who was quickly becoming a friend, said she’d never shot a gun before and that her family would probably never believe her if she did. I offered to take her and show her how.
At some point on that first date I realized it was a date (who dresses up to go to an outdoor range on a drizzling, muddy day?) and we eventually got married. It wasn’t a shotgun wedding (or a rifle wedding, but that rifle did play a part in getting us there) and now, years later, we have our first two children.
Our 2-year-old and 4-month-old daughters aren’t old enough to go shooting with daddy yet, but one day that rifle is what I’ll use to teach them. It has been used to teach friends and family how to shoot, young and old, it has been a tool to educate.
Without it, I may not have met my wife. From a simple purchase, likely just for target shooting, this rifle has intertwined itself into four generations of my family, linking itself to both of my grandfathers, my grandmother, my father, myself, my wife, and soon our daughters. This rifle, though there have been many like it, is mine. It is a part of my family and it will hopefully be for generations to come.