As my California CCW renewal class and qualification approaches, I’m practicing my shooting. I like to shoot at least weekly and clean my main CCW weapon as often. I need the practice even more after my trip to the hospital for a bacterial infection that affected the left side of my face. My left eye is now incredibly sensitive to the sun and wind. It’s both a blessing and a curse. At first, it felt only like a curse . .
My first outing to the range was an ordeal. After shooting ten rounds, I knew things were going to be difficult. I couldn’t see well enough out of my left eye to make a decent grouping. I tried again. My “bad” eye kept slamming shut, seemingly on its own. It was watering so much it looked like I was bawling, with tears streaming down my face. Worse, my eye began to burn from its over-sensitivity.
The wind was torture. Even a slight breeze caused a shooting pain and immediate, instinctive squinting. Never mind flinching from anticipating recoil. Every time I saw the trees move, I cringed inwardly, knowing how my eye would react.
I stopped and sat down in the dirt, discouraged.
My suffering reminded me of some shared trigger time with an older gentleman with severe arthritis. Pulling the trigger on his revolver was a long, laborious process. He cringed every time the hammer fell. But he soldiered through it. He fought for every bullet he fired. The result was hardly what I’d call “accurate.” But when it was all said and done, he was happy. Happy he still had the ability to defend himself.
As I sat in the shade, I understood his struggle in a way I hadn’t before. I gave myself a good talking to, stood up and gave the target hell. It was a painful. Even at ten yards I wasn’t accurate to my standards. I completely missed the target a few times. But I got the shots off. And though I missed, I was close.
After a couple hours of rest in the dark and some ibuprofen I was back to “normal.”
Before my infection, I had perfect vision. I took it for granted. Not being able to shoot with my left eye working at 100 percent has made me a better shooter. I’m more confident that I can shoot under duress. After all, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be in perfect health going into a gunfight. Or during it. Or coming out.
I’m also less dismissive of the shooting test in the California concealed carry test. While The People of the Gun laugh at how easy it is, they should never forget that it’s not easy for people with disabilities. Americans who have just as much of a right to keep and bear arms as those fortunate enough to possess greater firearms skills.
Not one of us is perfect. All of us face the challenges of aging. The struggle to shoot has made me stronger and much more determined than I could have imagined. For that, and our gun rights, I am truly thankful.