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Shooting Drunk

Back in the day, Car & Driver bought some booze, rented a track and set out to prove a point: drinking and driving don’t mix. They proved no such thing. The editors’ track performance improved with inebriation. Right up until it didn’t. It’s the same story with drinking and shooting. Or is it? JeremyS asked TTAG columnist and ace marksperson Kirsten Weiss—a self-confessed “lightweight” on the drinking front—for her thoughts on the subject . . .

I would love to know your thoughts about this article from the January, 1956 edition of “Guns” magazine. While I obviously DO NOT condone shooting after any amount of drinking and would not and do not partake in this sort of irresponsible activity myself, I did find parts of this article both interesting and shocking . . .  So… um… Kirsten, I guess the question here is: Will we be seeing you plastered at future competitions?

Click here to read Ms. Weiss’ reply

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  1. I personally think it’s a bad idea to drink and shoot in general. However, I have heard, in reference to playing darts that small amounts do help steady aim since, technically, alcohol is a depressant on your nervous system. Since firearms are a bit more dangerous than darts, I would not risk it.

    • A few beers might help make one throw darts more accurately. I can’t offer any personal insight, since I don’t think I’ve ever thrown darts without a couple of cold ones in me.

      Shooting guns? Don’t think I’ve ever done that while drinking.

    • I used to be a regular at a local watering hole. One day, about a half-dozen Irish guys showed up – they were here to teach and coach soccer. They kicked us ‘Merkin’s asses at darts, and they could drink any of us (except me, of course) under the table.

      The cute part was, when they’d go to get a refill, they’d say, “Gonna go get me some more aimin’ juice!”

  2. There’s something to be said for doing something while “altered”. Some of the best music ever made was fueled with booze and drugs.

    Personally we shoot then break out the beers afterwards. Dunno if I’d shoot better with beers and don’t plan on ever finding out.

    • Pretty much the same with skydiving; first jump, then drink. Or have a doob. 😉

  3. Ahh, yes. The stigmas from the era of prohibition persist.

    She brings excellent awairness of hypocrisy of other nations.

    Rememeber that once we subject ourselves to judgments, we then be judged by the lawless, of the heart, in the heartless nations.

    So, do you drink not to be judged, or judged not be drinking?

    • I dont drink because religion and because people in Norway drink til they black out ( no moderation). But I dont mind people who drink but dont overdo it(even when shooting, a good example is Germany or Croatia)

    • This. As a former prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer who always carries, I don’t like my chances with a jury who finds out I’d had even one beer when I legally defended myself. They’ll forgive a drinking driver in a heartbeat for a variety of reasons, but a drinking(not even drunk) gun toter will NOT get the same consideration. Check out Massad Ayoob’s experiences at trial with this and always think twice when you reach for a brewski.

      • Yup. THE last thing you want is to be in a DGU situation and maybe have to use it, then your blood alcohol content is displayed on trial…
        Change the wording a bit. If you carry, don’t drink. If you drink, don’t carry.

  4. Its a tenet of human psychology that we are our own worst critics.Booze tends to help with the self confidence aspect-Ive noticed I get the same butterflies waiting for the shot timer to go off as I do approaching a hot chick at the bar.

  5. I have never had a drink and have no plans to start anytime soon, so this is a non-issue for me.

  6. Purely from memory and not researched:

    I heard of an experiment at the Army Marksmanship Unit, that found improvement in shooter’s scores when they had about two drinks. That was followed by a rapid fall-off with additional booze.

    • Was that the one where the army coach opened a big cooler next to the shooters and found it full of ice cold beer?? Yeah….I seem to remember my friends at the Unit telling me about that spontaneous “experiment”…

  7. The commercially organized
    of Hanover, Germany, is the largest marksmen’s Fun Fair in the world with more than 5,000 marksmen, 250 rides and inns, 5 large beer tents and the “Marksmen’s Parade”. The parade with more than 10,000 participants from Germany and all over the world and more than 100 bands is 12 kilometres long. It is the longest parade in the world.

    • HA! That comics about right, but you have to add a graph for the “perceived ability of the inebriated” The peak would start low and just keep getting higher, directly proportionate to blood-alcohol level (Anyone see the drunk pick up scene in the movie Beer Fest? Case closed.)

  8. I’ll play. I never drink at work, nor work with a measurable level of alcohol. I do, however, still have access to my hardware after a drink or two when off duty. Since I’m part olde school, I tend to have a beer or scotch after work. If I can still walk on my hands, or do ballistic pull-ups, I’m in good shape. Most people can’t do that while completely sober.

    After two JD and cokes, two beers, and two shots of tequila, and a 30 – 40 minute wait, I was a .07 BAC (Vegas – PAS Device – Alcosensor II). That was on an empty stomach. Contrary to the opinion of the safety nannies of the world, a single drink or two should not cause a grown man to lose control of himself. A liver is a terrible thing to waste – it needs daily exercise!

    DUI – be it alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription drugs, definitely does not mix with guns or driving. Text messaging during such a condition is not a good idea – especially not ex girlfriends. Be your brother’s keeper and put some distance between his phone, keys, and gun.

    And I have a feeling I could drink Kirsten under the table 10 times over.

    • “And I have a feeling I could drink Kirsten under the table 10 times over.”

      It’s your fantasy, Acurr81, and you stood still to it. I totally agree. Beer and “dead soldier” plinking is good, clean, wholesome, AMERICAN fun.

      Happy Independence Day, all….

    • I recall in driver’s ed being told that one drink could put me over the (was it .08 or .10 back then?) limit. Ok, back then (and today) it was zero tolerance for minors, but the point is, one drink isn’t that much. Mythbusters did an episode a while ago, about how to beat the breathalyzer, and IIRC it seemed like they had a large number of drinks to just hit the limit.

      Question for you though: you six drinks, and a 30-40 minute wait — but you don’t indicate how quickly you had six drinks. And not that I need to know but your body mass also comes into play.

      Kinda cool to have the ability to check your BAC. I’ve always been curious about “calibrating” my perceived intoxication with reality.

  9. Yet again, proof positive of the therapeutic value of bourbon. I think I shall have a cigar and a glass of good whiskey, and then I shall have breakfast.

    • Great minds think alike! Cracked a beer, had a pinch of Skoal, then ate some delicious biscuits n gravy. I’ll admit my tastes aren’t quite as sophisticated, but the sentiment is the same!

    • American attitudes about drinking are so completely WEIRD.

      Our European brethren don’t have a conniption about having a beer for breakfast, or at any other time, for that matter.

      I am from Culpeper, Virginia originally, and the Swiss check-processing company, SWIFT, has a beer machine in their cafeteria.

      The Swiss, bless ’em, know that a beer with lunch (or breakfast, for that matter) is not a hindrance to job performance. Many Germans also drink beer and and all times of the day…

      Time to pop another cold PBR, mateys. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

  10. Honestly… There’s nothing like a 3 beer buzz and blowing sh*t up… I mean “target shooting” in the desert but those days are over for me (and I certainly don’t condone that behavior).

    Since my frontal lobe has grown in I never imbibe and handle fire arms much less shoot them in that state.

    That said I think I’ll celebrate the 4th with a 5th… 🙂 No range time for me today… Happy Independence Day follow Patriots!!!

    God Bless America!!!

    • Firearms not fire arms… That would be just plain silly…. looks like I started that 5th a little early…

  11. The trouble with that theory is trusting the guy who’s been drinking to know when enough is enough. And I can see kapo bloomberg’s response to this post now.’See, they’ve been preaching to give guns to felons who’ve served their time and now they say it’s okay to let drunks carry.”

    • ‘The trouble with that theory is trusting the guy who’s been drinking to know when enough is enough.”

      We’ve met?

  12. A little drink to “settle the nerves” probably works in a focused situation. You know what you have to do and reducing tension makes you do it better. There is no judgement factor when you are shooting targets. However, if the situation is fluid and you get surprised you need to make decisions and that little drink may cause you to make the wrong choice.

    Here is an experiment to test this hypothesis: take a bunch of shooters and give them two drinks on the range. Test their performance before and after drinking. In the next stage repeat the process for a three gun or IDPA course. If my first statement is true than they should better at a static course and worse at a dynamic one. I volunteer to be one of the test subjects.

  13. As an avid video gamer, the same sort of principles seem to apply. You can improve for a very short period once you start drinking, and then just watch your abilities free-fall after that.

    In real-world experience, I recall a trip to Alaska a number of years ago. Being 5’10” 135lbs soaking wet, I couldn’t keep up in the booze department with the other three guys I was with, the smallest of whom was 6’4″ and probably 225lbs. But when we went to the skeet field outside of town, a “two beer buzz” worked great for me, but hardly moved the needle for them. Despite 2 of them being Alaskan natives and using their own shotguns, this li’l guy from New Jersey hit quite a good number more clays.

    That being said, trying to replicate that experience is a horrible idea in New Jersey. I live in one of the rare areas where there is A) no such thing as a “no discharge” ordinance in my town and B) live on enough land to have my own 25-yard pistol range. But even though it’s private property, I don’t mix the two otherwise pleasurable activities.

  14. I’ve never attempted a controlled course of fire while drinking, however I have done some informal plinking while sharing a few beers, and I have shot controlled courses (IPSC). If my empirical evidence holds, I do tend to improve somewhat on unusually difficult shots after a small dose of alcohol and speed even improves somewhat. The problem is that this small increase in skill rapidly deteriorates with more alcohol until one reaches a net loss. Some skills, highly ingrained, seem to persist even into heavy intoxication (point shooting comes to mind, as does basic weapons handling). However this is dependent (in my experience) both on the original skill level of the shooter/handler and their tolerance to alcohol. As a general rule I’d say that guns and booze don’t mix and that any attempt to gain advantage through the use of alcohol is misguided at best, and potentially sets the stage for a tragedy.
    On defensive shoots:
    This was related by an acquaintance however I have no cause to doubt any of it.
    I’m told of a situation that took place in the parking lot of a drinking establishment in which two men, unknown to one another came to be at odds when one saw the other steal an item from his car. My acquaintance said that when he confronted the suspected thief (apparently by loudly calling him out as such and by use of various insults and racial epithets) the fellow raised his shirt enough to display a handgun tucked into his waistband. At the sight of the revolver my acquaintance drew his own pistol and a standoff began.
    The accused thief never reached for his weapon, only displayed it momentarily then sauntered off, apparently unbothered by the fact that he was being covered by a weapon. Perhaps this was because the teller of this tale, by his own admission, informed the intrepid auto burglar that he didn’t wish to shoot him or be shot by him and would rather that they all just back down. If backing down includes keeping the stolen property and walking off, then this is what happened.
    The turn of events, and the relevance to this thread are both related to the fact that my acquaintance was by his estimate ‘drunk on his a**’. He stated that he was convinced that if he had to shoot this person he was going to prison for it due to both his inebriated state and the racial slurs he’d used in initially addressing the suspected thief in front of a good many witnesses.
    My information is that the thief would have gotten shot had he attempted to bring his weapon into play, consequences be damned. However there is food for thought in this. The obvious is that it’s highly undesirable, and for many good reasons, to be drunk when confronted with such a situation. The other is that what we say even before it becomes a potential DGU can come back to haunt us.

  15. In some European competitive shooting groups, alcohol is/was considered a doping agent.
    Not only was there an issue of shooting with a buzz, but apparently it was believed that having imbibed the night before steadies the hand.
    Go figure.

    • I believe it. After having a few beverages the night before I seem to be well-rested and calm enough to do brain surgery. However, after a night of partying hard its a completely different story. There is a very clear point of diminishing returns.

  16. As a general rule I always save my drinking for after the range, but I can’t say that I’d let a drink or two stop me if an unexpected opportunity came up. I don’t think a .02% blood alcohol level makes you morph into an idiot. Use your better judgement.

    I did however have an experience at the “free” range the other day, though. There’s a state park about 30 miles away I’ve been going to (because it’s free) and I bought a new rifle last week and finally got a chance to go out on Sunday afternoon and try it out. The range was packed so my wife and I sat in the truck for a bit and waited. There was a group of 4 men taking up the 2 rifle stations on the end of the line who had apparently camped out there for the day. I noticed a large cooler on the ground. At one point one of them turned around, inadvertently pointing his pistol directly at us. About a minute later one of them reached in the cooler and grabbed a beer. The range has a no alcohol policy clearly posted, but on Sunday there’s no one around to enforce it.

    So we took of for about 45 minutes, came back and they were still there. Took off for another half hour, still there, still drinking. The even more unbelievable thing is that no one else on the range seemed to think anything of it. We headed home and I sent out an application to join the local Izaak Walton League. They have a 200 yard range there anyway.

    The downside of free ranges is that they are good at attracting idiots.

  17. We’ve had a few drinks and are teaching the kids how to hit cans with a daisy pellet rifle.

    Does this count?

    Happy 4th!

    • Hopefully nobody gets their eye shot out. If they do expect to be the subject of an IGOTD award. Just saying.

  18. I’am to the point where even if I am not carrying, I still do not drink. If I think that I will need to use a firearm I just dont drink, at all. Hotels on vacation, at home but not carrying (it does happen), etc…If I need to wake up in the middle of the night and use the S&W, I do not want to have any booze at all in the previous 24 hours, I just dont trust any Prosecutor to not file on my ass.

  19. On a totally unrelated note, I’d like to point out that TR’s finger is in the trigger guard. I recently read Chris Kyle’s book American Gun, and most if not all the pictures of guys with guns from the past include this feature. Keep that in mind next time you feel inclined to go safety sally and point out trigger discipline in a modern photo.

  20. I will continue doing it until they pry the beer from my cold, wet, and blue fingers!

  21. I have 2 rules–I mean, in addition to all of the other ones:

    1. If I’m bearing, I ain’t drinking.

    2. If I’ve been drinking, then (short of an impending DGU) I ain’t going near my guns…not even to clean.

    To be fair, though, I only drank about once a month before I started carrying, so it’s not as though I’m really missing out. Besides, I’d rather not risk winning an IGOtD.

  22. I prefer to stay sharp if I’m shooting. If I want to get hammered I’ll go fishing or bowling.

  23. I don’t drink during the day, so this isn’t an issue for me. I also don’t care to get three sheets to the wind either.

    I have read about the Swiss having a glass of wine before rifle shooting, to calm the nerves. That is probably the only time I could be induced into this sort of thing: large group of people, self-policing one another to stay w/in appropriate drinking amounts, self-policing to be safe on the range, etc.

    Even then I’m not so sure. I think I’d rather find something else to calm nerves.

  24. Just tested it; Mosin at 50 yards with an un-missable backstop and 12% slope beyond, so no risk.

    One shot of rum and a five minute wait, no change.

    Ten minutes, slight improvement.

    Second shot, ‘nuther ten minutes, slight improvement.

    With the next shot and wait, things start to degrade.

    Good thing I don’t work for a few hours yet… 😉

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