Back when I was in the Navy and stationed in South Carolina, I would on occasion shoot recreationally with a buddy of mine [neither of us shown]. Let’s call him Mike. Mike is a brilliant man. He has a B.S. in Physics. He runs a small biochemistry lab out of his kitchen just for his own amusement. And before he joined the Navy, he was an EMT in the Bronx—which takes a very special kind of person. Having a thorough knowledge of Mike’s street and academic cred, I can confidently tell you that Mike is not a moron. He does, however, have a tragic flaw that lead to the most epic gun safety fail that I have ever witnessed . . .
One day Mike and I decided to blow off some steam and kill some paper. Mike had heard of an outdoor range that was tucked away in a state forest somewhere near McCormick. We decided to check it out. When we got there, we discovered that the range lacked, among other things, a range safety officer (or any kind of oversight or supervision, really). Also absent: first aid kits, emergency call boxes, civilization and The Nanny State.
The range was really just a berm with a couple target frames and benches. Judging by the amount of spent brass littering the ground, the place was pretty popular among the locals. We were the only ones there that day.
We started out by going through a couple boxes of 9mm. Mike shot his Glock 19 and I shot my Walther P99. Things were going swimmingly right until Mike decided to bring out his 12-gauge pistol-grip pump-action shotgun, affectionately dubbed “Big Momma.” I honestly can’t remember the make of the gun (it was probably a Mossberg), but that’s entirely irrelevant to the story.
Two problems immediately presented themselves upon Mike’s decision to bring out the big gun.
‘Problem number one: Big Momma herself. She brings to mind every bad action movie ever produced in which the hero wields a 12-gauge in one hand and an Uzi in the other, firing both at random and yet still taking out all the bad guys.
Problem number two: Mike’s tragic flaw. Most people have a little voice in their heads that speaks up every now and then when they are about to do something extraordinarily stupid. Mike also has this voice; he just chooses to ignore it. Intellectually, he understands that he’s about to commit a grievous error. But he just doesn’t care. In fact, his tendency to do the exact opposite of what’s dictated by common sense borders on a compulsion.
“Hey, do you think you can actually shoot a shotgun one handed?”
“Probably not, Mike. And trying to do so would probably be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen you do.”
“Yeah, but . . . I gotta know.”
“Well, let me get the hell out of the way before you try.”
I proceeded to beat a hasty retreat while Mike readied himself. He planted his feet, held the gun out like he was firing a pistol one-handed, and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud boom, and suddenly he wasn’t holding the gun anymore. It was lying about five feet away on the ground. Mike was bleeding profusely from the nose. He was slightly dazed; it looked like someone had jacked him in the face during a bar fight.
After a minute, it was apparent that the damage was mostly superficial. We couldn’t stop laughing the whole ride home. We also discovered that if you’re covered in blood, you get automatic head-of-the-line privileges at gas station restrooms. As a bonus, nervous mothers will pull their small children behind them when you walk by.
On a more serious note, we were lucky that we survived this misadventure with only minor injuries.
The moral of this story (if there is one): unsupervised young men will always be idiots until they learn from experience not to be.
You could almost make a Zen koan about the experience: If a young man is in the woods with a gun and there is no one around to watch, will he still be a jackass? Undoubtedly.