Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Desire to Bear Arms

Last night I had cause to go to the Sportsman's Warehouse that opened near us some few months ago. It was mostly a curiosity visit -- the item I was actually looking for fell into a category they turned out not to stock. For although it is described as being for 'sportsmen', the sports in question are pretty strictly fishing, hunting and camping.

Fishing holds no particular fascination for me. Not even the prose of Izaak Walton can inspire an interest in standing around for hours waiting for the nibble of a cold-blooded ictheiod -- not that there's any other kind.

I did my share of camping as a boy scout, but I must confess that I am not in a huge hurry to get back into the great outdoors overnight in the near future. My mother used to call camping "the same as housekeeping, but under more difficult conditions". I may not be a full time professional in the housekeeping arena (I slip off to relax in an office for 10-11 hours a day where I can lark among relational databases and marketing metrics) but I now feel a great sympathy for her comment.

So I moved quickly through the fishing and camping areas to the back of the store, and what unfolded around me was a veritable garden of male delights. I refer, of course, to weapons.

If you do not experience it yourself, I am not sure I can explain to you the hold that knives, guns, bows and all things dangerous hold upon my mind. The bow, of course, is a noble instrument, dating back farther in our history than writing, rice pudding or income tax. Guns are perhaps no more pleasurable to use than bows, but they infinitely more fascinating, since they combine the joy of a complicated yet elegant mechanical construction with noise and destructive power.

I was ten when, after much pleading and a parentally mandated independent study of all issues related to gun safety, I received my first air rifle. So I inspected the air rifles and found that not only are there more varieties than I had available seventeen years ago, but also that to my adult wallet they are wonderfully cheap.

At fourteen I built from a kit a fully functional Remington-style (circa 1868) black powder revolver. (Black powder guns, at least back then, were not considered fire arms and could thus be purchased by a minor.) It had a twelve inch barrel, a wonderful slow, arching recoil, and concealed you behind a large cloud of pungent smoke when fired. (Which wasn't very often since it took a good five minutes to load all six chambers.)

Sportsman's Warehouse had a good variety of black powder guns and supplies as well. They've come a long way in the last thirteen years, including fascinating inventions like pelletized black powder substitute (less smoke, plus you can care a little case of the pellet rather than horn of loose powder) and plastic jacketed copper plated bullets (no idea what the point of them is). In addition to a decent range of replicas of models from the 1700s and 1800s they had a wide range of modern-style black powder rifles -- apparently for the black powder hunting set.

In the year between when we got married and when Princess Noogs was born, I bought a .22 semi-automatic target pistol. At the time, I was working an office job from 8-5 and MrsDarwin was stage managing from 4pm-11pm, so I had plenty of free time in the evenings and an indoor shooting range right down the street from work.

Back in California, handguns are a disreputable commodity, which cannot be found at a sporting goods store. You need to go to a gun store, past the cement and steel barricades to keep potential robbers from crashing a vehicle through the store window, take a test to show you know which end of the weapon to point, wait until the next ice age just to make sure that you're not buying your .22 for a (low caliber) crime of passion, etc., etc. Not so here in Texas, it seems. Beyond the dense ranks of rifles and shotguns, there was an entire wall covered with hand guns, ranging from expensive, more expensive, to really, really dang expensive. (In case you've ever considered buying a handgun to commit a crime, be advised you're not going to spend less than about $500 for a 9mm, .45, or even a revolver, and you can easily spend >$1000. If it's just a quick crime of passion, rather than assassinating the bi-metalist prime minister, I suggest you go third world and use a machete instead.)

At this point, I realized that hanging around any longer would only increase the temptation to resume expensive hobbies, so I vacated the premises. But I've decided that the Darwin family will have to someday yield a male heir, so that I can train my son in the manly arts of weaponry. I could, of course, train the girls to shoot (the cat is hopeless, and I don't trust him anyway), but I would do so with some trepidation. Having three beautiful daughters is likely to provide enough headaches. Allowing them to enjoy male hobbies such as shooting would turn them into veritable Helens (Doubtless Helen truly captured Paris' affection by professing an interest in skeet shooting or car mechanics or rugby, at which point, who can blame him?), and you know what kind of trouble that can cause.


Rick Lugari said...

Ahh, yes. In today's de-masculinized culture, what more can remind a man of his true nature than when picking up a weapon - just about any weapon. The combination of engineering marvel, aesthetical beauty and utility is truly one of man's greatest accomplishments.

There's nothing like raising your high powered rifle to your cheek, drawing a bead and squeezing one off.

The subject is worth a detailed examination. You might want to consider it. ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't know, if you outfitted all your daughters with edged weapons and explosive devices, that might keep AWAY a sizable percentage of possible suitors.

Despite owning a copy of "The Matrix," I've never been much into guns. But swords and daggers and bows and arrows, oh yes...

Bernard Brandt said...

Today, at our post-liturgical lunch at St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church, my wife and I had luncheon with two dear friends from the Ruthenian parish in Las Vegas. One of the dishes was a ragout of venison which one of our parishioners had shot, dressed, and cooked himself. I chanced to say, "You know, many people might object to shooting Bambi, but I think that that guy is doing a great thing."

That chance line happened to start a lovely conversation. It seems that the husband of this couple, in addition to being a professor of physiology at the university at Las Vegas, was a hunter, and on a recent occasion shot, skinned and butchered a 600 pound caribou, and hiked 200 pounds of the meat out with him (he and his hunting companions had hiked about 20 miles in). I learned an awful lot about cooking technique for venison, and made a new friend.

PETA people can eat beef.

Anonymous said...

I was ten when, after much pleading and a parentally mandated independent study of all issues related to gun safety, I received my first air rifle.
I'm just wondering if you had to listen to the endless "you'll shoot your eye out, kid" before you finally got that gun.

Fidei Defensor said...


Interesting that you would have a Catholic blog with some info on weapons. I myself run a little Catholic themed blog and occasionaly post on my other interest, millitary surplus rifles. A guy like you must appreicte the history behind some of the World War I and World War II bolt action rifles, they seem to last forver, and can be found under $100!

By the way, I enjoied your posts on the Stand up and Speak out Blog. Thanks for injecting some common sense and Catholicism into the mess over at Loretto hs!

Darwin said...


I'll think about it, but I'm not sure if I can get pictures as illustrative as some that you've been able to use in your recent meditations.


Sounds yummy...


Actually, I didn't get any of that. I'm trying to recall if perhaps A Christmas Story came out after I got my first air rifle which, coincidentally, was a Red Ryder anniversary edition. (I'd never seen Red Ryder, but it was advertised in Boys Life and caught my fancy.)


Indeed, you were doing yoeman's work over there yourself. It's certainly reminding me of why I'm glad I skipped the whole Catholic High School mess and homeschooled before it was fashionable.

I've been meaning to look into surplus rifles, though the fact is that as a city boy, not suburbanite, I have a lot more chance to use handguns (indoor shooting ranges and clubs) than rifles, which require a decent outdoor range.