On the Range

While I was cleaning two guns after shooting a box of ammo through each a few days ago, I remembered competition shooting in San Diego. I was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in 1957-58. I volunteered for and qualified as a member of the MCRD Pistol Team. As long as I did my small part in helping to put trophy plaques and cups in the HQ hallways, I had a standing privilege (and unlimited ammunition) to practice at the San Diego Police Pistol Range.

I was blessed in that my brand-new bride, Florence, had been raised in an extended family of hunting enthusiasts. She was willing to spend time at the range with me and even did some target shooting, herself.

As an ‘aggregate’ gun competitor I was issued three match-grade competition pistols: 1911-M1A .45ACP, S&W K38 .38Cal, and Browning HiPower .22Cal. Florence liked shooting the Browning and became darned good at keeping the hits inside the target 8-ring with a bunch in the 10. Back then shooting was done one-handed (free hand behind the back or in a pocket), body turned, more or less, 45-degrees from the target.

One day she took me up on an offer to let her shoot the K38. I coached her on how to load, and cock the hammer rather than use double-action, then told her to go at it. Unlike the Browning, the K38 had stock grips as well as being maybe double the weight. When she was ready, up came the pistol, finger tightened on the trigger, and BLAM! That first shot was dead-center in the X-ring – – – a pinwheel hit. PERFECT! I did see the recoil was significantly more than she expected.

With the gun resting on the bench in front of her, she used her left thumb to recock the hammer. After taking a couple calming breaths she raised the pistol up and flinched, jerking the trigger at the same time she drove the pistol into the expected recoil. The bullet gouged a divot into the grass about six feet in front of her!

She laid the pistol down on the bench and said, “I’m not shooting that thing again.”


Epilogue: It took a few weeks of coaxing, but she did shoot the K38 again and even busted a lot of .45 caps over the next months before I turned in my pistols and transferred to San Francisco.