Monday, September 23, 2013

Farewell To "Old Faithful", Hello To "Mr. Versatile"!

I suppose it's a "guy thing", but I felt a few pangs of sorrow when I traded in my old shotgun for a new one this afternoon.
I bought my old shotgun, a Winchester Model 1200 with a long-ass barrel, in 1968 for $75, which was pretty much my entire two-week paycheck from my weekend job at trap and skeet club. It was a rental gun which hadn't been used much, and when the owner got in a bunch of brand new Winchester shotguns, he let us high school employees get first crack at buying the old ones. I won more than a few matches with that gun, and came THAT close to qualifying for the 1972 US Olympic trapshooting team. It was a good pheasant gun as well, as that long 32" barrel gave it longer range with a tighter pattern.
After I joined the Army and was stationed in Germany, I went out a few times to the Rod and Gun Club in Mannheim and shot trap with some of the other officers, but eventually I lost interest in that sport. Plus, I'd left my shotgun back home with the folks, and loaners just aren't quite the same.

When I came back Stateside after three years overseas, I retrieved my shotgun from the back closet at the folks' new house. To my dismay I found that it had rusted, and the nice walnut stock was covered in mildew, even though I had oiled it all down before leaving. I removed all the rust, re-blued the metal, and tried to refinish the wood, but it looked pretty sad, like a once-favorite shirt with a now frayed collar, and a big ink spot on the pocket. I went trapshooting a couple of times, but never regained that old thrill.  After becoming a cop, I bought what was supposed to be the right model short barrel with rifle sights, so I could carry it in my patrol car. (My department issued 9mm carbines, and got rid of most of the shotguns, but sometimes only a shotgun will do, you know?) Well, the barrel fit, but it wouldn't allow me to chamber a shell, so that was a failed experiment!  "Old Faithful" went back in the gun safe, only emerging to receive a fresh wipe-down of lubricant and preservative, and a nostalgic shouldering while I softly yelled, "Pull!" Even though replacing it with a more suitable tactical model entered my mind on a regular basis, the timing was never right. And despite increasing worries about a so-called "Zombie Apocalypse" or the desire to have a shotgun useable for deer hunting, skeet shooting, or home defense against non-zombies, I just never seriously considered parting with that unwieldy 12-gauge anti-aircraft cannon.

Fast forwarding to the beginning of this month: Our SAC (Special Agent in Charge) asked me if I'd be willing to put together a team to compete in the post's "Three-Gun Match", a tactical shooting competition which draws law enforcement officers from around the region to use pistols, rifles, and shotguns (hence the name "Three Gun") for engaging various targets while moving and using cover. While we all planned to use our Army-issued pistols and rifles (because if you do, the Army provides the ammo for the match), none of us owned a tactical shotgun. Our unit doesn't even have them in the inventory. Well, one thing led to another, and when our local Cabela's Outfitters store advertised a big sale this week on, among other things, TACTICAL SHOTGUNS!!!,  the die was cast. And even though my beloved Spousal Unit didn't mention it, I wanted to honor our informal agreement concerning firearms, to wit: "One Gun In, One Gun Out." This meant trading in "Old Faithful", which ended up cutting the already great sale price of the tactical shotgun I had picked out by more than half.

Still, as I pulled my long-time scattergun companion from the gun safe, wiped it down one last time, and gently peeled the red "Dymo" label with my name which had been stuck on the fore-end the day I bought it 45 years ago, I felt a twinge of guilt and sadness. Which lasted until I got my new light-weight tactical gun home, pulled it from the box, cleaned, lubed and assembled it, threw it up to my shoulder, and softly yelled, "Pull!" 'Cause like they say, "Honey Badger and old shotguns don't care!"

(IMPORTANT NOTE: This story is in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM, an allegory about any kind of relationship other than with that one inanimate firearm; no one, especially any Spousal Units who might happen to read this, should draw any inferences of any kind. Thank You.)

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