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SARATOGA SIDEBAR


A TRAP-SHOOTING EVENT, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, AT THE SARASPA GUN CLUB WAR/GAME


Aiming, squeezing, steadying, squeezing…Boom! The gun goes off with a sudden bang, a hard jolt, and acrid smoke— nothing pleasant, but I can’t stop grinning.


As a youngster I grew to hate the pointless shock and noise of cap guns or firecrackers, but I did love the shooting galleries at county fairs, because hitting a target is fun, like sinking a baseketball or throwing out a base-runner. Still, while I have no big objection to responsible game hunting (and even less objection to venison steaks), I’ve always been appalled from afar by gun violence and easy gun access.


Known for its arts and culture, Saratoga Springs is not where I’d have expected to pick up my first gun, but an ex-Army deer-hunter chum is a member of SaraSpa Rod and Gun Club, which opens a few events to the public, so I decided I should try it. Earlier he’d let me shoot an arrow with his high-tech bow at Kayaderosseras Fish and Game Club, just south of town. His bow is strung at 70 pounds of tension, so I didn’t send that arrow very far. But wielding both weapons—sleek, well-designed dealers of death and suffering—was strangely, disturbingly enlightening. I didn’t find much ethical conflict in SaraSpa’s “women’s trap shoot” one sunny fall weekend. Just $10 bought a loaner gun, goggles and ear muffs, safety instructions and advice, and 25 cartridges of birdshot to blast at clay targets flung across the sky. As a fan of BBC historical dramas, I’ve longed to take up a stance (preferably in tweed plus-fours), shoulder a shotgun, and shout “Pull!” That was a gas. The actual shooting was just a bonus—as was the company. Far from red- necked, these gun clubbers were 4-H instructors, careful hunters, and benign target competitors. Members and guests of both sexes, from teenagers to retirees, shared applause, sympa-


60 SCOPE SPRING 2012


thy, and doughnuts. I managed to hit one clay pigeon in 15 shots, which was all my rotator cuff could bear from the “easy- recoil” 20-gauge.


For me, the real kicker, in every sense, was privately shoot- ing a .357 magnum one cold spring morning. First I tried two smaller pistols, which were so easy to aim and fire that I imme- diately understood why there are so many handgun murders and accidents. Against my better judgment, their toylike han- dling seemed to inspire toylike thinking: We’re having a game with playthings. Then I took up the magnum, and try as I might to keep my clasped hands down in front of me, each re- coil sent my arms flying straight up and back over my head. The report concussed my eardrums under my muffs and lin- gered in the air. My hunter chum laughed and yelled, “It’s a cannon, isn’t it?” I agreed, laughing back. But wait! Cannons don’t belong in the pockets of civilians. Nothing that easy to use should be that lethal. Or that exhilarating. Shooting is deadly dangerous; that’s serious. Yet it felt like entertainment; it didn’t mean a thing. The cocktail of gravity and silliness made my head spin. (And learning that pistol-shooting is the most popular sport at SaraSpa made my knees knock. Where are all those pistols when they’re not at the target range?) Carnivorous and clannish, humans are probably hard-wired to use projectiles, so I’m sure gunplay gratifies on some sub- cerebral level. In a civilized world, though, can’t we scratch that primal itch with, say, laser tag? Well, only two other gun clubs lie within a half-hour’s drive, so Saratoga is hardly a shooters’ mecca. But I don’t mind knowing that its roots run deep and also broad. I mean, where else can you browse upscale galleries in the morning and shoot skeet that afternoon? —SR


CHARLIE SAMUELS


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