Friday, December 05, 2008

A Greenhorn's Progress - Chapter One

the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

by Richard

One does not - and certainly should not, casually decide to pick up a gun and get into shooting. I crept into the ABC (Auckland Black Powder Club) through the back door of historical re-enactment after an invitation to contribute in the role traditional craft person: clay pipe maker, pole lathe worker and broom squire. After 15 months of sitting around the camp fire listening to talk of powder, patch and ball, of language and terms I did not understand, I began to think of taking the big step. My reluctance or was it fear? Stemmed from the following concern:
  • Would/could I be a safe shooter? Firstly to others and secondly to myself.
I had last shot as a boy of 16, I was now 58. I had fired Gerry’s Kentucky, Simmo’s carbine and Jack’s Brown Bess. But these were casual indulgences. I understood this was not like dropping a chisel on your foot or cutting your finger with a knife. I had seen what 50 or 60 grains of powder behind a patched lead ball could do. So when I said to Brad and Karen in April 2008: “I am going to get my gun licence;” the decision had been well thought through.
  • I would advise anyone thinking of getting into black powder shooting to join a club.
By this stage I knew most of the club members and after carefully consideration, I asked ‘Grey Beaver’ Aka Gerry to be my mentor and teach me what I needed to know. I found all members keen to help me, to let me try their guns, to give me advice. Brad and Karen helped first of all explaining the basics, allaying my fears about safety. Karen, to whom I will be eternally grateful, gave me her Lyman 50 cal trade gun which she had won the year before at the Mercury bay event. What can you ever do to repay kindness like that?

A few facts and suggestions:
  • You can shoot in New Zealand without a firearms licence if you are ‘under the close supervision of someone who has a firearms licence’
  • You cannot buy or keep a gun without a firearms licence.
  • Try a few guns before you buy one. Take your time in making your choice.
  • Club members, if asked kindly, will generally supervise you while you try their gun.
  • Ask an experienced shooter to be your mentor.
  • Be aware you know little and have much to learn: Listen and absorb information.
  • Get a note book and record what you learn.
The process of getting my New Zealand firearms licence took about two months, The process was thorough: You visit a police station and ask to speak to the firearms officer, you will undergo preliminary questioning , preliminary vetting, deeper vetting will be done over the next few weeks, a test, inspection of your storage facilities for ammunition and firearms, the mountain safety lecture and finally an exam. Not everyone passes. It is a thorough process, it needs to be. By July I had my licence. I was ready to start my muzzle loading experience. I was ready to go and it would be Karen who gave me my first basic introduction to the range.

To be continued...

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