I feel good today, proud of myself. And my Dad would have been proud of me as well. So today I was wearing the 35 year old t-shirt that I silk-screen-printed for him during a primary school camp. At the time I also made a much smaller blue one for myself. That wore thin years ago and was recently sewn into a patchwork quilt by my Mum. This t-shirt in the photo was given back to me by Dad a few years ago, in a very simple but touching gesture. He no longer fitted into it and was wondering if I would like it “back”.
When I wear this shirt, I think of better times. Of childhood fun camps, of a good Dad before he was knocked off his motorbike by a drunk driver, suffering brain & body damage in the process that eventually led to the break up of our family.
Today I finally received the opportunity to take my firearms licence training course. Firearm safety is taken very seriously in Australia. So there is a day of training in all aspects of shooting. How guns work, Personal safety, Ethical hunting, Legal requirements, General shooting knowledge. There are two theory tests during the day and then two practical tests. I might say I passed with flying colours.
I listened intently and soaked up all the new information, and asked question about unclear areas, just like I used to in school. So I scored 25/25 on both theory tests, very happy about that. Then later in the day we had the practical tests.
First was firing a .22 rimfire rifle at a target 50m away. The goal was to have a cluster of 10 shots within a circle the same diameter as the black centre. Due to these guns being used constantly for training, the sights may not be accurate and may be misaligned high, low, left, right, or a combination of those. So all that is expected is a close grouping anywhere on the target. Other than one of my first two shots out to the right, I grouped the other nine within a half diameter of the circle. I call that very good consistency. Keep in mind that the last time I fired a rifle I was about 10 during one of our family camping trips into the outback.
Second range test was firing a shotgun at 20m. Something I have never done before! First I had to pick up the shotgun, close the breach and take a firing stance. Perhaps I was practically applying all that I read and heard today, and perhaps distant memories of my father instructing my older brothers came back to me, but I took a perfect stance, leaning towards my front leg and keeping my outer elbow up for stability.
Then a single cartridge is loaded, to get the hang of firing. I aimed the barrel at the first of five metal “rabbits”, and fired. The recoil ammount surprised me, but my aim was true and down went the first target. Not bad for a beginner!
Next the two side-by side chambers are both loaded for the second and third shots. I decide to just keep working along the line of targets from left to right. Second and third targets go down cleanly. The instructor mentions that the centre target is a little stiffer than the others and needs to be hit dead-centre to knock it over. I saw plenty of other people miss or only edge some of the targets.
Once more the gun is loaded with two more cartridges and I prepare to fire in my own time. Number four and number five targets go down. A perfect score! The passing requirement was to knock over three of the five targets.
So now I know what the recoil kick of a shotgun feels like. I’m sure that my shoulder won’t be bruised tomorrow, all the body support of the gun was correct.
Getting home after six hours of training, I felt very tired. All that concentration and focus I put into the day certainly paid off.
Know that an Australian license holder goes through very thorough training. There are strong deterrents in fines of up to $75,000 and 5 years in jail for any firearm offences or hunting offences. And if accused the onus is on you to prove your innocence. Conviction of any firearm or hunting offences will also likely result in permanent revoking of your shooting license and confiscation of all your firearms. Because human life is so valuable, the legal deterrents are very strong.
No doubt some of you have different opinions of shooting or different experiences with firearms depending on which country you are in. I am against animal cruelty. Most of the hunting in Australia is of feral animals. Rabbits, foxes, wild cats, goats, and pigs have all been introduced during white settlement and pose serious threat to all of our native wildlife and plants. My intention is to have my license purely to inherit a few firearms from my Dad’s collection. With as much of their history and sentimental value to my father as I can understand.
I wish he was still around. I know he would have been proud of me. He would have humbly congratulated me and given some gentle reminders about safety and skill. I won’t go around bragging, this will stay here on a somewhat-private wordpress post. That is how my Dad would have wanted it and I understand why.
I wish we could have gone shooting together, now that I understand how significant that activity was to him. All I have now are the memories. But going through this process has given me a better appreciation of him, and that is more valuable than anything else right now.