Fear & Loading: Life Lessons at the Range

by
posted on January 16, 2019
life-lessons.jpg

The man I grew to know at NRA headquarters—off and on with his surprise visits for the 10 years I worked there—reflects perhaps today’s most overlooked facet of gun ownership, the one opponents of the Second Amendment prefer remains invisible. Neil wasn’t a staff member, so his impromptu arrivals always required someone to receive him at security.

I surmise my supervisors decided as the newest member of the team one of my “duties as assigned” was to run interference when someone arrived to inquire about an article. I might have been there a week when I was dispatched downstairs to greet him.

He brought notes, lots of them, and they were organized with precision. The depth of knowledge he was eager to share grew obvious as we talked. Most of these encounters are uncomfortable, but he had this sincerity and contagious smile that made it hard not to offer a short tour of NRA's Publications division.

There was nothing quick about it. Neil’s walk was more of a shuffle that slowed when the tremors started. That didn’t dampen his enthusiasm at seeing where photos were taken of the guns, the security measures in place to check them in and out of the vault for each day’s work, graphics and editorial offices.

His stories appeared, although their frequency faded through the years and finally stopped. His visits, thankfully, did not. Notes were always in hand, but rarely opened. Neil’s mind was tack sharp, speaking from memory and sharing a wealth of experience, despite a condition visibly worse. Family, tradition, legacy, honed concentration and the undivided attention passed on by generations of marksmen were the topics of conversation toward the end, not fps or standard deviation.

Security rules require a “guest” like Neil to be walked back to the lobby, and in hindsight I’m glad. He always greeted everyone and somehow infected them with a smile during that slow shuffle.

His granddaughter told me this week that he died, and it was only then that I learned of the breadth of his education. Why didn’t he establish that knowledge during our first encounter? First, and foremost, that was Neil.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that he understood technological advances can never overshadow marksmanship’s foundation, or the legacy it breeds. It’s still the polished concentration, willingness to learn and move on from those painful clean misses and experience—time behind a trigger, first under the watchful eye of a mentor—that are what it takes to hit the bullseye, in life and on the range.

Neil’s vast knowledge lives on in those who read his work, and in the family and friends he left behind. I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

Latest

Beretta logo blue circle three arrows pointing skyward
Beretta logo blue circle three arrows pointing skyward

Beretta: Nearly 500 Years Strong

It all began in 1526, when Mastro Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, Italy, received 296 ducats as payment for 185 arquebus barrels.

The AK-74: From Soviet Small Arm To Resistance Symbol

Watch this video and read this story by American Rifleman Field Editor Martin K. A. Morgan regarding the function and history of the AK-74 select-fire rifle, chambered in 5.45x39 mm.

Editor’s Choice: Taurus USA Model 327

Taurus Firearms is drawing attention to an often-overlooked revolver cartridge with a new series of double-action/single-action defensive wheelguns simply called the Taurus 327.

NRA Gun Of The Week: Taurus USA 327

Watch this Gun of the Week to learn about the Taurus 327, a compact yet potent revolver chambered for one of today’s underappreciated defensive cartridges.

The Armed Citizen® May 20, 2022

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Rifleman Q&A: A Parkerifled Single-Shot Pistol

Q: I have an old gun that I cannot identify. It’s a .22-cal., single-shot, target-style pistol. I believe the barrel is a Parkerfield, but the stamping is spelled “PARKERIFLED.”

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.