Range Dudes, Attitudes And Gun Guys

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By Jeff “Tank” Hoover

Gun Guys (GG’s) — we can be our own worse enemies. We can be the most opinionated collection of guys in any known hobby. Many of us are quick to criticize fellow shooters, telling them the “right” way to do something. If someone violates the slightest infraction of gun safety, we tend to jump on them, range-Nazi style, humiliating the offending party.

We’re all on the same team, though, so let’s lighten up. Be courteous and friendly — but firm — when you see something unsafe. Just don’t be a jerk, eh?

Unloading my car at the range the other day, I heard someone trying to run his AR full auto, interspersed with louder, slower, rhythmic booms. Great … some old SOB and a BUG. I wanted the range all to myself, or at least I thought I did. So, with a sigh, I figured I might as well go see what these squirrels were up to.

My suspicions are indeed confirmed. Two guys are at the firing line. One dressed in tight Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, a plaid western shirt with snaps and a spotless cowboy hat. A beautiful full-floral carved holster is strapped to his side and a 6.5″ S&W model 29 .44 is in both hands, aiming at a target on the 25-yard line. In front of him are two bean cans, one ¾ full of cast SWC handloads, the other empty hulls. I’ve seen his likes before.

He’s part of a huge gang, the Sixgun Only Bunch, or (SOB’s) for short. SOB’s know their poison and know it well. Old, blue-worn sixguns touting lineages with names like Colt and S&W ride in their holsters. “If six shots won’t do it, you sure as hell won’t with 15,” you’ll hear them say.

For rifles, leverguns are it and maybe a single-shot or two. Most SOB’s are baby boomers, although some youngsters follow the SOB creed. They are called little SOB’s. SOB’s don’t talk much. They communicate with body language, eyebrows and short guttural noises with “Hhmmph” and “Aagghh” as favorites. Don’t get me wrong. They know how to communicate. They can have you feeling stupid and inadequate with a series of eyebrow maneuvers followed by a muttered “Hhmmph.” Ever been there?

Once their tough exterior shell is cracked, most SOB’s are the nicest people in the world and are generally also in the category: “Good Old Boy” too. They are happy to help with advice, give pointers and useful suggestions and are always handy with a set of jumper cables. Heck, they may offer you some beef jerky. Just don’t eye their brass, or attempt to pick up a piece which may belong to them. That’s a hanging offense. Most have never been out west, and going to Arby’s and ordering a Big Montana beef sandwich, or a western omelet at some greasy spoon diner is the closest they’ve likely been.

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Bugs

I see the other guy trying to go full auto with his AR is decked out in spit-shined tactical boots with wall climbing capabilities. His bloused 5.11 tactical pants, complete with ironed creases — by his mom — are held up with the latest nylon Instructor Belt, with V-ring, in case he needs to be strapped to the deck of a Huey helicopter, instruct a mountain rescue, or possibly rappel down the side of a McDonald’s. His ever-present spring-loaded, chisel-pointed tactical knife is clipped in his strong side front pocket. He’s wearing a “Range Instructor” shirt with side shoulder pen pocket carrying the latest super-steel, lathe-turned, knurled, gravity-free ballpoint “tactical” pen. Oakley sunglasses and a ball cap sporting a military or secret organization patch he was usually never a member of complete his attire. His weapons are what some might call “Black Ugly Guns” (BUG’s).

BUG’s come to the range for one thing. They spent the previous night loading 47 30-round magazines for their AR, along with 36 15-round magazines for their black plastic handgun. BUG’s shoot only factory, jacketed ammunition. They don’t trust handloads and they never police their brass. BUG’s most-often communicate in a cryptic, alphanumeric code consisting of acronyms. It sometimes takes a book on “Tactical Terms and Tales” (or a “TTT” as they refer to it) to crack the code. Sentences are sprinkled liberally with terms like “tactical” or “been there, done that” and “dude.”

I know everyone is different, lord knows I am. Just ask my wife. We all have different dreams, or ways to escape the real world doldrums, so don’t judge. I’m just having a bit of fun at our own expense here, not judging. Try to see the good in everyone. Attempt to latch onto that.

Talk to everyone — you just might learn something.

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Me?

Wearing my custom Gila monster cowboy boots with woodland camo BDU’s tucked inside a Bianchi diamond-hitch patterned leather belt with silver plated buckle, I approach the SOB and BUG. My rose colored calvary shirt with dust cover is neatly tucked into my BDU’s. A Texas bolo tie with large turquoise stone hangs from my neck. I have my S&W Elmer Keith commemorative .44 Mag strapped to my hip in the prettiest basket weave shuck you ever saw. My Colt 1911, locked and cocked, is in a tanker-style WWII shoulder rig, honoring Col. Cooper. My AK-47 is strapped to my back in a green ballistic nylon tactical case, all six mag pouches stuffed with fully loaded 30-round magazines. I seem to have both sides of the affair well-covered.

Peering through Rayban aviators, I ask the SOB and BUG if they are almost finished, still thinking to myself I wanted to shoot alone. The SOB and BUG stare at one another as if forming an allegiance. Lifting my boony hat, I scratch my head, wondering, “Damn!” They look like they’re ganging up on me? A united front since I don’t quite fit either of their idea of a fellow GG?

I stick out my hand to make introductions and begin to ask questions about the old Model 29 and that fancy AR. We are, indeed, all the same … only different.

And that, people, is how you make a GG bond!

By the way, GG may also stand for “Gun Gal” just so you know.

This was just a romp portraying some of the shooter stereotypes we may happen upon at the range. Sometimes we are the biggest offenders, so chill out. Talk to the guys — and gals — there. Ask about the guns they’re shooting. Show some interest. Don’t take yourself so seriously. We GG’s can be very specific in what we shoot and tend toward getting into ruts, so you may just end up learning something.

Don’t make assumptions about anyone, and remember they’re likely eye-balling you at the same time, wondering about that beat-up hat you have on. Keep in mind, too, the more you learn, watch and ask, the better all-around GG you’ll become. After all, most shooters are quick to say, “Here, want to try it out?”

“You bet I do,” said with a big grin is the right response.

Besides, you just make a life long friend. I know I have.

And I guarantee you’ll have a blast doing it.

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