The Best Exercise


While writing his 15-year-old nephew, Peter Carr, in 1785, regarding what he considered the best form of exercise, Thomas Jefferson wrote “… I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.”

I knew there was a reason I liked Thomas Jefferson! I agree wholeheartedly his course of calisthenics for the cranial inhabitant. Nothing is more exhilarating than a good day on the range! The well-placed shot is an exercise of mental haiku, consisting of a complex orchestration of concentration and sight, with the blending of fine and gross motor skills.

Nothing is more exhilarating than placing your bullet for whence you aim. Doing so is evidence of a successful sequence where mind and body mesh as one, accomplishing this complex task. While appearing simple and mundane to the mere bystander, let them try this elaborate exercise themselves, to see just how complex it is.

The feeling of elation, followed after one relaxes from the ardent application of both physical and mental prowess, provides proof of skilled proficiency, when the bull’s mark is punched.

Mental skill

Today, we would call this a form of meditation. For shooting is the highest form of mental exercise, combining physical skill, for an intended purpose. When shooting, the outside world ceases to exist, from the time the firearm is lifted from the rack, until it is returned.

Nothing is present to distract us. It’s during this mind-cleansing endeavor of focusing solely on bullet placement, which invigorates and replenishes us. Simply put, it wipes the slate clean.

This boldness Jefferson mentions comes from confidence instilled when one can knowingly place their ball with deadly accuracy, if need be, for food, or defense. A bold feeling indeed, that needs not to be brazenly displayed, but one that is obvious by the confidence exhibited in daily quests.

Physical Skill

Gross motor skills are challenged with proper erect posture and holding your rifle, or pistol, rock steady. Your body is your foundation of stability, both physical and mental. A firm grip locks your gun to your body’s foundation.

Fine motor skills are used during the cocking of the gun, and most importantly, the pressing of the trigger, to ignition time, coordinating them with the wobble of wavering sights onto your intended target. A complex and convoluted task indeed that will become automatic and secondary in nature, with repeated practice.


Lastly, extreme concentration ties all these skills together, functioning as a whole unit, capable of placing your ball for whence you aim. So, Ol’ Thomas is dead-on describing “the gun” as the ultimate form of exercise!

What other activity makes use of so many complex skill sets, mentally and physically? And yet, can keep one alive providing the basics of food, shelter, protection, while lifting our spirits, making us feel alive? I cannot think of one better … Who am I to question such a great man?

This last quote is too good not to share from our first President, George Washington, showing how important it was for free men to bear arms.

“Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”

George Washington

God loves these founding Fathers for their courage, wisdom and leadership! Honor your guns by meditating with them, as you become more proficient in their use!

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