Dancing With The Devil

One of the first things I learned about shooting was I’m not a naturally gifted shooter. I’ve known some, and I’m not one of ’em. Nevertheless, I’ve always shot “Expert” in military qualifications, and taken some gongs and trinkets in cop-competitions. More importantly, I’ve acquitted myself honorably, survived and won when shooting for my life. I give a big chunk of credit for those accomplishments to this warrior-wizardry from my Dad.

As a pup out in the Pacific, I had minimal small-bore pistol-poppin’ instruction when Dad presented me with my first “very own” handgun — a S&W 1917 .45 ACP revolver. Even with the forked stick he gave me to rest the barrel of that hand-howitzer on, I was an enthusiastic but imprecise “area-wide artillery threat.” Forget “groups;” my CPE — Circular Probability of Error — was about the size of a Navy-issue trash can lid. I wondered why he chose that huge gun for me. There was, as always, a method to his madness.

He introduced me to two friends. One was a crude, fierce-looking little native-made finger puppet, which he slipped on his index finger. He waggled the digital-demon and then opened his hand. He had drawn a gray, shadowy spirit on his palm. I can still hear that deep, oil-tank voice rumbling, “The devil’s in this digit, son, and the gremlin’s in the grip. They can be your worst enemies or your best friends.”

I think you can guess what he was talking about, and he hammered the lesson home. If all the other tools in your handgunning haversack are at least nominal, your grip and trigger control are the most important factors determining whether you score or suck, hit or miss, win or lose, live or die. Concentrating on a solid, stable grip and smooth, purposeful trigger control as only a little boy or an idiot can, I became the “Scourge of Small Scuttlers” — the crabs around our lagoon.

Time after time in training and competition, I shot up to or surpassed superior shooters because when the pressure was on, they squared their stances — and jerked their triggers; they moved faster — and fumbled their grips, foul-balling their shots. There were ’bout 19 factors that caused them to shoot below their capabilities, and just two that kept this caveman competitive: The Devil & the Gremlin.