August 11, 2000

Gunning It in Wallkill, NY

By Dick Acorn, photos by B-Bob Scura

As a strong believer in the wisdom and durability of the Bill of Rights and the entire U.S. Constitution, there is the somewhat satisfying notion that in large measure, our American government “Of the People, By the People, and For the People” supports and defends these rights.   As carefully as the Framers’ composed the Constitution – and true for any document - there is disagreement about the meaning of particular words and phrases. These Constitutional disagreements are properly resolved through the law, in courts which include an appeal mechanism up to the brightest legal minds hopefully our nation can produce.   But inevitably every court decision attempting to interpret and enforce the Constitution, or any local, state, or national law will satisfy some citizens and disappoint others.  Too often, rather than interpret the Constitution, lower courts will instead fiddle with vagaries and produce the equivalent of legislation, which is supposed to be the exclusive domain of local, state, and national representative legislative bodies.

Such is the nature of the gun control debate: you are either a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment’s clearly stated “right to bear arms shall not be infringed,” or you argue that the Amendment only offers these rights in the context of a the equally clearly stated "well-regulated militia.” 

If you live in an urban crime zone and hear gunshots outside your kids’ windows, or if you are constantly reading tabloid accounts of livery cab drivers being mercilessly gunned down for a cash pittance, you may be inclined to clutch the front of you head and say, “enough!  Enough!  These guns gotta go!  Gotta go!”  And you become susceptible to gun control advocates, and the desire to regulate or banish outright firearms.

Dick Acorn, AK-47, the gun that couldn't save communism. Background on table, L1a1 and Heineken.

If you live amidst the rambling woodlands and watershed of the Wallkill River in mid-upstate New York, and you have property, and you recognize that law enforcement help in the middle of the night might be ½, ¾ of an hour away, you’ll likely want to have at least one gun for home and hearth security.  If you enjoy sport shooting and hunting, you will thereby provide yourself with additional firearms as you see fit, completely within your Second Amendment rights.

So it is that Jersey City’s B-Bob (“Businessman Bob”) Scura has such upstate New York property – lovely and private land directly on the Wallkill, and he is suitably armed to defend this land, while also retaining a collection of firearms to indulge in sport shooting.  Being a generous friend, he invites others to enjoy some sport shooting on the quiet, expansively-wooded property, and we took advantage of this invitation recently.

The shooting group consisted of myself, B-Bob, and Charles I. Turner, attorney-at-law, who was participating in his first ever shoot, a series of “firsts” Charles is trying to get under his belt before he hits the big four-oh.  

The weapons selected for this casual madcap shoot are a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle (some would call this a “squirrel gun”), a semi-automatic M-1 .30 caliber carbine (the shorter version of the M-1 Garand - the rifle U.S. GI’s shot their way to victory with in WW2), a Romanian-made AK-47 7.62 millimeter semi-auto assault rifle, and an Austrian Defense Forces L1a1 7.62 millimeter semi-auto assault gun. Semi-automatic means that every time you pull the trigger, a bullet will fire, and you can pull the trigger and fire bullets as fast as your finger can crank, and as long as the ammo holds out.  Full automatic (a machine gun), which requires a special possession permit, lets you hold the trigger down and spew bullets like a fire hose.  But unless you have a lot of wide open space and plenty of ammo-cash, or you are having your firebase overrun, a fully automatic weapon is a frivolous indulgence.

Shooting just on semi-automatic is a-okay, you can approach targets and blast away one trigger-pull at a time.  You can quickly satisfy your assault urges just fine in this manner, imagining you are finishing off cowering Iraqis.  

Having considerable shooting experience and extensive hands-on weapons knowledge, B-Bob is rangemaster and safety enforcer.  Myself, having shot a few times previously, I was ready to shoot responsibly, and Charles needed to be instructed that he couldn’t be pointing the gun willy-nilly, and that B-Bob would load all the weapons.   Since we were having a few beers while shooting, extra precaution was taken that the guns remain pointed downrange on the convenient shooting platforms that B-Bob had constructed from some sapling stumps.

Dick Acorn, M-1 Carbine, right on target.

Targets were set out at 25 yards near the ground, some fun silhouettes of gophers that would soon have many holes in them.  Seventy-five yards further downrange – at 100 yards - B-Bob has an old, VERY bullet-riddled refrigerator which serves nicely as a target backstop.  Beyond the refrigerator is a large earth berm.  All of the bullets aimed at the 100 yard target go into the berm, or should go into the berm.  At one point B-Bob had to alert Charles I. to stop shooting at the 100 yard target because Chuck was aiming too low; there was concern that a few short rounds might skip and go over the berm.  Charles had to be scolded a few times to watch what targets he was shooting at for he was taking his aim far too seriously.  Eventually, he voluntarily gave up the shooting in pursuit of drinking.

As can be seen from the photo to the right, Charles I. has the most unique way of gripping a rifle; sometimes he holds his stretched hand on top of the rifle barrel instead of underneath to support the barrel.  

He also insists on resting the stock on his shoulder next to his ear, and not against his shoulder to absorb the recoil. If anyone has seen Charles I. take a jump shot in basketball, or had the opportunity to watch Charles I. bowl, you know that traditional body postures for sports go out the window with this boy.  Shooting is no different.

Charles I. Turner - is it a rifle or bazooka?

Needless to say, Charles was getting beaned by hot flying spent shells and complaining, yet he stubbornly would not take instruction on properly cradling the rifle.  Thus so long as he didn’t do anything irresponsible, we were hilariously resigned to letting him do it “his way.”  He did a pretty good job in the 25-yard targets but was completely hopeless beyond that.  We do not have to worry about Charles I. flipping his lid and going on a shooting rampage, for the gun does not take to him well.

B-Bob offered the rifles for shooting from the lightest to the heaviest, from the .22 up to the heavy and seemingly nuclear warhead-proof L1a1.

Starting with the .22 squirrel gun, which fires a cute little round (of which we purchased 100 rounds “on special for $4.99!”  What a buy!) and is accordingly the least “noisy” of the four weapons we shot - we were pinging Mr. Gopher but good. Too bad there weren’t some real gophers or perhaps even beaver scampering afoot, but you can’t have everything, can you?  The .22 is light and easy to shoulder and a breeze to hold and fire.  For its purposes it’s a fun firearm.  When we were shooting at the 100-yard target with the .22, there was a nifty sequence as first the rifle went “Crack!” and then just a split-instant later, you could hear the bullet hit the battered reefer target downrange.  Boom! and then “clip!”  Neat audio affirmation that we were in fact shooting bullets and they were at least hitting the big bulky icebox.

Next was the M-1 .30 cal. Carbine, a heftier weapon with a correspondingly louder “Boom!” and no “clip” on the 100-yeard range as the bullet gets there too fast.   We were wearing ear protection, not really necessary for the .22, but from there on up, a comfortable accessory.   Heavier of course than the .22, the M-1 still has easy handling characteristics which would serve well in mid- or close-range combat.  The M-1 puts a considerably larger hole in the paper gopher targets, and it’s large bullets make this a formidable gun.  You can imagine blasting some annoying e-mail nemesis but good with the M-1 “Carbeen”, you can feel yourself picking off tree-hidden Japs, you’re almost wishing for some of them up there when you are wielding a classic All-American WW2 woody, the M-1.

B-Bob should import some mannequins with Ziphead features and prop them around his property and we could play G.I. Joe.  Eventually, this mock foolery would descend into a small-scale battle action and it wouldn’t be long, be sure, before the participants were aiming not at the pseudo-Nips, but at EACH OTHER.  I personally would be aiming for any lawyers in the vicinity and would be holding the rifle properly to assure clean hits.  I am positive I could duck any bullets coming from a rifle held like a bazooka or rocket-launcher as an errant attorney might insist on holding a rifle. 

Then it came time to ‘Named-up but good and get working with the world-renowned AK-47.  From the 70’s down through today, the AK was/is THE weapon of choice for any bandana-wearing, rubber-sandal towelhead malcontent heat merchant with a government beef.  Cheap, reliable, and available in huge quantities the world over, the AK-47 went to war most prominently against American G.I.’s in the ‘Nam badlands, bushfields, and rice paddies.  All communist regimes including the still-extant Libya, Cuba, and North Korea - all their armed services still bring a lot to the firefight table with the AK-47. 

The latest version of America’s armed services assault rifle, the M-16A3 likely surpasses the AK-47 in all the desirable shooting characteristics.  But the AK is still a cheap, easy-to-find -in-quantities rifle when you need to knock off a despotic regime, or just make trouble in Lebanon or on the corner of Summit and Graham in Jersey City.  

B-Bob’s particular AK is Romanian made (the easy-to-manufacture AK’s are made all over the globe, especially in commie and ex-commie countries), with a stylish wood-clad barrel, and it is snug and cozy to cradle or shoulder.  It doesn’t have the sheer attitude, nor the unwieldy heft of the next rifle, L1a1, but just picking up AK, you can tell it’s a great gun to march with, crack some intruder head with, sleep with, and fight with.  It is all of these and a piece of cake to load, operate, and shoot.  We didn’t get a chance to take out any lurking VC, but such would be the vicarious joys if B-Bob would stock his noble woods with a few VC mannequins, including one of Ms. Ho Chi Minh herself, the former Mrs. Jane Turner.  I regret not bringing a few Kathy Lee targets up the range; surely Jane would inspire still greater marksmanship.  Perhaps too, B-Bob might see fit to sow a gentle part of the Wallkill with a few wispy rice plants to complete a benign and demented ‘Nam flashback scenario.   I’m sure we could scrounge up a Viet Vet (or a Viet Vet wannabe) somewhere to bring up there to go on a ‘Nam bug like Mart Sheeny in Apocalypse Now.

You step-up into the big league, real-deal assault weapon category when you set up the all-metal, no-nonsense L1a1 assault rifle.  In appearance and firepower, this is the kind of weapon that jolts gun-control freak and Senate Wussy Chuck Schumer out of his interminable TV blather and generates still further ridiculous anti-gun blather.  The L1a1 is a world-class assault weapon and looks the way such a weapon should by god look: large, quite hefty (almost too hefty), with a futuristically sleek dark metallic finish, and with a menacing high-capacity magazine to boot.   Coupled with a long-range scope, you can take down Leaders of the Free World with this device.

The L1a1 is definitely among the weapons you want on hand in a serious pinch, facing armored vehicles and fast, low-flying aircraft that are shooting down on you.  It fires an identical bullet as the AK-47, but with a heavier powder charge, thus increasing the range and punch.  You would not, I don’t think, want to lug this bruiser down the length of Ho Chi Minh trail, but if you did, you would sure be glad in any firefight.  This weapon not only packs a crunching wallop-and-a-half (with LOUD accompaniment), but it is quite accurate and fires a large round at such velocity that it may only be surpassed in stopping power by a mighty .50 cal.  I suspect this is among B-bob’s favorites, for the L1a1 is rugged enough to be run-over by a North Korean T-72 tank and still keep on ticking.  It’s a deadly, earnest looking firearm and you can indeed judge the performance of this weapon by its looks.

Eventually the ammo runs out, the woods darken into placid evening, and the guns fall silent.   But the memories or the anticipation of another trip to shoot through B-Bob’s additional collection of rifles and handguns need not end.  

B-Bob’s property, with its old ramshackle summer cottages and knockabout odd structures recalling bygone “summer vacation” days, along with wooded river frontage and firepits and fun toys is a place deserving of the very best protection an armed owner can provide.  It is also a nearby get-away-from-it-all refuge for his city-fed-up pals to get up there and get some hot fires and icy brrrr-ews going, and to enjoy such hospitality in the comfort and safety of B-Bob’s enchanting enclave.  And above all to practice all the 2nd Amendment rights which you can preach forth from the muzzle of a gun.  

Some of the B-Bob collection.

Us city dwellers, our primary exposure to guns is the stupidity of people who mishandle and misuse them, and not the good sportsmanship and respect of ex-urban gunowners who will not and shall not have their right to bear arms infringed.  Not by Chuck Schumer, not by Al Gore, not by “sue-the-gunmakers” trial lawyers (although if any category of anti-gun zealots can make inroads, this cabal can with the aid of misguided Constitutionally-suspect judicial interpretations).  The guns are out there and they are staying out there, and they will not be given up frivolously, it would seem, to satisfy the ignorant do-gooders who would blithely trample America’s sacred Bill of Rights.