Biographies and Stories

Common wisdom says one thing, Bobby Fowler Jr.’s trophy case says another.

Since he first started shooting competitively in 1993, Fowler has won about 150 titles in sporting clays and FITASC. He’s dominated the sports so thoroughly, that his middle initials should be HOA. Every gauge, on both sides of the Atlantic, in his home state of Texas – no tournament is safe from Fowler’s monumental skills in achieving the highest overall average.

You would think that Fowler’s success is based on the ultimate refinement of tried and true principles coupled with a persistent drive to win, relentless practice and razor-sharp mental skills. For the most part you would be right.

But Fowler’s approach to successful shooting hinges on one particular unorthodox method. When it comes to sporting clays, he pre-mounts his shotgun.

FowlerINSIDE
Bobby Fowler, Jr.

Pre-mounting a shotgun is associated with skeet and trap shooting. You step into the station, mount the gun, then call for the target. By contrast, sporting clays traces its roots to wingshooting, which itself calls for a low-gun mount. It’s only common sense that if you’re traipsing through the woods in search of birds, you can’t exactly have the gun already mounted to your shoulder. You hold the gun in a ready, low-gun position and when you see the bird take wing you mount and shoot in a single, smooth move.

While Fowler’s sporting clays mount isn’t 100 percent pre-mount, it sure comes pretty darn close. For example, the recoil pad is definitely against his shoulder as he prepares for the target. Unlike skeet or trap shooters, though, Fowler drops the stock only slightly from his face – just enough to add an extra margin of peripheral vision.

When asked why he uses pre-mount for sporting clays, he replied “One of the main reasons I shoot pre-mounted is that I find I’m on the target a lot faster.”

As he explained it, Fowler’s mount routine involves holding his head so that he can look back to where the bird is going appear – or in his case he generally looks back to “just off of the arm of the trap machine.” He’s now holding the muzzles about 30 degrees under the target flight path, although the recoil pad is firmly “in the pocket at all times.” He calls for the bird, establishes the target, raises the muzzle from under the line of the bird as he swings, and when the gun touches his face he pulls the trigger.

“The gun comes up and your head comes down just before you’re ready to pull the trigger,” he said.

In talking with him, we mentioned that we had tried shooting sporting clays pre-mounted and never found much success with it. Our problem was that, for whatever reason, the gun tended to jam up our swing on crossing shots. Fowler honed right in on the culprit.

“You don’t want to ride the bird out,” he observed. “You pre-mount the gun in the first place so you can shoot the bird faster.”

And in recalling our experience in shooting sporting clays pre-mounted, that exactly was what we did wrong. The correct movement is: gun to face, pull the trigger. You’ll find that the built-in gun speed allows you to sustain the proper lead – eliminating the back-and-forth mental calculations of trying to find the right forward allowance for each and every shot that causes you to ride the target too long.

When done correctly, Fowler’s approach can obviously work wonders.

“What happens is that shooters try it and the response is always that they can get on the bird quicker, and it’s fewer things to do than low mount when the bird comes out of the trap,” he told us. “It’s just easier to do it this way. It’s more natural for shooting clay targets.”

With fewer “moving parts” than a low-gun mount, Fowler’s style goes a long way toward improving consistency. And during our conversation, he underscored the importance of controlling recoil so that you can parlay that hard-earned consistency into a long-term shooting career.

“Recoil is something that starts to be a determining factor when you get older,” he explained. “You want the speed of the faster shells when you get older, but you don’t’ want to get beat up.”

Fowler said he uses Kick-EEZ recoil pads because they have Sorbothane.

If you’ve never heard of Sorbothane, it’s a unique polymer that has been medically and scientifically proven to be the best cushioning material available today. In many applications and laboratory tests shock-absorption levels of 90% have been achieved. These high absorption levels are possible because Sorbothane attenuates shock waves by dispersing energy outward from the impact source.

For Fowler’s pre-mounted sporting clays technique, the lowest possible recoil becomes extremely important.

“You want to get that shotgun up in the pocket real good,” he said.

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at letters@shotgunlife.com.

Useful resources:

Kick-EEZ

http://www.kickeezproducts.com

Bobby Fowler Jr.’s Elite Shooting School

http://www.eliteshooting.com

Story and photos by Mike Childress

Last Friday was atypical. I got an invitation from my brothers- and father-in-law to come out to the property and take my chances against clay pigeons thrown from the back of an old International Harvester pick-up.

It’s been a while since I shot clay birds. More than a little while actually, from the days my dad and I used to reserve our Sundays for the local trapshooting club. And, after a day of office work, it was a welcome change. After rummaging around for what seemed like an eternity I found my shotgun, shells, and even some “birds” that my father-in-law had given me for a birthday present the year before, still unopened. My wife and I made quick preparations for the 15-minute trek north. Car seats, check. Diaper bag, check. Guns and ammo, check. We were off.

My Winchester Model 12 pump hadn’t seen much action in the last few years as the stock had been shortened to fit a pre-teen. My dad had bought it from Harry, a gun collector and trap shooter himself, who had been a fixture in our little community of Chewelah, Washington, for years. I think it was tough for Harry to give it up. He had his own history with the little pump long before I was born. But he did give it up all the same and took great pride in seeing me bring it to the trap club on Sunday mornings.

The field-grade model was better known as the plain Jane, but I considered mine the ugly step sister due to one well-intentioned modification: The old screw-in, super-extended Weaver choke system. Serving as more of a conversation starter than anything, I had never altered it from the full choke, as it seemed to always serve its role. From grouse to pheasant to clay pigeons, it had never let me down. And it was good to bring it out from semi-retirement.

Childress-1

We climbed into the back of the ‘52 Harvester pick-up called the Corn Binder. It creaked and groaned as it left its post beside the woodshed. The truck lumbered through the gate and climbed up the hill into the woods toward the other end of the property, each of us holding our respective arms and swaying to the pits and swells of the old truck trail. The straight six snorted to a stop as we arrived at the launch pad and piled out to survey the site of past carnage. Little fluorescent orange pieces decorated the landscape even after multiple sweeps with grocery bags in hand.

The source was an old clays launcher given to my father-in-law at work. The machine had been modified and welded on to a frame that was mounted onto a sheet of plywood. The trap machine was obviously old but still worked flawlessly and fit perfectly in its station, the Corn Binder’s bed.

Once we started throwing targets, the Winchester barked back to life and my cheek confirmed that it was much shorter than I remembered. While Pop volunteered to load the trap, both brothers joined me on the line, taking practice aim in anticipation of the first flight of our quarry.

Childress-2

Thwang! Boom! Boom! Boom!  The assault on clay pigeons began. No “Pull” request and gentlemanly one-at-a-time firing here. It was a full-throttle, shoot-at-will session that left the slow shooter, the no shooter. The gang burned through nearly 100 rounds each on our quest for scattergun superiority, and tallied more hits than misses before our box of pigeons was depleted.

The familiar smell of AA loads took me back to those days in Chewelah, to Harry, and to my own dad. It couldn’t help but put a grin on my face. We called it a day as the darkness reclaimed our little shooting club. After too much pizza and too little beer, my wife and I headed home, kids in tow and the stress of a day at the office had completely melted away. What a great way to end the week.

Calling the Pacific Northwest home, Mike Childress is a system analyst and writer who actively chronicles his outdoor adventures at http://OutdoorBlogger.com. Please send your comments to letters@shotgunlife.com.

It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher

Wouldn’t it be great if four-time Olympic shooting champ Kim Rhode finally appeared on a box of Wheaties?

As legend has it, if it had been up to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Kim would’ve been beaming her warm smile on the Breakfast of Champions back in 1996, when at age 16, as the youngest member of the U.S. Summer Olympic Team, she won her first Gold Medal for double trap.

Anyone who shoots a 16-gauge shotgun should send Doug Oliver a big cigar.

As founder of the 16 Gauge Society, Doug has been keeper of the flame for a shotgun orphaned by the industry.

Over the years marketing decisions within the shotgun industry have relegated the 16 gauge from the second-most popular shotgun to an icon of perfection among a small band of bird shooters. They marketed the smaller 20-gauge rival, despite the superior ballistics of the 16 gauge. At the same time, the 12 gauge has been gentrified from its bruiser, meat-market heritage to a relatively comfortable, all-purpose shotgun.

The world of tournament shooting has also conspired against the 16 gauge. Simply put, there are no 16-gauge competitions in major clay-shooting events – depriving the 16 gauge of the credibility and high-profile marketing opportunities to sustain a thriving market.

Still, the perseverance of devoted 16-gauge shooters has kept the shotgun alive. And you could easily make the case that Doug has emerged as the voice of the 16-gauge shotgun community.

“If I were trapped on a desert island, I would want the 16 gauge, because it won’t beat you up and it kills birds without killing you,” Doug said.

Maybe it’s a confluence of happy circumstances that Doug, who owns a graphic-design firm in Bell Canyon, California, fell in love with 16-gauge shotguns to the extent that he started the 16 Gauge Society web site.

16GA2
Doug Oliver

He fondly recalls shooting 16-gauge shotguns as a kid in Newton, Kansas with his father.

“From the age of 10, I started hitting birds, and I became joined at the hip during bird season with my father. We’d hunt quail, pheasant, doves…,” he said.

During that period, he started out with a .410, and passed through a 16 gauge on his way to a 12 gauge. He remembered liking the 16 gauge, although for the bigger part of his life he shot 12 and 20 gauge.

“The 16 gauge is absolutely the perfect shotgun,” he explains. “It has a perfect load for wingshooting. Plus a 16 gauge will typically be a pound lighter than a 12 gauge if you’re carrying it all day in the field. The 16 gauge shoots like a 12 gauge but carries like a 20 gauge. It’s a great gun.”

When Doug turned 50, for his midlife crisis instead of a Porsche he bought himself a shotgun. It was a 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Rizzini over/under. It was a better gun than he had known at that point.

On a flight from Los Angeles to New York, he had been reading an article in Double Gun Journal about dove hunting in Argentina. Until that point he had every intention of buying a 20 or 28 Beretta, but the article deflected him to the 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Razzing.

Doug found himself smitten by the lovely 16 gauge. In doing his “homework” for that 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Rizini he realized “that 16 gauge was a stepchild,” he explained. “Information at the time was so hard to dig out and that’s where the 16 Gauge Society web site came in. I though I’d just design and throw up 16 gauge web site and maybe sell a couple of hats. The project itself was fun and informative.”

After a few months of hard work, the 16 Gauge Society web site went up in 2002 at http://www.16ga.com.

It now has approximately 1,500 members of the 16 Gauge Society, plus another 2,400 people who frequent the site’s forum which serves as a clearing house of information for everything 16 gauge. Over 60,000 posts have been recorded on the site.

ARRIETA
A 16-gauge Arietta 557

As Doug relates about the forum “You can throw a question out about a gun and 10 guys will answer you – civilly.”

There is a one-time, lifetime $25 membership to the 16 Gauge Society. But for Doug, the organization “is not a moneymaker. It’s a passion.”

Last autumn, one of the members of the 16 Gauge Society organized a pheasant shoot in North Dakota. A dozen or so members met for the first time there. “It was fun, everybody got pheasants,” he said. “A good time was had by all.”

In a way, that was a trip back to the good old days of 16-gauge hunting.

Doug is an active 16-gauge shooter. Of the 10 shotguns he currently owns, four of them are 16 gauge. He still has that F.A.I.R. Rizzini, in addition to a 1959 Beretta Silverhawk and two Browning Sweet 16 A-5s.

He recalled that when he began hunting there were a lot of 16-gauge shotguns on the market. Winchester Model 12s, Ithaca and Remington pumps, and the Browning Sweet 16 A-5s dominated the market, alongside a smattering of Fox, Parker and L.C. Smith doubles.

Although many a young hunter was started in the field with a 16 gauge, by the late 1950s and early 1960s, the 20 gauge, and later the 20-gauge 3-inch magnum, simply buried the 16 gauge shotgun in the U.S.

Doug now thinks that the 16 gauge is experiencing a renaissance. “After a 50-year decline in popularity, the sixteen is making a well-deserved comeback. And in a number of production lines, too.”

Today, although sometimes difficult to find, the industry still offers the standard and high-velocity lead and non-toxic loads from all major manufacturers. “Yet even though this situation has improved in the last few years, most serious 16-gauge shooters custom hand load their own shells. This is true of many shooters regardless of gauge,” Doug observed.

Affordable 16-gauge shotguns are available from a number of manufacturers including Griffin & Howe, Arietta, A. H. Fox, Browning, Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company’s Model 21, Cortona, Arietta, Dean, Grulla, Stoeger and a handful of others.

And of course, there are also thousands of used 16-gauge shotguns in search of a new home.

Noe Roland is a frequent contributor to Shotgun Life. You can reach him at letters@shotgunlife.com.

 

Useful resources:

http://www.16ga.com/

http://www.griffinhowe.com

http://www.arrietashotguns.com/

http://www.connecticutshotgun.com/ahfox1.html

http://www.connecticutshotgun.com/model21.html

http://www.browning.com/

http://www.cortonashotguns.com/

http://www.dhshotguns.com/

http://www.grullaarmas.com/es/

http://www.stoegerindustries.com/

www.douglasoliverdesign.com

It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher

Most people agree that baseball is the all-American sport. But after spending three days in San Antonio, Texas at the National Shooting Complex, I would argue that the sport which best captures the heart and soul of the American spirit is skeet.

Professional baseball has been battered by drug scandals, crass commercialism and outrageous salaries - giving a black eye to the American core values of fair play, self-determination and mutual respect.

By contrast, tournament skeet remains firmly in the stronghold of the shooter who competes for the love of their sport and a burning desire to win fair and square. While these birds certainly don't have feathers, the hunger is still there to feed that great American quality of redemption - that you can always pick yourself up by the bootstraps to make a comeback target by target. It's the grit of the individual and their gun forging their own destiny.

While professional baseball now finds itself pulsing through the digital infrastructure onto big-screen TVs and multi-media web sites, skeet holds fast to the ideals of craftsmanship in the hand-finished shotguns that still produce a streak of 500 or more consecutive broken targets.

Although the predecessor to the baseball bat may have helped primitive man fend off sabre-tooth tigers, it is the gun that won the American West - a part of the country I found myself in for three days in March.

As an avid recreational clays shooter, I became immersed in tournament skeet through a remarkable program developed by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) - the sport's nonprofit governing body.

The NSSA and its sister group, the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), in conjunction with the state-level associations, keep track of just about every major skeet and sporting clays tournament in the U.S. The NSSA-NSCA is the repository for all registered scores shot in both large and small clubs throughout the country and in the world.

NSSA shooters often enter the realm of tournament skeet through grass roots organizations such as the 4H, which actively promotes skeet competition; through various instructors who want to see a promising student take their skills to the next level; or through local clubs where the NSSA sanctions competitive shoots.

But NSSA member, Stuart Fairbank, saw another way of opening the door of tournament skeet to recreational shooters. It's called Shoot with the Stars, and it has been held at the annual Toni Rogers Spring Extravaganza, one of the earlier Top 10 shoots in the country that shooters use to open the tournament skeet season for three years. This year it took place March 27-29 at the NSSA-NSCA National Shooting Complex.

Although Stuart says the concept for this type of program had been around for the past 20 years, it was in 2007 that he teamed up with NSSA Secretary/Treasurer, Bob DeFrancesco, to really make it happen.

As Stuart explained it to me in the club house "There were always people who felt that the shooting games were exclusionary. They belong to a home club where they feel comfortable, but in terms of tournament shooting they have a hard time getting started. It can be confusing at first especially when you travel away from home and don't know anybody at the shoot. And there's the apprehension associated with meeting, and being squaded with, and competing against the big shooters. We want to make it as easy as possible for the new folks to experience a first-class tournament, meet and shoot with some of the best in the game, and do it all on manageable budget."

For example, for someone like me who's managed to shoot his fair share of 25 straight in skeet, it would be an absolutely intimidating proposition to go up against the likes of some of this year's stars...

  • Sam Armstrong, whose 12-gauge average in 2008 hit 0.9920 (meaning that he broke slightly more than 99 out of 100 targets in each competition).
  • Dave Starrett, whose 12-gague average in 2008 was 0.9963
  • Billy Williams, who had a 2008 12-gauge average of 0.9907
  • Tami Meyers, with a 12-gauge average of 0.9826 in 2008
  • Bob DeFrancesco who racked up a 20-gauge average of 0.9958


Of course registered tournaments do not directly pit the new shooter against these stars, or the other stars who participated in the program including John Shima, Stuart Fairbank and John Herkowitz. A classification system that ranges from top-ranked AAA to E shooters ensures competitive equilibrium. I had been ranked D, given that I had registered for a single tournament skeet shoot in 2007.

Turns out, I was exactly the kind of shooter that Stuart wanted to attract through Shoot with the Stars.

Stuart believed that the sport needed to create "ambassadors," or recreational skeet shooters who were given the opportunity to mingle with the stars, and then go home and spread the good word.

So in 2007, Stuart and Bob posted the first Shoot with the Stars call on the Internet, attracting three shooters. Over time, a selection process was put in place. The names of up to 27 shooters would be drawn - three from each of the organization's nine regional zones.

This year there were 15 recipients including myself, since I was the only one to apply from Zone 2.

The 2009 sponsors were Ms. Toni Ann Rogers (Title Sponsor), Federal Ammunition, Browning, Rio Ammunition, Kolar Arms, Remington Arms (.410 bore), Winchester Ammunition (28 gauge), While Flyer targets, leathersmith Al Ange and the NSSA as sponsors.

With sponsors and organization in place, the 2009 Shoot with the Stars gave us newcomers 100 shells in each gauge (12, 20, 28 and .410 bore) for use in the competitions, plus they waived our entry fees in each event of $50 and the nominal target fees that came to $6 per day. The Shoot with the Stars program also provided the experience of a lifetime (for skeet shooters this is tantamount to playing golf with Tiger Woods).

My Shoot with the Stars adventure started when I landed at San Antonio International Airport at about noon on March 26th. After renting a car, I headed directly to Blaser USA in San Antonio, the U.S. arm of the German manufacturer that makes the marvelous F3 shotgun.

Story3insideF3
The Blaser F3 American Skeet Combo


Having shot an F3 before, I knew it would be the gun to shoot. Here's why...

  • The F3's 100% mechanical, single-selective trigger functions at a light 3.3-lbs trigger pull. The hammers of the F3 move in a linear plane - straight forwards and then backwards when the gun is re-cocked. Typically, most hammers pivot around the pin in a lower efficiency arc. This design gives the gun a crisp, confident feel every time you pull the trigger.
  • You can adjust the trigger blade length for a precise fit.
  • The gun's Inertial Block System prevents double, or fan, firing. It's coupled with a mechanical trigger group that doesn't rely on recoil to set the second shot. If you get lucky and hit your first shot with a poofer, the next shot will fire regardless.
  • The F3's receiver measures a sleek 2.415 inches high at its tallest point, making it one of the lowest-profile shotguns on the planet. Blaser managed this engineering feat by streamlining the conventional lock. The gun's low-profile receiver, and its low axis, help reduce felt recoil by directing the shock wave through the most dense part of the stock. This would be important in shooting 200 competitive rounds per day, plus several rounds of practice.
  • The balancer in the stock is a cylindrical weight on a long threaded screw. You can move the weight up or down to find your perfect balance. The additional weight in the stock also helps absorb recoil.
  • With Blaser's Ejection-Ball-System, the ejector springs are cocked automatically when the shot is fired and the gun is opened. This feature virtually eliminates hulls sticking when you crack open the gun.
  • The grip has a substantial palm swell.
  • At 8 lbs, 7 oz, the gun has a near perfect weight for recreational skeet shooters (tournament skeet shooters are known to add weight that could bring their guns to over 9 lbs for controlled swing momentum).


Norbert Haussmann, CEO of Blaser USA, had arranged for me to pick up the perfect 12-gauge model for Shoot with the Stars. It had a Monte Carlo stock complemented by an adjustable comb. The barrels were 30 inches in length. The lid of the hard case held three sets of Briley Revolution tubes in 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore. Along with a full set of chokes, Blaser packages this F3 as the American Skeet Combo. And I have to say, it is really impressive.

After a Blaser tech tweaked the comb for me, the gun came up just right. If ever I were going to shoot a great game of skeet, this F3 would be the shotgun to make it happen.

Mother Nature, however, had other things in store.

Before leaving for San Antonio, I had checked the weather. It was supposed to be sunny, mild and in the mid-80s. It didn't exactly turn out that way.

The next morning saw prevailing winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. For a flying disc such as a skeet target, winds that high create crazy turbulence.

Story3INSIDEflag
Winds hit 40 mph


Air density, drag coefficient, angle of attack - everything is up for grabs as the wind blew across the open, flat terrain of the National Shooting Center.

If the target is going with the wind, it can race out of the trap house with an afterburner burst, and then get driven into the ground even before it reaches the opposite house.

If the target is going into the wind, it can simply rise and stall - one of the worst things that can happen to a shooter who uses momentum to swing through for the target break.

Then there's the ongoing debate as to whether or not it's best to break a target in the wind sooner or later. Some experts believe that you should break the target as soon as possible before the wind knocks it off the line of trajectory. Others, meanwhile, say you should wait until the target adjusts to the wind before pulling the trigger.

All I can say is that conditions were not great to shoot the first event of the tournament, which was doubles (when the high-house and low-house targets are thrown simultaneously).

Of the 45 skeet fields at the National Shooting Complex, I was slotted to shoot on number 9. My squad star would be perennial All American Sam Armstrong from Maryland. At least it was a 12-gauge event (imagine if it was .410).

Introductions and hand shakes all around among the five squad members and we were ready to shoot. During the 100-round event, I was surprised at the ongoing chatter of encouragement. If someone made a great shot, the others shooters in the squad let him know about it. When you stepped up to the station, you were given a pep talk - "You can do it...come on, get in the groove, crush 'em now..."

Turns out it was the unspoken code among tournament skeet shooters. You helped your competitor achieve their fullest potential in the preliminaries and then faced him head on in the shoot-offs. This friendly banter contributed to a real sense of family among the shooters - even for a newcomer like me.

For Sam and the other highly ranked shots, doubles took on a beautiful cadence: BANG...1 Mississippi...BANG. It was the veritable heartbeat of doubles. Consistently, they knew the rhythm of the game and mastered it.

Story3Home
Irwin Greenstein with Sam Armstrong


My final score was 57. Not great. It turns out, I made a couple of mistakes when it came to shooting in strong winds, which were explained to me over dinner that night with Sam and his friends at a Saltgrass Steakhouse.

First, by following the school of thought that says you break the targets close to the house in the wind, I held the Blaser further back than usual. The gun swung so beautifully, I figured it would be no problem nailing that target right out of the house before the wind could grab it.

I found out afterwards that you do just the opposite when shooting in the wind. You hold further toward the center stake. By reducing your gun swing, you stand a better of chance of breaking the target as it slows down, as opposed to attempting to shoot it when it comes accelerating out of the house.

Another mistake I made was shooting the target when it stalled in the wind. For example, if I were shooting the low 1, and it stalled right in front of me, I ended up missing the target. I was wondering how was that was possible? After all, the target was stopped dead; it was close enough to be hanging right off the brim of the cap. How the heck could I possibly miss that target?

The answer was simple: I had unconsciously lifted my face off the stock to look at the unusually high targets. Break that seal between your cheek and the stock and you'll miss the target every time - even if the bird is dangling three feet in front of you.

My third mistake was trying to measure the target lead in the wind. If you look for the lead, you invariably take your eyes off the target - or worse end up glancing at the front bead. Either way, the target will get away from you.

OK, lessons learned. But would they stick? Let's see how I would shoot the next day.

Right after the alarm clock went off, I checked the weather on my iPhone. Wind was blowing at 15 mph, with gusts reaching 23 mph. Certainly challenging, but not as daunting as the day before.

When I arrived at the National Shooting Complex that morning, one word dominated the communal conversation: wind. One of the stars confided later that he had not missed a single 12-gauge target since August 2006 - until doubles the day before when he shot a 98.

Other top shooters said "the wind got to me." What did they mean by that? A strong, relentless wind can make you tense your muscles, slowing you down. Likewise, a sense of exhaustion sets in, both physically and mentally. Unlike them, I never expected to shoot 100 straight, often the threshold for entering the shoot-offs. While a 97 or a 98 would be great for me, it was unacceptable in the rarefied ranks of AAA skeet champs.

I had two events scheduled for that Saturday. I would shoot 12 gauge at 10:30 and 28 gauge at 3:00. I was optimistic. At least 12 gauge gave me the firepower for a wider margin of error in the wind. When it came to 28 gauge, I'd been shooting it for the past year at my local club. I think it's the perfect gauge for skeet, and I had recently nailed my first 25 straight in 28 gauge.

Stuart Fairbank, a multiple World Champion from Connecticut, turned out to be the star of our 12-gauge squad. An affable guy, he really kept up the chatter - giving the squad a positive vibe through all 100 rounds. My final tally for the event was 81. I have to give ample credit to the Blaser for what I thought was a good score. It performed flawlessly, giving me great site pictures, a controlled swing and a comfortable shooting experience.

Story3INSIDEstuart
Stuart Fairbank with Irwin Greenstein

With a few hours remaining until the 28-gauge event, I paid a visit to the NSSA-NSCA Museum on the grounds. The museum included a history of skeet with wonderful artifacts. There were Hall of Fame Photos for both skeet and sporting clays and some entertaining videos to watch.

After the Museum, I walked across to the concession and ordered a tasty pulled-pork sandwich. I took the sandwich onto the patio and watched the other events as I ate.

At about 1:30, I installed the 28-gauge tubes from the trunk of my rental car. They went in like butter. After I shot two practice rounds, I knew 28-gauge would be intimidating.

Everyone says that regardless of the gauge, you always shoot the target the same way. Keep your hold points and break points consistent, whether it's 12 gauge or .410. However, here's the rub: A standard 12-gauge 1-1/8 oz shell with #9 shot holds about 658 pellets. A standard ¾ oz, 28-gauge shell with #9 shot has about 439 pellets - or nearly 50% fewer pellets. For the highly ranked shooters, the lower pellet count wouldn't make that much of a difference. But I needed all the help I could get as the sundowner wind started to kick up, fulfilling the prediction of 23-mph gusts. In the end, I shot a 67.

My 28-gauge star was multiple World Championship winner Billy Williams from Montana, the only one of two shooters to score perfect 100's in doubles the day before. Throughout the event, Billy was a master of encouragement, leading the squad in a chorus of positive banter. Even with my less-than-stellar 67, it was a joy to shoot in that squad. By now, I was starting to feel like an NSSA son-in-law.

Story3INSIDEwilliams
Billy Williams with Irwin Greenstein


That night, the Party on the Hill was held in the massive Beretta Pavilion. A Mariachi band entertained as free Mexican food, cocktails and beer from a keg were served. From this vantage point, you could look down across the great expanse of the National Shooting Complex and the Hill Country Beyond. It was a clays shooting paradise.

Sunday morning saw me slotted for two events. At noon, I would shoot 20 gauge with star, Bob DeFrancesco, NSSA Secretary/Treasurer and many time All American from Connecticut. My .410 event would take place at 4:30 with star, Dave Starrett, another multiple World Champion winner from Ohio. The weather was a hold-over from the day before: 14-mph winds, gusting to 25 mph. In the 20-gauge event, I scored a respectable 75. My score for .410 score came in at 63.

What did I walk away with from my Shoot with the Stars experience?

For one thing, I learned that Stuart was absolutely right about the experts who volunteered as this year's stars. Every one of them was approachable, supportive and basically just a really nice person. Second, it rekindled my desire to shoot registered skeet at my local club. I discovered that the competition simply makes you shoot better. You keep a razor-sharp focus on the targets, you pay more attention to foot placement at each station and you shot the birds more aggressively - breaking them sooner. Finally, I learned valuable skills that I could apply just when I'm hanging out and shooting skeet with friends.

Tournament skeet is not for every shooter. But sometimes you just don't know until you give it a try. Based on my experience, I would urge any skeet shooter to give tournament shooting a test drive. Join the NSSA and find a club near you that holds registered shoots.

In the end, I had only one regret about my trip to San Antonio: it was having to return the Blaser F3. That shotgun sure was a keeper.

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your letters and comments to letters@shotgunlife.com.

Helpful resources:

http://www.mynssa.com

http://www.blaser-usa.com/

It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher




In a riverfront honky-tonk deep in the South, the sliding doors open to the verandah, women sat on bar stools wistfully blowing cigarette smoke at the stars.

It was the kind of forlorn place where a man could bring his bird dog and let it curl up on the floor between the stools, and you could never tell which one stunk worse - the man or the dog.

Time was of no consequence in this place, here on the river, in the darkness, where the hours and minutes were marked by the bug zappers incinerating their random catch. Yes, the Universe was clearly at work, here, now, in this honky-tonk where men and women wandered in drawn by the Big Mystery.

I never did get the name of that bar, but there's one thing I'll always remember about that place. It was where I first met Jim and Bugsy.

Their table was heaped with the remnants of peel-and-eat shrimp and empty beer bottles. I'd accidentally bumped into a corner of the table on the way to the john, a bit sodden myself, when I whirled around to see Bugsy splendid in his Vintager apparel and Jim in a shooting vest and baseball cap.

They looked up at me - more startled than menacing. Both sported long, thick cigars, and I remembered what Freud once said.

Taking in the scene I thought "these men are my kind of men." So I decided to hold it in and rather than hit the john, and asked, "Can you buy you gents a beer for the inconvenience?"

Bugsy broke out laughing and turned to Jim: "Can you believe this guy?"

Jim simply nodded, world weary and wise.

"Of course you can buy us a beer," Bugsy shouted.

"Hefeweizen with a wedge of lemon?"

"Sure, why the hell not?" Bugsy shouted.

Jim simply waved his hand, as though to say, que sera, sera.

"Miss, oh, miss," I called to the barmaid. "Three Hefeweizen with a wedge of fresh lemon, if you please."

She was young and lithe with a tank tap and no bra and she leaned over into the ice box, drawing the attention of the great rough slab of tramp-steamer maleness, each of them shanghaied to this forsaken place, here on the river, and she put three long-necked Snake Venom Ales on the bar in front of me.

"We're outta lemon wedges, handsome" she said. "Start a tab for you and your pals?"

"That would be excellent," I said. "By the way, do you have any coasters?"

She turned away, and resumed her conversation with the burly men at the end of the bar.

"Hey, you gonna eyeball those beers all night or bring 'em over here?" Bugsy said.

"Sorry about the coasters," I said sitting down. "Fielding-Clapp, Cletus."

"Bugsy."

"Jim."

Bugsy had a mischievous glint in his eyes, his face part pugilist, part English professor. Jim wore a scruffy beard, his dark penetrating orbs awash in a secret sea of resignation whose powerful tides shifted with the whims of Lady Luck. I couldn't help but notice he wore an orthopedic shoe with a platform sole; one leg was longer than the other.

Their cigar smoke enshrouded us in a place within a place, here on the lazy river. The bar opened directly on to the water, giving the impression that we were on a slow boat to the end of the world.

"Shrimp?" Bugsy asked, pushing the plastic basket toward me.

"That's extremely generous," I said, "but I have a shellfish allergy."

"No worries," Jim said. "I always carry antihistamines."

I put forth a polite smile. "So I see you chaps are into shotguns."

Bugsy broke out laughing. "Hey, this guy's a regular Sherlock Holmes," he said to Jim."

"Don't start," Jim said.

"Actually, I write for Shotgun Life."

"I love it," Bugsy shouted. "Man, we've got something for you to write about."

"Well, fire away."

"That's a challenge we'll gladly accept," Bugsy said. "Go ahead, Jim-bo, you go first."

"I think I will."

It turned out, that Jim was a dentist, originally from Long Island. He ended up down South to attend dental school in Charleston, South Carolina. And that's when he started getting into shooting -- at the end of dental school and his first residency.

He got invited on his first dove shoot, borrowing a neighbors bolt-action 16 gauge. It was old and weird. "I was hooked. I had a knack for it, and killed my limit rather quickly," Jim recalled.

Well, by now Jim is married with three children and a successful dental practice.

Jim had also turned into a dove-hunting addict; and after doves he got hooked on quail. When he couldn't hunt birds, he started to shoot skeet. If it flied, it died, whether it sported feathers or fluorescent orange, it was going down. And as he got deeper and deeper into the shotgun sports, he joined a shooting club in Charleston, which was where he met Bugsy.

After skeet, Jim and Bugsy discovered sporting clays. They started to shoot competitively. Every weekend, Jim was out shooting - and it didn't matter what the heck it was...doves, quail, skeet, sporting clays...

Jim was telling all of this to me, until he paused for a moment of deep reflection., where he gazed into his fate like a warrior about to face the battle of his life... "Then I got bit by the tick," he said.

Bugsy nodded to me, puffing on his cigar.

"It's back in '94," Jim said. "I was on a dove hunt in Somerville, South Carolina. I got a tick bite without even noticing it - until the rash. Things started falling apart...neurological problems...my balance gave way and I started having pains and troubles with my legs.

"For almost two years, no one could diagnose it as Lyme's disease. I went to urologists, neurologists and internists. People weren't aware of Lyme's disease at this point -- and they never tested him for it. Mostly I was tested for MS, and it always came back negative.

"You see, Cletus, the doctors didn't really believe that Lyme's disease made its way all the way down south. You know, it was first detected in Lyme Connecticut.

"In the meantime my situation is deteriorating. Well, I finally got lucky. My sister and brother-in-law are physicians, and when they finally identified the problem, they put me on antibiotics immediately. And they also hooked me up with the head of infectious disease in Columbia, in South Carolina. My sister pulled strings."

Jim pushed out his chair. He showed me his orthopedic shoe. "That's what Lyme's Disease will do to you. You tell your readers, first to spray before they go out to hunt, and if they're bitten, they should run, not walk, to get treated."

"Jim, you gotta face it, you've always been jinxed," Bugsy said. "Falling on those fire ants...that woman who got sick on the plane next to you when we flew to Argentina..."

"Well, I do live under a cloud," Jim told me. "But I've never been..." He gave Bugsy a meaningful glance that only men who've seen it can know how meaningful it really is.

Bugsy nodded. He took a long, enjoyable puff on his cigar. "Heck, Cletus, what I've been through, that's just one more good story to tell."

And he proceeded to tell it with a flourish...

His introduction to the shotgun sports was more sordid than Jim's. At about 14, his parents introduced him to shooting in Savannah at the Forest City Gun Club in Savannah. They took him there because it was a private club and they could drink on Sundays.

As the years passed, he never lost of his love of shooting. He started a home-building company in Columbia, South Carolina called Colony Builders.

"That was 25 years ago when I started at Colony," he said wistfully, puffing on his cigar.

Well, in the great tradition of the South, Bugsy introduced his son, Bugsy II, to hunting. In 1998, the father took his son for his first shooting trip outside of the U.S., to Mexico, in John Wayne territory: Rio Bravo.

To minimize any dangers, Bugsy decided to stay in Texas. From their base in McAllen, Bugsy and Bugsy II would cross the Pharr Bridge and make day hunts South of the Border. Bugsy knew his outfitter well and they always adhered to the same routine. Pick-up at around noon, shoot until 6:00 or 7:00 on the preserve, and then to the world-famous La Cucaracha in Reynosa for dinner.

It was the kind of routine that men followed through the ages - for time immemorial -until such said day, when out of the blue, it happened...

"The horror," he said, gazing into the darkness, beyond the slow river.

"Well...," Jim said.

Bugsy, never one to lose his composure while telling a good story, sucked it up and resumed his compelling narrative.

"We were hunting some five miles from Rio Bravo when a storm came up," he recalled. "There had been a misty rain, the kind of rain that chills men to the bones and makes you want to brew up a strong cup of Earl Grey tea.

"So we get there, three vehicles full of hunters. It clears up and the rain quits. The day before it was all dry so you could drive to the spot but now it was all gumbo and you had to walk. We walk into the field - my son and myself and the two bird boys, and we're out in the field, it begins to rain again. I don't mind the rain but I don't like the lightning. You know what I mean, Cletus?"

I nodded, a somber nod, reserved for men of few words, like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

But off in the distance, lightning had hit an electrical transformer - causing a loud explosion. "By my count, 1, 2, 3, I figured it was about 10 miles away," Bugsy said.

Bugsy and Bugsy II decided to take shelter under a nearby mesquite tree. What they didn't know, unfortunately, was that it was the devil mesquite tree.

Yes, of all the mesquite trees in all of Mexico, they unbeknownst to them stood under the mesquite tree that went by the name of El Diablo. But before any of the outfitters could warn the two men, Bugsy II had asked his father "What are the chances of getting hit by lightning here?"

Suddenly, it came up out of the ground and hit Bugsy, lifted him off the ground like El Diablo itself, and threw him down with a body slam that would've made Hulk Hogan proud. A fireball ran down the outside of the gun and there was a huge explosion.

"I'm going to tell you something, Cletus, that was my moment of truth. Because if that bolt of lighting had gone inside the gun, well, just let me say that I had three shells in that guy and it sure as hell would've gone off and killed both me and my son," Bugsy said. "Yes, it would've...got us both."

There was a silent aftermath, the kind of long silence that makes men wonder, in the solitude of the vast nothingness where men have dwelled among other men in a silence of their own, wonder to themselves as they barely move their lips "It sure is mighty quiet - too quiet."

At first, Bugsy II thought his father had fired the gun.

Bugsy remembered what followed as clear as if he were laying in that field now.

"In my calmest voice, I said 'I've been hit by lighting, I'm hurt and you need to go get help.'"

You can imagine the fortitude of this man amongst men.

From the waist down he could feel nothing whatsoever. There was a tremendous pain in his left arm, so that he actually thought it had been knocked off and sent flying clear across the field.

There was blood, plenty of it coming from somewhere and he truly believed that his arm had been knocked off and sent flying across the field, where now the vultures had gathered. And they weren't ordinary vultures. They were the vultures known as El Diablo.

"I pulled on my arm to see if it was attached -- so I realized I didn't need a tourniquet. There was no wound either," he described with the most masculine fortitude I'd ever heard.

As fate would have it, the wound was on his hand and it came from falling on broken glass - also known as the tears of El Diablo.

"My son runs off, through the gumbo, to get some help, and I'm on the ground, can move a thing from the waist down, and there are the bird boys, speaking Spanish to me," Bugsy recalled. "Speaking Spanish."

"Yes, Spanish is a very manly language," I said.

Bugsy and Jim gave me a solemn nod.

"It took them about 40 minutes to get back though the gumbo, to find the guide on the other side of the field, and explain what happened and get them back to me," Bugsy said. "I'd been hunting with him for about eight years and when he saw me laying there and he said, 'Bugsy what have you done now?'"

Bugsy insisted they take him to the hospital on the other side of the border. It was the hospital known among the muscular men in this part of the world for its cherry Jell-O with fruit cocktail in it.

They got Bugsy to his feet - a brotherhood of hunters that has rung true and square through the millennium, and got him into Rio Bravo where they got a cab back to Texas. It was now about 7:00 PM, on a Saturday night, in the emergency room of a border-town hospital.

And he waited.

"By 10:00, they were bringing in the fighting victims, the knife fights, the fights of honor fought by men against men in parking lots with no name," Bugsy said.

By time the doctors got around to Bugsy, his blood pressure was 200 over 150 (normal is about 110 over 70). The doctors gave him several doses of medicine to lower his blood pressure, sewed up his hand and kept him on a heart monitor over night.

The next morning, the doctor comes in and says to me "You were really lucky."

"Let's see if I understand, doc. I'm in a field with 15 guys, I get hit by lightning, and you call that lucky. I think I'd like a second opinion. The doctor said 'that's not what I meant' and I said I know what you meant."

"Yes, now I know what you mean," I said. "Yes, yes, yes."

Jim was puffing on his cigar through Bugsy's tale of his travails. "Hey, Cletus, let me ask you something."

"Sure, Jim."

"Want to go shooting with Bugsy and me tomorrow?"

Cletus Fielding Clapp is an official correspondent for Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to letters@shotgunlife.com.

It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher


quigley-01

My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley

Written by Rick Robinson

Author, part-time fisherman and lousy shot

The picture which the folks at Shotgun Life have used to introduce me to you ought to tell you something.  All the people profiled in this fine publication are pictured holding their favorite shotguns.  My profile picture has me holding up a beautiful lake trout which I caught on the Niagara River cutting the border between New York and Canada.

What that has to do with clay shooting is what my story is all about.

Fishing (or at the least brackish lake water associated with it) is in my family's blood.  My dad had hunted when he was a young man, but by the time I was born he was afflicted with horrible arthritis.  So, instead of hunting, he taught me how to shore fish at a young age.  On my mom's side, I had an uncle for which fishing was his life.  Just to be able to fish on a daily basis, he spent his twilight living with a Seminole Indian tribe in the Everglades.

So, fishing is one of my sports of preference.  Although, the way I fish, calling it a sport is an insult to sportsmen everywhere.  I spend more time choosing my cigar for the day than I do choosing my lures.  Quite honestly, it's the quiet and solitude which I enjoy about fishing. Catching a fish is a side benefit.

One of my regular fishing companions, Lytle Thomas, mistook my love of fishing for being an all inclusive outdoor sportsman.  Lytle spends his weekends hunting things with and without a pulse.

"I'm running a charity sporting clays shoot next week at Elk Creek," Lytle said excitedly to me one day.  "I signed you up to shoot in my fivesome."

"I haven't shot since elementary school," I replied, hoping that would end the conversation.

"Yeah, I know," he persisted.  "You told me about it.  Remember?  You won a shotgun for breaking clay pigeons.  It's like riding a bike.  You'll be fine."

Lytle was only half right.  My bragging was catching up with me.  My dad had taken me to a youth shooter's safety clinic when I was a kid.  After a lecture from a local 4-H volunteer on safety (don't ever point a gun at anyone except your calculus teacher), everyone got a turn at the range.  Clays were going to be thrown out for us to shoot.  The prize for the most clays hit, winner take all, was the shotgun we were using.  I missed the first one and then hit all that were served up.  My dad was proud (although I do remember overhearing him explain to my mom that I had my eyes closed on each shot).

Dad had visions of some kid in my class with buckshot marks on his face from me trying to shoot rats along the river banks and convinced me to trade the shot gun to a neighbor for a baseball bat and glove or something.  Dad was a smart man.

"Anyway, it's a celebrity shoot," Lytle snapped me back to reality. "Our celebrity is George Quigley."

I gulped.  I knew just enough about clays to understand that George Quigley was an Olympic shooter.  But the thought of spending an afternoon with any athlete who is the best in his sport intrigued me.  I accepted the invitation.

"Great," Lytle exclaimed and told me the real reason for the invite.  "My boss is also in our group and he sucks.  I put you on my team so that he'll have someone to beat."

George Quigley is a legend around my community.  He is one of the best known ambassadors of shooting in the world.  He and his dad are both nationally ranked.  George, Jr. was on the United States Olympic Skeet team which finished 6th in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.  He won a gold medal at the 1994 World championships in Cairo.

On the day of the celebrity sporting clays event, I showed up at Elk Creek Hunt Club in Owen County, Kentucky - the home of this year's US Open.  Lytle had loaned me a 12 gauge Beretta 682 Gold E to use for the day.  In the parking lot he told me that it was bored and ported to reduce recoil and declared that I was going to use 1 ounce loads of number 8 shot rather than the standard 1 and 1/8th ounce loads.

I pursed my lips and nodded a knowledgeable nod.  I had no earthly idea what he was talking about. I took the gun anyway.

After a quick refresher on gun safety in the pro shop where we watched a Dick Cheney speech, I headed to the course.

I looked for Quigley, but didn't have to really search the crowd.  At 6'5" and around 250 lbs. he stood out.  And, he was the only guy at the practice range who was actually shooting.  Everyone else was just standing around watching him.  "Pull," he'd shout and two clays would fly out.  He'd shoot twice and both clays would explode.  "Dead Pair," he'd say as the crowd applauded.

I decided to wait to introduce myself.

I showed up at our first station. All the men in my group (including Lytle's boss) were dressed in gear appropriate for a shooting event - ammo vest, shirts with padded shoulders, and orange hats.  Suddenly my ensemble of a Bass Pro Shop baseball cap and "Fishermen do it With a Lure" tee-shirt didn't seem like such a good choice.  These guys were serious.

I retreated to what I normally do when I'm intimidated - I became a smartass.

"This clay pigeon thing sounds like fun," I said approaching the Olympian Quigley with my hand extended.  "I hear they are good eatin' when grilled."

Lytle shot me a WTF look.

Quigley just stared at me.  "Oh God, he's pissed," I though to myself.  "I've just insulted the king and his own sport.  This is not a good start to the day."

Then, Quigley smiled a rather sly grin.  "They're a lot more tender if you boil them first."

He was as nice of a guy as everyone had said.

I stepped onto the shooting platform, took my first two shots and missed both targets.

Quigley stood behind me shaking his head.  He gave a quick beginners lesson on how to balance my feet and gave me a better way to position my shotgun on my shoulder.

"And your eyes," he said.

"Yeah?" I responded.

"Try opening them."

What the hell?  It had worked the last time.

As I proceeded to each successive station, my shots inched closer and closer to a target.  Although I have to admit, I didn't particularly care if I ever hit a clay.   Learning to shoot was one thing.  Learning to shoot under the tutelage of George Quigley was quite another.  I was watching one of the best and from a very close range.

What was remarkable about George Quigley was the zen-like manner in which he zeroed in on his intended targets.  I make jokes about me shooting with my eyes closed, but George's approach to shooting was just that.  He didn't shoot with his eyes.  He shot with feeling.  He and the gun were one unit.  He didn't need his eyes.  He shot by pure instinct.

George Quigley hit 99 clays out of 100 on that hot summer day.  His only miss was a clay that was thrown from behind him.  I swear that the shot went past my head as a warning that I better start trying harder.  George said it didn't come anywhere near me.  Just to make sure, I started paying closer attention (and standing closer to Lytle).

I feared that George had visions that the president of the National Sporting Clays Association was waiting for him in the pro shop.  Being an ambassador of the sport is one thing.  But encouraging someone like me to enter the sport was enough for the Association to ban him from competition.

Whether a result of George's stellar lessons or pure dumb luck, with a few stations left, I suddenly got the hang of it.   He was right; you don't shoot with your eyes.  It's all feel.  Each time I hit a clay, Quigley would boldly declare "Dead Pair."

Suddenly with one station left, I found myself tied with Lytle's boss.  I had the distinct possibility of not being the worst shooter in the match.  Lytle glared at me.  His whole point of inviting me was to lose to his boss.   Quigley, knowing why I had been invited, winked at me.  I went 5 for 5.

Dead Pair!

Rick Robinson is an attorney with the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey, LLP in Northern Kentucky and the author of political thrillers.  His debut title, The Maximum Contribution, was named a Finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book of the Year for political fiction and earned an Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Book Festival.  The sequel, Sniper Bid, was released on Election Day and opened on Amazon's top seller list of political thrillers at #46.  He is published by Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books.  He can be reached via e-mail at: richardleerobinson@yahoo.com.



quigley-02

Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, The Maximum Contribution.


quigley-03

Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, Sniper Bid.

It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher


Bernie Liberati

It started in a pizza and sandwich shop in South Philadelphia, and eventually led to one of the great finds in the world of big-bore collectors.

Today, Bernie Liberati can legitimately claim he is the only man to own two consecutively numbered L.C. Smith 8-gauge shotguns -- a highly coveted find given that only 35 total were ever made.

The achievement is a far cry from the kid who delivered pizzas and sandwiches in South Philly. Delivering food in that neighborhood may not sound glamorous, but it opened the door into the world of big-bore shotguns for Bernie...

After working there for a while, the shop owner had taken Bernie out hunting one night.

"We didn't get anything, but I had fun," he said.

The Boy's First Shotgun

Afterwards, his boss suggested that Bernie may want to buy a shotgun. Bernie didn't own a shotgun (or any other kind of gun for that matter). The man offered to get one for Bernie, and soon the delivery boy entrusted his boss with the cash to buy his first shotgun.

It turned out to be a 12-gauge Daiwa, made by Singer Nikko in Japan.

"It was beautiful," Bernie recalled.

So beautiful, in fact, the man offered Bernie $175 -- a full $25 more than what the boy paid for it. Did Bernie bite? No way. But it was his first introduction into the value of shotguns -- planting a seed that would grow into a fascination with the thunderous big bores.

Telling Dad About the Shotgun

In the meantime, though, Bernie had to contend with his father. You see, when he came home that night with a shiny new shotgun in a cardboard box, he father reprimanded: "You can't bring that in the house."

I said "I have no place to put it."

Dad: "That's your problem."

As the sun went down, young Bernie was relegated to the porch. Wearing only a t-shirt, it was like sitting in a refrigerator out there -- until his mother intervened.

"My mother was inside, complaining, ‘How could you let my son sit out in the cold?'" Finally, his father let the boy in...along with his brand new shotgun.

Bernie and his friends loved to take his new Daiwa out to a field near the Philadelphia airport. "We'd set up a skeet machine and no one would bother us. The police would come by to make sure we weren't doing anything wrong, that we weren't drinking."

Yes, those were the good old days.

Fast forward to 1992...

Bernie's father, now 78, wanted to retire from the customs house broker company he owned since 1963, Morris Friedman and Co. So rather than sell the business to a stranger, he gave it to Bernie.

A Fateful Meeting With Jim Stahl

One day, Bernie was hard at work in the office, when one of his regular contacts from U.S. Customs stopped by -- a guy named Jim Stahl. He suggested to Bernie they go trap shooting one night. (As fate would have it, Jim would become active in the L.C. Smith Collectors Association.)

They had such a good time they thought it would be a good idea to make it a regular Wednesday night ritual.

After a few times out trap shooting, Jim invited Bernie to go hunting... and they had a great time doing that too.

As their friendship grew, Jim introduced Bernie to side-by-side shotguns. Bernie was bowled over when he discovered that Jim's collection actually reached 25 side-by-sides.

"That's unbelievable," Bernie told Jim, laughing about it today and given the size of his own collection.

Bernie's Shotgun Education

In conjunction with the side-by-side collection, Jim was an avid collector of books related to vintage and big-bore shotguns.

Thanks to Jim, Bernie embarked on his shotgun education.

But Bernie was about to get hooked.

One Saturday afternoon, Jim took Bernie to visit Hollowell's Gun Shop in Connecticut.

"We're walking around and Jim says what kind of gun do you want?"

Bernie's wasn't exactly sure what he wanted, but he knew what he didn't want: a 12-gauge.

"Everybody has a 12 gauge," Bernie remembers telling Jim.

As they wandered the around the store, Bernie thought he would go for a .410.

"But there was this 10-gauge Remington. It was cheap and unique," Bernie said.

Out of the Corner His Eye...

Then lightning struck...

Out of the corner of his eye, Bernie spotted an 8-gauge J.P. Clabrough "in the middle of the table. It was the first 8-gauge I'd ever seen." After negotiating about 90 minutes, Bernie brought home the first two big bores of what would become an extensive collection.

"And that's how I started. I was fortunate in that people were not that enthusiastic about buying them, and the prices were pretty affordable," he said.

After years of collecting 4-, 8- and 10-gauge vintage beauties, Bernie was finally able to put it together: his prized consecutively numbered 8-gauge L.C. Smith Grade 2 shotguns.

The first one he purchased was number 46291. As fate would have it, Bernie bought it on Valentine's Day 2006.

Only three weeks later, another 8-gauge L.C. Smith Grade 2 became available.

As Bernie tells it, "There was a fellow who was member of the L.C. Smith Collector's Association. Unfortunately, he was going through some rough times." The man needed to liquidate his collection, and the dealer who got it immediately gave Bernie a call.

When Bernie got it, he realized it was numbered 46290.

Bingo.

Well, from the kid sitting out on the porch that one chilly night with his first shotgun, Bernie now owns about 50 big bores.

"I like the fact that they're unique, and have a history behind them," Bernie said.

But these stunning shotguns aren't mere museum pieces for him.

"I shoot them at least twice a year." 

 Bernie_and_Bernie

Bernie Liberati today with his son, Bernie. 

Useful resources:

http://www.10gauge.com/

http://www.lcsmith.org/

http://www.vintagers.org/
Alesandro
Was it because he used to cut class to go shooting? Was it because his father was a champion skeet shooter in the Army? Was it that darn Remington 1100 of his? He was shooting 100 straight in skeet -- and that was no fluke. His vest was covered with patches. What’s up with that kid, anyway?

His Father’s Beretta

Well, Alessandro credits his father, Rinaldo. In fact, Alessandro still owns his father’s first shotgun, a Beretta SO3 that he bought in Brescia, Italy, while stationed at Fort Darby there.

The Beretta SO Series marked the company’s entry into sidelock over-and-under shotguns. The elegant design of the lock work has only five basic parts, plus three pivot pins and a single screw -- in an attempt to make the shotgun extremely reliable. The minimum number of parts, and a chrome-plated action, made the SO Series smooth and easy to use.

Alessandro recalls that his father paid $300 for the SO3. These SO3s are no longer in production and today can bring in upwards of $5,000 -- with some exemplary combo sets demanding nearly $10,000.

That Beretta SO3 was the Vitale family’s introduction into shotguns. Rinaldo had emigrated to the United States from Calabria, Italy in 1961 at age 16. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and then found himself stationed back in his native country -- this time, in the Tuscan region surrounding Florence and Siena. He became a small-arms training Sergeant and fell in love with firearms and cooking.

Rinaldo befriended many local chefs and restaurateurs -- enabling him to become a restaurant success story in Maryland. Today, along with Alessandro, his older brother Sergio and their mother Regina, the Vitale family operates Aldo’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy and Cibo Bar and Grille in nearby Owings Mills.

The 10-Year-Old Skeet Shooter

While laying the foundation for the family’s culinary legacy, Rinaldo continued to pursue skeet shooting. He joined the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Center in 1971 -- the year before Alessandro was born. But by age 10, the kid practiced skeet with his father. Firmly planted on stations 1 and 7, Alessandro kept shooting away at targets with a pint-size .410.

The kid graduated to his first gun, a Remington 1100 Sport in 20 gauge. That was the shotgun, in fact, that really got the goat of the Loch Raven shooters. Alessandro recalls shooting several 100-straights with it. As he got older, he completed a full set of Remington 1100s, buying them in .410, 28 and 12 gauge.

Alessandro thought he would be a Remington 1100 guy for life until his first visit to Italy to spend a summer with family. Like his father, Alessandro found Italy to be a turning point when it came to shotguns.

It was 1988, and he was shooting skeet and trap. That was the year Enzo Ferrari passed on, and Alessandro remembers the entire country went into mourning (Of course, Alessandro had no way of seeing into the future when he would become a Ferrari owner himself.)

Love at First Sight

But that fateful summer Alessandro laid eyes on his first Benelli M1 Super 90 semiautomatic shotgun -- the civilian model. “It was love at first sight,” he recalls.

With its black synthetic stock and forearm, and the optional magazine extender, the thing looked like a riot gun. Italy’s famous voluminous paperwork, though, prevented him from bringing it back home with him.

So he started calling just about every gun dealer in Maryland (this predates the Internet) until he found a small gun shop in Maryland’s Eastern Shore called Vonnie’s Sporting Goods in Kennedyville that had one left in stock.

Alessandro was there in a heartbeat. It was the bomb: matte black finish, 18.5-inch barrel, imported by Heckler & Koch. He shelled out about $800 for it, twice the price of a Remington 1100.

Just by looking at it, you could tell the Benelli M1 Super 90 was way ahead of its time. The shotgun incorporated a patented, super-fast, recoil-inertia system compared to the more usual gas-operated systems found in most other semiautomatic shotguns.

The engineers at Benelli had figured out how to perform both extraction and ejection into a single mechanism using something called a rotating bolt head. A model of shotgun innovation, it uses only three components: the bolt body, the inertia spring and the rotating bolt head.

Fires Five Rounds Per Second

The reduced mass of parts makes the system extremely fast and reliable. Alessandro said the shotgun was capable of firing five rounds per second without ever jamming.

And because it uses recoil rather than spent gas to chamber the next shell, the system stayed clean -- a big benefit for Alessandro.

As much as he loved the Remington 1100, the gun consumed a lot of time in maintenance. He still bemoans the cheap rubber O-rings used to seal the barrel. It was a twenty-five-cent part when he used the shotgun all the time; and once the O-ring broke the shotgun went kaput (that only happens once before you learn to pack extra O-rings).

Then there were the gas ports that needed to stay cleared. And the oil had to be just right when he took it waterfowl shooting -- or too much moisture in the lubricant would jam up the shotgun.

Out Shooting on the Farm

These are common complaints among the legions of loyal Remington 1100 owners who now swear up and down that the factory improved its quality control. (Plus you can buy after-market O-rings that may be more durable.)

Still, back then, Alessandro grew reluctant to take his Remington 1100 hunting. When it comes to the Benelli M1 Super 90, Alessandro swears the dirtier it gets the better it shoots. That’s why he now owns almost every model of Benelli shotgun -- his collection is up to about 20 models.

He’s also a Beretta aficionado. Add it all up, and he has some 35 shotguns in his gun room.

There are plenty to go around as Alessandro shoots with his father and brother. The family owns a farm on the Eastern Shore and leases others for waterfowl hunting. And the three Vitales get out there whenever they can to shoot geese, ducks and even doves.

In addition to his shotguns, Alessandro loves his cars. Ferraris, BMWs, Mercedes -- he’s had them all -- the top-of-the-line, tricked-out models that nail you to the seat when you floor them.

Not that the old crew at Loch Raven expected anything less from Alessandro.

Useful resources:

http://www.lochravenskeettrap.com/

www.aldositaly.com

www.cibogrille.com

http://www.remington.com/products/firearms/shotguns/model_1100/

http://www.benelliusa.com/

http://www.benelliusa.com/firearms/inertia.tpl

http://www.berettausa.com/

http://www.berettaweb.com/Premium%20Guns/prima%20pg.htm

http://www.berettaweb.com/sezionati/sez%20SO.htm

http://www.mdisfun.org/planningamarylandvisit/outdoors/ huntingandshootingsports/
Outdoors-Hunting-ShootingSports.html


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_F430
It's FREE, But It's Not for Everyone
Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letter is for you.

Please fill out this form to sign up.
Your Name:
* Email:
We value your privacy. We will never rent or sell your e-mail address to another company.
Irwin Greenstein, Publisher
In her sexy black dress and four-inch stiletto heels, no one could have guessed her secret passion.

But finally, she revealed it to a handful of men at a private party -- changing the course of her life forever. This story begins in January 2003 in a trendy section of Dallas. Anginette and her girlfriend hosted their annual soirée. The cocktails were chilled, the hors d'oeuvres extravagant and the guests straight from central casting of a smart Hepburn classic. The warm glow of the house against the evening bespoke of hospitality and elegance.

Anginette mingled in the swirl and buzz, making introductions, spreading her hallmark gaiety, relying on the same wit and charm that propelled her through a career as a successful mortgage broker…when the doorbell rang.




She crossed the room to answer the door, and there stood Mark Jorrey. She graciously invited him in and mixed him a cocktail, then led him through the party in a round of introductions. It was the first time they had met, and Anginette lived up to her reputation that new acquaintances should always feel right at home.

Later in the evening, as she carried an armful of coats to the upstairs bedroom, she passed a small group of guests -- Mark being among them. Bits of conversation caught her attention. She paused, calculating her options…Should she interrupt? Bring it up later? Or just forget about the whole thing?

She continued up the stairs, rolling around in her head exactly what she heard. It was something that she’d been dying to try.

Coming down the stairs, she politely interrupted their conversation. She would confess to them that she overheard her conversation. If they were accommodating, great. And if not, well at least she tried.

She Confessed Everything

She approached the group and confessed everything. She had overheard them talking about duck hunting, and that was something she really wanted to do. She’d been an avid dove and quail hunter, but never quite got the chance to shoot ducks. Could she come along with them? She could really hold her own in a duck blind. She wouldn’t be a bit of trouble. Just consider her one of the guys. Well, what do you say?

The men checked out the dress, the heels, the makeup -- and for a moment they were speechless.

Finally, Mark explained that in fact he was the one going duck hunting the next morning, and that he would have to speak with his friends and get back to her.

She thanked him and returned to being the perfect hostess -- everything the same except for one tiny thing: now her secret was out.

No Girls Allowed

Sure enough, when the phone rang the next day, Mark gave Anginette the bad news. Guys only -- no girls allowed on this duck-hunting trip. They had already told their wives, no girls. Then he surprised her by asking Anginette to dinner. She said yes.

Nine months later, they were married.

“Having something in common really adds to our relationship,” Anginette said. “We are best friends and we do not have to look far when we want to go shoot some clays. We just say, ‘want to go’”?

So she packs up her Beretta 390, and Mark takes his Remington 11-87, and they take a five-minute drive to the Family Shooting Center at Cherry Creek State Park.

Now that the word is out about Anginette’s secret passion, they’ve been making the most of it. As Mark explains, “We have a turkey hunt planned for later in the year and I said my wife is going and my friends said no problem.”

The Colorado DIVAS

Anginette’s world of bird hunting has really opened up since relocating from Dallas to Denver in mid-2006. By virtue of bringing her organizational experience from Dallas, she’s introducing a new group of Denver women to the shotgun sports.

The way it happened is that in Texas she was a board member of the Texas Women’s Shooting Sports/DIVAS. The charter of the group is to teach women and help women learn about shooting sports and outdoor skills -- shooting, fishing, archery…you name it.

Since moving to Denver, she started the Colorado chapter of the Divas and today it has members who actively shoot and bird hunt. Last year, the Colorado Divas took four women on a pheasant hunt with a guide “who loves new shooters,” Anginette noted. Since then, there has been a second pheasant hunt.

This year there are plans for a turkey hunt, duck hunt, dove hunt and shooting clinic for new shooters. They also have a monthly shooting day where women can come and practice shooting with other women.

Even though she’d been around guns all her life (she grew up on a ranch in Texas), when she turned 40 she started looking around for something different to do. She tried softball along with other sports, but nothing really satisfied her.

How Anginette Got Hooked

Then one day a girl friend who was a shooter gave Anginette the name of a woman instructor. That was in 2000. Anginette wanted to learn the etiquette and rules in the shooting sports. Soon, she was hooked. After that first lesson her instructor suggested Anginette join the DIVAS. Today Anginette is working with women in Nebraska and Pennsylvania in helping new DIVA chapters get started.

And as the group’s International Liaison, they have their eyes on launching chapters in every state as well as outside the U.S. (Divas already has 17 international members).

Even though Anginette takes the lead in Divas, she appreciates Mark’s full support of her shotgun endeavors. “As I implement outings, hunts and shooting days for local women under the Diva umbrella...he is right there with me helping,” she said. “He knows he doesn't have to, no expectations from me, he just does. And I greatly appreciate him and his help with all our events. I enjoy catching him in a conversation with other men about Divas and how important it is to get women out shooting. More importantly, I appreciate his support of my shooting and hunting.”

In fact, Anginette believes there are plenty of women around like her who like enjoy shooting, but tend to keep it to themselves -- especially those women who aren’t fortunate enough to have a supportive husband like Mark.

Shooting Isn’t Lady-Like

“Women have been raised to be lady-like, and not participate in such things,” Anginette observed. “And let’s face it, in this politically correct world, shooting is perceived to not be lady-like.”

But the times are changing -- for the better -- when it comes to women and the shotgun sports. “Now women realize they like to shoot and they can shoot. They love the camaraderie. Just watch a woman’s face when she shoots for the first time with other women shooters, and you know they’re thinking it’s just great to break that old taboo. And they’re still ladies.”

She talked about a professional networking event that she attended recently, where everyone had to reveal something about themselves. She stood up in a roomful of people and confessed that she likes the shotgun sports. Sure enough, she received plenty of emails afterwards from women wanting to find out more.

Good for Their Relationship

As far as Anginette and Mark are concerned, shooting is a great way to keep a relationship going.

“He encourages my shooting and hunting,” Anginette added. “He wants to shoot and hunt with me. Not because he thinks he has to, because he wants to. Some husbands don't encourage their wives and daughters. They don't mind if the women do, they simply do not encourage it and usually this type of man would rather go off on his own or with the boys and let the little ladies go do their own thing. I am blessed we do it together. He's the hunter and I am the shooter.”

When the Jorreys do go their own separate ways, Anginette goes off to shoot clays or birds, and Mark will hunt big game. Mark’s pursuit of big game got him actively involved in several wildlife organizations.

For Mark, “clays is about getting ready for hunting season.” In particular, he enjoys shooting pheasants in Texas. Recently he was shooting pheasants in South Dakota. Anginette and Mark spent a couple of days with friends pheasant huntin . Mark said that when he got back the other men said “We didn’t know women could hunt like that.”

Mark grew up a hunter in tiny Heath, Texas, just east of Dallas. As a boy “We could always go to different places to hunt on people’s places. We’d hunt lots of small game.”

Mark would be out all day and get home just before dark. As far as the Jorrey’s are concerned, children today do not have that luxury any more. They believe kids need to spend more time outside and out of the city -- where shooting and hunting can be an excellent way to encourage discipline, self-confidence, and caring for things other than one’s self.

Anginette’s Revenge

When it comes to duck-hunting, though, this time girls are most definitely invited. Maybe it should be called Anginette’s revenge.

It turns out that one of the guys who put the nix on Anginette’s duck-hunting invitation doesn’t stand a chance any more of doing that ever again. Anginette taught his wife and son how to shoot on a trip out to their family farm. They loved it. Mom’s a good shot and has even built her own collection of firearms. The son, as it turns out, is a born hunter. Now the entire family shoots together…just like Anginette and Mark.

“Shooting is an excellent outlet for getting out and being together,” Anginette said. “And being together is something we really like to do.”
©2017 SGL Media LLC
Developed and Hosted by Annatech LLC

Irwin Greenstein
Publisher
Shotgun Life

PO Box 6423
Thomasville, GA 31758
Phone: 229-236-1632

igreenstein@shotgunlife.com