Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make a loud noise and break something.
There is something instinctive, even primal, about the satisfaction of seeing a clay target smash after a perfect shot. The smaller the pieces, the bigger the rush. That squirt of dopamine that tells your brain you just experienced a perfect moment.
The standard skeet gun is an over/under break action that has screw-in chokes. This configuration is available in just about any gauge from the smallest .410 to the largest 12-gauge.
Some shooters prefer to use a semi-automatic for skeet, also with screw-in chokes.
Either configuration works fine. The most important aspect of a good skeet gun is not the number of barrels it has or its action: it’s the balance and feel of the gun that allows you make smooth swings to hit the crossing targets of most skeet stations.
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.
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.
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.
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 Liberati today with his son, Bernie.
Chris Corkell leads the way into the gazebo of station six at Pintail Point. She's followed by her husband Charlie, instructor Wes Russum and their trapper, Kelly. The presentation is a report of outgoing crossers -- in a breeze coming off the Chesapeake Bay -- and Chris is up.
After Kelly pulls the lookers, Chris pauses to take in the shot. The landscape is flat with a trap house about 40 yards out, and beyond that a large dairy barn in the distance.
What she doesn't realize is the conspiracy that's developing behind her back. Charlie discretely took the three-button control from Kelly, and then he gets a sly, contagious grin.
Chris raises her Beretta 391 Teknys. It's a serious gun. Stock cut down to fit her small frame, hydraulic recoil pad, impressive wood, and an extended ported choke that looks like the muzzle on a Howitzer. She's in the moment -- focused.
Chris is suddenly baffled by the simo pair criss-crossing away from her. She whips around...and there's Charlie laughing -- along with everyone else. Chris gives Charlie that look (Oh that's so typical of you) and joins in the laughter.
Passionate About Sporting Clays
In a way, you begin to think its Charlie's way of getting even with her. After 27 years together, they took up sporting clays about 18 months ago. Now, all Chris wants to talk about is shooting....
Charlie is watching NASCAR and Chris wants to talk sporting clays. Charlie is watching football and Chris wants to talk sporting clays. And when Charlie is watching baseball, Chris wants to talk sporting clays.
You can tell who's taking the sporting clays lessons and who isn't. Not because Chris outshoots Charlie (they both shoot about 60 out of 100). It's simply that Chris has found a calling. She's on a mission. She wants to shoot competitively. And she'll do whatever it takes to become a championship shooter. She's willing to pay her dues.
"I've never been competitive at anything, until I got into shooting," she says. "But I fell in love with the sport, and I would like some day to be the Maryland State Champion."
Dig a little deeper and she's hard-pressed to explain precisely why she loves sporting clays so much. Maybe it is a means of relieving stress and being able to get outdoors as she has an office job at Talbot County Planning & Zoning/Board of Appeals. Maybe it's because sporting clays gives her and Charlie more time together. Or maybe it's because sporting clays is a heck of a lot of fun.
The Sporting Clays Habit
Whatever the reason, she's going with it. The couple is up to a monthly habit of numerous boxes of ammo per month. And Charlie is 100% supportive (despite the antics)
He proudly says that Chris is doing "real good" with her sporting clays. But for him, sporting clays is a different story.
Ever since he was old enough to pick up a shotgun, Charlie's been hunting in Caroline County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. He still hunts birds and deer there. For Charlie, shooting has always been a way of life.
It All Started with a Remington 870 Pump
Ironically, Chris has never even owned a gun until that fateful day Charlie gave her a Remington 870 pump (in camo). The way it happened is that Charlie manages a 130-acre estate called Essex Farm, located in Royal Oak. Chris and Charlie grew up in Caroline County. One day, the owner purchased a manual trap machine to use on the property. To get Chris involved, Charlie gave her the Remington.
"The guys were hitting all the targets, and I wasn't," Chris recalled. "Right after that, I started taking lessons."
Her initial instructor was Bruce Ney -- a member of the National Sporting Clays Association U.S. team, former World Champion and in 2007 inducted into the NSCA Hall of Fame . As Chris tells it, when she showed up the first time with that Remington, Bruce took it away and let her use his Beretta shotgun.
Chris Crushes the Targets
Right after that, he fixed her and Charlie up with a pair of custom-fitted Beretta391
Teknys -- drawing on his experience as an authorized Beretta dealer, instructor and stock fitter.
Now, when she hits a target, she absolutely crushes it -- far exceeding anything she could've done on the sporting clays field with that Remington 870 pump.
Charlie, meanwhile, is more sanguine about the sport. While he really likes it, he found that sporting clays improved his hunting (there's plenty of excellent duck and geese shooting on the Eastern Shore.)
Sporting Clays Comes Full Circle
In the brief 18 months that Charlie and Chris have been shooting, sporting clays has come full circle in their lives...
They've become active members in the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and Chris is organizing her first sporting clays shoot at Schrader's Bridgetown Manor.
They've encouraged their daughter, Chastity and her husband, David to take up the sport, so that "We can shoot as a family," Chris said.
And after Bruce Ney hit the sporting clays circuit, Chris started taking lessons from Wes, the resident pro at Pintail Point. As it turns out, Charlie and Wes grew up together playing softball.
Today, you can see all three of them laughing and enjoying themselves as they move on to the next station.
In the back lots of Hollywood, when you say Jack, everyone knows you mean Jack Nicholson. In the shotgun industry, when you say Jack, everyone knows you're talking about Jack Muety.
If you ever owned a Beretta, Benelli, Franchi, Stoeger or Blaser, Jack Muety has helped you find the right shotgun -- and made sure you enjoyed it.
You would be hard-pressed to find another person with more insight into the American shotgun market than Jack. So when he says change is imminent in the shotgun sports, you have to take notice. He has the experience, stats and instincts to know what's coming down the pike -- and how it directly affects you.
He served as CEO and President of Blaser USA for 18 months before retiring in January 2008. While at the helm of Blaser USA, he introduced the company's F3 shotgun to American shooters. With Jack's marketing savvy, the F3's rave reviews served as a springboard for its continuing success.
Jack was an easy choice for the Blaser USA corner office.
Before joining Blaser, he held the position of Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Beretta USA. The Beretta spot was Jack's hard-earned reward after six years as the Vice President of Sales & Strategic Markets for Benelli USA, where he created the most successful brand of semi-automatics in America. He also applied the same ingenuity and experience to increase the popularity of Benelli's extended family of shotguns which includes Franchi and Stoeger.
Reaching the Top the Old-Fashioned Way
Jack's achievements came the old-fashioned way -- from spending quality time with customers. He's been recognized for his countless hours of volunteer service with Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, Ruffled Grouse Society, National Wild Turkey Federation, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association. He serves as a volunteer coach of the trap and skeet team at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Now that Jack is retired, he spends his days sailing, hunting and hanging out at his beach house with his wife and friends. And even though he no longer reports to work, he still lives and breathes guns.
We First Met Jack Pheasant Shooting
We first met Jack at a pheasant shoot on Maryland's Eastern Shore. We began talking and discovered that we shared many ideas about the shotgun industry.
Since then the economy has changed fast. Suddenly, we were hearing people we shot with bring up the prices of gas and shells in our conversations. These are the same people who only bought premium shotguns, who never hesitated to drive hours for wingshooting and sporting clays, and who spend just about every weekend enjoying the shotgun sports.
Of course we knew gas and ammo prices were skyrocketing, but when you start to hear it from investment bankers, advertising executives and software developers you realize how deeply the problem has crept into the psyche of the shotgun community.
We thought it would be a good time to give Jack a call to get his big-picture take on what was going on.
We caught up with Jack at the Fador Irish Pub in Annapolis.
"Right now, in the current market, there are several influencing factors," he said. He went down the list: the upcoming election, a sour economy, a drop-off in new shotgun sales and the decline of the dollar against the Euro.
The New Regionalism
Jack saw a potential convergence of political and economic forces that could give rise to what we call a New Regionalism in the American shotgun sports. Shooters would stay closer to home for their clays and wingshooting. The local gunsmith would see a growth in business as people put off new-gun purchases. And the corner shotgun dealer would have a better inventory of used shotguns.
In a way, it was a return to the fundamentals -- forsaking the bling and getting back into the heart and soul of the American shotgun sports. New Regionalism could be a homecoming to simpler days.
"The [shotgun] market is in transition right now driven by the national economy," he said.
Whether you shoot a Holland & Holland, a Beretta or a Benelli, the rising prices of shotgun shells, gas and airfare is a point of conversation that comes up. For some shotgun owners, the higher cost of shooting has absolutely no impact. They shoot the same number of rounds, travel to the same wonderful destinations and buy the best guns available. Other shooters, meanwhile, feel the pinch and they comprise the majority of the market who will embrace the New Regionalism.
What Louise Terry Wrote
You can already see it happening. In the June 2008 issue of Skeet Shooting Review, the National Skeet Shooting Association President, Louise Terry, wrote how the "economic conditions" are forcing shooters to "curtail their shooting plans, and they may not be able to participate in as many shoots as usual this year."
She laid the resolution squarely on the shoulders of the local clubs to consider new alternatives for line-ups that could cut-down on driving. In effect, it's a national problem with a regional solution.
Even Jack talked about how he and his shooting buddies have started car pooling for their annual wingshooting trip to New England.
And then of course there are the escalating prices of shotgun shells. The culprits are the war in Iraq and the surging prices of lead and copper.
For the majority of shooters, higher gas and shell prices are an economic reality. But the decline of the dollar is also taking its toll.
Here in the U.S., the most popular shotgun makers are British and European. People were always willing to pay a higher price for those guns because they are "perceived as being better than guns made in the U.S., Turkey or Asia," Jack said.
For U.S. shotguns, the perception is not just about quality; it's about a company's commitment to its loyal customers. For example, Jack talked about how Wall Street investment bankers like Cerberus Capital Management bought Remington -- after it acquired Bushmaster. The Cerebus portfolio also included Marlin and DPMS Panther Arms. Jack believed that when speculators come into a shotgun company, shooters began to question management's commitment to quality and customer service.
The long shadow of private equity in the shotgun industry is, in some ways, heresy to grass-roots shotgun owners. Fiercely independent, there could be a gathering of sorts around the home fires -- the gospel of New Regionalism.
From Jack's perspective this also presents a unique opportunity for shotgun makers. It gives them a chance to get back to basics. While their sales slip, the biggest shotgun makers should place greater emphasis on customer satisfaction. "They just can't count on volume alone," he said. "They have to take the approach ‘How can I help?'"
Well, we thought that sounded downright neighborly. And after all, that is the foundation for New Regionalism.
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.
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.”