Irwin Greenstein

Irwin Greenstein

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

Saturday, 30 August 2008 15:57

Wingshooting Stories

Wingshooting is the real deal for shotgun enthusiasts.

Clays sports such as skeet, trap and sporting clays were originally invented with a single goal in mind: improve your ability to shoot real birds with real feathers.

While a hefty kill for the day will certainly bring on a healthy smile, wingshooting is more than shooting your own dinner.

Wingshooting tradition runs deep in the American psyche. For many, wingshooting and the Second Amendment’s the right to bear arms, are virtually synonymous.

Thursday, 28 August 2008 17:53

Clay Sports

Skeet

Unless you’re in a squad with highly ranked shooters who consider 24 out of 25 a miserable failure, skeet is a great sport for mixing, mingling and shooting.

Cheerful support, gratuitous advice and a few off-color jokes are the earmarks of a happy day of casual shooting on the skeet field…made all the better by a perfect 25.

Thursday, 28 August 2008 17:51

Shotgun Clay Sports

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.

Thursday, 28 August 2008 17:58

Shotguns

Skeet Shotguns

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.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 05:30

How I Shot With the Stars

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Helpful resources:

http://www.mynssa.com

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

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns





Tuesday, 11 November 2008 21:37

Mister Big Bore

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/
Saturday, 11 October 2008 11:39

The Corkells, Charlie & Chris

Corkell's

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.

"PULL."

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.

Useful resources:

http://www.pintailpoint.com/sporting_clays_one.asp

http://www.schradershunting.com/

http://www.ducks.org/

http://www.berettausa.com/product/product_competition_guns_main.htm

http://www.bruceney.com/index.htm

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