June, 2017 was definitely “nostalgia month” for the old guy here. You saw how many blog entries I devoted to The Pin Shoot, the reincarnation of the iconic handgun/rifle/shotgun match Richard Davis founded more than 40 years ago. For about two dozen years, that match was the one vacation I guaranteed myself annually, and nineteen years later going back to it was like a high school reunion. Hell, I’m still buzzed over it.
However, my “nostalgia month” had begun earlier in June, when I taught a MAG-20 (Armed Citizens Rules of Engagement) class at the great old Wilson Hill Pistol Club in Manchester, NH. Back in the ‘60s, I was nineteen years old when my friend Nolan Santy took me there to give traditional bulls-eye pistol shooting a try. My only suitable gun at the time was a pre-WWII Colt Match Target Woodsman .22, and on the first try I managed to score a 263 out of 300 possible points…and was promptly hooked. Earlier in my teens I had shot informal competition at the “turkey shoots” held by local sportsmen’s clubs around the Granite State where I grew up, but formal competition was a new high. I’ve been doing it in one form or another ever since, though I had gotten into the more practical “combat shooting” games by my mid-twenties.
The club was much the same as I remembered it, which in turn is much the same as it was when Wilson Hill was founded in 1935 and has become something of an icon among traditional shooters. For many years, the club hosted the annual NH State Gallery Pistol (.22 caliber) Championship.
I learned more than I can say from some of the great shooters there: Al Payant, Fran SanSouci, Ken Howard, Stan Dzadura, and many more. Perhaps the one guy I learned the most from was a local hero, Don Mara, USMC. Don won many medals as a combat Marine in Vietnam during that period, and as a shooter, he was the guy to beat for the State Championship, which he held God knows how many years. While all the other heavy hitters were shooting expensive target pistols, Don used a $57 Ruger Mark I and kicked mucho boo-tay, proving it’s about the shooter a lot more than about the gun, the Indian more than the arrow.
I got to meet Don again in June, after almost 40 years. He retired from the Corps as a Sergeant-Major, and is still globe and anchor through and through. And he still, at about 78, mentors new shooters. He’s the kind of person who makes you proud to be part of the gun culture.
Under training director Al MacArthur, Wilson Hill has become a local hub of firearms safety and self-defense training. It was great to see this iconic gun club keeping up with the times without losing its sense of tradition.
Even if it did make me feel kinda old…
Great memories, great sport, great freedom, great country.
Again with this weblog kicking major boo-tay by bringing those of us without the good fortune to be present in person along for the ride! This made my day as a good vibes tale of great times is always a fine pick me up.
Cheers Mas, cheers all!
While not on topic, I want to say something that I’ve been meaning to say for some time:
We all owe Mas a huge expression of thanks for keeping up this blog. The amount of work involved is not insubstantial, researching, writing, and illustrating with photos and links, on the average, 2-3 blog posts a week and moderating these responses and comments at least twice a day (or is it even more often than that, I’ve never been able to tell for sure). And all that while making sure that we’re civil to one another and calling out the trolls.
Thanks, Mas, and the fact that we don’t always see eye-to-eye but you continue to welcome me here makes that thanks even stronger and heartfelt.
Dave (the Liberal, non-Uncle one),
Amen to that, brother!!! It’s a great time to be alive. Knowledge is at our fingertips, once we’re connected to the World Wide Web. I consider http://www.youtube.com to be a national treasure. Mas is a fantastic teacher and we are all blessed to learn from him.
My guess is that firearms knowledge is somehow getting around to the public, and that is a good thing. Since 2008, the American people have gone on a gun-buying spree, and yet I haven’t heard about a lot of negligent discharges, kids who shot other kids because they found a gun in the house, or even suicides. Except I have heard about a lot of veterans committing suicide. Also, while I don’t want the enemy to learn about guns, earlier in the War on Terror I would see terrorists with their fingers on the triggers, while posing for photographs. After a few years, I began to notice someone had been teaching the terrorists to keep their fingers off the trigger. Of course I hate them, but it just shows how firearms safety knowledge is going around the world.
I hope good Europeans (and good people everywhere) can arm up and defend themselves from the bad guys. DEATH TO THE WICKED!!!
I too, thank Mas for all his work.
I also thank all the ordinary gun enthusiasts who contribute their knowledge and personal experience to his blog. We learn from others, and the friendly back and forth of opposing opinions helps us all understand a subject better.
I want to thank Liberal Dave especially, for bringing into some discussions the progressive view, in a way that tends not be offensive. That’s how mindsets can be changed, or at least tempered.
I’ll end by saying, I believe that we all are blessed to receive more than just “gun stuff” from Mas’s blog.
I too was first introduced to Bulls Eye shooting at Wilson Hill. As a long time member and sometime safety instructor I was glad to see someone of the caliber of Massad there to put on a class. I was sorry I couldn’t be there. The folks running the club for the past few years have been doing a great job bringing the place back to life and running strong.
I also have the honor of being able to shoot next to Don Mara on Tuesday evenings at the Nashua Fish and Game club. He is as described and a true mentor of the shooting arts. He still outshoots everyone on the line, left handed (something about a viet cong grenade and his right thumb) and blindfolded. I have learned much from these men and they are to be cherished while we still have them.
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