Meridian Star

December 6, 2013

First gun

By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — My oldest grandson will get his first gun this Christmas. He is almost nine and it is time. He is a level headed kid who has proven adherence to safety rules with his BB gun. Now his father will give him the single shot .22 rifle he got for Christmas 35 years ago. The gun will be locked away in a gun safe when he is not using it under supervision of an adult.

    Every shooter remembers that first gun; the one that finally could be referred to as "mine". For those of us who are shooting enthusiasts, that first gun of our own probably hooked most of us. As for me, it boosted me into a lifelong love affair with firearms and good times afield. Not that I own a lot of guns. To the contrary I only have a few. I am not a collector. To me, a lot of guns would dilute my loyalty; as I enjoy a bonding with my guns.

    For many Nimrods, that first gun was a gift unwrapped with eager hands on a Christmas past, much like my son unwrapping that little .22 long ago. A Christmas does not come that I do not think of the many youngsters who will find their first hunting guns under the Christmas tree. For many, that day marks a big step toward growing up; a step into the world of greater responsibility.

    My first gun was a little Stevens .410 model 94 single shot shotgun. It had an exposed hammer and a plastic covered stock and was choked full.

    The things I remember about that first Christmas Day of shooting my own gun at grandma's house are all good. The deep blue steel barrel shined and the wonderful mosaic pattern Stevens used on their receivers was there to thrill me. I wouldn't let a finger print stay on it very long. The parts all fit together so tightly that the gun seemed to ring like a bell when I slammed the action closed. And it smelled of gun oil, an aroma only gun enthusiasts can appreciate.

    The shells were those diminutive green Remingtons, the two and a half inch ones, with brass so shiny I almost hated to shoot them for fear of smudging them. What pleasure I got from feeling them in my pocket and pulling out that first one and watching its bright brass and brilliant green disappear into the tiny chamber of the .410; all but the case head with the stamped letters of identification.

    Cocking the hammer was difficult, but failing to get it back and hear that solid click as it came set would have been worse than failing sixth grade, and in fact was simply unthinkable.

    I don't remember closing my eyes at that first shot, because that is a bad habit and my memory refuses to recall such an act. But when the hammer fell and the firing pin popped that shiny primer, the short green shell made the barrel buck and my shoulder lurch backward. How wonderful! I had felt the power of a man's gun against my bony frame.

    I lowered the little piece and grasped the warm barrel beyond the forearm, pushed the top lever to the right, broke the gun open and got hit square in the throat by the spent ejected hull! It didn't hurt long though, because what followed it out of the barrel was a curl of thick, white smoke which hung in the air, bathed my nostrils and blessed my senses. Wow! The world may not have changed much that Christmas Day, but I had. And I announced it again and again until the last little green shell was spent. I would never be the same.