I was on a stag do at the weekend for Sarah’s cousin’s husband to be, Ash. Being in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside clay pigeon shooting was the activity of choice.
It would be my first time at such an event and I rather fancied that it might unfold rather like this classic scene from Moonraker with Roger Moore. Of course it didn’t and I didn’t own such a jacket.
Sure, I’d played the likes of Time Crisis and Operation Wolf (showing my age) in the arcades but never shot a proper gun. A few years back I did a red letter day activity at a ‘Spy Academy’ which involved shooting at targets with an air-rifle and survived (just) paintballing at my very own stag do. This though was a whole different league, for starters I wasn’t in a dress!
Daniel Craig had proved something of a nifty shot with a shotgun in Skyfall although I felt more one part the character played by Charles Martin Smith (minus the Armani suit) in The Untouchables – naturally I’ll be now forever weary in lifts – as I was reminded several times that I was more used to holding a pencil than looking down the barrel of a gun.
The other part was that of Jack Carter, with the upturned collars on my overcoat, tousled hair (it gets a bit of a kink in it when its longer echoing that of Mr Caine’s, sort of) and of course the double barreled shotgun a la Get Carter. Not that I tried brandishing it naked in the street or dangled an ‘Alf Roberts’ look-a-like from a multi-storey car park or anything.
Sarah’s dad, Jeff, looked one part pissed off Papa Smurf with a shotgun meets Anthony Quinn in The Guns of Navarone.
Turns out I didn’t fare too badly for a first timer as I scored an impressive 20 out of 30 ‘kills’, 22 took the crown, from someone else who had never picked up a gun. Jay is a fireman so he probably got a little excited when people were shouting ‘fire’. It took a while to get my eye in and get comfortable in holding the shotgun but once you got tracking the clay down it was a fun experience. I even quipped “get off my land” after one successful double ‘kill’.
There is certainly no doubting the power of such a weapon and safety was of course of paramount concerns throughout. The other thing that took a bit of getting used to was the small kick back that it gave after firing, wedged into your shoulder it took the brunt of it and left me with a small bruise and sore arm. I’m sure it’s only because you are new to it.
The other thing was that when you popped open the barrel on the gun we were using the spent, still smoking cartridges just jumped out, often hitting me in the face in the process in the beginning. It all added to the experience and smoke and smell coming out of the chamber was terrific. It was just like after using one of those cap guns with the pinkish paper caps that went off when your toy gun hammer hit them.
Being new to it all it kind of reminded me of playing snooker or golf, having to judge what you are doing before you do it and, quite literally, where you are taking your next shot. For me I also found it similar in not being as successful if you were trying too hard, so I just tried to relax, look down the barrel and control my breathing.
It was funny, with the ear plugs in that was practically all you could hear, your own breathing. At times it did seem to unfold Sam Peckinpah style in full slow motion as they clays seemed to hang in the air for an eternity.
We even went for our own Peckinpah style moments with some nifty slo mo of Ash’s dad and the automatic shotgun he was using. His automatic shotgun chucking out spent cartridges had an air of The Wild Bunch about him when filmed with the new slo mo option on my camera.
The Magnificent Seven we might not have been, especially as there were actually eight of us, although if you squint Shaun could sort of pass for Yul Brynner.
We may have started out as The Mild Bunch but as usual with these things you just get into your stride as you come to the end.
We might not have been Untouchable but nobody left with less than a 50% hit rate and I’m sure you might find some of us home on the shooting range again soon. I think it is safe to say that we all earned our spurs on the day.