In 1970, I was in the Creekside Gun Shop near Rochester, NY, a wonderful store that had a rifle range out back. My eye lit on a .460 Weatherby Magnum, and since Creekside allowed customers to try out guns right there, I asked the salesman if I could shoot the beast. He said of course, and gave me a box of cartridges. I took out my driver’s license and put it on the counter.

“What’s that for?”, he said.

“Well, you don’t know me from Adam’s off ox and I’m about to walk out of here with a $495 gun” (This is what a .460 Mark V cost in 1970. I looked it up.)

“Take the goddamn thing outside and shoot it,” said the salesman.

We now fast-forward to last week in Virginia, where the halfwit clerk in the Wal-Mart told me that I couldn’t get a license to shoot groundhogs unless I could produce a previous license. This was, of course, a crock of s**t, but there I was still minus my 3-day permit.

One of the men in our party, whom I had known for one minute and 5 seconds, said “Get in my pickup,” and he drove me 10 miles each way to a gun shop where I became legal.

What these two incidents have in common is this: I have believed for a long time that shooters show more trust toward each other, and will do more for each other, than any group of people I can think of. Again and again I’ve seen members of our fraternity loan equipment, provide help, lend instruction (often to shooters who are competing against them), simply give stuff to, and generally go way, way, out of their way to aid other people who like to smell powder burning.

Ours is not an exclusive club–anyone can belong who likes to pull a trigger–but it is a goddamn good one.