The Armed Geezer

I realize that there are many of you who are not mildly surprised when you wake up alive in the morning; however, there are many like me who are, so we might as well talk about shooting and age.

First, old age as a whole sucks. You will find as you rot that body parts which you never even knew you owned now hurt like merry hell or don't work at all. If you're of my generation, you can write off your hearing altogether (I hope you remember what Teresa Brewer and Eddie Fisher sounded like), but then you don't need to hear in order to shoot, and you can't hear the prattling of all the s**theads who used to annoy you.

Almost certainly, your eyesight will have deteriorated, you have lost strength, your hands may tremble a bit, and your reflexes have slowed. But all is not lost.

Glasses and scopes can make up for diminished eyesight. (Jim Carmichel is one of the best all-around shots I know, and has terrible vision.) The tremor, which is not to be confused with Parkinsonism, is real trouble if you want to shoot a handgun with a one-hand hold. Use two hands, however, and it can be largely overcome.

Slowed reflexes are a problem mostly in shotgun shooting where the need for speed is paramount, but it also affects your riflery because you can't pull the trigger when the crosshairs are where they should be.

On the other hand, if you're slow to pick up shotgun targets, you have by now seen every kind of angle there is and know what the lead should be, so you'll miss some because you can't move fast enough and hit others because you know where to point the muzzle. Rifle shooters who can remember when people didn't smirk when the word "Congress" came up should avoid offhand shots where loss of arm strength and steadiness will do you in. This is why sitting, kneeling, prone, rocks, packs, and trees were invented. Get some support or don't shoot.

On the other hand, a geezer is probably far less prone than a youngster to suffer an attack of the leaping fantods at the sight of game. Having taken quite a bit of it, a competent coot will go about the business of shooting calmly and deliberately. As the great custom gunbuilder and hyper-experienced hunter Jerry Fisher told me, "Once you kill about 300 head of game you calm down and get a sense of what you can do and can't do."

Some geezers can really lay 'em in there. In F-Class, which is shooting at 600- to 1,000-yard targets from prone, with a rest, the old guys turn in some incredible scores. The big scopes they're allowed to use compensate for dimming eyesight, and the rests take care of the rest. Their knowledge of wind and long experience in competitive shooting give them a big leg up--figuratively speaking, of course.