Shotgun Ammo photo

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A dozen years ago I shot on a private game farm belonging to a very wealthy man. Jim’s farm had uniformed gamekeepers, a pigeon ring, and a sporting clays course. Before we shot, he sent me to his clubhouse to pick one of the guest guns from the vault. I settled on a 28 gauge Parker Reproduction and carried it back to his Suburban, the rear springs of which groaned under the weight of the ammunition in back. Jim looked at the gun and his eyes narrowed. “28 gauge, huh?” he said. He handed me two boxes of shells, then strapped a shell pouch around my waist. “You pick up those hulls. They’re expensive.”

I used to think this was an amusing story about the eccentricities of rich people. Then I started reloading. Now I think: you better believe those 28 gauge hulls are expensive.

Jim could afford to buy all the ammo he needed, but he’d been a reloader before becoming a rich guy, and once you’ve learned to see hulls on the ground as money you can’t change. It’s a sickness, and now I’ve got it, too. As my friend Gil Ash taunted last week when I dove into a trashbarrel after some once-fired Remington Gun Clubs: “Philly Bob (Gil is from Texas), you’re a hull whore!”

Guilty as charged. At the next station, Ash threw some live shells downrange where I couldn’t safely run out to grab them and watched me squirm.

Earlier this year, I shot in a charity sporting clays tournament. As a “celebrity” (quotation marks mine) my entry fee was waived and my ammo was free. The new me was really, really excited about the chance to shoot 200 donated AAs and bring home the hulls. But, as I walked out of the cage at the first station, the trapper said “Excuse me, sir, we’re going to sell all the hulls to raise more money. Would you please empty your pouch?”

My squadmates told me I looked as if I wanted to strangle the kid. For a second, I considered it. Then I remembered we were shooting on behalf of a children’s hospital and dumped my empties onto the ground. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.