I love the discipline of sitting

Published 05/28/2014

I love the discipline of sitting… 

“There sighs, lamentations and loud wailings resounded through the starless air, so that at first it made me weep; strange tongues, horrible language, words of pain, tones of anger, voices loud and hoarse, and with these the sound of hands, made a tumult which is whirling through that air forever dark...” wrote Dante, of Hell in The Divine Comedy,

The same might be said about the outcry from certain quarters about the National Rifle Association, the governing body for most high power shooting,  making the decision to remove “From Standing to …” from the execution of 200 and 300 yard rapid fire shooting.

The NRA’s position was/is that because of the aging of the high power community, and its attendant lack of flexibility and athletic ability, there is the real possibility of a shooter, particularly in the 200 yard stage, tumbling over with a loaded rifle.  Furthermore, the short barreled AR platform is more prone to “sweeping the line” than the longer barreled wooden service and match rifles.  This particular phenomenon has seen more than one rifleman, crouched to drop into position, cast a sideways look only to find himself looking down the muzzle of his neighbor’s loaded rifle.

A certain eleven time National High Power Champion, who will go unnamed here, had, at about the same time, been troubled by a medical condition that precluded his ability to obey the command, “Firers rise!” This man’s problem’s conjunction with the rule change quickly caught the attention of the Internet experts, which may have been their high power classifications for all I know. It was trumpeted about that the rule change was really an accommodation made to the famed rifleman by the “Old Boy” contingent of the NRA High Power Committee so the unnamed champion might still continue to win matches. Safety had nothing to do with it claimed the conspiracy theorists. This Dog in the Manger argument quickly picked up momentum and the high power forums were quickly all afire calling the rule changes, among other things, the death knell of high power shooting as we know it.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program, the governing body for National Trophy competition, saw the same safety issue but took a different tack than the NRA.  The CMP simply declared that competitors were no longer allowed to load the rifle until in position.  This ruling was another lightning rod for the conspiracy theorists that imagined the “integrity” of the sport being jeopardized. 

This crowing came from a small crowd far too young to remember a time when service rifle shooter shot rapids in 50 and 60 seconds, had to load from the body, were not permitted shooting pants or mats, and a mention of a range cart referred to the one that the match director used to get about from place to place.  The flock bleated such silly Non sequiturs as, “When I get so old that I can’t get up and down I’ll quite shooting” or, “Just how many guys have actually fallen and discharged their rifles?”

After reading a fair amount of this back and forth self righteousness, from a bunch of guys who primarily shoot a centerfire 22 caliber rifle and call it high power, I was reminded of an incident I heard in my younger days when I first started on my way to Distinguished with a wooden rifle.

When I started shooting service rifle I listened carefully to my elders hoping to learn from their collective wisdom. I needed to learn from others’ mistakes because I knew I could not possibly live long enough to make them all myself. I am sure that all of those tales of the great riflemen of the past which I heard were absolutely true. Why would the old gray beards of the sport tell me falsehoods and exaggerations? Witness this story.

A high power shooter was troubled by an unusual gastric problem and went to his doctor, a team mate by chance, to seek relief.

The doctor asked him to describe the malady and how it presented itself.

"Doc, this is sort of embarrassing.  Every time I drop down into rapid sitting I am overcome with flatulence."

The doctor asked him to demonstrate so he slithered into sitting and a burst of sound like ripping canvas broke the quiet of the examining room as he hit the floor.

The doctor asks him to rise and assume the prone position from standing.  All was quiet but his belt buckle hitting the linoleum as he flopped down on his belly.

“Stand up and try off hand” the doctor ordered.  Again, not a sound was heard.  

The doctor then told him to assume sitting once again. He crossed his legs and dropped down.  The ripping sound, this time accompanied by a noisome odor, repeated itself.

Pursing his lips and rubbing his chin the doctor mumbled, "Hmm, interesting case." At this he walked over to the window and picked up a long pole which was lying against the wall.

"What are you going to do with that?" the shooter nervously asked, fearing the worst.

"This is a transom pole you fool. I'm going to open the window and let some fresh air into this room," the doctor replied.

Now, after three years of living with the new rule the discussion occasionally surfaces. With no diminution of the great traditions of high power shooting in the intervening years isn’t it about time we, like the doctor, open the window and let in some fresh air, and rid ourselves of this flatulent discussion on the standing to position rule change?