Although I’ve had a lot of training in the use of weapons, I’ve never developed an obsession for firearms. On a regular basis, all Patrol personnel were required to receive training at various firing ranges and maintain an acceptable level of proficiency in the use of issued weaponry. Other than this required training, that was it for me. As some would do, I didn’t spend much of my own time and money to further develop my shooting skills. As a result, I couldn’t stay on the porch with the big dogs, but I could always hold my own with the rest of the pack.
Steve Dredge was about as good of a shot as I was, and we began harassing each other about who was the best shot. We didn’t hide it. Everybody knew about it. We started betting! Whoever had the best score won ten dollars from the loser. These bets continued for years. Most of the time I’d walk away with his money, but once in awhile, he’d take me. That’s what had happened the last time we’d shot … He’d embarrassed me! In front of everybody, he had taken my money and then crowed about it. I got the feeling that he was sneaking off somewhere and practicing, but I remained steadfast and strong … I didn’t. I relied more on my psychological skills.
The day arrived for us to go to the firing range again. The weather was nice and I was in a particularly rambunctious mood. Instead of practicing, I’d been doing some thinking. This time I had a special surprise for him. This time I had the edge. This time I had wrapped the handle of my pistol with white adhesive tape, for no other reason than to just blow his mind.
When we arrived at the range I never even mentioned it, but my goodness! … Who could ignore it? It stuck out like a sore thumb! Sure enough, it finally got the best of him and he walked over.
“Bryan! What in the hell have you got on your gun?” He asked.
“It’s nothing.” I lied as I replied. ”It’s just something that I read in a shooting magazine to improve the grip, and I thought I’d give it a try.”
We had a few minutes before training began and I laughed as I watched him running around, trying to find someone who might have some adhesive tape in his trunk. Low and behold, he found some! Now, in his mind, I didn’t have the edge anymore … Because we both now had tape on our guns. The practice session began.
From the seven-yard line, we fired the rapid-fire rounds. As we picked up the empty shells from the ground and threw them in the buckets, we looked. I’d thrown a couple of mine into the white. (That means … No points! You missed the target! You just screwed up! You idiot!) Before everybody, Steve laughed at me. He rubbed it in and hurt my feelings! We continued shooting at increasing distances and positions until we’d shot up fifty rounds. Steve had beaten me … But for betting purposes, the practice didn’t count. We began to make preparations for the upcoming qualifying round … The money round.
This was big money, ten dollars! And not only that, but our reputations were at stake … We’d been running our mouths! Everybody was watching us. While we waited for our turn to shoot, I did some relaxation exercises and some deep breathing. Then, more importantly, I made some arrangements with Ralph Smeth. Ralph agreed to take the lane to the right of Steve while I took the left. I had it in the bag … Steve would not take my ten dollars this time!
The firing commenced. After we’d emptied our weapons from the seven-yard line, I shielded my eyes with my hand and peered at Steve’s target.
“What’s that on your target?” I asked. “Looks to me like you’ve got a fly on your target, Steve.”
Steve just stood there with a flabbergasted look on his face. There’s no way he could’ve thrown it in the white, because after all, he’d been practicing … Surely, his aim was better than that. We walked to the targets. Sure enough, way out in the white of his target was a wild bullet hole. Steve knew I didn’t do it … He’d been keeping a close eye on me. He didn’t know it, but Ralph had put it there.
From then on, my shooting got better and Steve’s got worse. Every once in awhile, another “fly” showed up on his target. Every once in awhile, another wild shot appeared. He’d lost his confidence, but that was OK … I had enough for the two of us anyway.
After we finished blasting away from the fifty-yard line, we walked down to our targets again. Steve counted up all the holes in his. Damn, there were fifty-three holes in there … Where’d the extra three come from? Then he walked over and checked out my target. Yep, mine was OK. Mine had fifty holes in it, with all in the black. When the instructor came around to validate the scores, Ralph told him…
“Oops! For those three shots, I must’ve accidentally shot Steve’s target instead of mine.”
Even with those three rounds not counted against him, I still beat him. Steve demanded a re-match, but that didn’t go far … After all, we’d both qualified. His score was just lower than mine.
Yes, once again, I could hold my head up. Once again, I could rest easy at night. Once again, my reputation was intact, even if his was not. Once again, I was ten dollars richer. Once again, I could proudly say … I was the best shot.