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Why do we shoot?

By Special Guest Columnist Barrett Tillman

Prolific author and friend Barrett Tillman pondered the joy of shooting and came up with satisfying, heart warming, intellectually revealing insight. These ideas will resonate with shooters, and likely be incomprehensible to the gun averse. He conducted an informal survey, to add to his own ruminations, and found:

One important factor emerged early: concentration. As one national champion said, "When I'm shooting I can't think about anything else. I have to focus on what I'm doing, and that's relaxing for me." Any serious marksman agrees: mortgages, appointments, and politics simply vanish for the duration of the shot or series of shots. Shooting is, therefore, relaxing.

"But," exclaim the anti-gunners, "so is golf or tennis or tiddlywinks." Which may be true, as shooting holds some of the attraction found in other accuracy games, but there's a sensory difference: "Like golf except louder," according to a Florida pistol competitor. An Arizona attorney agrees: "The stronger the stimulus the stronger the response." Another Arizonan flatly explains, "I like recoil."

Others cited less tangible reasons, such as the California instructor who eloquently replied, "I enjoy the rich history that goes with skill at arms, as well as appreciating the engineering genius that gave birth to these artifacts. My involvement in shooting makes me feel part of the continuum of history and gives me a greater appreciation of the deeds of historical figures."

However, two key factors emerged from the poll: distance and control.

Shooting has to do with action at a distance: "You do something here, something happens over there," says a civilian marksman. A military professional agrees: "Man is a control freak. Not only does he want to be in control of himself, but also over everything he can manage… even at extended ranges."

Control -- especially self control -- is a recurring theme. A Marine sergeant explained, "I think it has to do with man overcoming and controlling the forces or laws of nature. Taking that a step deeper, I'm sure some would say that it all boils down to control."

Enjoy the whole article:


For me, it is both the relaxation and precision that is derived from good technique!!!!

Joe Huffman

That sounds similar to what I wrote back in 2002 ( ):

"As with some other things that are beyond what our ape-like evolution prepared us for, explosions are, at some level, very odd and curious things. Our brains are programmed to pay special attention to strange and unusual things -- 'magic' things. Explosions invoke that curiosity of magic in our brains. A gun with its 'action at a distance' capability is a magic tool. But at long distances there typically isn't the immediate confirmation that something really happened 'out there'. I change that. By creating a sort of Walt Disney-like world where 'magic' happens, I give the shooter an escape from reality. This is a Magic Kingdom for long range shooters. For one day I give them the keys to the Kingdom where they get to perform their own magic."

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About the Author

  • Freelance writer Alan Korwin is a founder and past president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association. With his wife Cheryl he operates Bloomfield Press, the largest producer and distributor of gun-law books in the country. Here writing as "The Uninvited Ombudsman," Alan covers the day's stories as they ought to read. Read more.

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