Some of you might have already recognized the partial quote in the title. It is attributed to Wyatt Earp and in full reads like this: “Fast is fine, but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.” While no doubt his statement was intented for gunfighters, the emphasis is obviously placed on those three words after the coordinating conjunction – Accuracy is Final.
Shooting in competition, hunting, playing a round of golf or even going bowling are all situations where skill and accuracy are really made evident by their final results. You score well or come home with your quarry, or you score poorly or come home empty handed.
I never have been worth a hoot at golf. Not much better at bowling, but as it turns out I actually enjoy bowling. I’m a bad hunter, but that mostly has to do with not going enough and not doing my homework when I do. But provided the moon is right and I hold my mouth just so, I’ve been successful on a few occasions when I did see game. The shot was dead on, so to speak.
A Snapshot of Marine Corps Life Sans Haircut
Now here’s a slightly entertaining anecdote when it comes to my shooting. There was a time when I was a lousy high school teacher. Infer what you will about the adjective “lousy.” I did, however, get a chance to take part in the Marine Corps Educators Workshop. A teacher has to get in so many hours of professional development every year and this looked like a very cool way to get in about half of the hours I needed, and travel to San Diego, California, for a week to escape the Arkansas heat and humidity that was already a thing by late June.
During this week we flabby teachers got a snapshot of what Marine recruit training looked like. Two major events of this tour that I most wanted to participate in were held later on in our week. Those events were a trip to the Edson Rifle Range at Camp Pendleton and witnessing the recruits finish The Crucible. I have to say that other than intimate family moments, witnessing a Company of Marine recruits transform into Marines right in front of me was one of the biggest highlights of my life.
Now the visit to the Edson Range was anticipated for obvious reasons – I would get to shoot an authentic M16 A4 rifle. There were about seven shooting stations opened up for our group of educators, and, to no one's surprise, you didn’t get to hem and haw and choose your lane when it came time to shoot. Once “Next!” was shouted and it was you, the response was to hustle to your place and meticulously follow instructions. We were told the rifles were all zeroed in. That was a lie. I held centermass on the target and witnessed the shot indicator sticker for the first shot appear extremely low and extremely left. Like almost off the target. After a couple more shots it finally registered in my brain. This rifle was not anywhere close to zeroed in. With this in mind, I adjusted my hold up and right and placed a modest group in the center of the target with my remaining 7 rounds.
We were shooting at 200 yards, just in case you were wondering. And the rifles were equipped with 4X magnification Trijicon RCO’s – something all the instructors made sure to remind us was a newly adopted shooting aid. Up until recently (circa 2012), all recruits had qualified with iron sights.
Hats Off to the Professionals
After seeing the full picture of recruit training that week, had I been a recruit and finished a complete training on the rifle and shot to qualify, I would have been thrilled to just make Marksman. However, one thing I remember and laugh about to this day was a female Marine who was attached to our group. She was a cute thing, but after seeing her and the other Marines demonstrate their fighting skills in the MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) demo, I would not have ever presumed to slight her at all. After all us teachers had shot, several of our Marine hosts also shot. My teaching buddy that I went out there with and myself were humbled, to say the least. The funny thing was, the night before at the hotel bar she plied on several drinks – enough that I started to wonder about her body weight to drink ratio. Evidently, she was a consummate professional and managed to be on top of her game the next morning by 10 a.m. She shot a neat fist sized group into the target leaving us civilians kicking around in the California dust.
When I changed careers, I went from an occasional shooter to a more frequent flier at my home gun range. To what degree I am an improved shooter in the decade or so since I took that trip to California, I could not definitively say. But I can say that I am a better shooter today than I was then. And moreover, I love shooting more today than I did back then.
Run Through the Jungle
The satisfaction of hitting a target, stacking airgun pellets or bullets right on your mark never gets old. You push the target farther down the lane, get a smaller steel paddle or bullseye, shoot from different positions, or, as the folks at Waco Tactical Fitness practice it, you can run and gun.
In February of 2022 I helped the WTF crew as an RSO on a particularly tough stage of their Arkansas event. There were three steel targets hidden in the woods between 75 and 125 yards. No problem, right? Well, after traversing 2.5 miles up and down hills carrying all of your ammo and two firearms it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever witnessed someone do. Several shooters exhausted two or more magazines in their attempt at putting two shots on each target from three different shooting positions. Eighteen shots was all it took to clear the stage, but many shooters got a DNF due to running out of time, or just burning through too much ammo. It was cold, they were exhausted, “muh scope is off” – any number of excuses could be thrown in the wind. But at the end of the event, some dudes and ladies just ran the course and did it with accuracy and others did not. Those were the people who had “learned to be slow in a hurry” and as a result, they enjoyed the finality of their accuracy by completing the stage.
It’s not much but it was what I had on my mind. Here’s to all you shooters hitting your mark in whatever area of life you desire improvement. Happy new year and all the best to you and your family.