I've been meaning to write about my other hobby again for a while, ideally not sandwiched between lots of crime novels (albeit at the classic rather than the gruesome end of the genre), but that hasn't quite worked out.
I've wanted to learn to shoot (with a shotgun) ever since I was in my teens - because why wouldn't you? But first of all dad refused to teach me on the grounds that it would bother the neighbours and I'd probably threaten my sister. It would have bothered the neighbours. I should probably have joined some sort of society at university, but the guys with guns seemed a bit weird at first glance, and I'd just discovered gin. Finally I had a go on a hen night and decided it was fun but opportunities to persue it further didn't really materialise until a few years ago when my mother really got into it.
She persuaded my partner that we should have a couple of lessons - one of the things I love about shooting is it demands no particular level of physical fitness or strength - so we did, and both enjoyed it but I'm the one who's carried on, but until this year in a very on off way. Recently however it's become a much more regular thing, mum's got a couple of competitions coming up so she's practicing, and mentoring me at the same time, it's something nice we can do together.
Until really very recently shooting hasn't been terribly welcoming towards women, but that's really starting to change which is a good thing because there's something particularly satisfying about smashing clays out of the sky. It's also very cathartic, and who doesn't need that some days.
Like any hobby/sport there are different levels and disciplines. For me the attraction is very much towards clays, the costs are manageable (which matters, it can be a very expensive hobby if you let it) and I have no moral qualms about shooting at ashtrays. Not that I have any particular issue about other people shooting game, but for myself the idea of shooting at more than you can eat doesn't make much sense, the idea of hitting something but not killing it quickly or cleanly doesn't work either.
It also helps that our local gun club is - democratic is probably the best description. It's very well run but the facilities are more greasy spoon than hunting lodge - which I like because you don't feel out of place if you're not head to toe tweed, but you wouldn't be out of place if you were either and that's how it should be. I do have some tweed, it's the biggest investment I've made so far (luckily I have the use of a gun) and it's a waistcoat, necessary for the just enough padding around the shoulders to stop me getting dramatic bruising from the gun recoiling. (Before the waistcoat I used to get bruises like tiger stripes from the combination of bra strap and gun butt) and useful for the pockets. I should say that as long as you hold the gun properly (and doing so was my main concern for a long time, never mind hitting anything) the recoil doesn't hurt, bruises were due to repeated pressure on the same spot! Some sort of ear defenders are also a must, as is eye protection. A hat is useful for keeping hair out of my eyes and just in case I get showered by shards of clay (this hasn't happened yet).
Starting out a gun club will provide a gun for initial lessons, as do groups like the Shotguns and Chelsea buns ladies so it's easy enough to get a feel for if its going to be worth making the considerable investment that is a gun of your own, plus licence and cabinet to keep it in.
Anyway, the point of all this is to say if shooting is something you've always liked the sound of - give it a go. It's much more enjoyable than I could ever have imagined.