Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Greg Jordan

May 22, 2014

Newspaper ‘gun beat’ great for reporter with a fondness for firearms

— — It seems I’m becoming the gun reporter at the Daily Telegraph. If our list of possible stories includes a gun show, gun demonstration or chance to shoot guns, I’m the one that’s voted most likely to attend. I guess it has something to do with a fondness for flames and explosions.

Last week I attended what will hopefully be the first annual shooting competition for Tazewell County’s law enforcement agencies. It was hosted at the Triangle Gun Club near Bluefield, Va. I found the range without any trouble since it was where I interviewed a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge a few years ago, but I had to remind myself not to spend all day there. Members of the media didn’t get the opportunity to do any shooting, but watching people who know what they’re doing is always interesting.

Now, I’m still not an expert in firearms. I can identify certain firearms, but don’t ask me to go into any particulars about them. My biggest challenge is to pick out a gun for myself. Paying for recent work on my car — transmission service, two new tires, alignment, etc. — means I’ll have to put that purchase off for a while longer. A really good firearm tends to be expensive by my budget’s standards. A compact Glock is one choice along with a Ruger, but I’m still not 100 percent sure. I’d love a shotgun; for some reason, I’m more comfortable with one and like the kick. An AR-15 would be nice, but with my living situation, it would be overkill when it comes to home defense. I don’t expect to be in a gunfight anytime soon.

One idea seeing the competition reinforced was that you have to know what you’re doing if you’re going to use any type of firearm. Like any tool, you have to use a firearm correctly. For instance, if you plan to use a power saw, you have to know how to use it safely, otherwise you’re going to be pruning your fingers.

And don’t expect television shows and movies to demonstrate safe firearms practices. The writers are looking for drama when they put a gunfight in their plots, not accuracy. They would have you think you can hit a target just by pointing your gun in its general direction. And have you ever noticed how the heroes never run out of ammunition until the plot calls for a dramatic moment?

When I finally get a gun of my own, I’ll take the courses that show you how to use it the right way. Without knowledge to go with it, a gun is nothing but a dangerous paperweight. Like any other tool, you have to use it correctly. Even a hammer or a screwdriver is dangerous if you mess around with it.

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Another competition I attended recently was the Crying Wolf Challenge at Lotito Park in Bluefield. Presented by Cole Subaru, the dirt bike competition took riders into the hills above the park. I’ve hiked on those trails, and I don’t see how they managed to ride on them. I know the trails had to be marked because I needed a compass to find my way out the first time I hiked up there.

I rode bicycles when I was a little kid, but those journeys were up and down our neighborhood streets, and that was in the bad old days when there was no such thing as a bicycle helmet. We didn’t have any protective equipment such as knee pads, shoulder pads or gloves. And we certainly didn’t have any Spandex clothes to reduce wind resistance. What’s more, riding over anything but pavement would have destroyed our bicycles. It wouldn’t have been so good for us, either.

What a difference 40 years makes. All of the Crying Wolf competitors had streamlined helmets worthy of Star Wars. Their bicycles had heavy-duty tires, rugged frames, shock absorbers and other bells and whistles our bicycles never had. Some of them even had goggles and water packs that let them sip water while they rode. I’ve heard of soldiers using those packs, too, so they can keep their hands free and take a drink at the same time.

The riders took a lap around the park’s road before heading into the hills. They had to go downhill and take a sharp turn to head onto the course. I imagined myself trying the same thing, only I imagined myself smashing into tree, going into a creek, or picking gravel out of my bloody skin.

I’m glad the riders were able to get out and enjoy themselves. Riding trails takes a lot of strength and a drive to succeed, but I understand it’s a lot of fun, too. I’m more likely, however, to take up shooting than bicycle racing. I’m less likely to injure myself with a pistol than I am with a bicycle. I’ll be more in control of a firearm than I would be on a bicycle traveling at high speed on a dirt trail. It’s easy to picture myself going off an embankment or colliding with an oak tree.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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