Shooting for Fun
The Exotic World of Sporting Clays Offers Outdoor Settings to Test Your Shooting Skills
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With a subject like shooting sports, so foreign to so many, it seems that a translator would be appropriate. Who better to play the role than writer, director, filmmaker and connoisseur of fine firearms and cigars John Milius (The Wind and the Lion, Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian and Geronimo)?
CA: Your taste in firearms is extraordinary. Do you collect other things?
Milius: No, actually, I don't--possibly excepting cigars. My firearms collection more or less covers all of the collecting bases. They are fine art and history. I smoke my cigars and shoot my guns, even the finest ones. They are art that I can use and enjoy. Fine arms, like the great cigars, are part of the renewed interest in fine, handmade things.
CA: Why would you collect guns? I'm sure that concept is lost on many people.
Milius: People have again realized that these are one of the great triumphs of men. They are truly art. It might take 1,000 man-hours to create the best gun. A gun in many ways is even more precise than a watch. It has to endure the great stress of firing, and it ages with you. When you get something that is so well made, by hand and machine, that it works perfectly, it is as pure in its function as it is in form. Very few things exist like that today. A fine shotgun in heavy use not only will last through your lifetime but through five or six lifetimes.
In a small way [a gun is] like a truly fine cigar--the best of its kind in the world. They both take literally years to produce. Even though an individual cigar is gone when it is smoked, there is an immediate and lasting pleasure from it. And that box of cigars contains another for tomorrow. Like the gun, the pleasure continues for a lifetime. [Smoking] a fine cigar is something done alone, simply for your own pleasure.
CA: You not only collect these guns, but you use them, for target shooting and hunting. A lot of the so-called civilized world will have a problem with that. Why would you shoot, rather than pursue one of the more "acceptable" pastimes?
Milius: When I was a young boy I would go with our neighbor, who was a hunter. He gave me the idea that to go walk the uplands with a fine Parker shotgun and a good dog was like the dessert of life. This was a reward that you granted yourself, the greatest thing you could do in life, one that would put you at peace with everything. It would cleanse your thoughts; get you away from the pressures. And it is a lot of fun.
CA: We are talking in a sporting clays environment. Tell me your thoughts about this sport.
Milius: The enjoyment derived from that gun and shooting it are far more important than the score. To be successful, get a gun you like, shoot it a lot, get to know it better. Sporting clays has most of the thrills of the hunt [and] all of the variances of hunting, without the restrictions. You can shoot clay targets out of season--even during mating season, and there is virtually no limit.
Milius: I have so many favorites. I smoke a lot of domestics as well as Cubans. My favorite domestic by far is the La Gloria Cubana Wavell. I like all of the Arturo Fuentes and Licenciados. Another great cigar that a lot of people put down because it is so popular is the Montecristo No. 2. It is a truly great cigar. My favorite is a Romeo y Julieta Belicoso.
CA: You hear so many complaints about cigars. Do you encounter objections when you are in a duck blind or on the sporting clays course?
Milius: No, no. People with guns are very polite. That may sound bad, but it isn't. Shooting is one area of endeavor [in which] people are doing what they want. It is basically about freedom. [There] may also be a happier frame of mind associated with shooting. I smoke cigars and shoot all of the time. Other shooters, including women, constantly come up to me and comment on how good [the cigars] smell.
I will give my advice to the prospective cigar-smoking sporting clays shooter: never shoot with your cigar in your mouth [because] it will get you in the thumb. What you do is hold it in your left hand the way the British held their extra cartridges during an elephant attack. Hold your cigar in your left hand, wrapped around the fore end, then take a puff after a superbly smoked target.