SI Vault
David Mamet
November 04, 1985
Marksmanship appeals to two basic aspects of our American character: the love of skill and the desire to hear things go boom.
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November 04, 1985

A Playwright 'plinker' Finds Joy In The Practice Of Shooting Pistols

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Subsequently, a practical course was developed to teach marksmanship as it applied to gunfighting. The agents were trained to shoot at moving targets rather than stationary ones. They were trained to shoot quickly and accurately at unknown distances and from different postures and in different lights; to make quick and accurate shoot/don't shoot decisions; to shoot from behind cover, from unconventional postures and while moving; to reload and clear malfunctions quickly—to do all these things under stress—not the stress of physical danger, but the stress of competition. Police forces around the country sent, and still send, members to the FBI course to learn, and return home to teach, practical pistol skills.

In the 1950s, inter-and extradepartmental competitions developed to test these practical handgun skills. The handgun thus came to be seen as an accurate sporting arm to be used in marksmanship competition.

Various pistol sports developed, including Police Pistol Competition, which stressed the basic police skills of target acquisition, reloading and marksmanship, and the International Practical Shooting Confederation's rather more athletic competition, involving scaling obstacles, etc.

The bowling-pin shoot, a popular pistol event, awards the speed with which a marksman can draw and knock six bowling pins off a table from 25 feet away. These sports stress speed and accuracy combined.

Silhouette shooting (siluetas metalicas) was imported from Mexico. This sport is devoted to extracting the ultimate in pistol accuracy, and involves knocking down metal silhouettes of animals at distances out to 300 meters.

Hunting with the handgun as an alternative to the rifle became, and is still, popular.

In the late '60s top competitive shooters began opening schools to teach handgunning either for sport or defensive purposes. Gunsmiths around the country began custom tuning and custom building pistols and revolvers for increased accuracy and competitive utility. And prestigious and lucrative pistol competitions—the Bianchi Cup, the Soldier-of-Fortune, the Second Chance—attracted top competitors and much spectator interest, and so improved, and continue to improve, the breed. It might not be too much of a stretch to compare competitive handgunning to sculling—both sports have loyal and dedicated spectators and competitors, and very few besides these competitors and spectators know the sports exist.

Much of the IPSC and bowling-pin competition of today is done with what is generally known as a Colt .45 Auto. This is a semiautomatic pistol in .45 caliber, and is familiar even to nonwarriors because of the movies.

The pistol was designed by John Browning for the Colt Firearms Company and was adopted by the U.S. armed forces as a sidearm in 1911. (The Colt was replaced last spring by the Beretta 92SBF nine millimeter.)

The patent was given by Colt to the United States Government during the first World War, and the pistol was made, and still is made, by many manufacturers in addition to Colt.

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