Bob Brown

I met Bob Brown once while on a business trip to San Diego. I stopped by his home a few days after he had offered to fix a nagging reliability problem with my 1911 wad gun. As I sat in his garage that day and watched him gently turn the chamber reamer and then witnessed the impossibly tiny metal shavings that resulted, we chatted.

Bob told me he was a retired detective of the San Diego Police Department. He said he didn’t shoot much anymore but still enjoyed having shooters come by so they could visit and he could fix something for them.

As he handed my 1911 back, Bob refused all offer of payment.

“Just let me know if it does what you want,” he asked.

I was mildly surprised that he wanted to know my reaction more than how the gun now worked. His focus was in my response, not the gun’s.

I thanked him again as I left but felt confused. I had gone to what I thought was an expert gunsmith at his retirement home near San Diego but had enountered, instead, someone who was interested in my satisfaction, my pleasure, my joy. Bob was focused on me, on my desires. The gun on which he worked was merely the tool by which he sought to do something for a fellow human being.

I’m in the UK this week and, at a local air pistol range, met another gentleman with that same passion for sharing his expertise to help other shooters. His joy was in engendering joy, as simple as that. His advice on air pistols, how it should be held, how to read the pellets hitting the target and what to do about it were all about helping the shooter, not the shooting. His joy was in helping others do better that which they wanted to do better.

And on a different trip a month ago to Rhode Island, I met yet another gentleman who, again, shared his expertise and helped me shoot better. He too received the reward he sought when he glanced at my target, saw that the holes had moved closer to the center, and witnessed my surprise and joy at the improvement. One glance at my reaction was all the payment he needed.

One of the very best things we do in this sport is share ourselves. Bullseye, the really good and rewarding part of it, is about this. Shooting an X is nice but, let me ask, which do you remember more, your last target or the shooter you met once who shared some good advice or a small snippet of something that affected your life in some small but pleasing way?

I remember Bob.

Coach Pat

Coach Pat, Patrick Dolan, passed away last Friday, October 22, 2005.

Most of the pistol shooters at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club and many of those who frequented the public range had come to know his sometimes goading, sometimes soothing voice. He called a great many of the Bullseye competitions. Anyone who has competed there has probably heard him announce, “The line is safe. Go down and score those targets, … and cover up that mess.”

I met Coach Pat when I came to watch a Bullseye Pistol competition a year ago. I had been shooting for all of a few short months and had learned only that accurate pistol shooting was hard, very hard. While the competitors were down scoring targets, Coach Pat introduced himself and answered my questions about the sport. By way of suggestion, he said he gave private lessons “for twenty bucks until one of us gets tired or pissed off.” Amused at the time, I would come to value his direct and “no holds barred” style of coaching. He was honest and real.

His love of the sport of competitive pistol shooting was surpassed only by his desire to see shooters getting better and better. Some like to teach because it lets them show what they know. Others teach because they truly want others to do better. Coach Pat was solidly in the second group: he wanted to see others hitting closer and closer to the X. Their progress, their growth, was his joy.

Pat’s patience was truly extraordinary. Every time he repeated, yet again, some instruction I just couldn’t get, it was as if he were saying it for the first time, measured, clear and direct. I can hear, even now, “level and smooooth, level and smooooth.”

And in his rare, introspective moments, it was as if each event in his life had been a shot that stood out clear and stark, but after a brief glance at the goal, his focus would come back to the front sight, the next shot, the next moment in his life.

I think he would have said, “Life is now. Focus here, right here.”

Coach Pat taught many to shoot; most got more.

Thanks, Coach.