When I was a young boy who grew up reading the various sporting magazines I dreamed about becoming a hunter. Although I was already a pretty good fisherman for my age, it was the spectre of one day owning guns and becoming a hunter that filled my dreams.
By the time I was 12, I was pretty much bi-cultural with the kind understanding of my parents. During the school year I was an urban urchin, living in Golden Hill, an enclave of older homes two miles east of and above the heart of downtown San Diego. During summer and school vacations as well as most weekends, I was with my father fishing for bass at Lake Sutherland. Eventually, I simply spent those times living with the reservoir’s Damkeeper and family and working for room and board. Hence the split in lifestyle between being a city kid and a country kid and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
When living in Golden Hill, the playground of the same name or Balboa Park were the places you’d most likely find me if you wanted. When living above the Sutherland dam, the lake and surrounding chaparral covered hills were my domain and there was little chance of finding me. If I wasn’t fishing or fruitlessly looking for arrowheads, I was wandering with a single shot, 12 gauge Noble shotgun. The rusted and pitted gun was given to me by a grizzled old equipment operator with a penchant for Rye whiskey as thanks for the fish I provided when he worked at the lake.
I learned to shoot with that gun and took a fair share of quail, doves, ducks and cottontails despite the limitation of having only a single shot. Knowing that I needed an upgrade I began saving my money and by the time I was 15 had put away $150 which was just enough for a basic, no frills Remington 870 pump shotgun with a slick barrel (I was about 20 bucks short of the model with a ventilated rib) and modified choke.
No longer limited to a single shot, I shot the gun rather effectively in the process of rounding up more game for the table. It was basic, but I shot it well and for the next 20 years or so, and saw little need to buy a nicer or better shotgun. Figuring it might not last me forever, I jumped at the chance to buy a fancier model of the same gun that I spotted for $150 in the classified ads. With its nicer stock and ventilated rib, it became my “go to” gun for several more years, but turned out to be a gateway to more guns, including some relatively expensive over and under shotguns that I gave into because of peer pressure.
The result of this largess, like a menu with hundreds of choices, invariably leads to indecision as to which gun to use, but the decision of whether to use the 28 gauge, one of four 20 gauge or one of the five 12 gauge guns does not end there, and includes the choice of pump, semi-auto or over/under. The fact that nearly all of these guns feature interchangeable chokes results in additional decisions that are agonizing to consider, let alone make.
If I choose to screw in a cylinder or improved cylinder choke, there is the concern that it might not be tight enough for the longer shots. If I screw in the improved modified or full choke there is the chance it will be too tight for the closer shots. Rather than a beneficiary of multiple options, I have become a hapless and hopeless victim of them.
Regardless of which gun I use or which choke I select, I am screwed by my indecision as well as the knowledge that somewhere in the back of my safe is an old 12 gauge shotgun with a modified choke that would have been just right when it was the only gun I had!