Marine Corps Stories: For the Love of the Gun
A Marine develops a closeness to her firearm.
The wreath surrounding her rifle badge shone like fresh nickels from the mint. Her pistol badge told the same story, but only when she wore her service or dress uniforms. On the range, in her beloved cammies, Staff Sergeant Ruth Hazelton held the pistol in her hands. Sweat gathered at her temples while she aimed the weapon on the target and fired. The shots struck the target, each one in the center of the black.
“Goddamn, I love this gun,” she said to herself.
The Marine Corps had just unveiled a new pistol the branch had not seen since Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office. Ruth looked at the firearm. She handled it like a little, lethal newborn, and the emotional attachment prompted her to hold onto a little longer than usual. Then she set it down, and offered assistance to Major Zachary Toll. He had been watching her hold the pistol.
“Staff Sergeant, you said you could improve my shot….”
“Alright, sir, yes, you’re going to want to keep your feet shoulder width apart, and hold the weapon as far away from your chest as possible without locking your arms. Just a slight bend.”
Ruth stared intently at the firearm in his hands.
“Are you okay, Hazelton?”
“Yes, sir, I just have an affinity for the new pistol is all.”
Ruth shook her hands and her head. “It’s nothing, sir. You’re doing fine with the new M18. Just keep your eye trained on the chest and head, and you’ll succeed.”
“Yes, but my reloading speed, how do I improve that?”
Ruth was staring again, and the officer’s patience withered.
“Staff Sergeant, I know that you’ve been going through a lot with the divorce to Helena and all, but I need you to focus here, okay?”
“Yes, sir. Absolutely. It’s all in the arm action; You want to try and lift your arm up with speed, as well as control.”
The officer breathed a sigh of relief, and attempted the maneuver. He failed.
Ruth didn’t notice, because she’d resumed staring at the pistol.
“Staff Sergeant Hazelton, may I have word with you off the firing line?”
They doubled back to a place about thirty yards away from where the other Marines fired.
“What’s up with you today?”
“What’s going on, Hazelton?”
“I love it.”
Incredulously he said, “Love what?”
“The gun. The pistol.”
“Is that all? Not your wife cheating on you, or you fighting for custody of your two boys? The firearm is what has you thrown off?”
“It’s the striker-fired, semi-automatic, single action 9mm dreaminess of it all.”
“Okay, I’m going to recommend that you step away from the line for a few days until you get your wits again.”
“But sir, I can do this job. It’s just that I’m a bit preoccupied by the new pistol.”
“With that, I think you might need to just rest a few days. I’m serious I cannot have my range safety officer with her mind focused on a weapon’s mere existence. I mean, you could be focused on firing it, or cleaning it, but to just have some almost filial bond with it, that spells trouble.”
“Okay, sir, I know that I’ve done wrong. I’ll pull my head out of my cargo pocket, and get in gear.”
“Good. That’s what I wanted to hear, Hazelton.”
The major and the staff sergeant returned to the firing line.
“Alright sir, lock onto the target, remember BRASS, and let those rounds go.”
Major Toll drew the firearm quickly, and smoothly this time. He fired several shots into the target, all of them hitting the center of the black. He emptied one magazine, then swiftly reached for his full magazine, and inserted it into the weapon. He shot black again.
“I knew you could do it sir,” Ruth said.
“I appreciate your help…”He looked around for Ruth. “Staff Sergeant?”
But Ruth was already back on the firing line, knocking down targets at the sound of the tower NCO.
When they finished shooting for the day, Major Toll could have sworn he saw her kiss that gun before she holstered it.