A Religious Experience

Recently I was given the opportunity to go shooting with an author who’s work I’ve enjoyed much over the years. This was quite an experience for me. He and his wife took me into their home as I was traveling through the area and made me feel at home. Browsing through his collection of books, gun leather, mounted trophies and guns was very enjoyable, but when he took me out to his local shooting range the REAL fun began.

He took along a collection of Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers in .45 Colt and .44 Special calibers. I had along my Ruger Vaquero in .45 Colt. We set up targets at the 25 yard line and the festivities commenced. After trying out my new Vaquero with “Cowboy” loads and some hot Buffalo Bore ammo, he asked if I’d like to try any of his collection. After reminding me to not try any of the Buffalo Bore ammo in his Colts I tried a couple of them out. Then he offered me what he called a “Religious Experience”, to shoot his pre-war “long action” .44 Spl. I took it and a fixed sighted model to the bench with some cast semi wadcutter loads, but somehow it wasn’t the same as he’d described it to me. For me, the real religious experience was in handling the Colt “sixguns” in that most famous caliber, .45 Colt. That’s when I felt how a perfectly tuned sixgun rolls gently in your hand as the hammer falls and got lost in the moment, forgetting to count the shots and seeing the hammer fall on an empty chamber with no perceivable flinch at all. The smell of fresh coffee blended with the odor of bacon frying and the remuda’s smell as the herd was brought up the trail. The fresh smell of sage after a rain blended with the acrid smell of blackpowder and I could hear the bawling of calves at roundup time… yes, I felt transported to another time and another place by simply holding and firing these wonderful pieces of history.

After we finished our shooting, had breakfast and said “Goodbye”, I drove off on my continuing journey. As I drove down the highway, surrounded with fond memories of an enjoyable time, I reflected on the difference between his “religious experience” and mine. As I thought about it, I was reminded of the passage in Hebrews 5 that says:


For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 5: 12-14


You see, my author friend has been shooting since I was “but a sparkle in my daddy’s eye”, and although the shooting sports are high on my “favorite things to do” list, the truth of the matter is that only rarely am I able to indulge my passion for “things that go ‘bang'”. So the analogy carries over. At my age many men have had the chance to learn to shoot and have indulged themselves in the sport, developing a feeling for “the deeper issues”. But through my inexperience and lack of practice in the matter I have yet much to learn. Elmer Keith began his carreer with black powder and later with the .45 Colt. As he learned he progressed to the .44 special and later to the .44 Magnum, only rarely returning to the “first principles” of the sport.

So, what does this have to do with us as christians? Many are to christianity like I am to the shooting sports. Wildly enthusiastic, but with little real experience. Endlessly curious, but with a small store of personally acquired knowledge. Yes, for me to handle a genuine Colt revolver in .45 Colt caliber was a real thrill. But the joys of the .44 special are still under appreciated by me. As the years pass and my experience in the shooting sports grows, perhaps my appreciation for the .44 will grow too. Yet my true desire is to see christians learn to discern the differance between good and evil as they exercise their faith.

Yes, shooting the old guns was akin to a “religious experience”, but more important yet is seeing my brothers and sisters grow in their faith towards God and in their understanding of His will. If you too wish to grow in Him, you won’t ever be able to do so by sitting there with your Bible closed. Get into His word and learn to know what His will is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

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