Shooting Hearts: The Orocimbo Barbosa Shooting Club

By Esteban García Mahias*
Exclusive for M1911.ORG

This photo of Chile is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The Club de Tiro Orocimbo Barbosa (Orocimbo Barbosa Shooting Club) is located in Los Angeles†, in the Bio Bio Region of Chile (south of the capital, Santiago). None of the members of the club has ever shot a gun in time of war, and only a few have actually used guns for personal protection. Most of the friends that participate in the club own more than one gun, and almost everyone shoots well. You can say that it is the average shooting club, where members share their knowledge in order to improve shooting and gun skills. Every week, they meet at the range to “give a little pleasure to the finger” as they like to say. No big deal, compared to other countries where the culture on guns is strong and shooting is a right. But it is big deal for us in Chile.

What distinguishes my shooting club from others I’ve meet? Friendship. I was tempted to write about our guns. I thought about telling how I bought my always dreamed Sig Sauer P226 and contacted Roberto to join the club, just a few months after I arrived to live in Los Angeles. I was going to write about those days when I finally had the chance to strip and shoot many of the guns that until then I had only looked at in pictures. What pleasure I experienced shooting a Beretta 92 for the first time, or quickly spending ammo through those Uzis that Ismael, a police gunsmith, used to bring to the range. What to say about my first championship and the feelings I had when realized that training was the only way to improve my shooting?

Created about ten years before I joined it, the Orocimbo Barbosa Shooting Club was the answer of a group of enthusiasts from Los Angeles to the wish of those gifted fingers for hitting those iron silhouettes 25, 40 and more meters away. That’s it. The pleasure of shooting and the love for the powder machines encouraged them to give birth to this group, originally supported by the local army facilities. While Orocimbo was a brave Chilean soldier who participated, among other campaigns, in the extraordinary War of the Pacific when Chile defeated Perú and Bolivia between 1879 and 1883, my club partners were only regular civilians. This isn’t really accurate because, as well as Orocimbo, the club members have always felt in their hearts the same passion for our motherland. The local army, always a few steps behind them with respect to shooting skills, took them as models of gun culture, honor and loyalty.

All of the original members of the club had a good share of medals and cups from many challenges that took place all over the country. An extraordinary tradition of success was born from the bores of their guns. Right now, as I type this article, I can see my own lot of medals hanging from the wall. What did I learn to get them? Again, friendship.

I remember when my Sig, a superb gun, proved to be less than proper to gun down the poppers of the range. Our game? “Citizen Shooting,” consisting of 12 poppers arrayed in groups of four at 25, 35 and 45 meters, and two paper targets at 25. I think I made my best record, 99 points, in less than 30 seconds with my .357 magnum Taurus 6-inch revolver. With auto pistol, the story was different. So, I decided to buy a second-hand Taurus PT-99 from a former police officer. Despite Taurus’ bad reputation, this gun was extremely accurate. Ismael transformed its iron sights to a Mauser-style aiming system that allowed me to get better shots around the number ten in the paper targets. Trigger tuning was Roberto’s gift to my shooting, perfect for the Taurus factory trigger. About two pounds. I dressed it up with Uncle Mike’s grips and got more magazines. I do not know how many rounds I’ve shot with that gun but I’m sure that it must be more than ten thousand. My results were excellent. I went to many championships, and celebrated in different cities with this new family into which I had been accepted. I won some of them, even beating guys like Roberto, a real prodigy, and many other shooters who carried STIs, Para-Ordnances, and other prepared target pistols. Every time, behind me, I was able to hear their support in my ears.

As years went by, I was converted from that lone shooter to a team player. Team work proved to be efficient to correct bad habits and improve skills. It was not only the valuable tips that my friends gave to me that helped to knock the irons. The family ambience also allowed me to gain the confidence to fight that mouse. The “mouse in the ass,” even if it is a small one, always reminds you that the focus needed to succeed involves more than a good trigger discipline, more than perfect aiming, more than a proper gun.

What does the mouse have to do with the Orocimbo Barbosa Shooting Club? Everything, I think. You will never meet the mouse unless you feel that there is a real connection between your spirit and the target. The gun is secondary each time the link described takes place. And the mouse tells you that you’re near, that barrel and rifling, that loads and bullets, that your stance and gripping will only cooperate once your heart is shooting, too.

Today, the club is twenty years old. I had the chance to be considered part of it and to receive its strength. Like an intelligent system, the club welcomed those shooters who felt that each older discharge made for decades was still present in its current triggering. On the other hand, it expelled forever those who joined it only to gain privileges, to get the right to buy more guns, and who didn’t share their passion with the club family.

I love guns a lot. I think they are beautiful and perfect, and I learned to understand that each one owns its specific soul and personality. However, there is a bigger soul that loads a gun, no matter which, when friendship appears, like it happened to me years ago in my small town shooting club.

Editor’s note: The Los Angeles referred to here is in Chile, several hours south of Santiago; it is not Los Angeles, California. Although the author refers to it as a “small town,” which it is compared to Chile’s capitol city of Santiago, Los Angeles is a regional capitol with a population of 186,671 (as of the 2012 census). By Chilean standards, it is really a medium-sized city rather than a small town.

* Esteban García Mahias is a Chilean journalist and shooting enthusiast. We met him several years ago during a visit he made to the U.S., and we asked him if he would care to write something about shooting in Chile. This article was his response.

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