A Beer and a Shot

Probing the synergy between guns and liquor.

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Illustration by MarK Alan Stamaty

Guns and liquor go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Shooting a gun is an exhilarating experience, and anybody who says otherwise is either lying or has never actually pulled a trigger. And drinking can add a lot to the experience. Ted Nugent aside, lots of gun owners enjoy a cold foamer along with their pump-action Mossberg. Playing with guns adds structure to any bender. Sometimes a game of Beer Pong or Hungry, Thirsty Hippos just doesn’t generate the level of excitement and sense of purpose that many hard-core partiers crave. Guns do. When you shoot a gun drunk, you get results. Large, gaping results. Whether you are blasting gin bottles off the roof of a junked Camaro or simply getting the cat out of the tree, squeezing the trigger is a wonderful way to cut loose. It is the ultimate in instant gratification. It is American expressionism.

People do stupid things while drunk. We all know that. The advantage of guns is that they throw wide the doors of opportunity for stupid drunken behavior. A drunk staggering down the street is comical. A drunk staggering down the street with a gun is alarming. Oh, the places he might go!

Having access to a weapon while tossing back beers allows drinkers to come up with bold new solutions to problems. Two friends of mine once shared a rat-infested house in Baton Rouge because the rent was cheap. They saved money on an exterminator by simply picking off any rats that wandered into range with a .22-caliber rifle. They’d kick back on the sofa, drink beer, and snuff rodents. It was like living inside a big video game. Instead of just a boring evening at home on the sofa, suddenly the night had purpose. Drinking games arose from the situation, and points and penalties were awarded for hits and misses. But on top of just plain having fun, they got a sense of accomplishment out of it as well. Guns allowed them to take a proactive role with their vermin issues.

One night I was over at my friend Haim’s apartment in New Orleans, slamming Jägermeister, a drink that lends itself to certain abuses. This viscous treat is a shortcut to The Zone, and six or eight shots of it will airlift you to a place it might otherwise take a whole long night of methodical drinking to reach. Haim and I were trying to think of something to do, and we ended up deciding to build a homemade silencer for a beat-up old AR-7 rifle he had bought at a pawnshop a few weeks earlier. The gun was only worth about $60 and was ripe for experimentation, and the Germanic liquor added a sense of urgency to the occasion. Silencers are illegal, but Haim had found step-by-step instructions on how to make one in some paramilitary magazine he had bought at a gun show. The magazine was full of neat home projects like that; I imagine that if Martha Stewart lived in a trailer with an abusive husband, this would be the kind of stuff she’d write. And the world would be a better place for it.

The first stop was at a metal shop Haim had access to, where he used the drill press to vent the barrel in several locations. We then brought the gun back to his apartment to finish the job. We slid 10 large washers down along the barrel at even intervals and stuffed the spaces in between with alternating layers of steel wool and cotton wadding. Then we cut a length of PVC pipe and fitted it over the barrel like a sleeve, so that it sat atop the washers. We iced the whole package with duct tape, loaded the magazine with .22-caliber high-velocity LRs, and were good to go.

Haim’s place was in a quiet residential neighborhood, an ideal proving ground. If the silencer worked here, it would work anywhere. The first thing I plugged was a jar of cocktail onions I carefully placed atop the mantle in the living room. I put it in a Ziploc baggie, thinking that would be sufficient to contain the breakage. I was wrong. When I popped it, the bottle exploded, scattering shrapnel and cocktail onions indiscriminately throughout the room. But the silencer actually worked. You could hear the action of the rifle kickback and a heavily muffled pop, but that was all. Our experiment was a success! It felt great, and all it took was a little Jägermeister, a survivalist pulp magazine, and some good old Yankee know-how. We celebrated with impromptu ballistics tests on ordinary household items throughout the night.

A drunk with a gun and a mission is a happy drunk. One of the best times I ever had potting with firearms was when a group of friends and I decided to rub out a beaver who had proved himself to be a nuisance. He had dammed a creek on my friend Stuart’s farm and flooded the road, and for this he was to die. About eight of us staggered out into the backwoods of Mississippi that night, twisted on rye whisky and horribly armed. We had shotguns, assault rifles, and high-tech pistols. The only things missing were a pitchfork and some burning torches. Memories of what happened down at the creek that night are hazy, but I do remember it began with Dave jumping up and down atop the lodge screaming for the beaver to “show himself,” then shoving his 12-gauge into the pile of sticks and mud and pulling the trigger. He backed off, and we emptied everything we had into the dam. Thumps, staccato cracks, whoops, pops, and rebel yells followed. Warren’s laser sight swept crazily through the smoke filled air, adding an ominous sense of the surreal to the dark Mississippi night. Finally it was over. Off in the distance an owl hooted. The beaver remains at large.

A gun can make a night of ordinary drinking far more interesting. Nobody is talking to you at the party? Bring a gun! That’ll get their attention. Want to kick that guy’s ass at the bar but can’t? Bring a gun! He might have spent a lifetime mastering the subtleties of aikido, but he’s no match for your Glock. Why work out if you can own a gun? As Chris Rock said, “You got pecs? I got Tecs.” A bottle will give you the liquid courage to follow your dreams, and your gun will make sure nobody gets in your way.