Came for the firearms, stayed for the people

Myself with Kyaw Aye at the Burmese Olympic Shooting Range in Dagon Township, just north of the capitol of Yangon.

Myself with Kyaw Aye at the Burmese Olympic Shooting Range in Dagon Township, just north of the capitol of Yangon.

Outside of TFB, I’m a part of a firearms advocacy group at my university. Because of that connection, I was invited to participate in an event was sharing stories about the connection with firearms that people have in the United States. The event itself was very political, however my story was anything but political. If you want to, you can watch it in its entirety here. The story that I told, I clipped it from the main video and uploaded it on my own Youtube channel, which is shown here.

The man I’m talking about, was a coach of mine named U Kyaw Aye (You can read a Wikipedia page about him here, and see his ISSF record here), and worked with me on shooting competitive handguns, .22 Short at 25 meters, and .177 air pistol at 10 meters. Although there wasn’t a competition I could have entered when I lived in Burma, it didn’t matter to me as I was more focused on just improving my shooting ability.

When I was a teenager in Burma, it was hard to pursue an interest in firearms for a number of reasons. Dealing with the overly biased faculty and students at the International School Yangon that I went to in High School and Middle School. I vividly remember me going to a school sponsored counselor, who literally thought I was going to be another Columbine shooter. Or trying to get on firearms related websites on the Burmese internet that were “Banned, Reason: Weapons”. When my friends and I tried having airsoft skirmishes on the U.S. Embassy housing compounds (Washington & Dubern), we were routinely shut down by the embassy security staff. If you want to read more about this culture surrounding the interest in firearms but not being able to own any, read this piece we published on it.

I like to point out to the many detractors of my passions then, that they thought my interest in firearms was just the stuff of teenage child play, however, I’m probably the only kid from that high school class to have been published in multiple print magazines. Some child’s play that passion got me eh?

On a visit to the Holland & Holland flagship store in London, I posted this picture to Kyaw Aye's Facebook Timeline. You can tell just how envious he was of my simple visit.

On a visit to the Holland & Holland flagship store in London, I posted this picture to Kyaw Aye’s Facebook Timeline. You can tell just how envious he was of my simple visit.

So when I randomly ran into him, and set up a weekly training period on the weekends, I was absolutely overjoyed that not only could I get into shooting in Burma, but also have someone to share it with. Kyaw Aye was with me the time I shot a Burmese poison Viper, because it was endangering the nearby village. Kyaw Aye was with me the first time I fired a fully automatic rifle, that of an AKM brought over by a friendly police chief. The first time I touched off a Lee Enfield No.4, among many more other firsts.

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A picture of Kyaw Aye at the Yangon International airport, about to take the Burmese shooting team to a SEA games competition in Thailand. I remember the competitor on the far right, and the far left of the group, but not the guy in the middle.

As I mentioned in the talk I gave, I don’t know if this interest we share in firearms would be worth it if it wasn’t for the people. Being with other shooters, other historians, other writers, other industry reps, or just seeing the smile on a friends face the first time they feel the recoil of a handgun or rifle after safely unloading a magazine downrange. Someone in the industry told me once that the real reason they go to SHOT and other conventions is really to see everyone, connect with different folks and create memories. The firearms, as inanimate objects, they’ll always be there. However, the relationships and the bonds that we produce over these inanimate objects are what make it worth it. The Kyaw Ayes of the world.

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U Kyaw Aye

Feb 28 1939- Mar 14 2014



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • rklk

    this article was so deep… adele would roll in it…

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      Youre excused.

  • DannyBoyJr

    Wow, I’m surprised they allow the unwashed to shoot firearms. I thought Burma was a military dictatorship that clamps down on anything that might endanger their iron grip on power.

  • Tritro29

    I don’t know what idiot of a counsellor would tell a kid he’d become the next “Omar Mateen” without getting sacked within milliseconds, but that looks like an “International School” alright. Kudos for not being deterred. Nice story too.

  • Isaac Newton

    Your great story telling makes me proud to be an American gun nerd. Building relationships around a common interest it what it’s all about. Please keep up the role model and advocacy work!

  • Nicholas C

    Fantastic story!

  • KestrelBike

    Neat.

    RIP, Mr. Aye.

  • Franivelius

    Wow! That was a powerfull story.

  • John Yossarian

    Cool story. I watched some of the others as well, including the one about the NYC Auxiliary Police Officers being shot execution style. Cops without guns – How stupid is that? Only in a hoplophobic world.