Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

  • September 28, 2006

    Taps for Colonel Cooper

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In the summer of 1958, I bought two soft-cover books for something like 25 cents each, and they opened a door for me. One was entitled Fighting Handguns; the other was Custom Rifles. I read those books, and re-read them, and re-re-read them, not just for the information, but because Jeff Cooper was a hell of a writer. I got caught reading Custom Rifles in study hall in high school, and got in trouble, and had the pleasure of telling Jeff Cooper about it many years later.

    Cooper was an original thinker and a hugely influential figure in the world of shooting. Much of modern combat pistol technique is based upon his teaching, as is the predominance of the automatic pistol over the revolver in law-enforcement work. He was instrumental in founding the modern shooting academy, and he wrote for more than 50 years and was as interesting at the end as he was at the beginning.

    Cooper served in the Marine Corps in WWII and was discharged as a captain. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and eventually made Lieutenant Colonel, the rank at which he retired. A graduate of Stanford University, Cooper was a genuinely educated man, loved language, and was fussy about it as all good writers are. He also had a sense of humor. Carved on the wooden mantle of his fireplace was the slogan “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” ... in Old English.

    He needed to be tough. Toward the end of his life he fell and broke his back in two places, and it put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his days. He passed away on September 25, at home.

    Semper fi.

    Well done.

    Stand down.

  • September 27, 2006

    Moose Photo

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Dp_mooseTo those of you who are interested, here I am with the poor dead moose. He measured 55" point to point, but since a couple of points had been broken off fighting with other bulls, he probably would have gone 57" unblemished. His last words were, "If I had to be shot, I'm glad it was by a self-actuated person. Tell mother I died game."

  • September 26, 2006

    Sometimes, Slow is Better than Fast

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    NOTE: When I read the comments about my Crocodile Hunter rant and learned what a son of a bitch I was, I became despondent and went to Alaska for two weeks to live among the brown bears, a la Timothy Treadwell. However, they didn’t care for me either, so I have returned to the blog. Here is my welcome-home entry.

    Earlier this month I was hunting the Tsiu River region in southeastern Alaska and shot an attractive bull moose with an Ultra Light Arms rifle chambered for the .340 Weatherby Magnum. It took one bullet high in the lungs at 60 yards to put him down, which is rare for moose. Usually, you shoot them three or four times and they stand around thinking the matter over and then head for the nearest body of water and die.

    But I digress. I was shooting handloads--specifically, 275-grain Swift A-Frames that develop a muzzle velocity of 2,550 fps in that rifle. Now if you’re familiar with the .340, you’re aware that it can shoot 250-grainers at plus-2,800 fps, and 210s at 3,000 fps. So why in the name of the Late Roy W. did I settle on such a long, slow, projectile?

    Because they work. Called-in moose are usually shot at ranges of 20 to 40 yards, where high velocity is worse than useless. At the very least it will produce blown-up bullets that cause horrendous meat loss. At worst the bullet will blow up on the shoulder and the animal will run away and die at his leisure, and you may not ever find it. What you want is a bullet that will hold together and pass intact through 4 feet of bone, hide, and muscle. Which is exactly what the Swift did.

    For years now, I’ve been handloading all my hellish magnum cartridges with long, heavy bullets at substantially less velocity than factory specs. One of the very best of these cartridges is a 7.21 mm (actually, .284) Lazzeroni Tomahawk, which is capable of sending a 140-grain bullet along at nearly 3,400 fps, and a 160 at just under 3,200. I load 160-grain Nosler Partitions to 3,000 fps even, and guess what? The critters fall down just as fast.

    Velocity is fine and dandy in its place, but in a great deal of big-game hunting you don’t need nearly as much as is available, and in a surprising number of cases it can actually work against you.

  • September 20, 2006

    The Dealer's Take: The Customer is Often Wrong

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Fellow gun nuts: We hear from each other, from gun writers, and from manufacturers, but gun dealers give us a perspective that we don’t get elsewhere. Scott Moss, who is the third generation of that family (all of whom have taken lots of money from me) to sell firearms, has agreed to come on the blog from time to time and tell us what’s on his mind, good or bad, about the guns he handles. If you’re interested in buying from him or selling to him on consignment, you can call Forest & Field, Norwalk, CT 203-847-4008.—Dave Petzal

    In my last blog I wrote about lousy customer service and how dealers/manufacturers need to be more attuned to the legitimate problems their customers may have. The flip side of this is that customers need to shut up and listen to people who have the knowledge and experience to help them.

    Not too long ago, an older man came into my store looking for a shotgun for clay shooting. He walked with a cane so he had an obvious infirmity. I was informed by the customer that he was an expert marksman and had been a “gunner” in the military. He made it very clear that he was the expert and didn’t need any help. No problem. I figured he obviously knew more than I do and I gave him what he wanted: an over/under that he insisted he could shoot out of the box.

    The next day, he came back with a friend and said the gun didn’t work correctly. He couldn’t get it apart, and he didn’t like the quality. I explained to him that the fore-end is difficult to get off and reseat on a new gun and he just needed to be more authoritative with it. His friend asked me if I would have recommended the O/U to him and I said “NFW,” which means “definitely not”.

    What I did recommended was a soft-shooting semi-auto which is simple to use and generally doesn’t require as much finesse. His friend said, “See? I told you he never would have recommended the O/U!” I exchanged the shotguns and the ‘expert’ left with a firearm better suited to his abilities.

  • September 15, 2006

    Winslow Arms: Wildly Impractical, Yet Works of Art

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily


    From 1963 until 1996, Winslow Arms (first based in Florida, then in South Carolina) produced bolt-action sporting rifles the likes of which were never seen before, and will never be seen again. They were bolt-action centerfires, all based on commercial FN Mauser actions. All had blind magazines, and all were heavy rifles. Not many were made, and photos of them are extremely rare, so you’ll have to use your imagination. In fact, the only photos I know of are on p. 108 of the 1966 Gun Digest. [Editor’s Note: We searched the Internet after Dave wrote this and lucked into the picture above.]

    Winslows were made in three stock styles, and in six grades. The Bushmaster was the basic stock, a slimmed-down version of the Weatherby Mark V stock. The Powermaster was a Bushmaster with a fluted, rollover comb and a flared recoil pad. The Plainsmaster was the Powermaster to the 10th power; all lines swooped, flared, dipped, and dived. It looked like a prop from a Buck Rogers movie.

    Grades ran from Commander (plainest) to Imperial. Regardless of grade, all Winslows shone like mirrors. The stocks were finished in some kind of synthetic that was polished like glass, and the metalwork was polished and blued by a secret process that involved a cyanide hardening bath, and resulted in a brilliant black finish that I’ve never seen duplicated.

    But what really set Winslows apart was the checkering, carving, and inlay work you could have lavished upon them. This was done by a fellow named Nils O. Hultgren who was, simply, a master. You could get basketweave checkering or oak leaf carving in place of standard checking, contrasting-wood-and-ivory inlays, metal engraving and a choice of walnut, myrtle, or maple for your stock wood.

    But this scarcely conveys the effect of seeing an all-out Winslow in person. It was like a Christmas tree gone berserk, or a laser light show. As a hunting rifle, it was as wildly impractical as you could get. And yet…in their own overdone way, they were fine guns, works of art, even. And if you can find one of the high grades today, it will fetch over $6,000, which is nearly five time what it cost in 1966. So someone must appreciate them. Can Pamela Anderson act? Who cares?

  • September 13, 2006

    How to Write an Anti-Gun Editorial

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In case this job doesn’t work out I’ve been researching how to be a turncoat and write for the other side. My most recent object of study is a piece on the editorial page of The New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenbourg, titled “Once a Progressive State, Minnesota is Now a Fief of the N.R.A.” Mr. K, in case you did not instantly recognize his name, is a member of the Times Editorial Board, and is a big-time wordsmith. (According to his bio on the Times website, one of the magazines he’s written for is Sports Afield.) And so, taking this gem of journalism as an example, here are the four rules to follow if you want to write this stuff.

    Rule Number One is: Identify yourself as a gun owner and user; it gives you credibility, a la Bubba Clinton in the duckblind and John Kerry at the trap field. “I grew up hunting and shooting, and I still own two rifles, and two shotguns,” says Mr. Klinkenbourg.

    Rule Number Two: Ignore what actually happens when a pro-gun law goes into effect. Minnesota passed its right to carry law a year ago. Since then, people are not shooting people in larger numbers than usual, and the police have not been flooded with applications from touchy citizens who want to go heeled in case someone disses them. Actually, nothing has happened. Nothing also happened when Bubba Clinton’s assault weapons ban sank below the waves, courtesy of a sunset clause.

    Situations like this are, of course, intolerable to those who think like Mr. Klinkenbourg. One can imagine him saying, in tones of liberal anguish, “People shouldn’t be out there killing each other. Don’t they care?”

    Rule Number Three: Any pro-gun law cannot be the will of the people, but must be due to the infernal machinations of…THE NRA. Which leads us to:

    Rule Number Four, which requires that you find something really nasty to call the National Rifle Association. In this piece Mr. K. has come up with “paranoid cabal.” Webster’s Dictionary says a cabal is “a small group of persons joined in a secret conspiracy.”

    Now, the NRA may indeed be paranoid. I’ve been an NRA member for 42 years, and I’m paranoid, but then I have cause to be, as thousands lust for my blood. But small? Secret? Holy Hillary, if there is one organization on the face of the earth that is less small and less secret than the NRA, I can’t imagine what it might be. There are 4 million of them, and they are right in your face all the time.

    Those seem to be the basic parameters. Just for the hell of it I may do an anti-gun article--if the pay is right. At least you don’t have to know what you’re talking about.

  • September 11, 2006

    The State of Hunting and Fishing, Post 9/11

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In these perilous times, the only thing standing between us and Imminent Doom is the forces of law and order. The problem is that there is nothing standing between the forces of law and order and us. I hold no brief for law enforcement. I pal around with cops, both active and retired, and socialize with a judge. (Although I am leery of him. Unless he sends someone to prison every few days he starts eyeing me strangely.) But by the beard of the Prophet, we have come a long way in the outdoors, and not for the better.

  • September 7, 2006

    Meet the American Hunters and Shooters Association

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    If you haven’t heard of the American Hunters and Shooters Association ( let me introduce you. The AHSA is an organization in its formative stages, and claims to be a viable alternative to the NRA which, it says, has alienated hunters and shooters by its boorish political tactics, unwillingness to compromise, and refusal to support conservation in any meaningful way.

    A trip to the AHSA website is enlightening. If you read it closely, you’ll see that there is not much substance to what the AHSA says it stands for. There are no concrete positions, or action plans, except that they want to restore the right of residents of Washington, D.C. to own handguns. (Why Washington, D.C.? They never say.) Mostly, their position statements are vapid, along the lines of “Don’t push old ladies into moving traffic. Don’t set stray dogs on fire.”

    The conservation part of their platform is more interesting. They claim that the NRA has done hunters a huge disservice by not supporting politicians who are conservationists. Well, it’s no secret that for years, the NRA has supported the very worst timber torturers, stream stranglers, oil oligarchs, strip-mine groupies, and range rapers, provided that their heads were right on guns. The worst knuckle-draggers and cave dwellers have gotten A’s on the NRA report card if they voted right on gun issues. And there is a reason for this.

    The movers and shakers behind the gun control movement are relentless, implacable, and uncompromising in their eventual aim, which is to get rid of all guns. They are as extreme in their views as the most fanatic NRA members are in theirs. I don’t see how it’s possible to hate machines, but career anti-gunners hate guns to the very depths of their souls. Mostly, I think, they hate gun owners as well.

    You do not successfully oppose such people by compromising, or by forgetting what your main goal is. And in this the NRA is no different than any other highly successful Washington lobby. There are special-interest groups that are slicker in their approach, but their tactics do not differ notably.

    So who is the AHSA, really? The group’s leaders are a puzzle. The website doesn’t say whether they were appointed (and if so, by whom?), elected (since the AHSA has nearly no membership, this would be a problem), or rule by divine right. In addition, every one has been involved in one way or another with an organization that is generally considered anti-gun. For example:

    The Founding President is Ray Schoenke, a former player with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Mr. Schoenke is apparently a successful businessman and a hunter and shooter of wide experience. However, according to Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director, Schoekne donated $5,000 to Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), in 2000, and contributions were also made to HCI by the Ray and Holly Schoenke Foundation.

    There is no vice president, but the Executive Director is Bob Ricker, who is identified on the site as a long-time advocate for the shooting industry. But Mr. Ricker apparently had a change of heart somewhere, and now works for the other side. In a sworn deposition (this is again from Chris Cox) given on Sept. 27, 2005, in New York City’s suit against the gun industry, Ricker stated that his “biggest” client was the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence, and that another group he represents is Virginians for Public Safety, also an anti-gun group. Mr. Ricker stated that the AHSA is a client of his, and that he gets $3,000 per month to represent it.

    John E. Rosenthal is President of the AHSA Foundation, and is the head of a Massachusetts group called Stop Handgun Violence. He is also a former member of the board of directors of Handgun Control, Inc.

    Joseph J. Vince, Jr. is identified as a member of the ASHA Board of Directors. (The website does not say how many directors there are.) Mr. Vince is a former employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and currently runs a firm called Crime Guns Solutions, LLC, which analyzes and obtains information on firearms used in crime.

    Jody Powell is the Co-Chairman of the AHSA Advisory Board. Mr. Powell was press secretary for President Jimmy Carter, whose administration managed to be both rabidly anti-gun and anti-hunting at the same time.

    Right now, the AHSA is just beginning. According to Executive Director Bob Ricker, they intend work slowly and patiently and do most of their membership solicitation by mail, for which they have just raised the money.

    The cost of joining the AHSA is $25. They may be what they say they are, and in any event, guilt by association is wicked and un-American. But as for me, I’d rather send $25 to the NRA and hope they siphon it to some of the cave dwellers and timber torturers and stream stranglers. I’d like to keep my guns, thanks very much.

  • September 5, 2006

    A Not-So-Sad Farewell to the "Crocodile Hunter"

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    On September 2, Steve Irwin, the self-styled “crocodile hunter” (“crocodile annoyer” would have been more like it) was killed when a stingray barb pierced his heart. Oddly, Mr. Irwin was not pestering the ray when it killed him. I heard on the radio that since Europeans came to Australia, only 10 people have been killed by stingrays. For Mr. Irwin to meet his end like this is rather like an astronomer stepping outside his observatory and getting beaned by a meteorite.

    What I disliked about Mr. Irwin (beside the fact that he was an anti-hunter) was that his antics were mostly about him, and not the animals. As was said about the demented Timothy Treadwell, he didn’t accord them any respect. Yanking a snake off the ground by its tail might have entertained him and his audience, but I doubt if the snake appreciated the honor. Snakes, and other dangerous animals, are to be let alone. Unless you want to hunt them, and it’s legal. But they are not stooges for someone who is starved for attention.

    There was also a certain amount of b.s. to Mr. Irwin. According to a quote of his: “I’ve worked with more dangerous snakes than anyone in the world and I’ve never been bitten. It’s a gift.”

    Well crikey, mate, I don’t think so. From 1947 to 1985, a quiet, self-effacing Floridian named Bill Haas operated the Miami Serpentarium where he milked deadly snakes (more than 60 species) 70 to 100 times a day, every day. He was bitten 170 times. There is no way of knowing how many lives he saved. And he never had a television show.