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  • November 29, 2007

    Beware The Oddball Gun

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    A few weeks ago I got a letter from a person of obvious taste and culture asking whether it was a good idea to have his .30/06 hunting rifle custom-throated for a particular bullet of which he was very fond. To which I replied that no, it was not. Better that he stab himself in the eye with a screwdriver to see that it felt like.

    When you hunt, do-do happens, and you may find yourself at the ass end of the earth having to borrow or scrounge or buy whatever kind of ammo you can lay your hands on. And you may find that your custom-throated pride and joy will not chamber it. All of my hunting rifles have straight SAAMI chambers and throats, against such time as I fly to Anchorage and the ramp apes send my ammo to Aukland.

    ****

    Along similar lines, I have a letter in front of me asking about the advisability of having a rifle built for the .22 Short. Again a no, because when you put real money in a rifle you always have to think about when you might want or need to get it back, and there is not a hell of a big market for rifles chambered for the .22 Short.

    Eschew the weird and the unnatural. Seek normalcy at all costs.

  • November 27, 2007

    Supremes to Hear Second Amendment Case

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Last week, it was announced that the Supreme Court would hear arguments on the constitutionality of Washington. D.C.'s handgun ban, and decide in the process whether the right to keep and bear arms refers to militias or individuals.

    The case was brought before the Court because Dick Anthony Heller, an armed security guard (ironically, for the D.C. court system), was denied permission to keep his handgun at home. Under the provisions of D.C.'s law, you can't have a handgun, period, and all long guns must be kept either disassembled or have a trigger lock on them. Thus Mister Heller is a staunch defender of public safety if he carries his handgun on the job but a felon if he takes it home.

  • November 22, 2007

    Thoughts on Thanksgiving

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    I reported to the Army for active duty on November 19, 1963. In those days it was customary for new trainees to spend three days at a reception center where we were given tests and shots, issued our uniforms, and threatened with barbed-wire city if we screwed up. Part of the issue was our dress greens, or Class A uniform, and the Army took a surprising amount of care with these, tailoring them to fit, and then delivering them to our basic training companies where they would catch up with us.

    We arrived at November Company, 4th Tng Rgt, Ft. Dix, New Jersey, on November 22, 1963, at just about the time that news of John Kennedy's assassination was beginning to spread. The United States of America, and the U.S. Army, simply shut down for a while. We were left in our barracks to spit-shine boots and polish the lacquer off brass belt buckles. And for some inconceivable reason, during that time, my Class A uniform arrived. No one elses', just mine.

    Thanksgiving came, and the Fourth Regiment mess hall served a turkey dinner, but to get in the mess hall, you had to show up in a Class A uniform. No fatigues on Thanksgiving, men. Well, what the hell. I put on my new green suit, went to the mess hall, and ate myself stupid. The rest of November Company ate candy bars at the PX.

    And to all of you, I hope that your Class A uniforms, in whatever form, show up in time for this Thanksgiving.

  • November 21, 2007

    On Big Ones That Get Away

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    John Wootters, who is retired now but was a wonderful writer and a true expert on whitetails, tried for more than 40 years to get a B and C buck, but never succeeded. (He did, however, shoot some doozers.) The big ones are simply not disposed to being shot, but I think that all of us have seen some monsters that will haunt us for all our days.

    I saw one such deer last week in Maine, in my vehicle, driving back to camp along a logging road at 4:40 in the evening, which was right at the end of legal light. He had just crossed the road, and his head was already in the brush on the other side, but I got a good look at his body, and he was either:

    a) an honest-to-God 300-pounder
    b) an off-color moose
    c) Rosie O'Donnell in a taupe-colored fur coat

    I vote for a) because in that part of northern Maine, 240-pound deer are, while not common, certainly not unusual, and once in a while you're bound to find one that goes beyond 240. I thought for a second about yanking my rifle out of its case, shoving in a round, and going in after him, but it was after hours, and the warden who patrols those roads is a pitiless man who knows not the meaning of mercy.

    I will always wonder what kind of a rack he had. Probably pretty good, because the headgear up there, while not pretty, gets big. On the other hand, if I had seen his horns I might have burst into tears and disgraced myself.

    What the hell. That monster is still out there, and unless the snow or the coyotes get him, I may see him again next November. In the meanwhile, to tide us over until then, here is another photo of Ms. Beau Garrett.

    116976

  • November 19, 2007

    Meditations on the Whitetail Deer

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    BeaugarrettbwWhat follows was meditated in a tower blind in northern Maine this past week. It was interspersed by reflections on Ms. Beau Garrett, a particularly wonderful-looking young actress who appears in a dopey movie called Turistas.

    ****

    I saw on the Discovery Channel a few weeks ago that tele-transportation, as practiced by the Starship Enterprise, is not possible. Well, it may not be for humans, but whitetails do it all the time. You can stare at a spot where there are no deer, and in less time than it takes to blink your eyes a deer will materialize. Obviously, their molecules are disassembled, projected elsewhere, and reassembled by some force that is denied to us.

    ****

    Like the Shadow, the old radio thriller character, whitetails have the power to cloud men's minds. One of the hunters in camp, a 70-year-old who has taken a great many big deer and is a fine shot, was out with a Remington pump gun when a mildly retarded but very big buck strolled into sight not 40 yards away. Since this gentleman was in a truck and his rifle had to be kept unloaded, he unassed the truck, shoved a round into the chamber, and slowly, softly, so as not to spook the deer, ran the fore-end forward.

    Now if you know from Remington pumps, you're aware that they are to be racked back and forth with great violence or else they don't work, and that's what happened. He pulled the trigger and…nothing. And then, despite the fact that he knew it was the wrong way to work the rifle, he did the same thing twice more. Finally, he slammed the action shut--and missed. The next day, using his old familiar .270 Model 700, he took a much more difficult shot at a nice buck and killed it deader than world peace.

    There are animals that are bigger than the whitetail, more exotic, more impressive on the wall, and better to eat, but for some reason whitetails are able to make grown men addled, and I think this is why we love to hunt them so much.

  • November 16, 2007

    Air Time: Five Pellet Guns Reviewed Head to Head

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Editor’s Note: Dave is out of the office today, and so I thought we’d post something a little different on the blog. The air rifle reviews below also appear in our latest issue (the December/January double), in the FieldTest section.

    Why get an air rifle? Because in a time when places to shoot are growing scarcer, these guns are quieter than .22s, and their pellets travel only one-quarter the distance. Because a box of 50 .22 Long Rifle rounds costs around $2.60, but a tin of 500 .177 pellets goes for $6.30. Because good .22s now cost as much as big-game rifles did a few years ago, but good pellet guns can still be had, with scope, for less than $300. Because you need the practice, and an air rifle can give it to you.

    Airgun

    The Test
    All five guns tested were hunter-plinker models, not target air rifles, which are a different breed altogether. I shot them from a benchrest and offhand at 15 yards. Most air rifles require that you run 500 to 1,000 rounds through them before they really start to shoot, so I’ve omitted anything specific about accuracy. I used a variety of pellets; just like powder-burning rifles, air guns are particular about what they eat. There is no shortage of pellet types, either. RWS alone makes five varieties.

  • November 14, 2007

    Some Lessons Reinforced

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Usually, I don't publish photos of me with dead animals, but this unfortunate creature, who breathed his last in Montana on November 3, reinforced a couple of shooting precepts that have always been at the top of my list.

    Davesbuck

    I had this fellow in the crosshairs for a full half-hour before I was able to pull the trigger. I was lying on top of a high dirt bank next to an irrigation ditch, and the deer was between 170 and 200 yards away in a herd of bucks and does, moving between trees and brush so that I could not get a shot. He had no idea I was around. I waited, and had faith, because deer are constantly in motion, and if you're patient, you'll almost always get the shot you've been waiting for.

    And when the moment came, I shot right away, because constant motion works both for and against you. When the time does come, all you are going to get is a couple of seconds. Speed and deciseiveness count for much.

    I killed him with the 6.5x55 of which I've written recently. The 130-grain Swift Scirocco took him through both shoulders. He went 40 yards and dropped. Because the 6.5 is a medium-velocity round, I didn't have to look at a dinner-plate-size slab of bloodshot meat on either shoulder. There was plenty of damage in between bullet holes, but not the ghastly mess you get with a magnum.

    Wish I had known about the benefits of small cartridges much earlier in my hunting career.

  • November 12, 2007

    Bombproof Guns: How to Make a Rifle Nearly Indestructible

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Editor's Note: Are gunmakers selling their souls to cold functionality? We want your opinion. Post your answer in the comments section below.

    A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to handle a number of English blackpowder double rifles that had been made between 1880 and 1900. Some of them had seen considerable hunting in Africa or India, and all of them had been in service for over a century, but they were still in fine shape. That’s because their owners had taken care of them, and because they had never encountered the terrors of North American hunting: airline baggage handlers, horses, sleet, snow, and the floors of pickup trucks.

    A mishap can put a rifle out of action in an instant, or over a period of time. But we are now seeing rifles made that are nearly impervious to anything you can do to them.

  • November 9, 2007

    A Mild Note of Shotgun Dissent

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In our December/January issue, my esteemed colleague (and Shotguns columnist) Phil Bourjaily had the gall to pick the 50 best shotguns of all time, and you can read what he has to say right here on our website.

    But I have quibbles. I can see his picking a Purdey as number one because the Brits pretty much perfected the over/under and side-by-side, but I think the Italians have beaten them at their own game. Their guns are stronger and the work is better. If an Italian engraver, for example, tried to get away with the engraving seen on the Purdey in our photo (below), he would be stoned to death in the street.

    Also, I can't see putting the Parker ahead of the A.H. Fox. People get all misty-eyed about Parkers, but the Fox was in just about every way a better gun--much simpler and much stronger.

    On the other hand, I am thrilled to see that Phil put the Remington 870 second, ahead of the Winchester Model 12, which he ranked 7th. No repeating shotgun has ever pointed as well as the Model 12, but the Remington was as good a gun, maybe better, and could be built far more easily. It is still here today, and flourishing, while the Model 12 is history.

    So read Phil's rankings and dive in.

  • November 9, 2007

    Six Candidates for the Worst Shotguns of All Time

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    A guest post by Shotguns columnist Phil Bourjaily

    Browning Citori 425 Women’s Shooting Sports Foundation Edition: The Blue Ox
    The idea 12 years ago was laudable—attract more women to sporting clays—and the gun underneath was very good. But the robin’s-egg-blue paint job didn’t fly.

    Kmart Boito Double: The Blue Light Special
    Kmart sold these Brazilian double-trigger side-by-side shotguns for a little over $100 in the 1970s and early ’80s, which even then was practically nothing. They were made of stamped, soft-metal parts that bent, broke, and wore out easily. The stocks and forearms often developed cracks after only a few boxes of shells. In short, they were everything you’d fear a Kmart gun might be.

    Marlin Goose Gun: The Pipeline
    Never mind that it’s a bolt-action shotgun with a 36-inch barrel, making it as suitable for pole-vaulting as for shooting. Marlin’s goose gun, which was introduced in 1962 and sold for years, has misses built into the design: It has a rear sight. There is no better way to miss with a shotgun than to line up the sights and shoot it like a rifle.

    Remington 870 16-Gauge: The Frame-Up
    Uplanders cherish the 16-gauge as the gun that “carries like a 20 and hits like a 12.” To live up to that potential, a 16-gauge needs to be built on its own frame, but manufacturers cutting costs often made 16s by sticking smaller barrels on 12-gauge frames. When Remington reintroduced the 16-gauge 870 in 2001, they went the 16-on-12 route, making a gun that “carried like a heavy 12-gauge, hit like a wimpy one, and shot harder-to-find ammo.”

    Smith & Wesson 916: The Rock of Sisyphus
    Eager to expand into the long-gun market, S&W bought the designs, patents, and tooling from Noble Manufacturing Co. and introduced the 916 in 1972. For gunsmiths, the early version of the 916 was the Rock of Sisyphus in shotgun form. Every time you fixed something on a 916, some other part broke. And some of them would fire out of battery. The story is told that S&W actually considered buying back—not recalling, but buying back—every 916 made.

    Winchester Super X2 “Greenhead”: The Gutter Ball
    I love most Super X2s, but not the Greenhead, circa 2002: The iridescent green synthetic stock made it look like a bowling ball.

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