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  • December 31, 2007

    2007: A Look Back in Anger

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Now that the new year is upon us and 2007 slinks off to its grave where it will begin to smell, it's time to take a look back at what really set us off, and what we had to say about it. The leader, of course, was Zumbogate, in which kindly old Jim Zumbo revealed that he was either Satan, or Satan's Spawn. However, he has since recanted and may no longer be Satan, or Satan's Spawn.

    As for all the other things that made you mad, it's a rich and yeasty mix. So enjoy, and remember that we have a presidential election coming up, which should pretty well queer any hopes we have for '08 being a passable year. To update a quote that was fashionable in 1960 when John Kennedy ran against Tricky Dick Nixon, "Thank god they can't all win."

    Top Five Most Commented Posts of 2007
    ZUMBOMANIA Part I (951 comments) and Part II (585 comments)
    The Great Crossbow Debate (918 comments)
    Fred Thompson Answers My Questions (254 comments)
    Stop It, You're Killing Me (249 comments)
    Latest News Media Claim: U.S. Presidents Who Hunt Start Wars (213 comments)

  • December 28, 2007

    Gun Videos

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Mike Toth, our Executive Editor, put me on to a small brochure called Gun Video. (What else would you call a booklet that advertises gun videos? Ralph?) But I digress. There are all sorts of interesting titles in here, but two in particular caught my eye.

    One is called "Hot Shots; Hot Girls, Hot Guns," and shows ten topless girls shooting machine guns. The copy says, with disarming frankness, that "…some of the girls are a bit rough about the edges. But if this is what you're looking for, it's only a phone call away." Fair enough. I don't think I'll send for this one, but if Ms. Beau Garrett or Ms. Elisha Cuthbert ever shoot a machine gun topless, my order is on the way.

    The second tape (actually, two tapes) is a bit harder to understand. To put it in perspective you should know that there are tapes for bored pussycats that show rodents hopping hither and thither. These tapes play for hours, and even the most jaded feline is mesmerized by them. What we have here is "Exploding Varmints, Part I and 2," which show 500 prairie dogs being reduced to the proverbial red mist. Now a cat is lower on the evolutionary scale than we are (or so I am told; I have my doubts) and I can understand one watching a rodent tape. Hell, a cat will look at the wall for hours. But I think that any Homo sapiens who can watch prairie dogs doing Mary Lou Rettons and Olga Korbuts 500 times should surrender his sapiens to the local police.

    Aside from that, there are some very solid and valuable looking DVDs in here, and in case you're interested, you can all 800-942-8273;

  • December 26, 2007

    Brain Food for the Holidays

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Here are three books I hope you found under your Christmas tree. The first two are reprints, and while they are not gun-related, they are will cause you to lose track of time. Both are in print, and pretty widely available. The third book is brand spanking new.

    The Forgotten Soldier, by Guy Sajer (a pen name) is the story of an Alsatian teenager who was drafted into the Wehrmacht and sent to fight in the Soviet Union. He managed to survive that disaster as well as the retreat to Germany. By a series of miracles he made it home, where he was presumed dead. Doubts have been raised about the book's authenticity, but the U.S. Army War College has it on their reading list, and that's good enough for me.

    The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz (his real name). The story of a Polish cavalry officer who was captured by the Soviet Army in 1940, taken for a spy, sent to Moscow and subjected to a year's fun and games with the NKVD. Shipped to a prison camp in Siberia, Rawicz and six fellow prisoners escaped in the dead of winter and, over two years, walked from Siberia, across the Gobi Desert, over the Himalayas, and into India, where they were rescued ed by the British Army.

    If you'd like to find out just how much men can endure without going mad or giving up and dying, these two books are good sources.

    The Field & Stream Hunting Optics Handbook, by Thomas McIntyre
    It's hard to make the subject of optics comprehensible, much less interesting, so imagine a book on the subject that is actually entertaining. Tom Mcintyre, whose immense, hyper-educated brain is packed with all sorts of odd information (and who has done one hell of a lot of hunting), has managed to combine loads of useful knowledge and all kinds of weird but fascinating intel on optics-related subjects.

    An example: At the massacre at Wounded Knee, the bodies of the Sioux were searched by 7th Cavalry troopers, and on one of the dead warriors was found the binoculars carried by Lt/Col George Armstrong Custer at The Colossal Miscalculation at the Little Bighorn. In 2005, these glasses were auctioned for $56,625, working out, as Tom puts it, to slightly less than $100 per life, counting both the Greasy Grass and Wounded Knee. If you can resist stuff like this you have a heart of stone, and maybe a brain of stone, too.
    The book is $20.

  • December 21, 2007

    Why the NRA Should Try Being Reasonable

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    ... Give Up Asking for Money, Ect.

    I am indebted to a Mr. Bill Heavey of Virginia for putting me on to an editorial that ran in The Washington Post on Sunday, Dec. 16th. It's titled "The NRA's Main Target? Its Members' Checkbooks," and is written by one Richard Feldman, who worked as a representative for the NRA from 1984 until 1997.

    Mr. Feldman makes two points:

    First: "In the NRA's lexicon, 'compromise' is a dirty word, code for gun owners surrendering their rights while getting nothing in return from gun-control advocates."

    Second: "…the NRA itself…has become intoxicated with money and privilege. The leadership has lost sight of its mission. Safeguarding the rights of gun owners has become secondary to keeping the fundraising machinery well greased and the group's senior staff well compensated."

    Mr. Feldman claims that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's Executive Vice President, "…pocketed about $950,000 in 2005," and that NRA headquarters' parking lot is "filled with shiny new BMWs and Mercedez-Benzes.

  • December 18, 2007

    The Great Barrel Break-In Fad

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Rifle shooting, like anything else, suffers through fads. There was the moly-coated bullet fad, which left thousands of barrels permanently bemucked with unremovable dark ugh. Then there was the cryogenics fad, in which folks would freeze your barrel for a fee, resulting in an accuracy increase of .00012 percent. And still with us is the great barrel break-in fad.

    If you are not familiar with it, the GBBF states that all new barrels must be broken in according to a formula which will smooth the barrel. This consists of firing a single shot, cleaning the bore, firing another shot, cleaning, and so on until you've done it five times. Then you fire five shots and clean, then ten and clean. Under some formulas I've seen, you keep this up for 100 shots.

    If this is done, sayeth the GBBF, your bore will be as smooth as glass. It will never foul and your barrel will shoot better than anything Harry Pope ever dreamed of. If you do not follow this procedure, your bore will collect more copper than there is in all the mines of Zambia, your accuracy will be nil, and your kids will develop yaws.

    Now let's return to the real world. If a barrel maker wants to turn out a really smooth bore, he will cast a lead slug on the end of a steel rod, charge it with polishing compound, and run it back and forward through the bore a thousand times or so, occasionally casting a new slug when the old one wears down. The back and forth is done by hand, because knowing when to stop depends on "feel." It is a lot of work.

    How the shoot-and-clean process duplicates this escapes me. And rough barrels shoot just fine anyway. I've seen cut-rifled bores, broached bores, and hammer-forged bores that looked like the battlefield at the Somme and still shot spectacularly.

  • December 17, 2007

    Some Odds and Ends

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    1. In April of 06, I was talking about bears with a British Columbia guide who claimed that grizzlies attack humans for territorial reasons, but that black bears do it as a means of obtaining dinner, and will actually stalk a choice two-legged morsel as does a puma.  I'd never heard this before, but today, I saw the same information in Jeff Cooper's Gunsite Gossip. So it must be true. However, I'm certain that the brown bear who nailed Timothy Treadwell was simply irritated beyond endurance.

    2. I've often ranted about how the news media screws up any fact relating to guns, but they often fall far short when dealing with the military as well. Earlier this year, for example, in The New York Times, it referred to a soldier whose body had been shipped home from Iraq as having received the Combat Action Ribbon. No, sorry. The CAR is awarded to naval personnel and Marines. Soldiers who have been shot at get the Combat Infantry Badge. You see this stuff all the time. They do not know, and do not know that they do not know.

    3. This is kind of far from guns, but I have to pass it along. Years ago I knew a Marine who served in World War II. He makes it home alive and is discharged at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. Now a civilian, although still in uniform, he leaves the Yard and whom does he see but the very Drill Instructor who broke his nose when he was a boot at Parris Island. He steps up and breaks the Drill Instructor's nose, introduces himself, and they both go off to have a beer and celebrate the end of the war.

  • December 14, 2007

    A Commercial for Christmas

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    The average television commercial is one of the more dismal aspects of modern life, being designed for the brain-damaged and the permanently silly. This one, however, is a small masterpiece, and is particularly appropriate for this time of year. It was sent me by a former captain in the 101st Airborne, and was sent to him by a fellow Screaming Eagle captain who served two tours in Viet Nam and was wounded near the end of the second one. A hand salute to A-B and to the people who made this gem.

  • December 12, 2007

    An 18-Year Bear Hunt

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    A couple of blogs ago, I listed the most important quality of a hunter as patience. I should also add persistence. This was illustrated on a last week hunt with Melvin Forbes, who builds New Ultra Light Rifles in West (by God) Virginia. I've hunted whitetails with Melvin just about every year since 1986 on a couple of thousand acres of hills and hollers, home to the haint and the abagoochee.

    Melvin is pure death on whitetails. He knows every foot of that ground and how the deer move on it. In addition, he sees deer better than anyone I know. In 1989, the first black bear showed up on this piece of real estate, and as black bears are wont to do, raised hell with the beehives, and the blinds, and the fawns, and just about everything else. Melvin decided to teach the bears some manners, but black bears don't fancy collisions with bullets, and go to great lengths to avoid them. 

  • December 10, 2007

    Firearms Superlatives, Part II

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    1. GREATEST SINGLE ADVANCE IN RIFLE TECHNOLOGY IN THE PAST CENTURY: The synthetic stock. At last, a truly stable platform for a barreled action.

    2. THE SINGLE EVENT MOST LIKELY TO DETERMINE IF WE HAVE GUNS AT THE END OF THIS CENTURY:  The Supreme Court deciding this June whether the right to keep and bear arms applies to militias or to individuals.

    3. THE BEST U.S. MILITARY RIFLE: The M-1 Garand. George Patton called it "…the greatest battle implement ever devised," and it was our main infantry weapon in the last war we won. The M-16 has had a much longer active life, but the present version bears only a passing resemblance to the original, whereas the M-1 did its entire tour of duty nearly unchanged.

    4. MOST WONDERFUL GUN IRONY: Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated U.S. serviceman of World War II, was required to take instruction in firearms handling before he was allowed to act in his first motion picture.

    5. MOST DEPRESSING TREND IN HUNTING: The breakneck transition from acquiring skill to mastering technology.

    6. BEST EXAMPLE OF WHY GUN CONTROL APPLIES ONLY TO LITTLE PEOPLE: In June 1988, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., long-time Washington Post columnist and rabid anti-gunner Carl Rowan shot a youthful intruder in his back yard, wounding him slightly in the wrist. The .22 handgun Rowan used was unregistered. Rowan's trial resulted in a hung jury and he was never re-tried.

    7.  MOST LOATHSOME TREND AMONG WEALTHY BIG-GAME HUNTERS: Having a third-rate artist do a portrait of them with their favorite dead animal, usually killed with the help of a large supporting cast.

    8. LEAST CONVINCING POLITICAL MASQUERADE IN A YEAR NOTED FOR SHUCK AND JIVE  Mitt Romney, who has spent his entire political career supporting gun control, joined the NRA in August, 2006. Romney, who described himself as a lifelong hunter, admitted to going on two hunts when pressed for details.

  • December 7, 2007

    A List of Firearms Superlatives

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    1. THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY MODERN RIFLE:  The Remington Nylon Model 66 (1959). The Model 66 was an autoloader whose stock was made from a plastic called Zytel. It was like nothing that had come before but, unlike most radically different guns, which have terrible flaws, this one was absolutely terrific.
    2. FINEST HANDGUN: The Korth. There is a double-action Korth revolver and a double-action auto, both made to a standard that is unattainable by all but the insane or by Germans; in this case, the latter. The guns cost so much that prices are not listed. If you buy one, will you be able to lord it over everyone else? Of Korth.
    3. FINEST AMERICAN RIFLE:  The Winchester Model 86. This big lever-action was chambered for black-powder cartridges and is, as a piece of machinery, the best thing the United States ever sent out a factory door. Its complex mechanism is built with the precision of a watch.

    4. COUPLE THAT HAS DONE THE MOST FOR THE SHOOTING INDUSTRY'S BOTTOM LINE: Bubba and Hillary. Clintonphobia has sold more guns, ammo, primers, high-capacity magazines, and AR-15s than you can shake a balance sheet at.
    5. GREATEST SPOKESMAN FOR GUN OWNERS' RIGHTS: The Late Harlon Carter. With all respect to Charlton Heston, no one ever made jokes about Harlon. He was the founder of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action and served as its Executive Director for its first two years. Carter was an orator, and a force. I once saw him send a whole roomful of anti-gun reporters slinking from a press conference like whipped dogs.
    6. SINGLE BEST CARTRIDGE FOR HUNTING ALL NORTH AMERICAN GAME: The .338 Winchester Magnum. Loads of power, and finesse when you need it.


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