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  • February 29, 2008

    You Bet Your Glass!

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Since it's my self-appointed mission to make you feel envious, deprived, covetous, and underprivileged, I am pleased to inform you of the following new optical equipment, which you should go into debt for immediately.

    The Zeiss Victory 8x45 and 10x45 RF binoculars. At 35 ounces, and about the same size as a conventional glass, these will not only show you what you want to shoot, but give you the range and the amount of holdover required.

    The Minox HG binocular line. There are five of them, optically at the very top of the heap, yet considerably less expensive than L*****, Z*****, or S*****. Nice, plain hardware that actually works.

    Schmidt & Bender 2.5X-10X-40. S&B scopes are made by a small family-owned company that does things its own way, and are arguably the best in the world. This is their first 1-inch-tube model, with the reticle in the second sighting plane so it doesn't change size as you adjust the power.

    Trijicon Accupoint 3X-9X. Accupoint reticles (a pointed post with a choice of orange or red points) are illuminated, but require no batteries. Now you can get this one in a crosshair version with mil dots (the center dot being the one that glows). I have an Accupoint on my beanfield rifle, and it is terrific in all respects.

    Go now and spend like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

  • February 27, 2008

    The .338 for Deer, and Other Bad Craziness

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    A number of you on the previous post asked what was I doing with a .338 in the Maine whitetail woods when I have been yowling the praises of the 6.5 Swede and the 7mm/08. Two reasons: First, I was looking for an excuse to use the .338, which had never been away from home. Second, as I said, tracking in Maine is very difficult when there's no snow on the ground. The last whitetail I killed up there moved less than 75 yards from where it was hit, but it took myself and another, much more skilled, tracker a couple of hours to find it, crawling on our hands and knees. What the .338 gives you over smaller cartridges is more internal damage and a big enough exit hole on the far side that you get a decent blood trail instead of a drop every 12.2 yards.

    As for killing power, I direct your attention to the comments of Mr. Dick McPlenty on the previous blog, whose command of the facts and logic are nothing less than sublime. He is correct that there is little, if any, difference in killing power (provided the bullet goes where it should) between cartridges, and that strength of modern bullets has pretty much blurred whatever difference they may have. (I knew of an African PH who used a 7x57 Mauser as his backup rifle. He claimed he got the same penetration as he did with a .375 H&H, and that he could get off four aimed shots in the time it took to get off two with the .375.)

    One of the worst cases of losing a game animal I ever saw happened in New Mexico in 1977. A hunter I ran across had flung 19 .338 rounds at an elk that probably would have made B and C, and hit it at least several times. He started shooting at around 400 yards when the bull was out in the open, but the animal made it into the timber and was never found.

  • February 25, 2008

    Nothing Works Better than a .338

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Once in a while you hear your exact thoughts repeated to you in just the words you would have chosen yourself. A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a geezer of taste who had done a lot of hunting, especially in Africa, and we swapped war stories, working through the
    roster of cartridges. Then he said:

    "I never had anything work as well as the .338. If you have a good .338 and you can shoot it, you'll never have to track anything. Pull the trigger and it'll be lying right where it was standing."

    This has not only been my experience, but it's just the way I'd say it. I dislike attributing magical qualities to cartridges, but I've shot everything from prairie dogs to elk with a .338, and taken it to Africa and shot lots of stuff there, and only one animal has ever gone  anywhere after being hit with it, and that was an elk that traveled 100 yards and was deceased when we found it.

    The .338 is loaded with bullets of 200 to 250 grains, and the favorite these days seems to be the 225-grain slug. It's a good compromise, but I believe that the 200-grainers are for deer, and that the 250 is the best of all. What you get with a tough bullet in this weight is tremendous, straight-line penetration. You want to break an elk shoulder? Consider it done. Do you wish to pound a puku (which is a tough African antelope about the size of a small elk)? No problem, as the young folks say.

    If you're crazed for high velocity and the .338's modest numbers are not enough for you, there is always the .340 Weatherby and the .338 RUM. Elmer Keith may not have been right about everything, but he was right about the .338. If you want stuff to drop, here's your cartridge.

  • February 22, 2008

    Duck, It's Hillary!

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    This was apparently posted by one Fernando Suarez of CBS News. I've read it several times with a rising sense of bafflement.

    "WAUSAU, WIS. -- At a campaign stop this afternoon, Hillary Clinton’s focus was on the economy and health care but some in the crowd had other things on their minds. Clinton was asked to discuss gun control which prompted Clinton to talk about her days holding a rifle in the cold, shallow waters in backwoods Arkansas.

    'I’ve hunted. My father taught me how to hunt. I went duck hunting in Arkansas. I remember standing in that cold water, so cold, at first light. I was with a bunch of my friends, all men. The sun’s up, the ducks are flying and they are playing a trick on me. They said, ‘we’re not going to shoot, you shoot.’ They wanted to embarrass me. The pressure was on. So I shot, and I shot a banded duck and they were surprised as I was,' Clinton said drawing laughter from the crowd."

    I am not baffled that Hillary was hunting ducks with a rifle. Hillary always looks for an edge, and maybe she wanted to shoot out past 70 yards. Or maybe it's just that Fernando Suarez doesn't know the difference between a rifle and a shotgun.

    What I am baffled about is, where was the trick? It sounds to me like a bunch of older hunters giving a newcomer the courtesy of the first shot. Or maybe they knew she was a lousy shot and didn't want to handicap her with a volley going off in her ears. Also, what is the significance of the banded duck?

    When last rated by the NRA/ILA, Mrs. Clinton got an F.

  • February 22, 2008

    Two Books You Gotta Have

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Book good. Not have to turn book off and on. Can read book in bathroom. Can throw book at cat when cat knock porcelain vase off shelf.

    Anyway, here are two real good books that you should know about. The first is Wild and Fair: Tales of Hunting Big Game in North America, edited by Tom McIntyre and published by Safari Press. Tom has rounded up 23 people who have hunted a lot and can actually write and had them contribute short chapters on whatever they wanted to write on whatever type of hunting they chose.

    This book will not relieve the heartache of psoriasis, or cure bad breath in dogs, or show you how to factor Chandler's wobble into a doe's estrous cycle. But, on the other hand, you can actually read the sumbitch for the fun of it, which is the object of the drill, and pretty scarce these days.

    The second book won't be out until late this year. It's the revise/update of Safari Rifles, written by Craig Boddington in 1991. (This one will be called, logically enough, Safari Rifles II.) Since then, the book has gone on to become the definitive work in the field, eclipsing even John Taylor's African Rifles and Cartridges. Craig has been on 75 safaris. I will say that again: Craig has been on 75 safaris, and has no axes to grind, so his is the most impartial and best grounded advice available. It's also a Safari Press book. Watch for it.

  • February 20, 2008

    Meditations on the Melancholy State of Outdoor Writing

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    I would not have brought this up except for Chad Love's outburst in the most recent blog, and the number of people who agree with him. The danger in a geezer like myself criticizing the current state of affairs is that we tend to look at everything past as being better. But in this case, I think Mister Love has spoken the truth.

    There are two differences between the past generation of outdoor writers and the upcoming one: We grew up before television, and we went to school before the collapse of the American educational system. All of the great writers such as Hill, Zern, O'Connor, Brister, et al, were prodigious readers, and they read everything, not just about the outdoors. Gene Hill was a great fan of Herbert Warren Wind, who for many years covered golf for The New Yorker. Ed Zern loved the work of humorist S.J. Perleman, who is probably forgotten now, and to whom Ed owed much of his style.  Mr. W. Heavey of Virginia, who is as great a writer as any of these men (although no greater) is massively well read, and once launched into a diatribe on the writing style of Vladimir Nabokov, badly frightening all within earshot. I doubt if many people under 40 have read Nabokov.

    The other problem is, of course, that our schools have crashed and burned. If what I see is any indication, very few college graduates can write so much as a page of correct English, much less write with any kind of style or interest. E-mailing and texting may well be the death of the written language. A friend of mine who taught college English for 30 years retired recently, and summed up her career thus:

    "I never got to teach English at the college level. What I taught was remedial high school English."

    And that, Chad, is why you see before you a vast wasteland (who used that phrase?) rather than the wonderland of yesteryear.

  • February 19, 2008

    Goodbye to Grits

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    After 85 years filled with achievements and honors and a hell of a lot of fun, Grits Gresham passed away on Monday, February 18 at the age of 85. He was a great many things. He was a true all-around outdoorsman. He was a wonderful, and stylish, shotgun shooter. He brought the same grace to that art that Joe DiMaggio brought to center field. He was a personality, and a great story teller, and above all things, a gentleman.

    Gritsaward1 I shared one hunt with him, a two-week safari in Botswana's Kalahari Desert. It took place in October, which is summer below the equator, and I watched him make a 15-mile stalk after a lion walking through sand, with the air temperature 105 degrees, 3,000 feet above sea level, at age 55. Grits found the lion, asleep on its back, with a snout full of porcupine quills, and didn't want to shoot, but the PH pointed out that if the hunt could be concluded safely, it was best to do it that way, so Grits pulled the trigger.

    He was born Claude Hamilton Gresham, and I asked him once how he made the transition to Grits. His father, it seems, was a semi-pro baseball player whose nickname was "Grit" Gresham. Young Claude Hamilton eventually was called "Little Grits," and then Grits. It had nothing to do with ground-up cornmeal as far as I know. Ed Zern, wishing to shed more light on the subject, pointed out that Grits spelled backward was Stirg, which did not seem to help matters greatly.

    By any name we will miss him. He was a type of man that we do not seem to be producing any more.

  • February 14, 2008

    A Valentine for Gun Nuts

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Are you fed up with the usual Valentine’s Day blackmail? Do you agree that Al Capone came up with the right way to celebrate February 14th? Do you yearn for the smell of gunpowder rather than flowers? Do you want to turn the badger loose? Well, fellow bloggers, this isn’t quite the real thing, but it’s sort of fun.

  • February 12, 2008

    Petzal on Camera: Interviews from the 2008 SHOT Show

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Knife Designer Bill Harsey

  • February 8, 2008

    On Booth Babes and Bill Heavey

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily


    This year's SHOT Show set new records for number of attendees, exhibits, floor space, and real he-men wearing tactical packs, but it was tragically lacking in booth babes. Our intrepid photographer shot the only good ones we found and then was forced to include beards, backpacks, and other stuff just to pad out the section.

    Feel free to skip them. There were a number of booth babes who were, to be brutally honest, not babes. In fact, some of them looked like Bill Heavey with a bra. I'm sure they are fine people, but you are supposed to be a hottie if you do this kind of work.

    More SHOT Show coverage
    David E. Petzal's Most Interesting Rifles
    Phil Bourjaily on the Show's New Shotguns
    Jay Cassell's Top Optics Picks
    Jay Cassell's New Gadgets Gallery

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