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  • March 31, 2008

    A Look Over the Fence

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Five years ago, I was on a hunt in a high-fence ranch in northern South Africa when a friend shot and wounded an eland. He, I, the PH and two trackers followed the animal for four days, dawn to dusk, when the blood trail finally dried up and we could see that he was eating and drinking and not hit seriously.

    The point is that we were hunting inside a high fence and we never caught up. Hunting in the RSA is now a big business, and game animals are becoming extremely valuable, so a high fence makes sense because it keeps them from wandering off, and it keeps non-paying personnel from wandering in and poaching your critters.

    The plain fact is, that if you have enough acreage inside the fence and enough cover, the game has all the chance it needs to stay alive. Aesthetically it is not nearly so pleasing as hunting without fences, but that is the way things are today.

  • March 28, 2008

    More Nostalgia, and Rat Shooting

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Continued from Dave's earlier post, On Dear Days Gone By ...

    Shooting at a shooting gallery paled, however, when I went off to college and discovered the joys of shooting rats in a dump. A few miles from campus was an old-fashioned country dump, out in the middle of nowhere, that was the preferred habitat of Rattus norvegicus, the common brown rat.

    This remarkable mammal actually evolved in northern Asia. It is prolific (a fertile lady rat can produce 90 ratlets a year), able to live anywhere, and eat anything. Rats are the only animals aside from man and a few primates to possess metacognition; i.e., the ability to think about thinking. This gives them an astounding learning curve and explains why the little bastards always seem to be a couple of steps ahead of us.

    My brother and I would take our chosen rat rifles (I used a Remington Nylon Model 66) to the dump and have at it. In addition to the many funky smells available, there was no end of targets, either rodent or inanimate. If you saw something that looked like it needed a bullet, you gave it a bullet. No one cared. And if you heard the unforgettable bwooooo that a ricocheting .22 makes at it howls past your head, so what? We were at the Age of Indestructibility.

    Now this is no more. All dumps are sanitary, and even if they weren't you couldn't shoot in them. I've gotten most forms of hunting pretty well out of my system. But if I had the chance to go rat shooting one more time I would grab my .22, a brick of ammo, put on a pair of shoes I no longer cared about, and have at it.

  • March 26, 2008

    Give Hillary a Medal

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    You are all no doubt familiar with Hillary Clinton's discredited claim that she embarked at the Tuzla Air Base under sniper fire and had to run for it. I believe this points out the need for a medal for public persons who claim to have been in danger, and weren't. But we need a name for this decoration.

    An example: Some months ago there was a contest to name the Clinton's house in Chappaqua. The winner was, I believe, "Disgraceland." Now we need you all to kick the dung heaps of your minds and see what slithers out. I will pick a winner, if there is one, and accord him great glory on this very blog.

  • March 26, 2008

    What to Do With Your Gift From George W. Bush

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Some time this year, most of us will be getting a check from the Federal government to make us feel better, spend foolishly, and keep us from sliding into a depression. (Since the government does not have this money, your children or their children will eventually have to pick up the tab, but that's not our problem, right?) If you are looking for something really nifty to spend it on, here is the Legend Sporter, made by D'Arcy Echols. Mr. Echols, of whom I have writ before, goes to extreme lengths to produce the best rifle possible, and the prices of his guns reflect this.


    What is chiefly of interest here is D'Arcy's Legend Brochure, which lists everything he does and why he does it. You can read it by clicking on the link below. I think you will find it more than interesting. And, in case you're wondering, I do not own an Echols rifle, and he is not giving me one, but were he to do so, I would not have a fit of nobility and refuse it.

  • March 24, 2008

    Video: On Guns and Nuts

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    A guest post from shooting editor and shotguns columnist Phil Bourjaily.

    Spend even a few minutes searching for “guns” on YouTube and you’ll stumble across some mind-bogglingly irresponsible behavior with firearms. Like what you see in the clip above. This guy fires a shotgun without shooting glasses, without ear plugs . . . and without a cup.

    Since this is a ballistic blog, I calculated the recoil of what am I guessing are those Wal-Mart promotional loads you buy in boxes of 100. In a 7-1/2 pound gun they generate 19.65 foot-pounds of recoil. That’s about a quarter of the force of a punch, but clearly this shotgun hit hard enough to put our shooter down for the count.

    What’s baffling and more than a little disturbing about this clip is that there a bunch more videos on the Internet just like it. Do people see this and think “Sweet!” and run out to try it themselves? Is viral stupidity contagious? Is this some kind of voluntary self-sterilization program for morons? I’ve got lots of questions and no answers for this one.

    --Phil Bourjaily

    A Note from Dave: What you see here only appears to be terminally stupid. I recall that when we were introduced to the M-14 in basic training, the instructor would put the buttplate on his chin and fire off a round, and then do the same in his groin. At least I think I remember this. The object of the demonstration was to show all us girlie-men that the M-14 didn’t kick much and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.

  • March 21, 2008

    On Dear Days Gone By

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In 1969 the sublimely talented, infinitely wise, yet somehow tragically misunderstood Jack O'Connor wrote a very good book of reminiscences called Horse and Buggy West. It was about his boyhood in Arizona in the early 20th century. If I may be permitted, I would like to do a little of that here.

    I grew up near the New Jersey shore, not far from Asbury Park, which produced Bruce Springsteen*. In the 1950s, as you strolled down the boardwalk, you could hear a distinctive crack…clang….crack…clang, and you knew you were near the shooting gallery.

    Shooting galleries have just about passed from the American scene, but for a kid who was crazy about guns, they were heaven on earth. You gave the degenerate behind the counter 25 cents and he would slide ten greasy .22 Shorts into a tube-magazine pump gun. Then you popped away at knockdown steel targets that just sat there, or paraded by on a conveyor belt, and if you hit with all ten shots, you got a cheesy prize.

    For kids like me who were not allowed to have guns, it was the only chance we got to handle a real firearm aside from summer-camp programs, and it was pure magic. Now these places are no more. A shooting gallery is a place where junkies gather, or it is a video game. No more wonderful smell of gunpowder; no more slick slide actions chained to the counter top. Liability problems, you know. And it might give youngsters hostile feelings toward steel silhouettes of ducks.

    *Bruce Springsteen has always baffled me. At the time this narrative took place, a popular male singer was a good-looking guy who could actually sing and whose lyrics you could actually understand. Perry Como qualified. Vic Damone and Eddie Fisher made the cut, as did Tony Bennett. Mr. Springsteen seems like a decent enough person, but he qualifies on none of the three counts.

  • March 19, 2008

    Our Supreme Moment

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    This week the Supreme decides whether we can have guns or not. For the first time since 1934, the Highest Court is going to rule on whether Article II of the Bill of Rights allows individuals to keep and bear arms, or whether only well-regulated militias can keep and bear them, or whether only Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) can keep and bear them.

    The case itself is a challenge to Washington D.C.'s draconian gun control law, which can best be described as a raging failure. Congresspersons, high-level government functionaries, Supreme Court Justices, and ranking media figures do not get held up or murdered an awful lot. Ordinary people in D.C., however, have good reason to fear.

    The D.C. law is being challenged as unconstitutional. If the Supremes find it so, we are told, we can all rush out and buy MP-5s. If they find for the District of Columbia, we are warned that assorted jackbooted thugs will immediately begin kicking in doors, frightening old people into heart attacks, stomping on kittens and puppies, and taking every gun they can lay their hands on, legal or not.

    Except, that we are talking about THE LAW here, and nothing about THE LAW is ever clear, simple, and unambiguous. However it finds, the Supreme Court will then have to delineate some kind of guidelines on how far the individual's right extends, and on how far the government may go in enforcing controls on guns. This is where the real nut-cutting will take place.

    If our side wins (whatever a "win" is), that does not mean we can assume that the long nightmare is over. Sarah Brady, et al, will never quit and never go away.

    But if the DC law prevails, I would not rush out in the dark of night to bury my firearms. The Feds have equipment that can overfly a chunk of real estate and find a hairpin buried 50 feet deep. Or so I am told.

  • March 17, 2008

    Putting the Wolf on Trial

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    (Note: I am deeply indebted to two of our regular bloggers who sent these items. You know who you are, and thanks.)

    There have been a number of books published recently on the apparent American changeover from reason and knowledge to superstition, gut feelings, ignorance, and reality TV. We will get back to this in a minute, but now, let us go to medieval Europe, where a man-eating wolf was captured after scarfing down more Germans than he was allotted. Rather than simply bashing the beast in the head, the outraged burgomeisters dressed it as a man, cut off its snout, sat it in court, tried it, and convicted it of eating people, for which it was judicially put to death. That, they believed, would send a real message to any wolf with man-eating inclination.

    Now we return to the 21st century, when the people who are allegedly running things and cannot control them are also turning to superstition to solve their problems. First on our list is the Penn Manor (PA) School District, which gave two days' detention to a student who wore a T-shirt with the image of a military sidearm and text authorizing the wearer to hunt terrorists. The kid was first asked to turn the t-shirt inside-out; when he refused, they threw the book at him.

    Memo to the Penn Manor School District: A t-shirt is only a t-shirt. No one has ever been hurt by a T-shirt. No one has ever been provoked to violence by a t-shirt. Nothing is helped by banning dopey t-shirts or penalizing their wearers. (I have, however, seen major damage done in gym by rattail towels.)

    Second on our list is the California legislature, which was sold a bill of goods on the wonders of microstamping technology and ballistic imaging and enacted both into law. (I'm sure you know what these alleged wonders are, and what they are supposed to be able to do.) In any event, the two procedures have been discredited by the California Department of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Maryland State Police Department. Maryland and New York have had these systems in place for nearly ten years and neither has produced a single arrest or prosecution.

    But it's high tech, so it must work. The Germans who tried the wolf would understand completely.

  • March 12, 2008

    You Always Hurt the Gun You Love

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    In 1977, I was in a hunting camp in Montana where one of the attendees was a fellow who did nothing but shade-tree gunsmith the whole time he was there. Never hunted; just diddled with the rifle of anyone who wanted his rifle diddled with. Someone gave him a rifle to have the barrel free-floated and he hogged out enough wood to start a good-sized fire. To many people, guns are like cars before cars were operated by 18 computers; the urge to tinker is irresistible.

    Sometimes it works. A crummy trigger can't be abided. A barrel that bears on one side of the channel has to be re-bedded. A thin, hard recoil pad should be replaced with something that does not give you hematomas. But aside from that, most tinkering is futile and a waste of money.

    Competitive shotgunners seem to tinker more than anyone else. Trap guns with adjustable combs and recoil pads are particularly susceptible. Dropped a bird at handicap? Why, just to crank that comb up a tad and all will be well. I've been to sporting clays shoots where you couldn't hear for the racket created by electric choke-tube wrenches. Back in the 70s there was a very famous trapshooter who was known to wedge his shotgun barrel under the bumper of his care and bend the barrel just a tad to make it shoot a smidgen higher.

    Hey, it's a hobby and it's mostly for fun, so why not meddle? Just don't think it's going to help.

  • March 10, 2008

    Where the Metal Meets the Meat

    By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily

    Somewhere back in the .338 blogs someone asked about bullets. Here's what I know about bullets. The last bad bullet I saw was in 1988. It was a short-lived version of the Winchester Silvertip (not to be confused with the present Ballistic Silvertip) that blew apart upon encountering dense pockets of air, drifting milkweed, or blown kisses. Winchester got so much heat for this that they came out with one of the best bullets ever, the Fail-Safe, and the whole industry took a lesson and began testing its bullets much more thoroughly and much more realistically.

    Since then, everything I've used at any length has been terrific. This includes:
    Swift A-Frames, Swift Scirocco IIs, Remington Core-Lokt Ultras, Garrett Cartridges' hard-lead Hammerheads, Hornady Interloks, Hornady solids, Nosler Accubond, Barnes XXX, and Winchester Ballistic Silvertips.

    The most impressive have been the Swifts. I have yet to recover a Scirocco; they expand and go through everything deer-sized I've shot with them. The A-Frames are simply unreal. I have shot the following unfortunate creatures with them: Alaska moose, .338, 275 grain; common eland, .375, 300 grain, Cape buffalo, .416, 400-grain, and lesser beasts with smaller bullets. Of the A-Frames I've been able to recover, weight retention has always been over 90 percent, and the mushrooming has always been perfect.

    And then there is the Nosler Partition. Any man who would say a hard word against the Partition would spit on the flag.

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