While scrolling down the channel guide in my customary evening stupor, I noticed that most of the programming concerned the undead. Land of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, The Living Dead Walk Again, The Living Dead Fart*, and on and on. I wondered why all the interest in Congress, and happened to mention it to a friend who is much younger and hipper, and he said, “It’s not about the House and Senate, you out-of-touch old bastard, it’s about zombies. Zombies are HOT.”
Set in 1866, the new AMC TV series “Hell On Wheels” follows the town of Hell on Wheels (it moves, hence the name) as it travels with the construction of the transcontinental railroad across Nebraska. Tremendous effort went into capturing the look of the years immediately following the Civil War, to the point of building a period-correct train (see second video below), since there were none to be found anywhere.
It’s no spoiler to tell you that, as a western, “Hell on Wheels” has a lot of guns and gunplay. Prop master Ken Willis and armorer Brian Kent worked hard to get the guns of the period right and make the gunfights look real. Willis, a veteran of many westerns, spoke to me about it by phone from his home in Alberta, where the series was filmed.
“This is set in an interesting time period for guns,” he said. “The only cartridge gun we used was the 1866 Yellowboy. Everything else was a muzzleloader. Having to load all these old guns made everything take longer on the set, but blackpowder guns look great on camera because of the smoke.”
Not content to find guns that were merely authentic, Willis, Kent and their crew went the extra step to find unusual guns that give the show added visual interest. For instance, the main character, Cullen Bohannon, is an ex-Confederate soldier. He carries a .36 caliber Griswold revolver, an unusual gun of which only 3,600 were ever made and very few survive today.
In my post of Oct. 24th, I wrote about a friend whose hitherto-flawless backup rifle had developed a scope that was knocked 8 feet off target and an extractor that suddenly refused to extract. He—and I—now know why.
My friend put the ruptured rifle in a gun vise and saw that the scope was knocked so far out of line with the barrel that it was obvious from across the room. The last time he had used the gun was on a whitetail hunt in Kansas and, on a hunch, he hauled out the case in which it had traveled—a cheap plastic one. Sure enough, there were tire marks across the case. Some thoughtful ramp ape had driven a baggage cart or an airplane tug over it. The case had given and sprung back, but the scope mount—not the scope itself—was twisted all to hell.
Save for a couple of European skull mounts I have never had any taxidermy done – until now.
The duck in the picture – a drake hooded merganser – just came back from the taxidermist. To me, the trophy part of any wild game is the meat, so having animals mounted never interested me, especially given the expense. The important part, I’ve always thought, lies beneath the fur or feathers, and it’s free.*
The one bird I always told myself I would have mounted is a hooded merganser. They are pretty much inedible due to their diet of fish. They also have the unfortunate habit of zipping past your decoys early in the morning, looking almost exactly like a tasty wood duck in the predawn gloom. I told myself if I ever shot a hoodie in a case of mistaken identity, I’d have it mounted so the bird didn’t go to waste.
Sure enough, one dark rainy morning in 2006 this drake came over me from behind, I reacted, and when my friend M.D.’s now departed lab, Maggie, brought it back, my “wood duck” had morphed into a merganser.
Now that hunting season is here, many of us are tempted to grab our trusted smokepoles and head for the fields and forests. But what your trusted smokepole may hand you, rather than a dead animal, is a sharp rap in the nuts, metaphorically speaking, of course. You never, ever, assume that a rifle/scope will work.
This was brought home yet again by a friend of mine whom I met at the range a few days before he was to head for Canada. The trigger of the rifle he had planned to bring had gone weird; the sear would not hold, and he had to send it back to the maker for repairs. So this morning he had brought his backup gun, a veteran of 25 years’ flawless service. Lo and behold, the first shot was not even on the paper. We boresighted the gun and the crosshairs were 8 feet off to the left. Unbeknownst to my friend, someone had dropped the rifle or otherwise screwed with it.
There was a second new gun introduced at the Browning gathering where I saw the new A5 back in Septmber: the Citori 725.
Like some of you, I have mixed feelings about the new Browning A5. I like Browning semiautos and have a kneejerk fondness for the humpback receiver. On the other hand, I already own a Benelli Montefeltro and am not exactly sure why I need a Browning inertia gun, too. However, I have no mixed feelings at all about the 725. I just want one.
“Rifle shooter must break wind first before wind break him.” —Vorislav Djubrotnij, Eastern-bloc shooter of the 1950s, making it all clear.
Recently, I attended a class on how to hit targets at 600 yards and beyond, and came away both impressed and depressed. Of all the factors involved, by far the most uncontrollable and difficult is wind. As an example, a 5 mph breeze, which is just enough to agitate the leaves on the trees, can move a 168-grain .308 bullet 16.1 inches at 600 yards.
The FieldandStream.com “50 State Guns” gallery is coming soon. As you’ll recall, the Utah and Arizona legislatures have named official state guns and we thought it would be fun to come up with suggestions for the other 48. Trying to come up with one distinctive gun to represent each state has been a challenge, even with all the good ideas you sent in.
Nevada, for instance, has been tough to figure out.
My latest, not very serious thought, was the Davy Crockett Nuclear Recoiless Rifle, which was tested at the Nevada Test Site, in the early 60s, with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the audience. The recoilless rifle fired a 51 pound shell containing a very small nuclear warhead to a maximum range of three miles.
The more I study on this subject, the more confused I become. I used to think that only lean, rangy people could really walk, but I’ve hunted with some lardasses who could boogie up the mountains with anyone.
That notwithstanding, the three people I would least like to make a forced march with are all over six feet and lean. (Being tall gives you an advantage as you take fewer steps to go a given distance, and of course it helps not to haul extra weight around.) The three of them also work at it fanatically.
A few posts ago Mike55 asked if anyone else had read about the special forces operation in Viet Nam in which our troops slipped exploding cartridges into enemy ammo supplies. He was referring to Project Eldest Son, which, from a Gun Nut perspective, is the most fascinating covert operation ever. I cannot improve on this account of Eldest Son written by Major John Plaster, who participated, but in the meantime, here’s the Cliff Notes version:
In 1967, the Joint Chiefs approved of a plan to booby trap ammunition dumps found by Studies and Observation Group (SOG) teams in Laos by leaving exploding ammunition behind. The trick had been used in colonial wars by British troops who let booby trapped .303 ammunition fall into Pathan hands on India’s Northwest Frontier.