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  • July 31, 2012

    Shotgun Review: Fabarm Velocity XLR5

    by Phil Bourjaily

    I first saw the Fabarm Velocity XLR5 in the Caesar Guerini booth at SHOT Show earlier this year. Amid all the Guerini O/Us, the Euro-styled, high-ribbed Velocity, in the words of Raymond Chandler, “looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”

    It also looked cool. I am not usually a fan of the concept-car styling we see on a lot of new shotguns, but I was immediately taken with the Velocity’s looks – the walnut stock probably helped. And, now that I have been shooting one for a while, I find there is a lot to like about it. It’s a dedicated target gun with a high price tag ($2,535; $2,712 for a left-handed model) and while that is still mind-boggling to me, who remembers when semiautos cost under $500 and believes they should sell for under $1,000, the price can be explained away, sort of, and I’ll get to that in a bit.

  • July 30, 2012

    A Form 4473 for the Modern World

    By David E. Petzal

    Those of you who have filled out a Form 4473 since July 9th may have noticed a change in our beloved paper bulwark against crime and poor behavior. In addition to the checkoff box that asks your race, there is a new one that asks your “ethnicity;” specifically, are you Hispanic or Latino? This new box raises some interesting questions.

    What’s the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

    Why is the ATF interested?

    If you are Hispanic or Latino, what then? Do ATF agents in full body armor and facemasks pay you a visit at 3 a.m.?

    Some among you may consider this just more pointless nonsense from an agency that, on occasion, acts pretty oddly (See: Waco, massacre at, Fast and Furious, Kenyon Ballew shooting). I, however, view the new box as a first step in the evolution of the outdated, irrelevant Form 4473 into a Document for Our Time and, as a patriotic American, I would like to offer some new questions that are of real use.

  • July 26, 2012

    Memories That Die

    By David E. Petzal

    I own three knives that belonged to friends of mine who are no longer here. One is a Randall Model 5, which Randall calls the Camp and Trail Knife. Bo Randall gave it to my friend Norm Strung in the early 1970s, and Norm carried it until the end of his life. He abused it shamefully. The stag handle is loose, the blade was pitted when I got it, and he carried a drag rope over the handle that twisted the sheath out of shape. Nevertheless, it is still Norm’s Knife to me.

  • July 25, 2012

    Olympian to Shoot in London While 8 Months Pregnant

    By Phil Bourjaily

    While I am rooting for team U.S.A.’s shooters at the Olympics just like the rest of you, it’s hard not to hope there is also a spot on the medal stand for Malaysia’s Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi.

    She isn’t just the first woman ever to represent Malaysia in shooting (she is) she's also eight months pregnant. That gives her the added distinction of being the most pregnant Olympian ever.* She has her difficulties, such as fitting into her special maternity uniform. She is handling her moment in the spotlight with grace and humor as this profile shows.

  • July 24, 2012

    Shotgun Ammo: Claybuster Introduces New Wad for 3/4-Ounce, 12-gauge Loads

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Claybuster has just come out with a new CB0175-12 wad, the first I know of specifically made for ¾ ounce 12 gauge loads.

    Three-quarter ounce 12 gauge loads are an in thing these days. They are nearly recoilless and they help you stretch an expensive bag of shot as far as it will go. Three-quarters, of course, is the standard 28 gauge load but in a 12 they will solidly break any target on a skeet field and they make great training loads, too. Shoot them in an 8-1/2-pound target gun and you can hardly feel it go off – while you save money.

  • July 23, 2012

    My Thoughts on the Aurora, CO Shooting

    By David E. Petzal

    So now it is Aurora. Another homicidal geek has gotten his 15 minutes of fame via mass murder.

    Amidst all the breast-beating, recriminations, and yowls for gun control, ammo control, and tactical equipment control, there are a number of questions that no one is bringing up. I think they should be asked.

    The United States has always been a country in which guns of all types have been readily available. In the 1920s, Sears Roebuck sold Thompson submachine guns. After World War II, we were awash in military weapons. Yet Aurora and Columbine and Virginia Tech are all very recent. What’s changed?

  • July 20, 2012

    Book Review: 'Shotgunning: The Art and Science'

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Anhinga sagely commented on Wednesday’s post that Bob Brister’s "Shotgunning: The Art and Science" answers many of the ballistic questions that shotgunners argue over. Written by my predecessor as Field & Stream’s shotgun columnist, is available from Skyhorse Publishing in a reprinted edition, and the first edition can be found readily at and other online sellers. My copy is nearly worn out from repeated re-readings.

    Brister was a great competitive and field shooter with an inquiring mind. The book is most famous for the work he did testing shotstrings. Shotstrings are hard to measure but Brister’s methodology was brilliantly simple: he rigged up an 18 foot trailer as a moving pattern board and had his wife tow it past him at right angles at 35 mph with a station wagon while he shot different loads at it. The patterns weren’t the round clusters we see on stationary pattern boards but elongated spreads reflecting the lag between the first and last pellets in a shotstring fired at a crossing target. Some of the patterns stretched almost from one end of the 18 foot sheet to the other. The book’s many photos of the moving patterns Brister  clearly showed the effects of shotstringing  especially with some of the lower quality magnum lead duck loads of the '70s.

    Brister’s book also includes some very interesting duck load lethality tables taken from  Winchester’s Nilo Farms tests conducted in the 70s. Winchester engineers strapped game farm ducks to a moving track that ran past a full choke shotgun set to shoot when the duck passed it and tested it with different loads on 2,400 mallards. The results were then built into a computer model of shotshell lethality which is discussed thoroughly in the book. I asked about the track last time I went to Nilo and was told it still exists, but there is no way such a test would be conducted today.

  • July 18, 2012

    Shooting Gear: Pros and Cons of Cleaning Rods

    By David E. Petzal

    Someone asked me about cleaning rods, so here’s what I know. A good one, used properly, will keep your bore alive and healthy. A bad one, or a good one used incorrectly, will kill your bore quicker than a good dose of hydrochloric acid down the muzzle. A good cleaning rod is either steel or plastic-coated, like the Dewey rods. It should be stiff enough that it will not bend; a bent rod will scrape against the rifling and that will be that. The worst rods are brass and aluminum, as they’re soft and pick up abrasive crud, and they bend permanently out of shape. I am also down on jointed rods of any kind unless those joints fit together seamlessly.

    The best jointed rods, in a walk, are those made by Belding & Mull, however B&M apparently does not make them any more. If you ever see one, grab it, assuming that someone is not using it at the time, in which case he will punch you in the snout. I do not like pull-throughs; however, D’Arcy Echols, whose opinion I respect to the nth degree, thinks the world of them, and wishes that he had invented them.

  • July 17, 2012

    A Shotshell Velocity Experiment: Just Shoot the Target

    By Phil Bourjaily

    One of the advantages touted for high velocity shotshells is how they reduce the need for lead. That is true when you talk about long 90 degree crossing targets. Then the difference can be up to eight inches or so at 40 yards. And I do believe that added velocity does help some people center birds with the core of their pattern that they might otherwise wound with the fringe. It is also true that some skeet shooters who shoot precise maintained lead styles become very sensitive to changes in velocity.

    That said, much of shotgun shooting involves shorter distances and gentler angles. At that point, velocity doesn’t matter very much except in your own mind.

  • July 17, 2012

    Camouflage Follies

    By David E. Petzal

    It’s just been announced that the Army is giving up on its Universal Camouflage Pattern, after pissing away $5 billion on uniforms, packs, and other gear that say “Here I am. Shoot me.”* This is one further reminder that even if something says “camo,” it may not conceal anything worth a damn. Last fall I bought a one-man blind to take to Maine with me. It was so small that if I farted inside it, there was not room for both me and the fart. The blind would blow away in any kind of a breeze, and worst of all, its popular Pellagra and Redbug camo pattern stood out like the proverbial turd in the proverbial punchbowl. I positioned it on a hillside, walked uphill to where the deer would cross, took a look at the wretched thing, and realized that if I hung a neon sign above it that said “FLEE!” and sprinkled a couple of pounds of wolf s*** around it, the effect would not be much worse than it already was. Fifty pounds or so of pine branches later, it was somewhat concealed, but not much.

    I think that camo is largely a human conceit. Most animals, unlike people, are not visually oriented, and could care less what color your clothes are. When people wore red and black checkered wool suits they killed plenty of animals. African professional hunters, who work in close proximity to game all the time, wear whatever they damn please, and it makes no difference. European hunters, until recently, dressed entirely in dark green, and had no trouble getting game.

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