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SHOT Show 2014 … Look Backward in Angst

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February 03, 2014

SHOT Show 2014 … Look Backward in Angst

By David E. Petzal

 

“Never look backward. Something may be gaining on you.”—Satchel Paige

The 2014 SHOT Show pulsed and throbbed like a giant (Insert the obscene metaphor of your choice in this space), both in the number of attendees and the amount of business that was done. Some booths, such as Nightforce, were so busy that I couldn’t get near them, and others, such as the one honoring the late Mikhail Kalashnikov, and guarded by jackbooted blonde booth babes who were tall enough to play power forward in the NBA, I was afraid to go near.

But all in all it was a great show, meaning that I didn’t catch leprosy*, bubonic plague, St. Anthony’s Fire, or the pox, and that I was able to sense a number of trends in the world of guns. 

First, if the lever action isn’t dead, it’s moribund. The only lever-action action I saw was Winchester’s re-issue of the Model 1873, and Marlin’s lever guns have certainly not been helped by the Freedom Group’s wretched mishandling of Marlin’s move from Connecticut to North Carolina. The reason for the demise of the lever is the increasing demand for accuracy and long-range capability, and no matter how much you cobble on them, lever guns can’t compete. They’ll always be around, but will be seen as relics.

Second, if there was any doubt about the popular acceptance of the MSR as a valid sporting gun, there ain’t no more. They were everywhere, and not just in Cop World. Of the main line gun makers Winchester doesn’t have one, and I don’t believe Weatherby does, but I think that pretty soon they’ll have to. Politicians may detest them, but the younger generation of shooters has clutched ARs to their bosoms. 

Third, military/tactical seems to have integrated seamlessly with sport shooting. If you stood in one spot on the main floor and turned in a circle (which I, and a great many other people did, the booth numbering system having been planned by the same people who dreamed up the Obamacare website) you would never be out of eyeshot of something that was pure hunting and something that was pure military/police. It did not used to be this way, and I am serenely undisturbed by the development. Probably it means that the two fields are poaching on each other’s technology helter-skelter to their mutual benefit. 

Number four. We are now firmly in the era of $3,000 bolt-action sporting rifles (and some of the ARs are close to that bracket as well). They’re not common but they’re by no means scarce. They can be fully homologated (That’s a word borrowed from auto racing, intended to show you how sophisticated I am.) like the Weatherby Accu-Mark series, or frameworks for customized rifles like the Bergara, but they are a significant part of the scene.

There is an increasing number of shooters who appreciate fine machinery and are willing to pay for it, and shooting is increasingly a money sport. If you’re looking for an edge for what may be a very expensive and once-in-a-lifetime hunt, or you want to shoot in competition, you’ll find a way to get the money. 

As one of the F-class shooters who spent last summer beating my brains out said, “If you want to compete seriously you’re going to spend  $3,000 on a rifle. No way around it.” And none of those F-class shooters were rich or even well to do. But they were serious.

Stay tuned. And when you hear Hillary Clinton say that she’s not even thinking about running in 2016, try not to wet yourself laughing. 

*Bacterium leprae, or Hansen’s bacilli, incubate very slowly, so I may indeed have caught it but I won’t know for several years, or until something falls off. 

 

Comments (31)

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

I am looking forward to the 2014 scope offerings, that and I want to get some more Aguila rimfire rounds to have fun with. Where are the Marlin model 60's produced? The Ol' Man thinks I should get a Magnum research carbon barrel hogue over molded 22 for accuracy, but I want an inexpensive wood/stainless plinker that cycles most ammo and shoots straight and I am not alone. Cheers from AR where you have to like Bill even though he never called your cousin back.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Dave; Any chance you have any photos of the jackbooted blonde babes?

My Marlin 1895G in 45/70 (bought a few years ago on YOUR recommendation) with an 18inch barrel is dead accurate up to 200 yards. Sighted in a 100 yards and a NIKON BDC scope it groups in ~2 inches at 200 yards with factory ammo. Thats right; a big heavy almost round lead pill shouldn’t do that well but it does. As I have only shot 1 deer at over 100 yards. So it works for me. So as a deer rifle for 80% of the country, a lever action is very appropriate. The trend is wrong.

Our countries forbearers managed to eek out an existence in incredibly harsh circumstances feeding themselves by hunting, at times fighting incredibly efficient indian warriors, the best of the worlds infantry at the time (British) and eventually ourselves with nothing more sophisticated than a musket, Pennsylvania long rifle, and patch and round ball and black powder. And a modern hunter can't down game with out sophisticated designed to fight a war long range star wars technology? Hogwash.

Of course Ms Clinton will run, The personnel attack dogs are already set lose on any potential candidate. Cry Havoc and loose the dogs of politics.

I was awake that day in biology, 89% to 95% of the human population is immune from leprosy. You must have a genetic defect for the infection to take hold. I suspect you are safe.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Sorry for the long response; Stuck in the house by a snow storm, with my taxes and a bottle of 12 y.o. scotch.

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

@Rocky My 1895SBL is not a relic and punches touching groups way past where I even need to use. Take a shot for me of the better stuff. To Ballard Rifling...and guns that shoot better than we do. Long live the lever action I love our 94,95, and 99.

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Or should I say..."To Microgroove rifling"?

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Don't care much for Vegas or crowds so it always seemed unlikely that I'd take in a SHOT show. Reading this I now know it's pretty much an impossibility that I'll ever go. I will never have anything but disdain for hunting rifles designed to 1) shoot ultra-long range or 2) shoot rapidly or 3) look like something from the Klingon home planet or 4) be extremely expensive works of art. If that's where guns are going these days, let me off the bus! Numbers one and two fly in the face of what ethical hunting is supposed to be about. My aversion to numbers three and four is simply a matter of personal taste ... or in the case of number three, tastelessness. Number four is not so much disdain but my inbred sense of practicality. I'll use my money for hunting trips or my grandson's medical school rather than blow it on pretty guns to show off once in a while when not kept locked away in a climate-controlled closet.

I appreciate that the bench shooter's purpose and ethics are entirely different. But this is, after all, Field and Stream ... not Gunsafe and Range.

On a final note, I am thinking seriously about a safari trip to Africa. It was always my dream as a kid. Sadly, from everything I have read it seems African hunting today is nothing like what it was then. I would like to buy memories that are worth cherishing rather than forgetting so I'm approaching this carefully. I want to do some REAL hunting ... not just shooting things. Maybe genuine hunting in Africa is not even possible anymore? Anyway, I DO NOT see any need to spend a lot of bucks beforehand on a fancy classic African gun just because someone over there might look down his nose at me if I didn't have one. I'm not going to pretend to be an aristocrat ... not even temporarily. I have always been a genuine feet-on-the-ground hunter and still pretty damned good at it. I'd love to take the Springfield my dad built for me along just to show up the snobs but I wouldn't want to risk losing it in transit. If I go, I'll probably pick up something in a larger caliber off the used gun rack - and get rid of it when I'm done. My "dangerous game gun" almost certainly won't be a work of art. Seeing me carrying an engraved and inlayed double rifle in Africa would be like encountering an Appalachian moonshiner in Carnegie Hall wearing a tuxedo. Genuinely non-genuine. I am the real deal ... ALWAYS!

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from 1uglymutha wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

The F&S Webmaster must be the same person who designed the Affordable Care Act website. This thing is frustrating sometimes.
Ontario Honker: Do yourself a favor and stay home.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

1uglymutha: I presume you are suggesting I stay home from Vegas as I see nothing in your profile or contributions suggesting that you are any more personally familiar with hunting in Africa than I am. Perhaps you are more familiar with Vegas? I did spend four days there with my daughter over Christmas three years ago, two months after we lost my wife. Therapist suggested I get away to some place where the two of us would never have went if she was alive. Vegas fit the bill perfectly. My then 19 year-old daughter did enjoy herself and it was very therapeutic watching her. But I'm a restless sort and need to be walking. That is a challenge in Vegas. Being assailed by obnoxious illegal immigrant pimps who literally got in my face at every step WAS NOT therapeutic!

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from PbHead wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, Thanks for the summary and good observations.

Good quality lever actions will always be appreciated and bought as long as we can get a Marlin 39A in the hands of young or new shooters that has a magazine full of shorts.

Dave check to see if the leper colony in Hawaii is still active. If afflicted, you could recover there far from vicious booth babes, deadlines or Ms. Clinton the Elder.

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from JCB wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Ok. Enough of this. Were are the Booth Babe photos?

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from NHshtr wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Boy, Dave, you wrote this article about 3 months too late. In November I bought a Browning BLR lever in .30-06. Had I read this in October, I never would have a stupid un-trendy lever gun that shoots a bit more than M.O.A (maybe better when I load more ammo variations)and properly loaded can take down any North American game. Now what am I to do? I'm afraid to go to the range and be seen shooting a "relic". Not to mention going deer hunting and being considered un-trendy among the AR-style hunting crowd.
Seriously, I don't see the AR-style hunting rifle trend among the many hunters I know (no brag, but that's quite a few having been president of a large hunting org). But then again, this is NH and we're up in the top corner of the country and just may have an AR hunting trend delay!

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from davidpetzal wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

At last I'm able to post.

To Rocky Squirrel: The Russian both babes were not good looking, but they were very tall. Also, I didn't say that I had leprosy, and I am probably safe, but susceptibility varies by race; I understand that some are far more likely to get it than others.

To Ontario Honker. Go to Africa. You can spend a fortune on a safari or you can spend far less than it costs for a decent elk hunt where you have an 18 percent chance of getting an elk. Investigate. African hunting is still the greatest hunting bargain on earth.

To PB Head: I believe the leprosarium in Kalawao was shut down years ago, as was the one in Careville, LA. And there is no recovering from booth babes.

To JCB: No booth babes. They've fallen out of fashion at SHOT. There were very few, and almost all of them were hidden on the lower level.

To All, about the lever-action. I like it, and my Marlin Guide Gun is still one of my best rifles, but the firearms industry seems to regard it as they do the falling-block single-shot--a relic whose time has passed. I've seen lever-actions that will shoot MoA or better at 100 yards, but you can't use them at 500 yards where all the interest is today. If it ain't tactical, or semi=tactical, it won't sell.

Also, someone asked about the Cooper booth. I was there, and it contained some of the most beautiful rifles I've seen in a long time. Their use of a detachable magazine in a fine gun is inconceivable to me, but there's no question that they are doing work that is as good as anything out there.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

You can't get in the SHOT show unless you are in the industry or connected anyway. Petzal is the only old curmudgeon bastard allowed, so that leaves you out anyway! LOL

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Mr. Petzal,
Since we apparently are unable to hit the broad side of a barn at 100 yards with less than a $6,000 rifle/scope/spotter/range finder, how was Elmer Keith able to hit a deer at 600 yards with a hand gun? I’d like to know how he pulled off that feat, if it is true. Also, would F&S consider expanding on hand gun hunting coverage? Would you please write about that in a future post? Thanks in advance.

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

How my reply did that look like spam? I think F&S consulted on the Obama Care website

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Fox, if you had ever met Elmer Keith, you'd probably be able to figure out the answer to your question fairly quickly. I did meet the man and formed my opinion immediately. Lightning has been known to jump sideways and kill people miles away, but it is a rare phenomenon. Meteorites shot light years from earth also have been known to kill people. I'm not saying that Keith didn't shoot an animal 600 yards away with a pistol. But I'm sure he didn't do it more than once! :-)

WAM: I see SHOT is "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries." I'm sure it wouldn't take much to get connected to one of those "industries." If I wanted to go (perish the thought!), I'm sure my local gun shop would be happy to put me on staff temporarily. Gad, looking at the photo on SHOT's website made me shudder! Talk about crowded. Arseholes to elbows, as my dad would say.

Thanks, David, I'll keep looking into Africa. I'm not considering an elk hunt. I have killed my fill already (thirteen in thirteen years). Also, I believe that leprosy facility in Hawaii has been made into a park unit. Let me check ... the one at Kalaupapa is now a US National Historic Park. Not sure about Kalawo.

Speaking of babes on lower levels in Las Vegas: When I was there my daughter and I stayed at the Luxor. As we were taking the elevator down for breakfast one morning a very attractive lady who from the looks of her attire was, I'm sure, a "working girl" was already in the elevator. We got on and it stopped at the next floor. A dapper gent gets on and the gal asks "Going down?" He looked at me and with a smirk said, "That would be nice." My daughter didn't get it but I sure had a hard time controlling myself. :-)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Oops. I see ... Kalawo is the county in which the Kalaupapa National Historic Site is located.

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Elmer Keith, lightning bolts, and elevator candy... gotta love the Gun Nuts blog.

Mr Honker gets and A+

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from Mark-1 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

My age and attitude is showing. I regard the position MSR's being valid sporting/hunting implements with baffled wonder. My son [an army vet] loves them and he looks at my bolt action big game rifles....well, I don't believe he regards my custom Mausers as not much better than a pointed stick, but I bet he's two-steps away from that belief.

I think my generation is experiencing what *A Hunter* 100-years ago armed with a Winchester 1886 in 45-70 or 45-90 got in regard from his son who was armed for hunting with a 30-30, 30-40 or 30-06.

BTW, I'd love to add a reissued Winchester 1886 in 45-90 to my battery.

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from The_UTP wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Well this would explain why I haven't bought a new rifle in five years, and when I did, it was a bolt action.

I think the primary reason the industry is ga-ga for AR/MSRs is that they can make lots and lots of money off accessories.

The problem with guns is that they are long-lived items. Even if you shoot quite a bit, most folks have a hard time truly wearing out a gun more than once a decade. That means that Remington etc. is only making money off you once a decade. The emergence of a much more liquid used market via auction sites and online dealers is only making things worse -- the manufacturers don't make a penny when you buy used.

Most of these firms have been gobbled up by private equity back in the boom times, and now they are hunting for new revenue streams. They need money coming in the door when people aren't buying new guns, and the AR trend helps because they can sell all kinds of stuff -- parts, accessories, etc.

So that's my theory -- the firms are under heavy pressure from their private equity overlords to increase profitability, and ARs have the margins and the accessories market to make that happen. I don't buy the story that it's purely consumer demand. While I'm sure there's a big generational difference and that ARs are what younger guys grew up with, guns are unique in that you can't easily buy a substitute product from abroad or used (while the used market is better, it's still not really functional) and so you just have to buy whatever the manufactures put out.

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from 1uglymutha wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

A few engraved portraits of dead presidents will get you anything you want in Las Vegas. The quantity needed depends solely on your requirement.

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

The AR is a DIY guy's gun. With enough skill with tools you can replace or upgrade anything, or you can get help from a brother or friend who may not even be a gunsmith. Isn't choice the American way?

heck, in some countries, they don't even have a choice, often the only centerfire rifle they can get a hold of is a military arm. no winchesters, no remingtons, no marlins. they don't even know .30-06 or .308, all they know is "this one goes in this gun" but their desire to bear arms or shoot or hunt is no less than yours.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Although I am ambidextrous in most ways, I am left-eye dominant and thus shoot from my left shoulder. For many years I purchased or helped build the occasional bolt action rifle, always RH, because there were no LH bolt action rifles or actions available.

Things have changed in the last few years, have improved slightly. Nowadays I have a LH bolt action rifle (made by E.R. Shaw) in .257 A.I. In a month or two, I'll be receiving from McGowen Barrels (in Montana) the LH Remington 700 I sent the good people there for a new barrel in 7x57 A.I., the completed barreled action nicely situated in a composite fiber H.S. Precision stock. I'm sure the new 7x57 A.I. will be a very accurate, nice-shooting, good-handling rifle.

But . . .

About eighteen months ago I received from a gunsmith in West Virginia the Savage Model 99 in .308 I had sent the gentleman there for love, affection and repair. The man did a fine job tuning and restoring the rifle to tip-top condition. The rifle, with some carefully developed handloads, will consistently shoot MOA or slightly better. I have a good 3x9 scope mounted on it; I feel comfortable taking shots on deer or hogs out to 300 yards. I've only taken three hogs with it (and no deer) since I've had the rifle, but all were one-shot run-and-drops of 35 yards (by the unfortunate hog) or less. All shots were off-hand. One of the shots was at about 300 yards.

There's something I've noticed about the Model 99 I've not seen or felt in any of my other (all bolt) rifles: (A) the really fast ability to get another round chambered without taking the rifle from my shoulder; and (B)the equally fast ability to get the rifle back on target ready to go. Granted, as luck would have it (so far), I've never had to take a second shot. But on all three hog occasions I had another round in the chamber and the cross-hairs coming on target, or already on target, by the time the hapless hog ran out of steam maybe four or five seconds after the first shot. I've never been able to do that with a bolt, despite many thousands of rounds downrange in the last decade, a fair number of which were fired off-hand.

And that's why I've fallen in love with the Model 99. After just a few days of practice with the 99, I was able to do with that rifle what I've never been able to do a bolt: take a second shot (or a third one) off-hand quickly and accurately.

I've also discovered that no other rifle I've held, with the possible exception of the Model 94 I had when I was a kid, handles and carries (in my hand or hands) so beautifully in the woods, or in rough terrain.

True, the 99 is not without its faults:

The trigger, although loved-upon by the West Virginia gunsmith, is a far cry from the custom triggers on my bolts. The pull is five pounds or a little more and there's a bit of creep. By definition, therefore, it is not a precision trigger.

Equally true, I can't match the 1/4 MOA or 1/3 MOA I get from some of my bolt rifles with the MOA (or slightly better) I get from the 99.

Also true, while some of my bolts are capable of very sub-MOA shots out to 500-600 yards or farther, I doubt the 99 could ever do that beyond 300 with any load devised by man.

But that raises a whole other issue: why are people taking 500-600-700 (or farther) shots on game animals? Why is this being promoted in any way, rather than discouraged, frowned-upon and condemned?

I estimate that 99% of the shooters I know--and 99.8% of the shooters I see at the range--are incapable of the precision and skill necessary to make a reliable, dependable, sub-MOA, humane, quick one-shot-kill on game animals beyond about 450 yards. At 500 yards and farther, most of the shooters I know would be lucky to hit the side of a good-sized barn.

Regarding my own varying skills. I routinely, ah, "dispatch" my old cell phones to a better place when they are no longer of service. I put the phones in the dirt at 300 yards plus. They make very tiny targets. I've, ah, dispatched each phone (about half a dozen in the last few years) with a single shot from my .257 A.I. or my 7x57 A.I. in front of multiple witnesses, including on days where there were crosswinds of up to about 10 mph. So far I've yet to miss a phone. So far every bullet has been within an inch of where I intended it to go. But this all because I practice a lot. And I've developed and chronographed my own loads. And I know what my rifles can do, as well as my own limitations.

Yet I would never take a shot at a game animal beyond 350 yards, maybe 400, even under absolutely perfect conditions with my best rifle, my best load, and a calm slow heart and steady hands. I just think it's . . . unethical and immoral, a recipe for cruelty and inhumanity, a future sad story, to take a longer shot.

Which brings me back to the 99. It's a wonderful rifle that does everything I want it to do within the practical and real-world shooting confines of what I perceive to be ethical/moral/acceptable hunting. I suspect there are many shooters out there who feel as I do about this issue.

So if the rifle manufacturers are reading this, don't stop making lever actions.

Make better ones.

Make better-looking and better-handling ones.

At reasonable prices.

And, with the advent of 3-D printers and CAD technology, let's not hear a lot of excuses--or any excuses--about how "its too hard" or "its too expensive" to produce a Model 99 again. I don't buy that one bit. Those are excuses for greed and mediocrity and laziness, not quality, craftsmanship, and application of 21st century manufacturing technology and techniques.

Savage should reinvent and market a 21st century Model 99 that shoots superbly and beautiful out to any reasonable range.

Winchester should reinvent and market a 21st century Model 88 (with a fine trigger) that does the same thing.

And Remington should come up with a whole new lever rifle entirely that matches or exceeds the "new" 99 or 88.

Mossberg, Taurus, Thompson Contender, all you other gun manufacturers out there, are you listening?

I suspect there are many millions of hunters and shooters in America who would spend their hard-earned dollars on such modern new lever rifles, would be delighted and thrilled with their purchases, while the manufacturers would make a handsome profit at the same time.

Time to see innovation in American rifle manufacturing. Past time. Give me a new 99, please.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

This whole business about eye dominance has always baffled me. I confess that I have never checked myself for dominance. It was a moot issue by the time I even knew there was such a thing - by then my left eye had three surgically repaired retina detachments and several torn spots fixed with laser. I'm now right eye dominant by default because the left one barely sees anything. Anyway, I understand why eye dominance might be of some significance for a guy like me who now only bird hunts with a shotgun. But what the hell difference does eye dominance make when shooting a scoped rifle? If you're right handed, shoot a right handed gun if it has a scope on it. When shooting through a scope the left eye is by necessity closed and out of action no matter if it is "dominant" or not. Perhaps shooting open sights MIGHT be a different matter.

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from Safado wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Ontario Honker,
I'm right handed and left eye dominate. If I put the rifle to my right shoulder I can't see through the scope with my right eye. I also can't close my left eye and keep my right eye open, So I can't get on target. I can get on target if I cover my left eye say with tape over the shooting glasses. Then I can shoot right handed. But in a field condition who is going to have time for that. So I shoot right handed rifles left handed. It makes it hard to get off a fast second shot, all the more reason to make the first one count.
I can appreciate where TW Davidson is coming from. That is the beauty of the modern sporting rifle, not having to work the bolt. Shooting offhand the rifle never leaves your shoulder.

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

personally I would like to see some company make a rifle with a Krag-Jorgensen MAGAZINE. They can make the action anything they want, and if they choose a bolt action, they can make the bolt as strong, as fat, as massive, as multi-lugged as they want, as long as it has a Krag magazine.

I imagine a slick-shucking Remington Model 7600 with a Krag magazine, and Dave Petzal can no longer complain that "the detachable magazine is one more item to lose".

Also, just like the tubular magazine of a classic lever action, you can top up the Krag magazine without retracting the bolt. You're topping up the magazine, and the rifle is still ready to fire.

Finally, since the US version of the Krag rifle was developed using a rimmed cartridge (.30 Army/.30-40 Krag) and fed it reliably, then a Krag magazine-equipped rifle should be able to cycle such golden oldies as the .45-70, .45-90, .50-110. .470 Nitro (with proper magazine and action length), etc.

The Krag magazine was deemed inadequate for military use, because it wasn't capable of rapid charging with stripper clips (although the Norwegians used the rifle up to WW2 with no complaints). But that's another argument. For sporting rifle use, however, especially with scoped rifles, the Krag magazine, IMHO, has merits. And unlike detachables, it is an integral part of the rifle, you can't misplace it.

I can dream, can't I?

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from Tim Platt wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

Finally I logged in! Yay first time it has worked in three days. I think I have the combination now, log into facebook first so the CIA can see everywhere I go and then pick a comment to mark as good and viola! I'm as good as in. Almost like being in Vegas with those dead presidents.

Oh and the son in law had a picture of a Beretta tractor trailer heading into Gallatin, Tennessee posted. It is the future site of their new factory in a gun friendly state...

I have to admit the last new gun I bought was an AR. I am sure it is consumer driven.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

Safado, never heard of someone who couldn't close either eye at will. I guess you have a condition that is a bit beyond run of the mill "dominance." Interesting.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

The Krag external magazine is more vulnerable to damage by operator and the elements than box type magazines. It made the rifle off-balanced and heavier (various models of Krag-Jørgensen weighed between 7.5 [carbine] and 11.5 lbs). The design is also unsightly (although not nearly as unsightly as ARs!) and complicated (expensive to produce). I don't see any way of getting around those issues even with today's technology. Might sell as a novelty ... briefly. Like Mossberg's zombie shotgun.

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

everything can be toughened, see Magpul P-Mag.

off-balanced and unsightly are relative.

Obviously if you don't like something, or someone...

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from wittsec wrote 9 weeks 6 days ago

I think that lever actions will always have a place until the older ones of us are no longer here. My first gun was a Marline 30-30 lever and it will always have a place in my heart. My son? Not so much.

In regards to getting into SHOT. When I first moved to Vegas I had a temp job cleaning up the convention areas overnight. Got to see everything with absolutely no crowd, though to be honest hands on was a little limited due to locks and gates. I will have to say though that the most interesting were the AVN shows.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Although I am ambidextrous in most ways, I am left-eye dominant and thus shoot from my left shoulder. For many years I purchased or helped build the occasional bolt action rifle, always RH, because there were no LH bolt action rifles or actions available.

Things have changed in the last few years, have improved slightly. Nowadays I have a LH bolt action rifle (made by E.R. Shaw) in .257 A.I. In a month or two, I'll be receiving from McGowen Barrels (in Montana) the LH Remington 700 I sent the good people there for a new barrel in 7x57 A.I., the completed barreled action nicely situated in a composite fiber H.S. Precision stock. I'm sure the new 7x57 A.I. will be a very accurate, nice-shooting, good-handling rifle.

But . . .

About eighteen months ago I received from a gunsmith in West Virginia the Savage Model 99 in .308 I had sent the gentleman there for love, affection and repair. The man did a fine job tuning and restoring the rifle to tip-top condition. The rifle, with some carefully developed handloads, will consistently shoot MOA or slightly better. I have a good 3x9 scope mounted on it; I feel comfortable taking shots on deer or hogs out to 300 yards. I've only taken three hogs with it (and no deer) since I've had the rifle, but all were one-shot run-and-drops of 35 yards (by the unfortunate hog) or less. All shots were off-hand. One of the shots was at about 300 yards.

There's something I've noticed about the Model 99 I've not seen or felt in any of my other (all bolt) rifles: (A) the really fast ability to get another round chambered without taking the rifle from my shoulder; and (B)the equally fast ability to get the rifle back on target ready to go. Granted, as luck would have it (so far), I've never had to take a second shot. But on all three hog occasions I had another round in the chamber and the cross-hairs coming on target, or already on target, by the time the hapless hog ran out of steam maybe four or five seconds after the first shot. I've never been able to do that with a bolt, despite many thousands of rounds downrange in the last decade, a fair number of which were fired off-hand.

And that's why I've fallen in love with the Model 99. After just a few days of practice with the 99, I was able to do with that rifle what I've never been able to do a bolt: take a second shot (or a third one) off-hand quickly and accurately.

I've also discovered that no other rifle I've held, with the possible exception of the Model 94 I had when I was a kid, handles and carries (in my hand or hands) so beautifully in the woods, or in rough terrain.

True, the 99 is not without its faults:

The trigger, although loved-upon by the West Virginia gunsmith, is a far cry from the custom triggers on my bolts. The pull is five pounds or a little more and there's a bit of creep. By definition, therefore, it is not a precision trigger.

Equally true, I can't match the 1/4 MOA or 1/3 MOA I get from some of my bolt rifles with the MOA (or slightly better) I get from the 99.

Also true, while some of my bolts are capable of very sub-MOA shots out to 500-600 yards or farther, I doubt the 99 could ever do that beyond 300 with any load devised by man.

But that raises a whole other issue: why are people taking 500-600-700 (or farther) shots on game animals? Why is this being promoted in any way, rather than discouraged, frowned-upon and condemned?

I estimate that 99% of the shooters I know--and 99.8% of the shooters I see at the range--are incapable of the precision and skill necessary to make a reliable, dependable, sub-MOA, humane, quick one-shot-kill on game animals beyond about 450 yards. At 500 yards and farther, most of the shooters I know would be lucky to hit the side of a good-sized barn.

Regarding my own varying skills. I routinely, ah, "dispatch" my old cell phones to a better place when they are no longer of service. I put the phones in the dirt at 300 yards plus. They make very tiny targets. I've, ah, dispatched each phone (about half a dozen in the last few years) with a single shot from my .257 A.I. or my 7x57 A.I. in front of multiple witnesses, including on days where there were crosswinds of up to about 10 mph. So far I've yet to miss a phone. So far every bullet has been within an inch of where I intended it to go. But this all because I practice a lot. And I've developed and chronographed my own loads. And I know what my rifles can do, as well as my own limitations.

Yet I would never take a shot at a game animal beyond 350 yards, maybe 400, even under absolutely perfect conditions with my best rifle, my best load, and a calm slow heart and steady hands. I just think it's . . . unethical and immoral, a recipe for cruelty and inhumanity, a future sad story, to take a longer shot.

Which brings me back to the 99. It's a wonderful rifle that does everything I want it to do within the practical and real-world shooting confines of what I perceive to be ethical/moral/acceptable hunting. I suspect there are many shooters out there who feel as I do about this issue.

So if the rifle manufacturers are reading this, don't stop making lever actions.

Make better ones.

Make better-looking and better-handling ones.

At reasonable prices.

And, with the advent of 3-D printers and CAD technology, let's not hear a lot of excuses--or any excuses--about how "its too hard" or "its too expensive" to produce a Model 99 again. I don't buy that one bit. Those are excuses for greed and mediocrity and laziness, not quality, craftsmanship, and application of 21st century manufacturing technology and techniques.

Savage should reinvent and market a 21st century Model 99 that shoots superbly and beautiful out to any reasonable range.

Winchester should reinvent and market a 21st century Model 88 (with a fine trigger) that does the same thing.

And Remington should come up with a whole new lever rifle entirely that matches or exceeds the "new" 99 or 88.

Mossberg, Taurus, Thompson Contender, all you other gun manufacturers out there, are you listening?

I suspect there are many millions of hunters and shooters in America who would spend their hard-earned dollars on such modern new lever rifles, would be delighted and thrilled with their purchases, while the manufacturers would make a handsome profit at the same time.

Time to see innovation in American rifle manufacturing. Past time. Give me a new 99, please.

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

The AR is a DIY guy's gun. With enough skill with tools you can replace or upgrade anything, or you can get help from a brother or friend who may not even be a gunsmith. Isn't choice the American way?

heck, in some countries, they don't even have a choice, often the only centerfire rifle they can get a hold of is a military arm. no winchesters, no remingtons, no marlins. they don't even know .30-06 or .308, all they know is "this one goes in this gun" but their desire to bear arms or shoot or hunt is no less than yours.

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from JCB wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Ok. Enough of this. Were are the Booth Babe photos?

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

I am looking forward to the 2014 scope offerings, that and I want to get some more Aguila rimfire rounds to have fun with. Where are the Marlin model 60's produced? The Ol' Man thinks I should get a Magnum research carbon barrel hogue over molded 22 for accuracy, but I want an inexpensive wood/stainless plinker that cycles most ammo and shoots straight and I am not alone. Cheers from AR where you have to like Bill even though he never called your cousin back.

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

@Rocky My 1895SBL is not a relic and punches touching groups way past where I even need to use. Take a shot for me of the better stuff. To Ballard Rifling...and guns that shoot better than we do. Long live the lever action I love our 94,95, and 99.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Fox, if you had ever met Elmer Keith, you'd probably be able to figure out the answer to your question fairly quickly. I did meet the man and formed my opinion immediately. Lightning has been known to jump sideways and kill people miles away, but it is a rare phenomenon. Meteorites shot light years from earth also have been known to kill people. I'm not saying that Keith didn't shoot an animal 600 yards away with a pistol. But I'm sure he didn't do it more than once! :-)

WAM: I see SHOT is "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries." I'm sure it wouldn't take much to get connected to one of those "industries." If I wanted to go (perish the thought!), I'm sure my local gun shop would be happy to put me on staff temporarily. Gad, looking at the photo on SHOT's website made me shudder! Talk about crowded. Arseholes to elbows, as my dad would say.

Thanks, David, I'll keep looking into Africa. I'm not considering an elk hunt. I have killed my fill already (thirteen in thirteen years). Also, I believe that leprosy facility in Hawaii has been made into a park unit. Let me check ... the one at Kalaupapa is now a US National Historic Park. Not sure about Kalawo.

Speaking of babes on lower levels in Las Vegas: When I was there my daughter and I stayed at the Luxor. As we were taking the elevator down for breakfast one morning a very attractive lady who from the looks of her attire was, I'm sure, a "working girl" was already in the elevator. We got on and it stopped at the next floor. A dapper gent gets on and the gal asks "Going down?" He looked at me and with a smirk said, "That would be nice." My daughter didn't get it but I sure had a hard time controlling myself. :-)

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from RockySquirrel wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Dave; Any chance you have any photos of the jackbooted blonde babes?

My Marlin 1895G in 45/70 (bought a few years ago on YOUR recommendation) with an 18inch barrel is dead accurate up to 200 yards. Sighted in a 100 yards and a NIKON BDC scope it groups in ~2 inches at 200 yards with factory ammo. Thats right; a big heavy almost round lead pill shouldn’t do that well but it does. As I have only shot 1 deer at over 100 yards. So it works for me. So as a deer rifle for 80% of the country, a lever action is very appropriate. The trend is wrong.

Our countries forbearers managed to eek out an existence in incredibly harsh circumstances feeding themselves by hunting, at times fighting incredibly efficient indian warriors, the best of the worlds infantry at the time (British) and eventually ourselves with nothing more sophisticated than a musket, Pennsylvania long rifle, and patch and round ball and black powder. And a modern hunter can't down game with out sophisticated designed to fight a war long range star wars technology? Hogwash.

Of course Ms Clinton will run, The personnel attack dogs are already set lose on any potential candidate. Cry Havoc and loose the dogs of politics.

I was awake that day in biology, 89% to 95% of the human population is immune from leprosy. You must have a genetic defect for the infection to take hold. I suspect you are safe.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Sorry for the long response; Stuck in the house by a snow storm, with my taxes and a bottle of 12 y.o. scotch.

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from davidpetzal wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

At last I'm able to post.

To Rocky Squirrel: The Russian both babes were not good looking, but they were very tall. Also, I didn't say that I had leprosy, and I am probably safe, but susceptibility varies by race; I understand that some are far more likely to get it than others.

To Ontario Honker. Go to Africa. You can spend a fortune on a safari or you can spend far less than it costs for a decent elk hunt where you have an 18 percent chance of getting an elk. Investigate. African hunting is still the greatest hunting bargain on earth.

To PB Head: I believe the leprosarium in Kalawao was shut down years ago, as was the one in Careville, LA. And there is no recovering from booth babes.

To JCB: No booth babes. They've fallen out of fashion at SHOT. There were very few, and almost all of them were hidden on the lower level.

To All, about the lever-action. I like it, and my Marlin Guide Gun is still one of my best rifles, but the firearms industry seems to regard it as they do the falling-block single-shot--a relic whose time has passed. I've seen lever-actions that will shoot MoA or better at 100 yards, but you can't use them at 500 yards where all the interest is today. If it ain't tactical, or semi=tactical, it won't sell.

Also, someone asked about the Cooper booth. I was there, and it contained some of the most beautiful rifles I've seen in a long time. Their use of a detachable magazine in a fine gun is inconceivable to me, but there's no question that they are doing work that is as good as anything out there.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

You can't get in the SHOT show unless you are in the industry or connected anyway. Petzal is the only old curmudgeon bastard allowed, so that leaves you out anyway! LOL

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from Mark-1 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

My age and attitude is showing. I regard the position MSR's being valid sporting/hunting implements with baffled wonder. My son [an army vet] loves them and he looks at my bolt action big game rifles....well, I don't believe he regards my custom Mausers as not much better than a pointed stick, but I bet he's two-steps away from that belief.

I think my generation is experiencing what *A Hunter* 100-years ago armed with a Winchester 1886 in 45-70 or 45-90 got in regard from his son who was armed for hunting with a 30-30, 30-40 or 30-06.

BTW, I'd love to add a reissued Winchester 1886 in 45-90 to my battery.

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from Drew McClure wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Or should I say..."To Microgroove rifling"?

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Don't care much for Vegas or crowds so it always seemed unlikely that I'd take in a SHOT show. Reading this I now know it's pretty much an impossibility that I'll ever go. I will never have anything but disdain for hunting rifles designed to 1) shoot ultra-long range or 2) shoot rapidly or 3) look like something from the Klingon home planet or 4) be extremely expensive works of art. If that's where guns are going these days, let me off the bus! Numbers one and two fly in the face of what ethical hunting is supposed to be about. My aversion to numbers three and four is simply a matter of personal taste ... or in the case of number three, tastelessness. Number four is not so much disdain but my inbred sense of practicality. I'll use my money for hunting trips or my grandson's medical school rather than blow it on pretty guns to show off once in a while when not kept locked away in a climate-controlled closet.

I appreciate that the bench shooter's purpose and ethics are entirely different. But this is, after all, Field and Stream ... not Gunsafe and Range.

On a final note, I am thinking seriously about a safari trip to Africa. It was always my dream as a kid. Sadly, from everything I have read it seems African hunting today is nothing like what it was then. I would like to buy memories that are worth cherishing rather than forgetting so I'm approaching this carefully. I want to do some REAL hunting ... not just shooting things. Maybe genuine hunting in Africa is not even possible anymore? Anyway, I DO NOT see any need to spend a lot of bucks beforehand on a fancy classic African gun just because someone over there might look down his nose at me if I didn't have one. I'm not going to pretend to be an aristocrat ... not even temporarily. I have always been a genuine feet-on-the-ground hunter and still pretty damned good at it. I'd love to take the Springfield my dad built for me along just to show up the snobs but I wouldn't want to risk losing it in transit. If I go, I'll probably pick up something in a larger caliber off the used gun rack - and get rid of it when I'm done. My "dangerous game gun" almost certainly won't be a work of art. Seeing me carrying an engraved and inlayed double rifle in Africa would be like encountering an Appalachian moonshiner in Carnegie Hall wearing a tuxedo. Genuinely non-genuine. I am the real deal ... ALWAYS!

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

How my reply did that look like spam? I think F&S consulted on the Obama Care website

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Elmer Keith, lightning bolts, and elevator candy... gotta love the Gun Nuts blog.

Mr Honker gets and A+

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from Tim Platt wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

Finally I logged in! Yay first time it has worked in three days. I think I have the combination now, log into facebook first so the CIA can see everywhere I go and then pick a comment to mark as good and viola! I'm as good as in. Almost like being in Vegas with those dead presidents.

Oh and the son in law had a picture of a Beretta tractor trailer heading into Gallatin, Tennessee posted. It is the future site of their new factory in a gun friendly state...

I have to admit the last new gun I bought was an AR. I am sure it is consumer driven.

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from PbHead wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, Thanks for the summary and good observations.

Good quality lever actions will always be appreciated and bought as long as we can get a Marlin 39A in the hands of young or new shooters that has a magazine full of shorts.

Dave check to see if the leper colony in Hawaii is still active. If afflicted, you could recover there far from vicious booth babes, deadlines or Ms. Clinton the Elder.

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from The_UTP wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Well this would explain why I haven't bought a new rifle in five years, and when I did, it was a bolt action.

I think the primary reason the industry is ga-ga for AR/MSRs is that they can make lots and lots of money off accessories.

The problem with guns is that they are long-lived items. Even if you shoot quite a bit, most folks have a hard time truly wearing out a gun more than once a decade. That means that Remington etc. is only making money off you once a decade. The emergence of a much more liquid used market via auction sites and online dealers is only making things worse -- the manufacturers don't make a penny when you buy used.

Most of these firms have been gobbled up by private equity back in the boom times, and now they are hunting for new revenue streams. They need money coming in the door when people aren't buying new guns, and the AR trend helps because they can sell all kinds of stuff -- parts, accessories, etc.

So that's my theory -- the firms are under heavy pressure from their private equity overlords to increase profitability, and ARs have the margins and the accessories market to make that happen. I don't buy the story that it's purely consumer demand. While I'm sure there's a big generational difference and that ARs are what younger guys grew up with, guns are unique in that you can't easily buy a substitute product from abroad or used (while the used market is better, it's still not really functional) and so you just have to buy whatever the manufactures put out.

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

personally I would like to see some company make a rifle with a Krag-Jorgensen MAGAZINE. They can make the action anything they want, and if they choose a bolt action, they can make the bolt as strong, as fat, as massive, as multi-lugged as they want, as long as it has a Krag magazine.

I imagine a slick-shucking Remington Model 7600 with a Krag magazine, and Dave Petzal can no longer complain that "the detachable magazine is one more item to lose".

Also, just like the tubular magazine of a classic lever action, you can top up the Krag magazine without retracting the bolt. You're topping up the magazine, and the rifle is still ready to fire.

Finally, since the US version of the Krag rifle was developed using a rimmed cartridge (.30 Army/.30-40 Krag) and fed it reliably, then a Krag magazine-equipped rifle should be able to cycle such golden oldies as the .45-70, .45-90, .50-110. .470 Nitro (with proper magazine and action length), etc.

The Krag magazine was deemed inadequate for military use, because it wasn't capable of rapid charging with stripper clips (although the Norwegians used the rifle up to WW2 with no complaints). But that's another argument. For sporting rifle use, however, especially with scoped rifles, the Krag magazine, IMHO, has merits. And unlike detachables, it is an integral part of the rifle, you can't misplace it.

I can dream, can't I?

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from O Garcia wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

everything can be toughened, see Magpul P-Mag.

off-balanced and unsightly are relative.

Obviously if you don't like something, or someone...

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

1uglymutha: I presume you are suggesting I stay home from Vegas as I see nothing in your profile or contributions suggesting that you are any more personally familiar with hunting in Africa than I am. Perhaps you are more familiar with Vegas? I did spend four days there with my daughter over Christmas three years ago, two months after we lost my wife. Therapist suggested I get away to some place where the two of us would never have went if she was alive. Vegas fit the bill perfectly. My then 19 year-old daughter did enjoy herself and it was very therapeutic watching her. But I'm a restless sort and need to be walking. That is a challenge in Vegas. Being assailed by obnoxious illegal immigrant pimps who literally got in my face at every step WAS NOT therapeutic!

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Oops. I see ... Kalawo is the county in which the Kalaupapa National Historic Site is located.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

This whole business about eye dominance has always baffled me. I confess that I have never checked myself for dominance. It was a moot issue by the time I even knew there was such a thing - by then my left eye had three surgically repaired retina detachments and several torn spots fixed with laser. I'm now right eye dominant by default because the left one barely sees anything. Anyway, I understand why eye dominance might be of some significance for a guy like me who now only bird hunts with a shotgun. But what the hell difference does eye dominance make when shooting a scoped rifle? If you're right handed, shoot a right handed gun if it has a scope on it. When shooting through a scope the left eye is by necessity closed and out of action no matter if it is "dominant" or not. Perhaps shooting open sights MIGHT be a different matter.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

Safado, never heard of someone who couldn't close either eye at will. I guess you have a condition that is a bit beyond run of the mill "dominance." Interesting.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 10 weeks 1 day ago

The Krag external magazine is more vulnerable to damage by operator and the elements than box type magazines. It made the rifle off-balanced and heavier (various models of Krag-Jørgensen weighed between 7.5 [carbine] and 11.5 lbs). The design is also unsightly (although not nearly as unsightly as ARs!) and complicated (expensive to produce). I don't see any way of getting around those issues even with today's technology. Might sell as a novelty ... briefly. Like Mossberg's zombie shotgun.

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from 1uglymutha wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

The F&S Webmaster must be the same person who designed the Affordable Care Act website. This thing is frustrating sometimes.
Ontario Honker: Do yourself a favor and stay home.

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from 1uglymutha wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

A few engraved portraits of dead presidents will get you anything you want in Las Vegas. The quantity needed depends solely on your requirement.

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from NHshtr wrote 10 weeks 3 days ago

Boy, Dave, you wrote this article about 3 months too late. In November I bought a Browning BLR lever in .30-06. Had I read this in October, I never would have a stupid un-trendy lever gun that shoots a bit more than M.O.A (maybe better when I load more ammo variations)and properly loaded can take down any North American game. Now what am I to do? I'm afraid to go to the range and be seen shooting a "relic". Not to mention going deer hunting and being considered un-trendy among the AR-style hunting crowd.
Seriously, I don't see the AR-style hunting rifle trend among the many hunters I know (no brag, but that's quite a few having been president of a large hunting org). But then again, this is NH and we're up in the top corner of the country and just may have an AR hunting trend delay!

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from fox4 wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Mr. Petzal,
Since we apparently are unable to hit the broad side of a barn at 100 yards with less than a $6,000 rifle/scope/spotter/range finder, how was Elmer Keith able to hit a deer at 600 yards with a hand gun? I’d like to know how he pulled off that feat, if it is true. Also, would F&S consider expanding on hand gun hunting coverage? Would you please write about that in a future post? Thanks in advance.

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from Safado wrote 10 weeks 2 days ago

Ontario Honker,
I'm right handed and left eye dominate. If I put the rifle to my right shoulder I can't see through the scope with my right eye. I also can't close my left eye and keep my right eye open, So I can't get on target. I can get on target if I cover my left eye say with tape over the shooting glasses. Then I can shoot right handed. But in a field condition who is going to have time for that. So I shoot right handed rifles left handed. It makes it hard to get off a fast second shot, all the more reason to make the first one count.
I can appreciate where TW Davidson is coming from. That is the beauty of the modern sporting rifle, not having to work the bolt. Shooting offhand the rifle never leaves your shoulder.

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from wittsec wrote 9 weeks 6 days ago

I think that lever actions will always have a place until the older ones of us are no longer here. My first gun was a Marline 30-30 lever and it will always have a place in my heart. My son? Not so much.

In regards to getting into SHOT. When I first moved to Vegas I had a temp job cleaning up the convention areas overnight. Got to see everything with absolutely no crowd, though to be honest hands on was a little limited due to locks and gates. I will have to say though that the most interesting were the AVN shows.

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