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  • April 21, 2014

    A Good Place to Say Good-Bye

    By David E. Petzal

    The other day at the range I was talking with a pair of fellow codgers, and one of them allowed as how he had been hit by lightning a few years ago. A thunderstorm came up suddenly and he was unaware that his right foot was in a puddle of water. He became aware when a bolt struck his right foot, went up his leg, destroying a number of veins, into his chest where it punched a hole in his heart, and out his left hand, which for some reason it spared.

    He reminded me of a barber I used to go to who was with the Second Division at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea; every day he had after that was a gift.

    “But,” he said, “my wife doesn’t want me to go hunting any more. She’s afraid I’ll have a heart attack and die in the woods.” [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 16, 2014

    Classic Deer Guns and Crapshoot Accuracy

    By Dave Hurteau

    Generally speaking, today’s rifles are much more accurate than yesterday’s, which leads people to think that the old guns can’t shoot. Many can’t, for sure. But some can.

    I have a Savage 99 in .300 Savage that shoots just over a minute of angle and a Remington Model 141 in .35 Rem. that shoots just under. I got lucky with those. On the other hand, I have a Winchester Model 70 Classic Compact in 7mm-08 that won’t put three shots inside a cantaloupe no matter what I feed it. Them’s the breaks. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 14, 2014

    I Have Pressing Business Elsewhere

    By David E. Petzal

    This was prompted by the convergence of two forces. First, I’m engaged in compiling a list of the people I’d least like to hunt with, and first on it is Old Five Deferrals himself, Dick Cheney, game hog and general menace. The second was the announcement that a member of a club I belong to had acted unsafely on the pistol range and had his shooting privileges suspended until he could be re-educated.

    Poor behavior with a gun can lead, in an instant, to a tragedy. The military, when I was in it, dealt decisively with unsafe gun handling on the range. You would be spoken to immediately and forcefully, and might find yourself scrubbing pots in the messhall overnight to remind you to keep the muzzle pointed downrange. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 11, 2014

    Gunfight Friday: Mini-14 vs M1 Carbine

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Writing about his M1 carbine, Dr. Ralph supplied the theme for this gunfight: Big Boys’ .22s. Both rifles were designed for shooting more than paper and tin cans, but these two are primarily peaceful plinkers. Critics might say plinking is all they are suited for, since they are chambered for rounds that many argue are underpowered for combat. The Mini-14 is a .223, while the M1 is chambered in .30 Carbine. Both rifles were also designed, at least partially, by two very different American firearms geniuses. Sturm Ruger’s William Ruger adapted the Garand action to the Mini 14, while moonshiner David “Carbine” Williams came up with the basis for the M1 while serving time in prison. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 11, 2014

    Barrel Length: Shorter is Better

    By David E. Petzal

    Warren Page was once asked why most of his barrels, including his beloved 7mm Mashburn Old Betsy, had short barrels.

    “Because I gave up pole vaulting after high school,” Lefty snarled.

    Like most highly experienced hunters, Page came to learn that a barrel even an RCH longer than the absolute minimum is a hiss and a byword — more weight to carry, more length to snag on brush, and less accurate than a short barrel.  [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 10, 2014

    Federal's First Test Gun


    By Phil Bourjaily

    Photos by JJ Reich

    This is Federal Cartridge Company’s first test gun, a Model 12 Winchester purchased on Aug. 28, 1937. It’s in the hands of Randy Forstie, who works in the Federal gun room. This gun had been in use for 76 years until Forstie looked it up in the company records a few months ago and realized it was the historic first gun. He pulled it out of circulation and Federal may put it on display in the future. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 10, 2014

    Are You an Ant or a Grasshopper?

    By David E. Petzal

    You may recall Aesop’s Fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper. In case you don’t, it went something like this: A grasshopper who sang and danced all summer was rebuked by an ant who spent the time in endless toil gathering eats for the cold months.

    “You watch, a-hole; when winter comes you’re going to wish you’d stockpiled food,” said the ant.  But the grasshopper just kept at the fun and games.

    Sure enough, winter arrived and with it hard times. The grasshopper, who was by then starving, went to the ant and begged for food. But the ant, who was just finishing off an ant-sized Beef Wellington with a very nice Chateau Latour, belched, picked a piece of crust from its mandible, and said, "Beat it, parasite. You had your chance,” and with that he picked up an ant-sized Bennelli M4 tactical shotgun and fired a round at the grasshopper’s feet by way of emphasis. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 7, 2014

    Two Ways to Deal with Buck Fever

    By David E. Petzal

    Drawing on my extensive medical background, I classify buck fever as a form of hysteria in which your cerebrum and cerebellum shut down simultaneously and you are left either paralyzed and unable to do anything except wet yourself (or worse) or do really odd things like cycling a whole magazine of ammo through the rifle without pulling the trigger.

    We know that the sight of a big-game animal can have a profound physical effect on the body. Back in the 1990s, at a plantation loaded with really monstrous whitetails, scientists attached heart monitors to a number of deer hunters who then climbed into their trees stands to await one of these behemoths. When a Serious Deer did stroll by, heart rates went instantly from normal resting (about 72 beats per minute) to close to 200 per minute, which is a trip to the ER for many people. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 4, 2014

    Gunfight Friday: Pledge Week

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Thanks to reader Shawn Sipes, who sent this picture of his wonderful trio of Remington Model 14s in .25, .30, and .32 caliber. And, thanks to all of you who have offered up your guns in these last 10 months or so to make Gunfight Friday so much fun. Every week your guns and your insightful comments about them make Gunfight Friday read like a great hunting camp argument right here on this blog.

    Now, Gunfight Friday needs your guns. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 3, 2014

    Outdoor Survival: First-Aid Kits

    By David E. Petzal

    I was asked what’s in my first-aid kit. Since I don’t remember, and I’m too lazy to dig it out, I’ll give you some general rules about first-aid kits that will be more useful than an item-by-item rundown.

    Don’t think about a first-aid kit as a fixed and immutable object. The kit should expand and contract, depending on where you’re going, what you’re likely to encounter, and how long will it take to get to a doctor, or have a doctor get to you. I have two first-aid kits, one for hunts, which are in close proximity to civilization, and the other for places like Alaska, where you may be left to your own devices if something happens. This saves me the trouble of re-building a single first-aid kit over and over.  Whatever you take, it should be small enough that you can keep it with you. My small kit is a little bigger than a fist and fits in a fanny pack with no trouble. The larger one is the size of maybe two fists. Package it in something waterproof, like a Ziplock bag, or better, the rollup Velcro-seal plastic bags sold in camping-supply stores. [ Read Full Post ]

  • March 31, 2014

    Rifle Ammo: Hanged by the Neck

    By David E. Petzal

    A friend of mine has just returned from his first trip to Africa and, as all such hunters do, is now walking around with his eyes fixed on a distant continent, plotting how to get back. (The place does get a hold on you.) He was hunting for plains game, and brought along a .300 Winchester Short Magnum, loaded with Swift Sciroccos, which performed peerlessly. However, he experienced a problem that comes up very often, particularly with short-necked cases like the .300 WSM—the bullets slipped forward in the case and one of them eventually jammed its little meplat in the rifling causing all sorts of problems.

    If you’re not aware of this when it happens, you’ll yank the bolt back and the bullet will come out of the case, spilling powder everywhere and leaving you to find a cleaning rod to drive the slug out. It happened to me on an elk hunt in Colorado, using 250-grain .338 factory loads with a very long, then-experimental bullet. I barked and roared like a berserk baboon. [ Read Full Post ]

  • March 24, 2014

    Hunting Gear: Screwing Up

    By David E. Petzal

    One of the things I will go to my grave without knowing is, why is so much hunting equipment put on the market with obvious flaws? Is no one paying attention? Last week I attempted to mount a scope on a new rimfire rifle and found that when the scope was correctly positioned, the objective-lens bell collided with the rear sight. The rear sight folded down, but that didn’t help. The only way the scope would fit was if I punched the rear sight out of its slot, leaving a gaping hole, or used high rings, which are an affront to God, Man, and the Principles of Good Marksmanship.

    Did no one think: “If we put rear sight there, it get in way of scope. How about we cut slot one inch closer to muzzle?” That would have solved the problem, but it was apparently beyond whoever designed the rifle. [ Read Full Post ]

  • March 21, 2014

    Gunfight Friday: Lee Enfield vs Remington Model 14

    By Phil Bourjaily

    This week’s matchup is a couple of older rifles, and age is about all they have in common. Rob’s Remington Model 14 slide action in .35 Remington is a deer woods classic. MReeder’s Lee Enfield is a classic, too, of another kind.

    The Lee Enfield was England’s service rifle from 1895 to 1957. MReeder’s No. 4 Mk. 1 is of World War II vintage and, as he notes, this particular Lee Enfield was actually made in the United States by Savage. Although we think of the Lee Enfield as a battle rifle, it was also used as a hunting rifle throughout the British Empire. There’s no way of knowing, but the Lee Enfield may have accounted for more animals, and certainly more different kinds of animals, than any other rifle. [ Read Full Post ]

  • March 20, 2014

    Tactical Rifles

    By David E. Petzal

    When I was in the Army, I was once herded to a class on anti-tank weapons, during the course of which the instructor repeatedly used the phrase “neutralize the enemy.” Someone asked the sergeant what “neutralize” meant. The sergeant smiled a slow and beautiful smile and said: “You’ll blow the living s**t out of him.” 

    “Neutralize” was a euphemism, and so is “tactical.” A tactical rifle is a firearm designed for shooting people in a precise manner, as opposed to New York City Police Department doctrine, which is to empty the magazine as fast as you can in the general direction of everything standing and hope for the best. 

    If a gun company were to announce its new model so-and-so people-shooting rifle there would be hell to pay. So the easy way out is to simply call the gun a tactical rifle and everyone is happy. [ Read Full Post ]

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