February 16, 2006
The Gun Nut Survey: A highly biased, unofficial poll of 2,000 readers on all things shooting
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
You can click on one of these section names to visit that section, or just keep on reading to start at the beginning. And as you'll probably disagree with most of these results, voice your opinion by clicking on the "comments" link located all the way at the bottom of the page.
Section 1:Your Guns
You have plenty of good guns on your rack, but here’s what you take down most often
1. What is your primary whitetail gun?
2. What is your primary whitetail gun’s caliber or gauge?
|7mm Remington Magnum||5%|
3. What is your primary big-game rifle?
|Weatherby Mark V||4%|
|Mauser, commercial or|
4. What is your primary big-game rifle’s caliber?
|7mm Remington Magnum||10%|
|.300 Winchester Magnum||9%|
|.300 Weatherby Magnum||3%|
|.300 Winchester Short Magnum||3%|
5. What is your primary waterfowl shotgun?
|Benelli Super Black Eagle I/II||4%|
6. What is your primary upland shotgun?
|Ruger Red Label||4%|
7. What is your primary turkey shotgun?
|Benelli Super Black Eagle||4%|
“Just that I wish I had spent a few dollars more when I was younger to get better quality.”
“I shoot guns from a hundred years ago, and I shoot guns that are 5 years old. I love them all, and I shoot all of them.”
“If I’m going to buy a gun, it’s for use and abuse. Expensive bells and whistles don’t sell me. I buy for what works best for me, what will last, and what doesn’t cost six months’ salary.”
Remington Rules: Two gun models designed just after World War II lead the pack in 2006
I would have bet anything that your choice for the world’s best gun would have been the Winchester Model 70, but it was the Remington 700, and by a landslide. And for the best upland shotgun, I was sure you’d select a tradition-dripping side-by-side like the Parker. What won? The Remington 870—by a landslide. For favorite whitetail gun, the venerated Winchester Model 94? The infallible Marlin Model 336? No, it was the Remington Model 700, by—repeat after me—a landslide.
You can get the 870 and the 700 in all sorts of variations, and at all sorts of prices, but regardless of cost, they work. And that, you have said loud and clear, is what counts most.
Section 2: The Best Guns
Your selections of the greatest rifles, shotguns, handguns, and cartridges ever made
1. What’s the best whitetail rifle ever made?
|Weatherby Mark V||6%|
2. What’s the best whitetail cartridge?
3. What’s the best all-around North American big-game rifle ever made?
|Weatherby Mark V||13%|
4. What’s the best all-around North American big-game cartridge?
|.300 Winchester Magnum||19%|
|7mm Remington Magnum||13%|
5. What’s the best American handgun ever made?
|Ruger Single Six||18%|
|Smith & Wesson 29||16%.|
6. What’s the best all-around shotgun ever made?
|Benelli Super Black Eagle||9%|
7. What’s the best upland shotgun ever made?
|Ruger Red Label||5%|
8. What’s the best waterfowl shotgun ever made?
|Benelli Super Black Eagle||16%|
|Browning 31/2-inch Gold||6%|
|Winchester 31/2-inch Super X2||5%|
“My parents let me buy my Remington 870 when I was about 11 years old with the agreement that I had to stop complaining about how much I didn’t like going to school. Once the agreement was made, I shut my mouth for the rest of the school year.”
—Steve Douglas, with a Beretta 687
“I think that it is less about what the gun costs and more about how it feels in your hands. My ’06 is not the greatest gun in the world, but I have shot it until it is like part of my body.”
“How is it that our favorite guns are always the guns
The Invincible ’06: It debuted 100 years ago but is still the benchmark rifle cartridge
The favorite whitetail cartridge and the best big-game cartridge, miles ahead of everything else, are one and the same. It was designed in 1903, the year the Wright brothers first flew, and it attained its final form three years later. Now, when we are landing probes on asteroids, this 100-year-old cartridge remains the one against which all others are measured—and fall short.
It was created by the U.S. Army, and its original designation was the .30 Government Model 1906, and it was originally chambered for the legendary Springfield Model 1903 rifle, with which we fought World War I. The doughboys who carried the Springfield were stunned at the gun’s range and accuracy of the rifle and cartridge, and when they got home, the ’06 was off and running.
The standard military loading was a 150-grain bullet at 2700 fps. Now, commercial ammo can move that same 150-grain slug at close to 3000 fps. The ’06 is loaded with bullets that range in weight from 110 grains to 220, and if you can’t find a weight that suits you, you are too fussy.
Section 3: Today's Guns
You like to own rifles and shotguns that are affordable, accurate, practical, and new.
1. American guns are:
|Better than they were 50 years ago||65%|
|Not as good as they were 50 years ago||19%|
|About the same as they were 50 years ago||6%|
2. The last time you bought a new gun, how did you feel about it?
|Great investment; worth every cent||77%|
|Not bad, but not quite as good as I’d hoped||22%|
|Would be more useful if it were converted to a lamp||1%|
3. Which of the following do you agree with?
|Having so many cartridges available makes shooting more interesting||65%|
|There are way too many cartridges available these days||35%|
4. Do you feel that gun manufacturers are turning out the same old stuff year after year, just with new unimportant features?
|They’re the same basic designs, but with lots of genuine improvements over older guns||72%|
|You bet, and I’m getting pretty sick of it||28%|
5. I will toss my cookies if I read another word about:
|Guns that cost as much as a good used car||34%|
|Ordinary guns that you can see any day. I want to read about the unusual stuff||3%|
|None of the above. I like reading practically anything about guns||46%|
6. Do Europeans make better guns than we do?
|There’s no big difference||51%|
7. In the last decade, we’ve seen blued steel and wood being replaced by synthetic stocks and exotic metals. How do you feel about it?
|Bring it on. If it results in a better gun, I’m all for it||60%|
|Enough already. How can you be fond of a gun that’s made out of plastic and titanium?||40%|
8. The next gun you buy will be:
|I’ll probably never buy another gun; I have all that I need||5%|
“I don’t see a place for plastic on a deer rifle. It makes my stomach turn when a man comes to deer camp with a plastic gun. Take it back to the Wal-Mart toy department.” —Adam Bogle, with a Remington 870
“Flintlocks were modern guns at one time. Change is good. Modern technology should continue in firearms as long as it brings added value to the shooter.”
“I love the traditional blued steel and wood look, but synthetics really do shoot a little better.”
Performance First, Looks Second: You value tradition, but it takes a backseat to accuracy and reliability
At just about every range I’ve been to, nothing draws attention like a geezer-aged gun. People gather around, clucking like poultry at the quality of the polishing, the wood-to-metal fit, and the amount of obvious care that went into its manufacture. But when the gun is shot and the groups turn up downrange, they tend to lose interest.
You have said that guns are better than ever, and that our designers know what they’re doing, and that if a space-age material will improve a gun you’ll take it and tradition be damned. And you’re correct. I routinely shoot plain-vanilla production rifles of all prices that are so accurate I’m embarrassed to write about them. Years ago, you couldn’t buy that kind of accuracy no matter what you spent.
Blue steel and aged walnut may be prettier than fiberglass and stainless, but if you want something that can take a week’s worth of freezing rain and hold its zero, kiss pretty good-bye.
Section 4: Your Shooting Habits
Centerfire, rimfire, or shotgun, it doesn’t matter. As long as it has a trigger, you want to pull it
1. Do you belong to a gun club?
2. Where do you do most of your shooting?
|On private land||49%|
|A public gun range||20%|
|A private pay-to-shoot gun range||18%|
|On public land||13%|
3. Did you shoot any of the following in the last 12 months?
|Trap and sporting clays||9%|
|Trap and skeet||8%|
|Skeet and sporting clays||7%|
|No, I didn’t shoot any of these||43%|
4. How many centerfire rifle (or shotgun slug) rounds a year do you fire in practice?
|More than 100||36%|
|Less than 20||18%|
5. How many shotgun rounds a year do you fire in practice?
|Less than 25||21%|
|More than 1,000||12%|
6. Do you shoot a rimfire rifle at least once a year?
7. If you do shoot a rimfire rifle at least once a year, you do it mainly to:
|Hunt small game||28%|
|Practice for deer/big-game season||16%|
8. Do you always sight in your deer or big-game rifle before the season? (Be honest!)
9. What’s the longest shot you’ve ever taken at an animal?
|More than 300 yards||23%|
|Less than 100 yards||18%|
10. Have you ever missed an animal because of “buck fever”?
11. Have you ever shot at a running deer?
12. Have you ever had a problem with the police, the Transportation Security Administration, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that involved guns?
“The majority of the hunting public knows very little about what their rifles are capable of doing. They buy way too much gun, have no idea what kind of bullet to use, and rely too much on gadgets and not enough
—Andrew Niese, with a Ruger Number One
“I LOVE THEM! I wish I lived in a place where owning guns and going shooting was more acceptable.”
“If there was a decent range near me I think I would shoot a lot more.”
“My armpits are black-and-blue three-quarters of the year.”
“The first weekend of every October my buddies and I practice long-range, short-range, and moving targets from all shooting positions.”
Just Shooting: Clay birds, paper targets, tin cans: most of you have a home on the range
Many of you love to shoot, but hunting entails very little shooting, so you’re turning increasingly to targets of all sorts. If hunting-license sales are down, target-shooting figures are up. In 2003, 19.8 million people shot at targets, a 13 percent jump over the year before, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars doing it.
The advantages of shooting targets are obvious: You get to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. You can compete year-round. You don’t have to sit in a freezing gale hour after hour or spill doe pee on yourself. And you get to do it for a long time. You see very few 70-year-olds on the tennis courts, but you can grind up clay targets nearly as well in your eighth decade as you could when you were a young punk.
Section 5: Principles and Politics
Shooters disagree on a lot of issues—except when it comes to protecting their right to shoot
1. How do you feel about Cowboy Action Shooting?
|It’s a great idea, a lot of fun, and a great boost to the gun industry||72%|
|There’s something terribly sad about grown men and women dressing up and playing cowboy||14%|
|What’s Cowboy Action Shooting?||14%|
2. Which of the following do you believe is true?
|You can’t deal in good faith with people who want tougher gun control because their ultimate goal is the elimination of private gun ownership||75%|
|Some of the people who favor tougher gun control might have some worthwhile ideas||25%|
3. Would you spend $3,000 on a rifle or shotgun if doing so didn’t cause a financial hardship?
|Yes, it’s worth it||44%|
|I’d never spend that much money on a gun||43%|
|Only on a rifle||8%|
|Only on a shotgun||5%|
4. If you had the chance to go on the big-game hunt of a lifetime for something like elk or sheep, would you get a new rifle?
|Only if my current gun wasn’t adequate for the hunt and/or the game||81%|
|Yes—you only live once||19%|
5. Have you ever written to your elected representatives at any level about their stand on a gun-control issue?
|No, I just never bothered||29%|
|No. They’re going to do what they want, and my letter won’t make a bit of difference||13%|
6. If you could buy a range-calculating riflescope that would just about guarantee hits on game, would you get one?
7. Agree or disagree: Hunters who use scoped, in-line muzzleloaders are violating the spirit of the law, and their guns are no more “primitive” than most centerfire deer rifles.
|Agree. Blackpowder hunting is about the challenge of getting close enough to game to make one sure shot, not just killing an animal||54%|
|Disagree. Modern blackpowder guns are reliable and accurate, and make for more humane kills than do replicas of primitive guns||46%|
8. What do you think of this survey?
|This is the first gun-owner survey I’ve ever seen that had any guts||32%|
|You guys are a bunch of knee-jerk liberal blue staters||2%|
“Private gun ownership should never be banned at any level. It is a security, a lifestyle, and the ultimate freedom. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
—Justin L. Rios, with a Beretta 391
“I think that if people were more educated in safety and awareness that there would be fewer violent crimes involving firearms. I think that there should be a push for K–12 awareness. Guns exist, that’s a fact.”
—Stephen Ek, with a Remington 700
“I am tired of hearing the in-line muzzleloader users tell us that we must support them because an attack on them is an attack on guns. My response is ‘Hey jerk, you already stole my season, so bite me!’”
“I haven’t spent $3,000 on a firearm, but never is a long time.”
It’s All About the Sport: Technology has its limits, ethics counts for plenty, and skill still rules
The respondents to this survey showed themselves to be a conscientious bunch. They practice, they sight in their rifles, and they have a strong sense of sporting ethics. For example, at a time when the gun industry uses the ability to shoot at long range as a major selling point, the overwhelming majority F&S surveyed do not shoot at over 200 yards. Almost half said they do not shoot at running deer. A majority felt that in-line muzzleloaders violate the spirit of the law.
But the biggest surprise was the answer to the question “If you could buy a range-calculating riflescope that would guarantee hits on game, would you get one?” More people voted no than yes. You would think that, in a society in which technology holds the answer to everything, this would be a no-brainer.
Guaranteed success? Who’d turn that down? Fifty-one percent of the hunters who answered the question, that’s who.
We take off our hats to them.