The Power of Gun Porn

For some reason, I occasionally receive glossy 16-page “rare and collectible” firearms auction catalogs in the mail. The guns shown are so pricey that they don’t even bother listing estimated values, although you can make a good guess if you dig around online. Anyway, this is gun porn, pure and simple. And, being a well-adjusted adult, I can take it over leave it. By which I mean that I can’t keep my hands off it.

Gun porn exerts a particularly strong pull when I have more important things to do. I’m forever vowing that I’ll pay those bills or file that story or send in that health-insurance claim just as soon as I take a quick soak in these out-of-my-league firearms.

And the next thing I know, I’m daydreaming about how I’d show up to a dove shoot dressed in my normal duds and take a seat on my bucket. Slowly, it would dawn on the guys around me that I’m not carrying my 11-87 but, instead, an impossibly elegant-looking firearm stocked with walnut the color of browned butter, wood with the kind of deep grain that draws you in like an abstract painting. “What the hell you totin’?” somebody will finally ask.

“Oh this?” I’ll say airily. “Just an old A.H. Fox FE Grade double-barrel 20. It’s got some gold inlay and engraving on it. I think it shows the loading of Noah’s ark on one side and George Washington crossing the Delaware on the other. Can’t tell without a magnifying glass, though, and haven’t bothered to check it out yet. Heads up! Bird coming in.” And that’s all I’ll say, giving them time to speculate about whether there isn’t a great deal more to me than they’d thought.

In my mind, the scene at deer camp plays out similarly. I show up wearing my lumpy but warm Raven Wear hat, mismatched camo, Bean boots that are due for resoling, and a highway worker’s reflective vest I picked up along the median strip after realizing I’d forgotten mine. The first thing anybody around the fire will notice is that I’m shooting a lever action with open sights. Then they’ll notice the case-hardened receiver. And, once again, the wood. They’ll notice that it’s a Winchester. But since some of these guys also went dove hunting with me, they already know that Bill Heavey doesn’t carry just any Winchester. Curiosity will eventually get the better of one of them.

“Model 1886,” I’ll reply. “But in .50-110, which was a buffalo round. Buffalo were pretty much done by the time they were turning these out, so it’s a scarce caliber. Plus most of them were blackpowder guns, so they deteriorated pretty quick unless somebody took care of ’em. I got lucky with this one. She’s about 96 percent. Course, I’m a bit leery of shooting modern jacketed bullets out of her. So I load my own hard-cast lead with AA-5574 smokeless powder and haven’t had any problems so far. I tell you what, though. Shoot something with this rifle and it rarely gets very far. Anyway, I hear it’s supposed to get cold tonight. Y’all reckon they’ll be up and moving tomorrow?”

Is any of that ever going to happen? No. But a guy can dream, right? Now I gotta go pay some bills.

Photo of Winchester Model 1886 by Bardbom