Petzal: The Gun Builder As Artist

A couple of days ago I was filling out a 4473 at Safari Outfitters, thereby ensuring that I was not a menace to society, and virtually under my nose was one of the most gorgeous rifles I'd ever seen. It was a highly engraved .458 made in the late 1960s by a gunmaker named Dale Goens.

Goens was one of a comparative handful of men who, between 1950 and 1970, transformed the big-game rifle into an art form. They were Len Brownell, Jerry Fisher (who is still at it), Keith Stegall, Al Beisen, Goens, Hal Hartley, and Tom Fashingbauer. Not only were they master gunsmiths but they were artists as well.

I mounted the Goens rifle, and said to Niles Wheeler, who runs SA, that it was way too light for a .458 and that it would knock your talleywhacker off when you shot it.

"It's heavier than it feels," said Niles, and put it on a scale. The needle pointed to 9 ¼ pounds, a little light for a .458 but perfectly within reason. What had fooled me was the rifle's perfect balance. Mr. Goens had taken the time and trouble to make this buffalo basher handle like a fine shotgun (as opposed to a cheap shotgun). That is something that goes beyond mechanics into the realm of artistry. You can see more photos of the gun by going to safarioutfittersltd.com and clicking on Rifles.