Petzal: All About Rifle Abuse*

In my post on Cooper rifles, a number of you brought up the problem involved in taking an expensive rifle into the cold, hard world of hunting and getting the hell beaten out of it.

In the eyes of this grizzled, embittered old observer, there are two kinds of people who actually use fancy rifles. The first gives them all the consideration that you would a rake or a broom. It's nothing more than a tool, they say, treat it as such. Don't be a slave to the thing. The second kind, to which I belong, shows all rifles, and especially fancy ones, the same kind of obsessive care that former Senator John ("The Breck Girl") Edwards shows his hair. Any rifle is going to show wear if you use it enough, but that's not the same as beating on it.

Some people like to bash expensive gear because it shows they are above mere material concerns. Or it may be a way of letting the world know that they don't care if they reduce a gun to rubble because they have 32 more just like it. That stuff drives me crazy. Any gunsmith who turns out a handsome firearm has invested a ton of time and skill and heart into making it that way, and to throw the gun around is a gesture of contempt toward the man who made it.

The two most-used rifles I've ever seen were the .300 Weatherby Mark V that C.J. McElroy carried to put 350-odd species of big game in the SCI record book. It was hardly recognizable as a rifle any more. The other was Warren Page's Old Betsy, his famous 7mm Mashburn magnum, with which he slew everything on four legs and, like McElroy, won the Weatherby Award. Old Betsy had its bluing worn off in spots, and obvious wear to the stock, but it was still in good shape. Both rifles had lived equally hard lives, but Page loved Old Betsy, and it showed.

*I don't know any songs about rifle abuse, but there is an old bluegrass song about child abuse called "Please Poppa, Don't Whip Little Benny," sung by the Stanley Brothers. But that's not important now.