A couple of weeks ago I returned a loaner rifle to the maker. It was a very expensive gun and he had been nice enough to let me keep it for 10 years, but the time had come. When he got it, he called to thank me and then said, “But you never used it.”

“Au contraire,” I said. “I hunted with it in Quebec, Maine, Wyoming, and South Carolina, and those are just the places I can remember off the top of my head.”

Some people are careful with their guns and some are not. Warren Page’s 7mm Mashburn, Old Betsy Number One, took 475 head of big game all over the world, under all conditions, for nearly 25 years, and is still in pretty decent shape. Jack O’Connor’s Al Beisen .270, which was his go-to rifle for something like 15 years and shot everything everywhere, shows use, but is still presentable.

On the other hand, C.J. McElroy’s .300 Weatherby, which killed an unimaginable number of big game, is hardly recognizable as a rifle. It looks like it was thrown into a gravel pit and then run over repeatedly by a D9 Cat.

I’m always suspicious of people who beat up their guns. It shows contempt for the firearm, and by extension for whoever made it. This kind of attitude shows in other ways.

Years ago, there was a very good sporting clays range a bit north of me, and the road to the clubhouse was slightly rougher than the north ridge from Tibet that leads to the top of Mt. Everest. It was something that you would take very slowly and carefully in an SUV with skid plates.

But invariably, I would see people in Mercedes and BMWs just thrashing their way over the rocks and potholes. It was their way of saying to the world: “Not only can I afford an expensive car, but I have enough money to beat it to death for no reason and then buy another.”

Substitute the word “rifle” for “car” and you see what I’m talking about.