One of the many reasons I loathe summer is because rifle barrels heat up fast and make your shooting more difficult. Every time you squeeze that trigger a flame of between 4,000 and 5,000 f goes streaking up the barrel, and in two or three shots, two things happen: Your barrel warps (target-weight barrels usually will not do this) and the mirage, or heat waves, rising from the barrel give you a false picture of where your target is.

How hot is too hot? Rifles vary in their tolerance for heat, but as a rule of thumb, if you can’t grasp your barrel in a manly handshake and hold on, you’ve gone too far. I take a fan to the range: usually five minutes with that will cool down a barrel. Kenny Jarrett sticks his rifles under an air conditioner. My writer friend Stan Skinner made me a device that sprays a fine mist of ice water down the bore, and that will cool things down forthwith, except you have to get the water out of the bore before you can shoot again.

If you don’t have any means of cooling the rifle, stand it muzzle up out of the sun. In this position, the barrel acts as a smokestack and it loses heat much quicker. Shoot no more than three rounds in a string; the hotter you get the gun, the longer it takes to cool.

*In fond memory of Jerry Reed, who ” …played licks on his guitar like you ain’t never heard.”