Ask Petzal: Awful Camp Food, Cheap Rifles and Poetry

Illustration by Mark Matcho

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life.

What is the worst thing you've ever eaten at a hunting camp?
—Kent Collins, Sacramento, Calif.
A: It was an antelope chop that was burnt to a cinder and heavily entwined with the cook's long hair. The cook was drunk, and when I complained she tried to separate me from my manhood with a butcher knife.

Q: What is the minimum foot-pounds of energy today's bullets must have to kill a deer? How about an elk?
—Johnell Bos, Naperville, Ill.
A: The idea that you need so many foot-pounds of energy to kill a certain species is a complete myth. Indeed, in the history of man on earth there have been few concepts so utterly lacking in merit. I've shot deer with everything from a .223 to a .340 Weatherby, and they all went down regardless of caliber. Hit them right with the legal minimum, maximum, or anything in between, and they'll go flop.

Q: I've heard that you do not have to clean a .22 rifle. Is that true?
—Nathan Wiley, Franklin, Ky.
A: Absolutely untrue. At the least you'll get a buildup of crud in the front of the chamber that will eventually prevent feeding. At worst your barrel will pit, and you'll need a new one. Many people neglect their .22s, but that doesn't mean it's sound procedure.

Q: O Crusty One, why is it that combination guns, such as the Savage Model 24, never really caught on in this country?
—Jeff Moyer, Mathias, W.Va.
A: "Crusty One"? Has it come to this? Rifle-shotgun combination guns are viewed here as muzzle-heavy shotguns with a single-shot rifle attached to no good purpose. They're popular in Germany and Austria because they're mechanically complex, and Teutonic gunmakers cherish complexity above all else.

Q: Does shooting shot loads in a .22 rifle or centerfire revolver damage the rifling, cylinder, or forcing cone, thus hurting accuracy with standard ammo?
—Steve Duncan, Marion, N.C.
A: Shooting shot in a .22 rifle should not hurt the gun—or much of anything else. I am, however, uneasy about shooting it in a handgun, which may prove difficult to get truly clean afterward. That said, in .45/.410 it seems to work O.K. You can use it, but I'd give the parts you mention a good scrubbing soon after.

Q: With so many sub-$500 rifles shooting MOA or better, why should anyone pay more than that for a hunting rifle?
—Kim Reynolds, Carson City, Nev.
A: If you view a rifle as simply a tool for collecting game, there is no reason. If you find it a fascinating and beautiful expression of human ingenuity, something of great intrinsic value, then you won't be happy with a piece of junk that happens to shoot well.

Q: Who is your favorite poet?
—Hans Abeln, Jackson, Miss.
A: My favorite poet is Rudyard Kipling, who was once enormously popular but is now generally regarded as politically incorrect and unfashionable. I bet you thought I was going to say Keats or Byron or Shelley or Frost.