llustration by Mark Matcho

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

Q: If you were President of the United States, what is the first thing you would do? The second?
Tony Michaels, Montville, N.J.

A: First, I would abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Drug runners would have to go elsewhere for their guns, but probably no one else would notice. Second, I would have a trap field built on the White House grounds and require that anyone who came inside looking for a favor would have to be able to break 95×100 at 16 yards, 90×100 at 22, and 46×50 at doubles.

Q: Is it better to hold your breath while squeezing the trigger or to shoot on the exhale?
Dan Ferris, San Antonio, Texas

A: The correct technique, and the one I use, is to inhale, let about three-quarters of your breath out, continue slowly with the last quarter, and then pull the trigger when you’ve stopped exhaling. Shooting while your breath is still leaving creates movement, which is bad for accuracy.

Q: Ohio just approved straight-walled cartridge rifles for deer hunting. Can you recommend a caliber, and will it perform better than my trusty Remington 870 slug gun?
Ben Casper, Miamisburg, Ohio

A: Go with the .45/70, and in particular, with Hornady LeverEvolution ammo. It is light-kicking and accurate and will greatly outrange your slug gun.

Q: What is your drink of choice, and if you find yourself in North Carolina in the near future, may I buy you one?
Chris Bitterman, Lexington, N.C.

A: Your offer is kind, but the truth is I’m a teetotaler. This is not because of morals but because my sense of humor, which is pretty grotesque when I’m sober, becomes so odd when I’ve had a few that it’s a lot simpler not to have a few. I am, however, highly partial to lemonade, and should we meet, I will slurp down all you can pay for.

Q: The cost of today’s ammo is pricing some of us right out. Will this eventually kill our sport?
Ron Durskin, Carlisle, Pa.

A: I don’t think it will kill our sport, but I do think it will change it. We will eventually see cheaper forms of ammunition, and in smaller calibers. The bigger magnum cartridges could disappear altogether. We may also see modifications to some of our competitive shooting games, so that they require fewer rounds downrange.

Q: How do I ensure that my eye aligns correctly with my scope? And if it doesn’t, how do I fix this with a gun that does not have an adjustable comb?
Greg Kelley, Fresno, Calif.

A: Mount the scope so that the rear of the ocular-lens bell is 3⁄4 inch or so behind the rear end of the bolt. With your eyes closed, mount the rifle, then open your eyes. You should have 3 inches between the scope and your eyebrow and be able to see the scope’s full field of view. If all is not copacetic, move the scope back or forth until it is. Then tighten the screws.

Regarding comb height, if your eye is positioned too low or high, a gunsmith can add or remove material for a perfect fit. A really good one can even make it look good. If you don’t care what it looks like, you can build up a comb that is too low with layers of moleskin or with closed-cell foam held in place by duct tape. Last summer I built one up by a full 2 inches this way, and it worked fine.

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