In 1965, I managed to save up the staggering sum of $300 (which is what they cost new then) and buy a Weatherby Mark V left-hand .300 Magnum which, if you were into guns, was the equivalent of a Stingray or a GTO. I had never shot one before, and I remember sitting at the bench rest on a beautiful October afternoon, cringing behind the stock, thinking that this thing was going to kill me. I finally shot, and it didn’t.
Weatherbys at the time were made by the German firm of J.P. Sauer & Sohn, and they were fine, fine rifles. The stocks were claro walnut, and it varied wildly in quality and color, from dead plain to gorgeous, in all shades of the wood rainbow. This one had a handsome honey-colored stock, but I had been reading Jack O’Connor a lot, and had been convinced that any stock that was classic was not worth owning. So I tossed the honey-colored claro stock and gave the barreled action to a guy who built severely classical stocks at prices I could afford. And I found out why I could afford them. He did cheap work.
When I got the rifle back, one of the fleurs in the fleur-de-lis checkering pattern pointed northwest when it should have pointed north, and the finish wasn’t quite dry, but I didn’t really get the message until the stock split behind the tang.
So I cut up that stock and gave the wood to a knifemaker who used it for handles, and gave the barreled action to a fellow named Winston Gordon Churchill, who was then engraving rifles, but would work in wood even though he didn’t relish it.
He stocked it in a piece of pale tan New Zealand walnut, and it is about as nice a using stock as I own. Not much figure or color, but it’s light and stable and handles recoil well and all the fleurs are straight, and the metal looks like it’s been sunk into the wood with a die.
(to be continued . . .)