Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 3 March 2003
The Ides Of March
Of all sorts of personal possessions, the
personal firearm is the most nearly unique. This is because of its
permanence. When you have acquired a good gun, there is no real
need ever to acquire another - except possibly for replacement
in case of loss. This makes the marketing of firearms a frustrating
enterprise. Except when dealing with adolescents, the marketer must
aim at making a prospective purchaser unhappy with what he already
has. You wear out clothes and automobiles, you drink up wines, you
shoot up ammunition, but your gun is still there, just as desirable
and efficient as it ever was, assuming that you chose it wisely in
the first place.
So the annual SHOT Show is pretty hard to take seriously. It is
presumed to display what is new and superior in the way of guns.
But trying to promote something new just because it is new is poor
doin's, as we mountain men used to say. I saw a good many new guns
at the SHOT Show, but none of them made me unhappy with what I've
got. Some, of course, made for interesting discussion.
The Winchester Short Magnums are being
enthusiastically pushed, though I cannot see why. A shortened bolt
throw is indeed a minor advantage, but not sufficient to complicate
We were treated to a great display of 45
autos, most of which were very nice. Since the commencement of the
Practical Shooting Revolution, we have opined that all the 1911
really needs are a trigger that you can manage, sights that you can
see and a dehorning job. In addition, one might propose a
deactivated grip safety (!), a lanyard loop, a bobbed hammer, and
press-fitted stock screw sockets. One thing the original pistol
does not need is a recoil spring guide, which is now a
popular feature of new construction. (It is curious to see a
certain amount of trouble undertaken to achieve a slight step
backward.) Most of the new 45s feature an extrusion on the lower
end of the grip safety, which does not work for me, though it may
for you. (Fortunately the grip safety is easily pinned shut.)
As if to emphasize that pistols are for having, rather
than for shooting, the Colt people are presenting a World
War I replica, an exact duplication of the original
Leading candidate for the 2003
Waffenpösselhaft Award is the 45 Short cartridge, introduced by
Glock. We need a short 45 the way we need a three-wheel Ferrari.
But I have no doubt that people will buy this item, if for no other
reason than that it is new.
I examined the Walther P22, which is
indeed a nice little item. In some respects it is not quite as good
as its ancestor the PPK, but for the rural household which needs a
22 at the ready and does not already have one, this is an
attractive piece. (Let it not be said that I advocate the 22 LR
cartridge for house defense. It is certainly not our first choice,
but it will do when managed by a cool hand. I maintain that the
best weapon for household defense is a self-loading 12-gauge
shotgun, but such is obviously clumsy to pack around.)
Of all the weapons displayed at the SHOT
Show, the only one featuring a perfect trigger out-of-the-box was,
as usual, the Blaser 93. It seems to me that most shooters, buyers
or sellers, are not much interested in triggers. I can only assume
that most shooters do not shoot very much, at least not today. The
trigger on the M1 Garand that I was issued at Basic School had a
cleaner release than anything I saw at SHOT, excepting the Blaser
and the 22 Match rifles. Jim West puts a pretty good trigger on his
"Co-pilot," and the Steyr Scout trigger can be tuned to perfection
by a skillful smith. Some of the Scouts came from the factory with
superb triggers, but more recent examples did not.
The Remington people have seen fit to reintroduce their excellent
350 Remington Short Magnum cartridge in a new rifle called the 673.
I fancied the 600/660 series carbines for my own use, but a
surprising number of people seem to think that they "looked
funny" - as if that matters. The action on the 600s was
compressed to the rear, calling for a swept forward bolt handle
which was ergonomically sound, if distressing to the esthete. The
new gun is redesigned, making it slightly longer overall. If you
have one of the old ones, keep it. The Model 673 retains the
odd "Halloween" open-sight system with its pumpkin foresight, but
this arrangement is readily scraped off.
All rifles of this series fit a squared-off thumb safety, which may
be a bother unless it is rounded off. The proper place for the
thumb is on the starboard side of the rifle, as anyone who has shot
the short-stocked Garand can tell you. And the light-weight 350s do
I have fancied the Remington 350 Short Magnum since its inception,
having now taken a deer, nilgai, wildebeeste, zebra, and my one and
only lion with it. It is a superb cartridge for Alaska and for the
African bushveldt, and now you can buy factory ammunition for it
again. (It may not be quite up to the 376 Steyr, but the difference
is slight, and the ammunition is easier to come by.)
Standing out amongst new handguns is the
"Dino Pistol" of Smith & Wesson. This is a gigantic 5-shot
wheel gun taking the 500 Smith & Wesson cartridge. It is
so big and heavy that it reintroduces the job description of "gun
bearer." It is to pistols what the 700 Nitro cartridge is to
rifles - an exercise in the possible without any consideration
of what might be desirable, needful or necessary. I bet it will
sell like Big Macs.
We noticed no less than three
manufacturers featuring replicas of the 1851 Colt Navy pistol.
This, of course, was one of the arms that "won the West," but I
think it did so largely because it was war surplus at a time when
the need for a reliable, defensive handgun was particularly felt.
So you can buy a new one now, as a training aid for a history
The Moors seem to be ahead in the Holy War
at this time, at least they have succeeded in making domestic air
travel inconvenient and ridiculous. It might make some sense to
regard all Moors at airports with suspicion. At least it would
avoid subjecting obviously upperclass ladies to random body search.
It is clear that you can't make a fool of anyone unless he submits
to it. And we, as a nation, are certainly submitting to it.
Not Ted Nugent, however. Whether you like his stagecraft or not,
you must respect his spirit. When confronted with this foolishness
at the airport, he just threw back his ticket and left the
Sitting around at the SHOT Show, we were
impressed again with the psychotic requirement to lie. Perhaps the
name for this should be called "Munchausenism." Victims will come
up to you and relate experiences which are not only impossible, but
obviously impossible, and then expect you to accept what
they say as truth. What would you say of a man who told you with a
straight face that he was attacked by a rattlesnake which swallowed
the monkey wrench with which he defended himself? That sort of
thing. And, of course, the shooters get into marksmanship. I think
I know a good deal about marksmanship, at least enough to
understand long-range trajectory. But people afflicted with
Munchausenism apparently do not care whether they are
believed or not, as long as they make the outragous statement. I
once had a correspondent tell me about how he had dropped a moose
located on the other side of a lake. The lake could be measured,
and this positively established the range. I asked this gent how
far he held over the moose to achieve the hit, since at that range
with his cartridge we could anticipate between 18 and 20 feet of
bullet drop. Thus it would seem that if he held at dead on, as he
claimed, he missed by about 18 feet. This made my correspondent
mad. "I know what I know!" he said.
I have lived a long and an adventurous life, as I sometimes point
out, and I find that the unvarnished truth is amazing enough for
Riding around in a wheelchair at
airports, as I often do now, I overhear some pretty amazing
comments. One of the best from an oblivious cell phone user: "I
can't talk now, I'm on the phone."
At the Beretta display we were shown an
item which might be termed a "pseudo thumper," designed and
demonstrated by our good friend Ulrich Zedrosser, late of Steyr
Mannlicher. It was a very neat, two-handed pistol, which could be
developed into a general-purpose infantry arm if it were made to
take a powerful cartridge such as the 44 Auto-Mag. As it is, the
weapon will take only pistol cartridges, which severely limits its
usefulness, in my opinion. Herr Zedrosser pointed out that the
action would need to be reworked in order to take the pressure of a
big cartridge, since now it is a pure blowback. That could be done.
And if I were the boss, it would be done. Reports from Afghanistan
reemphasize the desirability of the thumper concept.
As of this point, I know of no stopping
failures on the part of a major-caliber rifle cartridge. I suppose
there have been some, but if they exist, they are certainly rare. A
30-06, or a 308, or a 7.92x57 in the torso stops the fight. The
fact that it kicks too hard for comfortable use by the
Moor-in-the-street is good news for us.
The Steyr Scout, though it is clearly the
best thing of its kind, is not selling well because it is not being
promoted well; and also possibly because not enough shooters shoot
enough to appreciate its excellence. The Blaser R93, on the other
hand, is selling splendidly worldwide. This is probably because of
a number of features which, while not critically attractive, are
noteworthy to a non-shooter. The multi-caliber option is apparently
saleable. If one goes far afield he is much more likely to need a
spare telescope than a different cartridge. The left-hand option is
attractive, though a proper scenario to appreciate this seems
unlikely. The straight-pull feature is most attractive
over-the-counter, though the need for it in the field is not easy
to anticipate. The nifty takedown box is a very fine feature, but
the important thing about the Blaser is its superb trigger action,
which, as we have said, does not seem to interest many
As a specialty gun, Jim West's "Co-pilot"
stands out. It has now done superior work three times in Africa on
buffalo, and Shooting Master Rich Wyatt plans to take his to
Alaska this summer for Grossbär. Of course the 45-70
cartridge of the "Co-pilot" is what does the killing. You can get
more power if you ask for it, but the extraordinary handiness of
the carbine is what makes it a gem.
At the SHOT Show, our friend Ashley
Emerson reported that he had done a hog neatly with his
kukri (pronounced cookery). There is something quite
charming about that knife pattern. I guess it is ergonomics, though
I really do not know what that word means.
I am bemused by the continuous attempt on
the part of various commentators to establish "a link between
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda." Somehow I do not see a problem there.
When I was in school, there was no difficulty in establishing a
link between the Stanford football team, the Stanford band, and the
Stanford faculty. They were all "sons of the Stanford red." All
these Moors are card-carrying Moors.
So the wise and the powerful are still looking for a connection
between various sorts of Moors. When I was a lad I assumed there
was a connection between Admiral Nagumo and General Yamashita. They
did not wear the same uniform, but they fought for the same divine
emperor. There was a link.
As we have mentioned before, the
"accuracy" of a rifle combination is a synthesis of its maximum
radial dispersion, its "shootability," its ammunition quality, its
sighting system, and its trigger action. When I was working for a
Philippine tycoon, he complained to me that his newly acquired
Steyr SSG was "inaccurate." This amazed me because those rifles are
all made one way and I did not see how one example could be
radically different from another. But my boss complained that his
rifle would not stay on a copy of Time magazine at 50
meters. I was taken flat aback. When I asked what ammunition he had
been using, he said that it was Filipino GI 7.62, so we sent up to
Manila for a couple of boxes of Hirtenberger 308 Match. The longest
range we could reach at the hacienda was 279 long steps. At that
range the rifle put its first five shots into a ring the size of a
big hen's egg.
Reports from the field tell us that
wildlife is gaining upon the eco-tourist in both Africa and
America. The nitwits are increasingly wandering the wild. In my
youth it was generally true that only people who could saddle a
horse and load a rifle were likely to be found in the boondocks.
Today too many people who should properly stay at home and watch
television feel that they can wander around in the wild, much as
they would at Disneyland. We ran across this as far back as our
first trip to Okavango, where a family of European tourists pitched
their camp right out where they should not. This country was well
stocked with lions and leopards, to say nothing of a wounded
buffalo that was being tracked after a mishap on the morning hunt.
And here we had a man and his wife and three youngsters of ten
years and younger romping around chasing butterflies. This drove
our host and outfitter right up the wall, but these tourists were
perfectly legal, and there was no way he could run them off.
So far this year there have been a couple of dozen gruesome mishaps
in the southern African bush. They were not "accidents," since they
were quite intentional on the part of the beasties. The bambiists
multiply, and they are the natural prey of "the beasts beyond the
fire." I guess this is simply an aspect of the Age of the
Wimp. I am sorry about the victims, but I simply cannot view
with much alarm.
I cannot accept the idea that the girls
really want to be placed in harm's way. I think they want to have
it both ways, which has always been difficult. Placing a woman
deliberately in harm's way is gross, and cannot be countenanced by
ladies or gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen, however, are endangered
I have heard it rumored that the Color
Code now being fostered by the security department originated here
at Gunsite. Perhaps. But what we teach at Gunsite does not have to
do with danger, but rather with readiness to take decisive,
remedial action. These are not the same.
To the best of my knowledge and belief,
the slowfire rifle record was established some ten years ago in
Sweden. This was a 10-shot, 300-meter possible on the standard
100mm X-ring, fired from unsupported prone. This may have been
equaled since in practice, but not in a recognized match.
With the handgun I once saw Elden Carl print a four-inch, five-shot
group at 100 yards, with a 44 Magnum. This was duly witnessed and
the target has been preserved.
The top quick-fire Magnum pistol effort was the only recorded
possible on the Running Hog Course. Ten-inch bull, accelerated 15
to 30 yards, three strings of four shots each, starting holstered.
This course is not often run, and it may have been equaled since,
though as a possible it cannot have been surpassed.
The highest quick-fire rifle score was achieved by Marc Heim at
Whittington - four out of five flying clay birds going
straight away. Now there is something to shoot for!
I cannot set myself up as the official world scorekeeper in these
matters, but we have to start somewhere. Let the ball
Reports from the front say that our big
logistical problem is battery compatibility. All our fancy gadgetry
operates on batteries, and all the gadgets take different sizes.
What works your gunsight does not fit your gasmask, and so on.
Probably we need the new military rank of "Battery
"Almost any plan at all, carried out today, beats the
best plan in the world, carried out tomorrow."
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.