Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 4 March, 1996
The Ides of March
Despite the snow and ice which had
enveloped most of the country in recent weeks, we in the Southwest
have enjoyed almost no winter at all. While this has had a good
effect on most outdoor activity, it has not helped the skiing, and
we do need all the precipitation we can get, as in any dry country.
As to that, the rains have finally hit in South Africa, breaking a
10-year drought, and while one wet season will not bring everything
into order, every little bit helps.
All hands should anticipate the
Keneyathlon at Whittington Center coming up in June. This
is, in my opinion, the most significant rifle contest in the world
at this time, and while its rules and course of fire are still to
be perfected, it is the best test of rifle skill I know of.
This year the "Guru's Gold" ring will go to the man placing
in the first five who uses the lightest rifle, providing his rifle
does not weigh more than 3 kilograms. (Last year the lightest rifle
in contention was too heavy.)
We recently got a nifty situation report
from family member Charlie Putman, just back from a
successful family hunt in South Africa and Zimbabwe (late
Rhodesia). While he was eminently successful, being both a
marvelous marksman and an experienced hunter, he added
corroboration to our long held view that the 375 is not properly a
buffalo gun. Without going into details (which may be furnished
upon request) we feel that his observations are most pungent in
regarding the different atmospheres encountered between South
Africa and Zimbabwe. The South African revolution of '94 has not
yet been able to trash the countryside, but the independence of
Zimbabwe from the British Commonwealth has been in force now for a
couple of decades and the results are obvious to the eye. The
hunting is fine, but the countryside is a mess. Well, what did we
The press informs us that the Basuto
people of Southern Africa have now renewed their traditional
occupation of cattle raiding, in the manner of the Medieval Welsh.
You may remember that Offa's Dyke (one of the two manmade
structures visible on Earth from outerspace) was constructed to
discomfit those Welsh cattle raiders. It was not hard to cross from
west to east, but the barrier made it very difficult for the stolen
kine to be driven back across. Perhaps the South African government
could profit by this example.
We found it curious that Lamar Alexander
should try to use the slogan "ABC" to mean "Alexander Beats
Clinton," when actually what it really stands for is the war cry of
the right at this time - "Anybody But Clinton."
Now we have in hand the "Co-pilot" from
Wild West Guns in Anchorage, Alaska. This is a chopped and
channeled Marlin 95 in caliber 45-70, intended for life insurance
for the professional bear hunter and his client. It measures 35
inches in length assembled, and it takes down in the middle into
two 18-inch parcels. It weights 7lbs, or a tad less, and it
provides five short-range sledge-hammer blows in quick succession.
It packs into a neat little briefcase-sized padded pouch, and it
appears to be quite the ideal instrument for the professional guide
who may need to protect his client against bear or lion. I have
tentatively dubbed it the Arctocrat (Master of Bears), and I
think it cute as a bug.
On the downside, it comes out of the box with a factory trigger
that should not happen to a BATman. (Apparently the people
in Anchorage feel that trigger action does not matter in
arms-length confrontations. Every man to his own opinion, of
course, but I disagree with this. For me a delicate trigger is the
single most important feature in the precise placement of the
snapshot.) Riflemaster John Gannaway is at work on this, and we may
be able to fix it prior to delivery next month in Africa. Despite
sandpaper surfaces between hammer and sear, which may be smoothed
out, the angle of engagement is such that trigger pressure actually
cams the hammer back a tad before releasing it, requiring the
trigger finger to work against the mainspring. This arrangement is
not unheard of on primitive-type weapons and may properly be termed
"the hammercammer trigger." It can be corrected by a good gunsmith,
but not all gunsmiths are good. We shall see.
Another negative, if minor feature, is the cross-bolt hammer-block
now installed on most lever-guns by the liability agents. This
gadget is referred to as a "safety," but on the contrary it could
be lethal in a confrontation with anything dangerous. When it is
pressed to the right it does not block the trigger nor interfere
with hammer fall, it simply prevents the hammer from falling on the
primer. In one of Peter Capstick's more memorable observations,
"The most terrifying sound in nature is not the roar of a charging
lion, nor the whistle of a descending bomb; rather it is a click
when you expect a bang." The sort of mishap this invites is not
serious in a deer gun, since all it will do is lose you your deer,
but in a lion gun it might well get you killed. Fortunately it is
The butt stock, at 13 inches, is a little too long for the
instantaneous gun mount to the shoulder, and the square-cut heel of
the butt tends to snag in this sort of action. Both these minor
drawbacks are quickly correctable.
I have acquired a butt-cuff for this little piece, which seems to
me particularly advisable in view of the side loading system of the
lever gun which permits "topping off" without taking eyes off
A plus feature is a 6-port muzzle brake, which actually does seem
to work. The recoil of a 7lb 45-70 might be expected to be brisk,
but in our piece it was not more noticeable than that of a
medium-weight 308. In theory a muzzle brake should not work, since
by the time the gasses can work upon the baffles, the rearward
impetus of the weapon has already been actuated. The fact is,
however, that well-designed muzzle brakes do work, whether or not
All together the Arctocrat strikes us as a nifty little
item, and it should prove sensational when we introduce it to the
South African Professional Hunters Association.
Our collaborater and good friend Paul
Kirchner dwells in Darkest Connecticut - as he puts it,
"In the belly of the bunny," a quaintly accurate
I have always been a great one for cadging
rides in military vehicles, and I have been very successful up til
now. Never, however, have I got a ride in a first-line jet fighter.
It now appears that our friends the Russians have discovered a
market for this, and if you get to Moscow you can purchase a hot
lap in a MiG 23 (two-seater version). Since my first visit to
Moscow back in the Dark Ages, I have never thought of a good
reason for returning - until now.
We learn with some dismay that the revered
firm of Anheuser-Busch is now actively supporting Clinton's bid for
re-election. This is not rumor. I have in hand an executive letter
to this effect claiming that it is the company policy to support
both sides of the political spectrum. The fact is that the Clinton
administration opposed an increase on the beer tax leveled
nationwide, which bill, if passed, would have hurt Budweiser in the
pocketbook. I stand foursquare with Queen Victoria of revered
memory, who stoutly opposed any British beer tax to the last,
claiming that it constituted an onerous oppression of the working
Regardless of taxation, there are other and much more important
issues at stake at the forthcoming presidential election, and I can
do without Budweiser.
Note that gun lovers and gun shooters are
not necessarily the same breed, fortunately for the manufacturers.
Marksmanship is a demanding discipline, but affection is not. I
know a good many people whose deep love for firearms amounts to an
obsession, but who cannot shoot for sour apples. ("Why should
they?" as Pogo asks.) Such men (and they are all men as far as I
know) constitute a problem for their wives. "Why on earth do you
want another gun?" - but they are the lifeblood of the
firearms trade. They puzzle me but I wish them well.
We have regrouped and are now able to
give you an address for the 200-meter zeroing target I have been
pushing for a while. These targets are the best thing of the kind
that I have seen, and they are suitable for either iron or glass
sights at ranges from 50 to 300 meters. They run about a buck
apiece. Address queries to:
Andrew Langlois, PO Box 141, Windsor, VT
When we opined recently in print that a
soldier must absolutely obey orders, we were called out immediately
to the effect that the Nuremburg trials had established a precedent
that this is not so. According to Nuremburg precedent a soldier is
bound to obey only lawful orders of his superiors, and apparently
he is to decide on his own what is lawful and what is not. This was
an unworkable decision when it was reached, and it remains so. If
it is left up to the soldier to decide about the legality of his
orders, his side has lost the war. Besotted as we appear to be with
games, we seem to have lost track of the idea that war is a serious
business, not a game. When a soldier refuses to obey a direct
order, the historic consequence has been summary execution. I
suppose we can all imagine certain cases in which we would refuse
to obey orders, but we certainly must be prepared to take the
consequences. The question of whether an order is lawful or not is
certainly not for the soldier to decide.
Further into that previous subject, we
discover that Spc New, who disobeyed and took the consequences, has
a father who is now running for Congress. And more power to him. We
have often heard of sons who have profited by their father's
prominence in search of political success, but this is the first
situation I can call to mind which goes the other way
Gabe Suarez, our man in Santa Monica, who
is closing in on his ace rating for law enforcement shootings, very
nearly tagged his fifth score recently. In pursuit of a very bad
guy (VBG) he had mounted his shotgun and found the trigger
when the goblin reached into his belt to seize his pistol. In doing
so, he shot himself in the crotch, saving Gabe the expenditure of
another round of 00-buck. The department is thinking of mentioning
Gabe in dispatches for "admirable restraint." Hmmm!
We have recently received several queries
about instruction in "police rifle" and "defensive rifle." I am not
sure of the role of the rifle in police work, but I do believe that
there is no such thing as a "defensive" rifle. The pistol is the
defensive arm. You wear it with no specific action in mind, but
when you pick up a rifle you intend to go after something - or
someone. Thus the difference in purpose of the two arms is one of
concept, and training with either must be carried out with that in
mind. The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that somebody
else started. The purpose of the rifle is to "reach out and touch
someone." Thus the objective of the rifleman is to achieve a
first-round hit, on an appropriate target, at unspecific range,
from improvised positions, against the clock. This is what I
endeavor to teach in riflecraft, and it is equally valuable to the
hunter, the soldier, or, in some cases, the policeman.
Our family member Randy Umbs, who
now lives top center in the cold country, informs us that there
have been twenty-two snowmobile fatalities in his state (WI) so far
this winter, most of which he feels were the result of the misuse
of booze. Roaring off into the snowy night in a state of
inebriation is a pretty good way to check yourself out. Perhaps it
is a happy way to go - who knows?
In perusing a new account of the Lewis
and Clark expedition we note again that the Pennsylvania squirrel
rifles taken on the expedition were simply not powerful enough for
the task. They killed their meat, but it was often a messy
business, and they did not measure up to a grizzly bear. This fact
is well-known and has left us with the notion that it is always
important to "use enough gun" - to quote Robert Ruark. The
matter of what is enough is the question.
In my opinion - which is clearly not unanimously held -
the 308 or 30-06 will do everything that needs doing, short of
buffalo and the pachyderms. Bullet placement, of course, is the
key. We cleaned house on the Babamkulu adventure of 1994 using the
308/180. On our forthcoming hunt we expect to depend on the
30-06/180 and anticipate no trouble. (This does not include our
projected hippopotamus, on which we intend to use Baby, with
Earlier this year family member Bill O'Connor slew his
nilgai in Texas with the 308/180, which apparently confounded a
number of observers who insisted that the nilgai is too tough an
animal for that.
The bell tolls again for another of the
great. Adolf Galland, at one time the youngest two-star general in
the Wehrmacht, passed away after heart surgery at the age of
Galland was undoubtedly one of the dozen or so greatest aviators of
all time, and his legendary exploits are too numerous to mention.
Among other things, his "The First and the Last" stands as the
definitive reference for those who would study World War II
from the German side. But more than his outstanding capacities as a
warrior, Adolf Galland was distinguished as a gentleman, which is
an almost extinct species. In the Age of the Common Man, a
gentleman is hard to find. The cause for which Galland fought was
lost - fortunately for us - but he acquitted himself
beyond reproach, and he well deserves his place in the Hall of
Marion Hammer, President of the NRA,
exhorts us forcefully to participate in the education of the young.
If we do not get the kids away from the tube and out on the range,
we stand to lose our liberty in the 21st century.
These anti-gun people are still hard at
it. They are now pushing a bill to prohibit what has come to be
called "canned hunting," which is the hunting of non-native species
on ranches stocked for the purpose. This sort of hunting may not be
everybody's cup-of-tea, but it is legal, economically sound, and
can be just as sportsmanlike as one may desire. These bambiists
have no business butting in to the pastimes of other people, as
long as those pastimes do not endanger the uninvolved and do no
harm to the environment. These busybodies simply do not want other
people to indulge in activities of which they disapprove, and enjoy
doing so. As Mencken put it, they are dismayed by the idea that
somewhere, somehow, somebody may be having a good time. May they go
fly a kite!
Riflemaster John Pepper tells about an
adventure he had in Korea in which he had no use for his front
sight. In an unexpected meeting engagement in the snow and the
dark, John's party slammed into a platoon of Chicoms. In a really
close encounter John found the muzzle of his M1 rammed solidly into
the midsection of his opponent, and he emptied his magazine -
achieving a decisive, if messy, victory.
So here is a case in which the commandment "Front sight, surprise"
does not apply.
The Chinese Norinco "Sportsman" seems to
be an almost exact replica of the renowned Colt Woodsman 22
auto-pistol, on which a whole generation of American sportsmen grew
up. A sound 22 self-loading pistol should be a feature of every
respectable American household. Of course, "respectable" is the key
As we now prepare for our forthcoming
adventure in Africa, we must point out that there will be a hiatus
in the issuance of this journal. I will not be able to put one out
while I am off station; however, I am ahead for the year in the
production of these commentaries and I will have much to talk about
upon our return, so please stay tuned.
We note in the press that the army is
hard at work in pursuit of an infantry weapon that does not call
for any skill on the part of the user. The so-called "Objective
Individual Combat Weapon" costs about $15,000 per unit, and is yet
another example of the attempt to make up mechanically for human
deficiency. This is probably not a good idea. Whatever enemies we
may face in the future will almost certainly outnumber us, and we
should think about making our individual weapons deadlier, but not
easier to use. I still cling to the hope that it is possible to
turn out good soldiers, rather than cannon fodder.
Did you catch that bit last Christmas
about the elephant action in India? It seems that the villagers
were brewing up a large batch of beer, and the scent was wafted out
into the night and picked up by this herd of wild elephants, who
got the message and followed their noses (or rather their trunks).
When they got into the brewing vats the villagers sought to drive
them off with burning brands. The elephants understandably took
exception to this and trashed the place, squashing one Indian in
Moral: "Do not get between an elephant and his booze."
The gunhandling we observed recently at
the SHOT Show was customarily atrocious. The fact that all weapons
displayed on the floor of the show are presumably de-activated
cannot excuse total failure to comply with The Rules. Proper
gunhandling habits should be trained into anyone who has any reason
to handle a firearm. Unfortunately at this time too much
instruction is being carried out by people who are not qualified to
In reading further into Patton, I
discover his interesting opinion that a good tactician is not
necessarily a good strategist - and vice versa. To
oversimplify, tactics is the art of winning battles, whereas
strategy is the art of using battles to achieve a political
objective. We may recall that Grant could not stand the sight of
blood, whereas Bedford Forrest seems to have enjoyed it. I suppose
a truly competent soldier should be good in both areas, but it is
interesting to note that this is not always true.
The rumor mongers continue to insist that
the National Rifle Association is in bad shape administratively. It
was clearly established at the last board meeting that membership
is up and the budget is balanced; but, of course, the facts of the
matter are irrelevant to those who would discredit us.
In my youth it was assumed that the
grizzly bear was dangerous to man, but that the black bear was not.
As man-versus-bear encounters increase with the population
explosion, we discover that this previously held opinion is not
necessarily true. During the last hunting season in Canada, a
she-bear (black) took on two hunters who where carrying out an elk
carcass, and killed them both. I have no details apart from the
conclusion, but any bear is a big, strong animal, and quite capable
of homicide under the right conditions. Let us say that bears are
only cute at a safe distance.
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.