Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lest We Forget

I've seen this list in various books, and ran across it numerous times in different forms while doing research for the GNOGG. The figures from Australia are dated now, but I believe their percentages have stayed the same or worsened. The rest of the statistics are horrifically true.

A physician friend just sent it to me from the internet, and I thought I would post it here--because we can never forget the awful truth...if we give up our guns, we become slaves--or worse, exterminated.


In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated

Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
---- ------------- -------------

Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their own Government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars. The first year results are now in:

List of 7 items:

Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent.

Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent.

Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!

In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent. Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!

While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.

There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the ELDERLY. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort, and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns. The Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it.

You won't see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.

Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.

Take note my fellow Americans, before it's too late!

The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson.

With guns, we are 'citizens'. Without them, we are 'subjects'.

During WWII the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew most Americans were ARMED!

If you value your freedom, please spread this anti-gun control message to all of your friends.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Great S. Louisiana Blizzard of '08

South Louisiana had the first measurable snowfall since 1988.

These pics were sent by Favorite Daughter who is embedded with the Nursing School at S.E. Louisiana University.

First, a couple of snow angels.

Boys being snow people.

This isn't anything special to you up in the frozen Nawth, but down here, it was quite the happening.

Must be all that global warming everyone keeps talking about.

Quick! Somebody notify Al Gore!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

LaserGrip & LCP--Deadly Duo

There are many ways to determine you have arrived.

As a politician or public person, to have a building, street or airport named after you is evidence you reached a high status, and if such occurs while you are still living — well, you’ve really made some sort of mark.

But all such vanity is fleeting, and unless you’ve graced the halls of Congress, the Supreme Court or the White House, you’re still small potatoes on the national scene.

I mean, yeah, everyone sees your name on that street sign. But how many people who read it really know who you are.

Now, if you are a gun, there is a much more definitive way to determine you’ve arrived, a way to tell you are on the lips, hearts and minds of most of the shooters of the free world.

And you are probably deep-seated in the psyche of gun lovers in places where to exhibit such enthusiasm would be grounds for long-term imprisonment.

The way to tell a gun has arrived is when Crimson Trace makes a Laser Grip for it.

The engineers at Crimson Trace Corporation have to have the constitutions and reflexes of western jackrabbits to stay ahead of the curve on all the new handguns introduced every year — and not all guns get specially designed grips that shoot a laser beam down their point of aim.

But if a handgun is brought to the marketplace and strikes a chord with the gun-buying public, rest assured Crimson Trace is going to figure out some way to put a laser-sighting device on it.

One new gun that was almost a foregone candidate for laser sights before it even hit the market was Ruger’s new LCP, or Lightweight Compact Pistol.

When the gun was introduced at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades) show, the entire planned production run for the year was sold out before the gun was ever available to retailers. Yes, 90,000 is an incredible first order for anything.

At the 2008 National Rifle Association Convention in Louisville, Ky., in May, I saw Randall Pence, national sales manager for Ruger, standing in the company display with an LCP that managed to stay in his hand mere seconds before being handed, one-after-the-other, to fascinated gun nuts who wanted to palm, handle, feel and dry-fire this diminutive powerhouse. As fast as it was handed back, another person would snatch it out of Pence’s hands and examine the gun with expressions of fascination that a pistol could be that small and still carry seven rounds of .380 Auto in its innards.

The LCP has struck a responsive chord in the gun-buying public because it answers a need, and it has a reasonable price attached to it — two attributes famously associated with just about everything that ever came out of the factories of Bill Ruger.

The need is for a small, lightweight defensive pistol with enough gumption to be truly called

Such is decisively answered with the caliber — .380 Auto, or as it is known to Europeans, 9mm Kurz (Short). This is the ground floor caliber most experts consider adequate for personal defense. And there is a wellspring of types of bullets in this caliber to choose for self-defense.

The second attribute is addressed with a suggested retail price of $330. Now that the crunch is over, and retailers are actually able to lay some of these little rattlesnakes in their display cases, prices fluctuate in the $250-$300 range — a heck of a great price to pay for a pocket pistol that will slip into a jeans pocket, a small foldover wallet, a formal lady’s clutch for that very dressy occasion or tuck into a little clip holster for inside-the-belt carry.

With a 2.75-inch barrel, 9.4-ounce weight, overall length of 5.16 inches and an overall height of 3.6 inches, the LCP redefines the meaning of “subcompact” with a profile by which all others will now be measured.

Oh, did I mention, it is only .82 inches wide?

A few years back, standing around with other firearms instructors for my agency, one of them pulled out a little single-action North American Arms .22 revolver.

These thumb-sized revolvers were all the rage years ago, and even were incorporated into belt buckles where they looked ornamental, but could be popped out in stressful times. Such an ornament earned one brain surgeon a trip to our local hospitality suite when we walked him out of a bar, and I noticed his buckle. His protestations it was only a buckle insulted my intelligence, and he caught a charge for carrying a firearm into a barroom.

But I digress. When the instructor pulled his out to show everyone, I, among others, sneered mightily about “mouse guns.”

Raising one finger like a kindly professor instructing eager acolytes, he intoned: “It only has to hold 'em off long enough for me to get to the truck... If I get to the truck, I win.”

With the little LCP powerhouse, you don’t have to worry about getting to the truck — you can hold 'em off with six rounds of .380 in the magazine and one in the chamber.

And now, Crimson Trace has assured the LCP of iconic status by designing an innovative laser sight that clips on the front of the trigger guard, altering the outline of the gun only slightly, and adding practically nothing to its weight.

In October, at the annual SEOPA (Southeastern Outdoor Writers Conference) in Gatlinburg I got to shoot the laser-equipped LCP. Using the laser sight and a slow measured fire, I was able to drop three 8-inch plates in six shots with the LCP at 20 feet. With an 8-pound, safety-conscious trigger pull, I was plenty proud of the accomplishment.

I’ve shot the LCP on several different occasions. As with all things Ruger, I have found it to be well-designed, comparatively inexpensive and utterly, absolutely dependable — a subcompact by which all others will be compared.

Click here to read more!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Mouse Cartridge Roars--Quik-Shok

There's nothing much more fun than busting cans with a rimfire. It's a great way to introduce beginning shooters to the sport, and if you fill the cans with water, you can really impress them with the power of even the lowly .22.

One of the earliest tests I ever remember seeing in a magazine was a "baffle board" container exhibit.

1" white pine boards were slotted into a wooden box 1" apart. A .22 Long Rifle fired into the box penetrated seven of the boards and was stopped by the eighth. Any bullet that can penetrate seven inches of white pine is capable of doing serious damage.

Of course, you've probably heard of what is called the "Coroners' Big Three." The guns most used in homicides resulting in coroner autopsies are purported to be the .22, .38 Special, and shotguns.

That's apocryphal, but colorful and interesting. And with the explosion of popularity in the 1990's of semi-automatic handguns, it's probably suspect. But it illustrates a point. A hell of a lot of people get shot with "mouse guns"--small-caliber handguns that tear a thin wound channel with a small crush cavity. And they die. Maybe not as quickly as with larger calibers--but enough people are put away by them each year to give strength to the old saw that the most important gun to have in a gunfight is the gun you brought to the gunfight.

A few years ago a new rimfire cartridge was introduced which claimed much higher levels of stopping power than even the hyper-velocity .22 cartridges that were becoming popular.

Upon striking water or flesh, the bullet, which is striated in three places, separates into three tiny projectiles flying off at extreme angles from each other.

The interesting thing about these new bullets exhibited itself in tests--if you fired them into a dry medium, they acted like normal .22 rounds, simply punching through. But if you fired into containers of water, these literally exploded with the impact of the round.

The photographs show the results of shooting the can on the left with Remington High Speed Golden .22 hollowpoints. As you can see, the aluminum soft drink can was split open with a large exit cavity as the water was pushed out in front of the projectile.

But the two cans on the right show the effects of CCI .22 Quik-Shok. These nasty little rounds separate within an inch of hitting moisture, and blow the cans apart. It is dramatic and impressive to see the cans explode at the impact of the bullet.

Shoot a regular high speed .22 hollowpoint at a gallon milk jug filled with water, and it will split the seams of the plastic, causing an impressive bulge as the water leaks out. Shoot a Quik-Shok round through another jug, and the tiny projectiles will push a hand-sized piece of plastic out of the back of the jug. The jug won't leak out rapidly--there won't be any water left in it.

I once tried a test to see how far apart the projectiles would be in the distance of the approximate width of the human body. I propped a piece of cardboard about three feet by four feet some six inches from the rear of a gallon milk jug filled with water.

Firing a single Quik-Shok round from my old Ruger Mark II with a six-inch bull barrel, I centered the jug and watched water soak the cardboard in a surfer's wave from top to bottom.

There were three small holes in the wet cardboard approximately two feet from each other in a triangular pattern. The milk jug was destroyed, of course. I estimated the projectiles took off at 45 degree angles from each other within an inch of striking a liquid medium. This angle of dispersion would make a devastating wound channel within the width of a human body.

It is doubtful, of course, that the small projectiles would penetrate completely through the width of a human body anyway.

Early testimonials to the company described shooting feral dogs the sizes of Rottweilers and German Shepherds, and having them drop instantly--dead when they hit the ground. One gentleman from New Orleans described joining the Jefferon Parish Sheriff's Office SRT team as they embarked on a nighttime assault against nutria (a large muskrat-like rodent that burrows and was destroying the canal banks in Jefferson Parish.)

As he told it, every nutria shot by everyone else made it to the water, unless anchored by a head shot. Every rat he shot in the body with Quik-Shok died where it was hit, never even trying to get to the water.

Tom Burcynski, the inventor of the Hydra-Shok bullet, now one of the baseline self-defense loads in all calibers, designed the Quik-Shok to overcome the drawbacks of earlier "stressed" bullets that either did not separate, or cost a small ransom to shoot. Internet searches reveal lots of different tests of not only the .22 round, but QUIK SHOK centerfire rounds also.

In the rimfire, opinions as to the effectiveness of the rounds seem mixed--and frequently seem biased towards the authors' own preferences in rimfire ammo. But many of the ballistic gelatin tests, both independently conducted, and by the manufacturer, show some impressive wound channels--looking more like centerfire than what is normally caused by rimfire rounds.

And, until someone actually shoots a miscreant with this stuff, I guess we'll never really know. Nothing works like street experience.

But judging from testimonials from people who have used Quik-Shok on animals, and my own numerous water tests, I personally carry it in my .22's for defense.

I'm not advocating .22's as the end-all, be-all for self-defense. But if you have one, and carry it at all as a backup or primary piece, you would be well-advised to test some Quik-Shok.

And watching those cans explode, and getting showered with water from ten and twelve feet is impressive, too.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"An Ending" by Sarah Sanderlin

I take great pleasure in publishing an essay by 14-year-old Sarah Sanderlin of Dubach,Louisiana. Sarah recently penned a winning essay in the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association Youth Journalism Contest about a special duck hunt with her dad. Her writing shows an understanding of the deeper meaning of the hunt that far outweighs her few years of experience--and gives us hope for the next generation of hunters and those who write on them:

Soft gray light through the trees. The smell of rain. The rhythmic pat, pat, pat of water dripping onto wet leaves.

My dad and I are the only ones there to sense it all. It’s a magical solitude that has been felt so many times before, from ancient times to the Information Age. So is the spell of the hunt, forever passed down to the next generation.

On this particular morning we’re seeking wood ducks. They’ll fly from their roosts soon, when the sun begins to materialize over the eastern hills. I’ll lie in ambush at one of their favorite landing places, a bend in the creek affectionately dubbed Zorro Bend by my dad.

The creek is just ahead through the trees now. A slight catch of excitement rises in my throat. Will they already be there? Once in sight of the water, I drop to my hands and knees and crawl forward, checking every inch of the creek while my dad hangs back. Soon, when it’s apparent they haven’t yet arrived, I rise and creep to my seat.

I settle down on the wet ground, my back against the old familiar oak tree, my toes within about two feet of the creek. My eyes begin to scan the surrounding area, my mind to analyze it.

There is the deep, rich mud-smell of the creek; a soothing, natural scent linked with some of my fondest memories. There is the chill in the air; not hard cold, but a refreshing, nippy cool in the light breeze. The gray light is getting a bit brighter through the heavy clouds, revealing the swollen water of the creek hastening past under its thick, almost impenetrable fog blanket. I drink it all in.

This is life at its best.

I sit perfectly still; meditating, watching squirrels chase one another through the cypress treetops. Then, suddenly, a wavering whistle breaks my trance. Wings! Three ducks fly overhead, barely visible through the treetops, too far away for a shot. They don’t circle or land, but continue away from me. I relax, listening to their distinctive cry of “wheep wheeeeep whuup” as it rings hauntingly through the swamp, fading, fading away.

I smile. There will be more.

And so, ten minutes later, I’ve readied myself for the two that land. They crash onto the water downstream from me, out of sight in the thick fog.

I remain motionless. Wood ducks almost always swim upstream. And so they do: two small phantoms in the blanket of white vapor, paddling with determination against the creek’s strong current.

It is a male and his mate. The male is a sparkling gem of iridescent colors, a glistening rainbow even in the dull light. His companion is also iridescent, but colored mostly olive drab. It seems that some master artist painted every shade and line on their bodies.

Breathing raggedly, I move my shotgun into position in slow motion. The male duck is closer to me than his mate—an easier shot. I press my cheek hard against the cool wood of the gun’s stock and line the sights up with the male’s head. I pause with my finger on the trigger, oddly uncertain.

The male stops swimming and seems to freeze in place. His round, black eye blinks once, focusing directly on my face. We stare at one another. Years pass in the half-second that our eyes are locked.

Somehow, some way, I sense in that moment that he knows why I’m there and he is ready.

I pull the trigger.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


In October of 2008 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana found for the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association in their long-standing suit against the city of New Orleans.

This suit, filed first in February of 2006, demanded the city begin proceedings to return the over 800 guns stored in an NOPD evidence trailer. These guns had been illegally confiscated by law enforcement from the law abiding citizenry of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In April of 2007, I put together a team of experts and accompanied Dan Holliday to New Orleans to begin a long-awaited gun inventory. Dan is the attorney from Baton Rouge representing the SAF/NRA.

We had finally gained access to the guns being held by the NOPD, and we started a lengthy inventory of these wretched, filthy, rusted guns.

Still another 19 months would pass before the courts finally had enough, and ordered New Orleans to begin proceedings to return as many guns as possible. The court further ordered a permanent injunction against the city to never again illegally seize firearms from citizens without just cause.

There was much grumbling and protestations on the gun blogs, sites, and in magazines about the shame of allowing those who had basically committed armed robbery by cop to escape all consequences. Basically, the complaints went, New Orleans got off with a slap on the wrist, and the only good coming out of this was at least some of the guns would be given back.

Having lived with this case for three years and having been intimately enough involved to have written a book about it, I think the record now needs to be set straight.

The NRA and SAF got exactly what they were looking for the entire time.

Before Hurricane Katrina, it was a well-known practice of NOPD to seize guns from citizens during traffic stops, telling them they could get their guns back when they showed up at the precinct with a receipt proving ownership. For more details on this practice, go to my column here:


As we detailed in the book, these practices were one of the things that led to the wholesale confiscation of guns by every stripe of law enforcement in the madness after Katrina.

The Second Battle of New Orleans was the court battle between the gun organizations and the city over the guns held by the city. The NRA/SAF wanted the order of a permanent injunction against the city which prohibits them from ever again taking a gun from a citizen illegally.

The following quote was taken from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action website for October 8, 2008:

Under the terms of the injunction, Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and any agents or employees of the City of New Orleans shall:

• cease and desist confiscating lawfully-possessed firearms from all citizens;
• make an aggressive attempt to return any and all firearms which may have been confiscated during the period August 29 to December 31, 2005;
• within one month of the settlement, post on the City website the procedure for the return of confiscated firearms. This notice must include an interactive form for those claiming firearms to fill out, resulting in timely transmission of the information to the appropriate official. All other information on claiming a firearm will also be included on the site.
• within one month of the settlement, the City must mail notices to all individuals who are identified on the property tags of firearms in the City's possession which were confiscated during the aftermath of Katrina.
“On behalf of the lawful gun owners of New Orleans, NRA is pleased with this outcome,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist. “We thank Judge Barbier for his leadership and constitutional scholarship in presiding over our lawsuit. NRA will continue to aid however we can in the full return of all the firearms confiscated by the City.”

What should be pointed out here, in spite of the constant harping by the media about the guns, it was never really about the guns in storage!

Law enforcement officials seized what is now believed to be thousands of guns from citizens for months following Hurricane Katrina. The correspondingly small number of guns which were stored were only those turned in to NOPD—and few of those were of any great worth.

Quotes from officers in depositions to NRA/SAF investigators stated most of the quality guns were kept while the junk was tossed in the lakes and canals of New Orleans. A lot of the guns stored were junk which were turned in as red herrings to show the guns were not being stolen.

Those guns became the public focal point in the battle between the NRA/SAF and New Orleans.

But the permanent injunction is what the gun rights organizations wanted, and is the reason for the continued fight and resistance by the city. A permanent injunction doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room the next time a traffic cop steals a handgun from a motorist.

With the permanent injunction now in place against the city, ANY violation of this injunction by any representative of the city can result in the city being immediately cited for violating the injunction, opening the way for serious penalties.

As Dan Holliday described it to me, the purpose was always to gain the permanent injunction. Thus it is recorded in federal court that the city may never again take any guns from any citizen without due process.

This allows a complaint to be brought directly and instantly to the court, and places New Orleans in contempt of a federal court order—a situation taken seriously by the courts and those in contempt. Such an action could result in jail time and fines for the mayor and superintendent if such actions occur again.

So the next time you’re stopped in New Orleans, if the cop takes your gun, and offers some song and dance about you don’t have a receipt so therefore you have no proof you own it, be sure and get his/her name. And keep the ticket as proof of the stop--and call the NRA and the SAF.

This time, we have a hammer.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Joker at 35

I probably shouldn't post this on this on a site about guns and gun talk, but I wanted to say something about an important female who has shared a large portion of my life.

That's her, on the left, with one of the other most important females in my life--my best hunting partner, great rifle shooter, and sometimes (when Dad breaks loose to take her) excellent fishing partner.

The other important female in my life opined as to I would probably be arrested for animal abuse for posting such a photo. And come to think of it, our 21-year-old daughter is not going to be very happy about the photo with herself NOT all gussied up, and bad hair to boot ("Dad! You didn't post THAT photo!")

But I don't know how you show a picture of a 35-year old mare without the bad hair, bony structure, and the look of pained but resolute acceptance shown here--and it's probably the best we are going to get of an animal that suffers the chronic aches and pains of advanced age. We could probably do better about displaying Jessica, but I wanted the two of them together, and it is getting difficult to even move Joker around.

Joker has been with me since she was a young mare of eight. She has given me a colt ( but never a filly, dammit.) She was, and remained until she became too crippled with arthritis, the absolute best ride on a horse I or anyone else ever experienced. We watched once as a trainer put her through her paces, and spotted four--count 'em--four different gaits.

She remains the only horse on which I ever experienced that almost Zen state of existence, becoming one with the animal, where the contact between horse and man became one flesh, and the blood flowing through her veins flowed into mine, and vice versa.

At a run, it was as if I were a part of her, and she me. It was the closest I have ever come to the feeling of becoming a centaur, but I felt it on several occasions. At a run, I could not be pried from her back. I could not fall, I could not be lifted nor thrown. I doubt I can really explain this very well, but it was as if I was attached--a living part of the horse--and I have never felt that with any horse before or since.

She made me believe I was a far better rider than I ever hoped to be, and because she was so easy to sit, I gained a minor reputation as a knowledgeable rider--one vastly undeserved, except when I sat on her. As a younger man, I would go into the pasture, throw a makeshift bridle over her head, climb on her bare back, and nudge her into a run, the wind blowing through her mane and my hair--I had a lot of it back then--my knees creeped up on her withers, sitting her like an Indian, holding nothing except balance as I rode leaned over her neck, exulting in the ride, the wind, the experience.

She gave me several deer, one a nice buck, before we retired from hunting from horseback--the original purpose for which she was begged, practically stolen from the young man who raised and trained her. He knew what he had, but almost anything has a price, and he was young, married, and expecting. Unashamedly, I bought his most prized possession. She would become mine.

Thinking back now, I am amazed to realize in nearly thirty years, she never bit, kicked, bucked, or threw me off. She never fell with me. I never hit the ground in all the years I rode her, and I have to sit here now thinking on it to appreciate how unbelievable that is.

She wasn't perfect. Far from it. It took years, but I finally gave in to the knowledge I was never going to be able to give her a bath without her turning into a mass of nerves, and shying everytime the running water from a hose got near her. As she aged, we just quit trying to wash her. If she was happy with the stink, we could put up with it. She earned the peace.

And yet, she would, before all the other horses, go wading in the pond, stirring it into a brown stew, sloshing it over herself, playing in it and pawing it like a youngster, splashing it over herself like an elephant exulting in its bath. She would unhesitatingly wade into a stream with me on her back, and joyously paw the water, huge geysers of it slinging skyward, drenching me, the saddle and tack, and both of us laughing uproariously, each in our own way. But you couldn't bathe her. Go figure.

She couldn't stand to ride in a posse. If we were with other riders, she would stretch those long Walker legs, and glide to the front, leaving everyone else in the rear. It was aggravating to not be able to visit with other riders, but Joker would not share the trail alongside anyone--if it crippled her, she would lead the way.

She's not doing well these days. She still has an appetite, and finishes most of her food, but she rarely leaves the stall. Every morning I go out to feed, and look for her head to be carried above the stall wall. When I don't see it, I prepare myself, steeling myself for the encroaching inevitable.

The mornings she does feel better, I see her head hanging over the stall, waiting for me, her small mutterings the only voice she has ever given to indicate her desire for anything.

Jessica learned to ride on her, graduated to younger and faster horses, and she and I have grown old together. I have another horse, Velvet, who looks so much like Joker at a younger age, I was practically driven to buy her by everyone that knew me and the horse--I had to have Velvet, she would replace Joker.

And I love Velvet, and her ride is good. And I walk out of the house in the morning and of all the horses, she is the one that will leave the grass and walk to the fence, hanging her head over for a rub or scratch--we have bonded.

But no matter how much I have come to love Velvet, and love to ride her, she will never be the ride I experienced with Joker.

There cannot be, there never will be another Joker.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Optima Elite in .45-70...How to "Wallop" A Deer

Starting at the age of six with a Daisy BB gun, I began wreaking terror on the birds in the surrounding woods of my grandparents’ dairy farm. I received my first shotgun at 10, and my first .22 rifle at 12. Looking back, and counting up, I have been shooting rifles for—well--a long time.

Shortly after I began shooting, I discovered Robert Ruark, who wrote for many of the big outdoor magazines in the fifties and sixties, and began his series of columns that would later become one of the all time hunting classics, “The Old Man and the Boy.” I devoured everything he wrote.

Ruark wrote about all kinds of hunting, and his greatest love was hunting in Africa—going out into the bush and “walloping” an amazing variety of game—including a lot that would turn nasty in a heartbeat and attack you. His joking reference to “walloping” referred to the immense cartridges of the safaris, and what they did to the game they hit—they “walloped” them.

I now, after all these years, know what Ruark was talking about.

I just spent the afternoon testing and firing a break-action single-shot rifle from CVA (Connecticut Valley Arms—one of the biggest manufacturers of muzzleloaders and primitive rifles in the country.)

The rifle they sent me to test is the new Optima Elite—a break-action rifle that has interchangeable barrels…you can go from muzzleloader in .45 or .50 caliber to a centerfire single-shot in quick time—and the choices of calibers go from .222 and .223 through a plethora of popular calibers all the way up to the venerable old .45-70.
Since more states are expanding the definition of primitive weapons, what used to be called “muzzleloader season” is considerably more in some areas. Some states now consider a firearm “primitive” if its design, and the cartridge it fires, were in production before 1900.

Enter the CVA Optima Elite in .45-70. The cartridge is a classic, of course. It was carried by the U.S. Army in the Sharps Rolling Block carbines, saw action in the Indian wars in the last quarter of the 19th century, and fed a lot of buffalo meat to railroad men during the push to cross the continent with rails.

The designation referred to a .45 caliber bullet, pushed by 70 grains of blackpowder—a stout load back then which decisively stopped whatever it hit. The strength and popularity of the cartridge has remained strong, and many well-known rifle manufacturers chamber rifles for it today.

But whether you want this rifle to expand your seasons by allowing you to make “primitive” hunts with a single-shot centerfire cartridge, or you are such a purist only a front-stuffer will do to hunt during the primitive season, this versatile piece will answer practically all your needs.

CVA has done it right on this package—the gun I received had a premium Bergara barrel—manufactured in a region of Spain famed for producing fine fireams.

But CVA went further by contracting with Ed Shilen to oversee the design and manufacture of these barrels on most of their upper end guns. Shilen’s barrels are famed throughout the shooting world as some of the finest custom-made tubes available. With Ed Shilen, you’re getting a barrel designed by a guy with 13 world benchrest titles who has been inducted into the Benchrest Hall of Fame.

But everything about this gun is quality. I was impressed with the whole package which consisted of the Bergara barrel, on which was mounted a Bushnell 3X9 variable scope, pop-up scope caps, a contour sling, and one of the most effective and comfortable recoil pads I have ever pressed into my shoulder.

I don’t own a scope that does not have pop-up scope covers. I like being able to keep my glass covered and clean until I’m ready to shoot, and then with the push of a finger on the front, and my thumb on the back, I’m ready to shoot.

This package came with “Bushwhacker” pop-up mounts. These seemed to be of a little less expensive manufacture—the back cover doesn’t release from a button like my regular style covers. But these work, and are less intrusive on the ends of the scope—simpler made, and smaller to boot—a plus in my book, since they work well.

The scope was attached to the barrel with a type of rings and mounts new to me. Durasight’s Z-2 alloy is claimed to be 50% stronger than aluminum, yet is priced about the same.

While I’ve never been a real fan of Weaver-style mounts—a flat mounting base on which the rings holding the scope are clamped and held with a variety of screw systems—this setup intrigued me. The vertical split rings were generously proportioned, and looked strong and solid. In addition, the mounting grooves were deep, and held by Torx® screws—an increasingly popular way of securing rings to bases.

The setup looked and felt overbuilt—something I definitely like in my rings and bases. You can have the most accurate barrel ever built, and a custom scope worth the price of a small car, and if the two are not solidly mated, you have nothing except a rifle that won’t shoot well.

The sling bears a mention. Quake Industries manufactures an entire line of contour slings for long guns they call “The Claw.” The pad is of a rubber-like compound that is molded into the sling webbing, allowing about ½” of stretch—this spreads the weight of the firearm across your shoulder, greatly increasing the load bearing area, and making the rifle easier to carry. In addition, it is very non-slip. It is an innovative and comfortable design, and one I intend to use on my other rifles.

I don’t know what CVA did to invent their recoil pad on this Optima Elite—it’s called “Crush Zone™,” and that aptly describes its effectiveness. I shot near a box of Hornady LeverRevolution 325 grain .45-70 ammunition in the late afternoon wearing nothing on my upper torso but a t-shirt. The recoil from this cartridge on this seven pound rifle is fierce—I came as close to getting “scope-eye” with this one as I have in decades. And my shoulder is not bruised at all. The Crush Zone™ pad is an excellent addition to an excellent system.

I also liked the Monte Carlo-style cheekpiece hump in the Optima Elite injection-molded stock…it just seemed to fit, and my cheek nestled perfectly into place on it each time.

So after all these impressive cosmetics, how did the rifle shoot?

The picture tells the tale—once I got it tuned in and on the paper, I settled into the gun, and brought in some impressive groups. Only after finishing the session did I realize the targets had been set up at 115 yards instead of 100.

The target pictured shows two groups of three. The first had two bullet holes touching, and another landing just inside an inch. Some gun writers measure inner edge to outer edge of the two holes furthest apart—thus giving the rifle the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t like this method, however. To me, minute-of-angle means exactly that—the rifle prints all the rounds inside an inch—and this one did it exactly.

It was gratifying to turn the Bushnell scope 12 clicks to the left (each click is ¼ inch), and see the next bullet move almost exactly three inches to the left, printing two inches above the aiming point on the target. The next bullet touched that hole. The next was a flyer—probably the result of aging eyes that prefer a more powerful scope, and the fact we were shooting 15 yards further than we should have been. The group still fell well within 1 ½ inches—the CVA brochures claim custom performance without the custom price—indeed, the package delivers as promised.

What is there to say? CVA has a winner here. An interchangeably barreled rifle that will allow the dedicated hunter to hunt muzzleloader and centerfire. And a cartridge that prints thumb-sized holes in paper, travels 2050 feet per second, allows you to print three inches high at 100 yards, and prints only four inches low at 200 yards is definitely going to “wallop” a deer, or anything else you might want to sling it towards.

While he has been passed on for many years, I can’t help but think Ruark would have approved mightily of this rifle—and loved the new Hornady cartridge.

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Monday, December 1, 2008


In the last 30 days, I have fielded SIX questions from people who have either bought a gun from an individual, inherited a gun, or were given a gun by someone. One fellow inherited a deer rifle from his wife’s deceased uncle. Said uncle had bought the gun legally in a store in Mississippi, and later moved to Louisiana. When he passed, the gun ended up with his niece’s husband.

On a recent deer hunting trip to Texas, the fellow worried himself sick because his father was driving too fast, and they were sure to be stopped, and he had this unregistered deer rifle that had been brought in from another state.

Another gentleman was asking how to set up a blackpowder shooting match as a fundraiser for the local fire department. And he wanted to be sure and get the local sheriff’s office involved to be able to check and make sure all the guns used in the contest were properly registered.

In every case, these honest, law-abiding citizens, most of whom had legally received a firearm from an individual, or were preparing to purchase one from another individual, were asking either how to go about registering their firearm, or change the registration in their own names.

What frightened me most about these questions was the absolute naivete of these people—their acceptance of a supposed condition that should be as abhorrent to them as themselves and their children being forced into slavery.

But all too many people today, in spite of the gun confiscations of the citizenry of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Heller case to overthrow the restrictive gun ownership laws of Washington D.C., still do not understand the dangers of gun registration.

And this means we as members of the gun culture are doing a poor job of educating our fellow citizens to the threat to personal liberty that will occur if we ever see some form of national gun registration.

I think many people are confused on the laws, and many of these are gun owners. One of the actions that muddies the water, and make many people believe we actually have gun registration is the FBI NICS check.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) is a background check that must be performed by any Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) when he sells a gun to an individual.

When a person goes to a store to buy a gun, he (or she) must fill out a standard firearms purchase Form #4473 which asks some cursory background questions. The dealer then calls the NICS number and reads the individual information to an FBI computer geek.

A quick background check of the individual purchaser is run, to determine if he/she has outstanding warrants, has been convicted of a felony, or other criminal activity.

Normally this action takes only a few seconds, and the NICS checker gives the retailer the go-ahead to “Proceed” with the sale.

If the information on the individual is not instantly available, or there is a computer problem, the retailer will be instructed to hold the sale. The customer will then be told to return in three days. If the NICS system has not contacted the retailer in that time, the retailer may sell the gun to the individual.

Once the NICS system has given the go-ahead to allow the sale to proceed, all pertinent information on the purchaser MUST be eradicated from the system within 24 hours. The FBI has been mandated by Congress and federal law NOT to use this information to build a standing record of firearms owners—in other words, a gun registration database. Many firearms enthusiasts do not trust the system, and fear a national firearms owners database could be built from these checks.

The Form 4473 which is filled out by each purchaser stays in the possession of the gun dealer—it is not transmitted to the federal government in any way. But BATFE compliance agents make periodic checks of gun dealer records to ensure they are maintaining their records properly. The records stay in the possession of the firearms dealer as long as the business remains in operation. Once the business closes, the forms must be returned to BATFE--many consider this to be a back-door form of registration, but it applies only to guns purchased from licensed dealers.

Because of these forms, and the checking through NICS, many people assume some form of gun registration is in place--with the 4473 forms, it is a tenuous connection but does exist.

That they are not offended by this presumption absolutely frightens me.

Another important thing to remember is there is no requirement to register a gun, or conduct an NICS check on sales or transfers of guns between individuals.

One of the questions I have received recently was how one person could transfer the registration of a handgun from the guy selling to the guy buying. I actually fielded this question twice in one week.

There is NO registration of guns sold or given by one individual to another. It would behoove you to get a bill of sale describing the gun, its serial number, and the name of the person you are buying it from. This will forego any problems if the gun should turn up as stolen. You can then show you made an honest purchase, or received the gun as a gift, and direct the law enforcement personnel to the person from whom you received the gun.

So please, please spread the word.

There is no need for official background investigations in gun transfers between private individuals. And the background checks through licensed dealers are exactly that—cursory background checks—and the information must be destroyed in 24 hours if the sale is allowed to proceed.

And while you are educating your friends, tell them why they should be afraid of something they seem so readily able to accept—that registration leads to confiscation—and it is our guns that keep us free.

The Second Amendment was not, and was never intended to be a protection of hunting rights, or the right to keep a gun for fun. The Second Amendment was designed by the founding fathers to give the people a way to protect themselves from the founding fathers.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Great Woodcock Hike

Dear Don:

You asked me to let you know how the woodcock hunt went the other day. I guess this time of year, the deer and duck stories start falling all over one another, and a good bird hunting story, with dogs, on public land—well, it’s enough to get any editor’s heart a-tripping, right?

There’s a lot of walking with this kind of hunting. I can tell you a lot about walking. Hell, I could make a whole magazine article about walking that day. Did I tell you Jim Mayer, the guy with the dog who set all this up, is a runner?

No? You should make a hunt, in dry-as-toast weather, with a guy who gets up every morning and runs three miles before breakfast. We walked ten miles that day—well—maybe eight. But it was a REAL eight!

But Mayer had the dog, and it seemed like a nice day—I mean, I tried this bird hunting a few years ago with a friend who had a pair of Brittanies, and it seemed like such a—I don’t know—such a gentlemanly way of hunting.

So different from my normal sort of red-neckedness deer hunting, you know. Time to start broadening my horizons. Raising my consciousness. Appreciating some of the finer aspects of this hobby we call hunting, rather than just tuning rifles to pin-point accuracy, going out on wooden stands and trying to blow holes in defenseless deer.

You know what I mean. The whole idea just reeked of social skills and higher taste with which I was patently unfamiliar.

Besides, the idea of walking behind a couple of well-trained dogs appealed greatly. Just a leisurely walk in the woods for a couple of hours, kill a few birds, and back to the house for a bit of a nap before the wife came in and started supper, right?

I mean, you get up at such a reasonable hour! We had to be at Mayer’s house at 8:00 AM. Naturally, one guy was a little late, but he had the other dog, so no one really minded.

Ahhh, the small pleasure of getting up to go hunting, and not watching the sun rise. This could easily become a habit.

Let’s see—included in the adventurous souls were Camp Maten, a retired engineer, David Fakouri, a mortgage broker, Will O’Halloran, who owns a glossy society magazine, Mayer, and yours truly.

I knew the day was not going to go my way when they started unpacking the shotguns. I had asked Mayer what to bring, and his comment was, “Oh, bring the 1100. Lots of briars. Don’t want to mess up the nice shotgun in all the briars.”

Did I mention I tend to forget every trip with Mayer has unusual experiences, and becomes less an excursion and more an adventure?

So I grabbed the 1100, rather than the Citori. Yes, I actually have a fairly nice over-and-under. Not that I can shoot it very well, mind you. That lacking is a direct result of all those misspent days on deer stands hunting with rifles.

Naturally, Mayer brings out some antique Ithaca pump, worth as much as a small 4-wheel drive truck.

“Saw it the other day in an estate sale. Always wanted one—20 gauge. Feel how light!”

Maten and O’Halloran pull over-and-unders, each inscribed with a plethora of inscribing, engraving, and polished metal. Embarrassing enough, but the mortgage broker pulls out some fancy European gun with a name like Franky, or something, and it—well, it looked like it belonged in a museum, or an art gallery.

“Oh this?” He waved deprecatingly. “This is just my brush gun. Wouldn’t want to bring one of the nice ones out in the stuff we’re going in. By the way, what’s that strange looking crack on the forearm of your Remington?”

We got to Sherburne WMA, and started hunting in Chinese Tallow thickets. Have you ever hunted in Tallow thickets? We moved into one, and once you lose sight of the road, it’s like being on the ocean—point of reference? Ha!

And the sky was overcast. Of course, once you move in a ways, you can’t even SEE your partner on line with you, except for the occasional glimpse of orange. Three of us came out on the parallel road. Two ended up getting turned around and walking with the road. A few rounds of shots brought them out, finally—only a mile or so from where we all went in.

Walking back, within sight of the trucks, a brown blur flies in a streak across the road from the oak flat to the Tallow thicket on our left.

“Uh, fellows?” I say. “It’s been a few years since I saw one, but I think that was a woodcock,”

Really! A real bird! Everyone got very excited and got on line and walked into the Tallow thicket. Well, not everyone. The two who had gotten turned around decided to stay on the road—guess they didn’t trust their sense of direction any more.

One of the guys shot on my left. Of course, he was 30 yards away, and might as well have been 300 for as much as I could see in the God-awful thicket. “Did you get him?” I called out.

“Don’t know,” he hollered. “Might have shot a tree.”

No kidding.

Fortunately, one of those amazing Brittanies snuffed up the dead bird, and brought it to him.

Game! We went bird-hunting, and we have a woodcock, or timberdoodle, or becasse’ (as the indigenous French folk call them down here) or whatever. At least one game bag is heavier.

Count: Three miles, four shots to bring out misplaced hunters. 1 shot, one bird.

Time to break for lunch. We go to a diner attached to a service station in Krotz Springs. I’d call it a greasy spoon, except they serve you on paper plates with plastic utensils. Food is good—I get Chef Salad, and it comes on a plate large enough to feed a small platoon of infantrymen. One guy orders a hamburger poboy, and eats the small loaf of French Bread it is built upon.

After lunch (which should be called Dinner, since lunch is supposed to be light), it is decided we will hunt that side of the river, on a Corps of Engineers management area known as Indian Creek. We park in the gravel parking lot, get out, loose dogs, get the guns, cross the levee, begin walk down borrow slough which runs length of levee. I’m still logy from lunch.

Approximately ½ mile down, we come to a culvert bridge crossing the slough. I don’t ask why we didn’t just park on the side of the gravel road, next to the trail leading over the levee to the crossing—I guess we needed the exercise. I’m not logy from lunch anymore.

We cross culvert bridge, enter woods between levee and Atchafalaya. At last! Real woods. This actually looks like woods I used to hunt that had timberdoodles, or becasse’, or whatever you call those damn things.

A short ways into the woods, Camp Maten kicks up a swamp rabbit, which streaks away from him, and cuts across in front of me, maybe forty feet. With lightning fast reflexes, and exceptional shooting skills (Read: Hugely Lucky Shot) I snap-shoot in reaction to game movement.

That morning, in regular, unplanned haste to get on the road, I stuffed high-brass #7 ½’s in my shooting vest. After all, it takes a real cloud of shot to bring down those tough, two-ounce timberdoodles, or becasse’ or whatever you call them, right?

And they get up so far away from you in the Tallow thickets, you really need all that power to reach out and bring them down, right?

My cloud of shot centered that swamp bunny—in fact, there was so much fur on the ground, it looked like a predator had a feast. I picked up the rabbit, quite limp, incidentally, and there was this gross grating feeling—either the result of a million broken bones, or an entire charge of 7 ½’s rubbing together.

Note to self: next time, let game get further away before shooting.

Mayer hollers to take the rabbit back to where we entered the woods, and hang him up. This sounds like a good idea. Let game hang for a while. Age it a bit. I find a crotch of a tree next to the road, and hang rabbit, hurrying to get back to the hunt. Game! At least we won’t be skunked this afternoon.

The dogs are working their little tails off. No scents, apparently. Mayer and O’Halloran say this is where they found birds before. We have now walked back down through the woods past where we parked the vehicles. Getting a little tired here. At last, we angle towards the river. No birds yet.

There is a dirt road running alongside the river willows. We break through briar patch to get to road. Remember the river runs more or less North to South? This means the edge of the road catches morning and most of the daylight sun. HUGE briar thicket alongside road. We finally force our way through it onto road. Thank God, Mayer turns downstream, the direction we have to go to get back to trucks.

We get back to road we walked in on—we are actually walking back towards the levee! My step freshens like a horse headed to the barn. I have been waiting for three weeks for the arrival of a new rifle I ordered. The range called while we were hunting that morning to tell me it was in—I might actually get away in time to make it back before they close and get to see my new purchase!

The guys start making low-class bets and snide remarks about my woodsy skills and abilities and whether I would be able to find the tree in which the rabbit was hung. I’ll show them…

Six forays into the woods later to look at familiar-looking trees, I find rabbit. Actually, I could have found the rabbit simply walking along the road, and utilizing my non-phenomenal sense of smell. Rabbit was a bit ripe in afternoon heat. The dogs, who had followed me into the woods, turned back when they caught a whiff.

One good thing, you don’t have that disgusting grating feeling when you lift the rabbit this time. He was a little hard to get in the game pouch however, stiffened up like he was in that weird U-shape.

We continue walking out, and come to a split. Mayer tells me to hang game bag on post at split, and turns left, back towards river. So much for getting out in time to get rifle.

A mile later, we come to another road, running alongside river bottom. Corps personnel have plowed a LONG food plot. At least 1200 yards to next crossroad. I can tell this because this is a pipeline, and yellow pipes are sticking up every 100 yards or so. I count 13 before pipeline makes bend with river. Mayer starts walking road alongside food plot. Apparently we are going to walk all the way to curve. Need I mention this is over ½ mile away? Dogs are working the woods to our right.

Suddenly, half-way down--finally! One dog goes on point, other dog honors point. Mayer gets excited, moves in to flush. Nothing flushes. We keep going. My feet hurt.

We reach cross road at curve, and stop. It’s getting a little long in the shadows in the woods. A doe runs across the cross road. Mayer opines that maybe some timberdoodles, or becasse’, or Sand Hill Cranes, or Whooping Birds, or some damn thing will fly out of woods and begin scratching in long, plowed food plot. Owl flies out of woods, crosses food plot. No other birds. Shadows getting longer.

We begin walk back. Pick up hunting vest with rabbit.
Note to self: throw hunting vest on ground and shoot with water hose at home. Don’t bring in house.

Other hunters seem to be walking faster than me, making me rush to keep up. Tired now. Maybe it’s just my imagination they are trying to stay away from me--the rabbit hardly smells.

Finally, we break out of woods onto levee. Only ½ mile to go. I’m looking forward to this, because we’re going to get a shot at a bird as we approach the trucks, right?

Tough making it up the levee, but there, shimmering in the distance, like Mecca to the faithful, are the beloved trucks. Even the dogs are dragging. Mayer is cheerful as all get out. He could go another ten miles or so.

We get to trucks. Another owl flies across the road. We begin putting stuff up. I need to gut rabbit. Slit belly, grab by head, pop to sling out guts. Rabbit tears in half. Mayer says you only eat the hindquarters anyway. Viscera is a dirty, unappetizing brown. I stuff in plastic bag and put in ice chest.

Guns are up, Maten breaks out a bottle of some high end scotch. Says he’s a member of a Single Malt Society, whatever that is. They all take small taste to toast the hunt. I take slight sip, and am reminded why I don’t drink scotch.

I admit to lower class, admittedly plebian tastes (rifleman=redneck, right?) but all scotch tastes like cough syrup to me. Of course, it would be uncouth to ask if anyone has any bourbon.

We get in trucks, head for home. I have written off seeing my new rifle until the next day. But I got a lot of education in the upper-crust end of social hunting. Gosh, I love this bird hunting. So much easier than all that work involved in deer hunting. It certainly beats riding a four-wheeler within 200 yards of a stand, walking to stand, climbing in box stand with nice novel and dozing for a few hours. I bet I lost six pounds.

Mayer has invited me back next week. Says there’s a cold front and rain coming through, and the birds will definitely be in then. I’ll get a report from him, and pass it on to you.

I’m going deer hunting. I need the rest.


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Monday, September 22, 2008

As a firearms writer, I find myself constantly wanting to tell my readers about something new in the shooting sports world...and magazine space is limited. Frequently I have to leave out stuff I find really interesting, and I think my readers (who are generally gun nuts to some degree) would also find it interesting. But I have to pare the copy, and sometimes some really neat stuff can't be explained as neatly as I would like... This blog is an attempt to remedy that.

When I come across something new, interesting, exciting, or maybe not what it's advertised to be, well, you'll read about it here. This is MY space. And my opportunity to reach out to other gun nuts and tell them what's good and what's not...and not worry about cramming a review and an opinion into 800 words or less.

Oh, and sometimes, we might rant a bit. Since there is so much out there to rant about when it comes to guns and the anti- gunners--and almost as bad--the ignorant gunners.

We'll preach some safety, and probably offer our own suggestions for recipients of the Darwin Awards in relation to firearms handling.

And, there will be politics. Always politics. If we are not vigilant, these freedoms which we enjoy will be as smoke in the air--dissipating from sight, slowly evaporating from our view and cognitive senses.

I quit apologizing for being a unrepentant gun nut many years ago.

I like guns.

I like shooting them, working with them, writing about them, and talking about them.

Join me for all of this.

Gordon Hutchinson
The Shootist
Labels: Where We're Coming From...

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