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Falling Down

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 09:15
Make more than just a casual appearance in the outdoors and sooner or later you will fall down. (True hunters never fall down. They may, on occasion, loose their balance or footing but never, fall down. It would be ungraceful.) Men who never worry about their wardrobe or get overly concerned with their outward appearance transform in hunting season. Suddenly, they feel they must venture out in a matched camouflaged ensemble, becoming as fashion conscious as a starlet headed to the Oscars. And, it seems that hats are as important to the outdoorsman as those worn by high-class debutants at the Kentucky Derby. All this nonsense makes a fall in the woods akin to Kate Upton bouncing her noggin off the red carpet. There are only two accepted ways to fall or deal with a fall in the great outdoors. This is important because you can never be sure that you’re alone. Some well hidden, camo clad hunter may be present to witness your tumble. This, as you can imagine, could be a potentially embarrassing situation capable of tainting your reputation. I will detail each strategy here so you can maintain your continued status as a man of the woods. The “Get Up Quick” Technique About 10 years ago I was hunting with Remington in West Virginia. My guide was Larry Case, a game warden and outdoorsman of the highest order. All morning Larry...

Hard Cast

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 11:46
I just finished my ammo column for Shooting Illustrated magazine on the benefits of hard cast handgun loads. Many modern pistoleros look at hard cast bullets as something old timers use. That may be true but if you are looking for penetration or a hunting load for a handgun, hard cast bullets are a viable and effective option. Last year I took a whitetail buck with a 130-grain hard cast bullet from my .327 Ruger Blackhawk. This year I took a whitetail doe at about 35 yards with a 115-grain hard cast from Doubletap, fired from a Ruger Single Seven in .32 H&R Magnum. For the most part, the major ammunition companies ignore hard cast loads but boutique ammo builders like Doubletap embrace them. Doubletap offers hard cast loads for most handgun cartridges. Hard cast bullets might be old school but sometimes old school is better, especially if you want to push bullets as deep as possible. A few months ago I was testing body armor for another article and I fired a variety of defensive handgun loads into the vest. This was a Threat Level IIIA vest so none of the handgun loads defeated the body armor but guess which one defeated the most layers of Kevlar? Yep, it was a hard cast load. If you are unfamiliar with hard cast bullets and want to learn more, check out the upcoming column in Shooting Illustrated. And, don’t...

Songs & Memories

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 08:17
I had the best summer of my life. A tall order after 49 years for sure. Watched my wife become a hunter. Shared a campfire with good friends. Maybe the best part was spending two weeks alone with my son, Bat. We hunted. We laughed. We stood next to the king of beasts as he roared not 30 feet away. We ate wild things. Saw wilder things. And we got homesick. He became a man – almost – and I became prouder that I already was. Funny thing, when I think about the time we shared, the first thing I remember is the music. We spent nine hours driving on the wrong side of the road from Kimberly to Dundee. We dealt with problems 14-year-old boys should not have to. We ate the nastiest burger ever concocted by a human, we got lost and we almost ran over a bunch of goats. All the while Bat commanded the radio with music from his iPhone. At first I didn’t like it but after nine hours… It’s not surprising really. Humans are musical beasts and all it takes is an old song to pull a memory out of the recesses of your mind. When I hear Don Williams I remember being allowed to drive at hunting camp before – way before – I was supposed to. When I hear Lynyrd Skynyrd I remember Junior High School and I remember doing a lot of things I know Bat will do, but hope he don’t do, but know he needs to do. When I hear Bob Seager I remember a...

The “Deer Cartridge”

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 11:41
A phrase that gets tossed around campfires and Internet forums quite often is “deer cartridge.” As much as it’s used, no one can define it. It’s like trying to define the term “good song.” Lots of folks like different kinds of songs and lots of folks like different kinds of cartridges. The thing is, for a cartridge to be a “deer cartridge” you don’t have to like it. I’ve killed and witnessed the killing of lots of deer with the .223 Remington. Some folks, like the never afraid to speak his mind Bryce Towsley, will say the .223 Remington is not a deer cartridge. Further explaining their proclamation by arguing that just because you kill a deer with a .223 does not prove the point. Well, um, what the hell does? If I catch a mouse in a trap, it’s a mousetrap. If I build a house out of rock, it’s a rock house. If I write about guns I’m a gun writer. And, if I use any cartridge to kill a deer then…I know, this is hard to understand…it’s a deer cartridge. “Well,” they’ll say, “yes you can kill a deer with it but its not suitable for deer.” Really? Is my cartridge – whatever it is – supposed to do something more than kill the deer? Let me tell you about my deer cartridges. .223 Remington: Shot lots of deer with the .223. With a Nosler Partition, Federal Fusion or Barnes TSX, impacting at more than 2600 fps, it will put deer down...

So What About This Rifle?

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 09:45
As most of you know I’m a fan of the rifles from New Ultra Light Arms (NULA). Melvin Forbes at NULA originated the light weight hunting rifle and 30 years later no company has been able to deliver anything that compares in terms of weight and performance. Recently, NULA expanded to include Forbes Rifles and they are offering mass produced versions of NULA rifles that are just as accurate and just as light. (Modern machinery can make things like that happen.) The best part is that the Forbes Rifles retail for what a NULA rifle did in 1984! Just the other day I received a prototype Forbes Rifle in .308 Winchester. It has an 18 inch barrel with a threaded muzzle and weighs a scant five pounds, and that’s with the rail mount. I mounted a Nightforce 1-4X Compact scope, which seemed like a perfect match for this svelte little rifle, bore sighted the package and fired a one MOA group with Remington’s Managed recoil 125 grain Core–Lokt load. It’ll shoot. What would a rifle like this be good for? I’m figuring just about anything… As a side note, the more I played with the rifle what really impressed me was the Nightforce Compact riflescope. I’m thinking I might have to mount this scope on my even lighter NULA rifle in .30 Remington AR. I really liked the IHR illuminated reticle and the...

Timney Fixes the MVP

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 08:08
I really like the Mossberg MVP line of rifles, particularly those sized to perfectly fit .223 Remington sized cartridges and take AR magazines. I’ve built two semi-custom rifles out of MVPs that I call CURs. One is chambered for the .223 and the other for the .25-45 Sharps. What I don’t like about the MVP rifles is the Mossberg LBA trigger. Now, this is actually a good trigger but I just cannot warm to that center lever in the trigger. Yes, it is a great idea that allows Mossberg to put a good trigger on a rifle but none of my other rifles have it and I like familiarity. Familiarity helps you shoot better and when all of your rifles have a trigger that seems to break the same, you shoot better. A few months back I did some testing for Timney; they sent me a trigger to try out on the MVP. But, that trigger was for the larger version of the MVP which fits .308 Winchester sized cartridges. It worked just fine but I called Timney up and suggested they make a trigger for the smaller MVP. Admittedly, I was thinking of myself. A few weeks later another trigger arrived. I installed it on one of my MVPs and tested the pull weight. Out of the box, with no adjustment, it broke clean and crisp at two pounds. The best part is that installation is as easy as it can be made. One screw! Now you can have one of the most...

Ballistol Deer Lure – Really!

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 14:05
I mentioned here the other day that I was going to put a Ballistol wipe up at one of my feeders to see how the deer reacted. Thistas partly out of personal curiosity and partly because a hunter told me Ballistol smelled so bad it would scare the deer away. Now, I’m not a deer biologist but I can look at some photos and make up my on mind about something this simple. I’m not saying Ballistol on your rifle will for sure attract a buck or even a deer. Heck, the deer where you live might not like the small of it at all. Look at the photos and make up your own mind. These photos were taken within three days of putting the Ballistol up and the nicest buck photographed showed up within 18 hours of hanging the wipe.          

Discreet Carry Spare Magazine Carry

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 14:53
You may not be aware of this little gem of a carry tool from Versacarry. It provides a deep cover way to carry a spare magazine for a semi-auto pistol. It works unconventionally, like all Versacarry products, by attaching to the magazine were you put the cartridges in the magazine. Two perfectly engineered tabs on the carrier slip under the feed lips of the magazine and on top of the last cartridge. Then, the unit slips in your waistband and a clip holds it in place behind your belt and pants. When you pull on the magazine the tabs slip free of the feed lips on the magazine and the magazine is free. Pretty neat huh? Here’s the thing, even if you do not utilize a Versacarry for carrying your concealed carry gun, the Versacarry magazine carrier makes perfect sense. And, like all Versacarry products, it is not gun model specific. There will be versions to fit single stack 9mm, .40 and .45 and eventually,  double stack mags as well. Right now only the single stack 9mm is available. I conducted a 30 day test of this carrier and a Versacarry using a Kimber Solo and the article will soon appear in Guns & Ammo. I suggest you give one a try. At less than $ 25 bucks, what have you got to loose? Its a neat solution to the problem of carrying a spare magazine for your concealed carry pistol.  

Ugly and Practical or Practically Ugly – You Tell Me

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 14:31
I wanted a compact and lightweight bolt-action, multi-purpose, do most anything, under the truck seat, behind the door, powerful rimfire rifle fitted with a riflescope and aperture sights that was affordable. News flash – It does not exist. So I started from scratch with the most accurate and affordable rimfire I could find; a Ruger American Compact in .22 Magnum. I went to my local gunsmith, Jerry Dove at Dove’s Custom Guns, and said, “This rifle needs a scout mount and you need to create it from scratch.” He said. “OK.” and that’s what he did. Picked it up today. Thanks to XS Sights for the aperture rear and post front and thanks to Weaver for the incredibly light 4X scout scope. If I have to explain the versatility of this 36 inch, six pound (with scope) rifle to you, you are obviously not of the practical outdoorsman rifle loving sort. It will do anything an outdoorsman wants done with a rimfire rifle. Yes, it is a bit ugly which means we go together rather well. A full feature on this rifle and what will be hidden in its stock will appear in an upcoming GUNS Magazine Annual. Obviously its a rimfire scout, I think I’ll call it the MiniCooper. Ugly? Practical? Weird? Useless? Tell me what you think.

Firearms for Personal Protection

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 17:28
A lot of, no, most of the books directed at firearms for personal protection approach the subject from a not so very practical standpoint. It seems many of the authors think readers all want to be the next Delta Force member. Maybe some do and maybe some enjoy reading how to do that. However, the truth is what most readers really need is some pragmatic advice on firearms for personal protection. A new book from Joseph Von Benedikt provides just that. This book, Firearms for Personal Protection, currently available from Amazon.com cuts right to the heart of the matter and eliminates all of the tactardish crap generally associated with defensive handgun topics. I was particularly pleased to see how Joseph addressed the cartridge question. He handles that with the same practicality that he applies to other topics like, pistols vs revolvers, concealed carry vs nightstand guns, lights and lasers and maybe, most importantly, avoiding conflict. If you are new to this notion of using firearms for personal protection I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there may not be a better first book. If you think you know all there is to know I’d suggest you give this book a read so you can realize some things you don’t. Christmas, as they say, is a coming and if you know someone who is just getting acquainted with...

Carbon Killer

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 15:22
Shooters spend a lot of time worrying about copper fouling in their bore. I know that I’ll loose respect when I tell you this but, I hardly ever clean the inside of a rifle or handgun barrel. Why? As long as its shooting good, what’s the use? I’ve had rifles that showed a deterioration in accuracy after as few as 20 to 50 shots. Guess what? I don’t own them anymore. I’m not saying I never clean a bore, I’m just saying I clean the other parts of the gun much more often. Carbon fouling is what I really hate. I hate carbon fouling almost as much as I hate cleaning guns. So, I take the easy way out and use Ballistol because it breaks down carbon fouling like a card counter will break a casino. Right now Ballistol is offering a give-a-way and you can register HERE. If you don’t win I suggest you round some up and give it a try. Even if you never shoot or clean your guns there are thousands of uses for Ballistol. It does have a distinct smell and while some find it irritating I kind of like it. To me it smells like a synthetic version of licorice. A few folks have asked me if they put this on their hunting guns if the deer will smell it and run away? They might, I’m not sure, though as universal as this stuff is, it might attract deer. To find out I hung a Ballistol wipe up in front...

Practical Hunting Accuracy

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 13:56
What is practical hunting accuracy? Ask this question at a gathering of gun writers and you’ll likely become engaged in a discussion in minutes of angle (MOA.) Ask it at a campfire at a hunting camp and the discussion / disagreement will take a different but similar turn. It seems to always come back to the shooting bench and group size. I guess if we had to shoot a deer three times in the heart to kill it that might matter. We don’t and it doesn’t. Hunters of yore, like your Dad and his father, used to kill all sorts of game and never heard the term MOA. I’ll bet they rarely if ever shot a three shot group. My Dad was deadly with his Winchester model 100 in .243 Winchester; I’ve watched him take groundhogs out to 200 yards with the rifle’s crude open sights. When I became a gun geek I bench tested his rifle at 100 yards. Two MOA was the best I could get out of that rifle with any load. Interestingly, when I took the rifle out to test it I found the loaded magazine he kept for it was filled with various different loads. I asked Dad what kind of ammo he had in the magazine and he said, “.243, what else would be in it?” Townsend Whelen suggested that “When a man can stand on his hind legs [like he has front ones to stand on] and hit a kneeling silhouette five times in twenty seconds at two hundred yards he is a first – class...

The Wilderness Rifle, COL Cooper and Townsend Whelen

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 11:10
Over the years gun writers have written about Cooper’s scout rifle concept. His creation has been promoted, dissected and even misrepresented. At the same time major manufacturers have created their version of the scout and so have custom rifle builders. Being that Cooper established the definition of the scout rifle, I’m of the opinion that anything short of his definition is not a scout rifle. This being the case, it could be argued that the only true factory scout rifle is the Steyr Scout. But Cooper is with us no more; he is not here to pass judgment on this or that carbine as to whether it is a scout rifle or not. The term has evolved as they say to describe any carbine length arm that is fitted with an extended eye relief scope. I’m not so sure Cooper would be OK with that. Does it matter? Yes and no. Cooper’s conceptual rifle was one that would be as well suited to fighting as it was for hunting, for one man operating alone. What always seemed unrealistic to me were the limits Cooper placed on the length and weight of the rifle. The shooter, not the concept, should dictate these specifications. Additionally, having used extended eye relief scopes of minimal magnification extensively; I’m convinced that Cooper never tried to apply them in the Eastern hardwoods where much less than 4X magnification can be insufficient...


Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:01
When I graduated high school Remington introduced a new rifle. It was called the model Seven and I wanted one. But, a single 18 year old who already owned a model 700 had a lot of other things to spend his money on. (If I’d have been smart I’d have spent my money on the model Seven and several other guns.) The model Seven was compact and light and just what a West Virginia deer hunter needed. At 18 I was old enough to have figured that out. Problem was, when I finally did get the cash to spend on one I wanted it in .358 Winchester or .35 Remington. Neither were an option. Then, Remington started offering the MS and KS Custom Shop versions of the model Seven and they were available in .35 Remington and .350 Rem. Mag. A friend had one of the full stocked (MS) model Sevens in .35 Remington and I still lust after it. Ultimately, I traded a pre-64 Winchester model 88 (What was I thinking?) for a Custom Shop Model Seven MS in .308 Winchester. Used it to take several nice bucks. But, it was a .308 and as great as the .308 is, I got bored with it. Sold it and cannot remember what I did with the money. I’ve still not gotten over the desire for a model Seven and if you are have been thinking about one too, you have probably noticed that they do not appear on dealer’s shelves very often. This is because until...

Gimmie Three Steps

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:57
Ronnie Van Zant’s words were ringing in my ears. The deer was 30 yards away, broadside and just needed three steps to be in the clear. Montana was on the gun, eye in the scope and ready. The minutes clicked by, the deer continued to eat and my heart was beating so loud I knew Montana could hear it and figured the deer could too. She had been practicing with the little CVA Scout in .300 Blackout and the Trijicon AccuPoint all week and seated with sticks at 50 yards, heart shots were no problem for her. I whispered, “When she steps out, put the red triangle on the right spot and squeeze the trigger.” “OK.” was all she whispered back. The clock ticked, the deer ate and I got a cramp in my butt and I thought to myself, “Three steps, just gimmie three steps and that will be all for you. Montanan will put a 110 grain Controlled Chaos bullet through your heart.” Then, the deer, as they often do, sensed something was just not right. It turned and walked away. Come on! Really? Nothing comes easy. A special antlerless season starts on Thursday. Maybe Montana will get another chance.

A Mossberg, A Big Mac and a Sable

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:02
  We’d been climbing, non-stop, for 30 minutes in order to get some elevation to help us locate the sable. My knees were screaming. All that time on a wrestling mat might have helped build character but it did nothing good for my knee joints. Had we seen the sable the pain and the heat would have been bearable. Now, all I had to look forward to was the walk / fall back down the mountain. It was my last day hunting with Africa Arrow (Bullet) Safaris in the Limpopo Province. If I was going to shoot a sable I would do it today but Sable are hard to shoot if you do not see them. The opportunity was a bit unique because I was hunting with a brand new rifle from Mossberg. It’s called the Patriot and is an excellent example of a hard working rifle for hard working, blue-collar American hunters. With a suggested retail price of only $ 550.00 it’s hardly the rifle you would expect to use to shoot one of the priciest of all the African plains game. When we reached the bottom of the mountain I drank a gallon of water and took three Motrin. Then, we reluctantly gave up and headed into town for some lunch before we tried a different concession that afternoon. Believe it or not, we ate at McDonalds. I scarfed down a Big Mac, an order of fries and a gallon of Coke and we headed out again. To my delight the next location was flat and...

Trijicon AccuPoint Riflescopes

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:51
Trijicon AccuPoint  

I took the Laser Grips off my 1911

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 13:34
  I didn’t think anything would ever make me do that until the mammoth ivory grips from Smitty’s Designs showed up. Oh my! Nothing like a Nighthawk 1911 built just the way you want it with mammoth ivory grips. And then there is my Novak’s (Joe & Dustin Bonar) 1911 which has been with me for so long that it knows my deepest secrets and desires. I won’t be carrying them around a lot with these grips – for seriousness the Crimson Trace laser grips gotta go back on – but if you throw a barbecue or invite me to a wedding, expect to see these. Even a hillbilly can have some class now and then.

A New .45-70 From Marlin

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:09
There is something about lever action rifles. My son Bat gets to shoot all the guns that come through here for testing and he also enjoys playing those first person shooter video games. (If you believe everything you hear he should be doing terrible things.) What I’ve found interesting is that of all the rifles he likes lever guns the best. He also likes break open shotguns and single action revolvers. The reason, I think, is because these guns require the shooter to do something to bring the gun into action; they have to work the lever, pop open the shotgun or cock the hammer on the revolver. Funny thing is, at the Remington / Marlin new product seminar, which was held in West Virginia the other day, shooters seemed to gravitate to the lever guns. Could the same desire exist with adults or is it a deeper connection to an American classic or that cowboy thing at work? Who knows and who cares? Bottom line is that the lever action is an iconic American rifle and some of the best ones have Marlin roll marked on the barrel. But Marlin has had some issues since their acquisition and move. I’ve tested several lately and it looks like they have worked through the problems. For 2015 Marlin is offering a new .45-70 called the 1895 GSBL and in the words of Jeff Quinn over at Gun Blast, “Its a dandy.”

West Virginia High Adventure

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:37
Some folks believe that the new High Adventure Camp of the Boy Scout of America is some sort of clandestine government facility that has been built as a concentration camp or a FEMA camp. Some even believe it is a bunker to replace the one that was decommissioned at the Greenbrier Resort. Its none of those things. The Summit is a high adventure camp for members of the Boy Scouts of America. It was funded with millions of dollars which were donated by those who support and respect what membership in the Boy Scouts contribute to young men. Situated just outside of Fayetteville, WV the Summit – Bechtel Reserve – is a huge facility that can provide outdoor adventure experiences like no other place on earth. But, due to some weirdness in West Virginia law, the property cannot be leased out for use by other organizations. This keeps money out of the community and limits the tax revenue that can be generated. Check out this video about the Summit and how an initiative on the ballot in the upcoming election in West Virginia can fix this stupidness. Yesterday, while attending the annual Remington product seminar I had the opportunity to tour the Summit and utilize their shooting ranges. The opportunities for how this site could help West Virginia youth be exposed to the outdoors is endless but it will take your vote to...