Temporarily blinded from looking at a case full of gold Rolexes at the Safari Club International Convention, I stumbled into a darkened room where Eric Olds, Rangemaster at Gunsite Academy, was giving a seminar titled "Are You Shooting Me?" I've been to Gunsite, and had instruction from Eric, and it was good to be reminded of just how unique the Gunsite approach to shooting is.
Despite its odd title, the seminar was about practice—all phases of it, including safety, which is paramount in the Gunsite scheme of things. Eric has evolved his curriculum from his time as a Marine, as a high-power rifle competitor, as a hunter, and as an instructor who has spent 15 years watching screwed-up hunters shoot and figuring out how to unscrew them.
When I went to Gunsite several years ago, I went with a young woman on our staff who had never fired a rifle before. In a day and a half, Eric turned her into a competent shot. I’m still not sure how he did it, but he did it without doubt.
Not only is the instruction unique, but Gunsite is able to duplicate actual hunting situations—you're not shooting off a benchrest at 100 yards at a bull's-eye. It’s at real hunting distances over real chunks of Arizona at animal targets. As Eric says, "We can't replicate the Arctic, or a rain forest, but we can match just about anything in between."
Included in his talk was a maxim so profound that I’m passing it along to you. I suggest you all have it tattooed on whichever body part you find most convenient:
"When it comes time to shoot for real, you will default to your level of practice. If you haven't practiced, you better hope you’re having a good day."
I’ve just returned, unscathed except for some severe mental scars, from the Safari Club International convention in Reno. The first SCI convention held in Reno was in 1998, and there were 2,500 people attending. This one had 23,000, and most of them were in the damned halls at the same time. There were 1,100 exhibitors, mostly selling art, jewelry, guns, hunts, and clothing.
But these are merely the cold, hard facts. The true reality is that this is a kind of wonderland where only the truly rich can afford to play. The guns writers (who, by and large, come from the lowest socio-economic levels of society) whom I saw were slinking around like a bunch of whipped dogs. They were way, way, out of their depth and they knew it.
“A moose hunt for $18,000; a moose hunt for $18,000,” groaned one of them, over and over, reeling as though he’d been in a car wreck.
"Do you know of any cheap hunts?" asked another. "I'm trying to get a mountain goat hunt and can’t find one for under $17,000."
I just laughed bitterly and continued slurping down my $4 lemonade.
But the truth is that it's a wonderful experience, and I look forward to going again next year. Coming up shortly is a selection of photos that will give you a look at some of the more interesting stuff. One or two of the items are affordable. I apologize for that. I did my best, but no one’s perfect.
The convention was uplifting in that there were a lot of younger people there--30s and 40s--and not a lot of old, decaying bastards with big bucks. Also, most of the people did not look well-to-do. They looked like ordinary folks. And maybe they were. Except with a lot more money than you and me.
I’m indebted to Brian R. Peterson of our Los Angeles office for this one.
Savile Row is the London street that is home to most of the city’s bespoke (which is British for custom) men’s clothing stores, and for 200 years, the firm of Gieves & Hawkes has been among the most famous of these.
G&H offers a shoe called the Buckshot Brogue. It's a dress Oxford wing-tip that has little perforations in its toe. But with a difference.
In order to achieve a non-symmetrical pattern to the tiny holes, G&H shot a shoe from a distance of 12 feet, thereby probably breaking at least 12 of Britain's strange laws. The pellet pattern in the shot shoe was transferred to a computer, which adapted the pattern to left and right shoes.
Back in the 1950s, a Washington State trapshooter and gunsmith named Al Ljutic (LEW-tic) made a good living re-building trap guns that had been shot into tatters, and became curious if he could build something that could stand up to the godless amount of shooting that ATA shooters do. (A serious trapshooter will fire several times more shells in a summer than a bird hunter will in a lifetime. I was only moderately serious about it, and I was doing 500 rounds a week.)
The result of his work was the Ljutic Mono Gun, which may be one of the most durable firearms ever made. It’s a single-barrel, break-open design that has only 12 major parts, and these are massive and very carefully turned out. There are Ljutics that were made in the early 60s that are still in regular use, and it’s not uncommon for them to run through 500,000 rounds over the decades.
I was groping and fondling a Ljutic Mono Gun at the company’s SHOT booth, and was prevented from placing an order only by the price. It’s a lot of money. If you ever get a chance to examine one, do so. It’s a work of genius.
The signs and slogans posted in black-rifle world at the SHOT Show were an interesting indication of how our various wars are going. I regret that I didn’t write them down, and have done my best to recreate them here:
IF HE’S SO DUMB HOW COME HE’S PRESIDENT?
WE HAVE TO DESTROY IRAQ IN ORDER TO SAVE IT. (A holdover from the Vietnam era.)
EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES. SUPORT THE DECIDER ANYWAY.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE AN OMELETTE, YOU HAVE TO BREAK MOSQUES.
And finally. Ullfrotte long johns are made in Sweden, and the word Ullfrotte means "wool terry cloth," which is what they are. Best long johns I've ever worn, but the importer has decided that the Swedish name is not Amurrican-friendly, and has changed it to "Wool Power," which is pretty vapid.
They're still the best long johns around. They don't itch, they don't get cold when you sweat in them, and when you've worn them awhile they do not smell like the Fifth Soviet Shock Army did after the Battle of Kursk.
This week I’m off to the SCI Convention. Trophy wives. $90,000 safaris. $250,000 guns. Taxidermy beyond your wildest dreams. I am willing to endure all this for you, my fellow bloggers. Keep an eye out for my reports.
As I noted in my previous rant, the fastest growing segment of the SHOT Show is the category called Law Enforcement/Tactical, which I explored at great personal risk. Your first thought on entering the LOTBR is, Are there any wants and warrants out on me? In the 1970s I was questioned on a possible charge of moping with intent to loiter, but it was dropped, so I was OK on that count.
The first thing you notice in LOTBR is that hardly anyone looks like a cop, or a Ranger, or a SEAL, or even a mercenary. There were very few guys under 45 with flat stomachs and short haircuts. I think that most of the people I saw were there to ogle the booth babes (LOTBR was Booth Babe Central, the connection between sex and violence being well established.) or simply admire all the dangerous hardware.
There were M-16 and M-4 knockoffs in such profusion and prolixity as to beggar the mind. There were camo uniforms by the bale, commo equipment, a black Hummer 2 converted to a deathmobile, sniper rifles, chemical weapons, knives for slicing and dicing people, packs, handcuffs, clubs, and dummies on which you could practice your joint-breaking holds. There was the Red Man, which is a plastic suit of armor that’s worn by stick-fighting instructors; it allows their students to wale away on them with batons, clubs, and cudgels without doing any damage.
And there were patriotic slogans everywhere, mostly supporting the war In Iraq and Afghanistan. (One company, at its press conference, had an invocation by a chaplain and a Marine Corps color guard. I think the jarheads would rather have been beating up sailors, or whatever jarheads do in their free time.) This is an old, old tradition, and they’re free to do whatever they like, but it bothers me.
If a military boot company, say, wants to put up a poster that says “Iraq is not Vietnam II,” or “The President is not an imbecile, he just sounds that way,” that’s not really tending to business.
If the same company put up a poster that said: “If you have to wade through broken glass, blood, chunks of concrete and rebar, and garbage of all kinds in order to kill people who don’t like us, our boots will do it better than anyone else’s,” I could buy into that.
This year's SHOT Show in Orlando had 1,870 exhibiting companies, was attended by 42,000 people and was, as ever, a nightmare vision of America gone mad. It was the biggest and best-attended show since SHOT began in 1979. (As a high-ranking NSSF official said to me with an ironic smile, "Welcome to a 'dying' industry.") As I understand it, the gun biz is selling everything it can make, and so there was not much innovation this year, with one exception, which is the Thompson/Center Icon bolt-action rifle (below). More on it here.
In additional to its mind-boggling size, SHOT was marked by the welcome return of booth babes, whose photos you can see elsewhere on this website. They were taken by our intrepid Senior Photo Editor Jaime Santa, who was able to get a bunch of terrific-looking women to pose for her camera. If I had tried, I would have been driven off with kicks and curses.
The other major trend in SHOT was the astounding growth of what the Show calls its Law Enforcement (actually paramilitary) section, which is now as big as early SHOT Shows were in their entirety. This phenomenon will be explored in a subsequent rant, guaranteed to offend all right-thinking Americans.
Editor's Note:Dave is reporting live from the 2007 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show in Orlando, Florida.
I've been wandering the aisles, dodging curses and punches. Jeff Foxworthy has his own line of jerky. You may be a redneck if you have enough money to come up with your own line of preserved strips of dead cattle.
A company that I will not name is not only selling John Wayne commemorative rifles, but John Wayne commemorative ammo, it being the Duke's 100th birthday. I don't get the John Wayne craze. He was a fine and much-underrated actor, but that's all he was. Wayne never punched a head of cattle, or fought in a war.
If someone would like to put out commemorative guns for a real hero, they should do it for Audie L. Murphy. In case you haven't heard of him, Murphy was a scrawny Texas kid who grew up dirt poor and became the most decorated American soldier of World War II. He won every medal we had to give, including the Medal of Honor. He went on to become a reasonably successful movie actor, but died in his 40s in an airplane crash. Murphy was what Wayne pretended to be, and we should remember him.
A Cold Steel Bargain
The SHOT Show abounds in cutlery manufacturers, and Colt Steel is always one of the most interesting. They make all sorts of lethal stuff, but also some very good hunting knives, and some very fine bargains. Shown here is one of the latter. It's a knockoff of a very famous design called the Russell Canadian Belt Knife. There have been plenty of imitations of the RCBK, most of them worthless, but this one is terrific. It's very light, razor sharp, comes with a good sheath, and costs only about $16, or so I'm told. It will not hold an edge forever, but then you resharpen it.
Here’s one to weigh in on: Three years ago, Remington came out with an
electronic ignition system for centerfire cartridges that replaced the
conventional one with a trigger that closed a circuit and zapped a
current into an electronic primer, which ignited the powder charge. The
Etronx system worked very well, but did not succeed commercially for
reasons known only beyond my pay grade.
Now, CVA has come up with some very similar to Etronix system in a
black-powder rifle. The .50 muzzle-loader, called Electra, dispenses
with the beloved 209 shotgun primer, and relies instead upon electronic
circuitry (see photo) that sends them volts right into the powder
charge. So what you get is a no-movement trigger, lightning-fast
ignition, more uniform powder burning, and less mess to clean up.
Electra is powered by a 9-volt lithium battery that is good for 500
shots. That noise you hear is Jim Bridger whirling in his grave.
Now there are two ways to view this:
Electra is an amazing step forward in black powder shooting, and deserves to be a monstrous success.
Electra runs counter to the whole idea of using a muzzleloader, where
you’re supposed to be using a primitive weapon. Why not have done with
it and develop cartridges for the thing?