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May 22, 2008

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Bourjaily on Lucky Guns

I try hard not to believe in superstition, or lucky guns, lucky socks, hats, shirts, whatever, but sometimes I wonder. Five years ago I got a new turkey gun – a Mossberg 835 Grand Slam – and immediately my fortunes took a 180-degree turn for the better. Where I had been a stumbling idiot in the turkey woods in previous seasons, all of a sudden I was avian cholera in camo. Long-spurred public land turkeys lined up for the privilege of letting me shoot them with my new 835. I went on a five-year roll.

So, it was with a little concern this year that I left my old faithful Mossberg at home in favor of a new 870. On paper (both patterning paper and metaphorical paper) the 870 was the better gun. But, was I dooming my streak of punched tags?

Day after day, I carried the 870 through my most frustrating season in years . A freakish wet spring put most of my river bottom hunting grounds under water. The few high, dry spots crawled with hunters. Cold weather and hunting pressure screwed up the gobbling cycle. The couple of times I got on birds, I unerringly sat a few feet away from the right spot.

A week ago Monday was my final day to hunt. I agonized in front of the gun cabinet. Did I need to take my 835 to save the season? No such thing as lucky guns, I told myself, and reached for the 870. About 9:15 a 22 pound tom came 200 yards on a string, gobbling to every one of my calls. At 25 yards we saw one another. He stepped behind a tree to think things over, then turned to sneak away. I had to shoot fast at a quick glimpse of the head among the foliage. A single golden BB to the back of the skull laid the turkey out flat.

I told this story to Excecutive Editor Mike Toth who said “Of course there are lucky guns. You must have been keeping the 870 in the cabinet next to the 835 and the luck rubbed off.” Is Toth right? Who out there believes in lucky guns and who among you is fortunate enough to own one?


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Chad Love

Absolutely believe in the concept. I have a CZ 550 in 6.5x55 that through some strange alchemy attracts deer whenever I use it. I have two gorgeous Winchester Model 70 featherweights, also in 6.5x55 that I love to look at and shoot, but they just don't seem to have the mojo that clunky-stocked CZ exudes.

My lucky shotgun is a little BL-4 20 gauge that brings death to whatever I swing it on.
Don't know if this gun somehow attracts chronically depressed and suicidal birds wishing to just end it all in a cloud of #8s or if I just shoot it a little better than everything else, but I call it my Boom Wand.


I have a scratched up Model 70 in .270 I bought as a kid which I always resort to when deer season is going poorly. It usually works.

On the other hand I had some unlucky guns when I was young. Later on I realized they also had creepy triggers.

It might be that knowing and trusting my gun lets me focus on the hunting, but that sounds a bit like a Zen thing and I have no idea how that relates to luck.


I have an old single shot 20 ga., not even sure of the make, but I bought it years ago for the pricy sum of $10.00. It has never failed to bring down a dove in the field that I turned it lose on. Even brought down a double with it that my two hunting partners both fired and missed with their auto. the birds were coming straight on and I took one to the front and was able to turn and reload and took the second off my right shoulder at about a full body twist. My two partners would never hunt with me again and I never let them live it down and never will. I hope they read this post


I used to shoot registed trap with a friend who reloaded all of his shells. Whenever he would miss a bird (and that wasn't often) the offending AA empty went on the ground rather than the reload pouch. When asked about this curious habit my friend's logic was simple - "That shell screwed me once and I'm not giving it the oppotunity to do it again!". A little superstition never hurts. ;>)

Brian T.

Absolutely true without a shred of fact to back it up. Remington Spartan o/u 12 ga. with Trulock chokes. Everything from grouse to geese to turkey to clays. "If it flies, it dies."


I have always feared the curse of and unlucky gun. I have one Remington 700 in 30/06 for deer that I bought used when i was 16, and an 870 Express, for everything else that I bought new when i was 12. I do own some 22's and have recently acquired a fine Ithaca 37. But by having only one gun for the job it cut down on the very problem you described. "Do I have the right one?" Its one less thing to blame a bad hunt on. Now if i could get narrowed down to one turkey call and one deer stand, I might preserve my sanity, such as it is.

WA Mtnhunter

I, too, fear the curse of unlucky guns. Every year I am tempted to leave the Remington 700 .35 Whelen at home and elk hunt with my Weatherby. The only time I did that, I missed an elk and later fell and scarred up the stock on that brand new Weatherby Mk V. So the .35 W goes this year again! I'll lug the Weatherby along, but the pristine M70 Featherweight will stay home again.


Absolutely believe in lucky guns. Old Ugly is scarred, worn, won't shoot a damn thing but 165 grain loads, and not all of those, (loves Hornady, hotter the better, Federal Premium? so-so, maybe!)Has one of those Ironsighter mounts that DEP hates, a hair trigger, and looks like it might have spent a few days crawling through briars and barb wire. (It has) Also, at last count, had 23 scratches on the stock signifying deer, can't count the hogs, coyotes, misc. varmits. I think it is a deer magnet, because they look, laugh, and get shot!


Lucky guns? I don't know about that... My 30-06's last digits in the serial number is 666! Taken deer with it just about every year since I bought it. The salesman almost didn't sell it to me because of that. His exact words were, as he was filling out the paperwork, "You don't actually want this one, do you?" When I told him it didn't matter to me he still looked apprehensive. His reply was, "Ok - but don't think you can bring it back! No one will ever want that one!" All I can say is that the gun is far more accurate than I am(I manage about 1.5 MOA at 100yds).

Dr. Ralph

I have a similar circumstance, but altogether different... I own a Bear compound bow that came with sights and all the extras CHEAP from BassPro and everytime I carry it afield I see the most wonderful pristine cover model bucks ever to roam God's green Earth. It is a monster magnet and with it I have killed maybe three small deer. Two does and one six pointer. I saw a buck so large with a swelled black neck in a swamp once that I blinked several times to clear my eyes and wondered what an Elk was doing in Tennessee.

Jim in Mo.

Dr. R,
Someday you guys may get some Elk coming over from Kentucky or do they fence them in?


How 'bout a WWII-era 7.7 Japanese Arisaka that my Dad bought for $7.00? Even with possibly the world's worst trigger (20 lb. pull, anyone?), it's The Angel of Death in the woods of northcentral PA. I wouldn't leave home without it.

Jim in Mo.

Luckiest shotgun I ever owned was also the cheapest I ever bought. A 12ga Stevens sxs for $95 new. Those barrels were regulated so well either one printed exactly where aimed. My Rem.1100 saw little action when woods or river hunting was involved. Why can't Stevens bring it back? For $300 everybody would buy one. Yes everybody.



Walt Smith

My lucky gun- the Rem. model 740, 30-06 I inherited from my Dad. I can hit anything with it. I hit my best buck ever with it running at 400+ yards I s*$# you not! My unlucky gun- my savage 110E that I used for years before I inherited my Dad's rifle. I can tack drive target shoot all day long with it but when I take it afield I can't hit s*$#. It's just SPOOKY weird man!!

Jim in Mo.

Walt Smith,
I can understand that. My sons 06 Rem 760 is so pleasant in hand and shoulder over my Savage 111. Neither gun is exceptionally lucky or jinxed but mine is in line for a new stock. Thats where its at IMHO.

Del in KS

I have 2 lucky guns. My Benelli SBE is instant death on Turkeys and Waterfowl. Only once in the last 12 years have I ended the season with an unused tag. That year I decided to do it with a bow. Jim you may remember KCMO got hit with a tornado about 4 yr ago. On that day I went turkey hunting in Macon County MO. It was wet and very windy. I saw an old gobbler fly down, ignore my calling and start to walk away. Figured with this weather its now or never so aimed 6" high and 12" upwind and let fly with a 3.5" load of #6 heavyshot. It was a bang flop on a 23 pounder with long hooks for spurs and 11" beard. The distance was 64 measured yards. That gun has taken a truck load of Waterfowl, Turkeys and Pheasants.
The other is my M700 classic in 350 Rem mag. Nothing shot at with this gun has ever gotten away. It has accounted for Moose, Black and Grizzly bears, 6 Blacktails and many Whitetails. The only thing that required another shot was a (running) gut shot trophy 9 pt Alaskan Sitka BT. Even the Moose and Bears were 1 shot bang flops.

Jim in Mo.

How many pellets would be in a 3 1/2 shell? Never shot one but I'd bet it kicks better than the 350 mag!


I had an UN-lucky gun once, a Winchester 94 that I carried for 4 years deer hunting. Never saw a legally shootable deer while carrying it until the 4th year, at which point I ran across a F&S Cover Quality Buck standing perfectly broadside at 50-75 yds. I fired and missed, it bounded a few yards and again stood broadside, again I missed, this time it ran about 75 yards and I fired a couple more rounds as it ran to a drop-off where it stopped quartering away and looked back at me. I fired and missed again and it then disappeared over the edge.
The gun was zeroed in 1" high at 100 yds just before season opened.
And it grouped within an inch circle, sometimes clover leafing.
Sold the Winchester and bought a Marlin, got 2 deer the next year.

Jim in Mo.

Never had a gun I'd call un-lucky, just a piece of crap.


There are at least four reasons for gun mojo I know of. One, it came with it, from someone else or just in itself. Two, it earned it, after working off the bad mojo all the times you skunked with it. Three, it rubbed off, like you heard, from you or someone else. Or four, it was love from the very first sight...


Absolutely! It may be circumstance, coincidence, the goddess Diana smiling on you....
but your mind tells you it is because you are using that particular gun. Confidence in a firearm is necessary. Ask a fisherman is he has a lucky rod. Ask a trapshooter about his lucky trapgun. Uncle Bob Brister bemoaned for years the loss of his Merkel 0/U that he claimed won more pigeon shoots for him than any other gun. As far as the 870 sitting next to the 835 and getting lucky, Toth is just pissing down your leg.


Lucky Gun!?

That would have to be my .22 Hornet!
I have killed more varieties of game with it than all others combined! Remember, I said varieties, not quantities!
Not only that, I probably tend to tote it everywhere!



No such thing as luck. Everything happens for a reason.


My step dad Giovanni, had eight guns. He only shot 3 and he wouldn't go hunting with other guns. He killed everything he shot at with a Remington Model 11 with FULL marked on the 32" solid rib barrel. From Dove and Quail to Ducks, Pheasants, Geese and Bandtail Pigeons. From 25 yds. to 60 yds. I mean this guy just never missed. He shot a Model 70 super grade, one of the first, in .270 Win. I never saw him miss a Deer and he always filled everyone elses tags for them. It must have killed hundreds of Deer. He would stay home before he would go hunting with a different gun. He shot small game and birds with a .22 rimfire. He hated .22's. He would always be cussing them. With the one he shot best, he was only about 75%. But the other two guns he was deadly with. Was it Luck? He had a Browning A-5 that he couldn't hit diddly with. He had a Savage 99 in .300 Savage, a Model 70 standard weight in 30-06, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with either, and he very rarely got the chance. But with the .270 or the Model 11 12ga if you asked him if he got'em he'd say you heard me shoot didn't ya? What a Character. He was a living legend to all the rest of us.

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