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November 10, 2008

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The Rifleman's Badge of Honor

This past Friday I was coaching a young hunter in the finer points of riflery when he got careless with the .30/06 he was shooting and received a medium-good scope cut in his forehead. He asked me not to mention it to anyone and I said, Pish tush, you should be proud of it; it’s the mark of the rifleman. I then pointed out three or four of my choicer scars.

Eventually, if you shoot enough, you are going to get a scope cut. Actually, you’re going to get a collection unless you spend all your time shooting .22s or centerfires with IER scopes. (Given the choice between an IER scope on a rifle and a good, bloody scope cut, I will take the latter.)

The two best I’ve ever seen came from a .30/06 with a cheap scope that had no eye relief to speak of, and a .300 Weatherby, whose owner contorted himself into a weird prone position, shooting downhill at a caribou. The ocular lens bell caught him on the bridge of the nose and opened it up like an ax. My own best scope cut came from a .30/378 with a muzzle brake. I was curious how hard it kicked without the brake and fired it prone. I found out.

I came home with blood all over my face and my shirt. My wife summed up the situation in one word:
“A*****e,” she said.

Some people, upon getting a scope cut, are like to swoon, and develop PTSD. Others brush it off. Susan Casey, who wrote a wonderful story for Field & Stream about an elk hunt on which she could not bring herself to pull the trigger, got a medium one, and decided she liked it.

“It makes me look like a badass,” said Susan.

In 2003, I bought a bunch of life-sized whitetail deer targets from the NRA that have been by far the best teaching tool I’ve ever seen if you want to teach someone how to shoot whitetail deer. The vital zones are marked so you can’t see them at a distance, just like real deer.

Last week I tried to reorder, but no one at the NRA seemed to know what I was talking about, and I’m afraid they’ve been discontinued. Does anyone know anything definitive or, failing that, does anyone know of anything similar? My gratitude will be nearly boundless. 


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Ralph the Rifleman

I was the local sportsman's range(during open public shooting) when this guy was giving his friend some shooting insructions. The scope bite this guy drawing a good amount of blood. The guy's friend told him to wipe the blood and get back to shooting like it was a fire fight for life! I noticed this guy was quite shaken by getting bashed in the forehead, so I retrieved my first aid kit from the truck, cleaned and dressed his wound, gave him a couple of asprin.
He thanked me for helping him, cursed at his friend, and left the range for the day.
Ah, sh*t happens!


Yes she did, and it was a fine ram. She was shooting my old 7mm mag.
Of all the hunts that I have participated in over a long lifetime in the hunting business that, bar none, was the greatest one of all. Just the fact that we could share those days and moments together in the great AK wild mountains was pretty close to being the 'happy hunting grounds.'

O Garcia

Time to put that scope on that .577 Nitro. That ocular bell sure makes a neat (German precision!), nice cookie cutter.


I call it: "45-70 scope nose"! It happened to me once. My shooting friends all thought it was hilarious.

Dave, thanks for mentioning Susan Casey; I thought of that story just this week. Her article was stellar. Few people walk the road from "indifference to hunting" to "skillful hunter" and fewer people still can describe the journey. She did an excellent job. I do hope however, that she's managed to pull the trigger since the time of her first elk hunt! ;-)


Yup ... .50 muzzle loader got me. I was demonstrating the beast to my 20 year old daughter. 300 gr bullet over 130 gr Pyro RS ... Boom, cut just above the eyebrow ... knocked off my hat AND missed the target. She declined her shot and mosied back to the pistol range :-D

Thos. B. Fowler

Scope cuts are often the measure of the character of the individual. Last one I witnessed was a minister at a Men's Retreat...the first one I saw was when I was nine yrs. old...Dad's minister friend. Both men 'sucked it up', and keep on shooting.

By the by...Kerry Collins is from Reading, Pennsylvania...the deer he was shooting at was most likely in Pa.

Tom Fowler


DEP - how about a Veterans Day post?

To all veterans at home and abroad:

Framed and hanging on the wall in my conference room are two orignal front pages of Toledo newspapers dated November 11, 1918. The largest type I have ever seen on a newspaper roars: "WAR OVER".

Looking at it conjures many emotions. Pride for our country for having defeated evil, sobriety for the shock of what was required to do so, heartbreak for knowing that it never really is over. A line from Oswald Chambers resonates: we live everyday in "enemy-occupied territory". As has been noted before, the last time I checked, the Fall Of Man has not been repealed. And for that reason, we will forever wage battles against Evil and his agents across the plains, seas and mountains of this creation. We will also wage those battles within our own hearts and minds. But in the end, on the field of Armageddon, our Lord will prevail.

Until that time, ordinary men will be summoned to fight and defend. Paraphrasing Orwell, such men stand ready to visit violence on those that would do us harm. You were part of that effort, and our world sleeps well because of your effort. This day is set apart for you and we honor you. Thank you and God bless you.

Joe C.

Dear Dave and fellow bloggers:

It's sad to read how many of you think a scope hit is funny or a badge of honor. Scopes are not binoculars and getting hit by one is not a badge of honor any more than crashing your car is a badge of driving skill! Scope hits are a sign of poor training and poor scope location on your rifle. The concept that a bleeding eye, a bloody nose, or a deep scar on your forehead is macho or some mark of experience is just plain B.S. You make our sport look dangerous and the people who practice it look stupid. Dave,as a senior editor for a major American hunting and shooting magazine you have the opportunity to set a proper example with your experience and thinking scope cuts are "honorable" is unprofessional (which is what you are supposed to be-like it or not.) What's next-chopping fingers off with an axe is a mark of courage???


Joe C.?

Jeez another blo job ... O where ... O where do they come from?


My family grew up using old rifles. The newest one was a 30-40 Krag that was at least 90 years old. Those guns neither had scopes nor kick. My big brother was the first to purchase a rifle (even my father used rifles handed down from grandfather). He was 18 and went for the biggest Lft handed rifle in the shop, a 7mm mag. The scope was so impressive it was hard not to creap right up close to it. While sighting it in before the season my father wanted to try it out. With pride he took his son's first rifle and let one fly. Busted his eye right open. He looked stunned, awed, and completely amazed. He handed the gun back to my brother and simply said, "That's a lot of gun there." I hunt with an 06 now and could not imagine hitting myself with it. I've never thought about it because it has never come close to happening. Even if it did, most scopes now have a rubber bumber on the view ring and would probably be more likely to give you a bruise than a split. I only used that 7mm mag once in a pinch and I flinched so bad that I was a foot off at 50 yards and messed a deer up completely. Broke both front legs and another man had to cut it's damned throat because I wasn't going to trust myself to shoot it again. In the end, psychologically, I LOVE my 30-06 and I would not shoot that particular 7mm mag at a live animal again because in my mind I have that picture of my father's look after it attempted to bit his eye out. If you have something you have to worry about causing blood to spill from your face then you aren't going to be thinking about putting that shot where it needs to go.


Amen Jack!
This should be a premier holiday in the U.S., if not most of the world. Between WWII and the Cold War, we managed to keep freedom, and obtain freedom, for a large percentage of the world's population. Yet, for most of our gov't workers, it's just a paid holiday at an inconvenient time.
Say something Dave.


Thanks, jack.

De Oppresso Liber

Tony C.

My dad got the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star in Vietnam and went through the Army's sniper training at Ft. Benning.

He was deer hunting in the mountains a few years ago when the scope on his BAR cut him.

He put a piece of duct tape over the cut and went and looked for his buck. In the rain.

Don't you just love tough old buzzards like that?

But he gave up the BAR and went back to his Remington 7400. He swears the hump back on the BAR caused the cut. I think he was just in a contorted position when he shot.

Every time I think of scope cuts, I think of that hunt.

As a sidenote, the rain messed up his blood trail and he didn't find the buck until the next year when a member of the family was turkey hunting in that same area.

The rack -- a nice 8 point with crab claws on the end -- hangs in my home office.

VaTx Hunter

To Joe C.
I understand your comments. But stuff happens and we are just sharing our stories. Get over it.
Take a pill.


My neighbor Barsness is writing in Handloader and Rifle Magazines. He is a great writer.

Del in KS


I can imagine how much fun that was. Wish my kids would go hunting. I have to be happy when my daughter shoots a 3D archery tournament with me. My son is caught up in the corporate world and doesn't care about hunting at all. He does go on a guided fishing trip when his job calls for it.


I am in need of some assistance, I have recently suffered an eye injury to my left eye,(not a scope related injury) and of course, I am left-eyed,left handed. How can I train myself to shoot right-eyed? I can still see out of the left eye, but looking through a scope is no longer possible. Any ideas?



I've been fortunate not to receive any scope cuts as I religiously wear polycarbonate shooting glasses. However, I've had a couple of scopes bounce off my glasses. It stung enough to make me never want a full blown scope and forehead incident.

We used to have a cute gal answering the phone for our company that had a scar between eyes. She said that her father had her shoot a doe from their ranch house through a bedroom window while lying across a bed. The gun was a .30-06 and it started and ended her interest in shooting deer at the age of 13.


I'm glad you always wear shooting glasses, and polycarb are o.k., but next time you are in the market for new ones, look in to glasses with NXT lenses. they more impact resistant than anything else out there.

Jerry G

The deer targets you want are available from "NATIONAL TARGET CO." OF Fredricksburg, MD. 1-800-827-7060.

T.W. Davidson

Hello, All . . .

I found myself at the bookstore late this afternoon after leaving my office early on this V-day. (Nobody else wanted to be in the office either.) My original purpose in going to the bookstore was to brush up on my Shakespeare (btw, just because I love Shakespeare doesn't mean I can't also handload, hunt wild pigs, and even shoot the occasional sub-moa group) and purchase some Shakespeare-related study materials. As I was leaving the bookstore, however, I stopped by the periodicals section and noticed the new issue of Handloader magazine had just hit the shelves.

On page 79 (I believe) of the most recent Handloaders issue, Wolfe Publishing Company advertises life-size Mule Deer targets for sale with heart/lung areas marked on the targets. The number is 1 (800) 899-7810. What I found most interesting about the most recent Handloader issue, however, is that John Barsness's writing was nowhere to be found in it. Nor, as far as I could tell from my quick persual of the magazine--which, incidentally, I did not purchase--was there any explanation offered by the magazine's editors as to what happened to Barsness (vis a vis he and the magazine or vice-versa) and/or where he went. I think there should have been an explanation.

D.P., since you're a major American gunwriter (and perhaps are the alpha of the pack), since you undoubtedly know all the other major gunwriters in America, since all of you very likely have the equivalent of a Gunwriters' Grapevine & Gossip Club between yourselves, and since therefore you (and they) almost certainly know exactly what happened (or did not happen) between Barsness and Wolfe Publishing, would you please just break the silence, fill us in, and tell us all what's behind Door Number One?

Thank you.

T.W. Davidson
Tyler, TX

Jim in Mo

Gun writers are like radio personalities. When they're fired its like they never existed and your left scratching your head.

O Garcia

Joe C.,

Calling scope cuts 'badge of honor' is just the shooting fraternity's way of laughing at ourselves for the mistakes that happen to even the best of us.

I remember Jim C. writing about how, many decades ago when he was much younger, in competition, he got whacked by a target scope -the long ones you see on old photos- mounted on a Winchester Model 70 .300H&H (this was when the H&H ruled the long range shoot). The scope left an ugly gash on his nose and permanently "ruined my perfect John Barrymore profile."

If Michael Jordan can laugh at himself for missing an uncontested dunk (his last All-Star Game), we know we can laugh at ourselves, too.

Edward J. Palumbo

There are those souvenirs we receive as shooters with which many of us identify and few would criticize, and if I see that crescent-shaped mark over someone's eye, I'd be inclined to ask if he was a shooter and what the circumstances were when he received this reminder. It's fuel for conversation, no doubt about it. There's that little scar in the web of the hand that indicates the hammer bite of an M1911A1 .45ACP. You may or may not have a mark on your thumb from the bolt of an M1 Garand.
A century ago, when accomplished swordsmanship was the exercise of European nobility, a saber scar on the cheek was a badge of honor. Generally speaking, there's no dishonor in scar tissue. It's an indication of lessons learned through experience. I'd like to avoid any new scars, but I'm not embarrassed about the ones I've accumulated.

Richard Mann


Two sources:

paper - http://www.finnwood.com/

cardboard - http://thompsontarget.com/Products/hunting/bigbuck.html


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