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January 08, 2009

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Petzal: A Semi-Painful Reunion

Between 1970 and about 1990, I was a dedicated collector of fine, wood-stocked hunting rifles. I didn’t have a lot of them, but what I did have was choice, and among the very best were four that were made by a North Carolina artist (now retired) named Joe Balickie. Joe was so thin that when he took a shower he had to hold a coat hanger in his teeth to keep from going down the drain, and his rifles were equally skinny—not an extra ounce of walnut or steel anywhere. He always came up with spectacular wood, and his work was always original—no two Balickie rifles looked alike.

But in 1978 I bought my first synthetic-stocked rifle and gradually acquired more plastic as the wood-stocked guns went on down the road. But I always wondered what it would be like should I see one again. This past weekend at the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Old Greenwich, CT, I found out. I was running a rheumy eye down a rack of rifles being offered by Amoskeag Auctions, when I spotted a dark-honey-blond stock that could have only belonged to a .270 Joe Balickie built for me in 1985 or so. And so it was. The rifle was absolutely mint. I had never shot it, and whoever owned it after me had kept its closet-queen status intact.

Once more I took in the wonder of century-old Turkish walnut, the perfection of Joe’s checkering, and silvery black of real rust bluing. I asked the guy from Amoskeag if I could buy the rifle for $73 and a laundry ticket, which is what I had in my wallet. He said sorry, no, and then quoted a price that was about what I paid Joe 20-odd years ago (left-hand rifles are hard to move, it seems). I thanked him, walked calmly out to the parking lot, and when I was sure no one was looking, bit a piece out of the whale tail of a Porsche Turbo.

(Epilog: If the rifle didn’t sell at the gun show, it’s coming up for auction on January 10. For a detailed description click on amoskeag-auctions.com, then “Items for Auction #69,” of which it is item number 56. I have no fiscal interest in this at all, but I’d like to see the rifle have a home. Trust me, this one is a jewel.)


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Jim in Mo

I've never owned anything like some of those pieces. When the auction starts I hope they at least post the minimum starting bid.

Chad Love

Wow. Gorgeous gun.

Maybe there's a left-handed hedge fund manager out there somewhere who hasn't yet taken a self-inflicted dirt nap or fled the country with what's left of his clients' money and he can bid on it...

Bernie Kuntz

It is indeed a gorgeous rifle. I am trying to determine the action type...probably a pre-'64 Winchester. I am astonished that you would sell the wonderful piece without ever having fired it! Also guessing it must have cost about $6,000 to build at the time. Synthetic-stocked rifles are durable, but as a friend of mine says, "They have no soul." This Balickie rifle certainly has soul. Sorry, but I am right-handed and probably couldn't afford it anyway.

Bernie Kuntz

I clicked on "View Featured Items" and "View Auction Items" and never could locate a detailed description of the Balickie rifle. Someone with more computer savvy please help!

Mr. Smith-Corona


Hey, plenty of honest hedge fund managers in the game..,those few bad apples ruin it for everyone else, just like the few slob hunters out there!

WA Mtnhunter

I have sold 2 rifles that I wish I had back. One was a Remington 722 ca. 1948 .257 Roberts in near mint condition and the other was a Ted Williams aka Winchester M-70 in NIB condition in .30-06.; both sold 2 or 3 years ago.

The others were not great shooters or ones I acquired with a profit motive. Beautiful rifles are great to admire and hold, but not take afield for fear of dinging them up.


You didn't get it?

But you guys are making Audi-sized gobs of cash, right?


Oops, sorry for a double post.

As a lefty myself, and totally unable to find a rifle I want in a caliber I like, I don't see how they're "hard to move". Leftys here disappear instantly.


Here's a link to the actual item w/description:



Beautiful rifle Dave. It does have soul. Pitty only highly paid outdoor magazine editors, fund managers and auto company executives can afford them!

This morning I was bemoaning the lack of affordable and not so affordable left hand hardware on the market. Especially chambered in something other than plain vanilla. Whilst checking out the Ruger web site I noted an icon on which to click for delivering consumer feed back to company CEO Mike Fifer. So, I fired away. After returning from lunch I had the following email from Mr. Fifer relating new introductions in 2009. "We're bringing out short-action lefty's this Spring for a total of 18 bolt action calibers! Everything from .204 Ruger to .375 Ruger and lot's in between.

Best regards,

Nice touch of customer service...

So Dave your task as a fellow sinistral shooter is to check out the new Ruger lefty line up at the Shot Show next week and report back on anythng sexy you find (including booth babes).

Dave Petzal

To Beekeeper: I hear you.


Being left myself, I can't believe you sold it. It's an excellent reason to buy lottery tickets!
Now the important question: What role did Elisha Cuthbert play in 24? Was she Nina Meyers?


Glad to hear the good news from Ruger. The problem with the left handed gun offerings in the past has not been the availability,
but the limited caliber offerings. .270, .30-06, & 7m/m mag. was it for a good
many years, but then Savage
got back into lefties, and
even Winchester and Browning came out with some offerings. I have, through years of patience and determined "Yes, they DO make it in left hand" bullheadedness, aquired most of the calibers I wanted except a .17 or .20.
Ruger offers hope to all of us using the right side of our brain!


It seems such a shame to ever have a rifle that has never been fired. That is like having a Porsche that does not even have a key. How do you know it runs? What good is a rifle (besides historically important pieces) that is not to be used? If I was never going to use it I would rather take the money and go to a gun museum for a vacation, or just watch the money burn, or SOMETHING! I don't know. I think I am going to go kick some stuff and try to forget that I ever read this article. I can't wait for the next article to get over this one.

Jim in Mo

Take a deep breath Gritz.

Jim in Mo

Dave,I just took a closer look at that rifle. Did Mr. Balickie stain it so the stock was more blond at the receiver, was it age, or the way the light hit it.

Dr. Ralph

It's the eighth wonder of the world... the way the butt's deep dark marble grain turns to golden blond at the receiver and then shifts into tiger stripes or fiddle back towards the forearm is incredible. It is art without trying to be art. It is the unchallenged beauty of nature. It is God's finest in the hands of an artisan. It is understated, functional, simple, the purest form of the art of rifle making. I would ravage it with lust in my heart if my sweaty little hands ever were laid upon it. Gladly would I have pulled the trigger and taken its virtue away and felt the better man for it! Never shot? Now that's a sin...

Walt Smith

That was my porsche you a--hole!!

Dave Petzal

To Yooper Jack: Elisha Cuthbert plays Kimberly Bauer in 24.

To Jim in Mo.: Joe would never stain a stock. He was rabid about leaving wood absolutely as it was except to checker it. He once had to put an ebony fore-end tip on a .280 and was almost suicidal about it. But there was no choice; when laid out, the stock wasn't long enough to be in proportion.

To Dr. Ralph: Glad you like it, but get a grip, man.

Jim in Mo

Doc, I rarely go to art museums because of spewes like that.

Dr. Ralph

She was a keeper Dave... and she can be had for the same price you paid over twenty years ago? The market has not been kind to any of us.

Gators 31
Sooners 28


Wow! That rifle makes me wish I was left-handed and wealthy... what a work of art. If anyone wants to be so kind as to buy it for me, I would gladly hold on to it in hope of having a left-handed son or daughter to gift it to.


I'm a left handed shooter, I could use a .270, and if it were mine I would never fire it (or sell it) either. Why? A $400 Savage would probably out group it, and be weatherproof to boot. This is a thing of beauty, boys. There's too little beauty around any more.


Preparing for surgery can be a big undertaking. As part of your preparation don't forget to get all your questions answered before the surgery.


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For the life of me, I can't figure out what you guys see in bolt guns - even if the wood is exceptional...

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