The Column, No. 1:
Becoming a Gun Geezer
By Chuck Hawks
Just this week it was brought home to me that I had indeed become a firearm traditionalist. "Conservative" or even "hidebound," might be more appropriate terms. One of those old guys that bemoan the changes that have overtaken the sporting arms industry. (Change is bad!) How could this have happened?
As a very young man I ordered and received the first Remington Model 600M rifle shipped to Southern California. This was back in about 1965. The Model 600M was the first mass produced hunting rifle ever chambered for a true short magnum cartridge (the .350 Rem. Mag.), and it was loaded with a whole collection of radical features. These included ultra-light weight, a short 18.5" barrel, a polymer trigger guard/floorplate assembly, a laminated stock, impressed checkering and even a polymer ventilated rib. (The new Remington Model 673 is a modern, more refined version of the old 600M.)
Back in those days I also had a collection of the new Remington Nylon .22's, then the cutting edge of technology. These were the first commercially successful plastic stocked rifles, and included the Nylon 66 semi-auto, Nylon 76 lever action, and Nylon 11 and Nylon 12 bolt action rifles. I owned one of each. Zowie!
Now in my late 50's, I have learned that short barrels accentuate muzzle blast, decrease velocity, and impair the balance and handling of the rifle. I know that very light weight makes a rifle harder to shoot accurately and increases the effect of recoil. I wouldn't have a rifle with a plastic trigger guard assembly like my old Model 600M and, although I like my new Model 673 rifle, I think its ventilated rib is stupid. As for plastic stocks, I want nothing to do with them.
And I have a low opinion of the latest generation of "Super Short Magnum" cartridges with their fat cases, sharp shoulders and rebated rims. I think they represent cartridge design taken to the point of absurdity and, much worse, unreliability.
No doubt about it, I have become a firearm fuddy-duddy. Permit me to illustrate with a few observations straight from the heart and mind of a self-confessed gun geezer.
- Black plastic stocks are ugly and they feel slimy in the hand, particularly when it is cold and wet. Gun makers push them not because they are more functional than wood, but because they are much cheaper to produce. Those chopper-gun laid fiberglass stocks with the rough finish and little spidery lines are even uglier; they look as they were cut from the liner of a cheap fiberglass boat. Camo stocks are the ugliest of all; if they were actually functional you could never set your gun down without fear of losing sight of it, and you'd never find it again if you did. A Hunter wearing a blaze orange hat or vest and carrying a camo gun is the ultimate absurdity.
- Matte finished barreled actions are unsightly compared to traditional polished and blued barreled actions. The gun makers promote matte metal finish because it significantly lowers their costs. They don't have to final polish their barreled actions. The justification of less glare is merely an excuse to justify a production shortcut. Powder coated finishes, such as supplied on certain S&W pistols, are even cheaper looking. Yuck!
- Modern military-style ("assault") rifles are not only the ugliest rifles of all, they are stunningly inappropriate for most sporting purposes. Sure, we have a right to own them and I defend that right but, realistically, why would we want to?
- Bolt actions machined from bar stock are another production shortcut. They were not designed to enhance accuracy, they were designed to save the gun maker money and production time. In the same vein, recoil lugs should be a machined, integral part of the action, not a washer added as an afterthought.
- Coned breeches enhance feed reliability, so what if they are theoretically not quite as strong? They are plenty strong enough for all modern cartridges. Ditto for actions with full-length extractors.
- Range finding reticules in scopes are confusing and waste time. Zero your hunting rifle to take advantage of its maximum point blank range (MPBR) and never take a shot beyond that distance. If the game is beyond the MPBR, stalk closer. We are supposed to be hunters, not artillerymen (artillery-persons?).
- And speaking of scopes, why are big game hunters buying 4-12x and 6-18x variable power scopes? Even small deer and pronghorn antelope are relatively large targets. A plain 4x scope will allow accurate shooting at such creatures to beyond the MPBR of the flattest shooting cartridges on the market. All a high magnification scope does is add weight, unbalance the rifle, decrease eye relief, and (worst of all) reduce the field of view. This significantly lowers the hunter's chances of successfully bagging game. Of course, the big scopes cost more, a significant advantage to the scope maker or distributor.
Well, I could go on, and perhaps I will in a future edition of THE COLUMN. I promised myself that I would keep these diatribes reasonably short, so I will end here and simply wish you and yours, loyal readers, a (politically incorrect) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!