PUMPS AND LEVERS
By Brian Colotto
I am a young hunter from San Francisco, California. I have always been interested in hunting, but since I come from a (eek!) liberal, anti-hunting family, I never got a chance to even shoot a weapon until I was fourteen.
My older cousin enjoys boar hunting, and he offered to take me with him if I got my hunting license. So, I did, and we went boar hunting. My first time out, I was nervous. My cousin carried a scoped 7mm Weatherby Magnum bolt-action rifle, and wore a Heckler and Koch USP 45 as a backup. I, not having a weapon of my own, borrowed his Remington 870 cylinder bore 12 Gauge, loaded with foster slugs.
The first day, I spotted a boar. It was only about 50 yards away. I took aim with my borrowed pump gun, and fired. I nicked it on top of its back. Naturally, the boar saw us and charged. My cousin said, "I got it," and pulled back the bolt of his rifle to bring a round into the chamber. But I wasn't going to be outdone my first time out! So, I cycled the action like only a pump can, and fired again. The nasty animal fell from a direct hit to the chest area. I had cycled the action, fired, and cycled it again (to be safe, in case I missed) before he had even cycled the action once on his Weatherby!
That is when I learned the importance of a quick follow-up shot. I had seen first hand how quickly a pump could be cycled. So, when it came time for me to purchase my own weapon for boar hunting, I bought a Remington 7600 pump-action rifle in .30-06.
Since then, I have purchased a Winchester 94 in .30-30, the most popular of all non-bolt action rifles. I can't operate it as quickly as my Remington, but I can shoot it much quicker than a bolt gun. I have a great deal of respect for both of these rifles. I've also been able to do some practice with a Marlin 1895 in .45-70, a Browning BLR in .308, and a replica Winchester 1873 in .44-40. In addition to wild boar I have hunted white-tailed deer, and quick follow-up shots really come in handy with those fast runners.
Besides quick follow-up shots, there are other benefits to a pump gun. They are not as expensive as many bolt action rifles (my Remington cost under $500, which is less than a third of the cost of my cousin's Weatherby). They are also usually lighter and less bulky than bolts, and the solid top receiver makes it easy to mount a scope (if you want to). But, since most North American big game is taken at less than 200 yards, I have not found a scope necessary.
There aren't many pump action rifles on the market today, but levers are abundant. You can get a lever action rifle in calibers from .22-250 to .45-70, with plenty of choices in between. However, I would like to see some pumps chambered for calibers like .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .30-30, and that original pump caliber: .35 Remington.
The days when pumps and levers actions were the norm were the days when the .44-40 was to deer hunters what the .30-30 is now; needless to say that was a long time ago. Now bolts are the action of choice, but I can't understand why. Whenever I see a fellow hunter with a Winchester 94 or a Remington 760, I think to myself, "Now there goes a fellow with good taste!"
I don't have a problem with a bolt action rifle's performance, but when it comes to nostalgia, the average bolt scores a lot lower on my personal scale than a lever or pump. The point I am trying to make is that we, as hunters, should embrace our roots. It's just more satisfying to hunt the way our great grandfathers hunted: with a lever action or pump action rifle in our hands.
Copyright 2002 by Brian Colotto. All rights reserved.