Magnumitis: An Incurable but Controllable Affliction

By Randy Wakeman

No type of firearm is immune from it, no hunting or shooting sport has remained unscathed by it. The infectious disease, for which there is no known cure, is �Magnumitis.� It is brought about by boredom, interesting but wishful-thinking ad campaigns and "keeping up with the Joneses" type thinking. The horror of magnumitis will always be with us, I'm afraid. It has happened with rifles, with pistols, with muzzleloaders and shotguns are hardly immune from its evil grasp.


Though �magnum� means large, we just like the way it sounds, even if it is puny. Short magnums are a lot like the jumbo shrimp George Carlin has fun with, either big little one or a little big one. It is helped along a bit by the questionable wisdom of sayings, �Beware the man with one gun.� The man with one gun is not the fellow that is likely to be an accomplished dove hunter and also a varmint hunter, but that doesn't change the false profundity of the traditional wisdom.


Some of the good things in life are a little boring. Boringly reliable, boringly easy to use, boringly satisfying, boringly drama-free. There is a lot to be said for the boring shotgun. Once we get the equipment fixation out of our heads, we can enjoy the day, enjoy the hunt, enjoy all the other things surrounding us, rather than obsess about equipment. Jack O'Connor delighted in poking fun at himself, his wife, and others. Jack noted that humans are quivering blobs of protoplasm, often twisted up with jittery nerves, ego, embarrassment, self-doubt, and perpetual indecision. Jack's observations were more right than wrong. Shotgunners obsess over the most trivial things. We talk of numbers of shotguns sold, as if that matters. They've sold a lot of MacDonald's hamburgers, but how many truly memorable ones? Though most don't think of MacDonald's as a high quality restaurant with high-quality food, a lot of that stuff seems to get into people's mouths.


We obsess over recoil, though it is largely a fruitless endeavor. I couldn't possibly care less what someone else's idea of recoil is, nor should you. It is a lot like �room temperature.� No matter how hot or how cold a room gets, it is still room temperature. There is temperature, then there is perceived temperature. While one person might consider an 85 degree day just perfect, the next fellow might consider it unbearably hot. Yet, it is still 85 degrees. Some might feel a 60 degree day is chilly, others feel it is ideal. It is still 60 degrees. Nothing has changes at all from person to person except their subjective impression. A lot depends on what you are doing at the time and how long you are doing it. Recoil either causes discomfort and affects your shooting, or it does not. Only you can be the judge of how comfortable something is, for you. Why would we ask others how well their shoes feel or fit for them? Yet, we constantly seek answers to questions that no one can answer nearly as well as we can.


Next time you're dining at your favorite restaurant, ask your waiter, "Who is the shotgun world champion?� You'll get a deer in the headlight response, as there isn't such a thing. Only those a bit more competitive than they should be would think that the brand of gun is the difference. It never has been, in any sport; it is always who uses it. We can't seem to come to grips with that simple truth.


Thus it is with magnumitis. After untold millions of doves, pheasants, turkey, quail, partridge, rail, clay pigeons, etc. are taken every year, you might think it would be pathetically easy to understand the reasonable choices for such purposes. Boringly predictable, really. We don't get it, though, which should be no surprise to deer hunters millions of whitetail later, who are still decisionally challenged about how to kill a deer with a bullet. Wingshooters are not immune.


We always want what we can't have. We want superbly crafted guns at Cheap Charlie prices. We want great shells and choke tubes at fire sale prices as well, but we really know that the better products doesn't usually come with the lowest price. The Earl Scheib paint job was never the best. Fans of Mr. �Any Car, Any Color� will note that Earl Scheib, Inc., ceased nationwide operations on July 16, 2010 with some sense of sadness.


The 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge is the current pet rock of wingshooting. The lightweight 3-1/2 inch, 12 gauge gun is even worse. The whole notion is the opposite of being aware of range, pellet mass, pattern density and well-reasoned shots. Like the saying goes, if you can't do it with a .30-06, you probably can't do it at all. If we can't do it with a 2-3/4 inch shell, well, either we can't do it, or shouldn't be doing it. It has always been the mark of a veteran hunter to know that when to not take a shot is more important than understanding when to take a shot. We don't like hearing it, but for every missed or crippled bird there is an error in judgment. We can hardly blame it on the bird. Missed and wounded birds reflect poor judgment.


That, as cited by O'Connor and others, defines sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is not about the hunter; it never has been. Sportsmanship is about the game. Sportsmanship is doing a quick, clean, surgical job taking of our game, not about flattering ourselves. Too soon we grow old, too late we get smart.


I'll end this magnumitis missive with a true story, a story of a veteran waterfowler being constantly regaled by the 100 yard shots of steel BB steel loads out of a 3-1/2 inch Super Magnum 12 gauge that dropped geese like rain. Having listened to this more times than he cared to endure, this old veteran waterfowler finally had enough. �Alright, kids, here's the deal. I want you to shoot me. That's right, shoot me!�


The old hunter donned his canvas jacket, marched off a laser-verified 100 yards and instructed what he referred to as the youngsters. �Alright, I'm going to turn my back and when I blow my whistle, shoot me. Got it? Shoot me! Empty those guns, throw those damn 3-1/2 in. steel BB's right at me. Got it?� The whistle blew. Three shots of 1-1/2 oz. 1500 fps steel, 12 gauge 3-1/2 inch magnum BB loads were let go right at the old hunter.


Not a mark on the old hunter, not a tear in his jacket. No surprise, either, as this veteran waterfowler knew darn well that at 100 yards, those steel BB's were going about 425 fps, or 200 fps less velocity than you'd get out of a twenty-five dollar Crosman 760 Pumpmaster air rifle with heavier, far more destructive lead BB's. At 100 yards they won't even kill canvas. This, of course, is not a recommended practice. It is a long way to go to prove a point, but this experienced waterfowler from Arkansas felt he needed to do just that.

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Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.