Beware of the man with one gun…
by B.B. Pelletier
… and laugh at the fool with too many! That should be the ending of the famous statement, as I discovered suddenly this week.
I live in Texas, which is a pretty large state as most of you know. However, unlike many other states, Texas has very little open hunting ground. Most of it is owned and posted. Just like in feudal Europe, if you want to hunt in Texas, you either pay thousands per year for a deer lease or you know someone who owns one and get an invite.
So, I got invited to hunt for mule deer this year on 45,000 acres of open country in the western part of the state. Knowing what a rare opportunity this was, I accepted and then thought about what gun I would use. I went to my gun closet and behold — there was nothing. Oh, there are plenty of suitable guns in the closet, but every one of them is in some state of setup for a different, arcane purpose. There’s my Ballard, which is deadly accurate at 100 yards, but which I haven’t begun to try out at 200 yards. The bullet travels so slow that unless I get it sighted in, shooting that far would be chancy. And, in western Texas, long shots are the rule. Then there’s the fact that I now only use a single cartridge and it takes the better part of five minutes to reload it; but, hey, the deer will wait, won’t they?
Then there’s a 30-30 bolt-action that would work except that it isn’t really made for these distances. Besides, I haven’t got an accurate load worked up yet. My M1938 Swede Mauser is right on at 100 yards, but I have such a pansy low-recoil load worked up that I doubt it will even go 200 yards.
On and on it goes. Nothing in my closet is quite right for mulies at 200-250 yards. So, I recently traded for a 1920 Savage in 250 Savage. I reckon I can also use it at my friend’s place in the Texas Hill Country, where whitetails abound. There, the land is so crowded with brush, that the longest possible shot is 100 yards, so no problem. All I have to do is cook up an accurate load and get it sighted in for about three inches high at 100 yards. That puts it dead on at 200.
This past Wednesday evening, my friend told me that hunting season opens tomorrow, and suddenly I find I have nothing to use. Nothing that’s sighted-in, and nothing that has a useful load cooked up. Oh, I could shoot my Garand, but I don’t have any softpoints loaded for it. I could borrow a rifle from my friend, but out of more than 50 centerfires in his closet, he also has nothing that’s sighted-in.
What we have are closets full of works in progress. Why is that?
Airguns are no different
Contemplating that thought causes me to shift over to airguns, where I discover similar circumstances. My Whiscombe is in the middle of a test, so it can’t be disturbed. My TX200 Mark III had its scope stripped off for the test of another airgun a long time ago and sits in the closet in forlorn anticipation of some day when I will love it again. My Talon SS is currently set up for the CB cap test I just finished and is probably the closest thing I own to something that’s sighted-in, but I would have to read the Shotgun News article I wrote with it to see where I last adjusted the scope.
I don’t have any airguns that are ready to go, either.
You see, my philosophy is, and I think I speak for all of us armchair adventurers now, that when the comet finally does crash into the Earth, ending civilization as we know it, there will be an announcement and plenty of time to get out to the range and sight things in.
All is not lost
All my .45 pistols are sighted-in and I have a handload cooked up for them that is so good it is locked into my Dillon Square Deal B press. A ton of lead, ten thousand primers and 24 pounds of powder stand at the ready for the day Edith and I have to shoot our way out the front door.
But I don’t have a hunting rifle! Plenty of potentials but nothing ready to go.
Oh, woe is me! Back when I was a lowly lieutenant in the cavalry in El Paso, I only owned one hunting rifle. It was a .270 Weatherby and was sighted-in and I had a good handload cooked up for it. When I went to Germany for four years and had to leave my guns at home, I bought a Sako Vixen in .222 Remington in Germany. Using factory ammo, I dropped 13 deer in 18 months of hunting.
Those were the days when I was young, stupid and broke. Now I’m older, still stupid and, thanks to Edith, have enough money to indulge many of my gun fancies. But nothing I own is sighted-in nor are any good hunting loads cooked up. Everything is a work in progress.
I think I know what’s happening. I think I acquire each new rifle in the hopes that it will solve all my shooting problems. It will get me invited to hunts, it will always be the right caliber for whatever I want to hunt, and it will remain permanently sighted-in with each and every imaginable load. And, after all, there will be time to get everything done before the comet hits.
I’m like the guy who buys the air rifle that comes with two barrels, hoping it will be the only gun he’ll ever need. But heck, my Whiscombe came with four barrels, and the one I need is never on the gun when I need it.
I can remember a time when I had my stuff together, as we used to say. I may have had fewer guns back then, but each was ready to go. Part of my problem now lies in the fact that I write about guns and, therefore, am always tearing things apart while searching for the next article. But both of my gun buddies — Mac who lives in Maryland and Otho who lives here in Texas — have the same problem I do and neither of them writes about guns.
I wonder if this is a normal kind of thing. As your acquisitions grow in number, does your familiarity with each diminish?
I can now understand why Imelda Marcos had all those shoes but nothing to wear.