EDITORIAL

Africa Again

I once described Africa as a drug. A drug administered at the hands of a capable dealer, also known as a professional hunter. With the right dealer you’ll develop an addiction, that while financially debilitating, is emotionally fulfilling. Few things bring with them the wonderment of an African sunrise, and few things warm the soul like an African campfire.

Very soon my son and I will head out for another month long safari in South Africa. For the burglars who think you can sweep into my home while I’m away and haul away all the goodies, if you’re fortunate you will have to deal with a Rhodesian ridgeback that has an affinity for the taste of blood. (She gets very protective when I’m away visiting her homeland.) Maybe those with any doubt about the viciousness of this hound should reach out to Charlie Sisk or Dave Petzal. On the other hand, if you’re unfortunate, you’ll run into my wife. She’ll be well armed, and in a bad mood because her men are gone.

The unwaveringly protective, Whiskey.

This trip is sort of a graduation present for Bat Mann. He’ll start college this fall and his plans are to secure a degree in business marketing. He wants to help companies in the outdoor industry better market their products to media representatives and customers. More specifically—and to quote the un-caped crusader—he told me, “I want Linda Powell’s job.” Those are some big shoes to fill!

Looking to a future in business marketing in the outdoor industry, Bat Mann will spend his summer between high school and college, on his fourth safari in Africa.

More to the point, for the first week of this month long adventure with Fort Richmond Safaris, we’ll be hunting with Gunsite Academy instructor Dave Hartman. At the end of his week of adventure, the Second Scout Rifle Safari contingency will arrive, and it will be made up of five hunters who were a part of the first Scout Rifle Safari last year. They’ll spend the first day of their safari in a rifle tune up class with Dave Hartman and me. Two of the Scout Rifle Safari participants plan to also hunt a buffalo. So, I’ll spend part of that first day prepping them and their rifles—lever-action rifles—for that quest.

Scout Rifle Safari hunters, Bill & Carrie Mazelin, with Professional Hunter Leon Duplessis.

When those fine folks leave, Carlos Martinez of Remington Custom Shop fame, his young son, and Michael Bane and a camera man will arrive. We will spend a week hunting plains game and buffalo with various Remington’s, Marlins, and Dakota rifles out of the custom shop. Again, the buffalo will be hunted with lever-action rifles.

African buffalo–with a lever action Marlins in 45/70!

But, just like on the late night infomercial, there’s more. Before those guys are done with their safari, Justin Sitz from Versacarry will arrive to hunt with Fort Richmond Safaris for his second time. Justin will be there partly for work to field test his new Ammo Caddy, which is a fantastic device for ammo management. He’ll be there for about two weeks, and before he leaves, freelance writer Jay Pinsky will show up for his own, one-week safari to test various rifles, optics, and ammunition.

The amazingly versatile Versacarry Ammo Caddy will be put to the test in Africa.

There will be lots of wonderful folks, lots of cool guns, some new and untested optics, a wild array of ammunition, and enough adventure to pack into an eight-part mini series. I’d suggest you follow us along on Instagram and Facebook, partly so you can be jealous, but also partly because there will be lots of magnificent images—my son will be working again as the official safari photographer—and stories to be told.

Built to mimic the style and look of the high end bolt-action rifles often carried to Africa, this mesmerizing Marlin 336 will be on safari in Africa this summer.

 

 

The Ice Man Cometh

There’s an assault on those who shoot and hunt, or own firearms for recreation, self-defense, and the protection of liberty. Because of that assault, there’s a lot of talk about which companies should be boycotted. Over the weekend there was a chill over YETI coolers—like I’m sure hoards of gun owners were on the verge of buying a $300 plastic box. And, Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods recently pissed off shooters with their decision not to sale certain firearms. This of course made the cliché, “don’t be a Dick,” more relevant than ever.

Having been a “Dick” all my life—I was named after my father and with “Dick” being the nickname for anyone named Richard, after I was born my father became known as “Big Dick.” You can guess where that left me—and I found that offensive. So offensive in fact, I decided to just forget about it, and get on with my life.

And maybe that’s what we all should do. I’m not suggesting supporting companies you feel have betrayed the liberty we hold so dear. What I am suggesting—no, encouraging—is the support of companies who are on our side and not afraid to say it. I’d like to see social media posts about companies who help the NRA. Contact companies you’re considering purchasing from and ask them, “What are your recent contributions to the NRA?” Below is an example of what you can learn if you ask/check:

  • Buffalo Bore Ammunition makes regular NRA donations, and has purchased life memberships for employees.
  • Gunsite Academy provides their clients/students a free annual NRA membership.
  • Andy’s Leather makes regular product and monetary donations.
  • Pelican is currently donating $10.00 per cooler sold.
  • Henry Repeating Arms sponsors NRA events and has donated hundreds of firearms.
  • Galco Gunleather provides direct donations and discounted membership recruitment.
  • MidwayUSA’s Customer Round Up Program has funneled more than 14 million dollars to the NRA since 1992.

 

I asked YETI, and their response was, “Nothing.” That may be enough to justify your boycott. However, according to my source, YETI has, “Bought ads in AH [NRA’s American Hunter magazine] attended [NRA] Annual Meetings as exhibitor and worked with them [the NRA] on preferred vendor program.”

I’m just a simple hillbilly and my mind works in mysterious ways, but I’m reasonably certain if gun owners stop shopping at Dick’s or Wal-Mart, or never buy another YETI cooler, those companies will still be making money—lots of money. But, I’m also reasonably certain if you buy from companies who give to the NRA, every gun owner in America will benefit. All of this is why I’m donating a portion of the proceeds from my latest book to the National Rifle Association. Like me, that donation may not amount to much, but I’ll give a little bit of the little bit I have.

The cold, hard, truth is if I can do that on gun writer’s wages—with three kids, two car payments, and a mortgage—surely major outdoor companies, making lots of money off gun owners, can do as much…unless they really don’t care about us.

Kids & Guns

When I was growing up cartoons only came on TV on Saturday morning. There were no video games, and fun was mostly found playing football, cowboys & Indians, or army. Everyone in my family was a hunter and guns were a part of our life and my childhood. I killed a lot of small game and a few deer before I ever kissed a girl. Times have changed.

In most families both parents work. Many kids spend many hours a week at daycare. Evenings are cluttered with homework, television, sports, and extra curricular activity practice. Weekends are filled with soccer, football, baseball and similar endeavors. As parents make an effort to find a moment of sanity, or catch up on chores, kids often end up watching episode after episode of Sponge Bob or other silliness.

I have four children, two are now adults, the others teenagers. They’ve been exposed to guns their entire life. The youngest three enjoy shooting or being around guns; the oldest could care less. I’m responsible for both the gun interest in the youngest and the lack of the same in the oldest. Let me explain.

Teaching kids about guns and how to shoot is a lesson in responsibility hard to find anywhere else.

When my oldest was five I started taking him to the range with me. He was excited about the adventures – I thought because he liked guns. In reality, his enthusiasm came from the opportunity of doing something with dad. I assumed his gun interests were similar to mine. He learned to shoot rather well, but I noticed he quit having fun. I realized I’d made a serious mistake.

When my next oldest son was four, I got him a BB gun and we cut photos of animals from hunting magazines and taped them to cardboard boxes. We went on hunts in the yard, and it wasn’t long until he’d killed all sorts of paper animals. At five, he progressed to a .22 rifle that was light enough for him to shoot off-hand.

After a few shots on paper, so he could see he was hitting what he aimed at, we graduated to fun targets. With mom at work we’d raid the fridge and steal vegetables. We took crackers out of the cabinet, bought some balloons and lollipops. I even ordered some swinging steel plates. Why, when he shot these targets there was a reaction; sometimes an explosive one. He found this exciting but also demonstrated to him the destructive power of a firearm.

My son Bat with his second deer, taken at age seven on Christmas Eve. He used one of those evil rifles other kids now want banned.

When he turned six a friend who builds custom rifles loaned me one he’d put tougher for a small kid. It was too heavy for him to shoot off-hand but the stock fit, the trigger was crisp, and it was chambered for a cartridge that did not knock his boogers out. I let him shoot a few shots at a deer target and three weeks later he killed a spike buck. It was a heart shot at 60 yards he still brags about.

Since then his interest in guns has become more professional. He’s more eager to learn how they work and anytime he has a chance to shoot a gun like he uses when he plays his Modern Warfare game, he’s excited. Still, I make sure that whenever we shoot its fun. I try to end each shooting session with a game or challenge.

This has had a cascading effect on the other, younger kids. My son runs in the house to tell mom about the cool things we did or how well he shot. Our two girls want to be part of that excitement. They associate shooting with fun. It’s my job to make sure that does not change.

My wife training to protect her family at Gunsite Academy. The mom makes a difference. Where they lead, the kids will follow.

This has even had an effect on my wife. She was not a shooter when we met but she was not afraid of, nor did she have any aversion to guns. Over the last few years our son’s shooting enthusiasm spread to her. She’s been to Gunsite Academy multiple times, she’s hunted in Africa, and taken several deer here at home while hunting on her own.

Here is a lesson for husbands and fathers: Mom’s matter – where the mom leads, the kids will follow.

My mother was a hunter and shooter, and so are my sister and I.

My wife Drema, with the first animal she killed. A gemsbok that not only fed our souls, but our hunger.

Safety is of course a concern. You need to ingrain firearm safety into your kids. When I was in Junior high school, we were all given the hunter’s safety course. Get this; we even loaded shotgun shells in the gym and shot clays on the baseball field. That won’t be happening anymore but the Hunter’s Safety Course is a great safety education experience for a youngster.

With my son I made sure he understood gun safety, and never refuse to let him see or handle a gun as long as he exercises proper protocol. I also encourage him to call me out anytime he sees anything unsafe. When he does, I listen. If he’s wrong, I explain why and if he’s right, I admit my mistake.

Raised with guns, wicked video games, and as a hunter, Sabastian “Bat” Mann has graduated Gunsite Academy, spent time in Africa hunting and guiding, won his school’s Wendy’s High School Heisman award, and will head to college this fall to become a marketing expert in the outdoor industry. This is the terrible thing guns can do to a child.

Getting kids interested in shooting is really very simple but you have to understand their interest in shooting is driven by different things than yours. A half-inch group will mean little to a seven year old but an exploding tomato will mean the world. Here’s a simple test. If you’re out shooting with your kids and they’re not smiling, you’re doing it wrong.

A Psychologist on Kids & Guns – Samantha Mann

Samantha Mann

Parents employ methods of discipline loosely based on scientific principles of a behavior modification theory called operant conditioning. Any reward, or more specifically a positive reinforcer is defined as any event following a behavior that increases the frequency of that behavior. Therefore, if you are trying to increase the amount of time that your child is shooting, what happens immediately after the trigger is pulled must influence them to do it or want to do it again. The positive reinforcer they experience can come from you, such as a pat on the back, or from the target, such as a dynamic reaction.

Any parent who has given the horsey ride and heard the squeals and the “do it again!” understands this.

 

Guns unfortunately create a loud noise and sometimes kick. Both can lead to a certain amount of anxiety. This relates to a behavior modification theory called classical conditioning. Many children – and even adults – are afraid of guns for that very reason. Introduction in gradual increments is the best approach, and be smart; start with a .22 LR. Remington’s CB loads are a low noise option. When the child asks if the gun will kick or be loud, be truthful; help them prepare for what’s coming. It only takes a single bad experience to instill fear in child. If the fear is strong enough, one instance can create a lifelong phobia.

Samantha on a deer hunt with her father. circa – 1983

If done intelligently, shooting and hunting are excellent activities to share with children. They will learn much more than just how to shoot or how to hunt. They will develop good self-esteem, coping skills, relationships, self-reliance, and independence, while experiencing healthy recreation and an overall philosophy of life and death. This will reduce their risk for delinquent behavior, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and even giving in to peer pressure.

Kids learn things while hunting. Things they cannot learn anywhere else.

 

 

Dick’s and Walmart Never Were Gun Stores

You’ll pay a few dollars more at a real gun shop, but in the long run it will be worth it because you will develop a relationship and qualified source for future assistance.

A lot of folks are outraged about various big box stores like Dick’s and Walmart discontinuing the sale of ARs, or upping the age of purchase to 21. I guess they feel like these monster corporations have betrayed them, and that we should boycott or punish them for not supporting the Second Amendment. Well, um, we should have never started buying our gun stuff there in the first place. We abandoned real gun stores for convenience, and to save a couple dollars, they went out of business, and here we are.

I could care less. In fact, it would not bother me if Dick’s and Walmart stopped selling guns, along with gun and hunting related accessories, all together. Neither have ever been a real gun store anyway. Though I’m sure there are exceptions, those behind the counter are, in most cases, not qualified to sale or even handle a gun. And based on my experience; their enthusiasm for customer care almost equals my interest in cat videos.

How many members of the upper management team at Dick’s Sporting Goods can help you learn to reload your own ammunition. Everyone in upper management at a local gun shop probably can.

When I was growing up there was a local bait & tackle/gun shop about two miles from my house. On weekends—during my paper route—I’d stop there on my bike. The guy behind the counter would let me look at and fondle the guns that interested me, and he even knew a thing or two about firearms…and young boys. I could usually talk him out of some part I needed, that was just lying in the clutter on his workbench. (If you grew up near my hometown—and are older than 50—you will remember Ray’s Bait Shop. I’d rather go back there for one hour than spend a day in Cabela’s.)

We’ve seen the death of the local gun shop. With that, we’ve lost places where real and practical knowledge could be dispensed. Dick’s, Walmart, and others have contributed to this near extinction; they retail firearms so cheap, the local guy cannot compete. (Few realize how small the profit margins are on guns.) What they fail to deliver is service—service before, during, and most importantly, after the sale. And those conducting the sale do not have the experience to get that feeling when someone is trying to buy a gun, with possible bad intentions in mind. (You do realize an FFL dealer can deny a sale to anyone they think might be a danger don’t you? Local gun shop owners take this serious.)

Having problems installing a new trigger in your AR? Who you gonna call? Walmart? If you’d been patronizing a local gun shop you’d have a knowledgeable friend that’s just a phone call away.

And then there’s the knowledge they do not have to share. Local gun shops are operated by folks who are experienced with, and passionate about, what they do and the things they sale. That passion carries over to the customer. The absence of that passion is like a cancer to the gun and hunting industry. It’s why Dick’s and Walmart could care less about your firearms or hunting interests—they have none of their own. It’s also the reason some gun manufactures are struggling; they hired management types from other industries who lack our passion.

Be mad at Dick’s and Walmart if you like, I could care less what they sale. When I buy gun stuff locally, I’m going to buy it from a guy who smells like Hoppe’s #9, a guy who was installing a trigger on a rifle that morning, a guy who closed his shop early yesterday to go to the range, a guy who frequently has a shop full of like-minded folks bitching about anti-gunners, a guy who knows what a pre-64 model 70 is, who Jeff Cooper was, and who actually gives a shit if I hit what I shoot at, or ever come back in his shop again.

Ask the geek behind the gun counter at Walmart to explain this to you.

With the help from Dick’s and Walmart, the local gun shop can once again be real. With all the new gun owners in our ranks, they’ve never been needed more than right now! You think Dick’s and Walmart are a gun stores? Well, bless your heart. You’ve never been in a real gun store have you?

Ask the Gunwriter

 

 

For 2018 there will be a new feature at Empty Cases. It’s called “Ask the Gunwriter” and it’s sponsored by Mossberg. I receive gun or hunting questions every day and I do my best to answer them all. But I realized there might be other folks with the same question, looking for an answer. So now, when someone submits a question—a good question—I’ll crate a video response and post it on the Empty Cases website and on social media. If I do not know the answer, I’ll reach out to other—smarter—folks in the industry for help.

The really cool aspect of Ask the Gunwriter is that if you submit a written question your name will entered for a chance to win a Mossberg Patriot Revere chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor. But even better, if you submit a video question, your name will be entered 10 times! In October, I’ll draw a name and announce the winner. For instructions on submitting a question, click HERE

Submit your question about guns, shooting, or hunting, and you might win a Mossberg Patriot Revere chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor.

But, before this all gets kicked off I thought I’d save some folks some time and tell you what questions not to ask; remember, to be selected your question has to be good.

  1. What’s your favorite cartridge? Not a good question. I had dinner with a group of hunters, writers, and manufactures during the last SHOT Show. The great Dave Petzal was in attendance, and about half way through what might have been the best steak I’ve ever chewed on, someone asked him what his favorite cartridge was. I could not hear Dave’s answer, but in reality it does not matter, because this fascination with the minute differences between cartridges is somewhat asinine. After dinner I asked Dave how many times he’d been asked what his favorite cartridge was. He said, “I have no idea.” What I should have asked him was, how many different answers he had given to that question over the span of his career.

  1. I’m going elk hunting and was thinking I needed to trade my 270 for a 300 magnum. What would you suggest? Don’t be stupid. Spend the money you would pay as part of the trade on ammunition and learn to shoot better. Unless of course you just want a new rifle. If you do, don’t come up with a lame excuse to get a new rifle…you never need an excuse to buy a new rifle! (The key to killing an elk is good shooting.)

  1. What is your advice when it comes to the 9mm? I’m asked this question almost once every week and my advice is always the same: don’t get shot with a 9mm. It will hurt like hell, might make your wife wealthy with insurance money, and free her up to run off with the geek down at the GoMart.

  1. I’ve read several your articles and it seems you don’t like the 30-06. This seems really odd to me. Is this true? And, if it is, would you explain why you do not like what might be the best all-around cartridge? Yes, it is true. And, no, I will not. And, just so you know, I don’t like Pepsi-Cola or Ford trucks either.

  1. My wife complains about me shooting and hunting all the time. And, every time I buy a new gun she throws a fit. She’s thrown my ammo in the trash, cuts up my camo, puts her perfume in my bottles of deer pee, and even joined PETA. What should I do? D-I-V-O-R-C-E, unless your wife is Katheryn Winnick; she’s the opposite of ugly, she’s very wealthy, and might kick your ass. Might I suggest you learn some romance?

A Little Bit of Ballistics

It’s cold here in the hills. Temperatures have been in the single digits and the wind has been blowing hard. I have a variety of projects I need to be working on but they all involve shooting, and, well, I’m holding out for better days.

This has provided me with some down time and I’ve been looking around on the Internet a good bit. Enough to remind me how little most shooters know about terminal ballistics. If you visit most any shooting forum you will uncover enough misinformation to make you think you’re on the MSNBC website.

In no time at all you’ll learn that you need a 338 Winchester Magnum to kill any whitetail deer north of Pennsylvania, that the 30-30 is so old it will only kill yearling deer – and then only with good hits, and that any cartridge created before 1965 was only introduced to get folks to buy more guns.

I went back through my archives and notes and found some video and information where I conducted a bunch of terminal ballistics testing at the Barnes Bullets laboratory a few years back. I learned a lot of stuff during those experiments and validated some of my opinions.

One opinion I’ve held for sometime deals with comparing the terminal performance of various cartridges. Looking at recovered bullets is the way this is most commonly done. It’s the easy way, but it’s also the way that provides the least information, at least when it comes to information about how the bullet damaged tissue. The best way I’ve found to compare terminal performance is to look inside the dead deer, or whatever animal you’re trying to recover a bullet from. That’s where you find the real story. It’s also where you realize that by looking inside a dead animal, you cannot tell which cartridge killed it.

Here’s an example of Internet ballistics wisdom. Some argue that the 30-06 is superior to the 308 Winchester in every way. Did you know that the 180-grain, 308 Winchester, RNSP CoreLokt bullet will expand wider and penetrate deeper than a 180-grain, 30-06, PSP CoreLokt? Probably not. Most assume the 30-06 will outperform the 308 because it has a slightly higher muzzle velocity. Regardless of these technicalities, I’ll guarantee if you look inside two deer – one shot with each load – you would have no better than a 50% chance of guessing which one killed which deer.

Yes, the middle bullet is obviously a Barnes. But, can you tell which of these bullets created the most internal damage, or was fired from a 30-30 by looking at this photo?

Below you’ll see a list of terminal performance information most often discussed for three loads, all shooting a 150 grain, .30 caliber projectile. The loads were a 150-grain CoreLokt fired from a 30-30 Winchester, a 150-grain CoreLokt fired from a 308 Winchester, and a 150-grain Barnes TTSX fired from a 308 Winchester. Can you match the data with the cartridge?

Load                        Penetration         Expansion                  Recovered Weight

  1.                              19 inches           0.54 inch                    105 grains
  2.                              23 inches          0.53 inch                    124 grains
  3.                              30 inches          0.49 inch                    149 grains

Maybe a better way is to watch the video of the bullets impacting the 10% ordnance gelatin. These videos were shot during the testing I referenced. Now, I’ll tell you up front, the videos might be a bit misleading because of where the bullet stuck the gelatin block in relation to the side of the block the camera was positioned on. I’ll also tell you that its – in most cases – as difficult to guess your wife’s weight to her satisfaction as it is to match gel blocks like these to dead critters.

Regardless of all this scientific stuff, the point is most of what you read on a gun forum – and a lot of what you read in gun magazines – is pure speculation, often based on anomalies, examples of one, and even old wives tales. It’s pontification driven by what has been read and repeated, assumed or found in ballistic charts, and by – yes – looking at recovered bullets. Granted, the 30-30 Winchester is not as powerful as the 308 Winchester. The thing is, the animals don’t know that, especially when they are leaking out both sides. To develop an understanding of terminal performance, stop looking at recovered bullets and look at what the bullet does to the animal.

Finn Aagaard – Possibly the most pragmatic and experienced gun writers of all time.

I’ll leave you with these wonderful bits of wisdom from Finn Aagaard, someone who truly understood terminal performance:

1, One can select figures and dense formulas to bolster about any preconceived notion, and therein lies the major weakness of any of these killing power calculations – they reflect merely the personal opinions and prejudice of their authors.

2, Killing power is a matter of biology, not of math and physics, and is influenced almost totally by shot placement, accompanied by sufficient penetration.

3, Rather than relying on fanciful “killing power” formulas, hunters would do far better to learn field marksmanship and to make some study of animal anatomy, in which subject most of them, including most outdoor writers, are woefully deficient.

4, Given sufficient penetration, what does any additional bullet weight add to killing power? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

The REAL Ammo Guy

The guns, gear, and gadgets will all fawn over are interesting, but the real stories – the good stories – are always about people. Those are also the stories I like to write the most. Here is one direct from the pages of the January 2018 issue of Gun Digest magazine. For those who may not know, I write the handgun column for Gun Digest and generally contribute a feature each month. Under the new editorship of Luke Hartle – yes, he is a yankee, but I think there’s enough redneck in him to balance it out – Gun Digest is becoming an excellent version of a modern firearms periodical. I’d suggest you check it out. You can subscribe HERE

The old man shuffled to a cabinet on feet that’d carried him for almost 80 years. He grinned, leaned close enough I could smell cows, corn, and diesel, and said, “This here’s the good drawer.” It contained a hoard of shot shells. He picked up a candy stripped example, handed it to me, and said, “This’ns worth five hundred dollars.” Marv had my attention.

Marvin “Marv” Briegel worked hard all his life, but the only paycheck he ever received was during his three years in the Army. Marv is a farmer, always has been, always will be. He’s damn proud of it too, because he knows it’s a profession too good for most. Marv’s also a hunter. On his farm along Nebraska’s Republican river he once used a 270 Winchester to put a Boone & Crocket whitetail on his wall. That wall, by the way, is in a vault that’s part of Marv’s otherwise inconspicuous farmhouse.

Inside it’s the Marv Show, and it starts with a four-bore shotgun. “I ant shooting that!” I said. Marv grinned, “I ant letting ya.” Then there are the near dozen lesser gauges, Herter’s rifles, and an example of every Knight muzzleloader made. But the Marv Show is mostly about cartridges. I spent hours fingering through drawers of paper-patched cartridges, all-brass shot shells, and other munitions I’d never seen, all while Marv gave John Madden-like color commentary. “Now here’s a shell you don’t see often. I got that’n from an old boy in Oklahoma. That’s a window shell. You know what a window shell is?”

As editor of Gun Digest’s 13th Edition of Cartridges of the World, I’m sometimes referred to as the, “ammo guy.” Amazingly, while deer hunting in the no-stop-light town of Arapahoe, Nebraska, I’d uncovered a physical manifestation of the encyclopedia I’d worked so hard to publish. Historical cartridge collecting is a niche but serious endeavor. Marv’s passion likely exceeds that of Trump voters and, yes, even turkey hunters. He’s even been to Germany to scavange ammunition antiquities.

I asked how a fellow might start cartridge collecting. Marv said, “My first was a 45/100 Pacific Ballard,” Nudging me with his elbow, “but rimfire cartridge boxes are where a guy should start. They’re affordable and easy to find. Just make sure they’re full”

But most of Marv’s collection is shot shell related and I asked why. “With shot shells the information is printed on them, and it matches what’s on the box. It’ll tell you gauge, shot size, and so on. With rifle and pistol cartridges all you got’s the head stamp and no idea bout much else.” Then, with the intensity of a stock trader sharing his first inside tip, Marv leaned in, looked around like, to see if anyone was watching, and whispered, “Robin Hood. Any Robin Hood shot shell is good and the boxes are better-n gold.”

I left Marv a signed copy of Cartridges of the World and a .25 caliber wildcat cartridge I’d based on the 6.5 Creedmoor. Marv gave me something a bit different; a little, but well endowed, bobble-girl off the dash of his – dirtier on the inside than outside – pickup truck.

Passing through the vault door I looked back and Marv was fondling the cartridge I’d given him. He’ll put it in a drawer and someday show it to some guy like me. The bobble-girl? She’ll go on the dashboard of my truck, just to remind me who the real ammo guy is. I named her Casey.

HUNTING – You might be doing it wrong!

Hunting an animal is not just about finding it. It involves getting close enough your shot will be sure. Short of that, you’re just walking around shooting at stuff.

First, let me implicitly state that I don’t care how you kill your meat. I don’t care if you shoot it at 800 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor and I don’t care if you poke it in the ass with a spear. Hell, I don’t care if you club it with a Louisville Slugger. If you kill it to eat it – or to feed another – and you kill it legally…I don’t care.

Several prominent outdoor writers have attempted to address the ethics of long-range hunting. I’m not going to do that. Arguing the ethics of how a hunter legally kills is – at least to me – like arguing the ethics of how someone has sex. If it’s legal, and if you’re not the one on either end of the activity, it’s really none of your business.

What I want to offer is not a limit on how far you should shoot at an animal, but a pragmatic look at hunting as a sport and ultimately, enjoying the shot you may or may not take. We hunt for meat, for horns, and for hides, but mostly we hunt for fun, and to contribute to the conservation and management of wildlife. Some find fun in seeing how far away they can shoot at, hit, and kill, an animal. This could be because they want to show off, because they do not know how to get closer, or because they believe hunting is mostly about shooting.

With some pursuits, shots at distance are part of the hunt. What they should not be is the most important or only part of the hunt.

Yes, hunting is ultimately all about the shot, but it’s not about making the shot as much as it’s about getting the shot, ideally a shot that should be a sure thing.

To keep things in perspective let’s identify the real challenge involved in long-range hunting. It’s the hitting and killing of the animal. For most hunters, once the distance exceeds about 250 yards, the shot becomes difficult. The challenge therefore is making the shot and that’s something that can be done much more practically, and with no chance of a bad outcome, on a shooting range. Yes, shooting at long-range takes skill and success at it can be satisfying, but it’s skill that can be tested, and satisfaction that can be found, without blood loss or potentially bad outcomes.

Should you enjoy the shot or the hunt?

A shot at distance – any distance no matter how great – cannot compare to an open country stalk to within 60 yards on an animal like this.

In November I was hunting free-range scimitar horned oryx in Texas. The country was so open the only place you could pee in private was on the other side of the truck. I figured my shot was going to be long. I’d even practiced extensively out to 500 yards and was prepared and confident. On our last stalk we managed to work to within about 420 yards of a group of oryx. Thinking that was as good as we were going to do, I began to measure the wind and look for a place to shoot from. It was exciting but not heart pounding exciting.

My guide, Steve Jones of Backcountry Hunts, suggested we try to work up a narrow draw and get ahead of them. I figured this fruitless; we would have to cover about 200 yards within their vision as we paralleled their path. We took off, ducking from bush to bush, hunkered down, and fast stepping. 20 minutes later we set up where we thought the oryx would come to. We were in the open, exposed, with no cover. We waited, waited some more, and finally Steve spotted the long sweeping horns of the lead oryx. For the next 30 minutes those oryx moved around us, sometimes within 30 yards. The problem was not getting a shot, it was getting a shot at the only bull in a group of 15.

My knees were screaming and my heart was pounding. I figured the oryx could hear both. All that noise was probably why they were looking at us, confused, like a wino when he has a full bottle in each hand. Finally, Steve identified the bull, and between racing heartbeats and clumps of greasewood; I shot him at 54 steps. The shot was easy, getting it wasn’t. And that’s where I think too many hunters are doing it wrong.

This free range South Africa kudu was spotted from more than a mile away. The stalk, with Geoffrey Wayland of Fort Richmond Safaris, took more than two hours and resulted in a shot at the extreme distance of about 97 yards. It was difficult, memorable, and damned satisfying.

I believe hunters would have more fun working for the sure shot and not the difficult one. A sure shot means there’s less chance the animal will run, suffer, or be lost. A sure shot means you have not just found, but hunted the animal. Hunters should brag about the surety of the shot they manage to get, shooters brag about the difficulty of the shot they took. If you’re a hunter and a shooter you can brag about not buggering the sure shot you took.

I’ve made some astoundingly long shots on animals, but the deed was one of marksmanship. Striving to be a good marksman is a worthy goal, striving to be a good hunter is just as worthy, if not more. Finding a practical and realistic balance between the two is noble. Professional hunters, like Steve Jones of Backcountry Hunts and Geoffrey Wayland of Fort Richmond Safaris, strive to get their hunters close. Some would argue it increases the chance for success, but I submit it mostly increases the value of the hunt/experience. Sometimes the closer you get the harder your nerves are to control, and feeling those nerves is a wonderful thing, a thing that is near impossible to experience from a quarter-mile away. This is why outfitters sell hunts as opposed to shots or animals.

Can you make this shot? If not, don’t pull the trigger. Hunting is not about seeing what shot you can make, its about working to get a shot that is sure.

Unfortunately too many modern hunters are trained by television as opposed to a professional, a father, or grandpa. And sadly, real hunting doesn’t make good television. This is partly because its damn near impossible to film. Why? It’s difficult to get a hunter close to an animal, and damned difficult when a guy with a camera is tagging along. It’s also partly because it’s hard to relay the difficulty of the challenge to the viewer. When you’re shooting at an elk at 700 yards, the challenge is clear and easily defined. When you have to use stealth and predator skills to cover 700 yards, it takes a choreographed production, lots of hard work, and good music to convey the challenge, excitement, and adrenalin the hunter is struggling to control.

I frequently say, “it’s all about the shot.” Part of that – actually the largest part of that – is about getting the shot. Making the shot should be easy and it should be sure. Anything less than that and you’re essentially depriving yourself of the fulfillment of the reward your genetic wiring has programmed you to seek.

Long range hunting basically boils down to – let’s see if I can make that shot. Hunting, real hunting, boils down to – let’s see if I can hunt that animal and secure a sure shot. Those are dynamically different things. Shooting animals at distance is sometimes part of the hunt. It should not be the only part – or goal – of the hunt.

It is indeed all about the shot. It’s about anticipating it, planning it, getting it, and making it. Not a guess shot, but a sure shot. After all, the object of shooting is hitting, and the object of hunting is killing. True hunters work to maximize the possibility of both.

Here are three simple rules I’d suggest you follow to help make the most of your hunting experience. If you can get closer, get closer. If you can get steadier, get steadier. If you’re not sure of the shot, don’t take it. If you cannot abide by these rules you might want to do your hunting on a shooting range. Steel targets are easy to sneak up on. They won’t run off if you miss, and they’ll not suffer needlessly from bad hits.

Like I said, hunt any legal way you like; I really and truly don’t care how you do it. The point I’m trying to make is that maybe you should be the one who cares. We hunt largely for fun but to also satisfy our genetic makeup. I’m just telling you how you can find more fun and satisfaction, and become a real hunter and not just a shooter.

It’s a new year. Might I suggest you resolve to become a better shooter and hunter, and then learn to mesh the two disciplines in a way they compliment each other.

 

New Cartridges, New Guns, and Not Shooting

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I just completed finished an article detailing all the new guns, ammunition, and cartridges for 2018. Shooters will be happy to learn you will have lots to choose from, and no, I cannot tell you what they all were.

I like new cartridges, guns, and ammunition introductions – I am not afflicted with neophobia. The introduction of new stuff for shooters is like a new episode of the Walking Dead for zombie lovers, like a new wine for winos, or like a new iPhone for – I don’t know – about half the population.

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The new Steyr RFP 22 LR pistol is not the defensive handgun that will stop any bad guy. It is a pistol you can use to become a better marksman. $ 425.00.

What I can also tell you is that new cartridges, guns, or ammo will not make you a better shooter. Just like new camo patterns or bottles of deer pee will not make you a better hunter. You get better at hunting by hunting, by making mistakes, learning, by being in the woods. You get better at shooting by shooting.

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A new cartridge – like this .257 caliber wildcat – can be exciting. It will not make you a better marksman unless you shoot it more than you were shooting your old cartridge.

 

I recently created a wildcat cartridge – the 6.5 Creedmoor necked down to .257 caliber. It’s new but its nothing magic. If you like quarter-bore cartridges, it is kind of cool. It will not make you shooter better or kill coyotes or deer any better than the old 250 Savage or 243. A reader recently asked if I was going to release the cartridge to the public. Um, I already did; there is nothing proprietary there. Anyone can neck the 6.5 Creedmoor down to .257 and call it anything they want. The notion that someone is going to get rich off of a wildcat cartridge is about as ludicrous as trying to get a grizzly bear to wear lace panties.

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The new Hornady 6.5 PRC will make a great long range cartridge, but it will not help you hold your rifle steadier or read the wind better.

We have two new cartridges introductions for 2018 from major manufacturers. They both offer something desirable, but like my 2Fity-Hillbilly, neither will make you shoot any better. We also have a bunch of new 1911s from various manufacturers and some of them a really cool. If you like one I’d suggest you buy it, but don’t expect your shooting to improve.

 

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If you’re looking for the maximum velocity possible from your AR 15, the new 224 Valkyrie from Federal might be just for you.

New rifles chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor abound as well. If you’ve been thinking about a rifle in that cartridge, but could not find the right rifle for you, maybe 2018 is your year. Still, that new rifle or cartridge will not improve your marksmanship.

The only way to become a better shooter is to shoot. Shooting, for men anyway, is considered one of the basic virtues of manliness. For men, shooting skill ranks right up there with the importance of never appearing lost, never crying, or never admitting you liked that chick-flick you watched with you wife the other day. Because of this, men are reluctant to seek training when it comes to shooting. And too, if they do, they often attend the training with the notion they will show the instructor how good they already are.

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Mossberg is offering their Patriot Revere chambers for the 6.5 Creedmoor. WooHoo! Do you know how to shoot from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing positions properly? If not, it will just be another pretty rifle in your safe.

Do yourself a favor for 2018; make a New Year resolution to become a better marksman. Sure, buy that new rifle, chambered for that new cartridge, brag to your buddies about it, paste it all over social media, and convince your better half it is that last little thing you need to become the next American Sniper. Once you’ve done that, buy lots of ammo – affordable ammo – and go learn to shoot. If you don’t know where to do that, CLICK HERE

How will you know your shooting skills are worthy of the title of marksman? Here is the Richard Mann-Shadowland-hillbilly marksmanship standard. Until you can achieve it – on demand, you might be spending your money in the wrong place.

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Defensive Handgun: Draw from concealment and put five shots into a five-inch circle at five yards in less than five seconds.

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General Rifle: From the standing – port arms – start position; hit a 16-inch target at 100 yards in less than two seconds.

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Precision Rifle: From the standing – port arms – start position; hit a 12-inch target at 500 yards in less than 20 seconds.

Shotgun: Seriously? The word shotgun and marksmanship do not belong in the same sentence. If you miss with a shotgun – a gun that throws a hoard of pellets towards your target – you are not a marksman.

One of the most important attributes of a true marksman is the discipline to not take shots you cannot make. You learn what those shots are by practicing.