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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, its hard to buy for gun guys and hunters and get it right. This partly because they are a picky lot, and partly because its hard to know what kind of gear and guns work if you have no experience with them. Well, I’m here to help. Here are 10 items from FREE to a bit more than a grand that any real gun guy/hunter should appreciate:
1. Shooter’s Guide to the AR: This is a great book for the new AR owner. It will educate them on how and AR works and teach them how to shoot it better. It’s $ 15.00 or FREE when you buy Under Orion – the next item on the list. While supplies last of course. (Comes with a training DVD on using laser sights.)
2. Under Orion, Hunting Stories from Appalachia to Africa. For a hunter this is a great beside the toilet or bed book. Short hunting stories guaranteed to make you feel something – even if its regret for spending the $ 20.00. While supplies last it comes with a free copy of Shooter’s Guide to the AR.
3. XS F8 Sights: Great new sights I’m really excited about, that kind of bridge the gap between the XS Big Dot and conventional notch and post sights. $ 142.00. Now available for Glocks and a few other guns I do not own.
4. Jagdhund USA Brand shoes: Here is a great pair of outdoor general-purpose low-top shoes. Not sure what you have to do to wear these out. $ 218.95.
5. Bushnell Engage 2.5-10X 44mm Riflescope: This one of the best values going when it comes to a long range riflescope. We used one in Africa last summer and it performed exceptionally well, good enough for my son to collect animals out to 600 yards. $ 299.00. (Click image for video.)
6. Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger: The single best thing you can do to your AR is put a good trigger in it. Factory ARs are notorious for triggers that are harder to pull than a Ford out of a ditch. $ 299.95.
7. Crimson Trace LINQ: This might be the best light/laser alternative for an AR. With bluetooth like connectivity, when you grab the grip the unit comes on in your predetermined configuration. Right now its on sale for $ 389.00.
8. XJAGD Buffalo 2 Jacket: When temperatures in Africa dropped below freezing last summer, I thought the hunt was doomed. Fortunately, my son and I both had one of these. They busted the cold, blocked the wind, and the neat binocular retraining strap is kinda cool. $ 396.95.
9. Remington Model Seven LS: I think this the best firearm currently in the Remington line. It is good looking, light, compact, and shoots exceptionally well. That’s why I own one. $ 1039.00.
10. Swarovski CL Companion Binoculars: I hate carrying around big binoculars but I also hate not being able to see when I’m hunting. With these compact CLs you get all the glory of Swarovski glass at a fraction of the cost. I’ve used them from Vancouver, to Texas, to Africa and got no complaints! They only weigh 17 ounces. $ 1199.00.
When I was 14 I took every ammunition catalog I could find, devised a complex formula, and crunched all the numbers. My goal as to determine the best all-round rifle cartridge suitable for everything from groundhogs to elk. The numbers – as they say – don’t like, and the answer was the 264 Winchester Magnum.
I’d been saving up my paper route money and when I had enough, I went looking for a 264. I could not find one and with deer season approaching, I settled for a 270 Winchester. Fast-forward a decade or two and I finally wrangled up a 264. Took one to Africa on my first safari and took another to Montana for my first mule deer hunt.
The appeal of fast shooting 6.5s is of course the advantage their highly aerodynamic bullets offer. It just happens to be the right combination of diameter and length for high performance from a sporting rifle without a lot of recoil. There have been several attempts at this. The 264 for sure but it has a belt and requires a long action. Then there was the 6.5 Remington Magnum. It would work in a short action but it also had a belt and a neck that was too short. And, let’s not forget the 6.5-284, a somewhat legitimized wildcat but built on a cartridge case with a rebated rim.
Hornady’s new 6.5 PRC is the cartridge that sort of solves all the problems associated with the older 6.5 hot rod cartridges. I’m sure some will think that Hornady is just playing off the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor. While that might be partially true, the two cartridges are a different as they are similar.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is all the long-range cartridge just about anyone will ever need. The 6.5 PRC adds velocity and therefore delivers increased performance at distance. It is a better option for those wanting to shoot to 1000 yards and beyond. And, it’s a better option for those who like to use tough mono-metal bullets for hunting at extended distances, because with the PRC they will impact at the higher velocities these bullets need to expand.
For example, with a 6.5 Creedmoor, the 120-grain GMX drops below its ideal expansion velocity at about 500 yards. With the 6.5 PRC, you can add another 200 yards to that distance, with only minimally more recoil.
I didn’t do all the math on the 6.5 PRC like I did on the 264 Winchester way back when, mostly because I did not need to. Math does not change and the 6.5 PRC will do everything the 264 will do, it just comes in a better package. The only question left is, which rifle?