Speaking Of Ranges

Went shooting with the Son&Heir last Sunday morning, both to have some quality father-son time and to remind myself that I need to shoot more (because I really don’t like being humiliated at the range).

As always, his one-handed groups were about 50% tighter than my two-handed groupings grrr grrrr grrrrr  so clearly MOAR PRACTICE is needed.  Then he switched from the High Power to his little Marlin .22 rifle, clucking that he was only able to produce 1″-2″ groups at 25 yards… shooting offhand, with iron sights.  (He thinks scopes are “cheating” — we’ll see how he feels when his eyes start to age.)

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell my North Texas Readers about an excellent little range in Lewisville, on the southbound frontage road of I-35 just south of Corporate Drive.  It’s called Shoot Point Blank, and it’s much better than the large, impersonal corporate ranges that seem to be springing up all over the place nowadays.  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the 20-bay range itself is great:  no-frills lanes (a single rocker switch to move the target clip to and from the bench instead of those pointless computerized gadgets which break down all the time), and a shelf underneath the bench itself to stow bags and such.

Oh, and there was a stainless Springfield 1911 which had us both drooling.  (S&H tried the trigger of that Springfield, a Colt Government and a CZ 97, and pronounced the Springfield to be the best.)

There seem to be a bunch of these ranges springing up all over the country (scroll down), so if one’s anywhere near you, give it a try.

I will be back to this one.  Often.

Close At Hand

I read this story over the weekend with a great deal of sadness, coupled with rage:

An angler has died after yobs allegedly pelted him with rocks using a catapult as he fished with his two brothers in a boat on a lake at a 15th century castle.
Charles Hilder, 66, from Romford, Essex, died in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford, Kent, following the attack at 5pm yesterday by the yobs who were stood on a bank.

It comes as locals and MPs claimed the area had been under siege from yobs in recent weeks with some threatening people and even trying to steal a woman’s dog.

Clearly, the Brits need to pass legislation outlawing catapults (Seffrican: catties ;  Murkin:  slingshots) like these:

And we won’t even talk about those eeevil “assault” slingshots made with triple rubber pulls, wrist-braces and carbon-fiber Y-frames.

I mean, nobody needs a triple-pulled slingshot with a wrist-brace, amirite?  [/sarc]

I think I’ve told the story about a man I know who in addition to carrying a handgun when out in public, has over the years also acquired about ten or more Ruger SP101 hammerless short-barreled revolvers, all chambered in .357 Mag, and he scatters them all over his place:  bedside, living room, garage, bathroom, car, wherever.  He also has one stashed in his toolbox and another in his fishing tackle box.

When I asked him why the tackle- and toolboxes, he replied simply:  “Because bad things can happen anywhere, and working in my garage and fishing out in the boonies is where I’m most vulnerable.”

Of course, that makes all sorts of sense.  It doesn’t help our British cousins (and the unlucky old guy above), because they’ve voted away their right to own handguns and their right to self-defense.  But for us Murkins, it’s a cautionary word to the wise.

Never be too far away from the means to protect yourself.

By the way:  that Kainokai triple-pull sling looks awful.  To the surprise of absolutely nobody, I prefer the more traditionally-styled Lodonc:

Wood and steel, baby;  if it works for a 1911, it’ll work for a damn slingshot.

A Tale Of Woe

As Longtime Readers will recall, when I was on sabbatical in Britishland back in 2017 I was seduced into buying a Mauser M12.  As Mr. Free Market was there, it took but a moment to pop it onto his UK firearm license, and off I went, new Mauser in hand, and shot 0.5″ groups with it.

The problem was that although I wanted to bring it back home with me, I couldn’t — H.M. Government required that I pay nearly a grand to “export” my own rifle to the U.S.  Not having a spare grand lying around, I just left it in Mr. FM’s already-overfilled safe while I decided what to do with it.

In the end, with great reluctance, I decided to sell it.  After a lengthy wait (almost a year), Mr. FM informed me that he’d managed to offload the thing, and the money came back to me.

So now I have to decide what to replace it with.

First things first:  I’m not going to replace it with another new Mauser.  They’re too expensive Over Here, and in any case, I didn’t get back exactly what I’d spent for the original M12, so I have to trim my expectations somewhat.  (And Mauser doesn’t offer the “starter” — read:  cheaper — M18 in 6.5x55mm, because they’re idiots.)

Secondly, whatever rifle I get will be topped with the scope I originally bought Over There for the M12, the Minox ZX5i 5-25x56mm, which at the price delivers outstanding clarity and reliability.  This scope will allow me to reach out to 500 yards quite easily, which is as far as I can shoot accurately and with any degree of consistency.

Thirdly, whatever rifle I get will be in 6.5x55mm Swede because

  • it’s my favorite centerfire cartridge of all time, and
  • I have two lifetimes’ worth of 6.5 Swede ammo lying around, and
  • I’m not interested in getting a gun which would require starting up a new category in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer.

As to the M12’s replacement:  my default choice for any new rifle is the CZ 557 American, because it costs less than a grand:

I’ve always loved CZ rifles, dating back to when they were still called “Brno”, and this latest model with its single set trigger and rugged reliability is just the bee’s knees.  (I’m agnostic on the “controlled-feed / push-feed” argument, unless we’re talking large-caliber dangerous-game guns.)

That said, there are a couple of decent options outside the CZ Matrix, most notably the Ruger M77 Hawkeye African:

Here’s what I like about this particular M77 variant:  it has iron sights — and even though my old, deteriorating eyes say “scope-scope-scope”, I like having the irons as backup should the scope fail.  Also, the barrel dimensions were originally set for large calibers such as the .416 Rigby, so it’s as near as damn it a “bull barrel” for the smaller 6.5 Swede.  And as I fully intend to take the replacement rifle up to Boomershoot next year (along with whatever bench-rest rifle I next get through the now-annual raffle), that thicker barrel is less likely to start “whipping” as it heats up over a lengthy firing session.  I have to tell you, I like its looks.  The only “downside” is that Ruger triggers… let’s just say that they don’t measure up to the CZ, and they’re not “set” triggers either (which I prefer).  But the beauty of Ruger rifles is that there’s a plethora of aftermarket drop-in trigger groups available, so that shortcoming could be addressed easily, if it’s an issue.  (And that said, I’ve had no problems with the .300 Win Mag Hawkeye LRT‘s factory trigger, so maybe I’ll be okay.)  Pricewise, the Hawkeye is about a hundred bucks more than the CZ, which is manageable.

Finally, from out in left field comes the latest “entry-level” model from Sauer, the 100 Classic.  I’ve never fired this model, of course, but I have fired several other Sauer rifles over the years (mostly when I was back in South Africa), and they’re peaches:  smooth, reliable and very good-looking, in that “Germanic” way.

My only quibble with the Sauer — actually, all Sauer rifles I’ve fired, come to think of it — is the way the stock slopes down towards the action, rather than falling away as do both the 557 and M77 models above.

Also by comparison, the Sauer 100 has a 22″ barrel vs. the 24″ barrels of the 557 and M77, but that’s not critical, really.  Pricewise, it’s about the same as the Hawkeye (just over $1,000) — but as with all German engineering (e.g. Porsche), there is an additional price to be paid for the extras:  Sauer Hexa-Lock scope rings typically cost well over $200.  Granted, they might conceivably be the best rings you can get, period;  but sheesh…

Anyway, there it is.  I don’t have to get a replacement medium-cartridge rifle, of course, but that’s not an argument that carries much weight around this zip code, nor on this website.

I’ll let you know what I decide.

Not Quite The Message

Several people have pointed me towards this article:

B.J. Baldwin, a defensive pistol practitioner and champion off-road racer, said he and his girlfriend had just grabbed a late-night dinner at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant and were in a parking lot catching up on emails and social media when their ordeal began around 1:46 a.m. April 22.
He said his girlfriend noticed two hooded men pointing a gun at her and charging in her direction from across the parking lot. Once she was able to alert him, the men were 15 yards away with the gun pointed at her and smiling, he said. He said they appeared intent on doing harm.
Upon sensing the danger, Baldwin said he pulled his licensed concealed firearm and the shooting broke out. The gunman fired two shots at his girlfriend and six shots at Baldwin, he said.
“I knew there was a high probability that he would miss because I was returning fire and getting hits on him,” Baldwin said. “I wish I wasn’t at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I’m glad it was me instead of a less-skilled defensive pistol practitioner.”
The gunman died after being hit with 10 shots in a shootout that Baldwin estimated lasted about four seconds.Each shot Baldwin fired at the gunman hit its target, including nine to the chest and one to “the central nervous system.” (The second suspect fled.)

While this incident is undoubtedly a Righteous Shooting, I have a slightly different take.  Here’s what bothers me.  While I am glad that Our Hero got all ten shots into the target goblin, the salient point is this:

Said choirboy took nine shots to the chest.  Assuming at least six were center-mass hits… that’s an awful lot of times to be hit and still be alive and functioning to where additional shots are needed to put the animal down.

I guess that these wondernine guns have high-capacity mags because they need all those bullets to get the job done.

Me, I’m sticking with my .45 1911.  I “only” have eight rounds in the mag, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t need all eight in a similar situation, assuming I could hit the asshole as accurately as Our Hero did.

Also, while Baldwin isn’t being charged — which is all well and good — something about this story just doesn’t jibe with me.  I hope I’m wrong.

Luxury Deep-Woods Gun (Part 2)

Last week I started talking about going for a gun that is a little more than utilitarian, and I want to explore this topic a little further today.  Before I get started, however, I want to state categorically, as I have done in the past talking about “dress” watches, that this is not about pure utility:  we all know that a Timex works as well as Raymond Weil watch, and a 1950s-era Winchester 94 lever rifle will work just as well as one of the ornately-carved “commemorative” modern ones.

This is about going with something “finer”, whether in finish or even in function, rather than settling for just the “adequate”.

Many years ago, I made my first haj  to Collector’s Firearms in Houston, and met the owner.  He knew about me, of course, because then (as now) I often featured pics of guns from his website, and always with attribution.  I had, in a nutshell, driven lots of business his way.  One lovely story he told me was when I featured a Swedish Mauser Mod 96 41B “sniper” rifle on my old website, and drooled all over it, as is my wont with exquisite quality rifles.

Apparently, it was sold the very next day — but later on, over that and the next few days, about a dozen people either came into the store to buy it, or called to see if it was still available.  All had to be sent away disappointed.

Anyway, we chatted a while, and then he excused himself for a moment, then came back with a rifle, asking “What do you think of this?”

It was a Mauser Mod 11/84 (pre-Mauser G98) from the 1880s, only this wasn’t any old rifle:  it was a carbine (which I’d never seen before in 11/84), but it had a couple of other features which made my jaw drop.  For a start, it had an octagonal barrel with gold inlays, had an action so smooth that I have never since experienced its equal, and boasted a stock which featured various hunting scenes in bas-relief, carved in detail so fine that it looked as though dental tools had been used in its manufacture (which, incidentally, was indeed the case).  Condition?  It looked as though it had been completed the day before.

It was Kaiser Wilhelm II’s personal hunting rifle.  And for a collector of guns or historical memorabilia, it was almost literally beyond price.  Like a $75,000 Vacheron Constantine watch, this moves far away from the “utilitarian” category and into the “investment” one — and that isn’t the purpose of this post.

So let’s step down a little  lot from that, because that’s a one-of-a-kind, no-expenses-spared kinda gun.  That’s the far end of the spectrum, which we mere mortals cannot aspire to.  But between that and a rusted-out old lever rifle, of course, is a dizzying array of choices, and I want to talk a little about the segment that is just a little over the purely utilitarian.

To be honest, the “Iron Triangle” of guns (cost / quality / utility:  pick two) has to apply.  The Kaiser’s rifle, for example, scores a 0 in terms of utility because you’re never going to take it hunting (quite apart from the difficulty of finding 11mm ammo).  Your new Winchester 94 .30-30 is going to score highly on cost (low) and utility (everyday), but let’s be honest:  that’s not a pretty gun.  To make a lever rifle “pretty”, you have to go into the Dark Arts of engraving and carving;  and I would argue that that activity falls into the “lipstick on a pig” category — you can, but why?

Also, engraving — fine engraving — is really, really expensive.  It’s one of the reasons why you pay an absolute fortune for a Holland & Holland shotgun:

That’s the “Royal” model, and it sells for just under $50,000, second-hand.  You’re not paying for the action, by the way — Holland’s actions are made in Spain, not Britain — but for the barrels, the quality of the engraving and, of course, for the bragging rights that go with saying “I’ve got a Holland & Holland”.

So let me use this as another example of what I’m talking about.  And to make the proper comparisons, I’m going to be talking only about my favorite kind of shotgun:  side-by-side, double trigger, splinter fore end and smooth “English” grip, barrel length greater than 27″, like this example:

That Holland shotgun is undoubtedly gorgeous.  But it costs close to $75,000 NIB.  If you want the quality of the action, why not go with an Arrieta — the guys who until very recently made all the Holland actions?  You can get a matched pair of Arrieta 803 shotguns for around $15,000 new, and I would suggest that their engraving isn’t anything to sneeze at, either:

At least, you wouldn’t kill yourself if you dropped one of these off the back of the truck, as you might a Holland.

“But Kim,” I hear you say, “Even seven grand is too much to pay for a shotgun!”

Maybe.  In fact, you could always get a CZ Bobwhite:

Of course, it’s not actually made by Česká Zbrojovka, but by the Turkish gunmaker Huglu — nothing wrong with that, they make excellent shotguns — and the “engraving” is actually stamped, not engraved.   The gun itself retails for under $600 at Bud’s, i.e. less than a tenth of the cost of an Arrieta and less than a hundredth of a Holland.  Is a Holland a hundred times better than the Bobwhite?  No.  There is nothing, repeat nothing wrong with the Bobwhite — in fact, I’m considering getting one myself, as soon as I can safely go back to work (in about 2030, according to best estimates).

Given my druthers. however, I’d prefer to get this Browning sidelock:

It’s gorgeous, made by Miroku in Japan and Steve Barnett is selling one second-hand for $5,750.  I just hope I can save enough to be able to buy it before someone else snags it.

Or else I’ll be disappointed, like the second guy who came into Collector’s to buy that Swedish Mauser.

You can always buy something that will get the job done, inexpensively.  But there’s nothing wrong with wanting something just a little better, either.