I remember years ago reading about a Mardi Gras in the 1970s that was rumoured to be cancelled… it ended up happening but it was so last minute that no one from out of town came. It ended up being one of the smallest Mardi Gras ever celebrated and has been remembered by the locals as the greatest Mardi Gras ever…. youd think I’d be able to find that information again and verify it but alas the internet has failed to provide me this information.
The annual DMay fun shoot suffered a similar fate. The week before the shoot Darrel, myself, and my friend brad had set up and painted all the steel and cut all the necessary grass. Things were looking good until the evening before the shoot when it appeared some rainy weather was rolling in. As a result the turn out for the shoot itself was down from the original projection. Typically we see around 30 shooters, this year we saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 15.
The morning was drizzly and overcast, but that did little to dampen our spirits. We still got on our rifles and spotting scopes and made steel sing at 400, 500, 700, and 1000 yards. That last one was easier for some than others… I did it, but it took time and a very large target. In the afternoon the rain rolled in heavy, we officially had a downpour. Luckily we had several shelter tents set up. Rather than be dissuaded, many of us saw both the challenge and humor in shooting in heavy rain. I found my rifle still accurate to 500 yards but had trouble at 700. I also found that I received a brisk blast of water to the face with every trigger pull. I was under the shelter but the front half of my rifle wasn’t, that placed it in a small waterfall.
When the rain subsided we went back to our benches and continued to shoot. I had to chuckle, when I picked up my rifle from under the tent water poured out of the stock and action all over my forearm. I was surprised it could hold that much. It was an interesting experience to shoot in heavy rain and the smaller number of shooters gave us all more time to chat with one another and try each others equipment and at a place like a long range shoot there is a lot of fancy equipment to see.
Much like “The Greatest Mardi Gras” the 2017 DMay fun shoot has minimal photo evidence and few witnesses, and perhaps thats part of the fun of it. Knowing that those there, were there for the moment, and any story of it will be a short and poorly written blurb (see above), that fails to do it justice… I guess you just had to be there.
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In my university days I spent the majority of my free time working the gun counter at a hunting store, this was primarily to have extra money to spend on frivolous things like food and rent. It was a good job, and much like hunting, I began to spot patterns. In this case it was in customers and their approach to purchasing. A common question from customers was “What do you have in a 308?” my response, depending on the customer and how much I had been able to sleep the night before, was often either to simply turn around and face the large wall covered with rifles and sarcastically say “these”. Usually, I would explain that we carry a wide variety of rifles in a variety of calibers and then proceed to ask about other sought after features to narrow the search field. The problem is simple, most people know, more or less, what they are after it just doesn’t seem that way because they go about it almost backwards. Its an easy mistake to make but one that low paid employees working early weekend mornings during the busy season lose patience for. Gun shops typically sort their inventory by type of firearm, then brand, then model, then calibre. So I have decided to try and lend a hand to help everyone get what they want faster.
It is important to first know what you want the gun to be used for: is it for hunting, defense, target practice, long range shooting? From there break it down farther: what kind of hunting? What distances? From there it’s a good idea to have features in mind such as wood or synthetic stock? Blued or stainless barrel? Next suggest brands that you like or would like to avoid. Within this previous criteria be clear on which features you are or are not flexible on, there might be the exact gun you want except it will be blued and not stainless would that be ok? From there if you have a price or price range in mind say so. Many retail stores have a strict policy where employees are not allowed to ask this because it’s a bit too personal of a question. But knowing this can really help the salesman get you something reasonable and spare you the awkwardness of them digging out a top of the line HS Precision, when you are more in the market for a Mossberg (Both fine rifles in their own way). After all that, suggest a few calibers that you would be interested in, keep in mind with a hunting rifle most calibers are pretty similar performance-wise within 300 yards which is a pretty far shot for most hunting situations. If you do have a specific calibre in mind, that’s not a bad thing, but it will be helpful to explain why, otherwise the salesman might suggest other calibres that are equally suitable but more available at that time ex: “I’ve had a lot of luck with it”, “I already have most of the reloading equipment for that calibre”, “me and my hunting friends decided to all get the same calibre so we can share ammo in a pinch”, “Me, my son, wife, or daughter have shot this calibre before and found the recoil to be manageable.” These are all reasons I have heard and respected.
From there it’s just a matter keeping a few small tips in mind. First always try to be polite, the quality of service you receive in ANY business is really proportional to how nice or rude you are to the staff. Its also not uncommon for salesmen to give slight discounts to polite customers, I know I’ve done this more than once. Also keep in mind that not every gun in every calibre will be available especially in smaller shops. If there’s something specific you want you may have to order it, even if it’s common (common usually means a lot of people are buying them).
Don’t be afraid to ask other customers their opinions of guns and calibres, they are there because they are into guns. Make sure to ask the employees their opinions of guns and calibres because these are the people that hear about the success and failures of equipment from customers coming back, they also process any warranty issues and can tell you which companies are having a bad run of guns. Keep in mind, from both customers and employees, you often hear opinions which are easily, and often, bias. I once worked with a man who felt Weatherby brand rifles were the only ones worth owning.
Lastly make sure you hold every gun you are considering buying to make sure that the fit, finish, and feel is there. Every gun feels a bit different to every person and you want to be sure before you buy because most shops won’t take a gun back based on not liking the look or the feel, especially if it has been fired.
Below is a checklist I have made that might be helpful. Also, here is a downloadable version (gun buying checklist), you can print it, fill it out, and take it in with you next time. Hopefully its helpful. Make sure to comment below and let me know what you think, what I should add, and what I should change?
Posted in How-To, Hunting, Marksmanshipwith no comments yet.
I’m sure many of you are tired of me droning on and on about my obsession with old shotguns and my love of grouse hunting. What can I say, they go hand in hand so well. This week I submit, for your reading pleasure, a brief and somewhat incomplete “history” of one of the first guns in my collection.
Towards the end of my first year of university I had become a little more settled and had just a little bit of spare cash lying around. So, as any young man with extra money would do, I went to a gun show. I just figured it was about time I owned a shotgun, no sense having a licence if I’m not going to use it right? I wandered up and down several isles looking at a wide range of beautiful hunting rifles far out of my price range, and pistols that were pretty well useless to me. Then out of the corner of my eye, there it was, an old semi auto shotgun. Time had slowly turned the dark finish of the metal to a light grey and the wood on it looked like the finish had come off some time before I was born. The price was almost exactly how much money I had lying around, $200. Behind the folding table stood a tall and thin old man. The bartering began, after much back and forth the price had been renegotiated to $175, if memory serves. I filled out a lot of paperwork, at that time there was still the long gun registration. He handed me the gun, without a case, I shook his hand and I was off. Out of money and shotgun in hand I headed for the door. On my way out a lady handed me a garbage bag to put the gun in for my walk across the parking lot “we cant have people carrying guns around outside” I disagreed with her, but I figured I may as well just play along. I got to my car and had to laugh, the gun was so long and my car so small that I had to angle it from the floor behind the passenger seat to lean against the drivers side back door.
The gun I had purchased was a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun. It was labelled a Remington 11-48 a quick Google search reveals that it was made somewhere between 1949 and 1968 and is most likely the base model.
Old shotguns are typically notoriously cheap, I’m going to ramble a little off topic and try to explain why, if you’re not overly interested just skip this paragraph. Here we go. Shotguns made before about 1900 were designed to use only ammunition loaded with black powder. Black powder burns at a lower pressure, meaning that if you use modern shotgun shells the gun could, in a sense, explode or more likely crack apart, its extremely dangerous. It is now very rare and expensive to find black powder shotgun shells, most people just make their own if they want them. This causes the price of these really old shotguns to be very cheap, I bought a beautiful one in great shape a few years ago for about $100 and a $50 shotgun is not unheard of. Shotguns built after 1900 (ish) to about 1985 (ish), such as the Remington I am telling you about, were built when all shotgun shells had lead shot put in them, its dense and flexible meaning that the choke (end of the barrel) can be shrunk down to keep the BBs closer together giving the gun more hitting power. However, in recent decades, lead shot has been banned from use for waterfowl hunting and has been replaced with steel shot. Steel doesn’t have the same flex or density as lead, this means that the old style barrels, with too tight of chokes, can split if you try and use steel shot in them. These older guns are now rendered useless for hunting ducks and geese. You can still, however, buy lead shot and use it for non-migratory birds such as grouse, snipe, and pheasant as well as most target shot for skeets and clays. It is this loss of usefulness for waterfowl that causes these guns to have very little value, which is where I come in because I can still use it for two of my favorite things, skeets and grouse.
It was that following fall that my dad bought a house north of the city and introduced me to grouse hunting. It had been the first time in over ten years that my dad had hunted, but that’s another story and it his to tell, I have a hard time imagining him taking another hiatus that long. It was pure coincidence that I had a great gun for it, my new (to me) Remington. My dad, brother, and I must have gotten nearly 50 grouse that season their population had been on a up-cycle that year and you could almost call it an infestation.
Over the winter I attempted to shoot a lot of skeets with it, I hit a few but it wasn’t pretty. That spring I got a little bored and decided to refinish the wood on the old shotgun that had been so good to me for so long. I pulled it apart and began sanding. The stock had developed a bit of a crack, so I simply glued it shut. About the time I finished sanding it, a friend of mine offered to airbrush it for me for $50, if I recall correctly (a steal of deal compared to the usual price of his work). I guess he was bored too maybe. I gave him the sanded stock and told him it was a gun mostly for grouse hunting, I them remembered that he likes hot rods and loud engines, not guns and hunting. I showed him a few picture of grouse to make sure we were on the same page. I gave him my full permission to get creative. The results where phenomenal.
Needless to say I was very impressed with the final product and this gun still get a lot of attention and compliments when people see it. I reassembled the gun after it was painted and took it out for a day of shooting. I was disheartened to find that it now shot horribly. It shot way high and way to the left and there was nothing I could do about it since shotguns dont have adjustable sights. As best I could figure the paint must have built up on the areas where the stock met with the metal of the gun and changed some of the angles meaning I would have to try sanding some of the paint off. I retired it to the closet for a while with the intention of looking into it “when I get a chance” time passed and I got busy with other things and it slowly found its way into the back of a closet.
A few weeks ago my friend Nikki and I went out for a shooting day. While there I saw that old Remington out of the corner of my eye and decided that I better try shooting it again. Maybe I would cut the barrel down and put a new adjustable sight on it and use it for a bush gun. I took it outside and fired a shot at a clay and it turned to dust. I shot another clay and same thing… it was the damnedest thing, the gun was now shooting perfect. I must have had an off day, then blamed the gun and as punishment for my stupidity I went years without shooting it. Chopping the barrel off was no longer an option to me. Nikki and I shot that gun all day and it worked well the whole time, I will admit the action was a little unreliable but I blame that on it collecting dust in a closet for about 5 years.
Towards the end of the day I noticed that the paint was beginning to chip off around the crack that I had previously glued shut. I couldn’t let this continue, not after what had already happened. I took the gun home and put some paint over the cracking edges and Erin and I wrapped some leather around the crack, which luckily happened to be on the handle.
Personally I like the look of the leather wrapped handle. I am now very excited to have my old grouse gun back in action. With any luck it should get me some dinner this fall. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it.
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It had been far too long since I had a shooting day with friends. A shooting day is exactly what it sounds like, a day of shooting guns. Usually how it plays out is I pick a Saturday or Sunday and take a truck load of friends, guns and ammo out to my mom and step-dad’s farm and we shoot clays, metal gongs, paper targets and just about anything else we can think of.
This particular day was a Sunday, I invited a few people but the only person available was my friend Nikki. Everyone else was busy with the bridal show, or hockey games, or had already agreed to spend time with their girlfriend. So Nikki and I loaded up my truck with a lot of guns and ammo and headed for the farm.
We pulled in the driveway and were greeted by two excited dogs. After much petting we made it into the house and were offered a lot of food. I feel I should mention or maybe warn people that you cannot go near my mothers house without being given food. Naturally I had a snack before we began. We rounded up the clays and the thrower. As I was setting it all up Nikki informed me that she had never shot clays before.
To make life easier I started off by preemptively explaining to her that when you shoot clays you’re going to miss a lot, especially in the beginning. Most people tend to get very down on themselves because of that. I’ve had a lot of friends give up and say “I’m just wasting your ammo and skeets” for some reason people think that if they hit them I get my money back or something. As a result I have started to explain to people that a hit or a miss cost me about the same amount, which really isn’t much given the cost of shotgun shells and clays. I have also found that people tend to see better results when I get them to shoot clays that aren’t moving first, this allows them to see how the shotgun fires.
I started Nikki out by putting out a bunch of clays on the various snow banks and got her to shoot them with my .410, she quickly learnt that with that gun she had to aim a bit low. After busting a few clays that were sitting on the snow I started using the thrower. She almost immediately started dusting clays. From there she did the same thing with my two 12 gauges and quickly began to favor my old semi-auto Remington, I think she found my old side by side 12 gauge a little too front end heavy. We traded off shooting and loading the thrower, I had a hot streak that couldn’t be described as anything other than luck, I lost count but was well over ten in a row which is far beyond my previous personal best. Darrell eventually came and joined us for a bit with a short barreled defender shotgun. A short barrel like that tends to make clay shooting much harder as the shot tends to spread out more and lose hitting power, I tried using his gun for a few and it wasn’t pretty. Then after a while even my mom came out and joined us, she declined to try shooting any clays out of the air but she did shoot some clays in the snow banks with her .410, which she owns for the sole purpose of keeping snakes out of her life.
We then took a break for lunch, then came back and took a walk around the field picking up unbroken clays and standing them up for rifle targets. I then pulled out my two 30/30’s and was happy to find that my reloaded ammo worked well in both guns. I also broke out my old .22 and Nikki and I used it to throw a lot of lead against the old gong hanging at the edge of the field. I have shot a lot of guns in a wide range of sizes and I still believe that an old .22 with open sights is the most fun shooting there is.
Darrell came back out, this time with his mini-14 which is a semi automatic .223 and a gun that I am a little envious of. We all took turns using it to shatter old clays on the snow until we had used up all its ammo. We then went back to shooting clays out of the air with the shotguns, probably because it was new and exciting for Nikki and I was still enjoying my hot streak.
Our only setback the whole day was towards the end when a shell had gotten stuck in my shotgun, it had swelled when it went off and as a result was stuck in the barrel. We were able to coax the empty shell out by tapping the action open with a wooden dowel and a hammer.
Once we ran out of daylight I loaded my cooler full of deer meat that Darrell was kind enough to butcher for me (the meat had come from my “Boot Leather Buck”). As Darrell and I were loading the cooler there was lots of “oh, you better take some of this good homemade bacon, here’s a pack for Nikki too… Oh and here’s pork chops, and some sausage” Then my mom handed us three grocery bags of food “this ones for Nikki, take this to your brother, and this one has some of those good pizza buns for Erin to take in her lunches” Like I said, you cannot go near my parents without getting food. All in all it was a good day, we did a lot of shooting, which was the goal, and we got a big pile of good food, which is always a bonus.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to clean all those guns we used, but that’s just another part of the fun.
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Most people who know me will likely agree that I take pride in the fact that I’m pretty handy with a rifle. Also pretty awful with a pistol… luckily I’ve never had much use for one. Where was I going with this? Oh right, marksmanship! I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, also I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t had much time to go out for new and exciting adventures. Being an adult is way less exciting than I thought it would be.
I come from a house that really promotes firearms and firearm safety. My dad had a rather genius approach to firearms safety. Instead of hiding all his guns and keeping them secret hoping we would never find them, he kept them safely locked and would show them to us and take us to the range every chance he could. That way they weren’t some big taboo exciting secret, they were just those things that we could only use when dad was around. I also remember my dad showing us pictures, in a gag calendar, of gophers that had been shot, and saying things like “that’s why you’re always careful with guns.” It was pretty gross and maybe a bit extreme but it sure was effective and even to this day I’m one of the most anal-retentive people I know when it comes to firearm safety. But more to the point of our story, we also always had air guns, and we had a pretty big back yard which meant we had our own little shooting range. We were even occasionally trusted to be out there shooting on our own and it all happened without incident… well except that one, let me tell you about it.
I believe I was in about 1st grade at the time, and my older brother and I were shooting his crosman airgun. For the most part we would shoot at soda cans and milk jugs. Years later I was informed, by my mother, that the bottle depot guy would often give her dirty looks when she brought in these shredded remains of cans. By some twist of fate or onset of boredom my brother left me alone to keep shooting his BB gun all by myself. After a while I got tired of hitting the same cans at the same distance over and over, and like many cases of boredom I’ve had in my life since then, this led to a bad idea. My mother had a clear plastic bird feeder on an aluminum post,that sat just above my eye level, but more importantly, it was just a few yard behind my target. I assessed the situation and made sure there wasn’t anything fragile or expensive behind it, like a window. I loaded the gun, steadied myself on our shooting bench/picnic table and let loose with a small steel BB. I heard a delightfully loud “tunk!” as it hit the nearly empty octagonal feeder, and I felt very satisfied. I looked at it through the scope and saw no damage, so I walked up and had a look. Sure enough it looked just fine, so I fired a few more from the table each time being rewarded with that same fulfilling plastic thud that made me feel like I could probably shoot just as good as my dad. For the record, I still cant out-shoot my dad, and I hope I never have to get into a competition with Kyle, my older brother… maybe it’s something in the blood. Eventually I got tired of hitting so easily, so I moved back a bit to our little trampoline and thought, “going that far I better use pellets since they shoot better” I loaded up the gun, lied flat, took aim, pshhk and thunk, I hit it again.. and again.. and again. After a while I moved back to the tree line and found even more success. Eventually I figured I may as well go in, I walked up to the bird feeder and sure enough it was trashed, riddled with entry and exit holes. I can still picture myself looking up at it and feeling the terror of ruining my mothers bird feeder. For those who need a visual, it looked kinda like Bonnie and Clyde’s car.
I did what any 8 year old boy would do. I put the gun away same as always and didn’t say anything to anyone. Of course, someone noticed almost immediately that our bird feeder had been ventilated, maybe they heard it whistling in the wind? It also wasn’t really a case for CSI since I was the only one using the BB gun all day. That said, I wasn’t admitting anything to anybody.. deny.. deny.. deny. That was of course until my dad had a chance to cross examine the defendant during dinner. After some tricky questioning, I was still able to keep my story straight. Then out of nowhere came some classic fatherly trickery. It went something like this:
“well whoever hit that bird feeder must have been a pretty good shot to be able to hit it from the picnic table”
“No, I hit it from the trampoline and then the treeline!”
I realized what just happened and my eyes forced themselves wide open. Everyone looked at me and grinned, it was in this moment in life that I first realized I may not be a particularly clever individual. It was then decreed that I had to apologize to my mother for wrecking her feeder, I also recall emptying out my piggy bank and offering it to my mother as compensation for damages. No surprise she didn’t take the, what I now assume was about eight dollars in loose change. My private range privileges were also revoked indefinitely and my family still likes to reference “the bird feeder incident” from time to time.
The bird feeder incident taught me a few important things about firearm safety, and it not being worth it to lie about your mistakes. I also learnt an interesting child interrogation trick that I feel will come in useful someday if and when I have children.
P.S. Mom, I still owe you a bird feeder and since I now have slightly more than $8 in my piggy bank do you like this one? Its a little fancier than the one I perforated but you’ve got almost 20 years of accrued interest on that debt.
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The shoot was scheduled to start Saturday morning, however for me it started on Thursday. I arrived at the farm Thursday morning ready to help set up. We began by loading Darrell’s custom built, by him, steel plates and gongs into the back of a side by side ATV and believe me when I tell you these things are heavy. I was informed that their weight is no accident, it turns out even at a kilometer a bullet can still penetrate the lighter steel plates… and even some of the thicker ones. This to me really drove home the importance of knowing what is behind your target when hunting. After the heavy loading I was offered, and immediately accepted, a cold beer. It was very warm that day.
We then drove the little side by side to the 1000 meter target. As we bounced and scraped through the trees and brush along to quad trail, I understood why he opted not to just take the truck. Arriving at our destination involved a rather nerve wracking climb up a steep hill, with a somewhat overloaded ATV. I know it was overloaded because when we stopped and applied the parking break it started to roll down the hill. We immediately blocked up the back tires and began unloading and setting out the new targets among the old along the hillside. When it was all said and done there were about twenty targets on the hill. They ranged from about three meters wide and a meter tall to about four inches by four inches. What grabbed my attention was that this small target had bullet marks on it. While on the hill, Darrell was considering the placement of the targets while I paced and did the same, it was at this point I noticed a large piece of black plywood, an old target. For reasons I still do not understand I grabbed it and flipped it over… snakes, probably five garter snakes, which is about five more than I would have liked to have seen. Two things occurred to me 1. We don’t have a shotgun on us or the quad 2. I really wish we had a shotgun on us or in the quad. I quickly flipped the old plank back on them and told Darrell that we had to do our best to remember a shotgun next time.
The following morning I awoke in a daze in an undisclosed location in a condition that we’ll just call sub-par. I immediately made my way back to the farm for the shoot and arrived at about the same time people were starting to get geared up to get out to the range, perfect timing. The shoot itself was quite exciting and I got to try out a large amount of hardware far outside of my tax bracket. The first gun I shot was a .223 wssm (Winchester super short magnum) at about 750 yards and with a bit of assistance
|The .223 WSSM|
from the owner, Darrell, and bit of math, also provided by Darrell. I was informed of what to set the scope to and sure enough each shot was bang on with that swinging gong as proof. It really gives a sense of accomplishment even if you didn’t do all the hard work like building and reloading. I asked what the math was that he used, and I was told it was thanks to his ballistics calculator app (yea I guess there’s an app for that too) all he had to do was enter in his bullet weight, velocity, coefficient, and distance of the shot. Naturally I asked what coefficient and I’m still not 100% on this but I believe it has to do with the bullets resistance as it goes through the air and this shaky understanding was only obtained after an entire group had done their best to explain it to me, bless them and their patience. I also spend a majority of the morning acting as spotter for other shooters and chatting with other people at the shoot. Then around lunch time we changed it up, Darrell loaded up his cannon and carefully took aim at the 400 yard plate. I had my doubts he could hit it. The fuse was lit, several cameras were rolling, everyone was covering their ears… then a thunderous boom came out of the cannon followed seconds later by the loud twang of that big lead slug slamming into that 400 yard plate followed by amazement, laughter, and applause.
The day continued on and a long time friend of the family offered to let me shoot his .338 Lapua, an offer I quickly took him up on. I pointed it at the 1000 yard target, adjusted the scope, took aim, took a deep breath and fired, and missed. I repeated this several times and to no avail, oh well you can’t win them all and it was still an amazing view. Next it was on to the 50 BMG this was the one I was drooling over. To the extent of my knowledge it’s the biggest meanest rifle available to us Canadians. I loaded the first round, had someone step in as a spotter for me and took aim at one of the cream coloured targets, about two feet by two feet wide, a gutsy target given my skill with the Lapua. I get comfortable, take aim, squeeze the trigger, and fire. At this point I should probably tell you, shooting a 50 BMG is not like shooting a normal gun first its loud, very loud, so you wear two pairs of hearing protection, small inserts and the large muffs. Second they have a large muzzle break (presumably for user safety) this reduces recoil but as a result has a strange effect on the gun. It seems to float when fired only for a split second but you can feel it. The recoil pushing back and the muzzle break pushing forward the result is a gun caught seemingly in mid air and in limbo only to come rattling and crashing down
|View At 1000|
in an all around exhilarating experience. The first shot I fired missed, but not by much, I loaded a second and fired and got a little closer. The third was right on I could see the paint chip, I did it! I shot 1000! That was all my shooting for the day I was happy with that and I know I’ll be back every year, especially if I’m told there will be another delicious pulled pork dinner afterword.
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