Beauty marks

I like shotguns.
Specifically, I like old, lightweight shotguns with two barrels and well-figured walnut.
Preferably in 28 ga. or 16 ga.
Some of my hunting buddies now carry guns made of black plastic that look like they might shoot lazer beams.
Personally, I don’t own anything I won’t hunt in the rain with, but I also don’t own any guns I would put a bumper sticker on.
When I was ten, I had a Remington Nylon 66 rifle. It was black plastic with white diamonds where the checkering should have been and it had glimmering stainless barrel and action.
It was the ugliest rifle I have ever owned and it could not dependably shoot beer-can sized groups at 20 yards.
Since then, I have stuck to guns that are made of dark-blue steel and checkered walnut.
I like them to smell of boiled linseed oil and 3-in-1 and if I leave it leaned against a fence, I want to be able to imagine my grampa standing next to it.
Last year I bought a 1936 Ithaca side-by-side 16 ga. with no butt stock.
I spent most of the spring fitting and shaping, sanding and oiling until I had a new-to-me upland gun.
She still has some of her case coloring and when the light is right, the barrels shine like obsidian. I added a few inches to the trigger tang and an english style stock in place of the Prince of Wales that would have adorned the gun originally.
The maker’s marks on the barrel denote ‘modified’ and ‘full’ chokes. On the pattern board, it’s more like ‘full’ and ‘rifle.’
Still, I managed to shoot a few birds with it this year and that brand new stock already has its first ding, earned high in the Pecos Wilderness on an early grouse hunt. I don’t worry much about the scratches and scuffs that mark the passing of the years.
I think what I like least about plastic guns is their inability to show the character that comes with age and use.
My guns carry their dings and scratches proudly, like little historical records of antlers and pack frames and chukar hunts gone wrong.
It’s how I like them.


10 thoughts on “Beauty marks”

  1. “I like them to smell of boiled linseed oil and 3-in-1 and if I leave it leaned against a fence, I want to be able to imagine my grampa standing next to it.”

    What a wonderful description. Great post.

  2. Thanks, no damage. Our house is about 200 feet above the river (at least it feels like 200 feet when I’m hiking it). So if we flood, I’m building an ark.

    By the way I am fond of the 16 gauge myself. I have a 1952 Model 12, and while it doesn’t have the two barrels or checkering you prefer, it does show its character well and proudly.

  3. Being new to the whole hunting experience i have been researching different types of guns to purchase. In my research I have come to the conclusion the plastic rifles and shoot guns feel alien to the touch and are totally different to stocks made from natural materials. Great post !


  4. Greg,
    Is that gun in the photo a Western Long Range Gun by Ithica? I have a 16ga, mod/full and was made in 1937. I used that gun all year long and loved every minute.

  5. It’s an Ithaca Nitro Special in 16ga. It’s pretty similar to a Western Long Range with a few cosmetic differences.
    They weren’t particularly expensive when new and they are a bargain now. I bought mine, albeit with a stock broken at the wrist, for $150.
    It is a nice gun to carry and shoot. I keep thinking I might get the chokes opened to IC and modified to make it a little more shootable.

  6. Greg you’re probably infinitely more knowledgeable about such things as I am. But I can highly recommend Briley in Texas for fitting old shotguns with threaded chokes. I had this done to my Model 12 because I’m not a collector and really just wanted more flexibility from it.

    But the choke inserts are nice and flush and don’t spoil the classic lines of the gun.

    (just delete this comment if it’s not appropriate to mention company names – I have no affiliation, they just did nice work for me and my old shotgun.)

  7. My brother summed up the ‘ding thing’ the examples he used were custom knives and wedding rings
    “The first five scratches break your heart, and after that they’re either character or memories”

    As ever great blogging

  8. A nice, well balanced and fitted double does add a lot to hunting. I started shooting an old Fox 16 about 20 years ago. Restocked and regulated to throw SK1 and light modified patterns. It has become my constant companion – almost as important as my dogs.

  9. Funny, the next post on my blog is going to be about my love of old guns. Just trying to crop the picture of my hammergun. Yes, I shoot them in the rain. I secretly hope black plastic guns become more popular so the wood and steel ones drop in price.

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