The Dark Side

Finely-finished wood. Detailed, craftsman engraving. I confess to loving well-made, beautiful guns.

But I also confess to hating the painful experience of seeing a nice gun that I’ve spent hard-earned money on getting scratched up. I know this is silly, and I believe that guns are meant to be used, not sit on the shelf. If you’re buying a gun for hunting you should expect that it’s going to start looking well-used after a while. But still, every time I put a new scratch in a nice piece of walnut, I feel the pain.

And with that pain, the dark thoughts began creeping in. Thoughts of a gun I wouldn’t have to worry about so much. Thoughts of a field gun that *gasp*  – didn’t have nice wood or a fancy receiver. I don’t exaggerate when I call these “dark” thoughts, as they became filled with visions of sacrilegious black synthetics.

I’ve had these thoughts for years, but have never gotten around to acting on them. I always rationalized the idea to myself with the notion that it would merely be a dedicated chukar gun. That harsh, nasty, devil-bird country would be the singular application for which I wouldn’t prefer to have one of my nice wood guns in my hands. And I kept telling myself that as I tracked down the model I wanted and tentatively pulled out the credit card. It would still be a few weeks till the first chukar trip, so I figured I would take it out that afternoon for grouse and just, “see how it shot.” The first thing I noticed is that it was light. Very light. As in a 1/2 pound lighter than my esteemed Browning “Superlight.” I could carry this gun all day and hardly notice it, I found myself thinking.

And as these seductive thoughts started to pervade, I saw the dog slam on point. Three birds got up and the gun flew to my shoulder like it was meant to be there and with the very first two shots out of this dark new piece of machinery I dropped a double on sharpies. Holy shit, I mumbled. Far more than just being a pragmatic choice for limited applications, this gun really shoots. And with that, the dark thoughts dug their roots in further and began to grow.

By the time I got home, concerns that my dirty little affair might blossom into something more were taking hold. I broke down the gun and cleaned it, finding the task no more complicated than disassembling and cleaning an O/U. My old bias about semis being a chore to maintain was thrown out the window. I went out again the following afternoon with the same gun, and again limited on a double. And with that second outing, the lid was permanently blown off the Pandora’s box and the deal was sealed.

I’ve even started to see a certain unconventional beauty in this new gun. A sleek, stark, functional aesthetic, combined with design that is no less craftsmanship for being modern. And I began to acknowledge that this might not just turn out to be a dedicated chukar gun. That lamentably, some of my “nicer” guns might just be spending more time in the closet. That this might become the gun I grab whenever I want something lightweight and well- balanced, that I shoot as well as anything if not more so, and that I don’t have to worry about. Which is to say, pretty much all the time.

There. I’ve gotten it off of my chest. I own a black gun. Nothing ‘traditional’ about it. A testament to pure performance. And dammit, I’m loving it.

12 thoughts on “The Dark Side”

  1. I’m with Ben…I’ll keep it secret. 🙂 And, while I own no gun, nor do I hunt, I noticed last weekend that the end of my Scott fly rod is nicked and beat up…there’s a blood stain on the cork handle. It was brand spanking new in March. Initially, like you said, I hated seeing it age like this, and I felt bad for being the one to make those lines. But then I smiled…and it felt like an old friend, and those scrapes and bruises are the marks of many good miles and times.


  2. Yup. There’s no replacement for honestly worn-in gear that you’ve spent lots of time in the field with.

    And if scrapes and bruises (and sprains and breaks) are a measure of good times, I’m living the life!

  3. This spring I handled a Vinci at a gun shop and was unpleasantly surprised to discover it’s handles better than any of my side-by-sides and is better balanced than a half of them. Screw innovation! Only gets one confused and destroys the comfy little illusional world… 😎

  4. Smithhammer, Your secrets not much of a secret any more. The whole upland crew knows your evil ways now that you told us. And when you threw your new gun on the ground in front of me the other day. Tis Tis!
    Oh yeah, she’s a rubber
    made now.

  5. As the shooter of a scarred walnut-stocked autoloader, I commend your decision, my friend. Yet I would contend that plastic is for blow-up dolls and inexpensive gin “handles.”

    1. “Yet I would contend that plastic is for blow-up dolls and inexpensive gin “handles.”

      Hey, many a fine evening has been the result of these two things.

      Wait – did I type that out loud?

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