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.


It’s not you, it’s me…

It’s not you, it’s me.
You are great – beautiful, classy, refined – but it just wasn’t meant to be.
I knew it couldn’t last when we met. You were out of my league – unattainable. Through some bad decisions on the part of your previous owner, I lucked out and we ended up together.
What we had was beautiful, but we both knew it wasn’t forever.
Let’s just go our separate ways and cherish the time we had together.
I’ll go back to my old, lowbrow ways. You will go on to someone special.
Someone with a gunroom, and maybe a collection of leather-bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany.
I wish you all the best, and I will remember you fondly…

– GM

In Praise of Working Guns

It is the gun I take into harsh, unforgiving, devil bird country without thinking twice. The gun that gets grabbed to ride in a scabbard lashed to the side of a saddle. It has broken my fall, more than once. It has taken doubles on wild chukar in near vertical terrain. It has been carried on in the pouring rain without thought of turning back. It doesn’t get cleaned much, but then again, it really doesn’t seem to need it, either. It doesn’t shrink from dirt and dust, it seeks it. It is, in short, a working gun – one who’s sheer, stripped-down functionality is it’s primary virtue.

There is a part of me that would love to be so resolutely practical as to own only this one gun, and in many ways, I’d probably be all the better for it. As the saying goes, “Beware the man with one gun, he probably knows how to use it.” But the truth is, I own others; guns which are nicer, though stop well short of aristocratic – a line that my pocketbook and my ego are loathe to cross. But this simple, unadorned pump has a well-earned place in the gun closet. Perhaps a place disproportionate to its cost given the company it keeps, or more likely a direct result of it.

And while I’ll probably never be self-disciplined enough to limit myself to this one gun, I’ve developed my own, similar adage – “Beware the man who doesn’t have a simple, working gun in the gun closet at all – something’s not right.”

– Smithhammer

Lamenting empty pockets

A pair of .22 rimfire case heads adorn the pivot pin, covering the cracked walnut scales. The quick and dirty repair job has held up for nearly two decades now. Abused it may be, but still the most useful tool ever invented.

It can slice cheese, open boxes or trim sheets of paper. It can cut rope or trim arrow shafts from straight-stalked dogwood.
Last year, it boned out a 3×3 muley and cut a mesquite thorn from my swollen pinky finger.
Years ago, with the help of several glasses of whiskey and a Zippo, it seared a relief hole in a friend’s blackened finger nail at a bar room table.
Countless times, I have used a half-open knife to pull a piece of cholla cactus from the dog’s leg and sometimes from my own.
Every once in a while, I head into the workshop and build a new folding knife for myself.

Always though, I end up giving the new knife away and returning to my old standbys. A two-bladed Case that was a gift and the carbon bladed slip-joint knife my dad gave me decades ago.
There are others, an auto I built on a whim, several variations of factory-made liner locks, lockbacks and other stainless steel contraptions that were made for intentions other than whittling and minor surgery. They lie in a drawer, unused. Pointless in their existence.
It’s the little brown knife that proves most useful, though I fear even it faces an uphill battle.
Knives are steadily becoming relics, feared weapons of mass destruction.
Only a few years ago, I traveled on flights all across the country with a modest knife in my pocket.
I took it to school every day from the 4th grade on. Now, I can’t go into the Post Office, the County Courthouse or dozens of other places because of a small carbon-steel blade that doesn’t even lock open.
How do I teach my sons to carry knives? How will they be able to trim a nail or cut a toothpick when a Swiss Army knife can get you kicked out of school?
The post 911 era has brought some worthwhile security reforms, but in my opinion it has limited what I consider a basic right.
In the grand scheme of things, my 3-inch knife is not any more dangerous than a ballpoint pen or a medium-sized rock. It’s certainly less dangerous than the two-ton cars which we routinely let 17-year-olds drive to school.
That schools trust kids with cars and condoms but can’t trust them with a pocket knife baffles me. That adults can’t be trusted with a knife in many public places blows my mind.
Who are these people that think a pocket knife is to be feared?
Maybe the more pertinent question, who are these people that don’t carry a knife and what do they do when they need to cut something?
The people without a knife are foreign to me, unknown and unknowing.
Familiar is the feel of smooth walnut and filed tool steel.
Adrift in my pocket, surrounded by loose change and lint, the little brown knife awaits its next task.

– G. M.

Gear season

The upland season is fading the rearview, sheds haven’t fallen and turkey and fishing season are not yet on the horizon. That makes it covetousness season.
Time to sort through mud-filled shotgun hulls and scrape bloody feathers off unfired shells.
Time to finally rinse out that dingy water bottle the dog and I shared for the second half of the season.
Maybe sharpen a few knives and relace some boots.
Mostly though, it’s time to browse the catalogues and covet things I do not need and cannot afford.
For example, the CSMC A10 shotgun.

I have no need for a sidelock stack barrel, but I have been looking longingly at used Beretta S2s for years.

Now, along comes an American made gun with hand detachable sidelocks for about what I would pay for a used S2.
Do I need a straight stocked 20 guage sidelock with case coloring and an extra set of 28 guage barrels?
Maybe not during the quail season, but right now?

– GM

Dirty Love

I have to be honest – I rarely ever think about you. Which, I suppose, is the ultimate testament to how good you are at what you do. At times, however, I know this may come across as ingratitude, and for that, I’m sorry. You’ve accused me of being a fickle S.O.B. and I know there is a certain amount of truth to that. I expect a lot in a lamentably short period of time, and offer little more than neglect the rest of the year. I’ve smeared you in various pastes, oils and creams, seeking to improve upon perfection. I’ve even experimented with others, and you keep taking me back without question. You continue to endure these indignities with a level of class well above my own.


There was that time when the conditions were a lot muddier than I had expected, and I caught myself wondering out loud why I hadn’t worn a good pair of rubber boots instead. You took it silently, as is your way, and then sent me ass over tea kettle as I tried to remove you while standing balanced on one foot in the mud room when we got home. I knew I had it coming, and I can only hope the warm bath and oil rub you got that night made everything ok again.

We both know there will come a time when you’ll need help – there’s no use beating around the bush on that account. Hell, the day will come when I’ll need it too. Trust that I’ll spare no expense, and thank Dog we live in one of those places where skillful cobblers haven’t yet gone totally by the wayside. Your seams and soles will be lovingly taken care of. I imagine by that time my lustful, wandering eye will have been cured as well. We’ll settle into a comfortable, if seasonal, monogamy. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it.

– Smithhammer

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