GUNS OF OUR FATHERS

L.O.'s .22 II

It’s just an old .22 rifle. If your eyes glanced over it in a gun store or pawn shop I doubt you would even stop and pick it up. Years of hard wear, but not abuse, took most of the bluing. The stock is fairly nice wood, but really nothing to write home about. The scope is an old ¾ inch tube and probably looks funny by today’s standards in optics, but friend I would like to see all the game in one pile that this rifle has taken.

My father was a child of the Great Depression and was raised in a house full of kids in conditions most would consider “poor”. They farmed the land and lived close to it. His family maybe didn’t hunt and fish to survive, but it certainly made things easier.

The rabbits and squirrels and grouse (they didn’t have many deer around then), he and his Dad and brothers brought in were very welcome additions to the larder. You didn’t have philosophical discussions about whether hunting was right or wrong back then. If you wanted meat on the table you took your rifle or shotgun and went to the woods.

After my father died about a year ago, sometimes I would go to the gun case and look at his .22 rifle, a Model 34 Remington. For reasons I can’t explain I did not want to take it home with me. All of his guns and knives and other outdoor trappings just seemed to belong there at his house. It didn’t feel right to remove them. Slowly I started to take a piece with me now and then. As if he was leaving there, but not all at once. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

Remington made the Model 34 .22 caliber bolt action rifle from 1932 to 1935 and I am told it has always been known as a shooter, a tack driving rifle that a hunter could take to the woods with confidence. This rifle is famous for its reliability as it has a shell carrier in the action that raises the cartridge from the tubular magazine and places it perfectly in line for the chamber, every time. In all the years I handled this rifle I can’t remember it ever malfunctioning.

My Dad was a shooter, a rifleman. He got his early training in the woods and on the riverbank, plinking squirrel heads and tiny sycamore balls, high in the treetops. “The Case boys could always shoot,” he told me once, as if to explain the legacy I was to carry on. What he learned in the woods went on to serve him well on a U. S. Army Rifle team where he helped his squad win more than one match with the M1 Garand.

I regret that I do not know when he acquired this rifle. It is one of a thousand things I should have asked him but didn’t. I guess he will tell me one day, but I do know that for over 50 years it was his squirrel rifle and Mister, he was some kind of deadly with it. I can see him waiting for me at the truck, a limit of squirrels carefully laid out on the tailgate, showcasing they were all headshot.

As hunters and shooters, we treasure the guns of our fathers, other relatives and longtime companions that have gone before us. We see the rifles and shotguns they carried as the closest bond we can still have with them. Hunting with their guns is our best connection while still on this earth.

O yeah, I’m gonna take that ol’ Remington out to the woods. Everybody but the squirrels will like that, I think.

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larryocase3@gmail.com

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A MIRACLE RIFLE IN THE MOUNTAIN STATE

MELVIN FORBES AND HIS RIFLE

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston Churchill.

Most of you have never heard of Granville, West Virginia. The census people say there are about 825 souls living there. My guess is Granville doesn’t get much attention because it’s right beside Morgantown; the home of West Virginia University. It’s a shame, but there’s a man living in Granville you probably have not heard of either. His name is Melvin Forbes and he does something better than anyone else on this planet. Melvin Forbes just happens to build the lightest, most accurate rifle known to man.

Now all of you hard-core rifle guys out there remember that last sentence. Most of you do not believe it but some of you will. I’m even going to predict a few of you will end up calling Mr. Forbes and talking to him. Then you will buy a rifle. After you shoot it, you will believe.

How did all of this come about? Like all innovative men Forbes has a diverse background. He has been a machinist, mold maker, shop teacher, and self-taught gunsmith. Melvin told me he built his first rifle when he fourteen years old. He made himself a gun because he didn’t have one. This kind of youthful ingenuity and confidence led Forbes to where he is today.

About 1983, Forbes embarked upon his journey to build the most lightweight, accurate, hunting rifle possible. Melvin said, “I built a rifle for a guy and when it was finished he said it was just right. I told him it is heavier than it needed to be. Then I told him that I was going build a rifle that weighed six pounds or less, with the scope. He more or less told me I was crazy.”

Melvin then proceeded to establish a company, which is now called New Ultra Light Arms, (www.newultralight.com) and produced a 6mm rifle that weighed five pounds fourteen ounces with a Leopold scope perched on top. The rest, as they say, is history.

So why are his rifles so special? The first thing, as Melvin likes to tell you, is the whole project is the result of a committee of one, and that “one” is of course Melvin Forbes. He didn’t have to go somewhere and get help to machine the bolt and receiver. He did that on his own. Then he ordered his barrels from Douglas – another West Virginia company – and his triggers from Timney. He knew that like with a fine English double gun, the rifle’s stock was very important. So, instead of outsourcing it, he built it.

Most hunters look at the stock as just something to hold on to. They think the real secret in the accuracy department is the chamber, barrel, bolt, and all the metal parts. Make no mistake, the metal components are important, and in Forbes’ rifles they are intricately handmade. But, Forbes has shown us that the rifle stock is just as important to accuracy, if not more so.

If wanted to go on for hours here maybe I could ( and maybe not) fully explain the various complexities of the rifles from New Ultra Light Arms. Since that’s not going to happen, I’ll give you a few details. Serious riflemen will take note and begin their quest for the truth.

When you pull the trigger on a rifle the barrel vibrates. This vibration affects accuracy. Gun makers have wrestled with this irritating bit of physics since long before Jacob and Sam Hawken started building their fabled muzzleloaders. In essence, Forbes solved the problem with a carbon fiber, Kevlar stock so rigid and so strong that after the bullet travels about twelve inches down the barrel, the barrel stops vibrating. This means you can take a New Ultra Light Arms rifle to the range, sight it in at 100 yards with five different kinds of ammo, and all will shoot the same spot. Try that with another rifle.

Richard Mann is a gun and outdoor writer from West Virginia whose work appears in many of the major publications. I’ve mentioned him before. Richard hunts all over the world and is known for his exhaustive knowledge on rifles, bullets, and ballistics. When hunting on his own, not on some media trip funded by a manufacturer, with a phone call Richard could carry any rifle he wanted. When it’s left up to him, guess which rifle he carries? One of Melvin Forbes magical rifles!

Look at Richards Mann’s web site, empty-cases.com, and see what he has to say about Melvin Forbes. Watch the videos of Forbes talking about his rifles. If your eyes and ears work, you may begin to see the light. Those who follow this quest to the end will eventually own a rifle from New Ultra Light Arms.

The rest of the world may doubt, but they will always wonder.

Larryocase3@gmail.com

THOUGHTS ON MR. BROWNINGS PISTOL

COD ELLIS 1911

“An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.” Col. Jeff Cooper

I happen to like guns, and I am certainly not ashamed of it. Now some of you who read this column are thinking, “Yeah, that is readily apparent,” but in today’s crazy world I feel it is just better to be up front about it. There are several classic firearms that have become iconic by virtue of brilliance in design and dependability; many of these guns have intensely loyal and devoted followings, none more so than the Colt 1911 .45 ACP pistol.

Aficionados of the 1911 know that the history of this legendary pistol started long before the year it was named for. Shortly after the United States ran the Spanish out of the Philippines in 1898 the Marines that went ashore started having problems with the dreaded Moro tribesmen who really had not been that chummy with the Spanish either. The Moros were an Islamic sect that were famous for being fanatical, extremely violent and dabbled in slavery and piracy, (sound familiar?)

Soon after the Marines and the Moros started trading hot lead it became apparent that the US forces had a problem with their issued sidearm. The .38 caliber revolvers the Marines were given would often fail to stop the knife wielding Moro’s and in close quarters this sometimes became quite dicey.

The military began to search for a sidearm that would supply more knockdown power and in 1904 the famous Thompson-LeGrande tests were held to find a better sidearm for our troops. At the end of these tests Col. John Thompson uttered the immortal words, “The pistol should not be less than .45 caliber”. I still marvel when I read that. If this happened today Col. Thompson would be subjected to a hail of criticism. The .45 versus the 9mm and other cartridges debate has long been standard fare for gun writers and barbershop bloviating.

Although the military tested guns for several years, in the end the planets lined up and brought together several things that gave us the 1911 pistol. Smokeless powder and the concept of a semi-automatic handgun were coming into vogue at about the same time. The biggest factor however was a little bald guy from Utah named John Moses Browning.

John M. Browning was a certifiable genius and a national treasure. He was raised in his father’s gun shop and learned the basics of firearms engineering early. Browning constructed his first firearm at the tender age of 13 and received his first patent at 24. He is possibly most regarded for his work with automatic and semiautomatic weapons, the Browning .50 caliber machine gun and the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) included. To many however, his greatest accomplishment will always be the 1911 pistol.

In one phase of the grueling testing for the military adoption of the 1911 the test weapon fired over 6,000 rounds in a two day period. At one point the pistol reportedly became so hot that bystanders figured it would need a cooling period, Browning grabbed the weapon and dunked it in a bucket of water and immediately started firing the pistol again.

In the end none of the other contenders could hang with 1911. The US Army officially adopted Browning’s .45 pistol in 1911, the US Navy and Marines followed in 1913. The 1911 saw service from 1916, when the US Army went into Mexico looking for a bandit named Pancho Villa, through two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.

Post WW II and the peace and prosperity that came with it saw a boom in civilian shooting marksmanship programs. Many ex-servicemen stayed with the 1911 in their shooting endeavors. An entire industry grew up from gunsmiths honing and adding to the 1911 design to make it more accurate. The 1911 became the favorite of many in law enforcement as well.

If you look for old photographs of soldiers or law enforcement officers training with the 1911, you will notice a lot of standing, firing the pistol one handed (as in Bullseye Pistol competition), or the shooters will be crouched and firing “from the hip.” This may be good for pictures, but it is not practical for combat.

One of the first to notice this discrepancy and do something about it was a Marine Officer named Col. Jeff Cooper. Cooper took combat pistol training out of the dark ages and developed a system for fighting that became known as the Modern Technique. Among other factors he taught us a method of a smooth draw, a strong two handed grip on the weapon, quick eye level sight alignment, and rapid fire with accuracy.

Col. Cooper’s teachings are now the basis for firearms training all over the world. Any police officer that has survived a firefight with a handgun in the past 50 years owes him a debt of gratitude. Col. Jeff Cooper went on to help found the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), and started his own shooting academy, Gunsite, in Paulden Arizona. Today Gunsite is likely the most prestigious firearms training academy in the world. Col. Cooper loved the 1911 .45 and it is no accident that his techniques are well suited to this gun.

If you are one of those lucky individuals that have the original 1911 that Dad or Grandad brought back from overseas, I suggest you keep it, treasure it, and don’t let it get out of your family. Every time you hold it in your hand think about the service it must have seen, the lives it may have saved, and what a great country we live in.

Larryocase3@gmail.com

POSTED!!

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“Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be prosecuted”-No trespassing sign

Besides what caliber makes the best deer rifle, whether the spring gobbler season is early or late, or why doesn’t the state stock bigger trout, maybe nothing in the hunting and fishing world can cause as much discussion and drama as hunting on private property.

Like politics, people’s views on this subject range from the Alpha to the Omega. I dealt with this issue for over 36 years and saw a few things if you know what I mean. I witnessed some individuals who would routinely post land that did not belong to them. I also saw (and I am not making this up) some intrepid hunters who hid in hollow logs and outhouses (no, not the top part), to avoid being caught.

I came to know a whole faction of hunters that reveled in hunting on private and posted land-land that they knew good and well they were not supposed to be on. It was part of the game for them, besides pursing deer or turkeys; they were sometimes pursued themselves, and seemed to enjoy it. One group in Virginia called it hunting on “hot ground”.

Ok, let’s be clear here, I am not advocating or endorsing hunting without permission. I am just letting you know about some of the things I used to run into out there, and I am sure that Officers in the field still do.

One of the attitudes I used hear about on this subject went something like this. “My daddy and I have hunted here since I was a kid, we have always hunted here, I don’t care who owns it I’m gonna keep hunting here!” I always tried to explain as politely as I could (at least at first), it didn’t matter how long you have hunted there, if someone else owns it brother, you have to have the landowner’s permission!

Currently in the good ol’ U-S of A, about 29 states require landowners to mark or “post” their land to exclude hunters. Some say that many trespassing and hunting without permission laws favor the hunter over the landowner, and this idea came from the days when Americans wanted to ensure that all people had access to hunting, not just the ones with wealth and land. Believe me when I tell you there is no winning this argument, most hunters and landowners alike do not like the current trespassing laws. I finally got to the point that I would tell them to call the people they elected and sent to the state capitol. If they wanted the law changed, tell them.

There are 22 states where posting your land is not required, that is you must have landowner permission to hunt there, but it doesn’t have to be posted. In states where posting is required, sometimes there are rules about how the posters are displayed, and sometimes not. It’s not simple.

So here is the obligatory disclaimer. Are you ready? Check your local laws and regulations! Get it from your states Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Game Commission or equivalent. Don’t listen to the guy at the barber shop, your buddy at work, or the kid behind the counter at Wally World. Almost every state is different.

In Pennsylvania for example, Wildlife Conservation Officer Terry Wills at the Northwest Region Office told me that written permission is not required but verbal permission is. Posted signs are not required in the Keystone State, but you must have landowner permission. In Georgia, Corporal Shawn Elmore with the Law Enforcement Section of DNR at the Region 1 office explained that if the land was not posted, only verbal permission is required, if the land is posted, written permission is the law.

Moving on to the Mountain State of West Virginia, land must be fenced or posted for the hunting without permission law to be enforced, and the permission is supposed to be written. If the land is not fenced or posted however, you could be in violation of trespassing laws. My point is these laws vary all over the map, make sure you know the deal for your area.

You know by now that I like to keep things simple. How about just finding out what the law is for private land in your area and abide by it? Personally, I never wanted to hunt anywhere unless I knew that I was entirely welcome.

Before I go, just in case you are wondering about that clever fellow that hid in the basement of the outhouse while trespassing? Yes, I did catch him, and no, I didn’t put him in my car. Sometimes even the game warden practices catch and release!

larryocase3@gmail.com

TAKING KIDS HUNTING IS A WASTE OF TIME

YOUTH SQUIRREL HUNT 2015, TUCK AND ANDY                                                                                                                        If you are a frequent reader of this column you know that I am always honest. Sometimes this is not easy. There may be things that you do not want to hear. Most of you know that I am an avid hunter and I believe in hunting and always will. We hear a lot these days about the importance of teaching children about hunting and perpetuating our hunting heritage. Is it really that important in today’s world? I’m not so sure.

Proponents of this claim there are several good reasons to get your kids out in the woods and into the hunting environment. They claim that teaching kids about the many aspects of hunting benefits young people in many areas of life. Let’s look at some of these claims.

Hunting teaches kids about conservation. Is this really vital in today’s modern world? I know that hunters foot the bill for dozens of conservation projects, but this is 2015 for heaven’s sake, is conservation really that important nowadays?

Hunting is a way of connecting to the outdoors. Again, is this important? Hunting and being in the outdoors has been shown to be a way to relax, lower blood pressure and numerous other health benefits, but can’t kids do the same thing playing video games?

Hunting can encourage you to be physically fit. Not that again. I mean aren’t you tired of all this talk about taking care of your health? Kids today probably get plenty of exercise running to the fridge for another grape soda.

Hunting develops traditions and connections with family. Well maybe, but isn’t that whole family and traditions thing highly over rated?

Hunting teaches survival skills and dealing with adverse conditions. Can’t kids get the same thing from watching TV programs like Alone and The Walking Dead?

Hunting prepares you to become a responsible person. The assertion is that learning to be safe with firearms, taking, processing and preparing game animals for the table and learning to be an ethical hunter teaches responsibility. Well, I guess that may be true.

OK, for those of you sitting there with your fists balled up and your blood pressure rising, calm down, I am trying to make a point. I thought if I showed this issue in another light, some people might pay a little more attention. Yes, of course I think teaching kids about hunting is important. Yes, young people (and older folks too) can learn many good skills and life lessons from hunting.

Now I am going to tell you about a great program associated with introducing kids to hunting.

Many of our states have great hunter education programs. The benefit of these classes is incalculable, young people learn firearms safety, hunting ethics, care of game, wildlife identification and dozens of other valuable lessons. Problem is in today’s world not every child who wants to go hunting has someone to take them.

I am proud to say that my old alma mater, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section is sponsoring a new program for their Natural Resource Police Officers to take young people hunting on special youth days. Yep, that’s right; they get to go hunting with the game warden. How cool is that?

“We see this new program as fulfilling a need to get our state’s youngsters outside and to promote our state’s hunting heritage,” said Col. Jerry Jenkins, chief of the WVDNR Law Enforcement Section. “We are looking for young people across the state that our officers can mentor and help enjoy the coming fall hunting seasons.”

The goals of the Youth Hunting Program are to preserve the state’s hunting heritage for present and future generations; to promote the highest ethical standards in hunting; to give the state’s youth an initial, positive, safe, educational and mentored hunting experience; to teach basic skills, values, techniques and responsibilities of hunting; and to teach participants practical conservation measures.

Youth Hunting Program participants must be 8 to 17 years old and complete and submit an application. They also are required to complete the West Virginia Hunter Education Course, have a valid West Virginia hunting license (if required), and have a completed release form signed by a parent or guardian.

“Youth who enter the program will learn how to hunt safely, legally and ethically,” said Col. Jenkins. “They also will learn how to track and field dress game, appreciate nature firsthand and make new friends. We expect these youth hunts will provide experiences and memories that will last a lifetime for both the kids and the officers.”

I feel like I was a little part of history as I was asked to join the very first Youth Day hunt with Officers on September 5, the Youth squirrel hunt. Five young men (young ladies are welcome too) were accompanied by several DNR Officers on what I thought was a very successful maiden voyage for this program.

Did these young hunters shoot a lot of squirrels on this hunt? Nope, not one. (Temperatures were close to 90) Did they take a big hike in the woods, learn about everything from what squirrels and other animals eat to what signs do they leave? Did they learn about safe gun handling and how to recognize different animal tracks? Absolutely. They even got to watch some first rate squirrel dogs work. Once, during a break I saw the whole bunch playing a fast paced game of catch alongside an officer, with an invisible ball. (You had to be there)

These boys had a great day in the field with their hosts the DNR Officers, ending up with a hot dog cook out when they came out of the woods. What a wonderful way for young hunters to be introduced to DNR Officers for the first time, instead of the possible alternative.

Your state may have already started such a program, if not; maybe you want to suggest they do. I don’t think an excessive amount of funds are needed for programs like this. Just the time and effort involved to take a kid hunting. You know if your state doesn’t have a program like this you can take it upon yourself to mentor a young person in hunting. Take a look around you, they’re out there.

O yeah, and we’re good about that little trick I pulled there at first, right? I mean, I did it for your own good. Honest I did.

YOUTH SQUIRREL HUNT 2015, THE WHOLE CREW

Larryoccase3@gmail.com