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.
“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.
“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.
Dateline Indianapolis, Indiana. Your humble scribe journeyed this past weekend to the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis. Not a bad drive from Beckley, but a world away as it is flat as a pancake and lots of cornfields. That’s not a bad thing, just different!
Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you probably know what the NRA is all about. To be honest my brothers in camo, it seems to me that we live in a time where you afraid to anything about anything. But having said that I think we are safe in saying that the National Rifle Association is the leading force in America protecting the second amendment rights of gun owners everywhere.
I don’t think most of the population knows that the NRA is the leader by far, in firearm education. Currently the NRA has 55,000 instructors that train about 750,000 safe gun owners a year. The courses they teach range from shotgun, pistol, rifle, muzzle loading, personal protection and ammo reloading. If that isn’t enough, the NRA also has over 2,800 instructors to work with young competitive shooters!
Something that the NRA does that is near and dear to my heart is its involvement in Hunter Education. The NRA founded the first Hunter Education program in 1949. Today the NRA offers the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, youngsters in 43 states and three Canadian Provinces can improve their skills learned in Hunter Education programs. This is just nothing but good stuff boys and girls, anything we can do to get young people hunting, and train them how to do it safely, we need to do it!
I am going to fool around and run out of room before I get to tell you about the actual NRA show, but they have so many good programs about firearm safety and training, I need to tell you about some more. In 1988 the NRA started the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program, this is usually administered by a state agency, and here in the great state of West Virginia it is taught by the DNR Law Enforcement Section. More than 21 million kindergarten to six grade children have been to this program, this teaches them to not touch guns and tell an adult when they see one in an unsupervised situation.
There are a lot more NRA programs, but I need to tell you about the convention itself. If you are a fan of any form of hunting, shooting, competitive shooting, gun collecting, camping, outdoor cooking, and the myriad of accessories that go with it there is more than you can see in three days at this show. Every gun manufacturer that you can name is there. Remington, Winchester, Browning, Colt Ruger, Marlin, Smith and Wesson, Glock, Mossberg, Benelli, CZ, Stoger, Bushmaster, and I knew I should not have started this list because I will forget someone. Basically if anyone is making guns, they are there. The cool thing about all the booths that I visited was you went right up to the gun displays and handled the guns directly. That is what they were there for, the friendly staff of all the companies I visited encouraged you to handle those guns. It wasn’t just guns, every kind of optics that you could dream of, sight systems, stocks, barrels, holsters, everything about ammunition that is available in the free world. You know, I was afraid that I would not do justice to what you could see at the NRA convention so, O! Wait! Did I tell you Sarah Palin was there? And Ollie North, Ted Nugent? Alabama? I think I just better tell you to figure on going to the 2015 convention in Nashville, Tenn. next year and see for yourself. I’ll see you at the Remington booth, I just got to get one of those Versa Max shotguns……..
Step one: Let’s pattern that shotgun.
Alright turkey hunters, listen up. It’s time to start getting ready to chase that big bird that makes all the racket in the spring. The Spring Gobbler season in West Virginia opens on April 28, so we have some time this year to have you better prepared than in the past.
First let’s talk about an important step that all too many hunters leave out, making sure that scatter gun is shooting where it’s supposed to. Far too many of us just grab the shotgun that has not been touched since the year before and hit the woods. The result is often pain and heart aches with misses and wounded turkeys. Here is how to avoid that.
- Do this on a day that you have plenty of time and you are not in a hurry! Have all the necessary items, a safe place to shoot, plenty of targets, paper, shotgun shells, and target holder. Don’t forget eye and hearing protection. This is best done from a bench rest.
- We all know how much recoil magnum turkey loads have. Do not start with the loads that you intend to hunt with! Take your first few shots with standard low brass field or target loads. Start at 25 yards on clean paper to see where the gun is hitting. Think of this as you would when sighting in a rifle. Just because you hold on the bulls eye does not mean that is where the greatest concentration of pellets will strike. The gun may pattern high right or low left or whatever. If your shotgun is patterning where you want at this range move out to 40 yards and see how it is doing here. Remember that you are not slapping the trigger as you may do when wing shooting, squeeze the trigger as if you were shooting a rifle
- If you think you are good at 40 yards with the field load, now try one of your turkey loads. With a new target, sight carefully, pull that stock in tight to the pocket on your shoulder and have your cheek firmly against the receiver of the gun as you sight down the barrel. You will experience more felt recoil if you are not correctly and firmly holding the gun. If you don’t do all this properly you may develop a flinch which any old shot gunner will tell you can be a bear to get out of. At 40 yards now you can use a turkey head target and get an idea of how many pellets your shotgun is putting in the vital area. On a turkey this is the head and neck. The ideal shot for a gobbler is standing still, with his neck craned straight up. Your aiming point is where flesh on the neck meets the feathers; this should center your pattern in the head and neck area.
- A shot gun is an imprecise weapon! For reasons known only in heaven any given gun will not shoot different loads and brands of shells the same. Some shotguns just naturally like certain loads better than others. Volumes have been written on this and we have no room to explore it here, just trust me, try some different loads and find the one your shotgun likes best. When it comes to ounces of shot in a load, more is not always better. You may find you get a better pattern with a 1 &1/2 or 1&5/8 ounce load of shot than you do with 2 ounces.If you have never patterned your turkey slayer before I guarantee if you follow these steps you will learn something and will be much better prepared when you venture forth into the spring woods. Now go burn some powder!