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The French have, as they so often do, a word for it: gallimaufry, a “hodgepodge” of random notes. And these will be a gallimaufry of things “gun.”
Take “gun nut.” There is a consensus about when the term “gun culture” came into the language. It was back in 1970 in a book by noted historian Richard Hofstadter. It is hardly certain, though, who first employed “gun nut” to label firearms enthusiasts — maybe enthusiasts themselves — because gun nut is not always a pejorative, any more than fishing nut or car nut.
Try using “gun connoisseur” or “firearms aficionado,” and see if that alters the perceived image of those with a passion for guns.
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The mention of gun nuts leads inevitably to the notion of gun control, which of course, means hitting what you aim at. Here’s some shooting advice from Kessler Canyon Ranch that runs a rifle school in Colorado, if you will excuse the use of that word.
This is particularly apropos as we look forward to getting in some practice for the big-game seasons ahead. The goal is to shoot comfortably, naturally and consistently. The first practice tip is to step away from the shooting bench and assume the position, or positions: sitting supported, kneeling supported and modified prone on inclines and declines.
Practice in all weather and in your hunting clothes and under exertion. Along with shooting, dry-fire with snap caps, always making sure your rifle is cleared of live ammunition before beginning. And shoot off the kinds of rests you are likely to have in the field, like a bipod, shooting sticks, or a backpack.
We live in a place, here, with such a comparatively low crime rate, that we hate to consider the thought of gun theft. But it happens.
A good friend recently had someone break into the back window of his house in Story and make off with a Remington Model 700 in .223, with a Redfield scope and a brand new Leupold scope. Sadly, my friend is one of the most conscientious gun owners I know, who keeps his firearms in gun safes, except for this one day with this one gun.
Luckily, he had all the serial numbers written down and gave them to the sheriff, and maybe someone reading this might know where a .223 and a couple of scopes just might happen to be. So a note to us all — record those serial numbers and think about investing in a gun safe, or some place to keep our firearms locked up when not in use or available for home defense. Or at least buy some trigger locks to make a scumbag thief think twice. Or slow him down.
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For browsing through a dazzling, or bewildering, take your pick, array of firearms and ammunition, you can pick up the new Firearms Guide Fourth Edition DVD.
The guide references more than 57,000 models of firearms, airguns and ammunition from more than 600 worldwide manufacturers and lets you search based on criteria such as action, barrel length, caliber, barrel type, finish, stock type, stock material or a combination of up to 14 qualifications. The guide contains hunting, target, military and historical firearms, and an extensive assortment of printable targets.
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Many traditional-firearms nuts look upon a rifle scope, or telescopic sight, as some kind of parvenu abomination, when in fact, scopes and rifles have gone together since at least the early 1840s and through the Civil War and onto the buffalo plains. To read more, my friend Toby Bridges’s published an interesting piece on his website, North American Muzzleloader Hunting, www.namlhunt.com, showing that the scope is likely an American invention. And if you are looking for “period” optics to go with a percussion rifle or rolling block, take a peek at the Wm. Malcolm scopes from Hi-Lux Optics, www.hi-luxoptics.com.
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Finally, I’m not sure what kind of gun he shot (it would not have been a percussion rifle or a Hawken, because neither was being sold, yet, and certainly had no scope). But it was John Colter — the first white man to explore Yellowstone extensively, and famed for his naked run, escaping the Blackfoot, hiding in a beaver lodge, then crossing snowy mountain passes in the night — who, as a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was likely the first U.S. citizen to kill a mule deer. That lead William Clark to note its “verry (sic) large & long” ears, and to say of it, in comparison to the common whitetail he knew, that it was “a Curious kind of Deer.”
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice. And the gun nut.
Tom McIntyre is a contributing editor to Sports Afield and Field & Stream magazine.