Old Guns

I was reading an e-mail from someone on a mail list about old guns. He was saying how well he liked his S&W revolver—called it an old gun. From his description, I would guess the pistol was made sometime in the late 1970s.

That’s old!?!?

I’ve seen 60 come and go. I have three guns older than I am. Now, that’s old!

The least old of these three is my M1 Garand that I bought through the ODCMP program several years ago. It was made in the Springfield Armory in February 1942 according to the serial number. It was later rebuilt at the Rock Island Armory but it still has all Springfield parts. It passes the go-no go test and is a real shooter. I’ve zero’d it for 100yds. With a bench rest and iron sights, I can punch out a 6″ grouping. That is amazing considering one facet of the rifle. It’s been used and abused. The few inches of rifling at the muzzle are worn to a smooth bore. But it has a good crown and still groups well.

I had thought about replacing the barrel but decided not to do that. I want to keep it just like I got it with all the dings and gouges on the wood, the wear on the exposed metal parts, all as near I can to it’s earned condition. The only thing I’ve done is to swab most—but not all, of the copper fouling out of the barrel. It still has that copper tint when examined with a bore-light, but I’m going to leave that part of its heritage where it is.

My next oldest is my Marlin Model 39 .22lr (the picture is of a Model 39A.) As best I can determine, my Model 39 was built in the 1930s. It has some older-sytle sights that I will replace with some Williams peep-sights. I’ve never been able to hit anything with Buckhorn sights. I can’t decide to place the front sight at the top between the “horns” or at the bottom of the V.

I just like the way this rifle handles. For me, it has a natural point. I can bring it to my shoulder and it points nicely where I want to aim. There is not any shifting at the shoulder, ducking to the stock to see the sights—it just fits. I usually shoot CCI high-speed Velociraptor ammo. I bought a brick of this when it first came out. In my M39, it chronos at around 1600fps. The next fastest high-speed .22lr ammo clocks in at 1400fps. That is not bad for a .22lr. A 40gr slug at 1400fps or 1600fps makes a nice small game meat rifle.

When I was growing up on the farm, I would often take my .22 rifle out after school and bring home some squirrels or a rabbit or two for the pantry. I still love squirrel and rabbit—it they are prepared properly. As with all wild game, you must insure you cook them correctly to prevent disease. My mother always scalded game before freezing it or cooking it further.

My last old gun is my Remington Model 11. My father owned a Remington 12ga. Model 11. It originally had a cracked stock. The bluing had most been worn off and the metal had that old worn steel look. It made the shotgun appear well used. As a Christmas present one year, my mother took it to our local gunsmith and had new wood installed and the rest re-blued. When it was finished, it looked new.

When I was in High School in the early 1960s, I had the serial number checked. I discovered this shotgun had been made in 1921—originally as part of a War Department order. The US Army canceled the order at the end of WW1 and the production was modified for the civilian market.

Dad’s Model 11 was stolen a few years later along with all the rest of our rifles and shotguns. A few years ago, I was at a Gunshow in Springfield, MO and came across a man who was selling three Remington Model 11s. I bought the best of the three for $150. I never made a better deal. My “new” Model 11 appears to be a PD cast-off. It has O.M.P. stamped on the receiver. I was told that meant “Ontario Mounted Police.” Somehow that doesn’t ring true but it’s a good story. Accordingt to its serial number, it was built in the late 1920s. My Model 11 is a 12ga, full choke shotgun. I’ve thought about buying some additional barrels, a home defense barrel and one with a modified choke for birds. Unfortunately, I’ve not found a source. It appears it’s easier just to buy a complete new shotgun that find replacement barrels.

All three of these guns are full working shooters. I like them. I’m comfortable with them. There has been new designs that are supposed to be better, but from what I’ve seen, the new designs work no better than these half-century or older weapons. New is not always best.

Quail Hunting

The first time I was allowed to use my Dad’s shotgun was for a Quail hunt with my brother-in-law in 1960.

My brother-in law, Dick Harriss, was a bit older than me, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. I was a surprise that arrived to my mother when my sister was fifteen. Dick married my sister in 1954 and was an avid hunter and fisherman and was outdoors at every opportunity.

Dad owned a Remington Model 11, 12 gauge shotgun that he’d acquired at some point. It was one of the early models and most of the bluing had worn off. The stock and forearm bore dings and scratches from years of use. Dick received a J.C. Higgins bolt action 16 gauge shotgun from my sister on their first Christmas together. It was the first shotgun I’d seen with a variable choke.

That Saturday, Dick arrived just before sunup. Today it would just be me and Dick because Dad wouldn’t be going. He would be working overtime in the mines. He gave me permission to use his Remington. My usual shotgun was a Stevens break-open single shot 12 gauge.

Dick’s brother raised Labs and Dick arrived with two for the Quail hunt. We finished off a quick breakfast, filled a couple of thermos with coffee and left the house. The hunting area was in the back of our farm—an area that bordered our neighbor and was overgrown with grass, weeds, briars and brush piles. The two Labs lead out nosing around the brush piles and briar patches. From time to time we could hear something take out through the grass and weeds but we didn’t flush any birds.

Around 10 o’clock, we’d covered the back of our farm and crossed over to our neighbor’s side. He had bulldozed a couple of acres free of trees leaving several large piles. A couple of times a year he’d burn them and clear a few more acres. These brush piles were the equivalent of a multi-story apartment giving shelter to various kinds of critters from Quail up to deer and an occasional feral hog.

Dick and I approached one. We sent the dogs ahead—one to the right and the other to the left. Dick approached the brush pile on the right and would shoot center to the right. I would shoot center to the left. The dogs sniffed up to the pile, something was hiding inside. We were stepping closer when the brush pile exploded!

Critters flew and ran in all directions. A covey of Quail rose in front of me scaring me half to death! I got off two shots dropping one Quail. Several rabbits took off running between us and a deer rose up in front of Dick knocking him to the side as it tried to jump over him. Dick went to his knees and jammed the barrel of his shotgun into the dirt.

I had one shotshell left in my shotgun when a second Quail covey rose. I fired and got two Quail. They must have been lined up for me to pick them off with a single shot.

Dick had gotten tangled in some old barbed wire that was mixed in with the brush and was not having a good time. He’d ripped his jacket, jammed the barrel of his shotgun, and hadn’t gotten any game. Just as he straightened up, one of the Labs ran over, got tangled up in amongst Dick’s legs and down Dick went again.

He finally gained his feet. His jeans were dirty, covered with dirt and mud. His hunting jacket was ripped from the barbed wire and his shotgun’s barrel was blocked with dirt. He’d not had a good morning. In addition to all that, he hadn’t gotten any Quail.

It was near noon by that time. I’d only brought the three shotshells in the shotgun. Dick’s shotgun wasn’t usable, so we headed back to the house. Dick spent a couple of hours cleaning his shotgun. The dirt had been jammed tight in the barrel. Mom sewed up the rips in Dick’s jacket. I got to clean three Quail. Quail are so much smaller after they’d been cleaned. Mom fried them for me for supper that night.

The next day I found a large purple bruise on my shoulder. It had been a great hunt.