New Year’s Day Hunt

Skipping the usual New Year’s eve madness I went to bed early. While everyone was out waiting for the witching hour, I was dreaming of fresh air, mountain vistas, and hopefully, a tasty dinner.

My hunting buddy had a little too much holiday cheer the night before so I found myself driving through the predawn glow alone. The ski traffic was minimal and I pulled off at my destination just north of Idaho Springs. I opened my trunk, threw on my field BOB and shouldered my new gun. I had recently purchased a Westernfield .410 single shot bolt-action and I couldn’t wait to try it out. On my hip was a H&R model 676. Like I said, a gentleman owns more than one suit.

Foothills in JanuaryI had never hunted this area so I picked my way along slowly. All the mania of the modern world melted away as I inhaled the scent of fresh snow and pine trees. The ground was covered in a light snow and the trail petered to nothing. I marched along an ever steepening draw. There was little in the way of sign but plenty of stunning views. I finally picked up the trail of a deer and followed along in her steps. I wasn’t looking for a deer but I couldn’t find anything else to track. I lost her spour along a steep set of boulders and withered little pines.

The morning followed that pattern. Little trail, lots of wandering. Around noon I stopped to rest and warm myself up. There wasn’t much snow here but the air was cold and gusting occasionally. I found a spot down among the boulders where I could stretch out and build a fire. I set up my SOL tarp and made a quick wind break. With the wind stopped and a fire burning it was ideal. I ate a power bar and kicked myself for not bringing more food. I had done so intentionally as motivation to hunt something up for lunch. A small reminder of why we hunt. It’s not to kill. It’s to be tied, body and soul, to the natural world around us. This silly maneuver had failed to settle my appetite.

Making tea in the snow

After some tea and a nap I broke camp. A light snow began to flurry so I turned back for the two hour march to my car. I was a little nervous because the weather at 7,500 feet can be tricky this time of year. I wasn’t doing much hunting and instead was focusing on self extrication lest the snow turn bad. I burst into a little clump of stumpy doug firs and found about a dozen drey’s. The weather wasn’t bad yet so I stopped to look around. No movement, no chatter. I tried every trick I could think of; throwing a rock up into the branches, firing a round off from my pistol, calling them. Nothing worked. I figured the drey’s were either old and abandoned or the weather was too foul for them to come out. I managed to find a set of squirrel tracks some distance from the dreys. I followed them around for bit but still had no luck.

.22 LR case for comparison

.22 LR case for comparison

The snow became heavier so I really started moving. The first hunt of the year was a bust. No matter, I’d rather go home empty than spend the night in a snow cave. Well actually, I wouldn’t mind spending the night in a snow cave but the wife and I had dinner reservations so I thought better of it. I hiked the last hour out and was a few hundred feet from the car. At the bottom of the draw was a big cliff about 30 feet high. The trail led to the bottom of it before veering off to the parking lot. The snow had stopped for a moment and a bright sun illuminated the cliff. As if a sign from the heavens, an explosion of wings emerged from a ledge on the cliff and a dozen rock doves flew into the sky. I froze as they circled up back around. They landed on the open flat space at the base of the cliff to feed during the brief break from the snow. I was still back in the trees and they had no idea I was there. The Westernfield had no magazine so I grabbed more shells from my pocket and held them between my teeth. Creeping to the edge of the clearing I waited for them to bunch up a little. I put a bead halfway between two feeders and squeezed the trigger. The gun popped and they balled up in a halo of feathers. The whole group started to rise in a confusion of flapping wings. I had a live shell in the chamber before the spent one hit the ground. Bang! A third dove dropped to the ground. By now they weren’t disorganized and had flown up together about twenty feet. They got another twenty feet of height and were quartering around to me before I could get another round off. I hit the fourth dove square in the chest before the rest got away. Now the year was off to a proper start.

Rock Doves-Richard Hammack

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Five Great Products from Media Day at the Range

The 2014 SHOT Show started with a bang. Actually lot’s of bangs. I went to the Media Day at the Range to see what great new gear is coming out this year. I was definately impressed. So now, in no particular order, are five great products from this year’s Media Day.

 

Winchester Long Beard XROLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s something that will definately drop the hammer on some gobblers. The Winchester Shot Lok XR looks like a normal shot shell from the outside but inside is something revolutionary.

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In a traditional shot shell, there are lots of little spaces between the pellets. When force is applied to the shot column, the pellets at the bottom are moving faster than the pellets at the top. This causes them to move into the empty spaces and deform. Deformed pellets won’t fly straight and decrease how many land on target. With the Winchester Shot Lok, that’s no longer a problem. They fill the entire shot column with a resin so force is evenly distributed throughout. This prevents the pellets from defroming. With less deformed pellets you can put more metal down range and more meat on the table.

 

Beretta Pico

Beretta Pico

This is a little gun with a big punch. The Beretta Pico is chambered in .380 and fits in the palm of your hand. Everything is designed for ease of carry, right down to the magazine release hidden in the trigger guard. That way nothing catches when you’re drawing the pistol and you won’t accidently drop the mag when you hold it. The sight picture is clear and re-aligns quickly for follow up shots. I’ve been carrying the Ruger LC9 but I might have something new to consider.

 

Redring Shotgun Sight

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When I first saw this I was skeptical. Could a laser sight on your shotgun really make a difference? Ask the pile of busted clays in front of the Redring booth and you’ll get your answer. This sight affixes to any standard shotgun rib without special tools and will improve your accuracy dramatically. It’s parallax free so you can keep both eyes open as you bring the barrel on target. It’s so smooth even my middling shotgun skills were approaching a 99% hit rate.

 

Kriss Vector Series

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What can I say? These guns are AMAZING! The Kriss system directs the force of the recoil down instead of straight back at the shooter. Not only does this reduce felt recoil, it reduces muzzle rise dramatically. I dumped an entire mag on full auto and saw almost no muzzle rise. It’s chambered in .45 ACP but it feels like you’re shooting a BB gun. Not only that but these guns just look cool. I also had the opportunity to put some rounds down range with the Sphinx series of handguns. Part of the Kriss group, Sphinx are a series of handguns that deliver the same Swiss reliability and performance of the Kriss long guns. While lacking the magical recoil diverting technology of the Kriss, Sphinx pistols only rise vertically. No angled blowback to fight with while re-aquiring the sight picture. The gun goes bang, goes straight up, and then easily settles right back down. Truely an amazing family of firearms.

 

17 Winchester Super Magnum

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Another great line of ammo from Winchester. The .17 Super Mag scoots along between 2,600 and 3,000 fps depending on the grain. That’s enough speed to give Mr. Coyote a headache or completely evoporate a praire dog. I was shooting the 25 gr polymer tip rounds and putting tight groups down range. For those of you dreaming of a pickup truck, a spotlight, and dusk are all you need for a weekend of fun then this is the ammo for you.

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Stay tuned for more updates about all the great new stuff coming out at this year’s ShotShow.

-Richard Hammack

The Vigorous Chase Marches On!

Hello,

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The Vigorous Chase is now contributing content to Handy Survival Blog.

Check out my article on the shotgun as a survival weapon of choice.

Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to read quality content here on an almost weekly basis.

-Richard Hammack

A Gentleman Owns More Than One Suit

Go google “best gun for survival” and as of today you get 30,600,000 returns. The argument goes something like this…

GunGuy1:”The best gun in the entire world is x”

GunGuy2: makes valid point about gun x that it may not be the best but is still a good gun:

GunGuy1:”WHat ar you Hitlers! you must be retard or SOmething!!!1!!11!!”

This conversation goes back and forth for way to long.

I do not believe in the best of anything. Can you imagine the best screwdriver? A gun is a tool. It is a very specific tool with millions of permutations. There is no such gun that is perfect for everything. Let’s look at different guns and see what they have to offer.

Hunting Rifle:

When you really want to reach out and touch something, this is what you want. In a prolonged disaster situation, food becomes a priority. A .30-06 or 7mm bolt action with a scope will bring home dinner. Lighter calibers like the .30-30 offer similar game getting capabilities but with less recoil. A lever action .30-30 would offer the advantage of quick shooting in a defensive situation. Hitting game at 300 yards and hitting people at 300 yards are two different stories. Defending a house in an urban setting would be an area the hunting rifle may fall short. A situation that requires you to shelter in place and defend your home from multiple aggressors would require faster shooting and lighter loads. An advantage of hunting rifles is the popularity of the cartridge. In a prolonged disaster situation ammunition stocks may run low. The popularity of these cartridges in North America would increase your odds of coming across more should your own supplies dwindle.

Assault Rifle:

Everybody loves machine guns. It’s a fact. Britain conquered the world  using single shot muzzle loading muskets. I remember watching Zulu Dawn and thinking, “If the redcoats had some AK’s that would have been way easier.” This exposition will only cover two rifles: the AK and the AR. Please don’t get sad that I don’t cover your favorite assault rifle. This is to discuss two very popular rifles in America right now. The AK-47 is the most used assault rifle on the planet. It has fought in conflicts of every imaginable terrain, climate, and scale and repeatedly proved its worth. It’s so simple you can train an illiterate goat-herder from Central Asia to use it in 5 minutes. The 7.62 x 39 is heavy enough to drop attackers quickly and can even drop medium sized game within distance. I live in a suburban environment and envision a shelter in place scenario. When the food where I live runs out, I don’t need to be shooting anything beyond 100 yards. I’ll be dealing with looters or foragers. I want a nice, reliable, fast gun that will keep my home protected. A drawback to the AK vs the AR is the range. Sure, you can make it into a Druganov clone to increase the accuracy but the load is too light to take anything bigger than mule deer. The AR (and its descendents) is an exceptional rifle that offers the rapid fire needed in a close quarter urban environment. The low muzzle velocity and high energy create startling wound profiles on game and hostiles alike. The AR has been fielded in multiple environments and come up shy on just one facet, reliability. AR’s are built with extremely tight tolerances. These tolerances allow the AR to put rounds on target well past 700 yards. This also proves to be its downfall when operating in dirty, grimy conditions. Jamming in the middle of a gunfight sounds like no fun. If you found an AR and an AK in a mud puddle filled with sand you have two options. Pick up the AR, field strip it, clean every nook and cranny and hope it works. Or you could pick up the AK, urinate in the action, cycle it a few times and be ready to party. A definite advantage of the AR over the AK is its modularity. I’ve heard it called Barbie for boys. Every imaginable pistol grip, stock, magazine, scope, and doo dad can be mounted on the AR to fit the owners needs. An AR also has the advantage of using the 5.56 NATO round. This could be an advantage if the disaster takes the shape of some blue bonnets coming over our hills.

Shotgun:

It takes big game. It takes small game. It takes birds. It takes aggressors without even aiming. The shotgun is definitely a tool I want to have if the SHTF. The same gun can be used for multiple purposes depending on the ammunition. Light loads for the daily small game and birds it would take to maintain calories, slugs for the occasional big game. I would argue pump over auto for simplicity sake. I can fix my Remington 870 Express but my brother’s Benelli is like a rubix cube. Even if you get stuck with a basement full of cheap target loads you can make cut shells. The shotgun may be great for all sorts of situations but its range may leave something to be desired. Anything beyond 100 yards will merely be irritated by the noise of the gun and remain injury free.

Black Powder:

Hear me out. My Model 1851 Confederate Navy .44 is deadly. I take squirrel and rabbit with it easily. I can use up black powder on small game before dipping into any “real” ammo. It’s a cheap and easy way to prolong the home magazine. What about caps? Those will run out before the powder surely?. To that I say Ha! Flintlock! And I also say don’t call me Shirley. Our forefathers defeated the largest army in the world using flintlocks. The Zulu’s may have smashed the British at Islandlwana but we started the tradition of whipping her majesty’s soldiers way before they did.

Handguns:

100% necessary. A large caliber handgun such as the .44 magnum or a Desert Eagle .50 will easily take large animals within range. A handgun is also essential when it comes to self-defense. The abundance of handgun ammunition will ensure supplies last if the SHTF. Handguns do not have anything near the power or range of the other guns listed here. A handgun is certainly something you want to have in the toolkit if things get ugly. I would again argue revolver over automatic for simplicity. The revolver certainly falls short in the capacity department when compared to semi-autos.

So what are we going to do? There are several things at play here but for me a chief concern is price. My Scottish blood turns to ice when I look at the prices of guns and ammunition. The reason I’m such an AK fanboy has two reasons, durability and price. I may be planning for the apocalypse but I still have bills to pay right now. An AK-47 in America should cost $400 with two magazines and a cleaning kit, new in cosmoline. An AR will be double that. For a rifle you can get a .30-06 bolt action for $200 (minus scope). How about a Nagant? You can equip your whole family with the same rifle Simo Häyhä used for $600! A shotgun will run anywhere from $80 for a single shot .410 up into the $300’s for a good pump action. What about the price of ammo? Shotgun shells can be accumulated in larger amounts for a lower price than rifle ammo. Consider the cost saving of having your weapons be of a uniform caliber. Think pistol caliber rifles combined with handguns of the same caliber. A .40 carbine with a .40 on your hip will provide several methods to eat food and deter people with ill intent. Black powder is crazy cheap. You can melt down anything metal for bullets and shoot for eons. If you want to get creative you can even make black powder from scavenged resources.

So what then is the best gun to have if things got really, really, bad?If you haven’t seen the light yet let me help you. If you got through the first paragraph and said ‘tldr’ here’s a picture instead of words.

a tool for every purpose

-Richard Hammack