Monday, April 26, 2010

A Blast From The Past

This morning I stumbled across a blast from my past. When I was little The Rifleman was my all time favorite TV show. I was five when I found one of the rifles from Hubley under the tree Christmas morning. I know there were other gifts that year but I couldn't tell you what they were.

My folks thought it was cute when the Rifleman rifle replaced my teddy bear for what I slept with. My wife insist it warped me for live. In my defence these days it's a 1917 Colt under my pillow rather than any of the 1894's.

This Hubley rifle was my constant (away from school) companion for four years before my younger brother accidently broke the stock off. After several attempts to repair it my Dad finally convinced me it was a lost cause. It disappeared a few days later to my horror.

Some things you never forget.

A couple of years ago I was asked at a writers conference about the rifle Chuck Conners carried as the rifleman. What kind was it?
In the day I had thought it was a Winchester 1894 30-30 like my Dad's. I had since learned it was a Winchester 1892 chambered for .44-40.

How did he get it to fire so fast? There was a set screw set in the lever that would press the trigger as the action was closed. This made the weapon an accident waiting to happen. When the action was opened it was difficult to not fire it. The best bet is to fire out the magazine.

"How did you learn all this stuff" the folks in my weapons program asked?

Come on folks! You never forget your first love.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Reliable were Pinfire Cartridges

I have a change of pace for this post. Most of the time I 'hold forth' with my humble opinions. This time I need help. Just how reliable were pinfire cartridges?

I have had first hand experience with flintlock and cap lock weapons. When a writer or history buff asked me about these I can speak as someone who has fired them for years - or attempted to - in all kinds of weather. Over the last year or so Hangman and I have been making friends with a matchlock.

I have no experience with pinfire cartridges.

To the best of my knowledge I know no one who has.

I know the theory, I'm just not sure how well they actually worked in the field. Were misfires common? Did they store or travel well?

I'm hoping someone out there has experience with them. I would be grateful if anyone could relate experiences with this fascinating weapon system.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rifles Defending HomePlace

Last week James at Hellinahandbasket ran an interesting post on rifles for home defense. I started to respond a couple of times but soon saw I had more than a couple of paragraphs comment. So, hopefully with your blessing James, this is my take on the subject.

The Winchester 1894 in the above photograph was my fathers. He had others but this was HIS rifle. It was the first weapon I was ever schooled in self defense with.

When I was ten we lived on a remote ranch (actually a farm, but Dad called it a ranch) in the Queencity Mountain Range of Nevada. When I say remote I mean we were 50 miles from the nearest telephone. The closest neighbor was at least 10 miles away.

As I may have said before, I grew up in the time before gun safes and trigger locks. I knew where the guns were and that the fastest way I would ever meet Jesus was to be caught playing with one.

The .22 was my preferred weapon, but Dad had taught me to use his 30-30. I didn't much enjoy the recoil but it was important to Dad I 'make friends' with the bigger rifle. One afternoon after we practiced Dad said we needed to talk, which worried me. He seemed grim and I thought I was in trouble for something.

"I'm not always here," he started out. "We can't get a phone out here. If something happens when I'm not here your mother can't call anyone. Even if she could it would take half a day for anyone to get here. If someone is going to hurt your mother or sister, you're the only one that can help them."

I was shocked to realize, after years of being told to never point a gun at anyone for any reason, I was now being told when and how to turn a weapon on another person. I knew why. There had been a couple of scary episodes of folks driving up to the house unexpected. The neighbor I mentioned was really bad news. The 30-30 seemed to get heaver in my arms as we talked, and I have never looked at firearms the same way since.

Less than a year after this my father was killed in a car accident and our family returned to Texas. From then until May of 2000 I lived in Dumas, Amarillo and then Houston. Country life was weekends and vacations with family and friends.

As a rule city police officers aren't real patience with folks using firearms to defend themselves. Such incidents result in reams of paperwork. This is understandable but it never slowed me down. While living in Amarillo and Houston I drifted toward shotguns for home defense as a way of limiting range and collateral damage. Better to wipe out my stereo than punch through someone’s house half a mile away.

HomePlace definitely isn't town but we aren't nearly as isolated as the family was in the Nevada desert. Within a mile there are probably a dozen neighbors. Having said that cell phones don't work out here and the one time I have had to call the Sheriff's department they couldn't find me. Figure I'm on my own again.

Now, when it comes to home defense, our son used to paint a picture at the local watering holes of me standing in front of the rifle rack trying to remember what I hadn't shot anyone with yet. He has outgrown such things, but it did have an upside. Combined with the fact that I always carry at least a handgun on property, word got out to the 'little bad boys' that there were easier pickings elsewhere.

I used to think the best possible defense rifle would be my M-1 Garand. In Nevada that might have been the case, but as I said before, there are too many neighbors in range of the beast. So, short of a meth crazed biker gang I would probably leave it on the rack.

My first choice is usually the Winchester 1897 with a mixed load of 00 buck and slugs, or the Mossberg 590 with the same load. This will make short work of all comers, and whatever they are driving. If I have a second person to go out with me one of us would have the Winchester 1894 Trapper in .45 Colt.

Why the Trapper rather than Dad's 30-30? As James said in his article, the pistol round isn't going to go near as far as the rifle round should I miss my intended target. Every time a cartridge is fired you have to consider where the bullet is going to stop. That's true even in the dead of night dealing with prowlers and intruders.

I would list one other consideration for pump shotguns and leaver action rifles. Cycling the action of either is as close to a universal language as we are likely to ever find. A thief or intruder that hears that sound has no doubt you mean business.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Head 'em up! Move 'em out!

My family has been involved in agriculture since moving to Texas after the Civil War. Cattle have always been part of the equation. My grandparents on my fathers side always ran Herefords. Helene and I run rabbits.

I can remember driving out with Granny Burnett as a little boy to look at the new calves. When I was six it looked like there was a million. The number of pinkies we find in the nest boxes these days are tamer but just as exciting.

The rewards in rabbit ranching are smaller, but so is the outlay. Roundups and shipping to market are much different undertakings.

My grandparents would have less than a dozen hands full time. For roundups they would have a total of perhaps a fourty. Even short cattle drives when out of fashion early on as the beast could be trucked to the feedlot more efficiently. This process is at the heart of what it is to be a cowboy, but it ain't cheap.

Our "roundup" consist of collecting the weaned litters into a couple of pet carriers and loading them into the pickup. I add to that the sun canopy, folding chairs and table, ice chest and sales supplys. We bypass the feedlot and go strait to market.

Market day for us was April 03, the day before Easter. For this event we split forces. I left Helene with 16 bunnies at the Walmart in Marlin, Texas. I went back to HomePlace and picked up 10 more before going to the city Easter Egg Hunt in Bremond. At first I thought I had the wrong day. I was the only one there.

Once the kids started arriving the bunnies sold themselves. The little kids are timid at first but I will never forget the look on their faces when they discover how soft a rabbit is. The older kids, into their 70's, still get a kick out of holding them.

"$12.00 seems like a lot of money for a rabbit." I'm told.

"Perhaps," I answer. "But look at what your getting." Our rabbits are fat and healty. Their eyes are bright and they are energetic.

In a little more than an hour the bunnies were all sold. I headed back to Marlin to see how Helene was doing.

In my absents Helene had sold another 4 rabbits. Not bad considering there was another person out there selling for less. His were smaller. They were packed into a small cage and had no shade, food or water. We sold two more before we called it a day. Most of the folks saw the other guys rabbits before buying ours.

To be sure the financial rewards of selling cattel is greater but so is the investment, and potential loss. I hear lots of cattle folks talk about the loss these days.

There is another thing to consider. In the last one hundred and fifty plus years the family has collected lots of stories of men being mangled and killed by cattle.

By the same token I have never heard of anyone being gored by a rabbit. I know of no one being killed in a rabbit stampede. One of our bucks bit me late last year. He was in the freezer thirty minutes later and we had him for sunday dinner.

For us here at HomePlace, rabbit ranching is a good fit.