Shotgun Magnumitis: An Incurable but Controllable Affliction

No firearm is immune from it, no hunting or shooting sport can claim it has never been scathed by it. The infectious disease, for which there is no known cure, is “Magnumitis.” It is brought about by boredom, interesting but wishful-thinking ad campaigns, and the old keeping up with the Joneses type thinking. The gut-wrenching horror of magnumitis will always be with us, I'm afraid. It has happened with rifles, with pistols, with muzzleloaders, and shotguns are hardly immune from its evil grasp.

Though “magnum” means large, we just like the way it sounds, even if it is puny. Short magnums are a lot like the jumbo shrimp George Carlin has fun with, either big little one or a little big one. It can be hard to tell the difference. It is helped along a bit by the old pithy sayings like, “Bring enough gun.” It makes no particular sense, it doesn't have to, just like those that are awestruck with the shocking wisdom of the saying, “Beware The Man With One Gun.” The man with one gun is not the fellow that is likely to be an accomplished dove hunter and a varmint hunter as well, but that doesn't change the false profundity of the attempted witticism.

Sometimes, some of the better things in life are boring. Boringly reliable, boringly easy to use, boringly satisfying. Boringly drama-free. There is a lot to be said for the boring shotgun. Once we get the equipment fixation out of our heads, we can enjoy the day, enjoy the hunt, enjoy all the other things surrounding us rather than equipment obsession. Jack O'Connor delighted in poking fun at himself, his wife, and others. Jack noted that humans are quivering blobs of protoplasm, often twisted up with jittery nerves, ego, embarrassment, self-doubt, and perpetual indecision.

Jack's observations were more right than wrong. Shotgunners obsess over the most inane, trivial things. We talk of numbers of shotguns sold, as if that means anything of substance. They've sold a lot of MacDonald's hamburgers as well, but how many truly good and memorable ones? Though most don't think of MacDonald's as a high quality restaurant with high-quality food, a lot of that stuff seems to get caught in people's mouths.

We obsess over recoil, though it is largely a fruitless endeavor. I couldn't possibly care less what someone else's idea of recoil is, nor should you. It is a lot like “room temperature.” No matter how hot or how cold a room gets, it is still room temperature. There is temperature, then there is “felt” or “perceived temperature.” While one person might consider an 85 degree day just perfect, the next fellow might consider it unbearably hot both for himself and for the dog. Yet, it is still 85 degrees. Some might feel a 60 degree day is chilly, others of course feel it is just ideal. It is still 60 degrees. Nothing has changes at all from person to person except their impression of it. A lot depends on what you are doing at the time and how long you are doing it. Recoil either causes discomfort and affects your shooting, or it does not. Only you can be the judge of how comfortable something is, for you. Why would we ask others how well their shoes feel or fit for them? Yet, we constantly seek answers to questions that no one can answer nearly as well as we can for ourselves.

Next time you're having dessert at your favorite restaurant, ask your waiter (or the pasty chef) who the “shotgun world champion is?” You'll get a deer in the headlight response, as there isn't such a thing. Only those a bit more competitive than they should be would think that an equipment choice is the difference. It never has been, in any sport, it is always who uses it. We can't seem to come to grips with that simple truth.

So, it is with magnumitis. After untold millions of doves, pheasants, turkey, quail, rabbits, clay pigeons, etc., etc., taken every year, you might think it would be pathetically simple to understand what reasonable and usually, reasonably boring choices are. Boringly good, boringly predictable, boringly effective. We don't get it, though, which should be no surprise to deer hunters millions of whitetail later still decisionally challenged about how to kill a deer with a bullet. Wingshooting is no less immune.

We always want what we can't have. We want superbly crafted guns at Cheap Charlie prices. We want great shells and choke tubes at fire sale prices as well, but we really know that the better products doesn't usually come with the lowest price. The Earl Scheib paint job was never the best. Fans of Mr. “Any Car, Any Color” will note that Earl Scheib, Inc., ceased nationwide operations on July 16, 2010 with some sense of sadness or perhaps unrestrained joy.

The 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge is the current pet rock of wingshooting. The lightweight 3-1/2 in. 12 gauge is even worse. The whole notion is the opposite of being aware of range, pellet mass, pattern density, and well-reasoned shots. Like the saying goes, if you can't do it with a .30-06, you probably just can't do it. If we can't do it with a 3 inch 12 gauge shell, well . . . either we can't do it, or likely shouldn't be doing it. It has always been the mark of a seasoned, veteran hunter to know that when to not take the shot is as important as understanding when to take the shot. We don't like hearing it, but for every missed or crippled bird there is an error in judgment. We can hardly blame it on the bird. As far as a miss being somehow “better” than a cripple, that doesn't withstand any scrutiny. Both situations equally illuminate poor judgment.

That, as cited by O'Connor and others defines sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is not about the hunter, it never has been. Sportsmanship is about the game. Sportsmanship is doing a quick, clean job taking our game, not about flattering ourselves. Too soon we grow old, too late we get smart.

I'll end the magnumitis missive with a true story, a story of a veteran waterfowler being constantly regaled by the 100 yard shots of BB steel loads out of a 3-1/2 in. “Super Magnum” 12 gauge that dropped geese like rain. Having listened to this more times than he cared to endure, this old veteran waterfowler finally had enough. “Alright, kids, here's the deal. I want you to shoot me. That's right, shoot me!”

The old hunter donned his canvas jacket, marched off a laser-verified 100 yards, and instructed what he referred to as the “youngsters.” “Alright, I'm going to turn my back and when I blow my whistle, shoot me. Got it? Shoot me! Empty those guns, throw those damn 3-1/2 in. steel BB's right at me. Got it?” The whistle blew. Three shots of 1-1/2 oz. 1500 fps steel, 12 gauge 3-1/2 in. BB loads were let go right at the old hunter.

Not a mark on the old hunter, not a tear in his jacket. No surprise, either, as this veteran waterfowler knew darn well that at 100 yards, those steel BB's were going about 425 fps-- or 200 fps less velocity than you'd get out of a twenty-five dollar Crosman 760 Pumpmaster air rifle with heavier, far more destructive lead BB's. At 100 yards, they won't kill canvas, they won't severely wound a good quality tent. This, of course, is not a recommended practice. It is a long way to go to prove a point, but this experienced waterfowler from Arkansas felt he needed to.

Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.





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