Too Much Gun?

This goes back to an Alaska Dept of Fish and Game survey from 2000, ranking the most popular rifle cartridges.


Cartridge # of Hunters %
.30-06 387 20.9
.300 Win. Mag. 342 18.5
.338 Win. Mag. 339 18.4
7mm Rem. Mag. 157 8.5
.375 H&H Mag. 116 6.3
.270 Win. 108 5.8
.308 Win. 65 3.5
.300 Weath. Mag. 64 3.5
45-70 Gov. 25 1.4
.280 Rem. 20 1.1

To confirm his theory that too much gun frequently results in too little practice, Lee Rogers conducted a short study on hunters' ability to shoot their rifles from hunting positions at game-sized targets. During the summer of 1999, Lee asked more than 80 hunters to chronograph their hunting loads to determine the actual velocity. Hunters sighted in their rifles under Lee's expert supervision on a secure, stable bench rest.

After sighting in, hunters were asked to shoot three shots at the vital, heart-lung zone of a full-sized moose silhouette, standing broadside at a distance of 100 yards. The individuals in the study averaged 19 years of hunting experience.

Lee Rogers said that 46 percent of hunters placed all three shots in the 16-inch by 24-inch vital zone. Twenty-eight percent of all shots taken would have wounded rather than immediately killed the moose. Most of the wounding shots are, in the opinion of Rogers, the result of too much gun and too little practice from the basic hunting positions of sitting, kneeling, and off-hand. Only about one out of ten hunters practices shooting from these hunting positions after sighting in their rifle, according to rangemaster Rogers.

Yes, this is not a typo: most hunters in this little study by Lee Rogers could not put three shots into the massive kill zone of a moose at just 100 yards. Are you surprised?

The point of citing this is not to condemn Alaskan hunters or any hunters or shooters at all, for it is a small sampling from fifteen years ago. The purpose is to pose a question that hunters with all firearms and all carriers of self-defense firearms might be able to benefit from: is your gun enjoyable enough to shoot that you can't wait to shoot it, or something you dread? If you don't enjoy shooting it, it is strong built-in deterrent to practicing with it and anyone who doesn't practice won't be as proficient as they otherwise would be. While practice does not always make perfect, good practice makes for marketed improvement.

Years ago, I sure did spend a lot of time at the range with a .338 WinMag. At the end of the day I was invariably bruised up and broke. It didn't take long for me to stop the pursuit of the flinch I'd always wanted, and stick with .270 Winchesters that have taken moose, caribou, red hartebeest, and blue wildebeest, etc., to past 435 yards in some cases. Seventy-five years ago, Col. Townsend Whelen summed it all up nicely: “The killing power of a bullet in flight depends entirely upon the average size of the wound it makes in the animal, and upon nothing else.” That is, of course, presuming the wound is to a truly vital area, not nicking a hoof or other such nonsense.

To the extent a hunting firearm allows you to more accurately place a bullet, a moderate-recoiling firearm may well be far more effective than one that is a real pantload to shoot. The same is true with self-defense handguns, where the goal is not to kill, the goal is to halt an attack as a last resort. Certainly, a .44 RemMag is a more effective hunting round out of a handgun than any 9mm, ,40 S&W, and so forth. Hunting is not the application, though, defense of self and others at very close ranges is. A .22 WinMag with the latest, vastly improved ammunition may well be a more effective choice than a .475 Wildey for most folks despite the Charles Bronson's gush that “Wildey's here.”

The minimalist approach to hunting is not one I subscribe to. Most will understand that just because it can be done hardly makes it reasonable, ethical, or whatever other terms you would like to attach to it. A .223 Remington is no big game cartridge, nor is the strange attempt at a .357 air rifle such as the “Benjamin .357 Bulldog.” Call it sad, call it a sideshow, call it a stunt . . . I call it disrespectful to what we hunt. Even in the case of things that get labeled as varmints, we do have a duty to be quick and efficient about it. If it takes more than one shot, or more than a couple of seconds, there is decidedly room for improvement.

There is a bewildering amount of choices out there. A quick look at Federal Ammunition reveals no less than 151 different loads for “medium game” with bullet weights from 55 grains to 300 grains and every conceivable increment in-between. While I'm certain that a .338 WinMag with a 225 grain “Fusion” bullet will take a buck looking at you at 75 yards, it is hard to take this type of thing seriously, as well as a 55 grain .22-250 Fusion bullet being somehow ideal for the task.

The best choices have one thing in common: they are boringly good. They boringly don't break scopes, they boringly do not punish your shoulder, face, or forehead, they boringly don't need muzzle breaks or other hearing destruction devices, they boringly do not care if your animal is at 50 yards or 350 yards, and they are boringly pleasant to sight in and practice with.

That's my kind of hunting gear: bristling of boring reliability, boringly good accuracy, boring in handling and operation, and boringly mild and good manners. That type of boredom invariably enhances the hunt by not interfering with it. I shook off the evil, invasive magnumitis virus years ago. Although I was perhaps a slow learner, others need not walk that same dark, dank, painful path that I did.


Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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