Hemingway’s Guns– new edition

Silvio Calabi and Co. hav come out with a new ed of the already- good Hemingways’s Guns that adds the Cuban guns from the Finca Vigia (a uniformly ruined unshootable lot BTW) to the already good scholarship of the first volume. Two things are  particularly notable. First, most American rich folks back then shot good versions of the same guns as their less well- off contemporaries, not aristocrats’ or Best guns. Hem shot a Model 12, some 21’s, a Springfield, many Winchesters, and a humpback Browning; so did my father, and I have owned them all. The only real “Best” he ever owned was the Westley .577, and he disliked shooting it.

And though Patrick H debunked it long ago as a myth propagated by “Miss Mary” (I believe): Hemingway not only didn’t shoot himself with a Boss; he never owned a London Best shotgun! Calabi has done real detective work here, finding the remnants of the W & C Scott lock from the fatal gun.

For all fans of Hem and guns, (except perhaps those put off by the NYRB article that called the book “sick fetishism”– !)

And on another gun matter, congratulations to reader Phil Yearout, who just got published in Shooting Sportsman!

PS : Pauline shot a Darne 28!

John takes off

Our favorite gun geek John Besse left for his summer home on a tributary of the Snake in Idaho in the middle of the night so nobody  would make a fuss. I wasn’t too surprised.

Here he is with his latest project, a restored M99 Savage in the uncommon  “250- 3000” caliber.

He is partial to my favorite retriever, the ever – quirky Chesapeake, and has two: grumpy middle- aged Willie and young goofy Andy.

This M 92 isn’t quite done yet. It had a surface as pitted as the moon’s .

 Now look-as smooth as velvet, but with all its edges…

The Gun Kids take a Road Trip

..To Cody.

Nathaniel Fitch and Arthur Wilderson with Cody curator  Ashley Hlebinsky. Arthur writes:

“We took this picture in one of the basement vaults-within-a-vault at the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West in Cody, WY.  Nathaniel managed to get us in with a few phone calls.  The lady in front is Ashley Hlebinsky, the curator of the firearms wing of the museum.

The museum has the entire original Winchester-Olin collection, plus quite a bit more that it has acquired or that has been donated to it over time.

The rifle I have is a later model of EM-2, a British rifle design from the early 1950s intended to replace the old SMLE.  This design was unsuccessful, and the British ultimately adopted the Belgian FAL design (which was called the SLR in British service).  Early EM-2s were made in a .280 caliber, but this later one is in .308 Win/7.62x51mm NATO.  The design was innovative, but in my opinion too fragile and very poorly suited to mass production.  As a British design, I am not quite sure how this particular example ended up at the museum.

Nathaniel is holding a Winchester SPIW prototype.  The Special Purpose Individual Weapon program was an attempt to replace the M14 with an extremely ambitious combined rifle and grenade launcher.  It was initially championed by Robert McNamara.  In addition, the rifle was to fire flechettes, little fin-stabilized darts, instead of conventional bullets.  In the meantime, the AR-15/M16 was acquired (by rather complicated, torturous path) as a stop-gap.  McNamara greatly disliked the M14, which had been suffering quite a few budget and production problems of its own.  In the end, SPIW failed to materialize and the US military kept the M16.

Ashley is holding the Winchester Liberator shotgun.  This was an idea for a derringer-type multi barrel shotgun that could be given to insurgent forces.  The reasoning was that someone with no firearms training whatsoever was more likely to inflict damage with a fast-firing shotgun than with a pistol or submachine gun.  In addition the design was fabulously cheap to make, and great loads of them could be made without serial numbers and delivered to, say, Hmongs or something.  Without any manufacturers markings it would be difficult to prove that these primitive weapons had come from the USA.  By the time the design was perfected, however, the Vietnam War had really heated up and there was no point trying to hide the delivery of weapons to US allies.”

They always find SOMETHING original..

Lever Gun Legacy

People from cities who hunt once a year think they must have he latest flat- shooting magnum to achieve success. So, often they miss because of an unexpected flinch, or end up destroying meat. Third gen ranchers like Miles City’s John L Moore (well, that is the nearest TOWN) know better:

“My dad was a phenomenal shot with the old .30-30 that was in the Krutt shack when he bought this place. My Uncle Dan told me he could shoot the heads of ducks swimming out in the middle of a reservoir. When I was 10-years-old I got an Ithaca Model 49 saddle gun, a single-shot .22 falling block with a scabbard. I thought it was the greatest present ever. Joe and Jeff Peila were at that birthday present and wow, was Jeff ever mad and jealous about that! Now, more than 54 years later, grandkids David and Selah gave it a try. Don’t miss the classic photo of my dad with an antelope…”

Here it is, John:

And the kids:

John is also a lay preacher with a sense of humor- a rare breed in my neighborhoods.He once sent me this:

UPDATE: John reminds me that Midnight, the fine horse documentary he was involved with, is available on Amazon here. It is getting five stars from everyone…

Got it!

The Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” automatic pistol– if anything I own is “iconic”, it is.

I have wanted one for many years. I will add Arthur Wilderson’s excellent short essay when he sends it, but it was the gun of Churchill at Omdurman and Lawrence of Arabia; Walter “Karamojo” Bell supposedly shot down a German fighter with one in WWI; the great Indian ornithologist Salim Ali, referred to affectionately by his friend Meinertzgagen as”you treasonous little Wog”, had one, as well as a 20 bore Jeffery shotgun bought by his wife, a Mannlicher Schoenauer carbine like mine, and various bolt- action Mausers (and, unusually, Winchesters!)

Ali shooting swallow specimens in the 50’s with his Jefferey

Various versions, including the shorter barreled “Bolo” (for Bolshevik), were used by both sides up and down the Trans- Siberian Railway in the Russian Civil War, and Chinese bandits and government troops both favored them  in .45 ACP, to match their American Tommy guns, which led to the destruction of many in the Cultural Revolution of 1968, for possessing a “bourgeois caliber.” You can’t make it up..

They were also used by two favorite fictional protagonists, Charles Dennim in Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows, and Jane Doe in Michael Gruber’s Tropic of Night.

I was in Ron Peterson’s guns for other business when I beheld a clean Broomhandle on the table in front of my friend Mel Merritt, the manager.  I am afraid I behaved badly– I swooped down on the young customer, who was comparing one to a Luger, and said “THAT one is MINE!” Mel looked injured, saying only “I thought you already found one!”

Luckily the kid didn’t have any historical interest, and I ended up with it and all the bells & whistles– a holster/ shoulder stock made of walnut, a pigskin shoulder holster, a set of stripper clips– all for less than any I had seen on the Internet. It is a “Red Nine”, so called not because of any revolutionary associations but because of the big red “9” burned into its side to denote its caliber, the still- popular 9 mm Luger.

That is it on the right of course, beside my S & W  .38 and my Hi-Standard target and rabbit .22.

Everyone has been worried by my absence. I had a tough few weeks with the implant, but it IS a learning process, and my latest setting is the best yet. Unfortunately, I felt so good today that I cleaned out two year’s worth of detritus from the yard, leaving me utterly exhausted. This is all for tonight; I won’t even add links til later. But later this week: new book reviews, a new coursing book, more Beebe, Microraptor, Phillott on falconry; more and worse…

And here is Arthur:

“The Mauser C 96 was not the first automatic pistol, but it was basically the first that worked well.   Its predecessors were curiosities and toys.   It emerged in the last days of the  belle epoque; that last, glorious sunset of European civilization before the blood dimmed tide and mere anarchy were loosed.   As such, it was the sidearm of choice for the roguish heroes and heroic rogues of the era; Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, and Chinese warlords all favored the type.   In that strange, bygone era officers were socially stratified gentry and bought their own weapons.   Very few nations officially adopted the Mauser pistol, but many of their armys’ officers bought them on their own initiative.

“I have spoken to a number of gunsmiths, industry officials and machinists about making reproductions of these things.   A century and change of advances in manufacturing, and these sorts of weapons would be thousands of dollars per piece.   The entire structure of economics, and the price of skilled machinists at the time was incomprehensibly different.

 “Men worked in satanic mills to make the steel billet that would be painstakingly whittled and hand-fitted to form these beautiful, utterly decadent weapons.   A modern combat handgun is completely soulless and utilitarian by comparison.   It is truly an artifact of Hesiod’s golden age.   It’s like a pair of marching boots with gold trim.   Putting that much personal effort, especially into a weapon as unimportant as a handgun, is unthinkable today.

“Our culture is a descendant of theirs, but in some ways it’s unrecognizable.   Wittgenstein said that if a lion could talk, we could not understand him.   Sometimes I think the same is true of the Edwardians.   Their children roamed with incomprehensible freedom.   They lived in cultures with incomprehensible levels of social stratification and thought it (generally) normal, just and natural.   Our science would have few secrets with which to shock them; Einstein’s General Relativity is a hundred years old now!   And yet their medicine barely worked…”

A little on 4 Bores

We know little about the “ten- plus” bores in America, but in England they still build them. The always- innovative Michael Louca of Watson brothers builds them as Best- quality sidelock ejectors– not just for collectors either, though he admits his over twenty pound, 42 inch plus barrel model is mostly a collectors item. He prefers the eighteen pound “light” model for wildfowling. At 49,000 pounds, they are actually what passes as a modestly priced Best– Boss game guns go for twice that much.

Building the four…

And shooting it:

A bit more on Watson here and below.

Pedersen Rifle

But for  the preferences of General MacArthur and a big supply of WWI Springfields, we might have had a more elegant, if complicated, rifle for WWII than the Garand. Nathaniel F, gunblogger, scholar, and expert on military weapons and their history, first showed me a cartridge for the legendary Pedersen when he visited with Arthur last year.  They brought lots of odd long guns, and posed with us in our library.

Now there is a YouTube of shooting the Pedersen, with Nate providing some info and perspective.

Malcolm dissents

Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses and a capital- F Friend of Q, was so appalled by an Adam Gopnik anti- gun rant in the New Yorker that he wrote the furious and sometimes even funny riposte below.

Turns out he was “baited” with an old essay, but the truth remains. Apparently no one at the NYRKR has yet realized that not only is Gopnik’s statement that it is almost impossible to own a gun in Canada wrong (or as we say, a “lie”), but Canada’s only move on guns in recent years was to abandon its flawed, useless, and ruinously expensive long gun registration scheme.

There are dangers to living in a bubble; I am remembering Pauline Kael’s statement that Nixon must have stolen the election because nobody she knew had voted for him.

In Berkeley.


 I don’t regard myself to be on “the right,” whatever that means in this Fantasia of a current political climate, but I own a pile of guns and have been shooting and hunting with them since childhood. True, certain European countries have stringent gun laws, and some or possibly all of them likely have lower homicide rates than our own experiment-in-progress. On the other hand, it’s not “impossible” to own a gun in Scotland, which still ushers in the Glorious Twelfth in traditional fashion with a lot of booming double-guns and dead grouse in the heather. Meanwhile, following the Velvet Revolution the Czech Republic quickly moved to reverse draconian Soviet regulations designed to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who might pose a threat to the regime, and Czechs are currently about as armed to the teeth as the Swiss, with similarly little trouble. America is a unique situation, with a degree of class and racial and regional diversity that might be described as unprecedented in the history of the world. Frankly, for a heterogeneous, even polyglot nation of 300 million with an estimated one gun per person, it’s somewhat astonishing that gun violence is as rare as it is on a per capita basis, despite the best efforts of a sensationalizing media to portray statistically rare (if undeniably tragic) mass shooting events as some sort of social pandemic. As far as straight gun homicides go, the vast majority are demonstrably related to black market drug trafficking, which itself is a product of foolish, draconian, and totally paternalistic state policy rife with corruption at every level and probably knowingly engineered to prop up excessively militarized domestic law enforcement departments, privatized penal institutions, and for all I know the GDP of Mexico. Don’t even get me going on Big Pharma and whatever barrage of untested drugs-du-jour it wants to ram down the throats of Americans at the earliest possible age, except to say I’d far rather see both legal and illegal drug policy reform than squads of the aforementioned LEO’s coming around to confiscate the guns of American citizens, be they Bobby Seale, Dennis Banks, the Pink Pistols, or myself. And frankly, essays and punditry such as the above, in which some air-conditioned wonk blathers on about sixty or so million American gun owners as though their collective character is somehow flawed, retrograde, inbred, gap-toothed, or otherwise unevolved enough EVEN TO NOTICE THE BLATHER, let alone have a change of heart and whistle kumbaya whilst agreeably handing over the artifacts of their own enthusiasms, are about as insulting as it gets. Let’s not forget that we are talking about people who keep the electrical grid up and the toilets flushing and the trash hauled off and the food magically appearing in the grocery store; stop having this conversation as though it’s solely the purview of a self-congratulatory intellectual class, because that isn’t what stands to have its pastimes and ways of life criminalized. And honestly, I’d love to see one-fiftieth the ire out of the left over Snowden’s current straits as it seems endlessly to have over legally owned firearms in a free nation. So basically, this: if you or Adam Gopnik or Barack Obama want my prized 1924 Mannlicher-Schoenauer, or the 1955 Czech BRNO my son shot his first two elk with, or anything else in the safe, you are all welcome to go purchase your own. You can’t have mine. Get the picture?

Steve again: one more thing I have always wondered about: since most military people and cops I know are firmly pro- gun, just who is going to take our guns away?