Rifle Sense

My Daddy gave me my first gun when was 8 or 9 years old. It was a single-shot 12 gauge shotgun that kicked the snot out of me every time I fired it. I spent a lot of time with that gun, hunting squirrels and rabbits. Mostly it was just a companion during time spent in the woods. There wasn’t much else to do in the country back in those days.

We always had guns at home, and I assume most everyone else did too. And they weren’t hidden and locked up. They hung on gun racks where they were easily accessible. That was perfectly normal and never seemed strange to me in any way.

On a farm, guns are tools. And when you need to do a task, it always helps to have the right tool.

A few years ago we were having trouble with coyotes attacking our goats and I didn’t have the right tool for the problem. I needed a varmint rifle, which is a rifle designed for shooting small game at long distances.

So I went to our local Dicks Sporting Goods (a large sporting goods store) to get one. We had a .222 when I was growing up, so that’s what I had planned to buy. But I learned that they aren’t in production anymore, the industry having transitioned to the .223 caliber.

And this is when things got weird. Dicks had plenty of .223’s. Lots of them. But instead of being the kind of varmint rifles I wanted and remembered, they were all tricked out military-style, with pistol grips and high capacity magazines. I explained to the clerk that I didn’t want or need anything like that. I just wanted a sensible bolt-action varmint rifle that could hit a coyote at long distances. As it turned out they only had one gun in the store that was suitable for me (a Remington 700), but even that one had a ridiculous camouflage paint job.

So how did it come to pass that in a rural farming community it was hard to find a basic varmint rifle, but there were GI Joe-style guns galore?

I’d wager that when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s the biggest selling long gun in America would have been a .12 gauge shotgun or maybe a .22 rifle. Today, on the other hand, the best selling long gun by far is the AR-15, which has no sensible homesteading or hunting value.

Just one more example of how separated we’ve become from our agrarian roots.

An interesting side note: I just visited the Dick’s website, as I wanted to link to their .223 options so y’all could see what I’m talking about. But despite the fact that it was just about all they had in the store the day I went, there are none of the military-style guns on the website now. It turns out that they pulled all those guns from their stores following the Sandy Hook massacre. Nevertheless, the AR-15 style rifles are still the best selling rifles in the U.S. today.

By the way, I bought the camouflaged varmint rifle that day, but I never did shoot any coyotes.

 

 

 

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18 comments on “Rifle Sense

  1. Ahh the good old days when common sense and practicality reigned…the world’s gone a little mad since then Bill. ❤
    Diana xo

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  2. shoreacres says:

    I found you a nice, 1980 bolt-action .222 here in Houston, but it’s a little pricey. It was at a place called Collectors’ Firearms. It’s a neat place to visit, as they have a lot of truly historic pieces there, including a couple that were made down the coast just before the Civil War. Somewhere, I found a photo of the brothers who owned the foundry, and who made the guns, but i can’t find the bookmark right now.

    Still, you’ve raised some good memories. All it takes is that phrase, “single shot rifle,” and I remember the one-eyed dog, and then I’m prowling YouTube for this. 🙂

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  3. avwalters says:

    My father was an army brat, and from rural Northern Michigan. He had good reason to know and use guns. We grew up with guns…and gun safety. When I was a kid, he wrote gun safety articles, and articles for training kids with gun safety, for The Rifleman, the publishing arm of the NRA. Not long after that, he fell away from them, because of their increasingly extremist views. He was pretty clear on the idea that nobody with extremist views had any business being at the business end of a firearm.
    Though I grew up with guns, only recently have I had reason to purchase one–for much the same reason as you. We were looking for a bunny gun–another stone in our pile against the ravages of rodents. Already, we have double fencing and we’re using Liquid Fence (for both rabbits and deer.) And we had trouble finding something “normal.” I couldn’t go with the fancy, over-the-top fire power. We wanted a 22 rifle–just a hair (hare) less than your varmint gun. We ended up with a Marlin–a bolt action standard. I paid just a little more for the walnut stock–another $20 got me out of the cammo line. But. of course, as soon as we were ready, the rabbits abated.

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    • Bill says:

      A .22 rifle is a sensible, multi-purpose gun that is probably essential on a homestead. Hopefully you’ll never have reason to use it, but ours gets put to use now and then, usually for sad reasons. It’s actually my son’s gun. I gave it to him when he was a kid but he left it behind when he moved away. It makes good sense to learn to shoot with a .22. He’s a better shot than me, because I can’t seem to prevent myself from flinching. That comes from being punched so hard in the shoulder by that shotgun when I was a skinny little boy. Because our son learned to shoot with a gun that has no recoil he doesn’t have that problem.

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  4. Joanna says:

    I was staggered when I went to the States to see guns so obviously on sale. Guns just were not readily available in the UK and the only people I knew who had them were farming stock. I find it even more incredible that there are not more checks on backgrounds before allowing people to purchase guns. I certainly did not feel the need for one to feel safe in Fort Collins. Glad you managed to find something sensible to do the job you needed to do.

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    • Bill says:

      We have a cultural divide here in the States too. For many of us having a gun is as natural as having a car, maybe even more so. Others of us think of guns as scary and something only criminals and police have. When I was growing up we didn’t think of guns as something we needed to protect ourselves, although they could have served that purpose. This mania for military-style weapons that serve no sensible purpose imho is something that seems to have arisen entirely in the last couple of decades. It’s strange.

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  5. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I do own a gun but it was an heirloom single shot 12 gauge shotgun that my Dad used.during the early years of marriage. He, Mom, and I lived on a small farm in Nebraska. During those early years money was spare and rabbit was on the table more than not. I don’t remember those years but Mom said that if it weren’t for Dad’s hunting skills, it would have been difficult to survive. I don’t ever remember him firing a gun but we always had that shot gun around in case of varmints would take after our live stock. I never was afraid of guns and did learn how to shoot from the boy scouts. They were big on gun safety as well. My city has passed a concealed weapon ordinance and made it legal to carry with proper checks and permits of course. I had to smile when our first woman Mayor took office. Almost immediately, she got a concealed carry permit. Whether she actually carries or not, I don’t know but just knowing that she could be would deter any one from challenging her, don’t you think?

    Have a great day with guns on the White Flint Farm.

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    • Bill says:

      We were taught that you shouldn’t shoot game animals unless you’re going to eat them. I’ve never been interested in sport or trophy hunting. We ate squirrel when I was growing up. There were hardly any deer around here back then (I don’t recall seeing one till I was an adult). Squirrel and rabbit were the main things we hunted and if we killed one we ate it.

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  6. Scott says:

    I’m going to buy my first hunting rifle (deer mostly) this year. Any suggestions? I haven’t started researching yet (hard to, with no Internet except by cell phone standing in a specific spot in the middle of the driveway)
    I want to start teaching my 5-year old too. Thoughtful post, Bill. Thanks

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    • Bill says:

      I’m no expert Scott, but I hunt deer with a 7mm magnum. I only hunt for food, so I’m not interested in making it challenging. I want to make sure that my shot kills the deer instantly as often as possible. Any high-powered rifle would probably work.

      I think a bolt action .22 is the best rifle for teaching a child to shoot, for what it’s worth.

      I sure know what you mean about internet and cell phone. High speed internet and reliable phone service are just about the only things I miss from city living. 🙂

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  7. Good for Dick’s and their willingness to pull assault rifles after Sandy Hook. I wonder how many other gun stores across America were willing to forego a bit of profit for a bit of sanity. Our neighbor is plunking ground squirrels with his 22. I trap them and take them off to live on BLM land where they are an important part of the food chain. We had them under control here until distemper wiped out the fox population a couple of years ago. Then their population skyrocketed. Foxes are back this year, plus an occasional coyote. I have high hopes. I, too, grew up with a 22, supplementing the families larder with gray squirrels. In those days, the NRA was a good organization that limited itself to teaching gun safety. We also hunted deer as part of our growing up experience. But there came a time when I stopped hunting. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Looking into I see that Walmart pulled them too. But I can’t help but be a little cynical about the motives of big businesses like that. I’m not convinced they decided to forgo profits. I suspect they may have decided that keeping those guns in stock increased their risk of liability or might result in negative PR that would harm the business (if for example someone bought one from them and used it in a mass-killing). I suppose it’s possible they were just being good citizens, but corporate decision-makers have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of shareholders (not the general public) so increasing shareholder profits is always their primary objective.

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      • Possibly the best thing that could happen is if gun manufacturers and sellers were faced with massive lawsuits, like the tobacco industry was. I agree with you that most corporate entities are driven by the profit motive. The environment, workers, government, and even products are usually second, often a far second. –Curt

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