As I have said before, I don’t view the SHOT show as many or most do, a place to find things to buy or sell or use in matches or hunt or hide or snipe or load or whatever. Yes, that is all interesting, yes, it’s all fun. But I see the whole thing from the inside- many of these people are my customers and all of them, I know how they do what they do, even if I didn’t help them do it.

So while people stood around and oohed and aahed, I thought about the QC and the number of machines required per unit and the programming necessary to automate.

This is why I could never be a gynecologist. Knowing what’s under the skin can really ruin the magic.

The trip home, while not horribly unpleasant, was at least tiring, and though the show was brief compared to many I help manage it was a week of 14 hour days, full bore. So when I logged on to my computer that night and got harangued about things over which I have no control by someone who is doing nothing about them himself, I had just had enough. And of course my company saved everything for my return, so nothing I needed done was done in my absence. I’m only just now really catching up on sleep debt, and mail, and other shit. So if I have been absent it is not due to lack of things to say, but the time I need to say them.


It is probably at least partially due to the current resident of the oval office that the industry by and large has gone apeshit for military style weapons. This situation and the impulse buying it has engendered are but an accelerant to a situation that was never evitable.

Mr Bane rounds up his SHOT show coverage with a well aimed and much deserved snipe at one of the real allosaurs of the industry, Dave Petzal.

I get it, I really do. Petzal is just a grumpy old man grousing about how much different it was when he was in his prime, it is human nature to do so. But it is also that same human nature to be wrong.

The following, to head off the pedants, is just drunkards cakewalk around the history of firearms, so take it all in the sense in which it was written. Weary, caffeine deprived boredom.

Observing the generational changes of firearms is quite interesting. The first firearms were tubes closed on one end that could hold powder and projectile, and no doubt there was a great deal of grousing about how they were no match for a trained guy with a sword or a bow or a spear. That basic design stayed the same through match, and wheel, and powder, and percussion, and although lots of efforts were made at manufacturing multi-shot versions, the most reliable is still the single shot. And plenty of examples remain. In the Midwest, plenty of people still load up coalburners with the intention of putting Bambi’s mom in the freezer, every year, because while firearms may well have been developed as implements of war, they were excellent at quickly and efficiently stocking people’s larders.

The firearm might well have died or stalled right where it was, and guns would be like glass bottles are today. No, not look like glass bottles, but think about it: The glass bottle, which first was produced on earth around 1500 BC, has not changed in anything other than shape and method of manufacture since then. Glass bottles have not changed because there is no need for them to change, they have ended their evolution. They still work, they still do what is required of them, they are recyclable, either by re-using or by re-processing, and they are perfectly suited to the task of holding beer, wine, and many other liquids and solids.

Unlike bottles, guns evolved. I am of the opinion that the motive force behind early firearm evolution was rifling. Rifling showed that these weapons were capable of some accuracy not otherwise possible, and it is my contention that rifling was the impetus that caused the next stage in firearms development, cartridge loaded guns.

Being able to hit something accurately was a big step. So was being able to reload in seconds and not minutes. Learning that a small bullet kills as effectively as a large bullet allowed individuals to carry more ammunition. Smokeless, non corrosive powder and non corrosive primers made field maintenance easier and weapons more ultimately reliable.

During all this time, from the first time a blacksmith carved a channel in an old fencepost and wrapped wire around it to hold his closed ended tube, shoulder fired arms had metal barrels and wood stocks. When multiple rounds became possible, the wood stock was retained, sometimes being separated into two pieces to accommodate a receiver, sometimes merely hollowed out to accommodate the receiver. And this trend continued to the world wars.
Whether it was scarcity of materials or of craftsman, or if it was engineers just beginning with a completely clean slate, it’s not possible to be certain, but on all sides of the conflicts submachine guns and assault rifles were made which used wood almost as an afterthought, the whole of the weapon was metal.

Metal and alloys of metal were the construction material of choice for a while, with wood only used as stocks and grips, and when plastics arrived that were durable and waterproof it was logical to replace wood with materials whose properties were consistent and dependable.

This is the next unmistakable evolution of firearms, and it has irrevocably taken root. Many of my companions hunt everything with some manner of metal and plastic military style weapon. More and more are purchased for sporting purposes, some as a thumb in the eye to people who say they have no sporting use, some simply because they are an excellent tool for the job.

In the 50’s through the 70’s. people bought surplus military rifles and “Sporterized” them, because they were inexpensive and well made, and people didn’t want to be seen carrying “Military” guns. A lot of that sporterization is what we now refer to as “Bubba” or WECSOG (the Wile E Coyote School Of Gunsmithing) but there were a few shops that turned military rifles into nice, respectable hunting rifles. At that time you could buy a commercial marlin or Remington or Winchester in 30-06 for $150-$300, which could well have been a week’s take home pay for a grown man, or you could buy an Enfield with similar ballistics for the price of a couple of mowed lawns.

Now the obverse is true; military weapons, because many are select fire, are either more expensive than commercially available weapons or not available at all. Still, people want them, or want weapons as much like them as possible. More than likely just because they are denied the opportunity to legally own them.

I love wood. I love the character it can give a fine firearm, I love the way it ages and the way it feels in my hands, and the way it looks. I love firearms made with wood, from the most stunning Holland and Holland double to the most boring birch stocked MAS36.

I also love old cars. Not just the big engined muscle beasts of the 60’s and 70’s, but also the large classics, the old Lincoln Continentals, the Packards, the Duesies ands the Auburns.

And that is the parallel. Modern cars run, are reliable, comfortable, and require tiny amounts of maintenance. They have, some of them, their own beauty, and they do the job that is required of them better than about anything else that came before.

We are a generation or less away from seeing the ultimate demise of the wood stocked sporting rifle, not because people can’t or don’t make them but because so many more better options are becoming available. Certainly, there will always be adherents, just as there are always adherents to the old car world, just as the coalburning crowd still hunts each fall, just as even young people are planting victory gardens with no real clue what those originally meant or did for us as a nation and as individuals. There will always be throwbacks, and that’s fine, and it means that the old ways aren’t dying.

But the new way has come. In every meaningful way, it is better. Hang on to your nostalgia, be aware that one day your prized Browning Citori will be as foreign and old school to your descendants as is your great grandfather’s flintlock leaning in the corner of your closet now. Embrace it, and have fun with it.

I have not actually abandoned this.

I have been as busy as a three peckered goat.

Shot was great, and I had a good time, Larry Correia signed my kindle, met some people I knew online but not irl, ate like a swarm of locusts, managed not to hose up my knees.

By Feb I ought to be more under control. Stick around.

Next »