Tag Archives: guns

The Wildfowler’s Quest: Forty Years of Wandering with America’s Foremost Wildfowler. — George Reiger

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The Wildfowler’s Quest, by George Reiger, published by Nick Lyons Books in 1989 is his memoir of gunning for wildfowl in the latter half of the 20th century. I remember when I was growing up my father had amassed a pile of hunting magazines, copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream to name a few. I spent many hours poring over these magazines looking for articles on waterfowling. I learned a great deal about wildfowling across the United States and to a limited extent in Canada. At the time it never occurred to me that people across the world enjoyed wildfowling too. What makes this such a good read is that Reiger recounts his experiences gunning for wildfowl both in North America and in different parts of the world including chapters on wildfowling in Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the UK and the USSR.

Among the more interesting accounts Reiger includes is that of gunning for wild geese in the Netherlands over live decoys. He described this wild goose hunting strategy noting the following:

The greatest excitement for me was that we were using flying decoys. My host had raised the decoys (all white-fronts) from eggs, and he had four family groups. As you know, geese maintain very close family bonds. The male decoys are tethered in the field in front of the blind at a range where the shooting is to occur–20 to 25 yards–, no more! The females and young are taken into the hide (alias, blind), and this is the stimulus for every bird to set up the most unbelievable clamor to try to locate one another. This certainly gets the attention of the wild birds which look, but usually continue on their way. That is, continue until the young birds in the hide are thrown into the air whereupon they fly about in search of their parents. Meanwhile the adult females are allowed to wander outside of the hide. With all this activity, the wild birds come in as if on elastics! (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

This goose hunting strategy worked very well as Reiger recounts “every time my host lofted a bird, we had a little bunch come to us. We shot (two guns: a double and an o/u) ten birds in half an hour and decided that was quite enough–but we could have had 25 geese by 10 o’clock!” (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

The book includes chapters on various species of wildfowl, including rails, geese, sea ducks and woodcock and is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joseph Fornelli. In the concluding chapters Reiger discusses clubs, conservation and the appeal of wildfowling for those who take part in the sport. In my opinion, this book is well worth reading for anyone who relishes wildfowling and wants an understanding of the history of the sport in North America and across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey

The Art of Shooting. — Charles Edward Chapel

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This is the latest acquisition to our library collection, something Mika found while browsing in  the Ottawa Public Library used book shop. The Art of Shooting was published in New York by A. S. Barnes and Company and in London by Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. in 1960. The author, Charles Edward Chapel, published a number of books on firearms including Field, Skeet and Trap Shooting, Forensic Ballistics, Gun Care and Repair–A Manual of Gunsmithing, Gun Collecting, The Gun Collector’s Handbook of Values and Guns of the Old West. In The Art of Shooting Chapel takes on the subject of rifle and pistol shooting. The book is well illustrated with line drawing by Sanford Strother. Chapel covers the history of the development of the rifle and the pistol in two parts: part one opens with the history of the rifle, touching on the early hand cannons of the fifteenth century, moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock (muskets), then to the modern rifle (the M1 Garand rifle in this case). In part two he details the development of the pistol in the same manner, starting with the hand cannons of the fifteenth century and moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock to the modern revolver and semi-automatic pistols.

The Art of Shooting goes into great detail in every aspect of owning and using a rifle and pistol, with detailed instructions on how to load, aim and fire properly, how the rifle and pistol operates, how to properly clean and maintain rifles and pistols and crucially, how to use them safely.The book includes a chapter entitled What the N.R.A. can do for you. Yes, the debate between gun owners and prohibitionists was raging as far back as the 1950s. Regarding the NRA, Chapel notes “it is not affiliated with organizations of arms and ammunition manufacturers, receives no subsidies from the arms trade, and serves as the governing body for the shooting activities in much the same capacity as the Amateur Athletic Union and the National Amateur Athletic Federation serve other sportsmen. All rifle and pistol shooters who engage in official competitions, and several thousand local shooting clubs, support the  N.R.A.” This may have been the case in the 1950s, but currently, the NRA accepts donations from fun manufacturers. See the Ruger 1 Million Gun Challenge, for example, and frankly, why not.

He concludes The Art of Shooting with a chapter entitled The truth about firearms registration laws. Interestingly, and hardly coincidentally, here are the assertions put forward by prohibitionists in the 1950s in favour of gun registration:

(1) registration of weapons reduces crime by making it more difficult for undesirable persons to obtain weapons, (2) solving crimes would be easier because the weapons used in the commission of crime could be traced through the registration records, (3) it would be possible to arrest all persons found possessing possessing unregistered weapons, thereby making it easier for the police to apprehend criminals wanted on more serious charges, (4) gun registration keeps guns out of the hands of children, mental defectives, habitual drunkards, drug addicts, and other persons who should not have firearms, and (5) stolen guns can be returned to their owners more easily.

Chapel easily refutes these assertions, pointing to the tired comparison between automobile registration and gun registration, noting the familiar refrain of since you do not object to registering your automobile, why do you object to registering your guns? The difference between the two, he points out and as we know all to well in the present, is “the registration of an automobile is automatic. When a license is granted, no one questions a person’s right to own an automobile. If the tax is paid, the license tag is issued without question… The essential feature of firearm registration is the power of law enforcement authorities to say who may own a gun. The difference between automobile and firearm registration is obvious and vital under our constitutional form of government.”

The book is 424 pages in total and includes an extensive bibliography and an index, making it a useful reference source. While some of the information is dated, on the whole The Art of Shooting remains a good read and a nice view of the gun culture and shooting sports as they existed in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

Firearms Ownership and Use in Canada: A Reporty of Survey Findings, 1976. — Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Meyer

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This publication, co-authored by Philip C. Stenning and Sharon Moyer, gives an accurate and objective view of the state of gun ownership and use in Canadian society in mid-1970s. It was published in 1981, three years after Bill C-51 came into effect in 1978. Bill C-51 became law in 1978 and thereafter to lawfully purchase (but not to own) a firearm in Canada you were required to apply for and be issued a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC). All that was required in getting an FAC was to complete the application form, pay the small fee and pass the cursory criminal background check that was carried out. My understanding of the rationale behind this legislation is that it was intended to insulate peaceful and law abiding gun owners from the elements of Canadian society that would misuse guns. Interestingly, when Bill C-51 was voted on in parliament, the Progressive Conservative Party serving as the Opposition, led by Joe Clark, voted against the Bill. My father and I, and most likely just about every gun owner in Canada, were none to pleased with this turn of events, but tried to take it in stride.

Philip Stenning is a criminologist and has an impressive list of academic credentials to his name. In carrying out his research on gun ownership and use in Canada he was neither serving the agenda of gun rights advocates, nor those of gun prohibitionists. This publication is an example of pure research. His findings, however, are very much of interest to gun rights advocates. In 1976 it was estimated there were 10,231,000 guns in civilian hands in Canada, mostly shotguns and rifles. Gun owners were overwhelmingly male, 95%. Then, 1970-1975, guns were used in approximately one third of suicides, averaging 35.2%. Between 1970-1975 there was an average number of homicides by gun of 225 per year.

The most noteworthy conclusion of the study concerns what gun prohibitionists complain about and base their assertions on: firearms availability. Access to guns is the familiar complaint you hear time and again from the varied prohibitionists across Canada and the United States. However, Stenning concluded the following: “we have noted that the data available from the Gun Ownership Survey, when compared with the limited data available on firearms incidents, disclose no credible evidence of any direct relationship between firearms incidents and firearms availability. This is not to say, however, that such a relationship does not exist. It does mean that if such a relationship does exist, the available data are currently too crude to be able to detect and measure it.” Whether or not such a relationship does exist has yet to be demonstrated, insofar as I can see, and the burden of proof falls on gun prohibitionists. To date all they offer is the tiresome complaint that access to guns is to blame, because we say so.

This publication is a good read for those who are interested in finding the truth about gun owners and gun ownership in Canadian society as it is not advocacy research. Stenning and Moyer did not have an agenda in conducting the survey and publishing their findings. That Stenning has the academic credentials, body of research and publications to his name ensures the publication is a sound piece of scholarship.

Posted by Geoffrey

The Shotgun Book. — Jack O’Connor

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I spend most of my time in fields, marshes and the uplands in pursuit of game birds so shotgunning is something with which I am very well acquainted. My first shotgun was a hammerless Savage break action single shot with a 28 inch barrel, and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it in 1965, in Maryland, when I was four years old. We were living in Laurel at the time. My father was serving in the Canadian Army and had been posted to work in Washington, DC. Ten years later he offered it to me and I happily accepted the offer. I shot my first grouse with this gun, on the wing no less. It was a snap shot, just like I read in a booklet published by Canadian Industries Limited (C-I-L) on upland gunning. The bird flushed and I caught sight of it between two cedar trees. I mounted the gun and fired. I walked up to the gap between the cedar trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited. I remember calling out “Dad, I got a grouse!”

As it happens, The Shotgun Book was published in 1965 by Alfred A. Knopf. The author, Jack O’Connor (1902-1978) was the arms and ammunition editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 31 years. The book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of shotgun most commonly in use: double barrelled, pump action, autoloading and the less common bolt-action. O’Connor opens the book with a chapter on a brief history of the shotgun. Shotguns, their forebears at least, were first manufactured in the 18th century. The book is well illustrated, with plates and diagrams, showing the inner workings of shotgun actions, models of shotguns, cartridges, chokes, shot and, interestingly, the earliest models of variable choke in use, the Poly-Choke, shown in the illustration below.

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While some of the information found in The Shotgun Book is dated–it was published before the ban on the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting went into effect–it is still a good read. It brings back memories for me of the old copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream my father had accumulated over the years. I pored over these magazines in the years leading up to my 15th birthday when I would be old enough to get my first hunting license. I searched through the magazines, looking up every article on shotgunning, learning about gauge, shot sizes, choke, patterns, the basics of wing shooting, all the while dreaming of getting into the field in pursuit of upland game birds and waterfowl. The Shotgun Book compiles all this information very masterfully and includes an index which makes for quick reference. For anyone interested in seeing the hunting culture in North America, as it existed in the mid-twentieth century, The Shotgun Book is well worth reading.

Posted by Geoffrey

Canadian Shooters Rights. — Edward L. Burlew, L.L.B. Barrister & Solicitor

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This volume, published in 2000 by Edward L. Burlew is a very useful guide to wading through the tangled web that is the current state of firearms law in Canada. In particular the book addresses the reality that faces gun owners in Canada as of December 1, 1998 when the Canadian Firearms Act became law. Burlew notes the foundation of the Canadian Firearms Act is licensing and the content of this legislation is aimed at the law abiding gun owner. What this means is that when the Canadian Firearms Act became law, possession of a gun in Canada is now a crime, unless the owner is licensed. The book has chapters detailing licensing, the buying and selling of guns, storage of guns and ammunition, dealing with police and courts and the handgun prohibition (short barrelled .25 and .32 calibre handguns were prohibited with the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act) that went in to effect in 2001.

Burlew identifies two key points of which gun owners must be acutely aware: (1) Licensing and (2) Storage of guns and ammunition. Gun owners need to be licensed and see to it that their license is current, that there is no lapse between the dates of expiry and renewal. With regard to storage, he is clear on this point, stating, “read the actual regulations and be sure you are storing the guns and ammunition in strict compliance with the regulations.” He illustrates the importance of seeing that you are in strict compliance with storage regulations in the chapter titled Hunters Beware. This selection from the chapter tells the story of what happened to one peaceful and law abiding hunter.

Mr. Hunter took several guns with him hunting. He kept them in his pickup bed. The guns were cased, covered, but not trigger-locked and not in locked hard cases. Ammunition was carried in the bed and in an unlocked box. The pickup bed was covered with a locked cap, bolted down and an additional wire and lock held the cap door closed in addition to the lock. Mr. Hunter slept in a hotel. During the night thieves broke the cap door off at the hinges. The lock held fast and two guns were stolen.

The police arrested the thieves, impounded Mr. Hunter’s truck without a warrant and seized his remaining guns and ammunition. Mr. Hunter faces criminal charges of unsafe storage of guns and ammunition and unsafe transportation for leaving his guns unattended. The police say he should have had trigger locks or locked hard cases and the ammunition should have been in a locked box.

This may sound ridiculous to you, Mr. Hunter has a good defense and should be found not guilty. The police say let the judge decide. Mr. Hunter’s guns are seized until trial. He must hire a lawyer and travel from home to the court where the theft took place. The trial will be nine months after his truck was broken into.

This book, though published in 2000, is a timely reminder of the reality facing Canada’s gun owners following the passage of the Canadian Firearms Act, the intentions of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien that passed it and the dire straits Canada’s gun owners find themselves in until the Canadian Firearms Act is repealed.

Posted by Geoffrey