Black powder loads can certainly be ﬁred in repeating riﬂes, such as my Browning copy of the old Winchester 1886 saddle-ring carbine with its 22-inch-long barrel. The main difference between the repeaters and most of the single shots is that the single shots – such as the Sharps or the rolling block – actually have no maximum cartridge length.
On the other hand, lever-action riﬂes have a maximum overall cartridge length, generally just over 2½ inches, so the cartridges can cycle through the actions. Also, the trapdoor single shots might not accept cartridges quite as long as the Sharps or rolling block because their cartridges must be initially loaded at an angle. And those trapdoors and repeaters might actually chamber cartridges that are too long for them to eject if still loaded, so to unload the riﬂe, those long cartridges will have to be ﬁred.
During the “on duty” days of the .45-70, there were some variations in the loading of the cartridges. The ﬁrst and the oldest was the .45-70/405, which was designated as the “riﬂe load.” Because that powder and bullet combination can be considered quite a blast when ﬁred from a carbine, a “carbine load” using 55 grains of powder under the same 405-grain bullet was also used. The carbine load might sound like it is melted down compared to the standard riﬂe load, but don’t cut it too short. Carbine loads can stand on their own while offering comfortable shooting.
MAKING THE CARBINE LOAD IS SIMPLE. This can begin with new unﬁred brass which has been run through the neck expander to accomplish two things: it bells the mouth of the cases just a bit to accept the cast bullets, and it rounds out the mouth of any cases which might have gotten squeezed a bit out of round. Of course, ﬁred brass needs to be treated the same way. Then the cases are primed and ready for 55 grains of black powder. Once the powder is poured into the case, no compression is required and you can easily seat the lubricated cast bullet down over the powder.
The bullets used for these carbine loads were Lyman’s #457124, the old ideal style of grooved bullets that were the standard 405-grain slug for the .45-70. Some of the old-style bullets did have fewer and wider lube grooves, but those don’t show once the bullets are loaded into the cases.
Bullets for carbine loads are seated rather deeply, to ensure that no air space was left in the case above the powder charge and to make the carbine loads instantly identiﬁable to the shooters. For my loads, the bullets were seated just deep enough so the mouth of the case could be slightly crimped over the top of the forward driving band.
A crimp groove in the bullet is not necessary with black powder loads because the bullet is resting on top of the powder charge. There is very little opportunity for the bullet to be pushed further into the case, even when used in a tubular magazine.
IF THERE WAS EVER A CLASSIC BULLET for the old .45-70, it would have to be the old Lyman/Ideal #457124. I say that for a couple of reasons, but they can be netted out into just a couple of short statements. First and foremost, it is a very historical design, and Lyman refers to it (in their old Handbook of Cast Bullets, from 1958, the one with an engraved converted Sharps carbine on the cover) as “the regular standard .45-70 Government bullet.”
For our shooting needs these days, this remains a standard bullet, and is useful for any .45-70 riﬂe or pistol being single shot or repeater. It can be used with carbine loads using 55 grains of powder or with full riﬂe loads burning 70 grains of powder. This old standard is still an all-around bullet for the .45-70 and it can be used in most other .45-caliber riﬂe cartridges as well.
The original weight of #457124 was listed at 405 grains. I don’t think any design change has been incorporated over the years but now this bullet is most often listed at 385 grains. That weight difference is simply from the alloy the bullets are made or cast with.
My favorite use for the #457124 is in carbine loads, such as the cartridges pictured above. These are loaded with 55 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F. That is simply a nice load, good for shooting all day without cleaning as long as the bullets are well lubed. When you shoot it all day, this load leaves you with good feeling in your shoulder too. While that is the carbine load, it remains good load for hunting, perhaps for deer-sized game at ranges within 100 yards. It is not a long-range powerhouse, but it doesn’t lack much either. In fact, the above load scoots an average of 1,245 feet per second when shot out of a 30-inch barrel. That’s not bad at all.
If any .45-70 shooters out there don’t have a #457124 mold from Lyman in their gear, their “possibles” are simply incomplete. Lyman has dropped many molds from their catalog over the years, but thankfully #457124 is still on the list; it’s just too good to ignore. These quality bullet molds are available from almost any handloading supplier, and Lyman lists this one for $90.95 without handles.
I must give plenty of credit to these slow .45-70 carbine loads. My loads for this carbine and my lightweight Sharps riﬂe as well perform just as I want them to. Carbine loads will actually perform just as well if not better in any of the heavier riﬂes too. There is nothing wrong with loads that send the bullets out a bit slower than the full charges. They can actually be better if they help us make better hits. ASJ
Contact: Lyman Products Corporation Lymanproducts.com
I recently had an opportunity to test one such newly made-over gun, the Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen shotgun, and I’m pleased to report that, in this instance, the manufacturer got it right. By right, I mean spectacularly right.
My opportunity to test this reborn 16-gauge classic came during a three-day pheasant hunt with R&R Pheasant Hunting, an 18,000-acre, family-owned farming and ranching operation near Seneca, S.D., with four other outdoor scribes. We were there, along with representatives from Browning, Winchester and the South Dakota Department of Tourism, to test three new shotguns and ammunition from Browning and Winchester.
I spent the ﬁrst day wringing out the newly announced Winchester SX4 shotgun in 12 gauge, and bagged my fair share of birds. I spent the second day happily shooting roosters with the Browning 725 Citori over-and-under shotgun chambered in 28 gauge. I held off on shooting the Sweet Sixteen until the ﬁnal day of the hunt, mainly because only two were on hand and everyone wanted to shoot them. As fellow outdoor writer “Uncle Bob” Matthews observed, “The Sweet Sixteen was the prettiest girl at the dance, and everyone wanted to dance with her.”
AND WHAT A DANCE IT WAS. On the second drive of the day, I took the left ﬂanker position, outside and ahead of Bob, who walked a few rows inside a ﬁeld of tall corn. We both carried the Sweet Sixteen, stoked with the new Browning BXD Upland Extra Distance 11/8-ounce load of No. 6 nickel-plated shot, and as luck would have it, most of the roosters that ﬂushed during that drive came our way. The sky was soon raining pheasants. I think only one rooster made it past us. By the time that drive was over, someone had nicknamed us “The Sixteen Dream Team,” and I already knew I would have to own this shotgun.
To understand what makes this new gun so special, it helps to know a bit about its history. Today’s A5 traces its lineage to the original Browning Automatic 5, designed by John Browning in 1898. It was one of the most inﬂuential shotgun designs of all time. First produced by FN in 1902, it was later made by Remington as the Model 11 and by Savage as the Model 720 and other variants.
The Auto 5 used a long-recoil operating system in which the bolt and the barrel recoiled together, and it had a friction piece and bevel ring to adjust recoil to the load. It was soft-shooting when set up properly, but could thump you soundly if it was improperly tuned. Production moved from Belgium to Japan in 1975, and the guns got heavier. By the 1990s, semiauto shotguns that were cheaper to produce and lighter, and with more modern designs, were gaining dominance. The writing was on the wall: Production ceased in 1998, after nearly 100 years of production, and the Auto 5 was no more.
That changed in 2013 when Browning stunned the shotgun world by bringing back the A5 in 12 gauge, albeit in much-changed form and manufactured in Portugal. The Sweet Sixteen followed in 2016. It’s built on a smaller, lighter alloy receiver with a polished black anodized ﬁnish, and weighs just 5 pounds, 13 ounces with a 28-inch barrel, and a bit less with a 26-inch barrel.
It’s one thing to ﬁnd a lightweight shotgun. It’s quite another to ﬁnd one this well-balanced that swings so smoothly. The gun simply painted birds from the sky for me, and I had difficulty believing I was swinging a 16-gauge shotgun with a 28-inch barrel.
Externally, this gun resembles the original Auto 5, retaining the distinctive “humpback” squared-off receiver. I like it because it affords a slightly longer sight plane, aligning naturally with my eye, and allowing me to shoot with my head up a bit more and beneﬁt from a more comfortable, less-punishing cheek weld.
INTERNALLY, THE SWEET SIXTEEN is an entirely different animal from its predecessor. The long-recoil system has been replaced by an inertia-driven system called Kinematic Drive by Browning. It’s fast-cycling, easy on the shoulder and highly reliable – so much so that Browning stands behind it with a 100,000-round or ﬁve-year guarantee that the shotgun will work “come hell or high water.” It’s a clean-running system, because all gasses go out the barrel and away from the action.
A look at the barrel reveals other reasons why this is not your grandfather’s Auto 5. It has a lengthened, tapered “Vector Pro” forcing cone to minimize shot deformation and enhance pattern uniformity. The barrel is also backbored to reduce friction between the shot cup and bore. I’m not convinced that this reduces recoil, as some claim, but I do believe it helps with pattern consistency, uniformity and density. The barrel sports a red ﬁber optic front sight and white midpoint bead.
The shotgun ships with full, modiﬁed and improved cylinder Invector DS choke tubes. These longer-than-usual tubes have a more gradual choke taper, again contributing to more uniform shot patterns. They also have a brass alloy band to help seal out residue, making the tubes easy to remove after a day of shooting.
Other nice touches include 18-lines-per-inch checkering on the glossy Turkish walnut buttstock and forearm. The stock has an Inﬂex II recoil pad, which directs recoil energy down and away from your face. With Speed Load Plus, you simply push the ﬁrst shell into the magazine, with the action open, and the gun automatically feeds the ﬁrst round into the chamber. The “plus” part of the equation is a handy little mechanism you can push with a ﬁnger, inside the bottom of the receiver, to unload shells from the magazine tube without having to cycle the action repeatedly.
The new Sweet Sixteen honors its proud legacy while enabling you to shoot the old “gentleman’s gauge” in a technologically updated package. The gun has little noticeable recoil. It is fast, yet swings smoothly. It is elegant, but utilitarian. It packs like a 20 gauge, but punches like a 12. With this one shotgun, a hunter would be wellequipped to handle most any type of wingshooting. As one of my fellow scribes observed during our hunt, “This might be the gun that saves the 16-gauge shotshell.”
As I sit here admiring the richly ﬁgured wood of the stock on the sample gun sent to me for testing, I suspect he may be right. I also suspect Browning may have a difficult time getting this one back. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the A5 Sweet Sixteen and other Browning products, see browning.com.
The Gunfather is about Louie Tuminaro and his close-knit Italian family, native New Yorkers who moved to Hamilton, Mont., to pursue Louie’s dream of creating the best gun store in the West, together. There are three generations of Tuminaros on the show: Louie (51 years old), the Gunfather, and Theresa (48), his wife of 24 years and who is nicknamed T-Bone; Louie’s dad Joe (77), who is called Pops; and Louie and Theresa’s kids, “Little” Louie (14) and daughters Nicole (20) and Allie (22), round out the extended family. Louie’s firearms business, the Custom Shop Inc., is a family operation and we see the Tuminaros in action working together to get things done. Louie is the driving creative force that made the Custom Shop a reality in 2007, but he is quick to tell you that the Tuminaros are a team, and moreover, he loves his team.
Louie’s focus at the Custom Shop is mainly buying, selling and restoring high-quality collectible firearms from the 1940s through the early 1980s – where there’s strong nostalgic interest – as well as sought-after out-of-production classics like Colt’s snake guns: Python, Cobra and the Anaconda. In addition to all of this, he wanted to do for firearm enthusiasts something akin to what custom-car shops do for car buffs. The firearm restoration services he offers are extensive. Louie is particularly passionate about restoration work because, from his point of view, he isn’t working on just any gun. The firearms on his workbench are someone’s precious family heirlooms. Clients aren’t looking to increase collector value of their restored guns, but rather restore the appearance and function for personal enjoyment. They bring their treasured guns to the Custom Shop because Louie has a reputation for candid assessment of what can and can’t be achieved in a restoration and surrounds himself with exceptionally talented artisans to execute the work. When Louie opened up his shop in Hamilton, which is located in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, he discovered a wealth of local talent that shared his interest in this level of firearms work and perfectionism – people like Pam Wheeler, the checkering queen, who has been hand cutting checkering for 30 years.
Louie and Pops are both self-taught gunsmiths and do most of the typical mechanical repairs, fine-metal polishing and refinishing in house. They also have their own stock-duplicating machine that can reproduce any gunstock accurately. Though they can make any gunstock for a customer, Louie explains that it isn’t always economically practical. It requires lots of hand sanding, inletting, fitting hardware and finishing. The result can be a stock that costs more than the rifle it’s being installed on. On restorations, they will try to preserve and repair the original wooden stock whenever possible. They keep duplicated stocks, identical to the factory originals and fitted with original hardware, for the more common collectible rifles – for example pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters – on hand all the time. When more elaborately figured wood blanks are used to make stocks for the highest grade rifles, prices can run up to $3,500, but that’s not a lot when the rifle is worth $15,000. The Custom Shop sells several stocks a week, mostly to customers who have had theirs broken during the course of shipping by common carrier. In addition to the stocks Louie crafts with his own hands, he has scores of new old-stock-original replacements for top-end Browning, Sako, Colt Sauer, Weatherby and J.P. Sauer and Sohn‘s rifles ranging from $400 to $3,500.
Louie says he got his love of shooting and skills from Pops. They were a working-class Long Island family. They weren’t poor, but they didn’t have much money. Louie and his little sister Lisa walked to public school, and their parents taught them traditional values, the importance of hard work, integrity and respect. Pops made a career with the Ford Motor Company in sales, and once Louie turned 10, Pops brought him to work every Saturday to help out washing cars and doing the jobs a kid could do. Louie developed a serious love for cars at that time, which he still has to this day. Pops taught him what a proper work ethic looked like and encouraged him to develop skills with his hands. Together these things led to a healthy confidence and a liberating realization that he could do things for himself.
For teenage Louie, the realization came the day the water pump on his 1972 Chevelle Super Sport quit. Instead of taking it to the repair shop, Pops took Louie to the auto-parts store and let him fix it for himself. When Louie reached his early 20s, he asked Pops to help him get an entry-level job at an auto customizing shop because the creativity and variety of the work was irresistible to him. Within two years Louie was managing the place. It was during this time that he met Theresa, who changed his life for the better in countless ways. They were inseparable and a perfect match. Louie calls her his rock. A rock is the best foundation to build on, and build they did.
It wasn’t long before Louie decided to go into business for himself. The work ethic, skill and confidence he learned as a boy continued to pay off and he soon had the largest car-audio equipment business in Suffolk County, N.Y. It was the first of many successes. Theresa would later manage their sports bar while raising their daughters. Pops, in addition to being a car man, was an avid gun collector, hunter and competitive pistol and shotgun shooter. Louie grew up watching with curious fascination as his father worked on guns on the kitchen table. When he got old enough, he was working beside his father, and the two enjoyed being a part of the shooting and hunting fraternity, which is large and vibrant in Long Island despite what anti-gun politicians from New York would have you believe. They hunted and vacationed in upstate New York, and Louie quickly got Theresa enthusiastically involved in the shooting sports too. When the kids came, they were naturally raised as shooters. The family hobby laid the ground work for the family business to come.
Louie had actually entertained the notion of going into a firearms business for several years before the golden opportunity finally presented itself. He’d made a lot of contacts in the community through the course of buying and selling guns that interested him, but it was the sale of his business that was the major catalyst for the career change. For the first time in his life, Louie had financial resources and time at his disposal simultaneously. At that time, Theresa had concerns that the neighborhood they lived in and loved was not headed in a direction they wanted for their children, and Louie had been charmed by the West during the time he’d spent hunting there. One day, Louie just walked through the front door and told Theresa that he thought they should consider moving to Montana and open a gun store. She was looking for houses on the Internet that same night. Theresa’s support buoyed Louie up for this bold move. Truth be told, the prospect of leaving everything they had known behind them scared her, but she had confidence in her husband, and saw a great opportunity to grow as a family. Pops, by then retired, was likewise supportive. Louie did his research and planning with their help and they left a life on the Atlantic shores of Long Island to set up a new family business venture in Big Sky Country, in full view of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. “We grouped together as a family and ran this company,” Louie told me. “We started it, designed it and created it. We did everything as a family. I consider us all a part of this.”
The Custom Shop, as a physical location, is an artistic expression of the family. It was intended to look as if it had been in business on that little old-town street for a century. The interior was built with reclaimed lumber and decoratively peppered with just enough taxidermy and vintage Western decor to give it a 19th century style but with a modern flair. Custom Shop’s signature 10-foot outdoor-sculpted sign featuring a huge Colt cap-and-ball revolver next to the words Custom Shop was the product of Louie’s imagination and several months work.
As a business, Custom Shop became a huge success with international clientele. A great deal of that comes from the Tuminaros’ basic business philosophy. “We put all our heart into what we do,” Louie says. “A lot of our business is repeat customers and referrals because when you treat somebody right, you’ve got them forever. It’s very important that you win the trust of your customers. The only surprises I want my customers to have are good ones. If I say a gun is 98 percent, it’s probably really 99 percent.”
Seventy percent of Custom Shop gun sales are via their website, which is exceptional because each firearm they offer is presented for online customer inspection using five to 10 excellent digital photographs. These images are professionally staged and extremely detailed. Derek Poff, the man responsible for them and a show regular, has 20 years experience behind the camera.
While Louie and Pops are working on guns or away with little Louie scouring gun shows and estate sales across the country for marketable firearms, Theresa is the public face and voice of the Custom Shop. When you call, you talk to T-Bone. If you want something, you’d be wise to tell her because when she says that she’ll be on the look out, she’s 100 percent serious. She created and maintains what she calls “T-Bone’s Watch List” located on a corkboard behind her desk. When the boys bring home the gun you want, you will get a call from her and the first right of refusal. This takes a lot of mental energy and time, but it shows just how seriously the Tuminaros take customer service.
The Tuminaros are all NRA members, and Theresa came up with the slogan “Family, Freedom and Firearms” to describe the things that are most important to them. The thing that sold Outdoor Channel on The Gunfather was that it is really a case study in successful, multi-generational parenting. For the Tuminaros, shooting and other outdoor sporting activities were the family recreational outlets, so it was a perfect fit for the network. Viewers enjoyed the insights into the firearms business, but the more compelling aspect of the show was the genuineness of the Tuminaros just being a family. Louie says, “We love Outdoor Channel for letting us share our family with America. They don’t script us. They let us do what we do. What you see is who we are. When you see me kiss my father and tell him I love him when he’s leaving, well, I do that every day.” When viewers see Louie put aside the gun business for an afternoon to support his son in his first paying job outside the family, it is very clear that The Gunfather puts being a father far ahead of guns. Family comes first, exactly like Theresa says.
If all this sounds refreshing for television, by all means tune in to Outdoor Channel on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. to watch the second season that started on Dec. 28. If you want your family heirloom firearms restored or to buy or sell collectable guns, contact Theresa. If you become a fan of the show, and I suspect you will, make sure to thank her because she’s the one who made it happen. The day Louie walked in and said “I think we should be on TV,” she got on the phone and cold-called Outdoor Channel, miraculously got connected to a show producer (that just doesn’t happen), and won him over on the idea of a program about their family. Is it any wonder why Louie has been so successful? Between Theresa and Pops, how could he fail? ASJ
Editor’s note: You can visit the Custom Shop online at customshopinc.com.
Posted in Hollywood and Pop Culture Tagged with: Allie Tuminaro, Brownells, Browning, Colt Sauer, Derek Poff, Frank Jardim, Gun Shop, J.P. Sauer and Sons, Little Louie Tuminaro, Louie Tuminaro, Montana, Nicole Tuminaro, Outdoor Channel, Pops Tuminaro, Sako, T-Bone, Television Series, The Custom Shop, The Gunfather, Theresa Tuminaro, Weatherby
Maybe, just maybe, you are ready for a little help with your shotgun shooting. Like a lot of us, you have been banging around for years, and you are just OK. To be perfectly honest, maybe you seem to leave each session, whether in the field for birds or on the range for clays, with a feeling somewhere between disappointment and desperation. You know you can do better, you want to do better, but you just don’t know how.
If you have the collective eyesight, reflexes, strength and coordination of an eagle, a bull elk and a young mongoose all rolled into one critter, you won’t need to hear any of this. Just take up your old shotgun, however ugly and ill-fitting it may be, and go out and shoot stuff. If you are not exactly in that category, maybe you want to read on.
Here is the deal: Not only am I going to talk to you about the benefits of taking up some shotgun instruction, I am going to suggest a place for you to go, and I think that you are going to like it.
If you are a serious shotgunner and you haven’t heard about the gun club at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., well, you should have. It is considered one of the top-tier, premier resorts in the world, and more locally it’s a National Historic Landmark.
Since 1778 guests have been visiting this beautiful area, and the Greenbrier, for the healing mineral springs found on the property. Today, The Greenbrier boasts over 55 activities on its 10,000-acre estate, and if I tried to tell you everything the resort had to offer, I would be in more trouble with the editor than usual. What we can talk at length about is their gun club.
Like the resort itself, their gun club has a long and fertile history. Since 1913, 26 presidents, royalty, captains of industry and celebrities have shot here – and you can too. If you are thinking, as I did, that you might be a little intimidated taking shotgun lessons at a world-class resort, don’t give it another thought. I had a sneaking suspicion I might be told to hold up my pinky finger while shooting; it wasn’t like that at all.
The staff and instructors at The Greenbrier gun club were wonderful, and made me feel at home right away. I was pleased to see that the instructors were from the area (they were all old grouse hunters), and I was impressed to learn that all of them had been trained by John Higgins and Justin Jones, world-renowned trap, skeet and sporting clay professionals, from the British School of Shooting. So, what you have are instructors steeped in deep southern Appalachian hospitality, but trained as instructors in one of the premier shotgun schools in the world. What a mix!
If you don’t want to travel with your own firearms, they have house guns ready to use. For sporting clay enthusiasts they offer Beretta 686s, both the Sporting and Onyx models, and for the trap folks, visitors can use the Browning over-and-under Model BT99 and BT100.
Curtis Kincaid, Homer Bryant, Mike Adkins and Jimmy Fraley, the instructors I worked with the day I was there, were seasoned and clearly capable of instantly spotting a shooter’s mistakes; it was uncanny to work with them. More importantly, while I was on the range with these guys, I had a great time. Teaching without preaching, learning while enjoying – this is the environment great instructors create.
On the sporting clays course with Kincaid, he, of course, picked up on some of my shotgun faults, which are legend. Kincaid addressed each problem patiently and systematically, explaining every step. More of the details from this formal lesson will have to wait for another time, but we can go over some of the basics.
Safety, safety, safety. I was happy to see that they stressed gun safety from the very beginning – muzzle control, fingers off triggers, making sure of targets, the whole nine and a half yards.
Stance and mounting the gun. Some of the information Kincaid provided, I had heard before, but not delivered in such a simple, step-by-step manner, which is aimed at doing one thing: making the student a better shooter. We all know that if our stance is off, we will miss. Kincaid took the time to explain why, and demonstrated how to teach a beginner the proper method for mounting the gun and bringing it to bear on the target. Kincaid has the shooter do what he calls “mount and bow.” The student mounts the shotgun on their shoulder and aims upward approximately 45 degrees. Once in this position, he has the shooter bow or lean forward, putting about 70 percent of their weight on the front foot. This is one of the very first things they teach to new shooters. It is the basis for everything that comes next.
Your eye is the rear sight. Big, bright front sights on your gun are counterproductive, according to Kincaid. You don’t look at your sights; rather, you look at the bird.
These are just small examples of the many topics we covered during my time there, and frankly, they can explain their techniques better than I can. There is so much more Kincaid and the boys have to share. Whatever your level, you will walk away a more proficient shooter without a doubt.
If you want to take your shotgun shooting to another level, be pampered at a world-class resort, and visit amazing countryside, check out the gun club at The Greenbrier. Tell the guys I sent you, but don’t believe half of the stories they tell about my shooting! ASJ
Author’s note: You can visit the world-class Greenbrier resort’s website at greenbrier.com, and getting there is easy via Amtrak or flights directly into the Greenbrier Valley Airport. There is no excuse not to indulge.
Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: Appalachia, Beretta, Browning, Curtis Kincaid, Fine dining, Greenbrier Resort, Homer Bryant, Jimmy Fraley, Larry Case, Mike Adkins, National Historic Landmark, Skeet, Sporting Clays, Trap, West Virginia, White Springs
Story by Troy Taysom – Photographs courtesy of Truesight Media
Browning, in conjunction with The Sportsman Channel, is launching a new reality television show called The Most Wanted List. The show will star Browning personality Kristy Lee Cook and her two best friends from Oregon: Jessie Jo Stanfill and Jess Hull. The idea is a family-friendly, adventure reality show with these three young ladies who will be traveling the country and checking off wild adventures from their bucket lists. I had the pleasure of catching up with Kristy while she was on a horse ranch in Texas.
If the name Kristy Lee Cook sounds familiar to you, then you might be a country music fan. You might also be a fan of American Idol or barrel racing; maybe even big game hunting. You see, Kristy has made a name for herself in all of these areas. She jumped into the nation’s spotlight while competing on the immensely popular TV show during its seventh season.
She worked hard and made it into the top 10 (coming in seventh place out of hundreds of thousands of contestants), went on tour, launched an album, and most of us might assume she’d have it made in the shade, but it’s still an uphill climb once Idol is over.
I asked Kristy if the show helped or hurt her career. “Well, both,” Kristy said. “I gained thousands of fans and a lot of national exposure, but on the other hand, radio stations and other music industry insiders see Idol contestants as having broken into the music business the ‘easy’ way and are reluctant to play their music. I had a record contract at the age of 17, several years before I was on Idol so I did it the hard way, but I still had to fight to have my music listened to.”
The sting of the loss can still be heard in Kristy’s voice, but she didn’t let radio stations or doubters stop her ambition and drive. She turned the loss into motivation and ultimately victory. In 2008 Kristy released an album titled Why Wait. The album debuted at No. 8 on the US Top Country albums chart and No. 49 on the Billboard 200, with sales just under 10,000 in the first week. Since the album, Kristy has become heavily involved in the song-writing process, making sure that she has and maintains creative control over her music.
The move has proved to be genius. She released singles such as “Airborne Ranger Infantry” and “Lookin’ For A Cowgirl,” which have both been hugely successful, receiving attention from publications like Rolling Stone and websites Bustle.com and Countrymusicrocks.com. The reviews are all positive and it seems, according to her fans, Kristy is writing and performing music that actually speaks to them.
“Airborne Ranger Infantry” is a tribute song to her father and all the other Vietnam-era veterans who came home to protests, insults and hatred. Kristy felt these men and women deserved better, and with her song, tries to gives them the respect they deserve. The lyrics are based on poems her father wrote about his and his friends’ experiences in the war. They are powerful in their simplicity and will ring home with anyone who has ever been at war, not just Vietnam. The song is blunt, direct, truthful and representative of what happened some 50 years ago in Southeast Asia.
“Looking For A Cowgirl” is simply about being a country girl. Kristy has matured and is now very comfortable with who she is and this song is a reflection of exactly how she feels about herself and her life. “I am who I am,” said Kristy when asked about the song and its meaning.
As if music weren’t enough, Kristy is an active barrel racer and winning on the circuit. Shasta, her mare, recently passed away, leaving a large void in Kristy’s heart, but Kristy has continued on, choosing to remember Shasta by racing her colt, Tazer.According to her, Tazer looks “just like his momma.” She is also racing a young stallion named Venom that Kristy says, “shows big promise and has been in the money for most of his races.”
Kristy doesn’t seem to live by the same 24-hour clock the rest of us do, because not only does she find time to sing and race, she also loves to hunt. To her every animal is a trophy, whether it’s a New Zealand stag or a Midwest whitetail.
This love of hunting and her desire for everything adventurous led her to pitch the idea for her new show. The execs at Browning and The Sportman Channel agreed it was a great idea. This idea was so popular that it even attracted a host of other companies and organizations, such as Caldwell, Winchester, Bog Pod, Tenzing, Anderson Bean Boots, Nose Jammer and the Mule Deer Foundation. The Most Wanted List premieres this July and Kristy intends for the show to be different from other reality TV programs. According to her, many reality TV shows are risqué and take the approach that the more scantily dressed the participants are, the better. “That’s not what this show is about; this is a show the entire family can watch,” Kristy said. “We want parents to be able to watch the show with their kids and trust that we won’t be cussing or inappropriately dressed.”
This show will feature Kristy hunting with her trusty Browning Stalker rifles chambered in .300 WSM and .270 WSW, as well as her Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun. She may even have her new Browning 1911-.380 hidden somewhere on her person but she’s not telling, for the record.
Kristy, Jessie Jo and Jess will be hunting mountain lions and alligators, just to name a few, but she realizes that many of her fans and TV audiences aren’t hunters. “This show isn’t just about hunting. We are going to be flying in a Navy fighter jet, skydiving and deep sea fishing. There will be something for everyone,” Kristy assured me.
The show will also be more than just the adventures. A large part
will be about the comedic relationship between these three long-time friends.
As if that were not enough, Kristy also is heavily involved in humanitarian efforts and is a board member for the Dutton Foundation, which includes Heavenly Hope Ministries. The foundation works in the African nations of Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia helping to form and run orphanages for children. The foundation primarily keeps children safe from child sex trafficking. John Dutton, co-founder and president, is also a former NFL and AFL (Arena Football League) quarterback who works with these children to pursue athletic dreams instead of being trapped in the hopelessness that is so prevalent in Africa.
Kristy Lee Cook is a lot of things: Country music star, accomplished barrel racer, avid hunter, TV star and quiet humanitarian. But if I had to boil it down and place one label on her, it would simply be, country girl. Kristy is what is right about America. She is living the American dream on her terms and doing a fantastic job of it. ASJ