Hunting Archives - Page 2 of 8 -
May 23rd, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Sixteen-year-old Macie Stewart is a proven champion on the wrestling mat and on the hunt.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN

[su_dropcap style=”light”]S[/su_dropcap]itting at timber’s edge, we waited for the dense fog to lift. We’d been in position for nearly 20 minutes, but couldn’t get a clear look at the roaring red stag, some 200 yards away.

In February of this year, Macie stood atop the podium where she was crowned state champion wrestler in the 106-pound division. The 16-year-old junior at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, Macie has high expectations on and off the mat. (THURSTON HIGH SCHOOL)

I was with noted outfitter, Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting Safaris, and we were in pursuit of red stags on the North Island of New Zealand. I’d filmed TV shows with Gerald before, but this time I was carrying a camera, hoping to capture some action on film.

The hunter was Macie Stewart, a 16-year-old high school student from my hometown of Springfield, Oregon. It was her second day of the hunt, and while she’d passed on a couple nice stags, the rut was in full swing and the valleys echoed with roaring red stags; she was in no rush to end the hunt.

Finally, the fog cleared just enough to confirm the stag in front of us was a shooter. Inching into a better shooting position, Macie got set up in the shooting sticks and waited for the stag to stand.

Moments before darkness consumed us, the fog fully lifted, the massively racked stag let out a deep, guttural roar, and then stood up from his bed. That’s when Macie let him have it with her .308. The stag stumbled and fell.

“Oh my gosh, he’s way bigger than he looked through the scope,” said Macie as we approached the downed stag. Gerald and Macie exchanged high fives and hugs, as this was a moment each will remember forever.

And in a wrestling match, she would have scored two points for a takedown.

Less than a month prior to her late March hunt for red stag in New Zealand, Macie was on the wrestling mat in Portland, Oregon’s Memorial Coliseum. Here, she became the first girl in her high school’s history to earn a state wrestling title. From athletics to hunting, Macie Stewart has achieved a lifetime of success, and she’s only a junior at Thurston High School.

At the age of 13, Macie traveled with family and friends to Wyoming, where she took this beautiful pronghorn as part of a TV show. Macie has grown up in a family that hunts, and travel is a big part of her passion behind the hunt.

“I SHOT MY FIRST BLACK-TAILED deer when I was 10 years old, on Oregon’s Mentored Youth tag,” Macie recalled. “I was with my dad, and it was the day before Halloween. It was a fun hunt, but I messed up something on the camera and I lost all the photos of that deer. I didn’t think much about it then, but now I really wish I had them.”

“I like looking back at the pictures of my hunts because they bring back so many memories that went along with it, not just of the animals, but of the people, the places, and so many other things that go with the hunt,” Macie said. “There are so many fun memories that hunting creates.”

Macie began her wrestling career in sixth grade. “Even before I started wrestling, I was around it a lot,” she explains. “My brother, Zane, who is two years younger than me, started wrestling when he was five, so I was always around it and liked it a lot.”

Less than a month after earning her state title in wrestling, Macie was hunting red stag in New Zealand. Here, Macie and her guide, Gerald Fluerty, approach the monster stag Macie took following a long, patient wait.

Early in high school, Macie tried cheerleading and softball, and while they were fun, to her they just lacked something. “I’m a really competitive person,” Macie elaborated. “But I also love the family feeling wrestling has. Everyone in wrestling is like a family, and when you meet up at big tournaments with other schools, it’s like a bigger family. It’s fun and everyone supports one another. I also like the intensity that goes with wrestling, so that’s my sport, what I do year-round either with my school or in clubs.”

I’ve been on many hunts with Macie and her father, Chris Stewart, over the years. Chris and I took Macie and my son, Braxton – who are the same age – to Wyoming for an antelope hunt when they were 13. They both got nice bucks on a truly memorable hunt. On another hunt in Oregon’s Coast Range, Macie got a Roosevelt bull five minutes after Braxton got a bear. That was a fun night in camp. Braxton also filmed Macie taking a five-point Roosevelt the season before that.

When asked if she gets nervous, Macie smiled, and said, “No, not really nervous; I get excited, but not nervous. I don’t know why.”
SHE DIDN’T FEEL NERVOUS when she stepped onto the mat for the state title match either. She’d entered the tournament as the number one seed, which can add pressure to anyone, let alone a kid. She won the semifinal match by a big margin, and though her title match lasted three full rounds, Macie won 6-0.

“I was in pretty good shape heading into state,” Macie shares. “I felt good, but not overconfident.” She feels that way on many hunts, too.

She wasn’t nervous at all during the final moments of her red stag hunt. I know of many seasoned hunters who would have been on edge with the long wait and anticipation. “That stag wasn’t going anywhere, we were hidden really well in the trees and the wind was good; we just needed the fog to lift so I could get a shot. That hunt was all about patience.”

“Being in good shape is the key to success on the mat and in the woods,” Macie notes. “And having wrestling season be the same time as hunting season helps, a lot. Hunting deer and elk isn’t easy, and when I push hard on those hunts, they’re actually great workouts that help me keep in shape for wrestling.”

Macie points out other correlations between hunting and wrestling and how they benefit one another.

“Wrestling makes you mentally tough, so the patience part of hunting comes easy to me. The challenges encountered while wrestling also prepare you for so many situations where you need to be mentally strong in life, and have perseverance, and I see that a lot when I’m hunting. Sometimes I want to sleep in instead of go hunting, but when I get out there, I’m always glad I went.”

She goes on. “When you cut weight in wrestling and you finally win, it’s a great feeling, because you put in so much work to get to that point. It’s like hunting. You put in all this hard work and it comes down to one shot, and when you make that shot, it’s so gratifying. Wrestling and hunting teach you to never give up, because if you quit, you’ll never reach your goal.”

“My favorite part about hunting is being outdoors and getting to travel to other places,” Macie said. “Hunting has allowed me to see some really cool things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I also love eating wild game; that’s all our family eats. It’s way better tasting than meat from a store, and way better for you. Being a wrestler you have to be in good shape, all the time, and eating wild game keeps me fit, no doubt.”

Macie with a great public-land blacktail she took last October, one of a half-dozen good bucks she’s taken since age 10.

WHEN ASKED HOW MANY BLACKTAILS and Roosevelt elk she has to her credit, Macie had to think, and still didn’t know for sure. “I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” Macie smiles. “To me it’s more about the experience and the memories, not about numbers.” But she did recall some of her more challenging hunts.

“I’ve had some tough blacktail hunts,” Macie recalled. “There was one big three-by-three a couple years ago. Dad and I spotted him from a long way away, and we had to patiently stalk through the woods, then the edge of a logged unit. Finally, we got to within 50 yards of the bedded buck before we could see him. He was really hidden and we had to move carefully on that one, but it wasn’t easy because it was getting dark out.”

“Last year was a fun hunt, too,” Macie continued. “My brother had shot a big buck in a unit, and packing that buck out, there was so much sign that we went back the next day and spotted another big buck in the same unit. We could only get to about 300 yards, but I got prone and felt really solid, and connected on the shot. That buck had a giant body. We quartered and packed that thing out, but had to go get help from some of our wrestling buddies to do it.”

When asked what she most recalls from her hunts, Macie didn’t hesitate. “The people and the places are what stand out most in my mind,” she said. “This New Zealand hunt was extra special because Mom was with me, while Dad and Zane were hunting another area. That was the first time she’d been with me when I shot an animal, in all these years.”

“I also loved the way people in New Zealand hunt,” Macie added. “When we hunt at home, we stay out all day. In New Zealand we got up, ate breakfast, went hunting for a few hours, came back for a big lunch, where their family joined ours, went back out hunting until dark, then their whole family was together again with us for dinner. It was like Thanksgiving every night.”

With May upon us, where will you find Macie Stewart? She has a spring bear tag, so you can bet she’ll be spending time in the woods. She also has a demanding spring and summer wrestling schedule, one that takes her around the country, possibly the world. Last year she qualified for a tournament in South Africa.

What I appreciate most about Macie Stewart is how hard she works. Be it wrestling or hunting, she’s diligent and positive. She doesn’t brag, flood her social media sites with boastful images of animals she’s taken, and she has nothing to prove to anyone.

I’ve been on many hunts with Macie, and not once has she cared about putting on makeup, fixing her hair, painting her nails or worrying about what she looks like in the photos. Macie is an accomplished hunter, statechampion athlete, and a hard worker who will be an achiever in life, no matter what she decides to do. ASJ

Western Oregon’s Macie Stewart is an accomplished hunter and athlete. She sees many correlations between the demands of hunting and athletics, both of which benefit one another.

Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author and TV host. His show, The Hunt, can be seen on Netflix. To learn more about the show or New Zealand hunting, visit scotthaugen.com.

Posted in Women and guns Tagged with: , , , , ,

May 16th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

THREE NEW BOWS ADDED TO GEN-X LINEUP

FULL LINE OF BOWS NOW AVAILABLE FOR HUNTING, BOWFISHING AND TARGET ARCHERY

 

Gen-X Archery is adding three new models to their line of bows, expanding their offering to a full range of hunting, bowfishing and target shooting bows that  combine versatility and velocity with simplicity and power.

 

“These three new bows round out our offering to archery enthusiasts from beginners to avid bow hunters,” said Todd Bahnub, President of Gen-X. “All of our bows are made in the U.S., and continue our tradition of offering durable bows with great features and technology that stand up over time. We call it the Gen-X Factor.”

 

The three new bows include:

  •  X-Versa offers premium power packed into a compact size. Perfect for shooting in tight spots or as a low profile bow, X-Versa features the patented Versa Cam System technology, making draw length adjustments simple with no bow press required. Starting at $249.
  • X-LR8 is a premium level performance compound bow for advanced game hunting.  Engineered for maximum speed and accuracy, X-LR8 also features the patented Versa Cam System. X-LR8 delivers a bow-press-free adjustable draw weight and customizable draw lengths from 19-30 inches along with ergonomic riser and grip designed for stability and a superior hunting experience. Starting at $289.
  • X-WON is a fully adjustable target bow for archers of all skill levels, offering a smooth draw and steady release.  Optimized for range shooting, the X-WON features the Opti-Mod Cam System, along with adjustable draw lengths and up to 70 lbs of adjustable draw weight. Priced at $299.

 

The three new bows round out the full Gen-X collection which also includes:

  • X-Dawn (formerly known as the Gen-X) is an entry-level hunting bow that features Progressive Let-Off technology, making shooting easier for archers at any level. With an adjustable draw weight up to 40 lbs, X-Dawn shoots arrows at higher speeds which is ideal for both in the field and on the range. Starting at $139.
  • Cuda brings Progressive Let-Off technology to bowfishing. Kits come equipped with a Zebco 808 Bowfisher reel, a fiberglass arrow with a safety slide and an arrow rest. With adjustable draw weights up to 40 lbs, the Cuda is ideal for snap shooting fish with ease. Starting at $199.

 

The new Gen-X bows are sold as stand-alone bows or as kits, except for the X-WON which is bow only, and are available for purchase at their newly updated website: www.genxbows.com.

About Gen-X Archery:

Gen-X Archery offers a full line of premium bows for hunting, bowfishing and target archery, all made with pride in the U.S.A. For more information visit: genxbows.com

 

Posted in Industry News Tagged with: , ,

April 11th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Gamo’s annual Squirrel Master Classic continues to remain on target with kids and adults alike.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]M[/su_dropcap]any of us started out shooting a BB or pellet gun at a target and graduated to small game like rabbits and squirrels. Some of us did the other way around. But it seems that in these times of shrinking hunter numbers fewer and fewer of our young people are going down that path. Four years ago Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters fame decided to do something about that and created the Squirrel Master Classic. The event is held every year at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge west of Montgomery in Alabama’s legendarily rich-soiled “Black Belt” region.

Bone Collector cameraman Hunter Rollins captures footage of outdoor TV’s Kenneth Lancaster.

Kenneth Lancaster with a squirrel and his Gamo gun.

The Squirrel Master Classic could be classified as a friendly competition, as it pairs up teams consisting of an outdoor TV personality, a young person involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and a squirrel dog handler. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. This year, the range was supervised by world champion shooter Doug Koening, whose most recent major win (as of this writing) came at the 2016 NRA Bianchi Cup.

Vicki Cianciarulo of Archer’s Choice and Travis “T-Bone” Turner of Bone Collector sight in their air rifles before the competition.

Scoring is simple. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. In order to qualify to take part in the event, the six 4H shooters in this year’s classic had to compete with other 4H’ers for the privilege. The lone girl in that half dozen, Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.

Six 4H shooters qualified to join the competition: (left to right) Joseph McFarland, Jeremy McFarland, Luke Christian, Dawson Kissik, Jackson Umlauf and Moriah Christian.

ALL HUNTING AND COMPETITIVE shooting is done using Gamo air rifles, the event’s sponsor. Each hunter this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22-caliber pellet rifle (see sidebar), which features a 10-shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.

While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year – Jackie Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler – along with Gamo president Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.

Host Jackie Bushman (left), Kenneth Lancaster and ‘T-Bone’ Turner at the noon squirrel weigh-in.

Despite an influx of new shooters to the squad, T-Bone’s Team Bone Collector took the competition honors for the third consecutive year.

The coveted Gamo Squirrel Master competition trophy.

In the end, Turner’s team (which I was fortunate enough to be a member of) took the trophy, and while we were very pleased I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters. They had a day in the beautiful Alabama woodlands following some feisty squirrel dogs, shooting air rifles, and spending time with some of their media heroes. It was a day they will not forget anytime soon – nor will I, for that matter – and that, my friends, is whole idea of the Squirrel Master Classic. ASJ

The first squirrel of the day brings smiles to everyone at this year’s Squirrel Master Classic, including Luke Christian (left), Mo the squirrel dog, and Butch Morton.

Posted in Competitions Tagged with: , , , ,

April 9th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]On any continent, the Barnes LRX offers hunters eye-opening accuracy potential and deep penetration at long distance.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]“H[/su_dropcap]ow far?”

The two simple words said much more than they implied. First, both Poen van Zyl and I clearly understood we each knew which of the reedbuck rams were to be killed, and second, it was down to a matter of the mathematics involved in taking him cleanly. Based on my professional hunter’s momentary silence, I responded with a brief question of my own.

“One-fifty?”

“Just hold on the point of the shoulder, and squeeze the trigger.” Poen van Zyl may have thought in Afrikaans, but knew how to guide a visiting sportsman in English. The Schmidt & Bender’s crosshairs quickly settled on the ram’s shoulder, and I broke the trigger of the Heym SR30 like you’d snap an icicle in two. Even through the recoil, I could see the lean reedbuck fold and collapse to its death; the .300 Winchester Magnum had once again done its job, as it had on so many other African species. Though the rifle and optic were new to me, the cartridge and bullet were not; I have come to love the .300 Winchester Magnum, and the Barnes LRX is among the best projectiles the company has ever produced.

The Barnes LRX bullet is available in 6.5mm, .270, 7mm, .30 and .338 calibers. (BARNES)

Barnes Bullets – the success story of Randy and Coni Brooks – has its roots in the brainchild of Fred Barnes, who saw the need for quality softpoints in a number of different calibers. Fred had a limited success, but his name surely carried on, defining a trend in modern bullet construction that is equal parts revolutionary and genius.

I am on the young end of the gunwriter age spectrum, but at 45 years old I am also wise enough to know whom to contact for the story. Randy Brooks and I have had more than one conversation, albeit via telephone, regarding the roots of his company and the development of the Barnes X bullet. As the famous story goes – and as it was related to me directly – the good Mr. Brooks was glassing for Alaskan bears when the impetus for a genre of projectiles popped into his head. “If the lead core is an issue with bullet separation, why not take the lead out?” And thus the Barnes X monometal softpoint was born. And while that bullet gave me equal parts exhilaration and fits of mania, I loved the design. Being an all-copper bullet, the Barnes X was designed to expand into four petals, giving a devastating balance of expansion and penetration. The original design had some issues with accuracy and copper fouling, but that was all rectified with the release of the Barnes TSX – or Triple Shock X – bullet, which has three large grooves on the bearing surface to reduce fouling and improve accuracy.

The Barnes LRX, original and after expansion.

The TSX, and its tipped counterpart, the TTSX, both serve most hunting scenarios perfectly, the LRX – or Long Range X bullet – has a sleeker profile and higher ballistic coefficient, to retain as much energy as possible downrange, and keep the trajectories flat. The LRX retains the royal blue polymer tip of the TTSX, but the ogive is engineered for the best downrange performance, and will indeed show the benefits over the flat base spitzers out past 250 or 275 yards.

The LRX, like all Barnes bullets, are praised and noted for their weight retention, as the monometal construction prevents any jacket separation – because there is no jacket – but it’s the accuracy potential of the LRX that truly opened my eyes. I’ve loaded this bullet in several different cartridges – with the best results coming from the .30-caliber magnums – and all of the accuracy has been more than acceptable. But it seems that the 175-grain .30-caliber LRX has garnered a special place in my heart.

The 175-grain Barnes LRX worked very well in the .300 Winchester Magnum and .30 Nosler.

While testing the new .30 Nosler, I utilized a number of bullets – bullets that have, in the past, produced fantastic results – but the best performer by far was the 175-grain LRX. Delivering ½ minute-of-angle accuracy and velocities on par with the .300 Weatherby, I know this combination could easily handle everything in North America, and 90 percent of the African species. In the Heym SR30 HPPR – the straight pull, High Performance Precision Rifle – it easily prints ½ to ¾ MOA five-shot groups using handloaded Barnes 175-grain LRX bullets.

The Heym SR30 HPPR and a reedbuck taken with the Barnes LRX. (Inset, below) With a steep boat tail, polymer tip and sleek ogive, the Barnes LRX makes a great long-range hunting bullet.

For the record, that reedbuck didn’t stand a chance; the shot went exactly where I intended it to, and the buck fell as if the very hand of God struck him. Two more of his kin did the same, at ranges from 125 to 250 yards, and I couldn’t recover any of the bullets; the LRX gave excellent penetration. The Barnes LRX and that Heym SR30 kept the Mozambican village of Peau well fed. If you appreciate the performance of the Barnes bullets – more than 90 percent weight retention and deep, deep penetration – combined with the best accuracy of the lot, try some LRXs and I’ll bet you’ll be happy. They’re available in 6.5mm, .270, 7mm, .30 and .338 calibers. ASJ

The first Mozambican reedbuck taken by the author with the .30-caliber Barnes LRX.

 

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , ,

March 10th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Like the hot desert wind of the same name, Scirocco II bullets are powerful and unrelenting.[/su_heading]

 STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO 

The .338 210-grain Scirocco II.

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap] had been frustrated with the terminal performance of my .300 Winchester Magnum, as the cup-and-core bullets – which flew very well when punching paper – were giving too much expansion when used in the New York deer woods. I needed a stiffer bullet, yet wanted to take full advantage of the flat trajectories and wind deflection characteristics of the spitzer boat-tail bullets. I did a bit of research, and found an advertisement for the Swift Scirocco II. The ad copy touted a newly engineered jacket, which would improve the accuracy of the bullet. I ordered a box of 100 .308-caliber 180-grain Scirocco IIs, and headed to the bench. I had developed a load for this particular rifle that gave just under minute-of-angle accuracy, so decided to start there (it was well below maximum), and see what the new bullets would do.

I firmly believed the first three-shot group was a fluke – my wiggles must’ve accounted for my waggles – as it printed just under a half inch, but when the second and third did the same thing, I was a convert. They gave good velocities out of my 24-inch barrel – 2,965 feet per second, to be precise – but would they perform as advertised in the field?

The .338 Winchester Magnum is well served by the 210-grain Scirocco, giving the cartridge a flat trajectory and good terminal ballistics.

You see, the Scirocco is a bonded-core boat-tail bullet, with a very thick jacket and a black polymer tip. It is designed to not only fly accurately – which it proved to be true – but to give the consummate blend of expansion and penetration. Many cup-and-core boat tails have a tendency to have the copper jacket separate from the lead core upon impact at higher velocities, and that didn’t make me happy. The Scirocco’s thick jacket is chemically bonded to the lead core to hold things together should you strike bone, yet the jacket tapers down toward the nose, allowing for good expansion. That expansion creates a larger wound channel, which destroys more vital tissue and causes death sooner.
MY FIRST FIELD TEST was in Wyoming, where I would be hunting pronghorn antelope. Anyone who has hunted the Great Plains of the American West knows that the wind is always blowing, and sometimes it blows good and hard. I found the antelope I wanted after a couple of hours glassing the prairie, and it required a stalk of just over a mile. I lay prone over a small mound, with cactus everywhere it shouldn’t have been, and settled the crosshairs of my Winchester 70 on the buck’s shoulder 215 yards away. Even through the recoil, I could see that the antelope’s feet drew up to his body as he fell earthward, stone dead, and in that moment, this bullet captured my undivided attention.

The Scirocco II offers good expansion at a wide variety of velocities, and works well in mild cartridges like the .308 Winchester right up to the magnums.

I used it the next spring on a black bear hunt in Quebec. While I knew the shots were going to be inside of 75 yards, as it was a baited hunt, I wanted to see how the bullet would handle the tough shoulder bones of a bear. Canada’s ever-changing weather kept the action slow for the first few days, but a warm-up later in the week drew the bears out like moths to a flame. A 200-plus-pound boar decided to pay a visit to my bait, and I decided to ruin his day. I had loaded the 180-grain Scirocco in my .308 Winchester, to a muzzle velocity of 2,450 fps, and the bullet took him without issue, despite punching through both shoulders. I couldn’t recover either bullet, which was no problem with me, but I was highly impressed with the performance.

Since then, I’ve loaded this bullet in many different cartridges, from the 6.5×55 Swede and 6.5-284 Norma, to the 7mm Remington Ultra Magnum, to many of the .30s including the .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield, the .300 Holland and Holland Magnum, and the huge cases like the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum and .30-378 Weatherby Magnum. I’ve even loaded the 210-grain Scirocco in the .338 Winchester Magnum with great results.

The 180-grain .30-caliber polymer-tipped Swift Scirocco IIs make a fantastic all-around big game load.

THE OUTCOME IS USUALLY THE SAME: almost all of the rifles (with the exception of one particularly evil .264 Winchester Magnum) gave subMOA accuracy and excellent field performance. The few bullets we’ve been able to recover from game animals have retained between 80 and 95 percent of their weight, with expansion running right around 2 times to 2.5 times caliber dimension. My wife loves the 150-grain Scirocco II in her .308 Winchester, as it offers less recoil yet great terminal ballistics; her Savage Lady Hunter prints ½-inch groups with this load.

This Wyoming pronghorn fell to the author (right) and his .300 Winchester Magnum and a 180-grain Swift Scirocco II.

The Scirocco is available in calibers from .224 up to and including .338, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go hunting with this bullet in any situation shy of the truly large and dangerous game that requires a larger bore and heavier bullet. With the Scirocco, between my own hunts and those of friends and colleagues, we have taken animals ranging in size from deer and antelope to caribou to African plains game to elk and moose. Swift only makes two softpoints – the Scirocco and the A-Frame – and that’s one of the best combinations on the market. ASJ

The .308 Winchester 180-grain Scirocco load that cleanly took this Quebec black bear.

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

March 8th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]The gun that made it safe for the Winchester to win the West.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

[su_dropcap style=”light”]C[/su_dropcap]hristian Sharps already had some limited experience with breechloaders when he patented his fallingblock action in 1848. He’d worked at Harpers Ferry where the Hall breechloaders were made, and many people have assumed that that was where the seed was planted in his head to design a better breechloader.

But designing that “better mousetrap” was only the beginning for the young gunmaker. Unfortunately, Sharps had difficulty in selling or marketing his idea. Over the next three years, he had a number of different business partners, and the total output of rifles and carbines he produced was very low. At one point, Sharps sold his patents as well as his interests in the company, receiving a cash agreement plus $1 per rifle made. Then, very late in 1851, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was formed and that’s when things finally got rolling.

A number of the features of the Sharps rifles were redesigned, primarily to make various parts more adaptable to increased production. While the models of 1849, 1850, and 1851 were all basically hand-fitted and hand-finished, beginning in 1852, models were built with a much greater dependability by using machines for fitting and finishing. This is all related here in a highly summarized form, but it is generally accepted that the Model 1852 Sharps is the first rifle to be in the form or profile that we recognize as the famous Sharps rifle.

A Hartford ’74 with a No. 1 heavy barrel, chambered for the .50-70. The author (inset) proudly poses in colorful period regalia with his favorite .44-77 over his shoulder. (BJ LANES)

THE 1852 MODEL WAS THE FIRST of the highly recognizable “slant breech” Sharps, with the breech block at a back slant instead of being vertical. It was also the first Sharps to be produced in the thousands of rifles rather than just in the hundreds. The very distinctive slant-breech Sharps were made as military-style rifles and carbines, plus sporting rifles and even a few shotguns. The slant breeches included the models of 1852, 1853, and the very rare tall-hammered Model 1855.

Incidentally, it was carbines of the slant-breech Sharps that were smuggled to John Brown and his followers, hidden in cases that were marked as “Bibles.” A preacher, Henry W. Beecher, was an abolitionist who supported Brown. That’s where the slang expression referring to a Sharps rifle as a “Beecher’s Bible” came from.

Some Sharps cartridges: .44-40 Winchester (for comparison), .44-77 paper patched, .44-90 paper patched, .45-70 carbine load, .45-110, .50-70, and the Big .50 – .50-90.

With the model of 1859 another notable change was seen – the beginning of the vertical-block actions.  The reason for going to the vertical breech block was for operation of a more effective gas seal.  This is the model of the Sharps that really went to war, our Civil War, and some of these rifles that went to Berdan’s Sharpshooters were equipped with double set triggers.

Further updates and slight improvements were made in the New Models of 1863 and 1865, and the reputation of Sharps rifles for accuracy, particularly for long-range shooting, got began to build during that War Between the States. Afterwards, when self-contained cartridges were being considered much more seriously, the late models of the Sharps rifles with the vertical breech block were updated and converted to chamber those cartridges, primarily the new government cartridge of 1866, the famous .50-70.
THIS IS THE ERA OF THE SHARPS rifle history that I find the most interesting. It was the cartridge-firing Sharps rifles that “went West” in search of the buffalo herds, and in the hands of hunters and frontiersmen who needed a rifle that would perform at long range. These were the Sharps rifles that proved to be legendary.

The author’s .44-77 again, a semicustom Classic Hartford model with 28-inch barrel.

The Model 1969 was the first sporting model of the Sharps rifles that was made for use with centerfire metallic cartridges. It was chambered for the .50-70 Government and it also introduced a new Sharps cartridge that was designated as the .44-2¼-inch, with .44 for the caliber and 2¼ inches for the length of the case, as guns for it were marked on their barrels. That .44 fairly quickly became known as the .44-77, which was the UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge Company) loading for it, and it became the most common and popular cartridge in the Sharps rifles until the .45-70 edged it out in popularity beginning in 1876.

Despite their heavy usage and good reputation, the Model 1869 rifles were made for only two years. In 1871, the Model 1874, the Sharps rifle that many people remember the very most, was introduced. And yes, you read that correctly. Although the Model 1874 was first manufactured in 1871, it went unnamed for three years. It was finally given recognition when the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was reformed as the Sharps Rifle Company in 1874. It is also a fact that Christian Sharps died in 1874 and the designation for the rifle might stand as a monument to him although I doubt if that was really intended.

A five-shot group fired with the .44-77 using grease-groove bullets.

But no matter why the naming delay occurred, there is no doubt that the 1871 debut of the Model 1874 was timed perfectly. The great buffalo hunts were just beginning, and the Sharps – with its powerful long-range cartridges – were just what the buffalo hunters wanted. Both the .44-77 and the .50-70 made names for themselves, and the .44-77 was the most produced Sharps chambering during the Hartford era. But the buffalo hunters kept asking for longer-range cartridges, so in 1872 both the .44-90 and the “Big .50,” (what we today refer to as the .50-90) were introduced. Those cartridges, particularly the .44-90, made more long-range shots possible, and good shots out to 1,000 yards were not unknown.

It was during that time when the “buffalo wars” were fought, including the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls. That’s the legendary battle where 28 buffalo hunters withstood the attack of several hundred Indians from a collection of tribes. The hunters’ success is generally attributed to the long-range Sharps rifles which most of them were using. One hunter, Billy Dixon, is credited with the long shot that truly became a legend, shooting an Indian off of his horse at a very long range. The actual distance for that shot is lost to time, but various claims put it at more than 1,000 yards to over 1,500 yards.
IN EARLY 1876, the Sharps Rifle Company moved their factory from Hartford to Bridgeport, Conn. Some changes were made in the rifles, so a Bridgeport Sharps is generally recognizable to the trained eye when compared to a Hartford model. For instance, the silver-colored pewter nose cap on the forearm was generally no longer used. More important than that, the famous Sharps .44- and .50-caliber cartridges were no longer chambered except for special orders. That’s when the .45-70 became the most popular cartridge in the Sharps sporting rifles lineup, and what we call the .45-110 (Quigley’s cartridge) became the leader in long-range shooting.

Shooting over crossed sticks, the author aims at a target over 800 yards in the distance. (ALLEN CUNNIFF)

In 1878, Sharps introduced their hammerless model, the SharpsBorchardt. While the Model 1878 had certain advantages, it was not particularly popular in the West. The big buffalo hunts were rapidly coming to an end, and with them the demand for a rifle with the “personality” of the big Sharps was also diminishing. The Sharps Rifle Company closed their doors for good in 1881.

Still, the Sharps rifles deserve a fair amount of credit for opening the West up for other brands of rifles. What had been the “wild” West was pretty well tamed by the time the Winchester ’73 appeared on the scene. There were a few .44 rimfires shooting the Henry cartridge at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but odds are those were mainly fired from revolvers. The .44-40 simply hadn’t made it out West at that time, and it is a simple fact that the Winchester repeaters had neither the range nor the punch of the big Sharps.

Today, however, we can still enjoy some “Sharps shooting” because excellent modern copies of the old rifles continue to be made, and remain in high demand. These include those manufactured by the C. Sharps Arms Company (csharpsarms.com) of Big Timber, Mont., which made each of the guns you see pictured in this article.

The author’s best Sharps for longrange shooting is this Hartford Model in .44-90 caliber.

And so, whether your target is a live buffalo bull on ranches where they can still be hunted, or a paper target posted at 1,000 yards, firing a big Sharps with lead bullets and black powder loads remains a long-range thrill. And while shooting one of the newly made Sharps rifles, you can’t help but have the feeling that you’re holding history in your hands. ASJ

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , ,

March 7th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]How one rifle and load became a go-to combo for deer-sized game.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON

[su_dropcap style=”light”]A[/su_dropcap]s an outdoor writer, I’m often asked what my favorite rifle is. My standard answer, especially when I’m in the field, is whatever rifle I happen to be holding in my hands at any given moment.

But that’s not entirely true. We all have our favorites. For some, it may be a beat-up rifle that’s been handed down from generation to generation. It may be one with high-grade wood and fancy engraving. Many prefer turnbolt-action guns. Some swoon over a fine double gun, while others may shoot only an AR platform rifle. A favorite may be a rifle that shoots tiny little groups, or one that’s light enough to pack up steep mountains. For some, it might be the only rifle they own – or one that literally saved their life.

One of the author’s favorite rifles for deer-sized game is an original Weatherby Vanguard chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It’s been much modified from its original configuration with the addition of a fine Timney trigger and a Fiberguard stock.

In truth, I have several favorite rifles for several specific jobs. For deer-sized game, however, one rifle in my collection has accounted for more animals than all of the others combined. It’s not the fanciest rifle in the safe, nor is it the most expensive. It’s the one I’ve made more great memories with than any other.
THAT RIFLE BEGAN ITS LONG RUN with me many years ago as an original Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It had a Tupperware stock and creepy trigger, so it did not long stay in its original configuration. I installed a fine Timney trigger and swapped the stock out for a pillarbedded Fiberguard stock, in an attractive tan color with black spider web finish.

I long ago lost count of the number of deer and hogs I shot with this rifle in the coastal mountains of central California before I left that state for more gun-friendly environs. It was with me when I shot my first pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, and it was the rifle I used to bag a record-book pronghorn in New Mexico. There’s a nice axis deer on my wall, thanks to that rifle, and a snarling javelina. The rifle has taken mule deer in several Western states, and was the one I used to take my best whitetail buck, a barrel-chested 11-pointer nudging the 160 Boone and Crockett mark.

It was also the rifle I held when I made a running shot on a whitetail in the state of my birth, Kentucky, a number of years ago. He was an old buck, with thin, broken-up antlers,
and wasn’t much to look at. But it was a hunt I’ll never forget. It was the first time I had seen many of my relatives in nearly two decades, and I was able to share a venison dinner with them from that homecoming hunt, surrounded by the warmth, laughter and happiness I remembered so well from my childhood. Sadly, many of those relatives are no longer with us, and I think of them every time I pick up the .257.

This large axis deer fell to the author’s Vanguard pushing a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet out of the muzzle at 3,300 feet per second.

And that, as Forest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.

LAST YEAR, I REALIZED THAT the rifle had become something of a safe queen. I was spending so much time testing and hunting with new rifle models that I had little time left to shoot or hunt with my own guns. Determined to remedy that, I carved a day out of my schedule last December and visited my friend, Bryan Wilson, of Frio County Hunts. Bryan runs a great hunting operation on his family’s lowfence, high-quality hunting ranch in south Texas.

He had been keeping an eye on a big-bodied, 5½-year-old, eight-point buck that made regular appearances on game cameras. His antlers weren’t going to get any better, and he was bossing around some younger bucks with greater trophy potential, so that made him a prime candidate for my freezer.

Sitting in a blind with Bryan in the predawn darkness that December morning, we watched deer filter out of the thick south Texas brush and into an open field in front of us. It took some time before we had enough light to make out antlers, and bit more time before we could count points. There were a couple of younger, promising bucks in the field, and far down a sendero to our left, we spotted a truly spectacular young buck. But none of them were on the menu. We were after the boss eight-pointer.

And then he appeared, walking slowly and confidently down a long path to our front before entering the field. The younger bucks watched him nervously, and it was clear that this old fellow ruled the roost. I watched the buck feed for a while, and then reached for my old friend with the words “.257 WBY MAG” stamped on the barrel. I centered the crosshairs of the Leupold scope on the buck’s vitals, and touched off the Timney trigger, which is set to break crisply at a trigger pull of a hair over 2 pounds.

The author used his Vanguard to take this recordbook pronghorn antelope in New Mexico.

AS IT HAD SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet found its mark. The buck ran about 20 yards, staggered for another 10 yards, and fell over. That bullet, in factory loading, is all I’ve ever fed the rifle, and it will shoot sub-MOA groups with the load all day long. Launching the 120-grain Partition at .257 Wby. Mag. velocity, the rifle has proven to be nothing less than a death ray. The vast majority of animals I’ve shot with that rifle and load simply dropped in their tracks. A few made it 30 yards or so, as this big buck did, but none have ever required any tracking to recover.

I’ve been on several hunts where people, after watching the rifle perform, have offered to buy it from me on the spot. Needless to say, it’s not for sale.

The .257 Wby. Mag. was reportedly Roy Weatherby’s favorite caliber, and it’s easy to understand why when you take a close look at the ballistics. The 120-grain Partition load I favor steps out at a bit more than 3,300 feet per second from the muzzle. Using the old-timer’s trick of zeroing the rifle to place bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards, it is dead on at 300 yards, and a bit less than 4 inches low at 350 yards.

This means that, for the vast majority of hunters and the majority of hunting situations, you need only hold steady on the vitals to make a clean kill out to 350 yards.

Notably, that .257 isn’t the only Vanguard in my safe. I also have a Vanguard sub-MOA model chambered in .300 WSM. It has the same Timney trigger installed and the same stock, albeit in a different color. I also have this rifle zeroed at 300 yards, with a 150-grain Winchester XP3 load grouping 3 inches high at 100 yards. The trajectory is nearly identical to that of my .257 zeroed at the same distance. Picking up that rifle is, for all practical purposes, the same as picking up the .257. It, too, has accounted for its fair share of game, including a scimitar-horned oryx in Texas. These are large animals, weighing up to 460 pounds, and the Weatherby handled the job nicely.

You may, by now, not be surprised to learn that I have yet another Vanguard rifle in my safe. This one is the newer Vanguard S2 Back Country rifle, a featherweight rifle weighing just 6 pounds, 12 ounces. Chambered in .30-06 Springfield, it’s a real tack driver, especially with Federal’s VitalShok 165-grain Trophy Copper load. I also have this rifle zeroed to group bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards. They’ll impact less than 4 inches low at 300 yards, allowing for a dead-on hold at that distance, and I’m looking forward to putting the rifle to good use.

All of this, I suppose, lends a lot of truth to the old adage, “Beware the man with one rifle.” Or, in my case, two or three. ASJ

The author most recently put his old favorite Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag., to good use on a whitetail hunt with Frio County Hunts in south Texas.

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , ,