Sunday, March 04, 2012


Behind on blog reading, let alone writing, I recently chanced across Steve Bodio's contribution to a recent meme, that of "5 dream guns".

I suppose I'm just not very dreamy with respect to guns right now. Most of what I list, I own. This comes not from years of searching, trying different arms, or collecting, but in part by chance and in part by selection. Guns that I don't have would mostly be for niches in my battery that are currently full, and might not be improvements. That said, here are five choices for five very broad categories of useful firearm (for I'm interpreting the meme as Steve does, five dream guns that would be the only five you've got)- big game rifle (North American, that is); rimfire rifle; rimfire pistol; shotgun, and centerfire pistol.

As to the first, a rifle for deer, elk, etc., I have previously gone over my current primary hunting rifle and the genesis to its current configuration. I wouldn't categorize it as quite a dream gun, but I would have a hard time configuring something more precisely to my tastes. To my mind, for class, you can't do better than a pre-64 or "Classic" Winchester Model 70 action (although a classic Mauser 98 action is close), and I'd barrel it to 22 inches, put on a fixed 4 power scope, and for elk have it chambered in 35 Whelen, a cartridge of no little romance (or elk dropping ability). A nice piece of walnut would round out the package. That said, the trigger on the Model 70 would probably require some work or a replacement by Canjar or Timney, stainless or some sort of high tech coating would provide some more weather protection, and a laminate or composite stock would help prevent zeros from drifting. Then, too, 35 Whelen wouldn't be anyone's first choice for pronghorn and is even more over-gunned for whitetails than 30'06, which is no less classic than the Whelen cartridge (which derives from it) and loses romance only through ubiquity. Suddenly, I'm carrying something that looks very much like the rifle in the safe right now- an all-weather rifle, not nearly "classic" in detail, that is reliable and comfortable and has a good trigger. Hunh.

As to the next, a rimfire rifle, I've been carrying and shooting a Remington 541-S for over thirty years now. This rifle started off with a 10 power target scope on it and fired thousands of rounds in smallbore rifle silhouette competition and practice.

The competition explains the sticker on the forend- it is from an old match and indicated that the rifle had been inspected and met the requirements for competition. There are more on the other side of the rifle. Now, this is not the perfect rimfire sporter. The plastic faux-burl forend tip is ugly and the magazine and magazine release protruding below the stock isn't ideal. However, it has a very good trigger that breaks at twelve ounces and will hold an inch at 100 meters with Eley Tenex and not much more than that with some other ammunition. Remington cleaned up the aesthetics with their short-lived Model 504 and you can get a prettier rifle that is as accurate from Cooper, or a prettier (and in my experience, frequently troublesome) Kimber, but, practically speaking, you'd be hard pressed to find a better small game rifle than this one, particularly topped as it is now with Leopold's most excellent 2x7 rimfire scope. I suppose a Cooper would be the dream gun, but given the many rounds I've put downrange with this rifle, I'm not sure I'd exchange it for one.

Nearly as handy as a rimfire rifle is a rimfire pistol. I've got a couple (few) but for me the dream pistol is a Hi-Standard "Field King". A relatively rare model, the Field King had adjustable sights and a "medium weight" barrel as opposed to the much more common "Sport King" which was made with a lightweight barrel and fixed sights. My father carried one while hunting or in the truck for years and shot a fair bit of outdoor pistol with it. A few years ago, I came across a Field King with a 6 inch barrel at a gun show. The pistol was in very good condition, except that the Davis rear sight was bent, likely from someone dropping the pistol. The guy selling didn't want very much for the pistol and came down from that based upon the bent sight, which was easily taken care of by an order from Numrich.

It was made between 1950 and 1953. I haven't found a proper 4 1/2 inch barrel for this pistol, the pictured additional barrel comes from an Olympic model (which can be told by the rib on the barrel and a slot for weights on the bottom of the barrel). Nonetheless, both barrels work fine and, while a bit heavy in the holster compared to my S&W 422 or my S&W 317, it is easier to shoot and has a much better trigger than either of them. If I ever get around to shooting .22 pistol competitively again, I'll slip in the 6 inch barrel and be ready to go. Meanwhile, after over 50 years of sitting around (apart from being dropped that once), this pistol is getting carried and used.

For shotguns, if it comes down to one, I wouldn't make much different a choice than the Browning Citori I received as a graduation present from my folks. I fell in love with over/unders after being loaned a Zoli 20 gauge to shoot doves when my single shot Winchester Model 37 broke and, at the time I got it, the Citori was one of very few reasonably priced over/unders available new and the only one you could get with interchangeable choke tubes. With 26" barrels, it weighs a substantial 8 pounds, so it isn't quite a quail wand.

Further, it is made in Japan and, while the wood is nice, the glossy synthetic finish doesn't show it well. On the other hand, the gun shoots well for me and has shot everything from quail to cranes to turkeys. 3" chambers and choke tubes mean I can shoot steel shot at ducks and geese through fairly open chokes or switch out for full tubes and shoot turkeys (after wrapping the gun in camo). With those heavy loads, I appreciate every ounce of the weight. At the same time, the short barrels are quick to swing when it comes to quail or doves. All things considered, I'd rather have double triggers, a round-knob pistol grip and the "Lightning" model forarm, but as with the .22 rifle, I'm not sure I'd switch out at this point.

Now, I admire quite a few classic shotguns and for a while considered getting a side by side. I came across a somewhat beat up L.C. Smith Field Grade a few years ago and have shot it some since. This gun has a replacement butt stock and someone polished the sideplates, removing any traces of case coloring (and doubtless some rust), so it is very strictly a shooter. Apart from that, it has extractors, 30 inch barrels choked light improved and (very) full and weighs just under seven pounds. From the serial number, it was built in 1913.

It also shoots very well for me. All in all, if it were a dream gun, the 3 position safety would be only two position, the butt stock would sport a half pistol grip and match the forend, and it would be perhaps an Ideal grade, as I admire the engraving on those. For that matter, it could be a hinge-pin Fox Sterlingworth or a New Ithaca Double, or one of a whole host of British or European doubles with similar features and I'd be as happy or happier. As it is, though, if down to one gun, some small variant on the Citori up above is more versatile.

Which brings us, finally, to a centerfire pistol. I have to say, I have no such dream gun. I'll likely always have such a pistol around. I admire some of the old Smith & Wessons and, a few years ago, passed up buying a Lightweight Colt Commander in 9 mm that would have made a great concealed carry piece, but I can't really categorize any of those weapons as "dream". Centerfire pistols, to me, are protection pieces and an inexpensive yet reliable truck gun, or an accurate and well set up target pistol are each great things, I don't really have one or the other that gets me excited. Guess I'll just have to dream shotguns or rimfires while keeping a good enough pistol or revolver in the nightstand.