Sunday, October 28, 2012


The explosion of mostly cheap (except for the "sniper" and some carbine versions) Mosin-Nagant rifles has also led to the realization for many that these guns can be shot often and relatively cheaply (especially regarding the price of other similarly powered ammo) because of the ready availability of tons of cheap surplus ammo. Even the more premium supposed non-corrosive ammo is a bargain. And ammo that is more or less reliably non-corrosive is still lots cheaper than the commercial stuff for similar calibers.

I fully understand that the round is similar to but NOT INTERCHANGEABLE WITH the .30-06 round. Which means it's also similar to the .270 caliber round. AGAIN, THEY'RE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE ROUNDS AND IT'S ABSOLUTELY UNSAFE TO SHOOT A ROUND IN A GUN NOT SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR THAT ROUND.

Common sense will tell you why I put the above-warning in caps.

So point it, there are lots of guns already made to withstand the kind of pressure that the 7.62 x 54r generates. It's not actually superior in any way, in my opinion, to the .30-06 round except in it's absolute inexpensiveness, which alone is enough to justify buying a low priced but modern made gun to shoot this round.

How about an H&R single shot rifle to shoot this round? Bring it in under $200 with a cool sight system and a shoot through scope mount rail, for this round can travel some yards accurately and you'll want a scope for distant work, leaving the sights set up for close range work. A couple of rails ahead of the hand guard would be nice for mounting a flashlight and laser and folding bi-pod. And maybe an interchangeable shotgun barrel for the poor man's combo rifle.

It would work in any gun chambered to withstand the high pressure of the .30-06, in fact, I've read that it's been referred to as the "Russian .30-06". Again, these calibers are not interchangeable between guns.

But gun makers could chamber a gun for this round, and easily it would seem. Any magazine fed gun that takes a high pressure caliber like this one or of more pressure could be chambered and manufactured for.  Numerous bolt actions by numerous makers. Lever actions like the Browning BLR that are magazine fed. The Remington pump and semi-auto rifles that are magazine fed. Any single shot, like the Ruger No. 1 or the much cheaper H&R single shot rifle.

A reasonably priced modern bolt action in the 7.62 x 54r wouldn't be hard to make either. I'm sure there are many other guns I'm not thinking of that could be made in this caliber.

You'd want a gun that had the most durable finish possible, because even though a lot of the Russian and eastern bloc surplus ammo is marked non-corrosive, guess what? Some of it is still corrosive. So generally a good cleaning involves cleaning it for both corrosive and non-corrosive ammo ingredients, just be to sure. it would seem a good parkerized finish would be the best bet.

The sights on the Mosin-Nagant rifles I've seen are adjustable out to hundreds of meters. I've read internet claim of some shots at incredibly long distances, measured in multiple football fields in length. What I do know is that folks standardly get off long shots of between 100 and 300 yards with great accuracy with unaltered, basic guns that go for $100 everywhere, and that's just wild considering the low cost of the ammo.

High ammo prices for some calibers, particularly rifle rounds, can motivate shooters to buy guns for which cheap ammo is readily available. It may not be the guns they usually hunt with or shoot with or carry for defense, but it's the guns they shoot often to practice because the ammo is cheaper than for their standard carry gun.

For instance, lots of my friends who ordinarily are not inclined to shoot, say 9mm guns,  have bought them in the past decade simply due to the low prices on surplus ammo that make the guns much cheaper to shoot than some other handgun caliber they prefer to use and carry on a daily basis. Many like the .40 caliber and the .45 ACP, but shoot the 9mm because it's cheaper. 

Same with the 7.62 x 39mm,  and in my recent experience, the .223 ammo that is good shooting surplus ammo and is very reasonably priced compared to commercial ammo.

Going back to the 80's and early 90's, lots of folks I know bought a cheap but durable and reliable AK-47 or SKS when .223 ammo wasn't as cheap as it is now compared to the price of 7.62 x 39mm ammo.  The much lower price of AK ammo made the AK attractive as a weekend shooter for my friends, to take to their country and family places and acreage for shooting fun.

Some folks I know were also concerned with availability of ammo and magazines and wanted to stockpile large amounts of ammo in case laws changed and the availability of such items became limited or eliminated by law. Which it did.

But politics are beside the point here. Cheap and plentiful ammo that is well designed for hunting a variety of species and for very long range target shooting is the point, and it'd be nice to have something other than the Mosin-Nagant to shoot it out of.

Something American made.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


As I visit gun shops, live and via the internet, I get to see interesting gun that I don't want to own (or can't afford to) but that are so righteous in design and finish that they are in a class of their own in those regards amongst other similar firearms.

I've written about combo guns, double rifles and drillings on numerous occasions before, noting that these types of guns are mostly made by foreign makers and mostly very expensive.

The only deals that I or my good friend Zach have found on a drilling, for example, was in a 16 gauge x 2 (excellent, no problems even with old school black powder low power shells) and some obscure  Euro caliber that upon investigation was scarce, expensive and somewhat underpowered for even use as a hog hunting gun or a deer gun (I'm omitting it's use as a turkey or bird gun with the scatter gun barrels since the 16 gauge or 20 gauge would be my choice anyway in a double).

These ancient drillings are the ones that are often priced within my possible reach. Upon researching, you find that you'll need to know a good custom gunsmith adept at fabricating parts for frequent repairs to these older guns when you buy one of these bargain guns.
Chances are high of lots of repairs if a gun was well refurbished by a prior owner, due to the age of the guns.

Non-collectors grade combination guns are selling very briskly everywhere I visit. Mostly what I see are older guns made by Savage, being sold to gun stores by kids when their parents pass away. They mostly seem to be of the haggard type that was rode hard and put up wet, as they say in Texas horse country. But occasionally, you'll see a gem of a gun.

One of my local dealers has a beautiful Savage 24 with the synthetic stock and in excellent condition. It's on the smaller 20 gauge frame that I prefer in the Model 24 but has the rifle caliber of a 17 HMR. That's a great caliber but I'm not looking to get into the 17, despite it's raging popularity among many that I know.

I'm well represented in the .22 WMR category and what it can't handle, the .223 can in terms of varmints in my neck of the woods, so I have no need or want for a .17 caliber combo gun.

So that's the irony, I suppose, of the situation, as my friend Benny would say. The most excellent specimen of a gun model that I've seen in years, somewhat reasonably priced in it's condition (and if I wanted it I could certainly get the price down probably to $350), is not in any of the myriad of calibers I'd like in a combo gun rifle.

I wouldn't mind a  20 gauge or even a 12 gauge combo gun with the rifle being in .30-30, .308, .223, 7.62 x 39 and especially a .357 Magnum or any other number of calibers. Based on it's outstanding and really like new condition, and the fact I know who sold it to the gun store and that the gun wasn't shot much, it's a shame it's in .17 caliber as far as I'm concerned.

I've passed on several .222 chambered Model 24's in the past few years with wood stocks in decent but very used shape which were, consistent with the market for combo guns, priced at a bit more than they were worth. I just don't need to add another higher priced caliber to the calibers I currently use without a very specific reason.

I don't see myself getting a .50 caliber Barrett, for example, but it could possibly happen in some sort of trade. For instance, in the past few years I've been offered and turned down a .50 caliber Desert Eagle and a Smith and Wesson .500 revolver. Both fine weapons but I have no use for them nor any real desire to shoot a handgun of that power.

I've shot uber-hot hand loads out of a 6 1/2" Model 29 with wood grips and that's good enough for me, thank you. So hot and so stout of hand loads were these particular rounds that although at the time I was shooting lots of full power Magnum rounds out of the Model 29, these had such serious recoil that the front sight nearly parted my scalp. Way too much for me. So there is no curiosity with me about shooting a .500 Smith and Wesson or a .50 Caliber Desert Eagle. I already understand they will have A LOT of recoil and will not be pleasurable to shoot. Pass.

Now, I might have taken an Automag .44 or an Automag II in .22 Magnum or .30 caliber on a trade, and likely all but the .22 Magnum would have moved on by now in other trades. I have a big fascination with the old Automags in .44 automag caliber. 

Although the Automag II .30 caliber version would be very interesting to shoot in combo with an M1. Cheap ammo still abounds in .30 caliber, and it's one I'd consider adding for that reason.

But in the past I've passed on various guns and know that most of them and the opportunity to trade for them will likely occur in a trade somewhere down the road, particularly with using the internet to locate what you're seeking.  And what I see with combo guns are that when they are selling, they're not selling to collectors but to users and are selling at premium prices.

So mostly when I see used combo guns I see the used Savage combo guns chambered in a .22 or .22 magnum rifle and I'm interested in centerfire calibers for the rifle portion.

After that long winded prefatory statement, I again urge (particularly American) gun makers to seriously consider making some decent double rifles, combination guns and even a drilling.

I read in the paper that there are something like 2.5 million feral hogs in the State of Texas. They do millions of dollars of damage to crops and livestock throughout the state. They are not a "sporting animal" under Texas law, and can be hunted at any time, and now, even by helicopter. They can be hunted with suppressed, automatic, semi-automatic weapons as well as with shotguns loaded with slugs or buckshot. There really are not too many restrictions involved when killing feral hogs. No bag or size limits either.

Many of my friends are big time hog hunters, either out of necessity or because they are big time hunters and hogs are always around where they deer hunt in Texas, no matter where you are. It's becoming almost like a cottage industry, and certainly many products are following the "Zombie" product labeling by calling their stuff "Hawg hunter" ammo and the like.

So makers of products have realized there is a big market out there for hog hunters, big enough to brand some of their products to lure that market to their wares.

Most of my friends use .223, .308, .30-30 and increasingly, .45-70 in a Marlin Guide Gun and some other large calibers available in the Marlin lever action rifles.

A reasonably priced drilling with the option of a 20, 16 or a 12 x 2 and a rifle barrel of a .45-70 would go over big with this crowd, the hog hunters marketing sect. Likewise, a side by side double rifle in a large caliber would go over well, if it was a quality made product at a reasonable price.

I can understand that at some time in the past the market for combo guns sort of dried up sales wise and thus Savage stopped making them, but it seems that the high prices their guns command on the used market would tell them that their is interest and that making them again on a limited and higher priced basis would result in plenty of sales to turn a good profit, or so my feeble mind thinks.

I'm interested in doing more hog hunting and have several invitations to do so in the near future. Maybe I watched too many African safari movies that were shown in the 60's when I was a kid where folks sometimes had double rifles along with their bolt action rifles and revolvers. I just think a couple of barrels of buckshot and one rifle barrel in a great caliber would be a terrifically fun gun to shoot at hogs with, and for that matter, to tote on walks in the woods or at one's side when fishing.

The lure of the drilling, for me and many others, is that versatility, along with it's history. Load one shotgun barrel with buckshot and another with birdshot or a slug. For hogs, I'd want the two shotgun barrels loaded up with buckshot, but slugs would have their place for many who are already slug hunters for deer and turkey, and for just general walking in the woods, two shotgun barrels loaded with birdshot would be just the ticket for snakes or other small predators and varmints.

For either combo guns or drillings, it'd be great of different caliber barrels were available as accessories. I could see having one combo gun receiver and maybe a .357/.20 and a .30-30/20 set of barrels for a centerfire/shotgun arrangement. Same with a drilling if you wanted interchangeable barrels with some different calibers that all fit the same receiver.

As an aside, I've never understood why Thompson Contender never made a version of their great gun that was a double barrel, either side by side or over/under. The curse of the Contender was always that it meant carrying another firearm while hunting with it because you get no quick follow-up shot with the Contender, notwithstanding some Contender shooters who practiced the art of speed loading their Contenders nearly 30 years ago at a metal silhouette shooting contest.

Back in the early 80's my father, Billy Ray and I were big into the Contenders, as was my high school friend Mike, who had a safe full of receivers and about 75 different rifle and pistol barrels, many of which were in wildcat calibers and very powerful rounds.

We all discussed back then how we wish there was a double barreled Contender, with the thought that you could (I would hope) even make one in the .45 Colt/.410 combination. That would be worthy of trail carry for me and a hoot to shoot. 

With a variable double barrel setup, a double barreled Contender would be a great backup gun for hunters carrying rifles where chambered in a caliber a  double barreled pistol like the Contender could handle. So like in cowboy days, you just had to carry one ammo for your handgun and your longarm.

As far as drillings go, I'm not aware of any mass produced drilling guns made past or present by an American gun maker, other than possibly some by Sauer affiliated with Colt.

Some would disagree, but I'd like to see a drilling made in America by Ruger or Remington or Winchester or Savage or any other American maker. If Ruger would make one of the build quality I've enjoyed in every Ruger I've ever owned, it'd be a great gun no doubt. Charge $1.5k for them and sell as many as you can make. Sell them for $1k and make them forever.

It would seem a simple matter to R and D something like combo guns and double rifles, given their long history of production already. They know what works and what doesn't. Drillings might be a bit more involved, but again, they wouldn't be reinventing the wheel, they'd just hopefully be modifying the design a bit.

If you're in the business of making guns, how hard would it be, after the design is made of course, to make a mold or design a computer operated mill to make a drilling barrel for two shotgun tubes and a rifle barrel. I know the action and trigger mechanism and such are much more involved with a drilling, but again, it's been done before successfully so they wouldn't be reinventing the wheel here.


Friday, October 26, 2012


I don't know Mr. Lomax, but over the years I've enjoyed his writing greatly. There have been a lot of great writers in the Houston Press since they began in the early 1990's. Wendy Grossman. Tim Fleck. Richard Connelly. Many others whose names I am forgetting. I've known a couple of the writers personally and they were interesting stories unto themselves. I remember Fleck used to hold forth at weekly drinking nights for media and PR and political types at some Mexican restaurant on Montrose, and I met Wendy on a few occasions and she was pleasant if not entertaining and highly intelligent.

So throwing out there that someone is a great writer is not something I normally do.

If you live in Texas, or Houston, or you like crime stories or history, you'll like this article called HOUSTON BABYLON by John Nova Lomax. Here's an after-story cover story blog post by the author and here are some links to some sad tales that didn't make the article. Here's one about AN AVENGING ANGEL and a suicide tale and perhaps the most interesting tale of all, since I saw this fellow in his heyday as a local Houston emcee and dinner theater owner, Dean Goss. I didn't ever know him, but he was locally famous for years.

The Press has done good investigative journalism for many years, in a town where most investigative "journalism" was relegated to TV media types with names like "The Defender" and so on. Often times, the personal lives of these newsmen were more interesting and newsworthy than the stories and people they were chasing.

Every now and then over the past 40 years or so, Texas Monthly magazine might do a good investigative piece on some court case or social issue or controversy. And although highly biased on the left side of the margin, as we say in criminal court, the truth is usually between the middle in a two sides swearing match case. That is to say, reading some account or investigation that might have a heavy liberal or conservative bias and you know the real story is somewhere to the right with the former and to the left with the latter.

I mostly found the investigative reporting by the Press to be more or less in the middle, with pretty good disclosure of relevant facts necessary to assign the amount of credibility to the parties involved and their versions.

As always, I digress. But back to Mr. Lomax.

I believe he began as a music editor for the Houston Press some years ago, perhaps 10 or 15. Given his family history in preserving some of the most important music made in the 1900's, I'm not surprised his music articles have always been entertaining.

I'm too lazy to research how long he's been there and the actual number really isn't all that important, other than to say he's a long time scribe. Some years ago, I began to notice him writing features that were extremely interesting and very well written.

This week, I read online the above-linked back stories that didn't make the print edition, and while in Houston picked up the print edition. Being familiar as a native Houstonian with some of the stories from past news accounts and from folks who know some folks who knew some folks who knew the subject of the story.

I don't care where you live. The stories Mr. Lomax presents are an interesting representation of the wild and woolly town Houston has always been and still is. It is still the {modern} Wild West, for sure, and as his older stories in this feature show, it was wild when it was only two years old.

A great anything is hard to find these days, whether you're talking about doctors or lawyers or teachers or bartenders or musicians or writers. Good ones abound, but the great ones are as scarce as hen's teeth. The above articles, besides being great records of Houston history, are just well written and very interesting to read. Very well presented.

I hope Lomax keeps at this particular subject, and there's certainly enough fodder to make it a regular feature. There's a lot of great and legendary Houston stories out there, many on the verge of disappearing through the deaths of those who were there for the happenings.  Many have already disappeared.

I've got a few stories I need to suggest to him. Some cases my dad handled. Cases I've handled. Cases that friends handled. Cases that I was regaled with stories of by old timers back in the 60's and 70's and 80's at 301 San Jacinto Street, the old Harris County Criminal Courthouse and former Jail. Cases that friends of my father like Clyde Wilson handled.

The gambling joints that used to be in Kemah in the 50's, and on South Main near The Stables restaurant in one of the older mansions. Sam Hoover. The TSU riots. Moody Park. Joe Campos Torres. The list is virtually endless.

As an aside, I used to have a .45 record that I picked up  somewhere in the 5th Ward/Denver Harbor area of Houston at a pretty tough bar I was playing at in the 80's called "The Ballad of Joe Campos Torres" talking about the death of Torres. It was not the most well engineered record but had a lot of soul. Wish I still had it.

Houston builds over it's history, for the most part. Some of my favorite former places and haunts are but now mere parking lots, upscale buildings or McMansions. It reminds me more and more of L.A., but with lots more free parking. Houston's older than L.A., and despite not having Hollywood in Houston, Houston nevertheless manages to have some quite interesting characters and stories that spring forth from the town of sweat and swelter.

I'm glad Mr. Lomax is uncovering some of the tar and pavement from the history of Houston. Keep at it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


It's not a switchblade, and it's certainly not the fastest opening knife that I have. Arguably, even a regular old 30+ year old Buck Hunter is a faster opening knife than the Boker-matic, and although I've seen it done by skilled knifesmen, I can't really open a Buck Hunter using one hand without an extreme degree of difficultly and lack of safety (so I wouldn't ever do it, though I've seen it done).

My current favorite daily use knives are the Kershaw Ken Onion Blur, as well as another old knife, the Spyderco Delica (the 1st generation model with the molded in plastic pocket clip), and they both open much faster with one hand than the Boker-matic does. These knives are small and light with good blades suitable for everyday use, particularly dangerous tasks like package and mail opening and they both go for about $50 or $60.

   image from
image from lionshare

After a google, I was surprised to see that they are apparently being currently made by Boker's import brand Boker Plus and that they are being sold for a mere pittance. Even your local mostly Chinese product outlet has these for right at $22.

image from

This version, from Blade HQ and going for just under $27, has a pocket clip, which the others currently for sale may or may not have. Here's some specs on the Bokermatic and a MUCH better description of how the knife operates than the one I give below, but this is from the above-linked Blade HQ page:

Back under the Boker Plus banner, the legal-to own Boker-Matic is now available with a handy pocket clip. The handle is made of black fiberglass reinforced nylon, and the 4416 stainless steel blade can be retracted into the cavity with one hand via the auto-retract mechanism. To open the knife: Slide scale sideways and push button up. To release auto-retract blade, slide scale and blade automatically retracts into handle. This is a very unique knife mechanism and sure to please!

Blade: 3"
Closed Length: 4.25"
Overall: 7.4"
Weight: 5 oz.

I kinda liken the Boker-matic to the Heckler Koch P7 line of pistols and their unique grip cocking device or the unique design of the Springfield Armory M6 Scout rifle. The Boker-matic opens and closes differently than any other pocket knife I'm aware of. Opening the knife is done manually but retraction is automatic. So it's not a switchblade, technically speaking by most definitions (check your state laws!) since it doesn't open automatically.

It is a handy knife for one handed opening and closing, something that really only Spyderco offered back 25 years ago or so when I got this knife. It would be a few years later when blade opening studs and blade tang extensions and assisted opening knives became the order of the day, facilitating one handed opening and usually one handed closing.

With the Boker-matic, holding the knife in the closed position with the opening facing away from you and the opening/button facing up as shown in the pictures, the top panel of the Boker-matic handle is slid to the side and then with your thumb the lever attached to the bottom of the blade is pushed forward, sliding the blade out the front of the knife. To secure the blade in the open position, the grip panel is simply slid back into the normal position.

Again, retraction IS automatic, in that there is some kind of spring or tension device inside of the knife that again, once the handle is slid to the side position, the blade slams back into the handle with a firm resolute. The handle panel is then slid back to the normal position and the blade is locked in the closed position with the handle in the normal position and can't accidently open in a pocket.

Mine is an old school version of the Boker-matic, and it's solidly constructed. It holds a nice edge, and it's more or less a good gentlemans pocket knife. It's not a survival knife, or even a really handy fishing or hunting knife, but it is well built and could probably function in either capability.

One thing that would make it a handy knife for fishing would be a lanyard attachment point, and with the new version a place to attach a lanyard could be easily fit into the top portion of the pocket clip between the two screws holding the pocket clip to the knife. I think you could even remove the clip and attach some wire leader between the two screws and crimp the leader to a very small 1/2" or so sized loop to use as a lanyard attachment point.

When I'm in, on or around the water fishing, I like all my stuff to have a lanyard on it. You'd be amazed at how fast heavy objects sink to unfindable places in the water when fishing and you drop a knife/gun/pliers/etc.

I'd like to find a Boker-matic in a store so I could look at it and compare the new version of this knife and it's build quality with my old version. I can't see any way Boker can be charging roughly half of what I paid for my Boker-matic years ago and still have a knife of the build quality of my Boker-matic.

I'm gonna try to do some research on where mine was made vs. where the current version was made. I thought they had stopped making them for awhile, but maybe I was wrong or they reintroduced them.

I've got several inexpensive knives from the "Boker Plus" line, and they range from "ok" to "good" but not great or even very good. They don't compare at all to my older Boker knives in terms of blade quality or fit, finish and construction. Guess where they are made?

I've also been disappointed with a Cold Steel belt knife purchase from a couple of years ago and it's Chinese-y poor hard plastic handle and sort of letter-opener-like "blade", versus the 30 year old folding 4" Tanto Cold Steel that I have that features the Pachmayr-like rubber grip material. It's the best knife grip I've ever had.

I know I'm totally OCD when it comes to Pachmayr grips and how I'd like to have entire rifle stocks built out of them and their fantastic feeling and shock absorbing selves. Same with knives. I've been scouting ebay and some other places for a Cold Steel belt knife from the 80's and whenever they were using the super rubber feeling Pachmayr like soft rubber for their knife grip panels. My Cold Steel folding tanto not only has a lanyard hole but the grip panels are checkered, as with a long gun grip on a decent gun. It gives a super non-slip grip and is sorta cushy and very comfortable to hold under pressure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I WISH they still made movies like this.

It turns out, according to The Hollywood Reporter, it's being strongly considered as one of the many remakes that Hollywood plans on cranking out in the future. The long and short of it is that True Grit made so much money that they are eyeing this legendary film as fodder for the remake mill.

It's been years since I first saw this movie, and in enthralls me more and more every time I watch it, which isn't that often. THE WILD BUNCH was released in 1969, when I was a mere lad in elementary school.

I don't recall when the first time I saw it was, but since we had no videos or dvds or any of the other technical marvels we regard as commonplace these days it was likely on "The Movie of the Week" or "The Late Show" or even "The Late, Late Show" movie presentations that came on after the news on Friday and Saturday nights in Houston, Texas in the 1960's and 1970's before there was a thing called cable TV.

Back when we had 4 VHF channels (PBS, ABC, NBC and CBS) and a couple of local UHF stations, and the UHF stations often had the coolest stuff on back in the 1970's. Not counting Monty Python being on the PBS station. But I digress...

Back in those days (jeez, that sounds like an old man talking, doesn't it?), fairly recent theater release movies would be shown on Friday and Saturday nights after the news, and usually there would be a movie of the week at about 8 p.m. on Saturday nights. It was in the living room of our family home that I first saw it, with my folks, who were big western and shoot-em-up movie fans. Action movies, before they were called that, I think.

Up until The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven was my favorite western movie. The Wild Bunch was more realistic, to be sure, in terms of the behavior and real rag taggy sorta dusty life it depicted, and of course it's tons more bloody with blood literally flying everywhere during shootouts. Everything in the old west was dusty, and if it wasn't dusty, it was muddy from the rain.

And of course, although I was already a fan of the 1911 through TV shows and war movies that displayed the already venerable Colt 1911 pistol and through law enforcement friends of my father, it was The Wild Bunch that showed that part in the time history of the west where 1911's had (illegally in the movie) fallen into the hands of bad guys, who used them along with their revolvers.

Nor do I recall the first time that I saw the unedited version of The Wild Bunch. But as you watch the unedited version of the movie you can tell which violent scenes and which for what was then very audacious female attire and behavior were cut from the movie, and what statements might have been dubbed over. Other movies, like the Clint westerns, portrayed some of the real grittiness and the crude men who dwelled in it but not some of the more raw sexuality and prostitution as shown in The Wild Bunch. 

Other than The Magnificent Seven and the Clint Eastwood westerns, and a couple of different movies about the O..K. Corral, The Wild Bunch ranks right up there in terms of repeat views. I'd had a hankering to watch this movie over the summer. Seeing a "Wild Bunch" cowboy shooting rig for a 1911 at a local gun store triggered it, since 1911's are used throughout the movie by members of the...well... The Wild Bunch.

There are a bunch of other great westerns and western tv shows I've not mentioned, and I'd like to hear about your favorites in the comments section.

But as we had been doing some home remodeling over the summer, boxes of books and movies were packed away and stacked on high throughout the home. When we finished the living room replete with new book and music and movie shelving, I finally found The Wild Bunch movie.

The movie is impressive in so many ways. It's an all star cast, with both future stars and well established stars in the movie. The acting, of course, is first rate, and is so up front and personal on the part of the renegade Mexican general and his cronies that you almost feel like you are there. Or as Peckinpaugh intended, for you to feel like you were the one being shot. The wiki page is actually pretty good on reviewing this flick. Check it out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I know folks who are lucky enough to know where they want to live ther rest of their lives. Some are folks with family land they inherited, and some are folks who found places and homes that they never want to leave.

I'm not that guy.

While I love the place we currently live, and have some history here, there are better places to live. Smaller towns, with decent medical facilities, and less allergies and humidity and heat.

We love Texas, and I'm a native Texan. We may end up spending our retirement in Colorado or New Mexico, but the chief locale that we like is in the Llano, Texas area.

We've tried for years to find our ideal place in Texas. Places where we might've bought cabins and land or homes ended up being destroyed in hurricanes and  being located in areas that in 2011 were ravaged, I say ravageded, by unprecented drought, a "drought of record" and rivers literally ran dry.

The Llano area of Texas, in the Hill Country, is one such area we looked for a place in. Rolling hills and stone filled terrain, it's home to granite quarries that supply the pink granite stone for our Capital as well as those of other states. Live Oaks, Pecans and Ceders fill the countryside, and springs of water (in normal times) gush forth from hillsides and the ground with clear, clean and damn near pure water.

I spent much time in college hanging with a couple of dorm mates who were from Llano. Damn decent fellows. Still talk to them to this day, as they live more near to me than to Llano. More opportunities for careers near the bigger cities.

One of these fellows had a family ranch outside of Llano, near Casteel, Texas. Hundreds of acres on the Llano river.  Their place was a combo of cleared pastures, stone filled areas and hills, stands of trees tens of acres in size, about 4 large ponds or tanks, several creeks, numerous seeps and springs, and all the land along the Llano River with cliffs in some parts and access to the river bottom in other areas.

You can't ignore the pink granite dotted with quartz that dominates the geography of the area. It's beautiful. There's also a native stone called the "Llanite" that is commonly found among the quartz and pink and gray granite that juts through the ground frequently.

It was a cool place. It had the pretty deluxe and very cool 2 story house that his grandfather had ordered in 1929 from the Sears Catalog and put the pre-fab house together himself. They delivered it on the train, and horse drawn wagons took the parts to the ranch. 

The family ran cattle over much of the land, having lots of grasses and pastures cleared of stone long ago by their ancestors, and with ample water supples (normally). They also cut and sold lots of hay. Like a lot of other area ranchers, they rented cabins and leases to deer hunters because of the huge and plentiful deer in the area, one of the big deer hunting places in the world.

I would only go out on the ranch itself in the spring and summer, after hunting season was over. When deer season was on, their land and the surrounding land was filled with doofus hunters and hangover Harrys who I didn't want to be around with guns in their hands and deer on their minds.

So it's good we never got land in that area, or a bit to the southwest in Bandera or a bit further from there in the Uvalde area. The droughts that ran rivers, creeks and springs dry in the Llano, Bandera and other Hill Country areas were devastating. Of course, I'm sure most of the tanks and small lakes dried up, and the biggest lake in the area, Lake Buchanan, is still way down to this day.

Surprisingly, I'm getting good reports from Llano river fishing, and apparently it's sprung back much faster than anyone imaged. It looked healthy the last time I visited the area this past summer.

Likewise, it's good we passed on a great beach house in Matagorda, Texas or one of the two we almost got in Galveston. The beach houses are gone-gone. We would have gotten about 8 years of use from the Matagorda house and maybe 10 from the ones in Galveston, and it would've been a tragic ending.

Having already lost one weekend family place, "the cabin",  to a freak "100 flood" in the past, I've always been leery of getting another place where Mother Nature might battle my house, vehicles and other structures. If you're gonna live on a place with Llano River frontage, you want your house to be as high up away from that river as possible, because sometimes those 100 year flood events come multiple times in a 100 years.

The Llano area is still a bit wild west, as are the surrounding counties. Although Llano is only about 60 miles outside of Austin, it's far different from Austin in terms of lifestyle. There's lots of refugees from Austin, Dallas, Houston and even places like L.A. who come to the Llano area for a better style of living.

Actor Tommy Lee Jones is from neighboring San Saba County, and has a large ranch there.

Meth has always been a social and law enforcement problem in the area, even going back to the early 80's before the current meth epidemic. The wide open spaces and many empty and abandoned barns and buildings found on land around Llano lend themselves to meth labs and grow houses. It's not anything like the illegal culture around places like Humboldt, California, but there is a certain amount of crime connected with all the folks who are in orbit around Planet Meth in that part of Texas.

By and large, there is far less random violent crime in the counties around Llano. Most murders involve folks who know each other, and are often those who are in highly dysfunctional mental, alcohol or drug type circles of folks. Since folks in Texas like their drunk driving, we lose a lot of good and innocent people on the highways from drunks who wreck out and kill or injure folks. And that's bad all over the state.

Other than that, thefts occur not infrequently, like in many rural counties, but with some safeguards you can sometimes prevent that too.

It's not a bad place to live. It reminds me of parts of Colorado, except there are no rainbow trout here. The water is chilly but not cold enough year round to support the temperatures the rainbow need. I've often wondered if one had a small, spring fed pond with a nice cool temperature, if you put a roof over a small tank and kept it shady at all times if you could keep water temp cool enough for rainbows, as some of the springs gush forth from the ground at quite cool temperatures.

Probably wouldn't work and would be too expensive, but it would be nice to have a tank of Rainbows for endless grilled and blackened Rainbow trout dinners. I like Rainbow trout to the exclusion of all other fish, even Salmon. I'm just that way. Red Snapper and Speckled Trout run close second and third, by the way.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I read a story a while back, I think it was in the L.A. Times but could've been in the L.A. Chronicle. It was a great story about a young man who was a very talented bassist. As I recall, he got a college music degree and had tons of playing experience and was very talented and came to L.A. to try to make it as a studio musician.

It's a hard gig to try to make it as a hired gun studio musician. Working in and with the musician's union is a whole nuther thang, and then there is the matter that L.A. has been a magnet for the best and brightest musicians for decades. So not only is competition fierce amongst newcomers, they've also got to battle the old timers and current studio heros for gigs.

Apparently this guy was a pretty good bassist and was able to actually break into the tough world of doing studio gigs for big and want to be big stars, those who have label and sometimes big label funding.

I'm sketchy on his background, and on other details, but basically as many folks know, recording backing tracks for a major artist can take place at the musician's home, via digital tracks emailed to him or her, and then emailed back with the musicians tracks added for editing and mixing.

It's all very high tech, of course, and with wi-fi and not really a whole lot of equipment, one can have a major quality recording studio in the corner of an efficiency apartment.

Or in an RV.

Some recording is still done in actual brick and morter studios,but much is also done via electronic transmissions, with artists and musicians never meeting face to face (this wasn't unusual in studio gigs either) and literally being all over the world working on tracks.

So this guy (and I've tried to find the story and failed) soon realized that the work he was doing from his very high rent in terms of dollars but low rent in terms of neighborhood and standard of living apartment in a mediocre part of LA could be done anywhere where he could get a wi-fi connection.

Apparently he was a pretty good bassist and had gotten plenty of work after arriving on the scene and paying some dues. So he buys a Class C RV and takes off, living in National Parks and other nice locales. He said he'd travel for awhile until he found someplace he likes, he sets up shop there and might stay for a couple of days or a couple of months.

At the time of the story, he had recently upgraded to a much larger RV and actually had some dedicated area for his playing and recording. I suppose if you're making good money and are not a homeowner then you could afford a pretty dang nice big RV.

I have some friends that recently lost their home due to the wildfire last year, and since both were of early retirement age, decided to retire and buy an RV and see the nation. They might come back, or they might find a place they like better and rebuild their home there. I'm thinking chances are pretty good they'll find a nice place with cooler temps and more rain.

With two kids in school, and firmly entrenched in friends and activities and such, we couldn't do that right now, although the wife and I would love to do it. Sometimes, I wish we had done it when the kids were very little, pre-school or in grade school. But our life's been good the way we lived it. 

I've had a couple of friends over the years who've taken a sabbatical from work, never to return after touring the nation and settling in someplace cool. One family settled in Sonoma, California and then moved on to the Humbolt area and now lives further north along the coast.

Another ended up in the Pacific Northwest, after a stint somewhere near the Yukon in Canada. Living on a houseboat somewhere in the Seattle area.

The wife has been wanting an RV for quite some time. We've looked at tons of them and one day maybe we'll find the right one.
Frankly, I fear an RV, and being the dude charged with fixing stuff when it breaks.

I myself would prefer a large extended 4wd Quigley conversion van. A potty can be installed in a small bathroom in a custom van without losing a whole lot of room, and along with a sofa/bed combo and a few amenities, it's the perfect travel machine for a family. 

I think we'd still end up spending time in hotels on trips even if we had an RV, so why not get a van?

Thus my thinking that a well designed custom van could be just as comfortable on trips with room to stretch out in the rear and relax. All kinds of flat screen tv's and x boxes and playstations and such can be hooked up in several locations and I myself would like the 4wd for doing some camping in some really nice fishing spots accessible only via high clearance 4wd.

My design would involve four captains chairs, with the rear two having video monitors and game stations. A couch/bed in the rear. If the van is big enough, and there's no sense having one of these that isn't big enough, you can easily slide a restroom in one of the corners and that totally changes the picture of traveling.

What I would envision is a restroom whose empty space is collapsed when not in use and has an extendable module that would slide in and out to provide the extra space needed to occupy a restroom, and when closed the space taken up would be that of the facility and surrounding walls.

A Class C RV would be cheaper than a Quigley conversion in many cases, and the newer the RV the better as far as I'm concerned. Then comes the question of what type of used small vehicle to acquire to tow behind the RV for getting around when the RV is parked.

Maybe something like a used Tracker 4x4. Last spring, El Fisho Jr and I went on a trap shooting expedition and the guide was driving a Tracker and the 4wd did handle some pretty soggy stuff very well. I was impressed since it had street tires on it at how well it did.

There's lots of used 4x4's out there and that's the main contender since the whole point of RV'ing is to get into the outdoors away from RV camps and civilization, and use the 4x4 to further explore the area. It could be any kind of 4 door 4x4, from an SUV to a 4 door truck. The advantage of an SUV  is that it has more secured room to carry luggage for the trip and keep fishing gear handy for those impomptu roadside fishing stops.

Another SUV plus is that there are fishing rod racks that install on the headliner of the vehicle, allowing rigged rods to be slid under bungee cord type holders, and allowing for more or less fairly immediate use if a roadside fishing spot is found. Rigged and ready to go.

I've seen the same done in one of the long rooftop luggage carriers that take up half of a side of the roof of a vehicle. With rod racks made for the inside of the lift up lid and down below on the bottom of the carrier as well as tackle and wader storage, it also held a small stepladder to be better able to access it. Within minutes, you could be in or on or next to the water fishing.

If we go the canoe route, then I could have half of a rooftop carrier full of fishing gear. With the 12' plastic jonboat I'm strongly considering, there would not be room for the luggage carrier full of fishing gear.

You can still carry other gear under the upside down canoe or boat, particularly if you have a roof basket instead of or in addition to a standard roof rack.

One friend of mine carries a fold up picnic table with table and benches, with wheels on one end for easy movement. He carries it in the back of the Nissan 4 door 4wd pickup that is towed behind his big RV. When they settle in and set up the awning on the RV, they roll out the table for some relaxing and dining.

RV's have roof racks and under storage for stuff, but given the limited storage space for clothing and such inside RV's for a whole family, it'd be nice to throw a few suitcases full of clothing into the back of the towed vehicle, suitcases that can be rotated in and out with with dirty clothes so that good fishing time doesn't have to be wasted on a laundromat.

Plus, most RV's of the size we could afford don't have that much storage space underneath.

It's also a good place to keep clothing hung up if wrinkle free dry cleaned clothes are needed.

I figure the towed vehicle would need a roof rack to hold a canoe or small plastic jonboat. The boat motor whether electric or gas could be stowed under the RV.

I could easily carry a guitar, bass and small keyboard and do all kinds of musical recording via the Apple Garageband program. If pressed, I could construct a minimalist Roland Electronic drum set out of some smaller pads and a few aluminum rack tubes and basically have something that would fit in a small suitcase just a wee bit larger than a carry on suitcase when compacted. With a pop out dining area in an RV, that space becomes a drum jam area.

These are things I like to dream about. The reality is more likely we're anchored in our town, or a  town, for a long time to come. But nothing wrong with a little dreaming in case we win the lotto...


There's a great thread over at the Smith and Wesson forum talking about, and more importantly, showing some great pictures of some Model 13/65 guns with 3" barrels. This thread asks the burning question I know some of you have asked yourself about {insert name of gun here} some latest purchase. It's called Did I really need another 3-k-frame?

Those folks on the forum really have some nice guns. So it proves they are out there, and sometimes at a bargain price. I WISH I could find a Model 13 such as the one starting out the post for $300. There would be no hesitation. There would be no buyer's remorse. Nada. It would be G-O-N-E from the gun store shelf.

Ahh. Well, that's the dream, and the reality is something different. I guess I'll have to eventually break down and troll the auction sites, but I do like to touch and feel an important purchase like a gun if at all possible before laying down cash or trade for it. The last gun show I went to had some overpriced 4" guns and I think one way overpriced 3" gun, all Model 13's. I guess I need to step up my going to gun shows, but I have I only saw two bargains at the last one I attended, and that's slim pickings compared to the old days of gun show going in Texas.

I already review the gun stores in my stomping grounds on a semi-regular and  have let owners know what I'm looking for in a 13/65 and stop by periodically to check in and remind them I'm still looking. A .357 or .30-30 over 20 or 12 Savage Model 24 is also written on the back of my card, along with Model 13/65. No luck on any yet.

A few of my "within striking distance" gun stores have online inventory, but not many, and only one of the websites has any decent information anyway. Too many gun store websites could update their used gun inventory easily but don't, and thus guns linger longer in their inventory because dependant on the brick and mortar customer, even though they have online presence and stores for selling new guns.

There is a paucity of used Model 13's for sale in my vicinity. The last two I've seen have been square butt 4" blued likely police trades before their most recent owner sold to the gun shop, and although both had great triggers, they were not in good enough of shape to justify their $400 and $450 price tags. But those are the first 13's I've seen in about 2 years.

They were great shooters, and with a 3" barrel and a round butt would have been great for carry purposes, and I'm certainly not too proud to own/carry/buy a "shooter" grade gun as long as the mechanicals are sound. In fact, I like a shootin' iron bargain!

As I lamented in a recent post about looking for a Model 65 Ladysmith (with 3" barrel, stainless, round butt AND a ejector rod shroud, something most other Model 13/65's don't have), I've never seen a whole lot of Model 13's for sale, new or used, going back 30 years and more. The one 13 I know of with a 3" barrel and a round butt is priced way out there at about $900.

And sitting right next to it in the display case is a "pristine" blued Model 27 Highway Patrol with a rare (these days) 3" barrel as well, priced at about $1,500. The Model 27, without a doubt, has the nicest blued finish I have ever seen on any firearm, and although I don't own any mega-thousand dollar shotguns or rifles, I've seen them and can say that none compare to the rich, deep blue this gun possesses. If I owned it, I'd be like the guitarist in Spinal Tap, and I wouldn't let anyone even look at it for too very long, much less touch it. It's that nice.

So since spying that Model 27 with the 3" barrel, I've sorta been looking for either Model 29's with a 3" barrel and even possibly a Model 27 with a 3" barrel, although I wish I had the cash to get one of the TALO Model 629's with the 3" barrel and I think a round butt. Very nice gun.

I guess there's no winning the argument about which gun is more better than the other with 3" barrels amongst the Model 13/65, the Model 27 and the Model 629. They'd all be fun in their own right, and my ranking in terms of wanting to have one would be the 629, the 13/65 and last but not least the Model 27.


I'm ready already for the new Bond movie to get here. Yes. Sad, isn't it? A grown man and what he looks forward to the most in the next several weeks is the arrival of an almost didn't get made Bond movie.

That's the way it is.

I like this Daniel Craig fellow as Bond.  I didn't so much mind the Bond before him, Pierce whatshisname, or the other guy before that, but they were no Sean Connery or Roger Moore. So hopefully the Bond group will use the success of this latest film to ensure that some more Bond films happen, and on a little more frequent basis please.

Seems like there are enough storylines out there in the world to take Bond off on a tangent on as to guarantee the continued longevity of the Bond franchise.

I'd really like to see him get a gun worth having. Nothing wrong for those low-key moments like a .380 PPK, but I'd be toting a Glock or HK or Sig or Colt or any number of other handguns for those really dangerous moments, were I a double naught spy.

The P99 does nothing for me. Fine gun and all, but other guns do it so much better.

Friday, October 12, 2012


My friend Cowboy, who is a man of letters and a lawyer, is actually a cowboy by birth and upbringing. He owns multiple horses, which he keeps on a 15 acre plot adjacent to his 300 acre family ranch. His family raises or has raised chickens, goats, sheep, cattle and horses at various times. Right now there's probably 10 horses that are their personal horses, several hundred head of cattle that run their land and some amount of goats. Right now, the goat and chicken population has been decimated by hog, big ole' wild hogs.

One of Cowboy's brothers lives on the family place, and there are numerous travel trailers belonging to the other family members that they use when they visit, which is frequent. It's an expansive place and very well laid out by both nature and by his family. They also have multiple gardens and hayfields within their land.

His family place is in the area known as Central Texas, where the first anglo settlers to Texas in the 1800's first landed and established farms, ranches and towns. It's a beautiful spread, and it's got plenty of trees and nice pastures growing good grasses and lot of water in numerous tanks (also with fish). You can ride horses in large routes as well as motor cycles, ATV's, 4 wheel drive carts and even a good truck over much of the ranch. There's several different kinds of terrain, owing to it's location right where the rolling hills of Central Texas give way to a little higher elevation and a rockier environment where the hills are around 1000' and where there is still water in several spring fed rivers.

And of course, in many parts of Texas, this big ole' State of Texas, we have what we call deer infestation. A recent article in the Austin American Statesman said that the scientists at the state don't know if development is running deer into urban areas, or if it's lack of food in the areas with little development or what, but come near sundown in lots of parts of Texas, you have to really be careful driving with all the deer around. You go places as diverse as San Marcos and Alpine and near sundown,  DEER ARE EVERYWHERE! 

Where old friend Billy Ray lives, he's on the edge of a town in a new development that backs up to tens of thousands of acres of wilderness. He gets lots of deer feeding on his yard, which being the calm and mellow Billy Ray that he is, is glad that they're able to feed on his yard. Besides, little is left from the drought of 2011 and the semi-drought his area had this summer, and the deer are leaving the roots so it'll grow back over time.

Billy Ray has lots of vacant lots around him, and is literally at the edge of town. I haven't seen any signs of hogs in the 5 years he's lived there, but I suspect there are plenty of snakes, racoons, skunks, possums, armadillos, deer and bobcats within a mile radius of his house, and there would have to be hogs all up in that mix as well. Still, haven't seen anything  but deer in his area and no signs of other visitors from the wild.

But back to Cowboy. Although deer are plentiful on his families place, they're not the really BIG deer with HUGE racks that are in South Texas. He's had a lease down near Laredo for dang near 30 years with a couple of friends of his. It's a huge lease of several thousand acres, and it's rancher/owner lives down the road on another huge spread.

There are tons of deer, big deer with big racks, big rattlers, plentiful bobcats and an overabundance of hogs. At their camp, particularly near the end of the season, they kill hogs in large numbers, giving the buzzards, coyotes, wolves and other predators something to feed the food chain. And it doesn't matter because there are more of them every year.

It's not that far from Mexico, and several of the guys have cabins made from steel containers to keep safe from the unstoppable numbers of smugglers, the "bandits", those who pray on the illegal immigrants and the immigrants themselves making their way through the semi-arid desert like territory. Others who have travel trailers take them with them when they leave each time. A travel trailer would be stolen (highly likely) or at least totally ransacked if left unattended for more than a day.

Add to that those who live in rural areas these days, be they black or white or brown. Crack and meth are all over rural areas of Texas, and thefts at unattended weekend places and deer camps are quite common and meth or crack is often at the root of the situation.

Almost everything like water pumps and electric boxes are contained in steel boxes with concrete bases because everything not so secured will be damaged or stolen with the unstoppable tide of folks fleeing Mexico and points south. And those who prey upon them.

Cowboy carries a Glock Model 23 in .40 caliber with two extra mags when he's around camp. He had a fellow in a small Texas town that does custom leather work on both saddles, holsters, scabbards, chaps and the like make him a Wild Bunch rig but for  a Glock instead of a 1911.

It looks great and carries well, with a Ranger type buckle system and a matching underbelt. You can use belt keepers if you want but most people I know wearing rigs of that nature just wear them slung slightly down on the strong side hip.

So several months ago, Cowboy is by himself on a remote part of the lease where he has a feeder and feeder camera set up. The feeder is malfunctioning and he's fixing the electronics standing on a ladder leaning into the innards of the feeder mechanism.

Suddenly he hears footsteps behind him, several of them. He turns and gets ready to draw and it's a group of immigrants making their way through Texas. They ask for aqua and money. He's got no problem with giving them water but of course has a problem giving them money. And of course you don't know if this guy is harmless or not or a coyote or armed or what or a smuggler or what.

Most of the group was women but the men were sort of semi-circled around Cowboy up on the ladder. They didn't speak a bit of english nor does Cowboy speak anything but cuss words in spanish.

Cowboy motioned them to move on back and they did, toward his running diesel 4wd truck. He was able to get down off the ladder where he had been standing backwards facing the group. He gave them several jugs of water and they went on their way, albeit, eyeing his truck and asking him if he could give them a ride. He also had a Glock 21 with two extra mags in the console box of his truck as well as several rifles on the rear seat of the car, one a bolt action .308 custom rifle and the other some kind of (legally) suppressed piston M-4 high end  SBR.

When they first began hunting there in the 1980's, there was a wooden cabin they used. And soon it began to get broken into, for shelter, for whatever canned or bottled foodstuffs were around, and whatever beer was in the fridge. Pretty much everything would get stolen...glassware, food, dishes, blankets and sheets, dining ware and none of it was very good to begin with.

In the old days, they thought they were being nice by leaving the outside water faucet turned on with a hose attached for the inevitable trespassers thirsty from their trek. So even though the owner lives a few miles down the road, these folks creep through day and night in huge numbers, for hundreds of miles of border land.

So Cowboy said he was glad he had his Glock 23 instead of his six-shooter or any other number of handguns he could've had with him. 14 rounds plus another 26 on the belt. There was about ten guys in the group and yes, he felt threatened by the semi-circle stance they assumed and the way they approached.

Usually, he said, if folks want water, they whistle or shout from maybe 50-100 yards away to alert you of their presence and see what your reaction is. Cowboy felt these folks were sneaking up on him. He said they did stare at his gunbelt and rig.

He's got him some kind of custom knife sheath and custom knife on his rig. There's also a pouch for his rifle bullets when out hunting deer or bobcat or shooting hogs. It's a nice rig. I need to make myself one like it.

You gotta feel sorry for the current generation of border ranchers, not just those within the actual physical border region but also those in the path of the immigrants, and these lands span hundreds of miles across south and west Texas. They are, for the most part, harsh lands with no live water, lots of dangers such as snakes and other critters and all sorts of banditos and highwaymen and scammers waiting to take advantage of the immigrants, and of course these opportunists are the ones we should most fear.  And sometimes in these border lands, you can't even trust some of the lawmen.

Towns are few and far between in parts, although there are "communities" in some part between smalller towns.  So neighbors are scarce and families have been working this land for hundreds of years. Not all the farmers and ranchers are anglo, many former mexican citizen descendants have had this land in their family as long as it's been Texas or the U.S.

In any event, the deer are big down that way in Texas, and it's a shame that personal and physical hunting camp security have become the custom of the day.

Good luck, fellers! It truly is still the wild, wild west down where these fellers have their deer lease. But they've been hunting there a mighty long while and seem to have good results every year,  with both bow and gun.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Real County, Texas is one of those places that Hollywood would use for scenery in the cowboy flicks and serials of old. Often, they used locales in Arizona and California, and said it was Texas, and although Real County was not the scene of any westerns as far as I know, it's the kind of place that was wild and woolly until probably even after 1900.

I got to thinking about Real County because I read a news story involving a double homicide, with a third death being the shooter who allegedly shot himself. That kind of thing, unfortunately, can happen anywhere, and happens a whole lot more than it should. But it struck me as odd because Real County has a real (see how I did that?) small populace and probably not a whole lot of murders. 

Real County is one of those 254 counties in the state of Texas that doesn't have a whole lot of people and is kinda large in size. It's probably as big or almost as big as several of the east coast states.

It's located about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio, or as some call it, San Antone', so it's right in what we'd call The Hill Country part of Texas.

There ain't a whole lot of folks in Real County. Just over 3,000 or so. Wiki says the largest industry employer is tourism, with just over a hundred employees.

It's a mostly rugged terrain, and those who originally settled there found game and fish to be plentiful in the area. Two major river canyons course through Real County, the Frio and the Nueces. Both of these are beautiful, mostly clear waters that are spring fed and also fed by spring fed creeks and streams.

As late as 1881, there were Indian attacks against settlers in this still somewhat remote part of Texas. Although Indian and Mexican bandito attacks continued well up to the time of WWI in part of Texas further west like Brewster County (Home of the Big Bend National Park), one must consider how civilized many other parts of the US had become by 1881.

Indian tribes once ran freely through these areas, and artifacts are often found. Likewise, numerous mines were dug throughout the area, one by the famous James "Jim" Bowie of the Bowie knife fame and Alamo infamy.

You've always got to be careful roaming around in this area and for that matter, lots of areas in the Texas Hill Country. There are hidden and long abandoned mine entrances, some no bigger than a person and some just vertical holes, that can await the unwary. There are natural caves and crevasses and steep ravines that also await the unwary, and it's a good idea to carry at least 100 feet of climbing rope and a ready rattlesnake loaded handgun or shotgun when out in the field here.

As a kid, we took several drives out in that area. Neither of my parents had been there before, and we found fishing opportunities aplenty at low water crossings and were clear spring fed creeks crossed the roads.

Being from Houston and by my parent's people being from East Texas, I was accustomed to murky, often sand filled streams and rivers. It was a challenge to fish in gin clear water, where you could see the fish and more importantly, they could see you.

My dad had a good friend who had a family cabin  that they'd owned for several generations in Real County right on the Frio. We stayed there on numerous occasions, and the fishing was always good on the Frio back in those days. We'd come in the early spring or late fall, before the crowds of spring and summer hit. As far as I recall, the water levels were always about the same, so we must not have had a lot of drought during those times in the 1960's and 1970's.

I did a lot of learning to fly fish on the Frio. It and several other rivers are the closest thing you can get to semi-mountain stream or river fly fishing like in Colorado and other places. The Frio does get a bit chilly in the winter, like most spring fed rivers, but trout are not the primary pursuit in the Frio, although I believe at some point they were stocked here in the winter some years back.

You find the standard Texas Hill Country fare here for fishing. Lots of bluegills and other types of panfish and perch and such. Largemouth bass and the Guadalupe bass are found, with the latter being more plentiful in my experience. Catfish of several types can be found in the deeper holes, including channel, blue and yellow. I've seen some big nasty yellow cats come out of the Nueces in Real County.

Not surprisingly, I still like to fish in those kinds of places in the counties that surround Real, where clear water runs free and all kinds of fishing can be found.

The best access, of course, is on private land. My friend Tommy owns a large spread with a good bit of frontage on the Nueces. Large cypress trees border the river, and live oaks cover the rest of the property, which has a huge amount of elevation rising from the river canyon.

Live springs pop out of the ground literally everywhere near the river, many right at the rivers edge on the shoreline, and he's got several feeding into a system that, after being purified some more from being pretty damn pure already, goes into his home via piping and a solar/electric powered pump.

The excess from the feed to the house puts untreated spring water into an underground and several above ground cisterns for storage for lean water times for their gardens. It could also be piped back into the purification system for use inside the house if needed.

His spread was an old family ranch that was subdivided into 200 acre parts and sold. There's still a lot of very large old family ranches in the area, and several of my friends have and have had deer leases in this area the past 40 years. That's another way I've been able to do fishing in this area, particularly in my 20's and 30's when my single friends had money to spend on deer leases. I could tag along and pay the owner a few bucks to use his hunter's cabins and do some fishing in "safe" (i.e. non-hunting areas) on the river and sometimes in the ranches stock tanks.

One rancher let me come back in the off season just to do some fishing on several occasions. I'd bring him several cases of Coors Light and could fish all weekend and come and go as I pleased. I'd stay in a small motel about 20 miles away. He had a fish cleaning table of sorts with running well water outside his house, and I'd make sure to pack some nice filets or catfish steaks from trotlining if we had a successful trip.

I've got another friend who has had a lease in one of the Real County river canyons for several decades now. He's got his own hunting camp set up out there and it's his escape on a thousand acre place. He's another one who uses a modified shipping container as his hunting camp, keeping a false front behind the locked steel doors of the container.

Once the steel container doors are open, there's a large picture window made of some 1" thick Plexiglas, a huge motel type floor air conditioning/heater unit, and a steel entry door. All of this is welded into a steel false front wall that's behind the container's doors. The AC unit has a steel cage around it.

This area is bad for folks passing through on their way from Mexico. You never know when some resourceful Coyote (the two legged kind) or some lost immigrants might stumble across your hunting camp. Like most folks, they'd be hungry and thirsty and most would be good folks but some would be thieves and so now deer hunters can't have an old time deer camp with a wood cabin and windows anymore, due to this problem.

So numerous folks I know either tow trailers out to their lease every weekend or have some sort of fortified container based cabin.

When you get a bit further west from Real County, things begin to get drier surface water wise. That's when you start hitting West Texas. I like that area that surrounds Real County, the parts that have lots of live water.

Neighbors are still few and far between in most places in those counties like Real. Ranching is the main business, with cattle, sheep and goats being the main stock raised. It's a semi-rough terrain, and other than grasses, most of the stuff that grows here has stickers or stingers and things to protect it. The rocks are rough and abrasive, as anyone who has done any river time on the Frio, the Dry Fork of the Frio or the Nueces can tell you.

Like most other parts of Texas, hogs are, of course, everywhere in this area. Likewise, wolves, coyotes and cats of various kinds (mostly bobcats but some mountain lions) keep the ranchers busy. Being on the Edwards Plateau, it's a rough geological environment that is the perfect terrain for rattlers, and we grow them large in Texas.

Although the various predators keep ranchers busy protecting their stock, it's the scorpion population that bugs me the most. I've told the story before, that'd we'd have a place there now on a high cliff with a beautiful view of the Dry Fork of the Frio River (not dry at all but a raging spring fed stream) but for the scorpions.

A little family humor about scorpions. We had another place my family would go when El Fisho Jr. was 3 and 4 years old. There were some scorpions there at this ranch, and were frequently encountered in the freakishly large family game room my friend's place had and in the boathouse out at his private lake. For whatever reason, El Fisho Jr. called them "scorpios" and not scorpions, and so we laughed and we've called them scorpios since then.

When I was a kid, when we'd come to my dad's friend's place on the Frio, sometimes there would be scorpions everywhere. Under the rafts and canoes. All over the skin and scuba diving gear. All over the front porch and on the ceiling.

You shook stuff out and swept and moved furniture and broomed the ceiling and you killed a bunch of scorpions and cleaned them up and then sprayed for them inside and out and then stayed at the cabin after it aired out for a day. It was bothersome but no real big deal. It would take about three hours but was no biggie in the scheme of things.

With today's modern pest control methods, I think you could keep 90% of the scorpions out of the cabin with very little effort.

The further west you get in Texas, or to me at least, the weirder the bugs get. Black crickets are seemingly everywhere, and I've seen and smelled their population infestation periods from one side of Texas to the other.

I once stayed in a motel in Ozona, Texas, which is pretty far out in West Texas towards El Paso from San Antone on I-10 West, and not really anywhere near Real County. And I digress.

Anyway the motel was in the midst of a tremendous cricket infestation/birth explosion. The Indian owners of the motel apologized at check in, and said that despite vacuuming the rooms multiple times per day, the crickets were everywhere in their rooms.

He went with us and they had special mats inside the doors and slippers for guests to wear in the room, because it was impossible to walk outside without stepping on multiple live or dead crickets. There were hundreds of thousands of them.

He again vacuumed up the twenty or so crickets that had appeared in the last several hours, he said. He lamented that for a month out of the year, the crickets were out of control.

I told him of several south Asian cultures that considered the cricket as good luck. He told us he himself was born in Asia, in India, and that in his particular area he was from that crickets were just bugs.

He then smirked and said "I must be a very lucky man indeed".
We laughed quite a bit with him over that one. I need to go visit his establishment again, although not in the August-September cricket infestation window time period.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I've written all too many times about my extreme fondness for the Wild West Guns Alaskan Co-Pilot, a massively powerful and functional and even cool rifle.

The takedown lever-action carbine is not a new idea. Winchester was doing it in the late 1800's. I'm no expert on takedowns, but I know that over the years certain lever action rifles that are takedown have ben available, like certain of the Savage 99 and the Browning BLR.

Bottom image from .Apparently he runs a gun shop and may do international business. He has excellent taste in guns. Top image from Winchester.

Recently I saw a VERY NICE Winchester octagonal barreled Model 1892 Trapper Takedown in .45 Colt. A 16" barrel is why it's the Trapper model. Extra nice stock and ultra luxurious finish. Comes in a bit over 6 lbs. but felt less. The LOP was perfect enough to account for adding a Pachmayr Decelerator pad  for some reduction of (felt) recoil.  

Really, it would still be perfect even without the Decelerator pad. Really. Did I say it was VERY NICE?

So at one point years ago I was considering a Browning BLR pistol grip takedown rifle. Lots of internal thinking about what a good caliber would be.

Image from
Browning Takedown Pistol Grip Lightweight BLR

A 30-06 would be great for hunting larger animals or even defensive purposes, but frankly, I really don't care to shoot much more than a .308 these days. 

Still, for the right price, I'd take one with some stock wear or finish issues in "aught-six". It's a popular caliber in these here parts and easy to find ammo for and fairly easy to get parts for.

Other great caliber abound in BLR selections, especially if including past and present calibers.

Here's a cut and paste from the Browning site just to show you the variety of calibers currently available in the BLR takedown lightweight series (note that the header doesn't match the columns):

Item # Caliber Barrel
of Pull
at Comb
at Heel
SA034012108223 Rem. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
SA03401210922-250 Rem. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
SA034012111243 Win. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
SA0340121167mm-08 Rem. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
SA034012118308 Win. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
SA034012120358 Win. 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 8 oz.
LA034012124270 Win. 22" 43" 14 1/4" 1" 1 5/8" 7 lbs. 4 oz.
LA03401212630-06 Spfld. 22" 43" 14 1/4" 1" 1 5/8" 7 lbs. 4 oz.
LA0340121277mm Rem. Mag. 24" 45" 14 1/4" 1" 1 5/8" 7 lbs. 12 oz.
LA034012129300 Win. Mag. 24" 45" 14 1/4" 1" 1 5/8" 7 lbs. 12 oz.
SA034012146300 WSM 22" 42" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 12 oz.
SA034012148270 WSM 22" 42" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 12 oz.
SA0340121497mm WSM 22" 42" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 12 oz.
SA034012150450 Marlin 20" 40" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 7 lbs.
SA034012177325 WSM 22" 42" 13 3/4" 7/8" 15/16" 6 lbs. 12 oz.
So the shortest rig you can get in this model is the 20" barrel in either the .450 Marlin (too much for me, man) or in .223, .22-250, .243, 7mm-08, .308 or .358. The only ones I'd consider would be the .223, the .243 and the .308, with the .243 being a popular cartridge here in Texas where ammo for that is easily found and it's just a little more recoil than the .223.

It's still at least 4" longer than a Takedown Trapper when taken down or in ready form. Also, the Takedown weighs 6.4 lbs, so it's as lightweight as the BLR lightweight.

I have several guns capable of being taken down. One of my favorites is a just over 40 year old .410 Single Shot. It's just like a H&R Topper, except that it takes down. I'll have to check and see who made it. My dad bought it for himself when he got me a Topper Jr., which I still have also. Great guns.

My dad had already tired of 12 gauge recoil by the time he was 40 or so, buying that gun. He didn't mind a 20 gauge either, which is what I favor these days. I shoot better skeet with a 12, but enjoy it much more with a 20. For hunting, I suppose, the 12 is the better choice, being that it has that extra "ummmphhhhh" that the 20 doesn't seem to have in terms of reach. That's my personal experience.

I've successfully hunted quail with both .410's and 20's, but other fowl sometimes require a little more voltage and admittedly you've got that extra reach, power and spread coming with the 12 gauge that you don't with lesser calibers. Like they used to say in the muscle car world, cubic inches count.

So as with the recoil of shotguns, so goes it with the recoil of rifles. I greatly enjoy rifle shooting. I don't mind some recoil. The 30-30 has never seemed oppressive to me, and I've got that great shooting Marlin Model 336 30-30 of my youth, scoped and dead on after all these years. It's been dead on at 100 yards since the day we sighted it in, decades ago.

Mostly these days I've hunted hogs. Bigger Texas hogs. Mean ones. One that will live despite a fatal wound just to spite you and hopefully inflict some sort of injury on you before it keels over. Head shots are popular when possible, but when going after a moving target, sometimes that's not possible.

So I have for years preferred the .308 as the best hog and large varmint option for me recoil wise. It's about what I can tolerate on a practice and field basis. It's got more oommpphhh for me than the 30-30. I used to have a Remington pump 30-06 and the recoil from that was fairly harsh for me.

I've shot rifles more powerful than the 30-06 but again, baring a move to bear country, I really don't even need a gun as big as a 30-06 in my proverbial closet. But one day I'll probably have one when I stumble across a deal on a used Baikal/Remington/USSG double rifle or combo rifle/shotgun in aught six.

As I've written before, I like the idea of a kit I can fit into a Pelican suitcase type deal with wheels and an extending handle. It keeps it handy to throw in the trunk or the back of the suv for out of town trips without having to pack ahead of time, with a combination of takedown fishing rods, tackle and takedown guns and probably a pistola or two.

I'll blog more about the kit I'm gonna build. I've a got a smaller Pelican case and can attest to their durability in carrying both photographic and delicate Digital Audio Tape recording gear over the past twenty years in that case. I'll get a deal on the larger size case that I have in mind soon, and will build my kit in time for spring.

What kind of takedown guns will be in that case? Stay tuned...