What’s In A Word?
Dave Ponders Some Favorite
Quotes Regarding Rifles.
Rifles are special, and I enjoy and use all types of firearms. To my eyes no firearm matches the grace and beauty of a fine English double shotgun. I’ve fired more rounds and won more medals and trophies with handguns than any other type. But rifles, especially big-game rifles, are to me, the most appealing. I’ve assembled some quotes to try and explain why.
Brown on Resolution (1929) is a novel about leading seaman, Albert Brown during the First World War. A German warship is anchored near Resolution Island making repairs. Brown is on the island with a rifle. He wants to delay the ship to give British warships time to arrive, which he does by shooting anyone who appears on deck.
“On the one hand lay the ‘Zeithen’ with her ten, 6-inch guns, and her hundreds of crew, and her horsepower measured in thousands. On the other a lad of 5 foot, 8 inches, aged 20, dominating her and enforcing his will.
“But Brown was only powerful in consequence of his rifle; the handiest, neatest, most efficient piece of machinery ever devised by man. Not for the first time was the rifle altering the course of history. Brown was not a marvelously good shot…but he could handle his weapon in good workmanlike fashion; and the rifle asks no more.” — C.S. Forester, Brown on Resolution.
“We loved a great many things; birds and trees and books, and all things beautiful, and horses and rifles and children and hard work and the joy of life.” — Theodore Roosevelt.
This little gem is one of the first 200 Remington 700 Ti rifles.
A .30-06, it puts a lot of power in a light package. Leupold
2.5-8×36 scope (Did I say the scope is my favorite?). Kicks a bit though.
Rifles come in various formats. All have their place including
(above, left to right) Savage 99 .300 Savage, Winchester 88 .284,
Ruger .44 carbine, pre-’64 Winchester 70 Featherweight .270,
Ed Brown Damara 7mm-08, Sako Vixen .222, Browning BLR .358,
CZ-550 9.3×62 and a Ruger 77 .338 RCM. Rifles can be both
functional and beautiful.
“And—the rifle? Wouldn’t go out naked of a rifle. When shoes and clothes and food, when even hope is gone, we’ll have the rifle. When Grampa came here—did I tell you?—he had pepper and salt and a rifle. Nothing else. That goes.”—John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.
During the Boer War, British regulars had a healthy respect for the marksmanship and field skills of the Boers. Rudyard Kipling summed it up in his poem Piet (pronounced Pete):
“And when there wasn’t aught to do
But camp and cattle guards,
I’ve fought with him the whole day through
At fifteen ’undred yards…
’Is Mauser for amusement an’ ’is pony for retreat,
I’ve known a lot o’ fellers shoot a dam’ sight worse than Piet.”
The movie Rio Bravo starred John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance and Ricky Nelson as Colorado. In the movie, Chance was armed with a Winchester 92 carbine with the trademark big-loop lever, in addition to his holstered Colt revolver.
Colorado: “You always keep that carbine cocked?”
Sheriff Chance: “Only when I carry it.”
Colorado: “How come you carry a rifle?”
Sheriff Chance: “I found some were faster’n me with a short gun.”
“As Thomas Hudson reached for the rifle it was chunky and heavy in its clipped sheep-wool-lined case… he pulled it out by the butt and slid the case under the decking of the flying bridge. It was a .256 Mannlicher-Schoenauer … The stock and forearm were browned like a walnut, nut-meat with oil and rubbing, and the barrel, rubbed from months of carrying in a saddle bucket, was oil-slick, without a spot of rust. The cheek piece of the stock was worn smooth from his own cheek…
“It was really too good a gun to keep on a boat but Thomas Hudson was so fond of it and it reminded him of so many things, so many people and so many places that he liked to have it with him… it made him happy to pull it out of the case now and pull back the bolt and shove a shell into the breech.”— Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream.
Carrying a favorite rifle in Africa is one of life’s great joys.
The rifle is Dave’s Weatherby Mk V Ultralight in .257 Wby with
4.5-14×40 Leupold. Dave shot this impala 60 years—almost to the
day—from the date Roy Weatherby shot his first African game.
“To me the rifle has always been the most romantic of all weapons, and of all rifles the one I love most is the rifle for big game… Because I love rifles and because I love wilderness country I have carried my rifles all over the North American continent, from the hot, dry, barren sheep mountains of northwest Sonora to the glaciers of the Yukon.” — Jack O’Connor, The Rifle Book.
“The musket, like the uniform livery of the dynastic armies that used it, was a mark of servitude. So short was its range that its effect could be harnessed to battle-winning purposes only by massing the musketeers in dense rank, and keeping them “closed up” at pike-point. The rifle, by contrast, was a weapon of individual skill… as Thomas Carlyle put it, “the rifle made all men tall. A rifleman was as good as any man.”— John Keegan, The Second World War.
“… the invention of the rifled barrel ranks as one of the world’s greatest inventions. The effect it has had on the course of history should never be underestimated.”— Jim Carmichel, The Book of the Rifle.
“A moral man may give away his treasures, but probably he should not sell them. Thus it is that at my advanced age I seek to find appreciative comrades who will provide good homes for my treasured rifles, but I will accept no money for them. The Queen is not for sale.”— Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle.
What do rifles mean to me? Big open country, wilderness and wildlife, independence and self-reliance, self-discipline and training, plinking at tin cans with Dad and his Savage .22, stalking red stag in Scotland, kudu in Africa, gophers in the pasture, silhouette matches and three-gun matches, plinking at tin cans with my daughter and her grandfather’s Savage .22…
This .270 was built by three generations of the Biesen family:
Al, Roger and Paula. You might say Dave thinks rather highly
of it. The scope is his favorite light hunting rifle scope,
a Leupold 2.5-8×36.
Riding in the pickup with my friend Barrie looking for prairie dogs with our old ’50s-era CZ rifles, talking of bullets and powders and scopes and ballistics. Talking too of plans for a hunt in Africa, and resolutely not talking about Barrie’s next chemo session…
When I was born in 1949, the rifle in its modern form had been in existence for only about 50 years. By 1900 most of the elements were in place—breech-loading actions, self-contained cartridges, smokeless powder, jacketed bullets and relatively high velocities.
Which means I’ve had the good fortune to live through more than half of the modern era of the rifle. I like them all. One final quote, from my friend Jim Carmichel: “My favorite rifle is the one in my hands.”
By Dave Anderson