Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

The art of the combination gun

An extraordinarily striking example of a four-barreled "vierling" combination gun.
An extraordinarily striking example of a four-barreled “vierling” combination gun.

I must admit I’ve been a fan of combination guns since a friend of mine showed me a pre-World War II J.P. Sauer drilling brought home from Germany by an American Army officer as a war trophy.

A drilling, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to a three-barreled firearm. Some have two rifle barrels and a single shotgun barrel; others have two shotgun barrels and a single rifle barrel. My friend’s Sauer has two 16-gauge shotgun barrels and a 7 x 57 rifle barrel.

I thought about my friend’s gun this morning when I ran across the accompanying photo. It is of a vierling, a four-barreled combination gun. Not only is the firearm an example of exceptional craftsmanship, it is exquisitely engraved and beautifully photographed. It has two 8 x 57R rifle barrels (roughly equivalent to the venerable .30-o6 Springfield cartridge), one .22 Hornet rifle barrel and a single 20-gauge shotgun barrel. I was struck by the sheer artistry of it, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you here.

Combination guns were (and I suppose, still are) popular among European and Middle Eastern aristocrats who took part in European-style hunts. The idea of such a firearm was to be prepared for any kind of game the beaters pushed your direction, from big game to small game to upland birds. Combo guns are almost exclusively used for hunting.

Such guns are not for the light of wallet. As a lowly newspaper employee, I can but admire them from afar. Sigh…

Manchin playing with fire on gun legislation

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (Public Domain photo)

I could be wrong, but I believe U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is putting himself in a no-win situation on gun-control legislation.

According to a recent Politico report, Manchin, D-W.Va., is negotiating with conservative Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on the question of background checks for all firearm purchases. If the Politico report is correct, it appears Manchin is trying to persuade Republicans to support background checks for gun-show purchases and private purchases. The National Rifle Association vehemently opposes any such legislation, and therein lies political danger for Manchin.

If he forges a deal acceptable to Republicans (and, by extension, the NRA), he’ll lose any support he ever might have had from the Democratic Party’s left wing. If he brokers a deal that delights Democrats, he’ll almost certainly lose his A rating from the NRA — and in West Virginia, that’s a serious political liability.


It’s a standing joke in the outdoors community that President Barack Obama has become the greatest firearm salesman in history.

The latest FBI background-check figures appear to support that argument. Since Obama has been in office, the National Instant Background Check System has processed 70,291,049 background checks. That’s almost double the number for a comparable period in former president George W. Bush’s term.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

Gut shot — by a raccoon?!

Here’s one that makes you laugh and wince at the same time. From the Associated Press:

REDFIELD, Iowa (AP) — A rural Redfield man is being treated for two gunshot wounds after an attempt to shoot a raccoon caught in a live trap backfired.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says 68-year-old Larry Godwin was using a .22-caliber handgun to shoot the caged raccoon at around 11 a.m. Saturday when the bullet ricocheted off the cage and struck him in the lower abdomen on the right side. He dropped the gun and it fired again, shooting him again in about the same spot.
He was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines by private vehicle.
The DNR says the injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Should hunting rifles be silenced?

Proponents believe silencers (or, more properly, suppressors) are a good idea because they’ll prevent the sound of hunters’ shots from disturbing nearby landowners.

I’m sure deer poachers everywhere are salivating at the thought.

If suppressors became legal in West Virginia, trophy bucks in the state’s four bowhunting-only counties would live live hard. The sound of gunshots, particularly at night, is one of the few ways law enforcement officers have of detecting poachers in those rugged, largely rural counties.

As far as I know, no one has yet proposed changing West Virginia’s law. But lawmakers in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington have already approved suppressors, and the Georgia Legislature just took up the issue. From the Associated Press:

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Senate proposal would end the ban on silencers for hunting firearms.
Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch, who says allowing hunters to use silencers would keep them from disturbing their neighbors. The Ochlocknee Republican says hunters would still have to have a federal permit to possess a silencer and argues this does not create an unfair advantage for hunters.
“As our growth patterns have changed and we’re having more and more residential properties infringing on hunting properties,” Bulloch said. “If you have a silencer on your hunting gun, the noise would not disturb neighbors as bad. This doesn’t really have anything to do with fair chase. It’s about trying to be respectful to people in residential areas.”
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which Bulloch co-chairs. Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican from Perry who is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, is the committee’s chairman.
Bulloch said the legislation was brought to him by the National Rifle Association. Reached by telephone, NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said the organization does support the use of silencers, which she referred to as suppressors.
“There are several benefits to hunting with suppressed firearms,” Samford said. “Suppressors decrease the gunfire noise, which is important because a lot of hunters don’t always wear hearing protection. Suppressors also reduce recoil and muzzle rise. That allows the shooter to get into position for a follow up shot much more quickly and accurately.”
Samford said that silencers do not allow hunters to sneak up on animals because a sound is still emitted.
The NRA successfully pushed for similar legislation last year in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington, and supports legalizing silencers in all 50 states. Silencers are legal to possess and use for lawful purposes in most states, but require a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The permit costs $200.

Boy’s death ‘a hunting accident’ only by name

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers need to be with Conner Bartlett’s mom and dad.

Conner, 7, was killed Oct. 15 when his father placed a loaded hunting rifle into the rear of a vehicle. The gun discharged, and the bullet struck Conner. The youngster died before he could be helicoptered to a hospital.

Conner and his dad, Robert Bartlett, had been hunting before the shooting occurred. The Spokane Spokesman-Review got it right, labeling the unfortunate event a “shooting accident” rather than a “hunting accident.” Neither Conner nor Robert were hunting at the time the gun discharged; therein lies the distinction.

It was inevitable, though, that someone would seek to exploit the tragic accident. Sure enough, this blogger argued that the shooting proves that young children shouldn’t be allowed to hunt. Check out the comments that follow her post. A lot of folks saw through the fallacy in her argument.

True, the shooting occurred after a hunt. True, it involved a firearm used for hunting. But to say that the incident “proves children and hunting don’t mix” is absurd. Far more kids die while bicycling each year than while hunting. Should we say, then, that “children and bicycles don’t mix?”

No. Instead let’s view the incident for what it was — a tragic mistake on the part of Conner’s father, who should have unloaded the rifle before he put it into the vehicle.

I’m sure Robert Bartlett knows that. I cannot imagine the grief and guilt he’s dealing with.

Girl, 9, killed in hunting accident

When the news is bad, being a reporter really stinks.

What with Monday’s tornado tragedy in Joplin, Mo., I didn’t think the news could get much worse. Then I read that a 9-year-old Texas girl had been shot and killed in a tragic hunting accident.

Note the language. Usually when I describe a hunting-related shooting, I use the word “incident.” That’s because I consider most shootings, however unintended they might be, to be avoidable.

In this case, though, “accident” better fits what happened.

Police say Soren Dahlstrom of Anton, Tex., was hunting with her grandfather, Peter Dahlstrom, when a rabbit flushed and the grandfather raised his .22-caliber rifle to shoot. Just as he pulled the trigger, Soren moved into the line of fire. She died later at a local hospital.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has a more detailed account.

I can’t possibly imagine how the grandfather must feel.  Tragic. Simply tragic.

Ralphie and I think this is a bad idea


If California anti-gun activists get their way, all air rifles sold in the state would have to be painted bright yellow, pink, blue or orange.

This shouldn’t bother a grown man, but it bugs me — mainly because I own one of the more iconic BB guns ever created. When Daisy commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Daisy Red Ryder model, I jumped at the opportunity to buy one. In fact I bought two. I gave one to my nephew and kept the other to give to my son. A medical condition made it impossible to give the gun to my son, so I locked the Red Ryder away in my gun safe. It’s still there.

It offends me that a perfectly wholesome kid’s toy — one that a wise parent could use to teach safety and responsibility in addition to marksmanship — could be so demonized by the Terribly Concerned that it gets saddled with a latter-day version of The Scarlet Letter.

I”m sure Ralphie of “A Christmas Story” fame would agree. All he wanted for Christmas was “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle.” He didn’t want one painted fuchsia.

Neither should any other kid.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

Five-year-old shot while turkey hunting

Photo by Maslowski/NWTF

A 5-year-old Wisconsin boy was injured by shotgun pellets Sunday during a turkey-hunting incident.

The unidentified youngster was hit in the head, chest, arm and thigh after being shot by another hunter. He was hospitalized, but authorities say his injuries weren’t life-threatening.

He was hunting with his father when the incident occurred. A sheriff’s deputy said another hunter mistook the boy for a turkey and fired from 40 to 50 yards away.

The complete story is here, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Unfortunate though it was, the boy’s shooting should serve as a cautionary tale to West Virginia’s hunters, whose spring gobbler season opens next week. Be careful out there, folks.

Do hunters’ guns really need silencers?

Maybe I’m missing something, but I still don’t understand why the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that would allow hunters to use silenced firearms.

First and foremost, how many gun owners go to the expense and hassle of adding a suppressor? Even a cheap one costs $250 or so, and the really good ones can cost upward of $2,000. To legally own one, firearm owners must fill out a bunch of paperwork and pay the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives a $200 annual one-time transfer fee. And all that for what? A 60-decibel reduction in sound?

That’s right, reduction — not elimination. In the movies, silenced firearms make a quiet thwip, thwip sound when fired. In real life, they go bang. The bang isn’t as loud as usual, but it’s still a bang.

Kansas’ silencer bill is now on the desk of Gov. Sam Brownback. With his signature, it becomes the law of the land. Go figure.

The Hays Daily News has the latest on this curious bit of lawmaking.