Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

If West Virginia were to name an “official state firearm,” what would it be?

Within the past few weeks, the Utah Legislature passed a bill recognizing John Moses Browning’s Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol as the Beehive State’s designated shootin’ iron. The Arizona Legislature got into the act when its Senate approved a measure to recognize the Colt single-action Army revolver. Now Alaska has joined the party with a proposal to name as the state firearm the Winchester pre-1964 Model 70 rifle in .30-06 caliber.

West Virginia already has an official state animal (black bear), bird (cardinal), flower (rhododendron), fish (brook trout), tree (sugar maple), fruit (Golden Delicious apple),  and song (The West Virginia Hills). So if our lawmakers decided to designate a state firearm, which one would you recommend?

Strong candidates would be the Pennsylvania rifle or the Kentucky rifle, both of which were widely used by the Mountain State’s early settlers. Problem with those is, they carry other states’ names. For that reason alone, it’d be difficult for West Virginia to claim them. So I’d like to suggest the Model 1842 smoothbore musket produced at the U.S. Armory in Harpers Ferry.

Any other ideas? If so, post them in the comments so others can see them!

Blasting away at the rhetoric police

Rhetoric in the crosshairs

As a responsible firearms owner, I have watched with interest political pundits’ pleas to remove gun-related imagery from public discourse. At first I was amused. Amusement has since turned to disgust.

I haven’t written about the subject because I believed others would express similar thoughts far better than I ever could.

Turns out I was right. Case in point — M.B. Carey of Lavalette, W.Va., whose delightful letter to the editor appeared in the Jan. 27 edition of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. Carey wrote:

In the aftermath of the recent appalling attack in Tucson, a number of our legislators and many media talking heads, in particular Chris Matthews, seem to believe the best way to deter this type of incident is to “soften our rhetoric” and purge our language of any words or phrases which could be perceived as a reference to guns.
If the attack itself was not so shocking, this idea would be ironically laughable. Matthews thinks that by controlling language we can somehow control behavior and thought.
Applying this dimwitted logic, we could no longer advise our young people to “shoot for the stars,” or “set their sights high.” TV and movie producers (coincidentally the main source of our real exposure to guns and violence) could no longer “target” their viewing audience. Legislators themselves would not be able to “zero in” on a specific bloc of voters. No individuals could go “full bore” at any endeavor, and businesses would no longer “aim to please.”
Matthews and his media colleagues have been telling us since the bailouts began that the American people are dismayed, angry, frustrated and fed up with Washington waste, corruption, indifference and gridlock. The Tucson shooter expressed the same emotions felt by most of the country, but he did it with violence and murder because he’s psychotic, not because someone said “crosshairs,” “bulls-eye” or “bang.”
We don’t need Chris Matthews (or anyone else) to censor all the idioms in the English language or offer uneducated opinions on social behavior. In the future, he should refrain from “going off half-cocked” and “shooting off his mouth.”

Palin needs practice before future hunts

Sarah Palin and her caribou

Even though I’m a conscientious objector to “reality TV” programs, I have seen a video clip of the caribou hunt former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin took part in for her series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

I wasn’t impressed.

But not because it took Palin six shots to down the young bull. Her first five shots were clear misses. The sixth, with a different rifle, dropped the bull in its tracks. That tells me that the scope on the first rifle almost certainly had been knocked out of alignment. Once Palin had a properly sighted-in rifle in her hands, she took care of business quite handily. Kaboom, kerplop.

What bothers me is that her dad had to work the first rifle’s bolt through all five shots. Seems to me that someone as familiar with hunting as she — or at least as familiar as her public-relations agents would have us believe she is — would have known how to cycle a bolt-action rifle. One of hunting’s principal tenets is to know how to use one’s equipment.

If Palin continues to be a public figure, and if she wants to make her future hunts more credible to a skeptical public, I’d suggest she spend some quality practice time at her local rifle range. Hunting isn’t — or at least it shouldn’t be — solely about pulling a trigger.

‘Shoot, shovel and shut up?’ Hmmm….


OK, here’s the scenario: An Idaho sheriff holds a raffle for a .308-caliber rifle and a shovel. He promotes the raffle as the “.308 SSS Wolf Pack Raffle.” And he wants us to believe that the SSS stands for “safety, security and survival” in an area where the letters SSS in the wolf-plagued area stand for “shoot, shovel and shut up.”

Suuuuure that’s what the good sheriff means. From the Associated Press:

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho – A northern Idaho sheriff said he is not advocating the illegal shooting of federally protected wolves by offering a hunting rifle and a shovel as the prize in a raffle called “.308 SSS Wolf Pack Raffle” in a region where SSS commonly stands for “shoot, shovel and shut up.”
Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings said the SSS in the raffle stands for “safety, security and survival.”
“We knew that this would stir up some interest,” Giddings told the Lewiston Tribune.
The newspaper reported that the SSS in the wolf-shooting context often appears in the area on bumper stickers.
Raffle tickets went on sale Friday for $1 each, or 11 for $10. The prize is a Winchester .308-caliber Model 70 Featherweight rifle and a shovel. The drawing is planned for March 8.
Giddings said money from the raffle will go to a food bank, alcohol and drug awareness programs, and local school equipment fundraisers.
“No, we’re not advocating shooting wolves,” Giddings said. “Safety, security and survival, that’s kind of an Idaho County thing. That’s who we are. It’s to get people’s attention. It means something to us up here.”
Dave Cadwallader, Clearwater Region manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the raffle is an indication of how frustrated people are over wolves and the loss of state management of the animals.
A federal judge in Montana in August ruled it was improper of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to retain federal wolf management in Wyoming while turning wolf management over to state governments in Idaho and Montana. In response, the agency took back authority over wolf management in Idaho and Montana, angering state officials and blocking wolf hunts that had been scheduled for this fall.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter pushed for an agreement with Fish and Wildlife to allow a wolf hunting season. When that failed, Otter in October ordered Idaho wildlife managers to relinquish their duty to arrest poachers or to even investigate when wolves are killed illegally.
The move means Idaho Department of Fish and Game managers no longer perform statewide monitoring for wolves, conduct investigations into illegal killings, provide law enforcement when wolves are poached or participate in a program that responds to livestock depredations.
Cadwallader said that evidence of wolf poaching in the region is turned over to federal authorities.

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

A rose by any other name…

The misunderstood AR-15

Marketing gurus call it “re-branding” — taking a product the public isn’t really sure about and renaming it in a way that renews or generates interest.

Take, for instance, the venerable AR-15 rifle.

Last year, people in the shooting-sports industry tried to re-brand it by calling it the “modern sporting rifle.” The label didn’t stick.

Another year, another label — this time it’s the “sport utility rifle.”

Let’s get something straight here. I have absolutely nothing against the AR-15. While I don’t personally own one, I believe the AR is a highly accurate and pretty darned versatile firearm that can be used for everything from target shooting to hunting light-skinned game. I also believe the model would be much more widely used were it not for two things — the “AR” prefix and the gun’s military-like appearance.

People see the letters “AR” and assume they stand for “assault rifle.” Not so.  The AR prefix refers to Armalite, the company that developed the semi-automatic AR and its fully automatic mil-spec lookalike, the M-16.

Re-branding the AR-15 might someday help overcome the “black rifle” stigma some purists have associated with it. I suspect, however, that changes in public perception — if or when they occur — will take place slowly.

That’s a shame. As noted before, the AR is a fine firearm that has never deserved the raps it’s received.

West Virginia joins Montana gun-rights lawsuit

Gadsden flag
Gadsden flag

Seven more states, including West Virginia, have joined Montana’s lawsuit against the federal government. The suit seeks to exempt firearms manufactured within the state from federal control. The Associated Press has the story:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A growing list of states joining the legal battle over federal gun control argued Monday that Congress can’t regulate guns made and sold within a state.
The argument over gun control, sparked with the “firearm freedoms act” first enacted in Montana and subsequently in other states, is leading to a constitutional showdown over the reach of Congress into state borders.
A total of seven states filed “friend of the court” briefs by Monday’s deadline to do so. And the Montana attorney general also is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit first filed by gun advocates in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
“The American people and the several states created the federal government, and they now want the federal government constrained to the proper role for which it was created,” said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association that launched the lawsuit. “This is a forward step for freedom that has always been at the heart of who we are in America.”
Utah, Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia all signed on to the lawsuit. The states argue that the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to control activities inside state borders, and they want the authority to do so under the firearms freedom acts advancing around the country.
“These laws are intended to allow their respective citizens to engage within their states in constitutionally protected activity without burdensome federal oversight and regulation of their solely intrastate activities,” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wrote on behalf of the states.
Gun advocates, who filed the lawsuit last year after the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives warned that gun dealers were still bound by federal regulations, want a court declaration preventing federal agents from enforcing federal gun laws on Montana-made equipment.
The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying states can’t exempt themselves from national gun control laws. The agency says that federal gun control is a “valid exercise of Congress’ commerce power under the Constitution.”
It argues that gun control dating back to the 1934 National Firearms Act was put in place to regulate guns that could be “used readily and efficiently by criminals or gangsters.” That and subsequent laws are meant to keep tabs on guns that easily pass between state borders, the Justice Department has argued in court filings.
The gun advocates argued Monday, in their own brief beating back the Justice Department argument, that authorities could freely prosecute those who cross borders with guns bought under the Montana Firearms Freedom Act.
“In the event someone might leave Montana in possession of an MFFA firearm, moreover, nothing in Montana law purports to interfere with a federal prosecution of them for transporting, transferring or possessing such an item in actual interstate commerce without a federal license,” Marbut’s group argued.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock asked the court to let his office intervene in the case and sign on as a central party in order to better argue the constitutionality of the firearms act.
Because of the growing interest in the case, the court decided Monday to give people joining the case until the end of next week to file arguments. The federal government was given until May 18 to respond.

No tax amnesty for W.Va. gun buyers, after all

gunmoneyFor West Virginia’s gun owners, the joy turned out to be short-lived.

Just two days after the Legislature approved a one-day October tax holiday for gun purchases, Gov. Joe Manchin said he’d probably veto it.

“That gives me heartburn,” Manchin said, referring to the loss of an estimated $25,000 in potential tax revenue.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to Manchin’s disapproval. The bill passed the House of Delegates 96-2 and the Senate 25-9. It takes just a simple majority vote by each house to override a gubernatorial veto.

If legislators were truly serious when they passed the tax-holiday bill, it stands to reason they’d be equally serious about an override.

College student dies after muzzleloader prank

Horseplay with firearms — any kind of firearms — is a bad, bad idea.

A student at Appalachian State University lost his life when a friend aimed a muzzleloader at him and popped a percussion cap.

The Wautauga Democrat has the story.

Tragic. And senseless.

Remington makes 10 millionth Model 870

wingmaster.jpgHow does a firearm become an icon?

Well, it certainly helps to have 10 million of them in the hands of hunting and shooting enthusiasts around the world. In a full-page ad published today in USA Today, Remington Arms Co. annouced the manufacture of its 10 millionth Model 870 pump-action shotgun. Long renowned for reliability, the 870 is the best-selling shotgun model of all time.

I have a great fondness for things that work. That’s why I own three Model 870s.

In its USA Today ad, Remington also announced a “10 millionth Model 870 Shotgun Sweepstakes.” Entries will be accepted from now to Dec. 31. Anyone 18 years or older can enter by clicking here and following the directions. Ten entrants will be chosen to receive 870s of their own.

Henry ad targets Obama quote

henryad.jpgYou might or might not agree with the message, but you’ve gotta admire the cheekiness of the latest print ad from the folks at Henry Repeating Arms Co., makers of 19th century reproduction firearms.

Apparently the folks at Henry took exception to President Barack Obama’s disparaging remark — made during the 2008 presidential campaign — about rural people who “cling to their guns and religion.”