Sunday, October 17, 2010
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During the early’90’s I owned and operated a gun store. As a result, I heard lots of tales of adventure... some no doubt true, others, perhaps adjusted or enhanced. Here are a couple of my bear hunting stories.
First some technical information. Often we humans are deceived by simple hype. For example, Dirty Harry’s “most powerful handgun in the world” the .44 magnum. Lots were sold for just that line. One appears in this story. The whole cartridge is about the size of the first two joints of your index finger, if you have a large hand. The other pistol was a 45-70 caliber derringer, 6” barrel. This cartridge originated in the 1870’s as a military round for the US Army Springfield rifle. George Custer’s men carried a less powerful version, 45-55 into battle with them in their Springfield Carbine( a short barreled rifle). The bullet is about the size of the last two joints of your little finger. The whole cartridge about the size of your middle finger, if you have a large hand... roughly twice the size of the 44 magnum. Now to our tales.
Customer A, a good and loyal customer comes in the store one day and relates the “taking” of a grizzly bear in Alaska. It seems that he and his brother had gotten licenses and proceeded on their own for their great adventure. After a few days wandering around the Alaska wilderness, the brothers came upon a fine grizzly bear of trophy quality. Customer A took the shot and knocked the bear down. The brother stayed behind to spot the place where the bear went down. Customer A left his rifle with Brother, he had his .44 magnum revolver, “the most powerful handgun in the world” to finish off the bear, if the need arose.
Any hunter will tell you, dead animals universally die with their eyes open. Customer A noticed, but did not immediately register the fact that, the bear’s eyes were closed. He quickly reassess the situation when the bear’s eyes opened. The bear got up and came after his attacker.
“Never fear”, says Customer A, “I have the world’s most powerful handgun... I shot the bear six times as it approached me. I knew I hit it because I could see the fur puff out each time as the bullet struck.” The six shots apparently had no negative affect on the bear. Customer A was contemplating the end of his future when Brother dispatches the grizzly with a finely executed, 300 yard head shot. (hitting a moving target the size of a large hand, from a standing position, at 300 yards, approached miraculous.)
Customer B was a lover of large caliber firearms. He had recently purchased a collection of elephant rifles before coming into my store and offering to trade in his 45-70 derringer. At the time I had not even heard of such a weapon.
I have fired .44 magnum handguns and found them decidedly unpleasant to shoot. Now, here was a derringer, roughly one quarter the weight of a 44 revolver, firing a cartridge of roughly twice the power. In my view, pulling the trigger on such a device made as much sense as hitting one’s hand with a four pound hammer... but who am I to judge.
A careful examination of the trade offering showed a 20 round box of ammunition with 10 fired and 10 unfired rounds and a large (for a derringer) derringer with scratches on the, otherwise, like new finish.
“Customer B,” says I, in mock surprise, “I thought you liked large caliber firearms. Why are you trading this in?”
“I have been planning a fishing trip to Alaska and wanted something to protect myself in case a grizzly got after me. I thought this derringer would be light and easy to carry and powerful enough to do the job if I needed it.”
“I noticed the scratches. What happened?” says I.
“It got away from me a couple if times while I was trying it out.” (recoil ripped the gun out of his hand, over his shoulder, and across the rough finished cement of the range.)
“So,” says I, “why are you trading it in”
“Well,” he replies, “after shooting that thing a few times, I decided I was going to be damned sure the bear was going to bite me, before I ever fired it again!”