Category Archive 'Shooting'

12 Aug 2018

The Glorious Twelfth

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“A gentleman will be wearing tweeds weathered to the same consistency as the suit of armour his ancestor wore at Agincourt.”

The twelfth of August, known as the Glorious Twelfth, the first day of grouse hunting season was established by the Scotch Game Act of 1773.

In honor of which, and in order to keep it in print, NYM is republishing, Gerald Warner’s 11 August 2008 Telegraph essay, “Better to kill a fellow gun than wing a beater.”

This week sees a significant date in the British sporting calendar — and it has nothing to do with the Olympics. The Twelfth will inaugurate the grouse-shooting season, though it also becomes legal to take a pot at snipe and ptarmigan if that is your bag. For dedicated sportsmen, the driven grouse, flying high, is the quarry of choice.

Grouse shooting is still conducted on some scale, despite the problems that have afflicted it in recent years. There are 746 upland properties in Britain, covering nine million acres, that shoot grouse and 459 of them are grouse moors. The sport supports the employment of 700 grouse keepers and represents 12 per cent of total United Kingdom shooting provision, which contributes £1.6 billion to the economy.

So we are talking about a significant economic activity. That, however, is not the atmosphere on the moors, among the participants in a sport that, second only to hunting, is the essence of Britain (one feels compelled to eschew Gordon Brown’s horrid, synthetic neologism “Britishness”). The heather is in bloom and there is a feeling of keen anticipation. Of course, the shooting will actually be better in a month’s time, when the birds have been fully nourished and matured, but the Twelfth has a ritual significance that cannot be gainsaid.

This is still rather a smart sport: even the grouse has a double-barrelled name: Lagopus lagopus scoticus. There is a correspondingly acute awareness of social nuances among the guns themselves. A novice kitted out in brand-new knickerbockers and deerstalker might as well wear one of those conference badges saying “Hedge fund manager”. A gentleman will be wearing tweeds weathered to the same consistency as the suit of armour his ancestor wore at Agincourt.

If he has been obliged to replace his Barbour since last season, he may take the precaution of driving his tractor over it several times. Nor should the olfactory sense be neglected: if you cannot out-stink the wet gun-dogs, your bona fides may be suspect. It should be noted, too, that protocol dictates that shooting another gun dead is an unfortunate accident; winging a beater or, worse, a keeper is unforgivable.

It is not necessarily ill-bred to shoot a human quarry: some of our best-born sportsmen had form. The Duke of Wellington was more lethal on the moor than on the battlefield. While visiting Lord Granville in 1823, he accidentally shot him in the face. When shooting at Lady Shelley’s, he hit one of her tenants who was hanging out her washing. “My lady, I’ve been hit!” moaned the victim. To which Lady Shelley replied: “You have endured a great honour today, Mary — you have the distinction of being shot by the Duke of Wellington.” More recently, Willie Whitelaw notoriously winged a keeper and simultaneously shot an old friend in the buttocks, after which he courteously gave up shooting.

Shooting, like hunting, has its distinctive humour and literature, including the cartoons of Mark Huskinson and books such as Douglas Sutherland’s The English Gentleman’s Good Shooting Guide. The classic works of fiction are surely JK Stanford’s chronicles of that veteran sporting gun Colonel the Hon George Hysteron-Proteron, known to fellow members of his club as “The Old Grouse-Cock”, whose game book ran to 20 volumes after he had shot “about 200,000 head”.

Such prolific slaughter would be condemned today. A common complaint is that roaring boys from the City are ruining shooting with their vulgar drive for extravagantly big bags. Over-shooting may be frowned on, but historically there are precedents that are far from plebeian. By the time the 2nd Earl of Malmesbury died in 1841, he had killed 10,744 partridges, 8,862 pheasants, 4,694 snipe and 1,080 woodcock — but no grouse: in Georgian times, it was wall-to-wall partridge. In accomplishing this record, he had fired more than four tons of cartridges.

In the succeeding generations the 6th Lord Walsingham shot 1,070 grouse in one day on Blubberhouse Moor in Yorkshire in 1888. He fired 1,510 cartridges during 20 drives and twice killed three birds with a single shot. In the following January, he shot the most varied bag ever recorded: 191 kills of 19 different species, ranging from 65 coots to a rat and a pike shot in shallow water. The seal of royal approval was given to large bags when George V downed more than 1,000 pheasants in one day in 1913.

The scale of events on Tuesday will be much more modest. Ticks, parasitic worms, floods and raptors have taken a heavy toll of the grouse. In Scotland, long regarded as the doyen of upland game terrain but plagued with problems, this season is predicted to be slightly better than last, but it is very patchy. Grouse stocks are reported to be up by somewhere between 20 per cent and 50 per cent in the Lammermuirs, but further north the ticks have done a lot of damage.

Yet the devotees will have their sport, rewarded for all their efforts by that heart-quickening moment when the sky first fills with the quarry. It is the timeless experience that, years ago, caused the Duke of Sutherland’s loader to exclaim excitedly: “Grace, Your Grouse!”

A more modern complement to the outdoor sport is the competition among restaurants to be the first to serve grouse on August 12. In 1997, this reached a new pitch of extravagance when the first birds shot on a Scottish moor were rushed to Heathrow and transported on Concorde to New York where, thanks to supersonic flight and the five-hour time difference, they were served to diners at the Restaurant Daniel the same day. A similar extravagance featured a courier parachuting into the grounds of a gourmet hotel to deliver grouse.

The Twelfth is a day for extravagance, nostalgia and enjoyment. Here’s to good sport for now, and the perpetuation of a great British rural tradition.

03 Feb 2017

German Augen Vital Commercial

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13 Jun 2015

Camp Perry, 1921

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George R. Farr’s Springfield, now in the National Firearms Museum.

A great shooting story from the September 15, 1921 issue of American Rifleman, recommended in our Comments by JimBobElrod:

After the light had already gone bad, but before Adkins had finished his string, a man whose thick silver hair betrayed a life longer than three-score years, walked across the field to the Wimbledon firing line. His khaki shirt and dungarees bore no team insignia. As he carried a modest improvised shooting bag and his rifle to the firing point, he appeared to be only one of the many old fellows whose team mates instinctively christen “Dad.” But the shoulders of his angular body, the glint of his bright blue eyes, surrounded by those tiny wrinkles that are penciled on the faces of outdoors men from gazing overlong at great distances and the firm, smiling mouth under the close-cropped mustache, might have given a hint to anybody who chanced to notice him that he was not the ordinary old-timer who turns up at National Matches now and again, never to finish in the money and seldom to reappear.

The squadding card from which the Range Officer called his name identified him as George R. Farr, of the Seattle Rifle and Revolver Club, and a member of the Washington Civilian Team. His age, of course, was not on the card. Later it was learned he is sixty-two. He had joined the team fresh off the trail in the Olympic Mountains. Many of the throng who had watched Adkins while he ran his record-breaking score had drifted away; the few who remained took little heed of him when he drew five clips of Frankford Arsenal ammunition and lay down at the peg, opening his shooting bag and taking therefrom as meager a shooting outfit as could be imagined—a “Mike,” a pair of steel-rimmed nose glasses—far-sightedness is a characteristic of his vision—and the strangest spotting scope that could be imagined; one barrel of a cylinder field glass that had been cut apart with a hack saw.

The old blue eyes peered down the range from under the brim of a black slouch hat, and Farr knowing nothing of the elevations required by the rifle he was using—he had drawn it that morning to replace another that had “gone bad”—estimated his sight settings from those he had used on the 600-yard range from which he had come. As a matter of cold fact, he sighted in his rifle for 1,000 yards with the two sighters permitted in the Wimbledon conditions.

“Dad” Farr, from the Olympics, fired his first sighter at 4:30 p.m. Through his sawed-off glass, the spotter showed a Three. He perched the steel-rimmed glasses on his nose, took his “Mike” and made an adjustment, removed his glasses and fired. This time the spotter showed stark against the black of the bull, and his first record shot followed it. When five bullets had sped down the range, Farr jammed in another clip with no more concern than if he had been shooting a string of rapid-fire and continued shooting.

Nineteen record shots had found the black when Farr seemed to grow a bit nervous. His later explanation of this circumstance, in the light of what followed, is particularly interesting.

“When that nineteenth shot scored a bull’s-eye,” he said, “I just happened to think that if my next shot got in I’d make a possible. I’d never made a possible at 1,000 yards; not even a 10-shot one, and I just thought I’d be mighty proud to make one at the National Matches. So I was a little bit shaky, but I looked around and nobody seemed to be paying any attention to me, so I fired.”

“Mr. Farr’s twentieth shot for record”—the scorer droned, “a Five.”

Then to the unfeigned surprise of the range officer, “Dad” Farr rose from the firing point and started away.

“Wait a minute; keep on firing,” the Range Officer called.

“What for?” Farr asked.

“Well, you might win something.”

“All right; I reckon I can shoot some more, only I haven’t any cartridges.”

“Here are some,” the Range Officer said, offering two clips.

“I reckon one of them will be enough,” the old man replied as he climbed back into his sling, jammed in another clip and lined his sights again on the target.

From then on, George Farr from Seattle, disregarding every known range custom—firing from the magazine instead of loading singly, moving his elbows from their position, now and again hunching his body into a more comfortable position—continued to hang up bull’s-eyes while an astounded gallery gathered behind him, and the Range Officer was kept busy finding ammunition for him, for Frankford Arsenal issue stuff had not been overly popular with the shooters in this match wherein the 180-grain bullets were permitted.

His group kept growing, creeping across the target from left to right, and sometimes climbing a bit as the keen old eyes fought the darkness.

Although Farr shot as rapidly as he could—the frequency of his shots being remarkable, considering the range—he did not get quick service at the butts. If he had, it is possible that a different story would be told.

Between shots, like Jones during his Wakefield run, Farr frequently rested his head on his arms.

Until he had fired his sixtieth shot, the light was fairly good; then it rapidly began to die away.

After the 65th shot, the light was very bad. On the 66th shot he began holding down on the butts, with added elevation, but this device served him in the fading light, for only four more bulls. His 71st shot was a Four, and the most remarkable of all service-rifle-and-service-sight records was completed. It was 6:10 p.m.

13 Jul 2013

How Real Men Shoot Skeet

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Hat tip to Alisdair Storer.

26 Aug 2010

EPA Planning to Ban Lead Ammunition, Fishing Tackle Nationwide

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Typical copper-jacketed 150 grain .308 lead bullets

The National Shooting Sports Foundation warns that Lisa Perez Jackson, Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, the same leftwing fashionista who misused her state environmental office to pander to the whims of liberal extremist groups by imposing a ban on bear hunting in New Jersey, is considering implementing a nationwide ban on all traditional lead ammunition in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Lead sinkers would be banned for fishing, too, by the way.

Here is their petition filed August 3, urging a nationwide ban on lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle.

The estimates of wildlife deaths caused by lead ingestion are the purest of fabrications, based entirely on supposititious estimates created with massaged figures drawn from artfully selected data. Who ever saw an animal eat a spent bullet?

Nonetheless, such a ban, implemented by the EPA (on the basis of legislation which explicitly exempted ammunition) would have a devastating impact on all the shooting sports, enormously raising ammunition costs while drastically impairing performance. The quantities of game animals wounded rather than killed would be enormous if such a ban became a reality.

The NSSF is strongly urging us to send in letters opposing the EPA action, but personally I think the fix is in, and writing Lisa Jackson is a waste of time. I suggest advising your congressman and senators of your strong opposition, and voting Republican in November.

16 Aug 2010

Annie Oakley’s 150th Birthday

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Annie Oakley’s 150th birthday was last Friday. They say she used to be to able split an edge-on playing card in two from 90′ (27.432 meters) with a .22.

She appeared in the 11th Kinetoscope movie made by Thomas Edison in his Black Maria [see Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s Hitler: ein film aus Deutschland (1977)] studio, November 1, 1894. Annie Oakley’s shooting wasn’t really displayed at its best in the tiny studio, but it’s fascinating to see even 0:24 seconds of film made when Grover Cleveland was in the White house.

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