The Gun Nut

By James Passmore

It started with an old Lee Enfield. She was beat up and worn grey, but it was a real hunting rifle and it was going to help me shoot deer. Mostly, the bullets went sideways. If you put the target in front of a fallen log you could saw your way through it in an afternoon with the bullets tumbling like a buzz saw. I never shot a deer with it, but I am still curious as to what might have happened.

Not being one to learn too quickly, I bought another old beat up .303, this one in full military regalia. This time I lucked out and got one with a mint barrel. In those days I didnít know a lot about rifles, I just noticed when you pushed the cleaning rod through the bore that it went round and round; in the first rifle it hadnít, so the new one must be good. A good one it was and it was more accurate than it had any right to be, considering what I paid for it. I could shoot all right on targets, I just didnít know about shooting animals. I had my first taste of that feeling that a true gun nut lives with and must comes to terms with: unwarranted, indefinable dissatisfaction.

I tried to shoot a deer with that rifle and missed a couple and then it was too heavy, too old and obsolete. In order to shoot a deer instead of missing them at 25 yards, I would need a rifle like everybody else. A Ruger, Winchester or Sako with a scope on it. I sold that old .303 to a man who couldnít stop thanking me and bought a Ruger Model 77 in .25-06 and put the cheapest Tasco scope on it, which was like a man buying an expensive wool suit and carrying a cardboard briefcase. It worked, but the scope fogged up whenever I carried the rifle too close to my chest and it fogged when it threatened to rain and it fogged when I took it out of the truck. I thought that was normal, you see, until I learned that it wasnít and I became dissatisfied.

I started buying rifles and selling them and I took them all hunting and I shot some deer and learned a few things about guns, but I learned a lot more about how a man can become afflicted with an obsession. Mine made that crazy Captainís search for a white whale look like a passing fancy to fill a slow Sunday afternoon. I didnít want a collection of rifles, you understand, I just wanted one.

I liked the .30-30 Winchester Model 94 with a receiver mounted aperture sight a lot for the bush. You can't beat them really for a wonderful handling rifle and the .30-30 killed everything it got pointed at. I shot red deer, fallow deer, goats, hares and possums with that .30-30. Like a fool I sold it for something shinier. I had a couple of English BSA Majestics that could have been good rifles, but time and poor owners had wasted them and it was more of a quiet retirement they were after. One of them went mad and had to be put down. I lobotomized it with a hacksawed short barrel, but it still shot schizophrenically.

I really liked the old model Sako I had, an L61r in .25-06. I thought that was a great rifle. It was heavy. People kept telling me it was heavy and I read things about how new rifles were sub-6 pounds and so on. I'm afraid I convinced myself that wonderful rifle had an irreparable fault, that the Sako people had slipped up and something needed to be done. I was dumb, so I sold it and bought something lighter. Can't recall what it was, because whatever it was it was no replacement for that beautiful old Sako. I have vowed never to be stupid again.

I had discovered I was a gun nut, you see, and thereís no one cleverer than a gun nut and no one at the same time that has more potential for silly behavior. Something that was perfect one day was the utterly wrong the next month. It's a sad affliction for a grown man, like getting chicken pox or playing golf.

I had a Brno ZG47. Quite a fine little rifle. Absolutely wonderful walnut stock on her. It was in 7x57mm, which is my best caliber. Oh, she wasn't perfect, she only liked a certain type of brass and the barrel was too short for my tastes; 21 inches I think it was. Those three inches less than the standard 24 inches grew on me untill it was most of the length of a barge pole. There wasn't any velocity to my ammo because of it. I couldnít use the open sights because of it. I sold it to a man who was very happy to get it and I hear or read about him from time to time. He's still happy with it and I envy that man in a baffled way. How does he manage it? I followed that rifle with a Browning BLR with a 19 inch barrel.

I had several .303's, all with different personalities. I had a little .44-40 Winchester that passed on and I had an aged Mannlicher Shoenauer that needed to be gotten rid of fast. I bought brand new rifles and sold them four hours later. I was a gun nut spiraling out of control.

Then I got tired. I got sick of dealing and wheeling and started thinking more about hunting. By that stage I had got rid of all my rifles and in fits of dissatisfaction had cleaned out my gun case with the fury of a succession of tornados. I was using a rifle a friend loaned me.

Not long ago I decided to buy a little Mauser 98 rifle that I spotted in a gun shop. It's in 7x57 and that is still my best caliber. I probably paid more than its worth, more than the guy I bought it from, anyway, but I needed it. It's got a classic style walnut stock with some very nice figure to it. Its hand checkered with a little silver grip cap. The sporter weight barrel is 22 inches long, which is how long a barrel should be. It's in great shape, but none of that really matters. The point is that it could do anything I wanted when it came to hunting. I knew it and decided that I would live with this one rifle for a while and see how it goes. I make no promises, because I can't, but I have a good feeling. I am a gun nut and I take it one day at a time.

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