A writer–any writer Essay

One of the most treacherous pitfalls for a writer–any writer,regardless of his field of endeavor–is to take himself too seriously.It is an insidious affliction, one that slithers among the commas,periods and paragraphs like the serpent of Eden looking to turn goodol’ boy straight talk into pompous B.S. Especially susceptible arethose scribes who, like myself, are fortunate enough to have a regularcolumn like this one in which we can “wing it” with regard tosubject matter. Just for the record, one of the things we try to accomplish here inGun-E-Sack is to subjectively review products, not always new and manyof which are only of a minor nature, but nonetheless worthy of yourknowing about.

And we like to rap about any topic of interest toshooters and hunters, especially as it relates to those products andtheir use in the real world. Toward that end, it is often the input from your readers that getsthe wheels turning, gives direction or correction. So don’thesitate to pick up a pen.

I enjoy hearing from you. While paging through the December 29th-January 4th edition of TVGuide for something worth watching (hope does spring eternal), I wasstunned to see an article entitled “You Can’t Silence aRevolver–or Muzzle Prime-Time Misfires” by one Gregory Bayan. Mr. Bayan opens his article by relating a typical TV cop showscenario wherein some nasty whips out a revolver with a silencerattached. “Ballistic experts roll in the aisles when they see asilenced revolver,” says Bayan. “It’s a ridiculous andimpractical portrayal. Technical reason: even if the muzzle report issilenced, the gap between the barrel and cylinder of a conventionalrevolver allows noisy explosive gases to escape when the gun isfired.” Well, run me through the sheep dip! Finally, someone was pointingout in a general circulation magazine the ludicrous technical errorsthat appear with monotonous regularity on network television.

I’msure Bayan wasn’t the first writer who wanted to poke fun at whatis obviously the cavalier attitude of TV producers toward facts;it’s just that the editors of general circulation newspapers andmagazines simply don’t care either, and assume everyone feels theway they do. Hence my surprise at seeing Bayan’s article,especially when he opened with the silencer bit. He made brief mentionof some other stock errors we’re all too familiar with–theinfinite-shot revolver and the recoiless high-powered rifle–beforegoing on to other technically deficient aspects of television. I wish Bayan had spent more time on his firearms-related digs butthen I’m sure he got in about all he could expect to get away with,considering the publication. Since Bayan missed my favorite, now’s as good a time as any totell you about it. What drives me higher up the wall than any other”ludicrism,” if I may coin a term–more than 16-shot hoglegs,more than high-powered rifles without recoil–is what I call the”scope fiddler.” You’ve seen him: he’s usually aprofessional hit man, sinister yet surave, replete with his London fogovercoat and briefcase.

The typical scene goes like this: our assassin is shuffling up thestairs of some high-rise. He reaches the door to the roof (which isalways unlocked, by the way), opens it, then purposefully moves to hispre-selected vantage point. Down goes the briefcase, up goes the lid.

There inside reposes a dismantled rifle of some sort, usually veryexotic–looking. He quickly screws the barrel in place, attaches abuttstock, then snaps the scope in place. So far so good. Nothingincredulous here. But then this professional gunman, a supposed expert, brings therifle to his shoulder and begins looking for his target through thescope.

Ah, there he (or she) is. But wait, the crosshair isn’twhere it’ll do the job, so what does our pro do? Still peeringthrough the scope, he reaches up to the windage of elevation knob andstarts playing a tune! We the viewers then see the reticle moving ontothe target. Never mind moving the gun, which we’ve mistakenlyassumed was already zeroed in. Then he moves the crosshair, as if doingso will somehow drag the point of impact with it. The day after reading Bayan’s article, my son Ian came homewith a couple of rented VCR movies, one of which was Sudden Impact, thelatest “Dirty Harry” flick.

In it, Clint Eastwood describeshis .44 Auto Mag as firing a “300-grain cartridge.”C’mon, Harry, since when do we weigh the whole thing? The next evening these was a network re-run of Burt Reynolds’Sharkey’s Machine in which we were not only given a demonstrationof the term “scattergun” in the literal sense, but also one ofthe niftiest pieces of forensic ballistics I’ve ever seen. In Sharhkey’s, the hit man is using an over/under with thetubes sawed off just at the tip of the forearm. With said sawed-off inhand, Mr. Sinister saunters up to this hooker’s apartment and blowsher away through the door just as she’s about to open it. Now themuzzles were literally against the door, yet in the next scene they showa hole about 18 inches in diameter. Talk about an open-choked gun! Notonly that, but around the periphery of that 18-inch “pattern”they show a few buckshot holes for good measure.

We then see Burt and a few of his colleagues from the homicide unitnosing around for clues, plus the usual complement of “labboys” including a ballistic expert. The latter, a bespectacledlittle fuddy-duddy of a fellow, opines that the murder weapon was indeeda sawed-off shotgun, “. . . 3 inches under legal I shouldthink.” Amazing! ALPHA RIFLE Jim Hill’s Alpha Arms down Dalas way is starting to producesome really fine, lightweight hunting rifles.

The Alpha is based on aslick little turnbolt of a Homer Koon design; it’s a three-lug,short-lift action based on the “fat bolt” principle wherebythe locking lugs at the head are formed by stock removal. Since thelugs do not protrude like on a Mauser-type design such as a Sako,Remington 700 or Ruger 77, only a perfectly round hole need be bored inthe receiver. This allows close tolerances between bolt and receiverwhich translates into a very smooth, wobble-free operation. Actually,it’s very similar to Weatherby’s Mark V except that the Alphauses three large lugs of 120-degree centers whereas the Weatherby usesthree rows of three–nine small ones on the same 120-degree orientation.The bolt is fluted, too, just like the Mark V.

The overriding concept behind Homer’s design of the originalAlpha was compactness and light weight, and in that the succeededadmirably. He also wanted the rifle to sell at a price that would makeit very competitive with Ruger and Remington. In that, he didn’tsucceed. Enter Jim Hill who saw a future in Alpha, not in the brutallycompetitive marketplace dominated by the biggies, but in thesemi-production category where more effort could by expended on qualitycontrol, overall finish and optional custom features. Hence the namechange to Alpha Custom, the line which Jim introduced at the ’84SHOT Show. Jim is one of those highly astute fellows who share myehthusiasm for the .284 Winchester. Kidding aside, this fine roundoffers the most power and reach in a commercial cartridge that willcycle through a short action, so the .

284 was a perfect choice for theAlpha. Surprisingly, the wildcat .25-.

284 is also offered as a stockchambering, as well as the other shorties–.243, .308 and 7mm–08. Jim recently sent me his newest model to look over, the Grand Slam,a laminated-stock version of the basic Alpha barreled action.

Igenerally don’t like petite guns but this one is an exception. Thestock is fashioned from 32 pieces of white birch veneer, each of whichmeasure only .050-inch thick.

The layers are vacuum impregnated withphenolic resins then glued under high pressure. The resultant stockshould be extremely strong and stable. With the veneers orientedvertically and the phenolic resin being of a walnut shade that colorsthe thin layers accordingly, the Grand Slam stock looks like anincredibly beautiful piece of slab-sawed walnut. You have to look twiceto be certain it isn’t.

It’s really beautiful. The loaner Jim sent me was, oddly enough, a .284. With its 21-inchbarrel (the standard length for this and the .25-.284 in the AlphaCustom), the gun weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces naked and measured 40-5/8inches long.

Also new for ’85 is a three-position, Model 70-type safetythat is now standard, replacing the two-position side-tang arrangementof the earlier guns. Suggested retail price is the same as last year:$1,275. The Alpha Custom and Grand Slam are impressive rifles which shoulddelight anyone looking for a short, light rifle with class. For abrochure showing the complete line, write Alpha Arms, 12923 ValleyBranch, Dept. GA, Dallas, TX 75234. Just returned from the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT)Show and am I bushed. As most of you know, the National Shooting SportsFoundation-sponsored SHOT is the show where most new hunting andshooting-related products are introduced to the trade. This year therewere nearly 1,000 exhibitors, far too many for a mere mortal to see inthree days’ time.

Indeed, it would have required just a two-minutevisit at each booth during the entire 36 hours the show was in progressto see everything. I did, however, manage to see most of what’s new andinteresting for 1985 and we’ll be highlighting some of them here inthe ol’ sack during the next 12 months. Celebrating their 75th anniversary this year it was the BoyScouts’ turn for a Winchester (USRAC) commemorative. Appropriatelyenough, the excelent Model 9422 was chosen instead of the 94 centerfirethat’s normally been used as the basis for these limited-editionfirearms. There will be two versions of the BSA commemorative: theEagle Scout and Boy Scout. The former is the fancier of the pair, ofwhich only 1,000 will be produced. The Boy Scout model is less lavishlyembellished yet still carries plenty of rolled “engraving” onits antique gold-finished receiver and lever, select wood, and acommemorative medallion in the buttstock. To complement the BSA rifles, USRAC has commissioned the WinchesterGroup of Olin corporation to produce a limited run of special .

22 LongRifle cartridges with nickel-plated cases and the Boy Scouts’fleur-de-lis emblem for the head-stamp. Naturally, there’s specialpackaging of both the individual 50-round boxes and the 10-box”brick.” Royalties accruing from the sale of these special rifles and thisammunition will be paid to the Boy Scouts of America to further Scoutingprojects and activities. Another ner version of the 9422 for ’85 is what USRAC’scalling its XTR Classic, which should appeal to those who like the looksof lever actions as they were around the turn of the century. TheClassic will Feature a 24-inch barrel in conjunction with a longerfore-end and magazine tube, a curved finger lever, and crescent-shapedsteel buttplate–a nice-looking rifle.

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