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 good
ol’ boy straight talk into pompous B.S. Especially susceptible are
those scribes who, like myself, are fortunate enough to have a regular
column like this one in which we can “wing it” with regard to
subject matter.

Just for the record, one of the things we try to accomplish here in
Gun-E-Sack is to subjectively review products, not always new and many
of which are only of a minor nature, but nonetheless worthy of your
knowing about. And we like to rap about any topic of interest to
shooters and hunters, especially as it relates to those products and
their use in the real world.

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Toward that end, it is often the input from your readers that gets
the wheels turning, gives direction or correction. So don’t
hesitate to pick up a pen. I enjoy hearing from you.

While paging through the December 29th-January 4th edition of TV
Guide for something worth watching (hope does spring eternal), I was
stunned to see an article entitled “You Can’t Silence a
Revolver–or Muzzle Prime-Time Misfires” by one Gregory Bayan.

Mr. Bayan opens his article by relating a typical TV cop show
scenario wherein some nasty whips out a revolver with a silencer
attached. “Ballistic experts roll in the aisles when they see a
silenced revolver,” says Bayan. “It’s a ridiculous and
impractical portrayal. Technical reason: even if the muzzle report is
silenced, the gap between the barrel and cylinder of a conventional
revolver allows noisy explosive gases to escape when the gun is

Well, run me through the sheep dip! Finally, someone was pointing
out in a general circulation magazine the ludicrous technical errors
that appear with monotonous regularity on network television. I’m
sure Bayan wasn’t the first writer who wanted to poke fun at what
is obviously the cavalier attitude of TV producers toward facts;
it’s just that the editors of general circulation newspapers and
magazines simply don’t care either, and assume everyone feels the
way they do. Hence my surprise at seeing Bayan’s article,
especially when he opened with the silencer bit. He made brief mention
of some other stock errors we’re all too familiar with–the
infinite-shot revolver and the recoiless high-powered rifle–before
going on to other technically deficient aspects of television.

I wish Bayan had spent more time on his firearms-related digs but
then 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 to
tell 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 a
professional hit man, sinister yet surave, replete with his London fog
overcoat and briefcase.

The typical scene goes like this: our assassin is shuffling up the
stairs of some high-rise. He reaches the door to the roof (which is
always unlocked, by the way), opens it, then purposefully moves to his
pre-selected vantage point. Down goes the briefcase, up goes the lid.
There inside reposes a dismantled rifle of some sort, usually very
exotic–looking. He quickly screws the barrel in place, attaches a
buttstock, then snaps the scope in place. So far so good. Nothing
incredulous here.

But then this professional gunman, a supposed expert, brings the
rifle to his shoulder and begins looking for his target through the
scope. Ah, there he (or she) is. But wait, the crosshair isn’t
where it’ll do the job, so what does our pro do? Still peering
through the scope, he reaches up to the windage of elevation knob and
starts playing a tune! We the viewers then see the reticle moving onto
the target. Never mind moving the gun, which we’ve mistakenly
assumed was already zeroed in. Then he moves the crosshair, as if doing
so will somehow drag the point of impact with it.

The day after reading Bayan’s article, my son Ian came home
with a couple of rented VCR movies, one of which was Sudden Impact, the
latest “Dirty Harry” flick. In it, Clint Eastwood describes
his .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 demonstration
of the term “scattergun” in the literal sense, but also one of
the niftiest pieces of forensic ballistics I’ve ever seen.

In Sharhkey’s, the hit man is using an over/under with the
tubes sawed off just at the tip of the forearm. With said sawed-off in
hand, Mr. Sinister saunters up to this hooker’s apartment and blows
her away through the door just as she’s about to open it. Now the
muzzles were literally against the door, yet in the next scene they show
a hole about 18 inches in diameter. Talk about an open-choked gun! Not
only 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 unit
nosing around for clues, plus the usual complement of “lab
boys” including a ballistic expert. The latter, a bespectacled
little fuddy-duddy of a fellow, opines that the murder weapon was indeed
a sawed-off shotgun, “. . . 3 inches under legal I should



Jim Hill’s Alpha Arms down Dalas way is starting to produce
some really fine, lightweight hunting rifles. The Alpha is based on a
slick little turnbolt of a Homer Koon design; it’s a three-lug,
short-lift action based on the “fat bolt” principle whereby
the locking lugs at the head are formed by stock removal. Since the
lugs 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 in
the receiver. This allows close tolerances between bolt and receiver
which translates into a very smooth, wobble-free operation. Actually,
it’s very similar to Weatherby’s Mark V except that the Alpha
uses three large lugs of 120-degree centers whereas the Weatherby uses
three 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 original
Alpha was compactness and light weight, and in that the succeeded
admirably. He also wanted the rifle to sell at a price that would make
it very competitive with Ruger and Remington. In that, he didn’t

Enter Jim Hill who saw a future in Alpha, not in the brutally
competitive marketplace dominated by the biggies, but in the
semi-production category where more effort could by expended on quality
control, overall finish and optional custom features. Hence the name
change to Alpha Custom, the line which Jim introduced at the ’84
SHOT Show. Jim is one of those highly astute fellows who share my
ehthusiasm for the .284 Winchester. Kidding aside, this fine round
offers the most power and reach in a commercial cartridge that will
cycle through a short action, so the .284 was a perfect choice for the
Alpha. Surprisingly, the wildcat .25-.284 is also offered as a stock
chambering, 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. I
generally don’t like petite guns but this one is an exception. The
stock is fashioned from 32 pieces of white birch veneer, each of which
measure only .050-inch thick. The layers are vacuum impregnated with
phenolic resins then glued under high pressure. The resultant stock
should be extremely strong and stable. With the veneers oriented
vertically and the phenolic resin being of a walnut shade that colors
the thin layers accordingly, the Grand Slam stock looks like an
incredibly beautiful piece of slab-sawed walnut. You have to look twice
to be certain it isn’t. It’s really beautiful.

The loaner Jim sent me was, oddly enough, a .284. With its 21-inch
barrel (the standard length for this and the .25-.284 in the Alpha
Custom), the gun weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces naked and measured 40-5/8
inches long.

Also new for ’85 is a three-position, Model 70-type safety
that is now standard, replacing the two-position side-tang arrangement
of the earlier guns. Suggested retail price is the same as last year:

The Alpha Custom and Grand Slam are impressive rifles which should
delight anyone looking for a short, light rifle with class. For a
brochure showing the complete line, write Alpha Arms, 12923 Valley
Branch, 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 Sports
Foundation-sponsored SHOT is the show where most new hunting and
shooting-related products are introduced to the trade. This year there
were nearly 1,000 exhibitors, far too many for a mere mortal to see in
three days’ time. Indeed, it would have required just a two-minute
visit at each booth during the entire 36 hours the show was in progress
to see everything.

I did, however, manage to see most of what’s new and
interesting for 1985 and we’ll be highlighting some of them here in
the ol’ sack during the next 12 months.

Celebrating their 75th anniversary this year it was the Boy
Scouts’ turn for a Winchester (USRAC) commemorative. Appropriately
enough, the excelent Model 9422 was chosen instead of the 94 centerfire
that’s normally been used as the basis for these limited-edition
firearms. There will be two versions of the BSA commemorative: the
Eagle Scout and Boy Scout. The former is the fancier of the pair, of
which only 1,000 will be produced. The Boy Scout model is less lavishly
embellished yet still carries plenty of rolled “engraving” on
its antique gold-finished receiver and lever, select wood, and a
commemorative medallion in the buttstock.

To complement the BSA rifles, USRAC has commissioned the Winchester
Group of Olin corporation to produce a limited run of special .22 Long
Rifle cartridges with nickel-plated cases and the Boy Scouts’
fleur-de-lis emblem for the head-stamp. Naturally, there’s special
packaging of both the individual 50-round boxes and the 10-box

Royalties accruing from the sale of these special rifles and this
ammunition will be paid to the Boy Scouts of America to further Scouting
projects and activities.

Another ner version of the 9422 for ’85 is what USRAC’s
calling its XTR Classic, which should appeal to those who like the looks
of lever actions as they were around the turn of the century. The
Classic will Feature a 24-inch barrel in conjunction with a longer
fore-end and magazine tube, a curved finger lever, and crescent-shaped
steel buttplate–a nice-looking rifle.


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