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  The Acheulean Hand Ax--or Was It?
Posted by: storm - 04-05-2004, 12:10 AM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - No Replies

this is part of an interesting article i found at [url="http://www.williamcalvin.com"]william calvin webpage[/url]. i've made a few "hand axes" that were loosely modelled after ancient artifacts. but when it came time to use them i discovered that either 1) i was using them incorrectly, because they made my hands hurt and cut them, or 2) i was making them incorrectly. i like this guy's thoughts on the subject...what do you think?

ABOUT THE EARLIEST STONE TOOL of fancy design was the Acheulean hand ax. It's almost as fancy as the arrowhead (first seen during the last ice age but mostly in the 10,000 years since the melt-off). The Acheulean hand ax is far, far older: it was the most prominent feature of the Acheulean toolkit made by Homo erectus between 1.5 and 0.3 million years ago. It is found everywhere from the tip of Africa to Europe to South Asia, made of whatever local rocks were handy.

[Image: bk5p179.jpg]

There is only one problem: for more than a century, no one could seem to figure out what the Acheulean hand ax was especially good for. For archaeologists, it has been like one of those "What is it?" exhibits in the children's room at a museum, where the children attempt to guess what the covered pan on a pole was once used for. To preheat beds with coals from the fire is not a modern problem, what with other forms of heating; I'm not sure that our guesses about hand ax usefulness are much better than the children's guesses about the pan on a pole.

Labeling the Acheulean creation a "hand ax" was certainly a major error, though the name has stuck anyway for various reasons. The sharpened edges of the typical hand ax continue all around its perimeter, and so would do a lot of damage to any hand that attempted to use a hand ax for chopping: it would, so to speak, bite the hand that held it.

The archaeologists' fallback position is that perhaps it was used for separating meat from skin and bone. But a flesher is hardly an important item in a toolkit, since split cobbles work so well for the purpose already. A hand ax (especially one with a broken edge) could certainly do double-duty as a flesher, but some other function must account for its singular features:

1) it is bilaterally symmetric,

2) usually has a point,

3) usually has a sharpened edge all the way around, and

4) it is also usually flattened, something like a discus.

The exceptions are interesting. There are some with blunt back ends, just as there are some (called Acheulean cleavers) without a point. But they may simply be broken versions of the classic shape; that's the default position to take concerning such variants until they are shown otherwise.

Surely we can do better than the position taken by some frustrated archaeologists: that it was a ceremonial item, functionless in the everyday sense of the word. "Form for form's sake" certainly exists, but it is subject to fads and fashions -- the Acheulean hand ax would have to be the all-time-record fad, extending over Africa and Eurasia for more than a million years! What use requires all of those four features, a use that would inhibit further variations in the usual manner, so that the design would remain stable for a very long time? It must be nearly perfect for some important task to achieve such an all-time-record for design stability.

Because its shape is reminiscent of the spear point and arrowhead, there was an early suggestion (H. G. Wells mentions it in his 1899 book, Tales of Space and Time) that the hand ax was thrown at animals while hunting. This suggestion floundered because the back end of the hand ax is so unsuitable for attachment to a spear (hafting didn't appear until well after hand-ax days): the rear edge of a classic hand ax is carefully rounded and sharpened. Throwing it without a shaft seems a bit silly too: how would one keep the point oriented forward in flight? Any explanation for the function of the hand ax needs to explain that point, those all-around edges, that symmetry, that flattening.

This unsatisfactory state of affairs lasted until an intrepid undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts made a fiberglass replica of a big Acheulean hand ax and gave it to some varsity discus throwers to experiment with. Eileen O'Brien took her cue from a 1965 suggestion by a South African anthropologist, M.D.W. Jeffreys: that the smaller hand axes could be thrown with spin, perhaps into a flock of birds. The replica indeed spun well; that flattened shape and bilateral symmetry are very useful for setting a spin. O'Brien and her two athletic friends discovered a totally unsuspected aerodynamic property of their hand-ax replica: in mid-flight, it would turn on edge and land that way. Indeed, the hand ax would usually slice into the ground and bury its point. Now, as you probably recall from your own experience, having the Frisbee turn edge-on shortly after launch is something that happens to all inexperienced Frisbee throwers -- but those experienced discus-throwers couldn't keep it from happening. It seemed to come with the shape.

And the tendency to land edge-on matches up with a previously puzzling aspect of the archaeology: hand axes are often found in dried-up ponds and lakes and creeks, sometimes standing on edge! This strongly suggests that hand axes were indeed thrown at animals visiting the waterhole to drink -- that hominids were practicing an old carnivore trick, lying in wait at the only waterhole.

O'Brien's experiments were a major advance, but they left many questions unanswered: Waterhole predation ought to work with any old handy rock; the painstaking preparation of this rock seems excessive. Why the sharpened edges all around? If spin is nice, why not just use a flat slab of rock, broken to be symmetrical? The answer implicit in these experiments was that a "spinning ax" could do a lot more damage than a rock: by landing on edge (especially a sharpened edge), all of the force is concentrated on a thin edge. But why the point?

THERE THE MATTER RESTED for nearly a decade; I had to puzzle over it for four years before I stumbled upon an interesting clue. It seemed to me that the hand axes were not being thrown at individual animals but at whole herds. Teaching introductory biology for the first time while writing The River that Flows Uphill had reminded me of why animals cluster into herds or schools: to protect against predators.

As herd size increases, there are more individuals on the periphery of the herd exposed to predators -- but the average animal is safer. The percentage of the herd on the periphery will drop as the herd size increases. That's why there is "safety in numbers." For a small herd, half are exposed on the periphery; tenfold larger, and most of the herd is protected inside that vulnerable outer ring. To a physiologist, this is just another surface-to-volume ratio problem of the kind familiar from thermoregulation, from why an animal needs a circulatory system to move oxygen around, if larger than the size where diffusion suffices.

But lobbing a rock up over, and thus into, a herd gets around this restriction of only the peripheral ones being vulnerable; you circumvent a two-dimensional design with a lob into the third dimension! Furthermore, herds cluster ever more tightly together when feeling threatened -- which would only make matters better for the hunter lobbing rocks into their midst as fewer rocks would fall between animals. Even when you miss, it's easier next time!

You aim at the herd, not any one individual animal: it is a "side of the barn" throw rather than a precision throw. And knowing what I did about how hard it was to throw with precision, I thought that lobbing into herds was likely to be a good entry-level technique for the beginning hunter. Invention in behavior tends not to be the "light bulb" flashing on, the bright idea after contemplation -- it tends to be an old way of doing things, converted to a somewhat similar task, one that turns out to hit upon something valuable. After this invention, adaptations streamline the behavior and eventually the body style itself. Chimps can probably throw well enough to hit a herd, though probably not with sufficient consistency to hit an isolated animal from any distance (and no second chances: the animal runs away after the first launch).

There is just one problem with hitting a herd animal in this way: most lobbed rocks that strike it would hit its back and bounce off -- an unlikely way to kill an animal. On the rare occasions when a rock hit the animal on its head or spine, it might have conveniently collapsed -- but otherwise the hunters would likely be left with an angry animal running away, with a good head start on the pursuers. Even if knocked down, the animal could likely have gotten up and run away before pursuers arrived.

Ah, but when I thought about it some more, I realized that if the animal should be knocked down, it might be further injured by its fellow herd animals -- they would stampede when the hunters launched. Even if the herd didn't trample the injured animal, they would delay it getting back on its feet. This might give the hunters time to run up and club the animal, or perhaps throw stones from up close at its head.

I was especially impressed with this scenario when I realized that there was a perfect transition from known behaviors of chimpanzees: while chimps do throw rocks, my primate ethologist friends tell me, they particularly like to throw big tree branches after flailing them around furiously. Such a branch, lobbed into a herd lapping up the lake at sunset, would land just as the herd was wheeling around and starting to run away -- so it would often trip an animal or two, expose them to trampling by the rest of the herd, delay them enough so that the hunters could corner them and polish them off. If chimps lived among herds of grazing animals, the more patient chimps could easily practice such a technique. If they ran out of branches, they would probably throw their other favorite projectile, big rocks.

If that's the way hominids got started hunting, how did they ever arrive at a fancy scheme such as making Acheulean hand axes? What is it about flattened bilateral symmetry, a point, and sharpened edges all around? So I decided to fiddle around with throwing hand axes.

I TOO FINALLY ENLISTED THE AID of an experienced discus thrower, Gareth Anderson, and we repeated the O'Brien experiments with five crude hand axes from southern Algeria and a fiberglass replica of a fancy flattened one. They all exhibited the same aerodynamic peculiarity as the giant replica that O'Brien tested: they tended to land on edge, even if thrown horizontally like a Frisbee.

Gareth and I had picked a well-worn soccer field for this experiment; it had close-cropped grass and many worn spots, and the ground had been softened up by a Seattle drizzle the day before. So when a hand ax landed and then bounced away, we could see the gouge it left behind. Gareth would retrieve the hand ax and bring it back to fit into the hole in the ground, trying to figure out its orientation when it landed. And because of packed dirt adhering to the hand ax, we could usually see the place along the perimeter of the hand ax that hit the ground first -- and it was no preferred place. Since the hand ax was spinning, it rotated after impact and the point eventually poked into the ground. Sometimes the point would snag the ground and impale the hand ax, just as in the O'Brien experiments. Thus the point helps stop the hand ax -- meaning that, in the case of an animal target, it would cause the animal to stagger much more than when the rock merely bounced free.

[Image: bk5p184.jpg]

So if the soccer field were instead the back of a zebra or gazelle, the projectile would no longer bounce off their backs like a rock would -- but rather transfer most of its forward momentum to the animal. The animal might not be able to right itself in time, before collapsing, due to an interesting neurological peculiarity: injury to the back in a four-legged animal causes the legs to flex, as when an animal scrapes its back on an overhanging tree branch or rock and the hindquarters hunch down to free the skin from the sharp obstruction. To keep from collapsing sideways after a hand ax impact on its near side or its back, the animal needs to extend its legs on the far side -- but the back injury from the sharpened edge of the hand ax would tend to make it flex the hindlimbs instead. Thus the reflex protection against toppling would be countermanded.

And that's when the pointed front end of the hand ax finally began to make some sense. It would spin around and tend to bury itself in the skin (or snag a roll of skin pushed up by the forward motion of the hand ax landing). This would not only transfer much of the hand ax's forward momentum to the animal -- but it would yank on the just-incised skin.

A clean cut of the skin is not necessarily painful if you're busy with something else, as I discovered myself one night as a child playing hide-and-seek after dark: I got a big cut on an ankle (from the nearly buried stump of a newly sawed-off bush) that I didn't notice until my mother complained at me ten minutes later, for tracking something red into the house and across the carpet. One of the things that amazes medical students during their first duty in the hospital emergency room is how many patients with a bad cut or scrape (and even broken bones) will claim that it doesn't hurt (someone finally compiled some statistics: 37 percent claim no pain for several hours after injury, though almost everyone hurts a half day later).

But what is guaranteed painful is to manipulate the cut skin edges (just ask a surgeon: they can often continue operating after local anesthesia wears off, so long as they don't touch the skin edges; when they start to place stitches is when the patient requests a booster dose). The spinning hand ax, incising the skin and then snagging its point to yank on the new incision, ought to produce a powerful withdrawal reflex that lowers the hindquarters. Even a small hand ax might cause enough sharp pain to make a big animal suddenly collapse. If the animal were standing alone, it might still get up in time to run away from the approaching hunters -- but with a herd stampeding past, just being knocked down might prove fatal.

And so lobbing branches and then rocks into herds visiting waterholes looks like a good way to make the transition from chimpanzeelike behaviors to hominid hunting -- without improving the brain's timing abilities at all. That's the basic invention for hunting. Making a "spinning-snagging ax" (as we ought to rename the hand ax, though I suspect that "killer Frisbee" will win out!) probably doubled and tripled the yield, permitted hominids to graduate from small gazelles (for whom a thrown rock might have sufficed) to the larger herd animals such as zebra. To make further improvements beyond that, you have to improve throwing accuracy so that you can hit small herds or single animals.

Note that the lobbing technique won't work against anything except targets that are tightly packed together, at least not until accuracy improves quite a lot. That's why I don't think that this invention was important for aggression within a hominid species. Yes, a tendency toward mayhem probably existed in our common ancestor (newly-installed silverback male gorillas practice infanticide, and chimps savagely beat up "enemy" chimps), and yes, accurate throwing would have allowed intermediate prehumans additional ways of committing mayhem. Attacking one another is definitely a potential way of shaping up prehumans to be bigger and better fighters -- which, judging from the history of warfare, may well have played some role at some point in the ape-to-human transition. But the shift from gathering-snatching-scavenging to successful waterhole hunting was not a major step along that path; it was instead a major step in food acquisition that would not work well against fellow hominids (unless as tightly packed as a herd!). And this invention was probably of "new niche" proportions, the sort of thing that can create a new species and spread them around the continents.

What might any of these aspects of side-of-the-barn throwing have to do with juvenilization? Certainly they might produce boom-time conditions as they increased the hominid population size that could be supported. But I think that precision throwing came later, and that it has a much better tie with juvenilization.

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  Evolution Of Blood Types...
Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:49 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (25)

i've only recently questioned the reasons for the existence of different blood types among humans, so i looked it up on the 'net:

Evolution of Blood Types

Back in the early days of man, there were only blood type O people. This means the surface of the red blood cells had neither A nor B antigens on it. This has carried down until today, when the vast majority of people are still type O.

Around 20,000BC, a mutation occurred, and some people began to be Blood Type A. These people developed an A membrane or antigen on the surface of their blood cells. This blood type became common in central Europe as well as Scandanavia. Many feel this change occurred when farming became common in those areas.

The next change was around 10,000BC. This is when some people developed a Type B membrane on their blood cells. This change took place in Asia and Japan, and biologists are not sure what encouraged this change to take place.

It was not until around the 1500s that the A groups and B groups began to mix as travel became more and more common. This formed the AB blood type, which is most common now in northern India, even though it is still the rarest of the four main blood types. Only 5% of US residents are blood type AB.

does anyone know more about this? specifically--what caused blood types to diverge? some environmental pressure?

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  Hey, Old Pagan...
Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:47 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (2)

bravo regarding your website! since getting introduced to the "New Age" in college, i've felt unfairly shunned for simply being male.

do you have a grasp of the main difference between a pagan and a pantheist? i'm not looking for a textbook definition, but an answer emerging from the feelings of a practicing pagan or pantheist. thank you!

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Posted by: storm - 04-04-2004, 11:31 PM - Forum: Hoodlum Workshop-Photos Please - Replies (17)

i'm going to test all of my quartzite and granite rocks in the fire (then water) tonight with a big, roaring fire. i learned last time that i needed only a small fire to heat enough rocks to sufficiently boil 2 gallons of water. a couple of the rocks cracked open--i want to make sure i get all the "bad" rocks out of my collection for future use...

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  Let Us Not Forget This Venerable Site
Posted by: BIG-TARGET - 04-04-2004, 11:18 PM - Forum: Questions and Answers - Replies (13)

for those into MINI-KIT!!! This classic site!!!

[url="http://www.angelfire.com/il3/bobsplace/"]Bob's Guide To Mini-kits[/url]

<img src='http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/wink.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Wink' />

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  Ki What Is It?
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:28 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (2)

johnny gizzard

Registered User

KI what is it?

Posted: 2/26/03 4:13 pm



Potassium Iodide is the first "Radiation Protective" or Thyroid Blocking" agent to be sold directly to the general public. Its active ingredient, 130 mg. of potassium iodide (KI), gives virtually complete protection from the most feared consequence of a nuclear accident - a meltdown and release of radioactive iodine into the environment.

Radioactive iodine (primarily I-131) is a waste product of nuclear fission produced in reactors and bombs. Its potential impact on human health is staggering, and it could affect more people (perhaps far more people) than all other radioactive sources combined. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports indicate that a major release could injure hundreds of thousands of people, and many believe that the government is underestimating the danger.

What makes I-131 so dangerous is that the body can not distinguish it from ordinary iodine. As a result, if it is accidentally swallowed (in contaminated food or water), or inhaled (it can remain in the atmosphere for days), it will be absorbed into the thyroid gland and will remain there long enough to slowly poison its victim. It can take 20 to 30 years, but eventually it can lead to cancer, thyroid damage, growth and birth defects, or death. Children, whose thyroids are especially active, are extremely susceptible to it.

But Potassium Iodide protects against radioactive iodine by preventing its absorption by the thyroid gland. Potassium Iodide saturates (blocks) the thyroid with stable iodine, "filling it to capacity". Once filled, the gland "turns off" its absorption mechanism, and it will remain off long enough for the radioactive iodine to disappear naturally. This method of protection is extremely safe and effective, and up to 99% of all radiation induced thyroid damage can be avoided by the use of Potassium Iodide.

The value of potassium iodide was demonstrated following the Chernobyl nuclear accident, where authorities began mass distribution (millions of doses) of KI just hours after the explosion. In the years following the accident in areas where people received the drug, the incidence of thyroid cancer has not increased. But where KI was not distributed, previously rare forms of juvenile thyroid cancer have begun appearing at epidemic rates, with over 11,000 cases reported by the year 2000.

But the radiation did not stop at the Soviet border. In Poland, 300 miles away, authorities watched as radioactive iodine levels began climbing. Soon, authorities felt they had no choice, and doctors ordered a protective dose for every child in the country. These efforts proved successful, and there has been no increase in thyroid cancer in Poland due to Chernobyl. Similar preventative measures took place in other areas throughout Europe, with similar success.

These programs succeeded because most European countries had long stockpiled KI for emergency use in the event of a nuclear accident or war. Planners, therefore, had access to the drug (which should be taken prior to exposure for maximum effectiveness) when it was needed. Unfortunately, similar mass stockpiles are not kept in the United States


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  3800 Words On Cleaning In The Field
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:26 PM - Forum: Weapons FAQ - No Replies


Registered User

3800 Words on Cleaning in the Field

Posted: 8/19/03 9:58 am


Some thoughts on extended firearms maintenance in the field.

First, a true story:

The Time: Early 1944

The Place: An island "Somewhere in the Pacific"

A United States Army infantry captain stands in a clearing, surrounded by his men. Worn out, sick, sleep-deprived, the rifle company is only at about half its rated strength. They’ve been fighting both the Japanese and disease. They’re hungry and tired. And now they’ve got another problem, one that keeps looming bigger and bigger every day. Their guns are starting to fail from hard use, neglect, and the tropical weather, and the battalion armorer has been invalided off the island.

"Is there anyone her who can take an M1 rifle apart and reassemble it blindfolded?" the captain asks the troops. Nobody raises his hand. Finally, a 21-year-old farmboy and logger, from the hills above the Santiam Valley in Oregon stands up. He’s never even driven a car, and had never traveled more than 50 miles from home before he enlisted. It’s been 60 days since he’s had fresh socks, slept on anything but coral or sand, changed his uniform, or had a shower. He’s just a combat infantryman with no more formal training than any other wartime trooper, and that’s precious little. But he says he thinks that he can.

"Then do it," orders the captain. The men spread a poncho out on the ground; the young man is blindfolded with a T-shirt and given an M1 Garand. And, indeed, he can both disassemble and then reassemble that M1.

And that’s how my Uncle Eldon became the new battalion armorer, a job for which he had no training, but one that he thought was pretty good duty because he got to sleep in a tent that served as his workshop.

* * * * *

Our Man In The Sierra, Mr. Eric Stoskopf, recently asks which firearms can best sustain poor maintenance in the field. I’ve been giving this matter some thought (warning sign number one—perhaps you should just bail out of this post while you can). This seems such a simple question on the surface, but I’ve grown to believe it’s much more complex than we may first think. Answering such a question calls for someone with a first-rate intellect, deep experience, and a captivating writing style. Unfortunately, all you have is me, the equivalent of some yahoo sitting on a poncho in the jungle with a T-shirt tied around his head. Be thankful you’re not asking for medical advice.

Mr. Stoskopf’s question is more than simply academic: On the eve of spending a month in the mountains under primitive conditions, one suspects the firearms he has with him on his trip may not get the pampering they do sitting in a fireproof gun safe at home.

Firearms maintenance under field conditions is a different animal from firearms maintenance at the target range. In my experience, after a day at the range, one is (or should be) most concerned with cleaning required due to the actual firing of ammunition. In the field, however, a weapon may require much more cleaning and maintenance even though it was never fired, due to exposure to dirt, rain, snow, dust, grit, insects, and the like.

How does one decide which firearm will hold up best under poor circumstances? Most folks would just say, "Choose something stainless," and leave it at that. Yet that’s far from a complete answer, and indeed, may even be advice in exactly the wrong direction.

Here are the simple rules:

Rule Number One: Keep the firearm clean. Clean means free not only from the byproducts of shooting (powder fouling, metal fouling), but also free from dirt, dust, leaves, seeds, sweat and fingerprints. Dirt promotes corrosion, and dirt in the mechanism promotes malfunction.

Rule Number Two: Keep the firearm dry. Moisture attracts dirt, and moisture rapidly accelerates corrosion. Moisture can mean rain or snow, but dew and condensation are just as damaging.

With a little foresight and dedication, it’s easy to accomplish both.

Basic Considerations

Here are a couple of thoughts: First, you may choose to make your life easy by selecting a firearm which is easy to maintain. By this I mean one that is easy to disassemble with no major tools, has few parts, and whose major parts groups are large. Second, one may choose a firearm whose materials (stainless steel, synthetics, nickel-plated exterior, chrome-plated bore) make it more tolerant of (some) poor cleaning. And third, one may pick a firearm which by its very construction gives dirt, dust, and assorted field funk fewer places to get in or foul things up.

Simplicity, robustness, ease of maintenance and ease of assembly are of interest to most armed forces, and indeed, when we examine some of the more successful military arms, we find that they mostly meet our criteria: Another Forum contributor mentions the SKS and AK-47; in addition, the M96 and M98 Mausers, the Lee Enfields, the Arisakas, and the M1903 Springfield all disassemble into their major parts using nothing more than a bullet tip as a tool, and they all seem to tolerate lack of maintenance—the AK series famously so.

As a rule, bolt guns protect their mechanisms relatively well. Modern commercial bolt guns—especially the Remingtons and Rugers—do not readily allow the user to detail-strip the bolt, but one may disassemble it far enough to maintain it, and, as we’ve noted before, the striker mechanism is relatively well protected. Lever guns are also easy to strip, although maintaining the inside of their magazine tubes and keeping these dent-free can be a challenge. Non-military autoloading rifles are often a handful, and their gas systems prone to corrosion. Single-shots like the H&R or NEF offerings are excellent choices—few parts, well protected, easy to disassemble (to a point).

Revolvers, surprisingly, come in second to most autoloading pistols, even though for most wilderness situations revolvers have much in their favor. Grit entering through the trigger/frame junction can tie up the mechanism in surprising order. Swing out or remove the cylinder and you can clean up the worst of things, but if grit or moisture gets into the lockwork it’s a tougher job. M1911-series autoloaders are famously robust and easy to maintain, and single actions tend to have fewer parts compared to double actions.

With shotguns as with rifles, singles and doubles easily break down into their larger component parts; pumps protect their mechanism well and generally disassemble with ease, and autoloaders require the most TLC.

A couple of other observations. When the United States Army switched over from the old "Trapdoor" Springfield to the more modern Krag, they were surprised to see the new rifles suffer from rusty bores. The Trapdoor, after all, used notoriously corrosion-inducing blackpowder loads (the .45-70), while the new Krag used modern "smokeless" powder. But the visionaries in Washington failed to consider two points: The Krags’ cartridges used corrosive primers, and the new smallbore .30 barrels were tougher to clean than the bigger .45-caliber tubes on the trapdoors. That’s no small thing, and a lesson that has not been lost on Your Humble Narrator. It’s fantastically easy to keep a 12-gauge single sparkling under field conditions. That big .70-caliber pipe doesn’t wick water through capillary action the way a .22 will, and even if you’re without proper cleaning equipment, you can drop a piece of parachute cord through the big bore or even cut a willow branch to use as a cleaning rod. Since they’re easy to clean, they get cleaned more often, and, perversely, because they’re clean, it’s easier to keep them clean.


Look at that high polish and all that pretty blueing. Just a rich man’s seduction, right? How I wish it were. Truth is, a smartly polished metal surface is easier to keep clean, and retains less moisture. Polishing also removes scratches, minor irregularities, and fissures that promote a phenomenon known as "crevice corrosion" (more on this in a bit).

High-quality blueing can do an exceptional job of protecting a firearm. I have several Mauser rifles in my safes, four of which have been through two world wars, and which are rust-free. And these are issue-grade weapons that have seen severe service in the field and which have not been refinished. Mauserfabrik in Oberndorf, and the Swedish Husqvarna and Carl Gustav concerns, used high-quality steel, and in the case of the 1896 and 1938 Swedes, alloyed it with a bit of copper, enhancing the rust resistance. Indeed, the bolt bodies on those Swedish Mausers are in the white (raw metal with no finish) and they remain rust-free, even though one of them is 105 years old.

Blueing is really just a thin layer of surface oxidation that serves to protect the metal underneath. When applied correctly and carefully, it can offer substantial protection against corrosion.

We all know that under most day-to-day exposures, aluminum does not corrode either (exposure to severe acids, bases, or salt-air are notable exceptions). Yet handle uncoated aluminum (aluminum which has not been anodized or coated with lacquer), and your hands will soon be dark. Why? Aluminum oxide. You see, aluminum naturally oxidizes a thin layer at its surface, and then stabilizes. This thin aluminum oxide layer protects the parent metal underneath, and consequently, aluminum doesn’t "rust." Climbers and other outdoorsmen who have handled aluminum carabiners know this instinctively, even if they don’t understand the reasons why. A day spent climbing will leave your hands black from aluminum oxide, yet those aluminum carabiners don’t pit or rust the way steel would. The aluminum oxide layer is thin and soft, and readily rubs off; blueing is thin and hard, and while you can rub it off (note the so-called holster wear at the sharp edges of a revolver’s muzzle), it’s really pretty durable.

Nickel or chrome plating (especially chrome-plated bores) resist corrosion surprisingly well, so long as no ammonia-based solvents attack the copper "strike" between the chrome or nickel and the parent metal. And rust in the bore is often the number-one enemy: the bore is comparatively tough to keep clean, is subjected to both thermal and mechanical stresses from firing, and even a small amount of corrosion here has an immediate effect on both accuracy and perhaps safety.

Other finishes like zinc phosphate (Parkerizing) and proprietary finishes (Rogard, etc.) generally work well so long as the finish is not scratched through. Some are tougher than others. Due to their excellent surface finish, Glock handguns, for example, have proven exceptionally durable even though they are produced using conventional carbon steel.

Stainless steel, of course, is the modern solution for many. Yet stainless is not the magic bullet one would think. In January of 1981, the American Rifleman, that much-regarded journal of the National Rifle Association, published an article entitled "Stainless Steel Firearms," authored by Norman J. Whisler and Richard D. Overley (that I sit here looking at an original copy simply proves that I should clean out my library more often and get a life).

The authors took steel-alloy coupons and pieces from both stainless (410- and 300-series) and carbon steel (4140 chrome-molybdenum) and subjected them to corrosion tests. All parts were tempered to Rockwell C-30, typical for common firearms parts (the tempering process influences corrosion resistance).

In a nutshell, here were their observations: The 4140 exhibited signs of rust earlier than the stainless steel (410), which remained corrosion-free for seven days under their test conditions, "after which the corrosion of the stainless became much more severe. In the course of 24 hours, the 410 changed from being apparently unharmed to being much worse than the 4140, and remained so for the remaining three weeks of the test. Red rust was clearly forming on the surface of the 410 fouling."

The authors then tested some gun parts fashioned form 300-series stainless and 4140. Here, "the 300-series stainless reacted much more slowly than the 410 coupon." Yet it too eventually developed rapid and severe corrosion, eventually far worse than the 4140. "The 4140 [was] lightly attacked over its entire surface, while the 410 had pits about 1-2mm wide (.04-.08") and about as deep. In the second test, the chrome-moly steel hammer was subject to general attack . . . [while] the stainless hammer contained a number of deep pits."

The authors continue, stating that "localized corrosion of stainless steel is more likely to be a problem for gun owners than general attack, since it is most likely to occur in small crevices which are not reached by ordinary cleaning. Such corrosion can penetrate deeply into steel in a relatively short time.

"The most common harmful form of localized corrosion in firearms is pitting due to an oxygen concentration cell. This can be established when fouling or degraded (gummy) oil is left unattended on the stainless steel surface. An area underneath the deposit may become depleted in oxygen. Lack of oxygen may destroy the passivity of stainless steel, and the metal at the depleted site will pit, If the surrounding area is in the presence of oxygen, the pit may grow even more rapidly than in the case of common steels, This is so because of the large galvanic potential between the passive stainless steel and the non-passive portion which is corroding. Pits, once formed, tend to perpetuate conditions, which cause pitting.

"Crevice corrosion requires an existing notch, hole, or interface to initiate. In firearms, crevices may be found at the frame/grip-plate interface, at the barrel/frame interface, cylinder-notch/cylinder-stop interface, and in the corners of the rifling."

The authors further note: "Pitting can occur if the surface of stainless steel is contaminated by ordinary steel. This can occur if the stainless steel is cleaned with (non-stainless) steel wool, or if it is ground, filed, or machined with items that have been previously used for ordinary steels. Tiny particles of ordinary steel will remain on the surface of the stainless steel after the operation has been completed. Not only is this rust unsightly, but it will destroy the passivity of the stainless steel underneath, thereby initiating pitting."

In short, clean your stainless firearms as scrupulously as you would your blue-steel guns, and pay particular attention to the crevice corrosion to which stainless firearms are particularly vulnerable.

Protecting the Piece

Since so much firearms corrosion in the field has to do with the elements and not actual firing, protecting the weapon from unnecessary exposure is a large step in the right direction. This may take the form of a fabric breech cover, a case, a full-flap holster, or a piece of electrical tape covering the muzzle. A coat of hard-paste automotive wax, especially in damp climates, is also a good prophylaxis.

Look carefully at photographs of German troops in Russia during World War II and you’ll often see them with small bits of rag stuffed in the muzzles of their MP38/40 machine pistols or Kar98k rifles. They were trying to keep dust, dirt, and moisture out of their bores, but this was an exceedingly poor technique in attempt to accomplish a worthy goal. The inevitably cotton rags wicked moisture, even in the hot Russian summers of 1941, 1942, and 1943, and I’ve seen many, many Eastern Front Mausers with severe corrosion in the last inch of their bore, even though the rest of the barrel was pristine.

* * * * *

I’ve carried quite a few firearms in the field, often under conditions of continuous use and exposure. Yet I’ve even managed to preserve blue-steel cap-and-ball revolvers loaded with black powder from rusting, sometimes for many weeks at a time. How?

I try to do whatever I can to keep them both clean and dry. Sometimes this takes the form of protective covering. Sometimes it means disassembly in the field. It always entails both lubrication, and often the wiping of surfaces with a lightly oiled piece of fabric. Once clean and dry, I try to keep the pieces protected from the elements, and that includes condensation due to rapid changes in temperature. Whenever I can, I take advantage of a warm day to clean and dry the arm as well.

You don’t need a whole toolbox with you. A ziplock bag holding an eight-inch-squared piece of fabric saturated with your favorite firearms oil or a pre-impregnated silicon cloth is enough for wipedowns. Some dry material to absorb moisture is helpful, but this can be as simple as a rag, toilet paper, or a paper towel. Take the tools you need to dismount the firearm. (Screwdriver? Allen key? Will your Swiss Army knife or Leatherman suffice, or do you need something more? Try your tools at home before your presume they will work in the field. I’ve reground the screwdriver on my pocketknife to fit my Mauser’s guard screws.)

A small brush is really quite useful for cleaning off dust and dirt where there’s no high-pressure compressed air to be found. I’ve got a special little one from Brownells, but you can find a serviceable equivalent at your local Starbucks or kitchen supply center—just look for one designed to clean out espresso machines. They usually have a wooden handle about four inches long and bristles two or three inches long, and are round, not flat like a paintbrush. The coffee-machine brush bristles are a little soft, but a rubber band or string wrapped tightly about halfway down their length effectively stiffens them up.

Normally, a one-piece cleaning rod is preferable for all cleaning chores. Yet this is the real world, and under the rigors of serious field use, a one-piece rod is simply too cumbersome and susceptible to damage. So find a good multiple-piece cleaning rod, a bore brush, and a cleaning jag.

Yes, you can use a string to pull a patch through your bore, and that rig will fit in a 35mm film can. But to really clean your bore or to dislodge debris, you need a rod. Again, for a 12-gauge, you may be able to tiller one out yourself from a straight branch, but for rifles you need to bring one of your own. There are no shortage of these on the market, and over the years the U. S. military has outfitted the troops with some passable designs that fit into the buttstocks of rifles like the M1 Garand, the M14 (both .30 caliber), and the M16 (.223 caliber). A tiny container (one ounce will do) of nitro solvent is a welcome addition once you have a proper cleaning rod, as well.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, when I was assisting Mr. Hood and other survival instructors with some regularity, I went on a quest, and convinced myself that a Ruger Security Six was the answer. Here was a stainless-steel .357 Magnum revolver that could be detail stripped with virtually no tools. Especially impressive (I convinced myself) was the ability to drop the entire lockworks in one assembly without having to remove a sideplate.

Yet in reality, even after pretty much four years of continuous duty, of guiding in all four seasons, and of my own trips, I never had to tear the Ruger down in the field, and eventually opted to carry something else. Today, it’s a house gun, and almost never travels afield, replaced by other choices.

So today I carry pretty much whatever weapon I deem suitable for the task at hand, and I pay precious little attention to weather it’s blued steel, Parkerized, or stainless. I carry a small field cleaning kit, and a cleaning rod. And I just try to pay attention and not get lazy.

A Final Story:

In the early 1980s, I had a young cousin who joined the Navy and shipped off on a guided missile frigate in the Pacific. He was 18, and was trained as a communications man. At sea, he was standing watch late one evening, monitoring radio traffic from his duty station on the bridge, when one of his young shipmates whose duty that night was to patrol the deck walked into the compartment to warm up.

Onboard, most of the sailors had a nickname, and they called this young man "The Merc" (as in the mercenary), because he as always playing around with guns and knives. (A thought—he may now well be a member of this very Forum. Perhaps they should have called him the Hoodlum!) Since he was standing watch on the deck, he’d been issued with a sidearm, at the time a Government Model Colt M1911A1, the familiar "Colt .45" we all know and love.

The Merc decided he was going to impress my cousin by showing him how to detail-strip his the old warhorse, and got it down to a bunch of tiny pieces. But when it was time to reassemble it, he got flustered, and forgot how. He tried and tried, but the clock was ticking, and in just another minute his watch ended and we was going to have to turn the gun, belt, holster and flashlight over to the next watch. Finally, he just scooped up the parts, dumped them into the holster, stuck the gripframe on top, fastened the holster’s flap shut, and resumed his watch.

Thankfully, he was only an anchor-clanker and not an infantryman or a Marine, and his life did not depend upon having a functioning sidearm that night. One may only wonder which poor swabbie eventually opened that holster and attempted to draw that Colt, and came up with only the grips and slide rails.

The moral, of course, is that don’t know that one should become familiar with one’s firearm’s assembly and disassembly procedures at home, before you have to take the crash course out in the woods, just as you should understand how your vehicle’s jack works before you try to instruct yourself by Braille in the middle of a Sierra snowstorm.

* * * * *

For 22 years I lived in the unreconstructed deserts of the American West, and at home I hardly gave corrosion a second thought. Prior to that I’d spent a great deal of time in the wet Pacific Northwest, where hunting in the rain was an accepted fact of life. In central Europe, too, I’ve had plenty of outdoor equipment survive rain, fog, and snow. But now I live within sight of a large ocean, and my job title has been reduced to Fleet Corrosion Control Officer. Everything, so it seems, is susceptible to corrosion, from the cars in the driveway to the contact switches in the stereo and computer. Even in this harsh environment, though, my firearms remain largely corrosion free, as does my saltwater fishing gear. It’s an endless, thankless fight, and every once in a while I do see that telltale orange stain that tells me something’s gone undetected. Out with the Scotchbrite and WD-40! It’s a tough battle, but you can win.

A series of good men took awful good care of that old Mauser rifle for 105 years. I don’t intend to let them down, and to let rust win now.

Best regards,




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Registered User


Posted: 8/19/03 4:05 pm


(This message was left blank)


Posts: 310 | IP:


Registered User

Re: as usual ml...

Posted: 8/19/03 5:26 pm


you have hit the nail on the head,

there must be preventive maintinence done on your equipment or you will get a rude suprise. having hunted in alaska i will tell you that you must oil up you rifle every day. i keep a special oily rag just to do it with in a zip lock bag. and a can of spray oil spritzed down the barrel then a dry patch also. i dont use silicone based oils as they might kill a primer, but you better be paying attention to you rifle or you will be sorry when it goes click instead of bang (the loudest sound in the world) especially in alaska where " you are not at the top of the food chain anymore toto".


Edited by: alco141 at: 8/19/03 5:31 pm


Posts: 1132 | IP:

Eric Stoskopf

Cool Calm Calamity


Posted: 8/20/03 11:32 am


An entire six pages of valuable information. Incredible.

I'm sure Cleaning in the Field will remain on my desk and within easy reach for quite some time.

Many thanks to ML for yet another informative lesson.

Now. How how does one deal with the guilt of not having the time to finish a measly trip report after having just read a 3800 word masterpiece on firearms maintenance!




"In the school of the woods there is no graduation day"

Horace Kephart


Posts: 2179 | IP:


Registered User


Posted: 8/20/03 4:50 pm


I just was talking to Wally the other day about the .22 caliber Romanians. I have become quite familiar with them and even though they have some crevices that are susceptible to dirt and grit, they are easy to strip and clean. I must admit that some advise you gave about cleaning in general and the need for a rod and not just a bore snake saved me a weekend of hunting last year, as a bullet lodged in the barrel of said .22's and if it wasnt for that rod I would have been home after just 2 hours. I tried the stick as rod trick, but quickly realized that it was a dream and pulled out the rod that I had reluctantly packed.



p.s. I only wish you could be an English Comp proffesor, as that was a hell of an essay!


Posts: 442 | IP:

Howard Wallace

Registered User

moderator - consider moving this to the FAQ

Posted: 8/20/03 5:22 pm


before it falls off the end of the forum. If any other of ML dissertations are still extant perhaps they should go over there also.

Howard Wallace

---Pro Libertate---


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Registered User

Many, Many Thanks

Posted: 8/20/03 5:58 pm


Thank you all for the kind responses. They are most appreciated, and I sincerely mean that. For while (some) of these little epistles are fun to write, especially those which require me to do a little research and thus further my own education, the longer ones do take a little time, and thus they often show up a little late in this “instant” web world. Still, it is gratifying to know they are appreciated, and that they sometimes make a difference (Neohobbit’s experience as a case in point).

Also, I need to voice a long-overdue thanks to Ron and Karen Hood for providing the bandwidth, the opportunity, and indirectly the audience.

Finally, a personal indulgence, addressing the “English Professor” comment: Should you have attended a certain university in California during the late 1970s and early 1980s when for a time I was a member of the English Department faculty, indeed you could have suffered through one of my Freshman Composition classes, although I don’t know how much fun it would have been. But I can note that the first day of classes and the opening day of deer season were often perilously close, and that more than once I was off hunting while a colleague generously substituted for a couple of days. I think that rattled some of the other department members, but they chalked it up as just another one of my colorful eccentricities—of which I had and continue to have no short supply.

It’s vogue among some Forum members to bash universities and university educations, saying that they’re a waste of time. Sorry they had that experience. I would not trade my years as an undergraduate and a graduate student for anything—indeed, I continue to take night classes with some frequency, even though there’s plenty of gray in my moustache now. In the university, I learned much that continues to enrich my life. That in addition to my purely academic studies I was also lucky enough to take classes personally from Ron Hood and other gifted outdoors instructors, and got paid to lead and guide outdoor survival, climbing and backpacking trips, and spent my free time riding motorcycles, hunting, fishing, and shoehorning a Chevrolet engine into my old Toyota Land Cruiser when classes were finished made those wonderful years even better.

Thanks again. I’ll try to continue making some meaningful contributions.



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Bill Hay

Registered User

Many, many kudos...

Posted: 8/20/03 6:41 pm



While the "instant" web makes it often difficult to keep up with postings, many of us live lives that seem to match the same insane pace...

Your time and experience is a worthy substitute to our taking our own time to research subjects... And much more efficient, I might add...

There is always an audience, always a market, for knowledge. Granted, our current society has fewer and fewer who thirst, but there are always a few.

The youth should always hold a valued place for the experience and wisdom of the aged.

Or in modern American English... "Duh. Like, keep 'em comin', dude!"

And an additional note of recognition to Ron & Karen for providing the environment that we can continue to learn, and share what we have learned.

I'm struggling with a raging cold, and a system full of antihistamines, so appologies if any of this doesn't make sense.


Conventional thinking promotes conventional wisdom.

Conventional wisdom promotes conventional action.

Conventional action promotes conventional results.

Conventional results are average.

A webpage... of sorts...


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Registered User


Re: Many, many kudos...

Posted: 8/20/03 8:42 pm


im struggeling thru a case of beer, and i second Bill Hays words..

ML, thank you again for yet another insightful, intelligent and educational post. ive often considered and wondered about your writting style and now understand why. kind of suspected an english background, or higher than most education. as always i look forwards to more of yore writtings, stories, and experiences. for that wich you hca contributed and i have read, sir i am in your debt.

Ron and Karen, thank you again and again and again for providing this forum, and this meeting place for like mined people to come and gather, share, swap stories, knowledge, information, lean on one another, share our lives and experiences. Sir and Ma'am, for your hard work, i am in youir debt.

there are many many MANY of you who help to make this forum what it is.. and i also thank you for being exactly who and what you are.. good people, honest people, helpful and careing people. good to know ya.

now im going back to my lurking and thats nuff of that sentimental $h!t!!! take care all.

Ray in California

"Beware the man with only one gun, chances are he KNOWS how to use it."


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I survived WASP


Thread copied from Weapons forum

Posted: 8/20/03 10:02 pm


(This message was left blank)


Of all the things I've lost, I think I miss my mind the most.

Wally Merrin



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  Water Treatment
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:23 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (3)


Registered User

water treatment

Posted: 2/19/03 3:39 pm


i have found that this link will give you all you need to know about making sure water is safe to drink from a disease standpoint. i have found it very usefull from time to time.



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  Comment For: Action Type And Rate Of Fire (part On
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:17 PM - Forum: Weapons FAQ - No Replies


Registered User

Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part One)

Posted: 1/12/04 2:44 pm


Five Shots Rapid! An Examination of Rifle Action Types and Rate of Fire.

(Note: Due to this post's length--6300 words--I've had to split it up into two parts. Minor revisions incorporated into this post from the original on 13 January.)

How fast can you fire that bolt-action Mauser? That old lever-action Winchester? That semi-auto? Was Chuck Connors’ magazine-emptying fusillade during the opening credits of The Rifleman a masterful feat of gunhandling or just so much Hollywood hokum? And just how many shots can you expect to get off when you’re being charged by a large, irate animal 30 feet away?

Last summer this recoil-addled correspondent decided to find out for himself, so with a truck full of representative firearms and a case of ammunition, Your Humble Narrator hied out to the open desert of the Great American West, endured a couple of afternoons of 113-degree heat, dined on steaks smoked over creosote-bush coals, and slept out under a magnificent star-filled sky, all in the endeavor to answer these and other pressing questions. (For instance, who the hell encourages this idiot to keep posting this stuff?)

* * * * *

During the last four decades or so, while other members of this Forum were no doubt busy getting rich investing their discretionary income in California beachfront real estate or Microsoft stock and watching their portfolios swell like Pamela Anderson’s bustline, Your Man in the Big Dez was pissing it all away on firearms (as well as a few other colorful vises). This has left me barely able to afford dented cans of off-brand cat-food for taco night on Wednesdays, and my retirement plans have been reduced to squatting under a flat rock in the Sierra Nevada and living off roadkill like a two-legged coyote. Along the way, though, I have managed to stuff a couple of gun safes full of interesting and eclectic iron, so much so than even the Eminent Mr. Hood himself expressed amazement the last time he peered inside. Combine this with an inquisitive and skeptical nature inculcated by the Jesuits and we have all the ingredients to conduct an experiment such as the one you’re about to enjoy (or, perhaps more accurately, grudgingly endure) in this week’s installment of The Woodsmaster Weapons Forum.

* * * * *

Bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-auto and single-shot: We all intuitively think we know that one is faster to operate than another. It must be so! But a few hundred years ago, we all intuitively knew the earth was flat, too, and even today some of us continue to believe that politicians are capable of truthfulness; that professional wrestling or NASCAR is somehow honest, unscripted competition; or that if we grill our steaks using Brand X propane, a platoon of Victoria’s Secret supermodels models is guaranteed to parachute into our next backyard barbecue wearing little more than the smallest patch of strategically placed lace and their famously pouty looks.

So. Viewed under the harsh magnifying glass of the stopwatch, do we really know the truth about rate of fire, or have we simply once again deluded ourselves with wishful thinking? After all, there is no trap so deadly as the one we set for ourselves (thank you, Raymond Chandler).

These are the questions you ask yourself when you’re too cheap to pony up for cable, and your social life has descended to the depths of my own.

Rather than just give you more of that unsubstantiated opinion (because everyone’s an expert on the Internet!) which passes through lesser websites with the palpable stench of a ground-rolling goat fart, or just steal someone else’s work and publish it as though it were my own, I decided to find the truth—or a reasonable facsimile thereof—before spewing forth. And there seemed to my small and simple mind only one way to accomplish this: by firing five-shot strings as rapidly as I could from a series of representative firearms. I tried to make this as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, at least in terms of caliber and sights. I wanted to know how fast I could fire, say, five shots at a target that was close. Say, 30 feet away. Say, like a large, charging animal.

Maybe some of you have had the good fortune to have shot a Rapid Fire stage in the military, or in High Power rifle competition. If not, I urge you to do so. But rapid fire at Camp Perry is a different creature from what we’re talking about here: First, it’s fired very deliberately and shot for score—a pretty careful score if you’re playing the game seriously or trying to qualify Expert. Compared to a close-encounter with a hostile animal, the targets are distant—100 and 300 yards in most cases. And my old High-Power rulebook defines the rapid stage as ten shots within either 60 or 70 seconds (from standing to sitting or standing to prone, respectively), including one reload of the magazine. (This usually means two five-shot magazines fired back-to-back, or a two-shot magazine followed by an eight-shot magazine for the M1 Garand). You don’t need to be a genius to do the math: allowing for the time it takes to recharge the magazine once and the time it takes to get into position, right off the bat we know a skilled operator with a bolt gun (because these strings were regularly shot with bolt guns and stripper clips in the old days, and some still are) should be able to get off an aimed shot at the very least once every five seconds or so with a substantial amount of precision.

I make no pretensions of being anything more than average when it comes to rapid-fire skills. It’s been close to two decades since I seriously participated in any High-Power rifle competitions, although back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I shot for score with an ’03 Springfield I did manage to hold my own, and I did my time in the 600-yard pits. And I will also admit a little more a passing familiarity with firearms. Consequently, as the advertising monkeys say, your mileage may vary, and you may fire your strings faster or more slowly.

Scientists will note that this experiment doesn’t necessarily prove which action type is faster, but only which action type I can operate faster on a given day. True—and I invite them to perform their own experiments and publish their results. Until that time, the important aspect of today’s little screed should not change: Since all of these strings were fired by one shooter (me), on the same weekend, and with rifles of as close to the same chambering as I could manage, the relative points of which actions facilitate faster shooting should stand as representative. Adjust your speed up or down depending upon your proficiency or lack thereof, but, action-to-action, I imagine your relative speed will remain as illustrated here.

Moving on, let’s take a look at our players, and see what they could do.

Rifles Tested (In order of action type):

Bolt Action

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington

Model 1896 Krag Carbine, .30 Govt. (.30-40 Krag)

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester

Lever Action

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester

Straight-Pull Bolt Action

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R

Pump Action

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester


Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield

Single Shot

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester


Where possible, I chose rifles firing cartridges of similar length and power—comparing times for a .22 autoloader against a .375 H&H Magnum bolt gun is meaningless. Still, small variables creep into the equation, such as stock design, weight, sights, and so on. I tried to choose firearms which minimized them. With the exception of the M1 Garand and the K31 Schmidt Rubin (both heavy military arms), all of these rifles are general representations of typical sporter-weight guns with barrels generally between 19 and 22 inches, and weighing between six and eight pounds or so.

Sight configuration is also a factor. Ideally, all of the weapons tested would have had identical sighting arrangements. This was not possible; however, with the exception of the Steyr Scout (which utilized a 2.3X Leupold Intermediate Eye Relief telescopic sight) and the Remington Model 600 (1.5-5X Leupold set on 1.5 power), all of the rifles here were fired with iron sights. Sometimes this meant an aperture rear sight (SMLE, Marlin 336, Winchester 94, M1 Garand), and sometimes an open blade rear sight (the rest, generally). In order to minimize sight reacquisition as a variable in the testing, the rifles here were not fired for pinpoint accuracy. Yet simply sending unaimed rounds out into the sagebrush of the Great American West didn’t seem appropriate either, so a twelve-inch by twelve-inch cardboard square was used as a target, set 30 feet away. This proved quite easy to acquire and hit, yet still required me to take aim at something. Firing rapid for small groups and into a small target becomes more a test or shooter skill, gun fit, sighting system, and a particular rifle’s/ammunition’s inherent accuracy than purely action type alone, and it’s not my intention here to explore one individual model of firearm over another for speed, but rather one action type versus another—hence, the largish sampling.

While not all of the rifles were chambered for the same cartridge, they are all comparable, reducing or eliminating the recoil variable of much larger or smaller cartridges. Just as important, they are all pretty representative of a "typical" deer-class hunting cartridge which one would normally be carrying in the woods.

Without exception, all rifles were operated without taking them from the shoulder—even the break-open NEF Handi-Rifle and the Ruger No. 1 single-shots. It is an absolute necessary to learn this in order to fire rapidly, yet this is a skill very few possess, much less practice. (See for yourself at your local shooting range: few shooters do anything but fire from a rest, and fire slowly. And if a shooter isn’t using a benchrest, he’s probably standing in some bastardization of the offhand position, yet still dropping the rifle from his shoulder in order to cycle the action and reload.)

All the bolt guns were right-handed actions, fired by a right-handed shooter (lever guns, pumps, and single-shots are, naturally, equally suited for right- or left handers).

All the firing was standing, offhand, with no supports and no sling used. Again, this is not the recommended drill for accuracy, but for a fast, unanticipated shot (or two or three) at exceedingly close range, it seems the most realistic position.

Times were clocked by an assistant, started from the report of the first shot, and stopped at the report of the last shot. The strings were also tape-recorded along with a base-line time count to eliminate any variables of tape speed, and the tapes were played back and re-clocked to double-check the results.

All times are for five-shot strings, including four reloading cycles from the magazine. (Read that carefully: These times include reloading the chamber from the magazine, not reloading of the magazine itself as in formal High-Power competition. Single-shots, naturally, have no magazine of reserve cartridges.) The strings were started with a live round in the chamber, four rounds in the magazine, and the safety off—again, the intent was not to introduce items such as safety design and placement as variables. While it’s obvious that getting off five shots in the time a determined bear takes to cover 30 feet is a virtual impossibility no matter what the action type, the five-shot strings provided a more clear spread of times for clarity. In addition, had a shooter more time/distance on a particular target, the five-shot string more accurately represents the time required to shoot a magazine dry. Single-shot rifles were fired starting with a round in the chamber and the remaining rounds either held between the fingers of the off hand and/or in a cartridge holder attached to the shooter’s left (off-hand) wrist.

For the initial shot, rifles were held on target, sights aligned, ready to fire, index finger outside of the triggerguard. In the case of the exposed-hammer guns, the hammer was cocked and ready to fire. The action was worked as rapidly as possible, and the rifle was fired as soon as the sights were in alignment with any part of the cardboard target.

Bolt Travel

I was curious as to whether bolt travel would have any significant effect on bolt cycling times. Bolt travel is a factor of two variables: First, and most important, the length of the cartridge in question—longer cartridges necessarily require longer actions, and consequently longer bolt travels. Rather than produce a different action for every single cartridge length, most manufacturers build their rifles on one of two action lengths (short and long), sometimes adding a third for true magnum-length cartridges. To test for this, I compared two Ruger M77 bolt guns, one chambered for the .308 Winchester (short action) and one chambered for the .30-’06 Springfield (long action). Typically, the difference between a short action and a long action is about 3/8 (0.375) of an inch; the difference between the two Rugers is 0.435 (just under 7/16) of an inch. The same applies between a long action and a magnum action—the difference between my Winchester Model 70 long-action’s bolt throw and my Winchester Model 70 Classic Super Express .375 H&H Magnum’s is 0.322 (just over 5/16) of an inch. These are not industry-wide standards, though, and the actual measurements must be derived from brand to brand and model to model.

In reality, I suspected the extra length would add little time; however, I have found that long-action rifles bring the bolt back closer to the shooter’s face, and depending on the rifle’s length of pull (the stock length from butt to trigger) this itself may slow the cyclic speed more psychologically than mechanically, as it may intimidate the shooter. With a well-designed stock, proper technique, and a realistic length of pull, however, I found precious little difference in times due to action length alone.

The second factor influencing bolt travel is the design of the action itself, specifically (with bolt guns) the location of the locking lugs either in front of or to the rear of the magazine. And that’s precisely why I included the Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine: It features rear locking lugs. This, plus an excellent bolt-knob placement and generous camming geometry on the lugs, gives the Lee Enfield family of rifles a reputation for rapid bolt manipulation, due in part to the fact that (because of the lug location) the bolt travels a relatively shorter distance than in other common rifles chambered for similar cartridges. A nice theory, but does it in fact translate to a faster rate of fire? How much shorter is the SMLE’s bolt throw? And was it any factor? Let’s chart ’em all.

Bolt Travel In Inches, Longest to Shortest

(Note: This is travel of the bolt itself, not bolt lift and not travel of the lever for a lever-action rifle or the forearm for a pump-action. )

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester: 2.288 inches

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester: 2.315 inches

Model 1898 Krag Carbine, .30-40 Govt. (.30-40 Krag): 3.630 inches

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British: 3.653 inches

Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield: 3.880 inches

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington: 3.625 inches

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss: 4.070 inches *

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester: 4.155

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester: (Apx) 4.35 inches **

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester: 4.470 inches

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield: 4.590 inches

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R: 5.090 inches

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield: NA

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester: NA


*The Swiss Schmidt Rubin uses a separate bolt unlatching handle which moves an additional (measured) 0.675 inch before unlocking (or re-locking) the bolt. Thus, while bolt travel per se is 4.070 inches, the real-world travel of the handle is 4.745 inches)

**The Remington 740 was measured using other means than the balance of the rifles, but I feel this is close enough to include here.

I included the Krag carbine because, while often overlooked today, Krags, too, have a oft-cited reputation for rapid bolt manipulation due to a single locking lug, a shortish bolt lift, and excellent bolt-handle design. The Ruger M77s are representative of most other American bolt guns (Remington Model Seven and 700, Winchester Model 70, Savage) and Mauser derivatives in general, while the little Steyr Scout features a "butterknife" bolt handle disliked by some, but of which I am rather fond in carbine applications.

The late Finn Aagaard published several articles on bolt-action rifle speed. One, appearing in the September 1982 issue of the American Rifleman, made note of the following:

"Smoothness is of much consequence in a bolt-action, whereas the length of the bolt travel really is not. The slickest action in my rack is that on a [55]-year-old [Winchester] Model 70 chambered for the .375 H&H Magnum cartridge. Despite its half-inch longer bolt throw, it is significantly faster than a new and still slightly rough short-action Ruger Model 77 [Mark I] in .243 Winchester."

With this, I must agree. For example, the two lever guns, chambered for the same cartridge, showed a significant difference in time, due almost exclusively to the Winchester’s being 50 years old and well-worn, and the Marlin’s relatively tight state of tune. Of the "modern" bolt guns, the little Remington 600 has probably seen the most use, and while I didn’t attempt any measure of how worn-in one of these bolt guns has become, the difference between stiff and smooth is quite obvious when one cycles the action. And it makes a big difference. Note that action friction is not an absolute: it’s easy to lap in a bolt’s cocking and extraction cams (taking care not to lap the locking lugs), and cycling the action 1000-2000 times with the trigger removed will accomplish the same thing through simple use, albeit it a little slower.


Experience has shown me that my most dependably rapid manipulation technique for turnbolt guns usually comes with pinching my index finger and thumb together, with the bolt knob between the two. This works just as well with the "butterknife" bolt handle typical of Mannlicher carbines and the Steyr Scout, especially since the Steyr’s "knob" stands away from the stock when the action is unlocked. For guns with a straight bolt (one which is not bent down) such as the VZ24 Mauser or the Swedish Model 96 Mauser long rifle, I open the bolt using the center of my palm to strike the bolt knob.

For lever actions, I use the middle, ring, and little finger of my shooting hand to thrust the lever down while simultaneously pulling my index (trigger) finger out of the triggerguard.

In the First World War, the British used a unique technique during something referred to as the "Mad Minute." Remember, this was an age of massed, frontal trench assaults, where a rifle company might be faced with literally hundreds or thousands of assailants charging at close range. When Tommy Atkins needed to send rounds downrange prestissimo, he used his thumb and index finger to manipulate the bolt, but fired the piece with his little finger or middle finger on the trigger, without ever gripping the stock with his right hand and without ever releasing his pinch-grip on the bolt knob. While I’ve played with this technique in the past, I did not attempt to use it for these experiments.

Most bolt-action rifles in this country use the opening bolt lift to cock their strikers—virtually all of the current, American-made bolt guns (Remington Models 700 and Seven, Ruger Model 77, the entire Savage line, Winchester Model 70) as well as any Mauser-1898-based design cock on opening. The Mauser 1896 (and most other pre-98 "small-ring" Mausers), the SMLE family, and the P14 and P17 Enfields, though, cock on closing. While cock-on-opening actions are generally preferred in this country, in reality I find cock-on-closing actions a bit smoother to operate rapidly from the shoulder. Or at least I thought I did. In this sample, only the Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine) is a cock-on-closing design. As to whether this resulted in a more rapid rate of fire. . . .

Not all cock-on-opening actions are created equally, either. My little Remington Model 600 (no longer in production; this specimen vintage 1966), while still a two-lug, 90-degree lift design, offers a bolt lift considerably lighter than the other bolt guns sampled here. Three-lug bolt designs, such as the Browning A Bolt, often feature shorter bolt lifts (60 degrees), but that also often comes with high bolt-lift values. The Steyr Scout offers an (approximately) 70-degree bolt lift. While we’re beginning to split hairs here, a shorter bolt lift is in theory faster; personally, I think that a lighter bolt lift is just as important or moreso—and I thought that’s what the cock-on-closing actions had to their advantage: their bolt lift is extraordinarily light.

"Straight-Pull" actions, while unfamiliar to many North American shooters, are exactly what they sound like: a bolt-action rifle where the bolt handle is simply yanked straight back and pushed straight forward with no upward-rotational "bolt lift" or downward-rotational "bolt lock" movement of the hand. The two straight-pull actions examined here—the Swiss K31 Schmidt Rubin and the M95/35 Mannlicher—both require a simplified bolt technique. Both rifles do require a surprisingly hefty tug and push on the bolt, though, as the initial backwards travel both unlocks the bolt (both bolts rotate to lock as does a "conventional" turn-bolt) and accomplishes the primary extraction of the cartridge case. It would be easy enough to measure the forces required here with a scale, but suffice it to say that they’re comparatively stout. The K31’s bolt handle is an elongated vertical knob (reminiscent of the upper-case letter "T" turned sideways), which I manipulated by curling the first joint of my index and ring fingers around for the pull-open stroke (hand held with index finger up, little finger down), and closed by pushing forward with the base of my hand where the thumb joins the palm.

The M95/35’s bolt resembles a conventional straight-handled bolt action—its bolt handle sticks out horizontally and perpendicular to the stock, with a round knob on the end. Here, I held my hand in a palm-down orientation, hooked the second joint of my index finger over the ball for the opening stroke, and closed the bolt by pushing forward while grasping the knob between the bent index finger and the base of my thumb. As for the perceived speed advantages of a straight-pull bolt compared with a "conventional" turn-bolt rifle, I direct you to the table of times for some surprises.

Slowing Down to Go Fast

Long ago on the racetrack, I learned that in order to go fast, you often need to slow down. Counterintuitive? Perhaps, but true, nonetheless. By slowing down, your movements become smoother and you eliminate wasted, jerky motions, and with smoothness comes speed, whether you’re riding a motorcycle, peeling potatoes, or working a rifle’s bolt.

In the course of this experimentation, I dry-fired a couple of preliminary five-shot strings with each rifle prior to shooting for the record. I timed these dry-fire sequences as well, and they underscored this point. When I attempted absolute maximum speed, my smoothness went out the window, and I often produced a greater time, due to inability of getting the sights on the target smoothly, not cycling the action efficiently, or needing more time to get my shooting hand back into position. These errors, committed in the search for speed, produced increases in time so significant as to cause the string to be aborted or discarded as non-representative.

Our Friend The Bear

Since part of this whole shootin’ match was to see just how many shots one could get off at a practical target—our theoretical charging bear or rhino or feral Chihuahua—it behooves us to figure out how fast that theoretical animal is covering his real estate. Many authorities state that a bear can charge at about 30 miles per hour, so, using that figure, I calculated how fast a 30-mph bear (or Tyrannosaur, or ambulance-chasing lawyer) can cover some distances:

Speed at 30mph:

30 feet in 0.68 second

50 feet in 1.14 seconds

100 feet in 2.27 seconds

Now, even the profoundly mathematically challenged in the class should notice a couple of things at this point. Most important, with any manually operated action, you’re only going to get one shot off if the bear is 50 feet or closer, and even that presumes that the rifle is in your hands, a round in the chamber, hammer/striker cocked, safety off, and lined up on the target. Your first shot better count. And that is perhaps the most important piece of data here.

(An aside. Once upon a time, I was charged by a young, male African lion over open ground at a distance of perhaps 50 yards. There stood a substantial chain-link fence between myself and the animal, and consequently I had little to fear. The charge was only a bluff to intimidate me (which it did quite effectively, thank you very much), and the lion pulled up short. Still, it was an experience which I will remember to my dying day—the lowered head, the incredible, fluid speed, the tiny, sloped frontal area the lion offered. While I maintained control of my bladder and sphincter, I have serious doubts that I could have managed even a single aimed shot from the shoulder unless I already had the rifle in shooting position. Do not fool yourself into thinking you will have much time to deal with a determined charge of any type, be it from a bear, a bull, or even wild dogs. The lion experience was quite unnerving, even with the fence in place. If you find yourself in such a dangerous situation, your rifle belongs in your hands, and either in a high-ready position or with the butt already in place against your shoulder. You will have no time to look down at your weapon—your eyes must remain on your target, and you’d better be able to operate your safety and action by instinctive feel alone.)

Times (Fastest to slowest, times in seconds):

Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 (M1 Garand), .30-’06 Springfield: 2.06 seconds

Remington Model 740 "Gamemaster," .308 Winchester: 4.53 seconds

Remington Model 600, .260 Remington: 5.05 seconds

Winchester Model 94, .30-30 Winchester: 5.50 seconds

Ruger M77 Mk II, .308 Winchester: 5.97 seconds

Marlin 336, .30-30 Winchester: 6.44 seconds

Steyr Scout, .308 Winchester: 6.53 seconds

Ruger M77 Mk II, .30-’06 Springfield: 6.88 seconds

K31 Schmidt Rubin, 7.5 x 55 Swiss: 7.78 seconds

Rifle No. 5, Mk III (Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine), .303 British: 8.28 seconds

Steyr Mannlicher M95/35, 8 x 56R: 8.47 seconds

Model 1898 Krag Carbine, .30-40 Govt. (.30-40 Krag): 8.71 seconds

Ruger No. 1; 30-’06 Springfield: 14.38 seconds

New England Firearms Handi-Rifle, .308 Winchester: 17.22 seconds

(Should one wonder, the cyclic rate for most machineguns ranges between 700 and 1000 rounds per minute. That translates into between 0.429 and 0.300 second—note the decimal placement—for five rounds. Ain’t automation grand?)

* * * * *


It’s no surprise that the semi-auto was the fastest of the rifles tested, and that the two single-shots were the slowest, by substantial margins in each case. It is a little surprising, though, to note really how close the balance of the manually operated actions are. Yes, some did allow faster rates of fire than others, but in the practical world they (mostly, with the exceptions of the single shots) are all so close as to be more-or-less equal.

Second, I was surprised that the Lee Enfield placed where it did—considerably slower than the long-action, Mauser-derived Ruger M77 in .30-’06 Springfield. Conventional wisdom and folklore held that it was much faster—not the case for me, even after repeated strings.

The two supposedly fast straight-pulls were also decidedly uninspiring, especially the M95/35. Both extraction and cocking effort were very high with this piece. Any speed advantage which it was supposed to bring was thoroughly debunked in my experience, and I was decidedly unimpressed. Even the K31 fared no better than midpack.

The Krag, too, was a disappointment in terms of pure speed. I love Krags, and their action is buttery smooth in operation. But in my testing they proved the slowest of any of the magazine-fed repeaters. Who’d a thunk it?

At the end of the day, I’d have to say two things which are difficult to measure objectively counted for far more than action length or any of the slide-rule stuff. And those two were the smoothness and effort taken to operate the action (less effort is better/faster), and the sights. Because as much as I tried to standardize the sights, several observations are undeniable. First, a telescopic sight set on very low power (and by that I mean less than 2.5X) or an aperture are much faster, even in this extremely coarse use, than a U or V notch set halfway up the barrel.

And a particular note concerning the lever actions, one that’s especially troublesome. The lever guns were the only rifles during which I had to abort a string of fire, and I had to do it fully fifty percent of the time, usually at the second or third shot. With both guns I had the same difficulty: When the lever is not closed fully, the rifle will not fire. The Marlin 336 used a pistol grip and a curved lever, while the Winchester 94 used a straight grip and straight lever, but the issue was the same for both. This certainly is operator-induced, but it’s notable that this operator did not induce any other malfunction in any other rifle used here—and I have shot plenty of lever guns.

This bothers me enough that based on this alone I’d have reservations using a lever action for this kind of work. While the Winchester was a touch over 0.11 second faster than the Ruger M77 short action for the second shot (the Remington Model 600 was faster than the Winchester by close to the same margin) the bolt guns were wholly reliable.

(See Part Two of this post for Conclusions)

Edited by: ML at: 1/13/04 11:31 am


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Registered User

Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part Two)

Posted: 1/12/04 2:46 pm


(This is part two of a long post)


I imagine very few Forum members have had or ever will have any legitimate reason to shoot a bear in self defense—or at least we hope that is the case. Still, were I choosing a rifle for bear defense, I would choose it first on the basis of the cartridge it fired—and as I’ve said many times before in this Forum, I’d look for something in the .375 H&H class, or at the very least in the heavy (200- to 220-grain) .30 calibers, launching tough bullets designed to penetrate deeply, and sending them out in the neighborhood of 2700 fps. Next, I’d opt for a good set of iron sights (a wide, flat-topped blade up front and a large "ghost ring" aperture rear), or a very low power (1X-1.5X) telescopic sight with at least three inches of eye relief. I’d look for an example with a good trigger. Only then would I be concerned about action type—and I’d probably choose a bolt gun for its strength, robustness and simplicity, although those characteristics (or lack thereof) are more traits of individual models than of an action type per se.

As we’ve seen here, the difference between the fastest and second fastest isn’t much worth noting at close distances. And familiarity, skill, practice, and proficiency most certainly count for far more than the weapon itself.

Americans, I’ve observed throughout the years, are often quite good at ignoring lessons they might learn from the rest of the world, or even our own past. Here we are concerned with stopping our theoretical bear, and we come up with all sorts of jiggery-pokery we convince ourselves will work. There is, of course, a place where for more than 100 years man had gone up against beasts far more dangerous than any North American bear, not by accident, but deliberately. And that place, of course, is Africa.

In Africa, there exists a creature known as the Stopping Rifle. This is an arm carried by a professional hunter to stop charging, dangerous game, animals like upset lions, elephants, and cape buffalo. While many hunters use magazine-fed bolt-action repeaters, the ne plus ultra of stopping rifles continues to be the big double. Big as in .500 Nitro Express or something similar. Double rifles offer two shots as fast as recoil allows, or virtually instantaneously if one yanks on both triggers at once (depending, of course, on rifle design). Nothing (short of a machine gun) is faster for a second shot—not even a semi-auto (and even I don’t own a semi-auto .500 Nitro). Yes, stopping rifles are expensive, and Americans seem loathe to fork over more than $500 for any rifle. But if you’re really concerned about your wedding ring ending up in a pile of steaming bear dung, I suggest you investigate what professionals choose, and not what you’d just like to own because John Wayne fired blanks through one on a Hollywood movie set.

Some may ask why this experimentation was limited to rifles. Certainly most shooters can fire a double-action revolver or semi-automatic pistol much faster that a manually operated rifle. And while I will often carry a large-caliber revolver in the backcountry, and have even dispatched both deer and a medium-sized black bear with the .44 Remington Magnum, I must underscore the point that no one should ever seriously delude themselves that a handgun is absolutely dependable bear-stopping medicine. The issue is not the handgun itself, but the cartridge which it fires. Even the most powerful handgun cartridges pale in comparison to most rifle cartridges. To handicap yourself to this degree is dangerous thinking if you truly believe that you will be encountering large bear. And while you may be able to fire your .38 special or 9mm Parabellum quickly, you’ll likely find yourself unable to maintain that same rate of fire with a .44 Remington Magnum, .480 Ruger, or .454 Casull due to the substantial increase in recoil-recovery time. Had I to stop a charging bear at close range tonight, without reservation I would choose a .375 H&H rifle or a 12-gauge slug—even if they were single-shot models—over a revolver of any size. At close range, we’ve learned that there’s in all likelihood time for only one shot (remember, that beast is covering 50 feet in 1.14 seconds), and I want that shot to be delivered in a decisive, accurate manner. It does me little good if I mortally wound the bear and he expires in a minute or two—I may very well look as though I’ve been fed through God’s own woodchipper by then. No, we need to put the animal down, immediately and decisively, and with the first shot. Maybe you think you can count on a pistol to do that. And maybe you’re counting on Divine Intervention, or the bruin being smote by an errant hunk of cosmic debris falling from the heavens at the precise moment of the charge, too. Say, maybe those Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models will parachute into your fantasy and save you!

Powerful handguns most certainly do have a place in the outdoors, though. They will perform well on a variety of lesser animals in the wilderness, and of course their mere presence is often a deterrent in the case of two-legged predators. But speed of fire is not the true issue with handgun choice in the backcountry—power and accuracy are the limiting factors, and speed of recovery from a shot is often inversely proportional to the power of the cartridge in question. When it comes to bear, a handgun in the woods is more of a security blanket and a morale booster than an informed solution. Undoubtedly, it is better than nothing, and personally I will continue to carry a large-caliber revolver in many back-country situations, mostly because they are versatile, handy, light, and serve well in many other wilderness situations. Often, you’re more likely to be wearing a handgun than carrying a rifle at the critical moment of need, and undoubtedly a .44 Magnum on your hip is more useful than a .375 H&H left back at the tent. But when bear is on the menu, no handgun offers anywhere near the performance of a sensibly chosen rifle, and no amount of sugar coating or wishful thinking is going to change that.

* * * * *

Well, I see the time has come for me to crawl back into my spider hole and pull the lid closed for the night. If you’ve gotten this far, I at least hope this has proven an evening’s inexpensive entertainment, if not an informative one. Who knows—perhaps one of these days, Mr. Hood will invite Mr. Hay up to his Idaho retreat to produce a "Firearms for Wilderness Survival" video in the Woodsmaster series, and then you’ll never have to actually have to suffer through this much self-indulgent over-written crap again.

Regardless, if you have any interest at all in rapid fire, I encourage you to maintain proficiency with the arm of your choice, and to remember the four rules:

1. All firearms are loaded.

2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

3. Never let your muzzle cover something you are not willing to destroy.

4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

As always, best regards, travel safely, and good shooting. Follow the advice of that grand outdoorsman, Townsend Whelen: Never carry any more than what you need, and always choose the best equipment for the job. And finally, never, ever lie to yourself when it comes to serious matters in the outdoors.



© 2004. To be reproduced in whole or in part and in any form only with expressed permission of the original author.

Edited by: ML at: 1/13/04 11:33 am


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Eric Stoskopf

Cool Calm Calamity

WM Vol.? Firearms for Wilderness Survival featuring Bill Hay

Posted: 1/12/04 5:41 pm


Great idea! I second the motion.

Well...thanks to my desire to "suffer through" Ml's "much self-indulgent over-written crap", I had to run out for more paper and a new ink cartridge! Time well spent!

I have not had had the opportunity to fully digest ML's short novel, but skimming through the pages as they were being spit from the printer, it's obvious we have another "ML Classic" on our hands.

If Wally would do the honor of saving it to the Hoodlums FAQ section, I promise to do my part by adding it (with his permission of course) to "ML's Corner" which can be found here:woodsdrummer.com/ml01.html



Edited by: Eric Stoskopf at: 1/12/04 5:48 pm


Posts: 2361 | IP:

Bill Hay

Registered User

Re: WM Vol.? Firearms for Wilderness Survival featuring Bill

Posted: 1/12/04 6:05 pm


Ahhh.. Youze kuckleheads lay off, ya hear?

There ain't nothing I got to say that others haven't said, and better. You think I make this stuff up? Had to have learned it somewhere...

Ron has probably a better grasp of wilderness guns than most, he can add a "Woodsmaster Tip" to one of his videos that covers things quite well, and doesn't have to bring me in to do it.

And feed me, and make me drink whisky....

Hummm..... Get's ya to thinking don't it?


"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

-- Abraham Lincoln

A webpage... of sorts...


Posts: 3696 | IP:


I survived WASP


Article copied to FAQ...

Posted: 1/12/04 8:54 pm


and the original left here for discussion. Of course it went into my personal archive first.

Nicely done ML and I found it useful. Your articles are always of interest to me, so it doesn't go unnoticed when you don't show up for awhile.

Welcome back.



Of all the things I've lost, I think I miss my mind the most.

Wally Merrin



Posts: 1018 | IP:


Registered User

Re: Action Type and Rate Of Fire (Part One)

Posted: 1/12/04 10:29 pm


great article! I missed the comment about your pieces being self indulgent and overwritten, but it's total BS. Informative, interesting and well written as always!

Non Serviam


Posts: 123 | IP:

Brother Dan

Registered User

excellent read! as always!

Posted: 1/13/04 4:27 am


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Posts: 387 | IP:

Lean Wolf

Registered User

Excellent report, ML...

Posted: 1/13/04 10:30 am


I've always found it interesting to try and shoot at moving targets as opposed to "off the bench." A bit more realistic than always benchrested.

When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a series of firing ranges owned by a man named Wes Thompson, in the high desert country of Santa Clarita, north of L.A. (It's all subdivivions, now.) For a number of years, I and several friends leased one of Thompson's ranges. This was also where the Southwest Pistol League/IPSC held its competition shoots.

Anyway, because we had a mountain as a backstop, and a berm down range where a person could "hide," we would take an old tire, tape a white sheet of notebook paper on it, and then, at the far end of the range, a guy would roll the tire down the berm at the shooter, who would try and hit the white sheet of paper, as it came up time and time again. (Obviously, the guy rolling the tire dropped down behind the berm for safety.)

As the notebook paper was changed each time the "roll" was setup, it was very easy to see if the target paper had been hit.

Certainly not a scientific test, but very interesting as to how difficult it was to hit a rapidly approaching target. Over quite a few different days of shooting, I think I hit the paper squarely maybe three or four times, but I don't recall ever hitting it squarely the very first shot. Kinda had to get used to the rolling tire and when the white square came up facing me.

We used rifles, handguns, and shotguns with slugs.

That's the only time I ever had a chance to shoot at a "charging" target. Eye opening, to say the least.

Again, I found your article very interesting and enlightening.



Posts: 438 | IP:


Registered User


Posted: 1/13/04 10:38 am


I've revised my original posts just a touch this morning: If anyone is archiving them, they should discard what was posted previously and archive these new (and now-posted) copies. The changes are minor--bolt-travel numbers for the Model 600 Remington, a little punctuation, an error Mr. Hay caught (Thanks!), and some general Englishing-up of some poor style.

Mr. Merrin, I would be in your debt if you would replace the original posts in the FAQ section with these newer versions.

Sorry about the edits. Thanks for your patience. Hope you continue to find the information useful.



Posts: 470 | IP:

Dirttime Dude

He's got yer 6

Holy Crap and wow...Im blown away.

Posted: 1/13/04 1:47 pm


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  How Has Your Preparedness Changed?
Posted by: Ron Hood - 04-04-2004, 10:14 PM - Forum: Preparedness FAQ - Replies (4)


Registered User

How has your preparedness changed since 9/11?

Posted: 11/18/03 3:19 pm


I'm one that always had extra food and store bought water on hand in the house and while living in the Mtns. of California we learned to keep a good winter kit in the truck or trunk that we continued even after moving here to the coast. When that fateful day occured, the wife sat and watched in tears and I went about doing an inventory and hitting some survival sites to see what else I could do to get us better prepared. We layed in lots of gear, but being who I am, I was never satisfied with how it was packed. What it contained and so on. So, needless to say, I experimented and adjusted. I didn't have many skills and the wife had even less.

Since then, we've both become much better shots with our weapons. We've experimented with different items in our BOB and our individual daily carry kits and we have eliminated much of the gear that we first layed in with what we feel works better, takes up less volumn and weighs less. The items that we removed from the different kits went to friends and family as we made kits for many of them as well. They just didn't see the need, but I saw it different and they agreed to keep them at least in their vehicles. Full instructions included.

Eventually, instead of just throwing a bunch of camping gear together, we layered our gear so that we could deal with several scenarios instead of just having a base camp and trunks full of gear. Each kit backs up and compliments the next. From what's in my pockets on a daily basis to a full fledged base camp. Our mobile gear layers so that if we need to, we can drop the pack and go with our vests, belt kits and bedrolls. We've both learned to trap, find water in the least likely places, make fire beds, build shelters from natural materials, scrounge and the wife has actually started to show an interest in learning how to track and hunt. Lots of improvments in both of us mentally, physically and we continue to grow spiritually, which to us is as important as being able to shoot straight.

Make them sharp, shoot them straight, or leave them home!


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Registered User

Re: How has your preparedness changed since 9/11?

Posted: 11/19/03 5:59 am


You might want to consider some NBC (Nuklear, Biological, Chemical) gear, just in case you need to escape from or pass through a contaminated area.

Gas masks

extra filters, (make sure they are rated for NBC)

Chem suits

PI Tablets

Radiation detector

Chemical ID kit

decontamination spray

If you are in your car, learn how to shut off the vents, so that the air inside the car is recirculated, instead of bring in outside air, and of course, roll up your windows.

If you have small children, gas masks may be hard to find, but places like "Cheaper than Dirt" or "Emergency Essentials" carries them in smaller sizes.

Almost all newer cars have an airconditioner. If you put it on MAX, it will recirculate the air inside the car. Some have a little u-turn arrow on a button that does this.


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moccasin man

Registered User

not at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted: 1/21/04 3:37 pm


I am alwanys prepared for the nothing that will happen to me- the idea of terro is for you to lurk in fear (ie terror) and hide, and sulk, and act scarred- terrorists try to make people nervous, shocked, jittery whatever- it's all a scam if you act smartely (not a word i know) if terror gets you terrorized, then they win


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