copyright 2009 by Andre Germain.
My love of guns began when I was about 4 years old
living in Malartic in NW Quebec. My father had a Cooey Model 75
.22 single shot bolt-action rifle and a Winchester Model 1873
lever-action 44-40 rifle. Winters were long and cold and he,
being a carpenter by trade, was usually out of work over the winter
months so he hunted a lot to add to our meager larder, shooting grouse
and snowshoe hare and the odd deer. I learned to shoot using the
Cooey 22. The first shot I took with that rifle, at 4 years old,
my thumb was not resting against the stock and as a result, when I
pulled the trigger, the exposed part of the bolt tore skin off the top
of my thumb as it flew forward. Hurt like sin! After that I
always made sure to keep my thumb clear of the bolt.
My father kept both
rifles in his bedroom closet and I was under strict orders not to touch
either rifle except under supervision. My father had taught me
the basic safety rules of firearms, such directives as to assume that a
rifle was always loaded until one checked to insure it was not, and to
never point a firearm at anyone you didn't intend to shoot!
One fine day after we'd moved to Rouyn, PQ, my father announced that
we were going back to Malartic to visit relatives. I was 7
years old then. He decided to bring the Winchester along.
When we got up to my Uncle Jack's place, Dad and Uncle Jack got
to talking about guns and hunting and next thing I knew, we were
heading out to the outskirts of town. I was ecstatic about being
allowed to go with "the men"! Finally, when we got to a deserted
area, Dad parked the car and we got out. He pulled out the
Winchester Model 1873 44-40 and proceeded to load it. Then he and Uncle Jack took
turns shooting at a jackpine about 30 yards away. After about a
dozen shots, the jackpine toppled, its 4" trunk shredded by the heavy
slugs. That's when Dad asked me if I wanted to try and shoot the
rifle. Did I?!!! Well, you betcha!!! Dad cautioned me
to hold the rifle tight against my shoulder and to keep my cheek tight
to the stock. I raised the rifle, sighted at the jackpine stump
and squeezed the trigger. Blam! Wow, that rifle roared and
kicked like a mule! But I felt like a MAN!
We moved to Welland, Ontario in 1951. Shortly thereafter, one of
our neighbours on Navy St., Mr. Spendiff, bought a television (first
one on the block!) and had the set situated so the neighbourhood kids,
myself included, could watch such shows as Howdy Doody and Sagebrush
Trails while sitting at the edge of the sidewalk looking thorugh their
livingroom window. That's when I first became aware of cowboys
and Westerns. I was hooked! Any chance I got, I snuck my
father's 44-40 out of the closet and let my imagination go wild, using
a real cowboy rifle to shoot at imagined indians and bad guys.
That Winchester was heavy and it was all I could do to hold it
steady but what a thrill it was to flip the lever and cock that rifle
and then squeeze that trigger and imagine the roar and the kick of the
rifle and the smell of burned powder and picture those indians falling
off their war ponies with a slug in their chest! I was very
careful not to get caught, always waiting until my parents were out of
the house shopping at the gorcery store or whatever before pulling out
this lethal weapon. I dry-fired that rifle a lot over the next
couple of years.
When my Uncle Jean-Paul got married in June 1953 he and his wife drove
down to the Niagara Peninsula for their honeymoon. A week later
when they were heading back up to Chicoutimi, my sister Louise and I
went with them. We spent the summer up there and at the end of
August my parents drove up, spent a few days visiting relatives and got
ready to drive back home. My father had brought the Winchester
along on this trip as well, and just before we left Chicoutimi, he told
me to get into the car and we drove up to the outskirts of town to an
old log cabin. Turned out an old native trapper friend of his,
Joe Pageault, a real mountain-man type recluse, lived there. Dad
explained how this guy had spent most of his life in the bush, hunting
and trapping for a living. Dad gave the guy his old Wincester,
explaining how it tended to misfire at times (probably as a result of
all the "dry firing" I'd been doing with that rifle...). Old Joe
said he knew how to fix that and tried to pay Dad for the rifle but my
father wouldn't hear of it. After they shared a couple cups of
coffee and a shot or two of whisky, Dad and Joe shook hands and off we
went. I was crushed! Somehow I'd believed that when I got
old enough to hunt, that rifle would be mine... Dad must have
noticed that I was feeling down because he went to great lengths to
explain how giving the rifle to Joe was the right thing to do. I
made up my mind right there and then that as soon as I got old enough,
I'd get any gun I wanted and nobody would take them away!
My father was into archery so it was a given that I would be too.
In fact, when times got lean in the early 1950's, Dad would buy
some wood and fashion some flatbows that he would sell at a local
outlet owned by Elmo White on Hellems Ave. I helped him make a
gross of arrows, yeah 144 arrows, from scratch, cutting up a Port
Orford cedar block into 11/32" square staves, spoke-shaving them round,
then sanding and finally fletching them and then glueing the tips and
nocks on them. That was a lot of work! But even though I
went through a few really good bows and even went hunting with my
father a few times trying (in vain) to poach an illegal deer, the bow
was ancient technology. I wanted a gun!
I kept bugging my father about the fact all my firends had bb guns and
how I wanted one in the worst way. Finally, November 1956, for my
14th birthday, I got this single-shot pellet pistol that you cocked by
pushing the front part of the barrel back into the receiver. You
then had to unscrew a threaded knob and shaft affair at the rear of the
receiver, insert a pellet or dart and then screw the thingie back in.
Awkward and slow. The heavy trigger pull and the jar from
the barrel flying forward with enough force to send the projectile out
at a couple of hundred feet per second negated any hope of accuracy and
meant you were lucky to come within inches of your intended target at
30 feet! The worst part was that this "pistol" didn't look like
anything any self-respecting cowboy would have been caught dead using.
I'd wanted a Daisy Red Ryder carbine that looked like a real
Winchester and this is what I got! I was not happy!
I started saving up nickels and dimes, money from returned empty pop
bottles found along the roadside and in ditches. It took about a
year but I was finally able to buy, not the Red Ryder of my dreams, but
its cheapest little brother, a Daisy bare-bones air rifle that had a
plastic stock and no forestock and held 500 bbs. Still, it was a
lever action and looked somewhat like a Winchester and it was accurate
and powerful enough to hit and kill a starling at 15 yards. My
best friend Ron Myhill had the identical rifle, and together we
accounted for a lot of shot-out streetlights along Oakland Ave. and
One day I shot an English sparrow in a neighbour's back yard. Old
Mr. Dyson saw this and called the cops. Next thing I knew, a
police officer was knocking at the door and he confiscated my air
rifle! When Dad got home from work, I explained what had
happened. He took me to the police station and explained to the
desk seargeant that I really had not broken any laws because English
sparrows were considered a "nuisance species" and an air rifle was not
considered a firearm. The officer agreed but explained they'd had
to act on a complaint from a citizen and suggested I keep a low profile
with my air rifle and not incur the wrath of any neighbours. So,
I got the rifle back. Secretely I vowed that old Mr. Dyson would
pay for having put me through this! One chapter in my book, "The
River Rats", details how I got my revenge.
The closer I got to my 16th birthday, the more I looked forward to
getting a hunting license and a real gun. I kept dropping hints
to my father about this or that shotgun, what a fine weapon this one
was, how neat that one was, etc. I knew Dad was somewhat
disappointed because he'd hoped I'd become another Howard Hill, a
master archer. Being a real marksman with a rifle, he held
shotguns in contempt, remarking that any fool could hit a target with a
gun that shot out hundreds of pellets that scattered out a yard wide at
40 yards. So, I wasn't holding out much hope of getting a shotgun
from him! Well, come November 29, 1958, my 16th birthday, Dad
drove me down to Joe Miller's on King St. and I got my first hunting
license for a dollar! An extra dollar got me the small game
license allowing me to shoot pheasant, rabbit and fox. Great, but
I had no firearm to do that with! Later that day, Dad told me to
get in the car and we drove to Tennessee Ave. in Pt. Colborne.
Dad knocked at the door of a huge grey house and when a man
opened the door, he said, "Oh, you must be the one who called about the
My father replied 'yes' and the man invited us in. He then went
into another room and then came back carrying a long brown leatherette
case. He unfastened the flap at the end and extricated, lo and
behold, a bolt action shotgun with a variable choke at the end of the
barrel! Well, ok, I would much have preferred a pump or
auto-loader but right then, any shotgun was better than none! My
father told me to heft the gun and see if it felt ok. After
making sure the gun was unloaded, I lifted it to my shoulder and
sighted along its barrel. It was heavy and kind of klunky-feeling
but it also had this lethal subcurrent to it; you just knew that this
thing could kill! I worked the bolt action a couple of times and
it was flawless and smooth. The gun looked brand new. It
had a lacquered walnut stock and the receiver and barrel were
deep-blued. The highly polished bolt mechanism seemed
meticulously machined. On the receiver was engraved, "Harrington
"So what do you think?", asked my father.
"It suits me fine!" I lied.
My father opened his wallet and gave the man $25 and that was that. I now was the proud owner of a REAL gun!
The Saturday following my birthday, my father brought me out to the
Welland Outdoorsman Club so I could get proper instruction on shotgun
use. Mr. Blakely, the instructor, gave a bunch of us young
nimrods a brief lecture on gun safety etc., and then brought us outside
to the shooting range where a few playing cards had been tacked to a
plank about 20 yards away. We were each to take our shotguns and
shoot one shot at a playing card. Then we had to count the holes
in the card each of us had shot at. When came my turn, I loaded
the Canuck 7 1/2 load into the magazine of my gun, screwed the
adjustable choke to full, took careful aim and fired. My H&R
gave a good kick to the shoulder but I was ready for that. I
certainly wasn't ready for the result of my marksmanship, however.
I was shure I'd nailed that card! Hell, at that range, I
would have pierced it dead center with my bb gun! And here I'd
fired a shell containing at least 450 pellets and there were only 2
holes in that card. Meanwhile, other guys who were using the
instructor's Remington Wingmaster 870 pump were perforating their cards
with 30 or 40 holes! And some of them had never ever fired any
kind of gun before! I tried 2 more shots with my gun and managed
one hole in one card and 3 in another. When I explained to the
instructor that I could do better with a rifle, he said maybe the choke
on my gun was not that great and let me try a shot at a card using his
Wingmaster. Well, I literally pulvarized that card. So, so
much for my gun. Now I knew why that guy had sold it to me so
cheap. Of course, when my father came back to pick me up, I
didn't dare show my disappointment. After all, he'd bought me
that gun in good faith. When he asked how I'd made out, I told
him 'just fine!' But I made up my mind to trade that gun in on
something better as soon as I got the chance.
I didn't get to do much hunting that winter. I just couldn't
afford to buy shotshells. Once I went out with my classmate Bert
Murphy and his grandfather up to Wellandport. At one point, just
when I came out of the bush, a big mallard flew over about 40 yards up.
I lifted my gun and got off two shots at him. Missed!
I was sure my aim was true so I blamed the gun. I found out
months later about "lead" which means when shooting at a moving target,
one has to shoot ahead of it because in the time it takes the shot to
reach it, a fast-flying duck at 40 yards has already gone 6 or 7 feet!
So, if you aim right at him the shot passes harmlessly behind
him. Huh, go figure!
The next spring, Ron Myhill got a Mossberg bolt action shotgun for his
birthday so that summer, both of us having purchased "varmint"
licenses, would head up to "the Dykes" north of town past Notre Dame
School and shoot at the numerous grackles flying by. At first, we
both just punched holes in the sky. But after a while, once we
got the lead figured out, we started bringing down some of those birds.
In the early fall, with duck season around the corner, we used to
bring our shotguns to school and store them in our lockers so we could
go shooting after school. Imagine trying to do that today!
Still and all, a bolt action shotgun is awkward to use.
After the first shot, you have to remove your finger from the
trigger, reach up and grab the bolt head, wrench it up and then
backwards a good 3 inches to eject the empty casing and jack the next
shell from the magazine into the chamber, ram the bolt forward and down
to lock it and then re-acquire the trigger and your aim before firing
the next shot. By then, a good chance the bird is out of range.
That fall, in October, my father left and never came back. He'd
been working in the USA the last couple of years and I guess he decided
to go down to the States permanently. My mother, my sister and I
had followed him from Chicoutimi to Malartic to Rouyn and finally to
Welland so I guess my mother figured enough was enough! We moved
to Riverside Drive in summer of 1960 and I took to hanging out a lot at
the Whelan Marine and Sporting Goods store just up the road from our
apartment. Old owl-eyed John Whelan, the owner, was very
knowledgeable about guns as well as human nature. He taught me a
lot about guns, hunting, shooting, ballistics, etc. He also
taught me a lot about wheeling and dealing. I soon found out that
you don't get something for nothing in this world. When I tried
to deal my H&R in on another shotgun, the best I could do was an
old Iver Johnson "Champion Excel" single-shot shotgun with a ding in
the 30" full-choke barrel. John had that shotgun tagged at $15.
When I complained that I'd paid $25 for a 3-shot shotgun which
was in as-new condition whereas the Champion was old and marked up and
had a barrel flaw, John explained that he'd be lucky to resell my gun
for $25 because bolt action shotguns were not very popular so he'd
probably be stuck with it for a while whereas single shot shotguns
moved quite well. He knew I was less than thrilled with the
H&R and had my eye on something else. Finally, I went for the
deal. Even though that Iver Johnson was old and marked up, it
shot a good full pattern and got me my first duck right there on the
old Welland River about a half-mile past the Coyle Bridge, a green-wing
teal winging by full speed about 35 yards up. My story of that
kill is in my Grade 12 WH&VS yearbook. And although this gun
was a single shot with a hammer, it felt like a gun and not like a
"klunker"! So, not such a bad deal after all.
Around that time, my Diana pellet pistol went missing. Probably
stolen by one of the Th----en boys who lived in the apartment at the
other side of the building. Well, 'good riddance!', I thought.
I managed to scrape up enough money to buy a Daisy Peacemaker
Single Action Colt replica bb pistol and made a holster for it from my
sister Louise's old leather purse. I was an afficionado of the
"fast draw' and practiced for hours on end trying to become 'The
Fastest Gun Alive', a title held by Glenn Ford in the 1956 movie of the
same name. I got pretty good at it, managing to clear the holster
while cocking the revolver and put a bb into an empty cereal box from
10' away in a fraction of a second, shooting from the hip!
Funny thing, Fl----nt, the eldest of the Th----en kids (he was 15),
would come over, knock at the door, and ask me to come out with my
Daisy Peacemaker to play "Cowboys and Indians." He'd run around
whooping pretending to be shooting arrows at me while I pelted him with
bbs from my pistol. Ok, so that pistol wasn't powerful enough to
do serious damage but still, those bbs hitting him everywhere must have
hurt! Was he maybe trying to atone for stealing my pellet pistol?
Who knows? Regardless, the whole scene was unbelievable.
What were we thinking?!!!
It could be argued that at 18 I was a bit old for such foolishness but
for me this whole fast-draw thing was serious business. I
entertained thoughts of competing in an actual fast draw contest down
in Texas sometime. Finally, after a couple of years and thousands
of shots fired, the spring in that pistol gave out.
I then bought a Crossman .22 caliber Single-Six CO2 pellet pistol,
another replica of the Colt but more lifelike than the Daisy. It
had the weight of a real Colt Peacemaker and the chamber rotated just
like the real thing. On top of that, it fit perfectly in the
fast-draw rig I'd made for the Daisy. Nothing is ever perfect,
however. CO2 'powerlets', the gas cartridges you had to use to
propel the pellets, were very expensive and you were lucky to get 35
shots from one. On top of that, half the time when you loaded a
new powerlet and broke the seal, the gas would escape out of the gun
rendering it useless. I still managed to shoot a few rats at the
Rice Road Dump late at night with this pistol. But finally I gave
up on the fantasy of becoming a fast-draw artist and sold the pistol
and rig to a friend.
I used the money from the sale towards a Gecado single-shot
break-barrel action 177 cal. pellet rifle. Got to be a good shot
with that. My younger brother Mich who had consummate faith in my
marksmanship, used to hold 1/2" stones between his thumb and forefinger
and I'd shoot them out with that Gecado from 30' away. After
doing this at least 25 times, one fine day either my aim was a bit off
or he held the stone too tightly (who you gonna believe?) and sure, the
stone flew off but the pellet lodged into his thumb! Ouch!!!
That had to hurt!!! That was the last time I tried that
After a few thousand rounds the spring in that rifle got weak so I
dealt it off and bought a Raven pellet rifle identical to the Gecado
and in fact made by the same company in Czechoslovakia but under a
different name. A few years later I adapted a walnut rifle stock
with monte carlo and cheekpiece (I'd made it for a camera with
telephoto lens) to fit this rifle and it too, to this day, holds a
favoured spot above my fireplace.
In the fall of 1962, I got a job at General Tire and Rubber.
Shift work. So now, earning real money, I proceeded down
that long slippery slope of rampant consumerism, like a kid in a candy
store. I dealt my Champion Excel off to John Whelan in trade for
a Remington Model 11-48 12GA. autoloader and then in quick succession,
bought a Browning Grade I autoloader .22 which I kept for a mere 3
weeks. It was an expensive and very fancy rifle but I soon
realised it was less than ideal for hunting, more of a showpiece.
Dealt it back to John the gunman and took a real beating on that.
I got a Remington Model 572 .22 pump in exchange, a much better
and practical rifle for hunting. A while later, I got starry-eyed
for a beautiful Walther center-fire .22 Hornet with 2X scope which I
quickly exchanged for a 9X variable scope. That rifle was a great
piece of German engineering and shot like nobody's business. I
once killed a groundhog with it at well over 300 yards! Trouble
was that ammo for it was expensive, too expensive for mere plinking.
A box of 20 hollow point .22 Hornet 55 grain bullets cost 4 times
as much as a box of 50 Whiz Bang hollow-point Long Rifle rimfires.
When reality set in, I dealt that rifle back to John Whelan for a
Remington Nylon 66, a much more practical rifle.
I did some fine shooting with the Remington 11-48 autoloader and even
bought a skeet barrel for it for upland game birds. But then I
got the hots for a beautiful little Spanish Zapata Hermanos 12GA.
double barrel bored modified and full. So, swung another deal
with John the gunman. I did some of my finest shooting at
"timeberdoodles" (woodcock) with that light (5 1/4 lb.) little Spanish
beauty, even managing to get my limit (8 birds) with 12 shots one fine
October day. Trouble was that when I put Imperial Express (duck)
loads through it, it kicked so hard that it bruised my shoulder and the
back of the front trigger would gouge my index finger when I squeezed
the back trigger to get off a second shot. After a couple of
weeks and a couple of boxes of Imperial shells shot through it, I was
definitely developing a "flinch". Not good! By the end of
the 3rd. week, as much as I liked that gun for upland shooting, I
decided to deal it off on a Remington Model 870 Wingmaster pump.
Yeah, old John was providing a lot of food for his family with
all my dealing. He grinned broadly every time I stepped into his
Finally, I came to my senses. After all, I still had my father's
old Cooey single shot .22 which I'd modified by working a monte carlo
and cheekpiece onto the stock and then fitted with a 6X Weaver scope,
and I had the Nylon 66 for plinking, and the Wingmaster 12GA. for duck
and upland bird hunting. I resolved to cool it on the gun dealing.
I still read the Gun Digest as if it were the Bible though.
One shotgun that intrigued me was the Winchester Model 12 which
had gone out of production in 1959. I resolved that if ever I
found one in 20GA., I'd buy it. Then one fine day in 1965 I
walked into John's store and there was old John unpacking my dream gun!
He explained he'd been up in the loft of the store trying to get
things in order and checking up on his stock when he came across the
box containing a 1959 Winchester field grade Model 12 20Ga. with 28"
full choke barrel. So back to the wheeling and dealing.
After about 15 minutes of haggling, I managed to get John to
agree to allow me $75 on my Remington Wingmaster towards that
Winchester that had a price tag of $133. That sweet little Model
12 has a place of honour above my fireplace to this day. I did
some of my finest shooting with that gun. It brought down just
about every kind of duck found in these parts, bluebill, goldeneye,
redhead, bufflehead, mallard, teal, widgeon, scoter and old squaw,
gadwall, etc. In Tiny Marsh near Elmvale on one opening day, I
brought down a Canada goose from 70 yards up with a shell that I'd
reloaded with 3 drams equivalent of Herco Unique powder and 1 1/4 oz.
of #5 shot. I had Frank Ryan of Frontier Gun and Sports install a
Simmonds vent rib on the gun in the early 70's.
Once while hunting in the marsh off the Grand River near Strom Ness, I
had a misfire, a "blooper", when I shot at a huge goldeneye drake
coming in to decoy. A "blooper" can be caused by any number of
things such as wet powder, powder that is too old, a bad primer, etc.
Instead of the loud "bang!" from a typical shell going off, you
get a "bloop!" as the lead shot flies out of the barrel slow enough you
can see it go. I chambered another round into the Model 12 and
shot. The pellets formed a perfect ring around that duck but he
remained untouched. I pumped up the last shell and shot again
bringing that duck down. Then, I noticed the bulge at the muzzle
end of the barrel. It was then that I realised that the wad from
the first shell, the one that had misfired, must have stuck in the
barrel of the Model 12. Damn! Fortunately, the barrel had not
peeled back like a banana skin! Shooters have been killed that
I was crushed. My favourite gun, irreplaceable, and here I'd gone
and destroyed the barrel. Then I remembered an article I'd seen
in an old Popular Mechanics magazine my father had had some years back
about how to remove just such a barrel bulge. Fortunately for me,
my brother-in-law, Serge, was a machinist at Thurston Machine Shop in
Pt. Colborne. When I told him of my problem and how I hoped to
fix it, he told me to come to the shop the next week when he'd be
working the evening shift with no bosses around. The next Tuesday
everning, I dismantled my Model 12 and brought the barrel to
Thurston's. Serge mic'ed the muzzle of the barrel and milled a
brass tapered plug about 2 1/2" long that fit inside the barrel snugly
at the muzzle end. He then used a chunk of aluminum rounded on
one side to conform to the outside of the barrel and as I rotated the
barrel, he rested this piece against the bulge as he hammered away with
a ballpeen hammer, starting at the center of the bulge and working
outwards in both directions. Aftger about 10 minutes of this, we
had that bulge flattened right out! Miracle! Of course, if
you looked down the barrel, it reflected light in waves over where the
bulge had been but not a big deal. I remembered from that Popular
Mechanics article, however, that the barrel was permanently weakened at
the spot of the bulge and there was an ever-present danger that it
could give out. Well, I had to live with that...
A couple of years later, when I was working as a Letter Carrier for
Canada Post in Welland, along with my hunting buddy Mike Carrigan, Mike
came back from his morning delivery and told me there was this strange
pump shotgun with an exposed hammer hanging in the window of a pawn
shop a couple of blocks away from the Post office on Division Street.
I ran right down there to that shop and sure enough, there,
hanging in the window, a Winchester Model 97 12GA. hammer pump with 30"
full choke barrel! I couldn't believe my eyes! I walked
into the store, trying to act cool as the proverbial cucumber (I didn't
want the owner to know how much I wanted that gun! I'd learned
something from all my dealings with old John Whelan!) I asked the
owner for prices on a couple of guitars hanging behind the counter.
After he gave me those prices, I said, "Boy, that's a weird old
gun you have hanging in the front window. It's seen better days.
Does it work? Oh, who cares. With a little clean-up,
might look good over my fireplace. How much you want for it?"
"That's a Winchester!", he replied, "It's an antique."
I scoffed and said, "Yeah, that's why you have it hanging from a
coathanger wire. If it were a Model 12 it might be worth
something but nobody wants those old hammer pumps!"
"Well, regardless, I have to get $150 for it."
"Tell you what... I'll give you $125 for it no questions asked," I replied.
He made a show of thinking it over and then said, "Done!"
Well, I brought that old beauty home, checked it out and cleaned it up
and it soon became my main duck gun. That old Model 97 holds a
tight pattern like nothing else. The action tends to get a bit
stiff in cold weather and I've hacked off a couple of layers of skin
off the top of my thumb behind the first knuckle when I forgot to keep
that tortured digit tight agaisnt the stock (hah, and I thought I'd
learned that lesson the first time I shot the old man's .22 when I was
just a wee lad!) I also found out it doesn't like high-brass
shells at all. They lodge in the chamber so tight you need a good
stiff ramrod to dislodge the empty casing. But, other than that,
this particular gun has been around since 1938 (I found that out when I
sent the serial number to Winchester Western back in the early 1970's)
and will definitely outlive me! It looks real good hanging over
the fireplace just below the Model 12!
Well, now that I had a great duck-gun, I decided that I also needed an
upland game bird gun as well. The Model 97 was too long for that
and besides, it had a full choke, too tight for close-range shooting.
So, back to Whelan's. I looked around and found this neat
little Baikal 20GA. single-shot hammerless shotgun. It had a 28"
full choke barrel but I figured that I could cut a couple of inches off
the barrel and thus end up with an open choke gun that should work for
the timberdoodles. Bought it and made the modifications and it
ended up being a great little upland bird gun. Even managed to
shoot a few woodcock from the hip with it. At that time, my
sister had taken to coming out woodcock hunting with her husband Bob.
I let her fire that Baikal a couple of times and she liked it
just fine so I sold it to her.
That's when I got the bright idea to cut the choke off my old Model 12.
I cut the barrel back just behind where it had bulged and filed
any burrs off. Killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.
I now had a light field gun with open choke for close range
shooting and at the same time got rid of the weak part of the barrel
that had bulged! That great little Model 12 20GA. has accounted
for a lot of woodcock and a few grouse too over the years. I even
shot a round of skeet with it once, first and last time I tried that.
I splattered 24 of 25 clay pigeons. I had a misfire (that's
the trouble with reloads...) and had no spare 20GA. shells so I had to
use somebody else's gun to finish the round and that was the one shot I
missed. I know men who have shot skeet all their lives and never
done better than 22 or 23 birds in a round.
After a few years working for the Post Office, I was making decent
money and had some bucks to spare. I got to thinking about how
it'd be nice to have an Over/Under shotgun. As luck would have
it, as I delivered the mail to the Rose City Credit Union in Dain City,
the manager, who knew I hunted, asked me if I knew anybody who would be
interested in a like-new Ithaca SKB500 O/U. I asked him to bring
the gun with him the next day so I could look at it. That
evening, out came my Gun Digest. I soon found that gun. The
Ithaca SKB from the early 1970's was a real classy gun. It had
30" black-chrome barrels bored modified and full, a chrome receiver
etched with a beautiful hunting scene on each side of the receiver,
etched scrollwork on the back tang, a highly lacquered French walnut
hand-checkered stock and forestock and a single selective gold trigger.
This was a rich Sportsman's gun, something a British Earl would
carry afield on a pheasant hunt. The gun retailed for over $500!
Good as his word, the next day, Tom, the manager, had brought the gun
with him. When I got to the Credit Union, he called me into his
office and pulled the gun out of its case. The gun looked brand
new! I fell in love right away! I asked him how much he
hoped to get for it and he replied '$250'. $250!!! A paltry
sum for such a fine piece of workmanship! I didn't even bother
trying to haggle over the price. I gave him the full amount right
then and there and told him I'd pick it up on my way home. Talk
about a stroke of luck!
A couple of weeks before lucking into the Ithaca, I'd priced a Baikal
O/U at Whelan's. He had three of them on a gunrack behind the
counter. One of the three stood out. It had a walnut stock
with really beautiful grain. We'd agreed on a price tag of $225.
I'd asked John the gunman to lay it aside for me. Well,
after buying the Ithaca, I phoned John and told him to put it back up
for sale. My brother-in-law Bob, when he found out about this,
went and got that Baikal. So, John was happy, he'd made a sale
after all. And then my hunting buddy Mke decided to get on the
bandwagon and went to Whelan's and purchased one too. So here we
were, the Three Musketeers sporting O/U shotguns!
After a while though, I could see that my bro-in-law was jealous.
He kept asking me if I'd be interested in a trade. At the
same time, I'd become a bit disenchanted with the Ithaca because the
single-trigger selector thing, although ok for field or trap shooting,
was awkward for duck-hunting. I explained this to Bob but he
didn't care so he ended up giving me his Baikal (the one I'd originally
thought of buying) plus $150 for that Ithaca.
I shot quite a few ducks with that Baikal. Meanwhile, Mike's
Baikal developed a crack in the stock near the recoil pad. Every
time he shot, that gun vibrated weirdly and really started throwing him
off. He glued the crack but by then had become less than pleased
with the gun. Right around then, I saw a Spanish Laurona 20GA.
O/U in John's gun store. This gun resembled the Ithaca right down
to black-chrome barrels and the beautiful etched scenes on both sides
of the chrome receiver but it had the advantage of dual triggers.
It had 28" modified and full barrels and balanced very nicely.
I had to have it! So, I suggested to Mike if he could find
a buyer for his Baikal, I'd sell him mine for whatever he got for his
as long as it was anything over $175. Mike sold his for $195 and
that's what he paid for mine. I got the Laurona for $225.
When Cheryl McQuilkin decided to take up duck-hunting, the first
couple of times out she used her father's Ithaca Model 37 Featherlite
12GA. pump. But she soon fell in love with my Laurona. The
third time she came out to the marsh with me, she begged me to sell it
to her. So, another fine gun that I should have kept gone!
Around 1979, the value of silver shot right up. I had a couple of
silver dollars kicking around and heard there was a buyer at Maple Leaf
Village in Niagara Falls who was paying about $7 apiece for these.
Back then I was earning about $4/hr. and gas was about $0.60 a
gallon so it was worth taking the ride down there. After cashing
in those coins, I passed by a booth selling replica (non-working)
firearms. One of these caught my eye right away, a beautiful
replica of an 1851 Navy Colt with hammer that cocked, cylinder that
rotated and functional hinged ramrod. It had imitation walnut
grips and looked and felt like the real thing. I couldn't resist.
I made a holster for it ouf of suede leather from an old leather
jacket. Gave it away to Bruce Harry some years later for his
birthday because every time he came here to visit, he always wanted to
strap on the holster and draw and shoot that pistol a few times.
It was obvious he was in love with it!
Sometime in the early 1980's my mother's landlord died. His wife
asked my mother to help clean out her house. When clearing one of
the closets, my mother came across a rifle and brought this to Mrs.
Kells' attention. Mrs. Kells freaked at the thought of a gun in
the house and begged my mother to get rid of it for her. My
mother phoned me and told me about this predicament so I drove to
Welland to pick up the gun. Turns out it was an Etonia single
shot .22 rifle which I later found out was made by Cooey right here in
Coburg, Canada. A tiny light rifle, it was considered a boy's
training rifle. It had quite a bit of rust on the barrel but I
steel-wooled that off. After oiling the steel, it turned a neat
silvery-grey. I sanded what was left of the varnish off the stock
and refinished it with linseed oil, hand-rubbing a few coats until the
wood had a nice soft glow to it. That's the same finish I applied
to both my Winchesters and my Raven's stock. Turns out that
little Etonia is a collector's item. Don't matter, it's staying
here above the fireplace.
A couple of years ago I was visiting my old friend Lionel Smith up near
the end of the Point. He told me about having had to shoot a
woodpecker that was punching a hole through the wall of his garage.
I asked him what he used to shoot the bird. He went into
the house and came back out carrying a Crossman pellet rifle equiped
with a 4X scope. The rifle is barrel-break cocking, single shot
.177 caliber with a safety ahead of the trigger within the trigger
guard. Apparently, it has a muzzle velocity of around 650 fps!
That's almost as fast as a .22 short and about 3 times the muzzle
velocity of my Raven! This pellet rifle looks and feels like a
big game rifle. Lionel told me they sell for around $200. I
decided to try to find one like that for myself. One day last
year while surfing the St. Catharines Kijiji ads online, I found a
Beeman identical to Lionel's Crossman up for sale for $50. I
contacted the seller and a couple of days later, that rifle was mine.
When I test-shot it, I found the pellets were flying about 6" up
and 4" to the left of the point-of-aim. That's probably why the
guy sold it so cheap. Well, took a few shots to sight it in but
now I can knock the eye out of a fly at 20 yards with it. It's
powerful enough to kill a squirrel within 30 yards. So, another
gun over the fireplace.
A lot of memories of a lot of good guns rattling around in my mind.
A few of those I should definitely have kept. Oh well, like
they say, too soon old, too late smart. At the same time though,
I know that the few guns I have managed to hold onto will become a
liability for my wife once I'm gone. What with these crazy gun
laws introduced by that Roch character back in 1995, it's almost
impossible for a body to acquire or sell any gun legally here in
Canada. At any rate, here are the guns that have earned a niche
above my fireplace: To the left of the gunrack is the Etonia .22
rifle. At the right is my Raven .177 pellet rifle with
custom-made stock. At the top of the gunrack is my Winchester
Model 12 20GA. Below it is my Winchester Model 97 hammer pump.
Immediately below that is the Beeman pellet rifle.
Last but not least, the Red Ryder I got as a present from my wife this
past Christmas (2008) after 53 years' wait, with the admonition not to
shoot my eye out! There's a whole 'nother story there!!!
November 2018: At least I've managed to last another 10 years and just bought a 1914 Winchester 12 ga. Model 12 just because...
"Just because why?" you might ask? Well, my younger brother Mich got talked into joining a gun club in Dunnville to do some trap shooting by his son Derek. The first time he went out, a couple of weeks ago, he used his 1952 Winchester Model 12 20ga. that he'd bought (used) in 1966 from John Whelan's shop, "Whelan Marine and Sports", a gun which had been traded in. Mich realised that he was "under-gunned" at the gun club, using a 20 ga. gun when all the other shooters were using 12 ga. guns. That's when Mich asked me if I could find him an older Winchester Model 12 in 12 ga. As it turns out, I found not one but two 1914 Model 12s, 1914 being the first year that gun was introduced in 12 ga. Mich opted for the one with the "English" (straight) stock known as the "Black Diamond Model 12". This was too good a deal to pass up so I bought the other one so that Mich would have both of them. Just too good to be true, two 1914 Winchester Model 12s, both of them for sale at the same time on "GunPost" in Nova Scotia! So now Mich owns two pieces of Winchester shotgun history from the first year they were manufactured 104 years ago! Unbelievable!!! What are the odds?!!!
And here's something interesting! A 1905 Winchester Model 1894 and a 1961 Daisy "Spittin' Image" Model 1894 BB gun! Which is which?
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