Sunday, July 14, 2019

My Old Marlin – The 444
Marlin Firearm Company introduced the 444 Marlin to the shooting world in 1964 in their legendary 336 lever action rifle. At that time is was the largest lever action rifle cartridge available as many manufacturers had discontinued production of the 45-70 Gov’t cartridge. The 444 Marlin as it was known as was a .44 caliber cartridge. It is a large straight walled, semi-rimmed that was originally loaded with a Remington 240 grain soft point bullet leaving the barrel at 2350 feet per second. Within its effective range it was a devastating cartridge with enough stopping power to put down any of the North American game animals hunted.

In 1968, I was but 13 years old and one day, while reading one of my father’s Outdoor Life magazines, I came across an article on the 444. The author, whose name is now lost to me, wrote of traveling North America shooting every imaginable game animal with the 444. According to the author, they were all one shot kills, and many were dropped in their tracks. I was hooked, and I must have re-read the article a dozen or more times. By the time I was legally allowed to purchase my own firearms I had the entire article memorized. So it was, just after my birthday I headed to the local gun store and carried home my 444. Mine was topped with a then state-of-the-art Redfield Wideview scope which was held to the rifle by a set of Burris rings and a Burris base.

In those early years the 444 Marlin was not without its problem, mostly caused by the ammunition available. Originally Remington was the only company loading ammunition for the 444 and they were using their 240 hand bullets for the cartridge. Problem was, the hand gun bullets just couldn’t hold up to the pressure developed by the 444. Even though Remington declared the bullets they used in or provided for the 444 were not the same using in the 44 Magnum, testing provide otherwise. No of the problems was the original bullets were of a .429 diameter, which is exact what was used in the .44 magnum, which was slightly smaller than the 444 bore, which was .4295. In 1967 Hornady solved that problem when they introduced a 265 grain .430 diameter bullet explicitly designed for the 444. It was a flat point – soft point - bullet that proved to have better than average accuracy, and devastating stopping power.

My Marlin has a 24 inch mico-grove © barrel that just seem perfectly suited for the 265 grain bullet. Over the years it has been my go to rifle, and I have carried across mountains, in the rain and snow, and along the way have taken several really good animals with it. With the Hornady bullets which can be driven to just over 2200 feet per second, carries over 3000 foot pounds of energy at 100 yards, which is why one can see why the cartridge can have devastating effects on impact. The only limitation on the 444 is its range, which should be kept to less than 200 yards, as it was never designed as a long range cartridge. Recently Hornady developed a newer 265 grain bullet known as the Flex-Tip bullet. It has a soft polymer tip that is safe to use in tubular magazines.  The design of the bullet along with the polymer tip actually increases the ballistic coefficiency therefore extending the effective range of the cartridge. Unfortunately the newer Flex-Tip bullets won’t stabilize in the older 444 rifles with the micro-grove barrel.

Marlin re-introduced the 444 marlin this year in their 1985 Big Bore Rifle line. It is the classic 336 action with a 22 inch barrel design to utilize the Hornady Flex-tip ammunition. For fans of big bore lever action rifles the 444 Marlin is classic that won’t let you down.   

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Iconic 30-06 Springfield

The Iconic 30-06 Springfield

In 1903 the German army adopted the 7.92x57 Mauser as its standard military cartridge. Also known as the 8mm Mauser, it revolutionized modern military cartridges, and set of an arms race, of sorts, as various other countries tried to match the design and power of the 8mm Mauser. That “race” resulted in the development in the United States of a cartridge that to this day is a truly iconic cartridge that has withstood the test of time.

Soon after the Civil War, the United States military adopted a black powder cartridge developed by Winchester and know as the 45-70 Government as its primary military cartridge. The 45-70 Gov’t as it was know, would be the main stay of the military until 1894 when the US military changed to the new smokeless powder round designated the 30-40 Krag. Like so many cartridges of the late 1800s the 30-40 Kraig carried a 220 grain round nose bullet. At the same time the Germans used a cartridge designated as the Patrone 88. Like our 3-40 Krag, the Patrone 88 was loaded with the new smokeless powder and fired a 227 grain round nose bullet. But as the new century dawned that was all about to change.

In 1903 the Germans introduced their new 8mm cartridge, designed from the 7.92x57mm Mauser (8mm Mauser) with a revolutionary new bullet know as the “spitzer” bullet. Spitzer is German for pointed and the bullet was actually that - a pointed nose bullet – gone where the round nose bullets. The ballistics was much better with a pointed bullet and every country was off to the races – so to speak. The US Military turned to Springfield Armory, and from the United States came an answer in 1903, a cartridge known as the 30-03, but the performance of the cartridge was less than stellar, so back to the drawing board they went. Three years later Springfield offered their new and improved cartridge and the 30-06 Springfield was born. The cartridge would come to be known as the “30 aught 6” and was a 30 caliber (7.62mm) cartridge. The name derives from the 30 caliber designation and 1906 – the year it was adopted by the US military. Originally the 30-06 Springfield fired a 150 grain bullet at close to 2700 FPS with 2429 foot pounds of energy. Like the German 8mm Mauser, the bullet was of the “new” spitzer design.

The 30-06 Springfield would go on to be used by the US Military in three conflicts – WWI, WWII and Korea. It was first used in the bolt action rifles know as the M1903 and M1917 Springfield during WWI. With the outbreak of WWII the 3-06 cartridge was used in the MI Garand. The MI Garand was also during the Korean conflict. As a result, as the soldiers returned home, the 30-06 Cartridge became a favorite of many hunters. As the gun was carried afield what many hunters soon realized was that the 30-06 was an incredibly versatile cartridge. Designed as a truly 1000 yard cartridge, soon 30-06 ammunition was available in a wide variety of loads and bullets. By the 1920s it is was, and to this day remains, the most popular sporting cartridge not only here in the United State but around the world. It’s almost impossible not to find ammunition for the 30-06 at any firearms store. Even with all choices in ammunition today, the most popular and widely produced cartridge is the 30-06.

The 30-06 Springfield is suitable for every hunting pursuit in North American as well as most pursuits overseas. It is just as comfortable chasing plains game on the savannas of Africa, or stags in the mountains of New Zealand as it is chasing whitetails here in the states. I’ve personally known of hunters who have taken large coastal brown bears with a 30-06, then used it to hunt pronghorn antelope in Wyoming. When it comes to loads for the 30-06 Springfield the sky is the limit. There are literally dozens of bullets in various weights, ranging 110 grains to 220 grain, available for the 30-06.

Iconic is the only way one a can truly describe the “30 aught 6”. Since its inception, the cartridge has been the mainstay for sportsman and women around the world. Its manageable recoil, yet impressive energy on impact, guarantees that the 30-06 Springfield will be here for decades to come. As long as men and women head afield, many will carry a rifle chambered in 30-06 Springfield with them…..

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Velocity Matters

I received a call from a friend a few days back asking about some loads for a new AR platform he had just finish. Seems he built a 300 Blackout rifle with a suppressor and wanted some sub-sonic loads to hunt hogs with. When I told him they won’t work much past 25 feet the discussion got lively. Suppressed subsonic loads in the Blackout are all the rage right now, and in certain circumstances they are great, but for hog hunting?

The problem is the lack of velocity. Simply stated, bullets are velocity driven; meaning they get their energy from the velocity they travel at. In short, the faster a bullet  goes the more energy it possesses upon impact. The problem is, my friend wanted to use a 200 grain bullet at 1050 feet per second. At that speed the bullet only carried 467 foot pounds of energy at 50 yards – hardly enough to effectively kill a large adult hog. Now compare that to a 300 Blackout with a 120 grain bullet leaving the muzzle at 2200 feet per second. At 50 yards that bullet is carries 1197 foot pounds of energy, more than enough to humanely stop most hogs but it’s going to be noisy, which is not what he wanted. So begins the trade off.

The problem is two fold – first is momentum, and the second is bullet performance.  Way back in the 1600s Sir Isaac Newton first explored the notion of momentum in relationship to a projectile penetrating an object. He defined the theory of momentum as “a projectile will stop in an object when it has transferred its momentum to an equal mass of the medium.”  We have come a long way from the original theory in defining and understanding momentum, but in short, with regarding to a hunting scenario, the bullet needs enough energy to penetrate the animal and reach the vitals in order to humanely put the animal down. Even though my friend wanted to use a heavier bullet, he gave up all of the advantages of that bullet by severely reducing the velocity of the round.  Even at the muzzle, the bullet carries less than 500 foot pounds of energy, less than half of what most people who study ballistic suggest for hunting hogs. In other words, most of the experts suggest shooting a bullet that carries at least 1000 foot pounds on energy upon impact to effectively and humanely stop a hog.

Then there is the bullet itself to consider. All bullets are designed to work within a certain parameters – meaning they are designed to work within a specific velocity range. Say, for example, you are using a hollow point that is designed to “open up” at a velocity between 1800 and 3000 feet per second, and you are loading that bullet to 500 feet per second. It won’t penetrate and certainly won’t open up  - in other words, no mushrooming effect. The same can be said if a bullet is loaded too fast, it may not be stable and expand to much on impact, again greatly reducing penetration. Bullet manufacturers spend a lot of time studying and testing their bullets to determine what velocities work best. Almost all hunting bullets are designated as expanding bullets, meaning they are designed so the nose of the bullet flattens out on impact and creates a much larger wound cavity. The idea is to maximize tissue damage to insure a clean, quick kill. So one can see the problem with loading bullet at a much slower velocity.

My friend was faced with a conundrum, as he wanted his rifle to be very quite – hence the suppressor - but at the same time to have a bullet that would stop a hog. What he learned, was he couldn’t have both. Yes, the suppressor will quiet – “somewhat” – a supersonic bullet but if he goes subsonic the bullet won’t have enough energy to do what it was intended to do. Of course I didn’t help matters whn I told him, “go subsonic and watch the bullets bounce off the hogs.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Evolution of the .22 Caliber

My introduction to the .22 caliber centerfire cartridge began when I was just a teenager, when one of the first firearms my dad got for me was a Savage 24V. That particular model was known as an African Style rifle, in that, it was an over/under with a rifle barrel on top and a shotgun barrel underneath. Mine was a .222 Remington over a fixed full choke 20 gauge. I used it to hunt varmints, which back then was fox and raccoons, as well wood chucks on my grandfather’s farm. The .222 Remington was also known as the triple deuce, and was introduced by Remington in 1950. It was one the first commercially produced rimless .22 (5.56) cartridge made in the United States, in that, the .222 Remington it was a completely new design, unlike so many other cartridges of the time period that was formed from another cartridge case. So it was that I grew up with the triple deuce.

It would be over a decade later before I got my second .22 caliber rifle. Again, it was a Savage rifle in 22-250 Remington. Developed in 1937 by Remington, the 22-250 was made from the 250-3000 Savage necked down to except a .224 bullet. Originally it was known as the .22 Varminter, and was capable of velocities over 4000 FPS. It was truly a high velocity .22 cartridge capable of creating devastating wound cavities. Like the .222 Remington the accuracy of the cartridge is legendary, and with time it over shadowed the .222 Remington and the popular 220 Swift.  The 22-250 is still one of the fastest .22 caliber cartridges available.

Then along came the .223 Remington. Originally developed for the military and designated as the 5.56x45mm, it was basically a lengthened .222 Remington cartridge. Work began on a new, lighter, faster cartridge for the military and in 1961 the 5.56x45mm (NATO designation) cartridge was approved for use in the newly developed AR-15, military M16 platform. Two years later Remington released the civilian version of the 5.56x45mm known as the .223 Remington and released it in their Model 700 bolt action rifles. More or less, it was another .22 caliber cartridge capable of reaching 3000 FPS with a 55 grain bullet, something the .222 Remington can’t do. The popularity of the .223 Remington is due in large part because of its kissing cousin the 5.56x45mm which is used by so many militaries around the world, thus so many people are familiar with the cartridge. I currently own four .223 Remington rifles. It is a great cartridge to shoot: low recoil, and much quieter than the 22-250 Remington. Like the other .22 caliber cartridges, the .223 Remington is really a varmint round, even though some people use it to hunt deer and hogs, even though it really is on the small side for larger game animals. Still, like the other .22 caliber cartridges, it is phenomenally accurate, and just fun to shoot.

Over the years the biggest complaint with the .22 caliber cartridges has been the limited bullet weights available. My .222 Remington, 22-250 Remington and two of my .223 Remington rifles have a 1:12 rate of twist in the rifling. That limits bullet selection to a maximum 55 grain bullet. Problem is that limits the effective range of the cartridge. Even with the faster rate of twist, cartridge capacity limited bullet size to 62 grains for the most part. There are a few specialized rifle manufacturers making .223 Remington rifle that are capable of shoot up to 75 grains, but the case capacity just prevents getting to most from the bullets, until…

Beginning in January 2017, at the Shot Show in Las Vegas, and then again this year at the Shot Show, both Nosler and Federal have introduced a .22 caliber cartridge that has changed the way we think about that caliber. First came Nosler with the .22 Nosler with a wilder case dimension compared to the .223 Remington.  With what amounts to a 14-15 percent increase in the case capacity, velocities are 350 to 400 FPS faster than a .223 Remington, and bullets weights can now comfortably reach up to 85 grains. Nosler rifles use a 1:8 rate of twist in their barrels, which restricts bullet weight to 85 grains: still better than the .223 Remington, and with high ballistic coefficiencies, that go father with a flatter trajectory: meaning longer range.

Then this year Federal in conjunction with Savage introduced the .224 Valkyrie: Federal developed the cartridge, and Savage developed the AR platform for it. The cartridge was developed around a Sierra 90 grain MatchKing bullet with velocities around 2700 FPS. Savage, for their part, developed an AR rifle with a 1:7 rate of twist to maximize the heavier weight bullets and literally, over night, fans of .22 caliber have two now calibers top choose from that are capable over reaching distances unheard of previously in a .22 caliber. Nosler originally developed the .22 Nosler for their bolt action rifles, and at present the .224 Valkyrie is only available in the Savage AR platform. Still, these are two flat shooting cartridges that suddenly and substantially increase the range of a .22 caliber bullet. With ranges that can easily reach 1000 yards and remain supersonic at that range is something previously unheard in a .22 caliber. And, both the .22 Nosler and .224 Valkyrie do so with the same recoil as the .223 Remington.

At present for the reloader the heavier bullets available the two new cartridges are limited to match grade bullets, therefore not for use on deer size game, but for those that want to reach out a touch a coyote, they are the perfect cartridge. Federal is producing a 90 grain Fusion bullet in their factory loads that they state is suitable for deer sized game, but the bullets are not yet available for those that want to load their own. Still, both Nosler and Federal are taking my .22 caliber to all new distances.

I spoke with a good friend of mine that makes custom rifles the other day, and the tools are available to cut a chamber for the .224 Valkyrie, and as we talked I could see a new custom bolt action rifle in that cartridge following me home one day…..

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When Guns Blow Up

I read an article the other day about why guns blow up. It was an interesting read, especially the historical progression of metals as related to firearms. We blew up a lot guns trying to figure out what metals are best to withstand the pressure that develops in a chamber. The article got me to thinking of the many experiences I’ve seen regarding people who have blown up their firearms.

I have literally spent decades around firearms and studying ballistics, so I’ve seen my fair share of mishaps, most of them are the result of a shooter’s carelessness. My first experience came when I read the medical report and police report from an incident back in the early 1980s. A young man had purchased a late 1920 era Smith & Wesson Police 38 Special revolver.   This young man decided, since the 38 Special was a “mild” round, he’d set about to “increase” it. It started with him increasing the maximum load by just over ten percent. Then he topped it off – so to speak – with a small pistol magnum primer. The gun came apart with his third shot. The type of damage the gun experienced is referred in ballistic circles as a “catastrophic failure”  in other words the gun blew up. The young man used both hands to hold the gun when he fired it to try to control the recoil, and the emergency workers and law enforcement officers never found the two fingers missing from is mangled left hand. I have to admit I’m still a little haunted by the pictures of that young man’s left hand.

A few years ago my wife and I were at a local outdoor range and witnessed firsthand what happens when someone pulls the trigger on a rifle with an obstructed barrel. Two guys were at the range, a few stations down from us, sighting in a new rifle. They started by inserting a Site Lite in the muzzle of the rifle and checked the scope with the laser, and noting they were on paper, they loaded a round in the rifle. It was just then both myself and the range master saw the Site Lite in the barrel. I stepped back from my bench, grabbing my wife as the Range Master started to yell “cease fire.” All he got out was “ceas…” before the rifle went off. Fortunately no one was hurt, if you don’t count the rifle, which instantly was in need of a replacement barrel. Interestingly enough we never did find the Site Lite, and trust me it was not for lack of looking. The range master knew me and my background and I wanted to see what the pressure did to the Site Lite, but as stated earlier it was nowhere to be found. What happened to the barrel was a classic example of what is referred to as “…barrel going banana” – meaning it pealed back like someone pealing a banana.

Another time, I was witness to what happens when you put the wrong ammunition in a firearm. In this case it was a person who tried to fire a 300 Blackout in a 223 AR Platform. Again, the shooter wasn’t hurt, but the same can’t be said for the gun. I since learned there are a couple of videos of that happening on YouTube. As a matter of policy for my business, I will not reform and load ammunition with one head stamp to other caliber. I have this fear of someone miss reading the head stamp and trying to fire the ammunition in the wrong firearm. That is not going to happen on my watch, as I can tell you from personal experience it does not end well. The problem with the .300 Blackout is that so many people are reforming brass from .223 Remington cases to try and save a few dollars. The round will fit in a .223 magazine, and the forward assist on the AR can actually force the round into the chamber by pushing the bullet back into the case. A .308 bullet will not fit down a .224 barrel and that pressure has to go somewhere. To para phrase a friend of mine, “… the results ain’t pretty.” The person who pulled the trigger that day got off lucky, as the pressure blew the upper skyward and not back. Other than having to change is pants, he was relatively unscathed.

Of course not all failures are the result of operator error. Sometimes it is the gun. Some time back a friend of mine purchased a beautiful shotgun from a major manufacturer. What he did not know was that the gun was actually made in Russia. The first time he took it to the range the barrel failed on the third shot and split open. He sent it back and received a replacement firearm that did the same. I have since learned the manufacturer stop selling shotguns made over there: seems there was a potential liability issue if every shotgun you sell the barrel ruptures.  

Speaking of liability issues, being what they are, in combination with the advancements in metallurgy, very few guns blow up today from manufacturer defects. That’s not to say you can’t purchase a “bad” gun, but it is extremely rare. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufactures Institution (SAAMI)  was formed by the major firearm and ammunition manufacturers back in the 1920s sets pressure standards for all the current production ammunition, and rifle manufacturers use it as a starting point for proofing the chambers in their rifles. There is not a rifle made today that is not tested before hitting the market. So, most mishaps today are the result of shooter error, with the most common mistakes being, either putting the wrong ammo in a firearm or an obstructed barrel. One other common factor in obstructed barrels is what is known as a squib load. That is a cartridge that for some reason has a much reduced load, and in most cases, the bullet ends up stuck in the barrel.  I could not tell how many people I’ve seen that have experienced a squib load and, not paying attention have chambered another round and destroyed a firearm. 

Another problem I have encountered several times is damage to a firearm and a person resulting from the operator overloading a cartridge or using the wrong power in a cartridge. There are a lot of shooters out there who feel that they have to push a bullet as fast as possible. I constantly hear people at the range stating “…I feel the need for speed.” That is until either (A) the gun comes apart from the pressure, or (B) they break their shoulder from the recoil. I know of one person that took the biggest of the Weatherby Cartridges – the 460 Weatherby – and pushed his hand loads ten percent over maximum load data listed as he wanted all the speed and energy possible for his African Safari. That ended up costing him over $150,000 in medical and emergency transportation costs when the recoil from the rifle dislocated his shoulder and shattered his collar bone.

I spoke with another gent one day who had the brilliant idea to increase the speed of his 300 Winchester Magnum load by starting with about 5 grains of a very fast pistol powder in the cartridge first, then set a compressed load of magnum rifle powder on top of it to hold the powder in place. The idea was to “bolster” the slower burning powder to increase the velocity of the round. I asked if had shot any of the rounds yet and replied, “no.” When I asked when and where he was going to test the rounds, he answered “why?” I explained I wanted to let emergency officials know so they could be on standby to treat his and anyone close to him wounds, and to make sure I wasn’t there – there are somethings I just don’t need to see.

One of the tenants of loading your own ammunition is to NEVER mix powders. And, second – make sure you are using the correct powder. I’ve seen what using pistol powder in a rifle cartridge can do to a rifle, not to mention the person holding the rifle. And, remember good accuracy doesn’t necessarily come from high velocity. It’s been my experience that I can gain some incredible groups by slowing the velocity down a little, not to mention how much my shoulder appreciates the lower recoil. 

I love to shoot, and I own an ammunition business. I only do custom hand loaded ammunition and over the years have loaded thousands upon thousands of rounds with not one problem. That is the result of first and foremost the application of some common sense. If it doesn’t sound or look right – it’s probably not. If I can hear - and you can hear it – powder cracking when you try to seat a bullet on a compressed load, the cartridge is probably over loaded. I triple and quadruple my load data to make sure I am using the correct powder and amount for the cartridge. Make sure it is the right primer for a particular cartridge. As a rule you don’t use magnum primers with a standard cartridge. You may not enjoy the resulting pressure spike. As I stated earlier, firearms have become incredibly safe if used properly, and that includes making sure you don’t have an obstructed barrel, and the ammunition is properly and safely loaded…..

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Match Grade Ammunition

Match Grade Ammunition

Many shooters tend to think of the firearm as being responsible for the accuracy, but that is only half the story. What many ignore is the role ammunition plays in accuracy. There is truth to the statement “…it’s all about the bullet.” Lower quality ammunition is going to result in lower performance from any firearm. For serious target or competition shooters the best choice for their ammunition is Match Grade ammo. What exactly is Match Grade ammunition?

To be label Match Grade means it is ammunition that is loaded to be more consistent and therefore more accurate than say general-use ammunition. It is ammunition which requires extremely tight tolerances and quality control.  While the origin of the term “match” is a bit fuzzy, the term became a way to identify especially consistent ammunition that would be suitable for use in formal shooting matches or competitions. Therefore, match grade ammunition is meticulously loaded cartridges. While some manufacturers simply load their standard ammunition with a match-type bullet and call it match grade, and others use the same machines as all the other ammo. True match grade Ammunition is much different.

Match grade ammunition is developed using the finest components available, meaning the best brass available, the best powder, primers and true match grade bullets. And, that’s just the beginning. So let start with the brass. The brass casing is – for lack of a better term – the “vessel” from which the cartridge is built. It matters not how good the bullets are, the quality of the primers or powder, if the components are loaded into low quality brass. The shoulder length, primer pocket tension, and neck concentricity are all important characteristics of good quality brass. But, most important is case wall thickness. Good quality brass must remain consistent from casing to casing, especially with regard to the thickness of the casing.  

The key to good quality brass is consistency is the construction and characteristics of the brass, but as noted, most important is the thickness of the brass. It must be equal for all the casings, and it is the resulting consistency in case volume which insures a consistent burn from each shot. It’s all about the internal case capacity, which if allowed to vary from casing to casing will result in an inconsistency in pressures, and – as noted – this will result in less than desired accuracy.  It is the case internal volume predictability that increases accuracy, and enables the shooter to have confidence in his or her shots. If the internal capacity of the brass various from round to round, the pressure is going to vary. This in turn will affect the velocity and thus the accuracy of the cartridge. Manufacturers of premium brass go to great lengths to insure their casing are held to extremely tight tolerances; therefore the internal volume remains the same across the entire lot of casings. So, it goes without saying, the perfect cartridge begins with the brass. Premium brass will cost you more, but in the end will be the foundation for consistent shots every time. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


            I have heard on the news and even read some about the so called wussification of the American male. Some people have even given a name to this “new” guy. He’s not a new type of person in the physical sense, rather a person who, well…behaves different from you and me.  Some advertising executive in New York have labeled them as “Metrosexuals” or “Metros” for short.  I’m not talking about guys involved in some sort of kinky behavior; rather, these are guys, who according to the one article I read, are young urban fellas who like driving a fancy high priced sports car rather than a good truck.  Who, instead of spending Saturday morning afield or on the water, would rather be at some spa getting a massage, manicure or, even worse, getting various parts of their body waxed, don’t even ask, I didn’t.  Worse they actually like to go shopping for fancy clothing and shoes.  Now, for the most part, I only shop at a two local stores, Bass Pro Shops and Home Depot.  I figure if those stores don’t carry it, it isn’t worth buying.  That’s not to say I don’t go shopping elsewhere ‘cause every once in a while my wife does drag me off to the local mall where I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if one day they had an employee standing at the entrance shouting “dead man walking” because of the way I shuffle in.
            Even though I don’t tell her enough, I am proud of my wife.  She is a CPA, but she wasn’t when we got married.  She loves numbers, yet is married to a guy who has to use his fingers and toes when adding any number larger than two.  A few years after we were married, she went back to school and got her college degrees and then her CPA.  Which was quite a feat considering that all the while she had to put up with my shenanigans.  Now, I do have to admit being married to a CPA has its advantages.  She can clean up the mess I make out of the checkbook each month in no time flat and, since she started doing the taxes, our relationship with the IRS has improved greatly, but that’s another story.
            A while back I had the “pleasure” of attending a party at the home of one of my wife’s fellow accountants.  It’s one of those big fancy homes.  The kind we don’t have.  See, there two reason’s we don’t have a bigger home, and according to my wife are both my fault.  One is because of all the money I spend on hunting, fishing and camping gear and trips.  The other is my so-called lack of income from all the time I take off to go hunting, fishing and camping.  Recently, back in the swamps I hunt, I had found what appeared to be the home range of a huge boar hog that was in real need of spending some serious time on my grill. After spending the morning chasing that hog around the swamps, I got home and cleaned up just in time to go to the “party.”   It was there where I met some of those “metro” guys in person.
            Soon after arriving at the party, my wife told me to mingle while she caught up with her accountant friend, and I was left to my devices.  This meant I was off in search of a cold one, which I found in this huge kitchen, where several guys were standing around conversing and mixing some fancy drink that I couldn’t even pronounce.  As I walked in, one of the guys was talking about some new cologne he had recently purchased and how perfect it was for the early fall season.  After a brief introduction, the conversation returned to his cologne and the need to match it to the season.  As I stood listening, one of the guys asked my opinion on matching your cologne to the seasons.  I completely mis-understood their question and meaning of cologne. Thinking they were talking about some sort of deer scent. Since we live in Florida where the local rut doesn’t start until almost Christmas, and it was still early fall, I explained to the young man, this time of the year I prefer plain-old non-estrus doe urine.  Now, I could have sworn, when I finished, somewhere off in the distance someone shouted “strike one.”
            Another one of the guys quickly changed the subject and started talking about shoes.  He said he had just bought a pair of Gucci something-or-other, very expensive, leather shoes.  Then noticing my boots I was wearing, he asked about them.  I told him mine were indeed real leather as well - hiking/hunting boots with a Gore-Tex lining.  They seem impressed, until somewhere in the conversation, we discovered he was wearing shoes you never want to get wet, whereas I was wearing boots that you purposely wore while walking through mud and water in the swamps chasing or being chased by various critters, “strike two.”
            Again the conversation was changed, as still another one of the guys spoke of spending his morning at some new exclusive spa that we just had to visit.  He talked about the incredible massage he had gotten, in fact, he felt so good after the massage he got his eyebrows done.  What he had done to them, I don’t know and I didn’t ask.  In turn, the other guys talked about their morning, shopping trips for silk shirts in “passion” which was all the rage and haircuts by Monique at “that” salon.  I was actually beginning to fit in a little, and we were starting to get along, mainly because I had kept my mouth shut and just listened.  That didn’t last long because just as the first rounds of drinks were completed and we were all smiles, someone made the mistake of asking me what I did that morning.  I wish I could adequately describe the looks I got from those guys as I recalled spending the morning in the woods on the east side of Old Yankee Swamp, searching for this huge boar I had seen, “strike three.”
            I wondered off to this room with a really nice couch and one of those big screen TVs.  I remembered Alabama was playing Georgia and spend the rest of the evening, by myself, watching the game.  As we left, my wife commented about what a nice party it was, and how much fun she had.  When she asked I told her I had a good time too.  “Really?” she asked, “Yep, it was a hellva game.”