Every since I started reading hunting articles in the late 1940s there has been a relentless trend on the part of gun scribes to write about and promote lighter and lighter-weight guns. Technology has allowed this trend to prosper to the point that some modern guns are so light as to be almost unshootable with the loads for which they are chambered.
“Focus groups tell us that buyers want lighter guns, so that is what we make. If we make heavy guns, we can’t sell them.” This is what a representative of a major arms company told me at a recent Shot Show when they introduced a 7 1/2-pound pump shotgun chambered for the 3 1/2-inch 12-gauge shell.
Smith and Wesson has also responded to this demand and produced aluminum-framed revolvers in 38 Special and used titanium alloys to make a very light-weight revolver in .44 Remington Magnum. I have always liked the short guns and carry, shoot and hunt with them. My favorite cartridge hunting handguns are Thompson/Center single-shots with 14-or so inches of barrel. This is a sweet-shooting pistol in .44 Magnum and almost any experienced pistol shooter can do good work with this gun.
When short barrels and light weight are combined with things that generate recoil, hunting accuracy suffers. Off hand-shots become almost impossible to make at ranges beyond 30-yards unless these guns are shot from the bench or an improvised rest. Then, they can do good work, but without a rest your chances of making good hits are more luck than skill. In addition, much shooting with these guns is almost guaranteed to generate flinching.
I doctor my aluminum-framed Mossberg 835 by adding lead shot and beeswax to the butt and a piece of steel reinforcing rod to the magazine to make this gun much more nearly shootable with waterfowl loads. With muzzleloaders I have done the same and replaced the aluminum ramrod with a steel rod that has been drilled and tapped to take the loading accessories. These are expedient solutions to enable a shooter to actually shoot hunting-weight loads with a degree of accuracy and comfort.
If you are going to stand up on your hind legs and shoot like a man, you need a man’s gun with some barrel weight. When in Africa I toted a 12-pound gun which was able to tame a 150-grain black-powder equivalent charge of powder pushing a 530-grain bullet that I used on Cape buffalo. Yesterday I was carrying a 1842 British .75-caliber musket that weighs 9 1/4-pounds. My chances of making effective hits on game out to 50 yards with this smooth-bore musket are actually better than if I were using an iron-sighted 6 1/2-pound modern technological wonder in .30’06.
For mountain hunting there is still need, and use, for very light-weight guns, but for those who only carry their guns a few hundred yards to their deer stand or duck blinds, heavier guns will allow better and more effective shooting from either rests or off-hand positions.
For other tips on guns, crossbows and knives consult my book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound. To find out more about it and my books on crossbows and bowfishing go to my website, www.hoveysmith.com.