Monday, September 29, 2014

Thinking about Rifles

Pawpaw is a fellow blogger who is running a series of posts on "practical" rifles.  He is not done with the series but so far it has been pretty darned good.

Thinking about rifles I
Thinking about rifles II
Thinking about rifles III
Thinking about rifles: Comments
Thinking about rifles IV
Thinking about rifles V
Thinking about rifles VI 
Thinking about rifles VII
Thinking about rifles VIII

Rather than derail his thread I thought I would publish a small tangent to his discussion on my site.

Pawpaw repeatedly notes that the nature of where you hunt, how you hunt and what you hunt should have a great influence on what defines "practical".  A gun for popping prairie dogs at 300 yards will be different than a gun that is useful for tracking wounded bears into willow scrub.

Canada and Alaska

Canada and Alaska offer hunting experiences that are vastly different from most of the rest of North America.  Heck, living in northern Canada or in Alaska is vastly different than living in most of the rest of North America.  Filling the freezer is not sport or luxury, it is a necessity.  They have animals with claws and teeth.  Most homes near the permafrost do not have running water.  That has implications.

The animals

There are two major predators of concern.  These predators don't just kill and eat chickens.  They can kill and eat people.  Those two predators are wolves and big bears.

The ideal firearm for wolves is probably an AR platform shooting stoutly constructed .223 55 or 60 grain bullets.  Most wolves weigh between 80 and 120 pounds.  They are fast and can change directions quickly.  They function as a coordinated team when hunting.  Misses are common.  Ample ammo and quick follow-up shots are a must.

The ideal firearm for big bears launches a wood cookstove at 2400 feet per second.  Failing that, any 30 caliber rifle launching a stoutly constructed 170 grain (or more) bullet between 2000fps and 3000fps will work.  The quality of the bullet becomes progressively more important as the impact speed goes up.

The biggest game animal is moose.  They can go to 1200 pounds and are notorious for living just long enough die in the deepest water available.  Caribou are another common game animal.  They run in herds.  They don't lie down and die, they keep running across the squishy (your boot sinks in 8" at each step) muskeg until they die.


Phil Shoemaker, a highly regarded professional guide in Alaska, informs us that there is a special class of guns that are suitable for outhouses.

A surprising number of animals are shot from outhouses.  The local wildlife gets used to the smells and the comings-and-goings (excuse the pun).

Predators seem to sense that people on their way to the outhouse are distracted, or sometimes inebriated, or not entirely healthy (diarrhea, viruses).  That makes them juicy targets for alpha predators thinning out the slow, the lame, the weak, diseased and drunk.

Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield
The rifle shown above is Mr Shoemaker's pick for the outhouse.  It can reliably launch a 174 grain soft-point bullet at 2400 feet per second which, when properly placed, is enough to take the starch out of any bear or moose.  It was famous as a military weapon for being able to cycle even when filthy-muddy-icy.  It is inexpensive.  It comes with a 10 round, detachable magazine.  The sights are set up for quick target acquisition...they work pretty well in low light or when your eyes are watering.

Most importantly, it is labeled for use in outhouses, an important consideration in these days of the far reaching EPA and the Canadian equivalent.

It is after all, called the SMLE, pronounced "Smelly".


  1. LOL, got me on that last one! :-) Know a trooper up there that carries a 6in Model 29 in .44mag. I asked why, and he showed me pictures of a BIG griz that he'd shot five times that died literally at his feet.

    1. All credit goes to Mr Shoemaker. My only contribution was to transcribe the story with as much fidelity as possible.

      Incidentally, Mr Shoemaker has many good things to say about bolt action rifles chambered in 30-06, shooting 200 grain Nosler Partitions. As long as the man or woman behind the rifle has plenty of field (position) shooting experience with that gun they are good-to-go.

      That being said, as a guide he finds himself in a high pucker situation more often than the dude. He is likely to carry something a little heavier. But then he practices with it often as well.