Old NFO wrote a great blog about his first rifle, and it’s history.
I never had my own firearm as a kid but always had access to whatever was in the family, mainly a Winchester lever action .22 with an octagon barrel and a circa 1950 Winchester Model 94 in .30-.30. We were never handgun or shotgun people. Those two lever actions put a lot of meat on our table. During my teens, Moffat County, CO had a bounty on jack rabbits. Think a pair of ears was worth a nickel. A lot of jacks were shot!
Two bolt actions were added to the family collection, a .257 Roberts (maybe-that is what we fed it) cheap surplus Italian rifle that stayed about two seasons and, finally, a Model 70 with a scope in .30-06. That was the first firearm with a scope in our house.
The local town had an active NRA Junior Rifleman program with some decent .22s - all single shot bolts. I spent six years in the program, and learned to shoot from some really good people. My sister, some nine years younger than me, was in the program and is good! Scary good.
My first purchase was a VFW discard .30-.40 Kraig that needed some serious repairs. I was around 14 at the time, bought it at a local auction for, if memory serves, $15.
I could beat my father hands down killing paper. No one, and I mean no one, was better when it came to shooting game. He said it came from his youth when it was get good or starve; what he called, “The belly flapping principal”. He wasn’t kidding. He was in the middle of eleven children. His father died when he was fifteen. The older brother and sisters had moved on. He fed his younger brother and sisters with the game he shot. Best poacher in Northwest Colorado.
The Junior NRA background really helped when I went into the Army. Qualifying with a M-1, I missed three times. The first, a 5 second pop up at 20’, I flat missed - too high. The next two were 10 seconds at 350 yards. I hit them, but it was raining so hard the scorer couldn’t see. Weak shit! (And I never, ever, had a M-1 thumb).
At the time I went through Army training, the Army didn’t have a formal sniper program. A handful of us from the Basic Training Battalion spent three days with some senior NCO’s doing stuff the others didn’t. Me? Totally defeated by camouflage! On to Combat Engineer school where they found I was a natural with a M2 .50 and a 3.5 Rocket Launcher. Damn, that was fun. Not so fun hauling a M-2, as a crew, on road marches.
The rifle I didn’t like was the M -14. Today, I understand, it is a fine weapon. The early ones weren’t. Please, no arguments. The stocks would break at the pistol grip with hard use. Any kind of sustained fire would get them hot, and they would jam. Never saw a M-16.
Not confident with the reliability of a M-14, I bought a Mannlicher Model 39, high comb, 3x9 variable scope, in .308. Please understand, we were about one hour in a fast tank from the Fulda Gap. If we went to war, I wanted something I could depend on.
We had a very good, and active, Rod and Gun club. We had weekend access to a 500 meter range. A whole lot of my money got spent on toys, and their food, at the Rod and Gun Club. Good times!
Seems like in any military unit there is a small group of dedicated shooters and a few lurkers. Most of the rest aren’t interested. Never understood it. Yes, we weren’t at war, yet. Many of us spent time at the East German border fences. If that didn’t sharpen your concentration, damn it, you were a casualty waiting to happen.
Since I no longer hunt, have let all my hunting rifles go to those who will use them. As to the rest? Gosh, I’ve lost them! Think I’m down to a cheap Chinese single shot .17 air rifle. Nothing to see here, storm trooper, just move on.
Getting back to the M-14. Our small group of shooters included our company armorer, a cook (who was NRA Junior growing up), and a Camp Perry winner. Depending on our company commander, we were able to take our issue M-14 to the Rod and Gun Club range. We fired well over a thousand rounds of Military Surplus Belgian made FMJ 7.62 NATO with those M-14s. We never fixed the reliability problems with the tools and lubes we had at the time.
So, a long blog entry that says little but, it is my blog. From the time I was a little kid, firearms were a tool, nothing more. We learned how to use one safely, like we learned to always move a tractor in reverse first in case the tires were stuck, or why knives had sheaths and why you cut away from your body. Oh, and don’t use your finger as a drift pin.
All photographs taken off Google. Hope they are all in the public domain. If not, contact me.