Game & Gun Gazette
Galazan Launches the RBL-28
It's been just more than two years since Tony Galazan's Connecticut Shotgun Mfg. Co. announced the RBL Launch Edition, an American-made 20-gauge side-by-side that broke new ground with its high-tech manufacture and its unorthodox marketing. Next up: The RBL-28.
Connecticut Shotgun unveiled and began taking orders November 1 for the second RBL model: a scaled-frame 28-gauge already rolling through a production process that the company says has been greatly improved by the experience of the Launch Edition.Delivery dates in the early months of 2008 are expected for the first guns ordered.
"There aren't really a lot of great 28-gauge side-by-sides out there," said CSMC Sales and Marketing Manager Louis Frutuoso. "We felt there was a need in the marketplace for an American-made, classic-American-style side-by-side." Presented in a fitted case of wood, canvas and leather with accessories, the standard guns will cost $3,650. Similar to the Launch Edition, CSMC is offering a $200 discount and a priority delivery date for payment in full at the time of the order.
The 28-gauge RBLs do, indeed, look like scaled-down models of the Launch Edition, and they will be built to essentially the same design. Although the engraving pattern has changed and the gun will be offered with a bone-charcoal case-color-hardened finish only, the smooth arc of the back of the receiver has carried on from the original version.
The technology of the company's plant in New Britain, Connecticut, has allowed for a rapid conversion to the RBL-28. "It's the same design and the same production line." Frutuoso said. "It's simply a matter of plugging the new recipe into the machine.
"The people are here, and the learning curve is minimal. We're very, very efficient at making these now."
Frutuoso acknowledged that the Launch Edition production run and order fulfillment had not been without their difficulties, with some delivery times running past 18 months for a factory-built and pre-paid gun. "We were just overwhelmed with orders on the Launch Edition," he said, adding that the popularity of the guns and the speed at which they could be produced created limits on the initial run. Frutuoso said that at a certain point the firm recognized it would have to stop taking orders as delivery times grew.
"The whole logjam thing is behind us," he said. "The difference this time is that we're already up and running." Frutuoso said that CSMC now employs 70 people, "with 80 percent of the staff time spent on building and shipping RBLs."
Highlights and changes for the 28-gauge will include a choice of 26", 28" or 30" barrels, all offered with fixed chokes; a more intricate engraving pattern designed by James Demunck; and the same choices in wood upgrades, grip, forend and trigger configurations as the Launch Edition.
"We're offering it with really long barrels," Frutuoso said, adding that he and Galazan believe that 30" barrels are growing in popularity with sub-gauge fans.
As for the decision to go with fixed chokes in the 28, Frutuoso said that screw-in chokes complemented the Launch Edition, making for a versatile 20-gauge. "With a 28-gauge gun," he said, "you know what people are going to be doing with them." The 26" barrels are choked Skeet and Improved Cylinder; the 28" and 30" barrels are Modified and Full. Frutuoso added that the barrels are not hard-chromed, so a customer who wants more-open chokes can readily have the work done.
The wood upgrades shown on the CSMC Website include selections ev-ery bit as gorgeous as those offered on the Launch Edition. "We're the largest high-grade wood buyer in the US right now," Frutuoso said, adding that one of the challenges in ramping up for production of the RBL-28 proved to be an adequate supply of exhibition-grade American black walnut.
For full details, photographs, a video and an order form, visit the RBL Website at www.rblshotgun .com. - Ed Carroll
SCI Convention gathers the best guns in the world
Far and away the largest gathering of fine-gun makers and their wares in the US, the Safari Club International Annual Hunters' Convention kicks off at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center for its annual Wednesday through Saturday run, January 23 to 26, 2008.
Included in the 600,000 square feet of exhibit space are many of the finest double-gun makers in the world as well as many of the larger
American double-gun importers and merchants. All this amidst a consumer show that is predominantly devoted to big-game hunting and rifles while still featuring the largest collection of wingshooting travel agents, lodges and outfitters, and sporting artists and galleries under one roof.
The convention is the largest fund-raiser each year for the 36-year-old conservation group. In addition to the exhibition halls, the event features seminars, a long list of donated items for round-the-clock auctions, and premium entertainment in the evenings.
Last year an extraordinary Fabbri shotgun with a titanium receiver and stainless-steel barrels was among the items auctioned. This year's auctions will include a Pachmayr Custom Winchester Model 21, a pairing of a unique Beretta DT10L 12-gauge with a scoped Sako 85 rifle in .375 Holland & Holland, a Krieghoff Classic Big Five double rifle in .500 Nitro Express, and a Fausti Stefano Brixian "Vittoria Alata" 12-gauge over/under.
The convention is open to SCI members only; for information on membership and attending the convention, visit www.safariclub.org or www.showsci.com. -Ed Carroll
Lucky No. 23: The ACGG Raffle Gun
Last year marked my fourth visit to the SCI Convention in Reno with Shooting Sportsman, but it was the first time I'd made the small effort to visit the other great show in town-the Firearms Engravers and Gunmakers Exhibition-held each year on the same weekend as the huge SCI gathering. Hosted by the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, in downtown Reno, the exhibition is a joint show of the members of the Firearms Engravers Guild of America and the American Custom Gunmakers Guild, and it showcases some of the best examples of fine-gun work done in this country.
The Exhibition should be a must-see for all gun aficionados drawn to Reno by the SCI event. Shotguns are definitely in the minority, with Americans' fondness for bolt-action and single-shot rifles reflected in the highest degree of craftsmanship. With the smaller scale of this exhibition, in an afternoon you have time to see and appreciate some of the finest work being accomplished by top craftsmen, including mechanical innovation, the metalwork of finishes and barrels, some sweet sticks of walnut, and the engraving that completes the visual impact of every good gun project. The atmosphere encourages conversations with the exhibitors, and whether you appreciate rifles or not, it turns out that many of the craftsmen love shotguns and shotgun projects.
Each year the ACGG presents in a fundraising raffle a collaborative effort from its members. The stunning 23rd offering in the series is the North American Classic Hunting Rifle, conceived by European-trained Ralf Martini and Martin Hagn, both of Cranbrook, British Columbia, and by American engraver Marty Rabeno. Martini shaped a Hagn-built falling-block action and paired it with a barrel by Jon Krieger that he chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum. Hagn crafted the stock from Turkish walnut, and Rabeno added incredible detail on the receiver with a life-and-death struggle between a moose and a grizzly bordered with fine gold inlay. A full-length fitted oak & leather case by Marvin Huey completes the project.
A maximum of 4,000 $20 tickets will be sold for the rifle, with the drawing to take place on the final day of the exhibition, which runs from January 25 to 27, 2008. For more information on the exhibition and/or the raffle, visit www.acgg.org. -Ed Carroll
American Airlines and the British Gun Problem
At press time, it's hard to say whether the good news outweighs the bad:
In late summer American Airlines announced an abrupt policy change that, effective with all tickets purchased on or after September 24, it would not carry civilian firearms in checked baggage to any destination in Europe or Asia.
Safari Club International learned of the rule through members and, working with the National Rifle Association, contacted the airline at the highest levels to challenge the decision. Seventy-two hours later SCI announced that American had agreed to overhaul the policy.
Currently, the prohibition remains in effect for the UK. From a company statement: "We regret that, at this time, as a result of UK policies we cannot allow civilian transport of firearms into the UK."
American Airlines and a lobbyist representing both SCI and the NRA say they're committed to working together "in an attempt to resolve those issues in the hopes of allowing civilian firearms to be transported to the UK on American Airlines in the near future."
The factors that have influenced AA's decisions, according to spokesman Tim Wagner, include heightened caution around civilian aviation in the UK in particular; UK customs inspection and documentation rules that have not changed but recently have been far more rigorously enforced; a demerit system that penalizes air carriers for firearms documentation lapses and mistakes, potentially with the revocation of the carrier's ability to carry military and government personnel with their firearms through the UK; and American Airline's significant business in flying US military and government personnel-many of them bound for Iraq or Afghanistan-under contract to locations throughout Europe and Asia. Wagner explained that Europe and Asia are managed as one operating region, and "about half" of the traffic serving the two continents funnels through the UK.
"They have a system of demerits for the paperwork that threatens our ability to carry any firearms through the UK, and we would lose all of our military passengers with firearms," Wagner said. "It's too important to our business and to our country to risk that."
Asked why the Fort Worth-based airline is thus far the only carrier to adopt such a stringent policy on firearms in checked baggage, Wagner said, "We're not the only airline that has these issues; we might be the only one who has taken this step because we were the closest to being affected."
Wagner said he's a hunter himself and that when the company first heard from disgruntled SCI and NRA members, it struck many decision-makers that the policy change had taken a "shotgun approach" to the problem in the UK, thus they responded quickly to lift the prohibition on travel that does not terminate in the UK.
"American is amenable to helping us," said John Green, co-founder and Managing Director of Ogilvy Government Relations, a Washington lobbying firm that assisted SCI and the NRA in the discussions. Another managing director at Ogilvy-previously known as The Federalist Group-is James Jay Baker, former NRA Executive Director. "The UK policy is not going to be immediately reversed," Green added, but the NRA and SCI were working with Ogilvy to present a comprehensive package to the airline before the end of '07 that ultimately would be aimed at helping change the "egregious" inspection and documentation policies at British airports.
The two groups, Green said, would rely on members, lawmakers and diplomats to assemble the best information that American could present in seeking relief from its British gun problem. This included an SCI member working in London to compile a review of all relevant British rules for discussion between the NRA, SCI and American, as well as a review of the Open Skies Agreement, an international treaty signed in April '07 between the US and the European Union.
"If this [prohibition] continues, other airlines will probably follow suit, and that's why we have to back this thing off," Green said.
For now, travelers who booked with American to the UK before the prohibition was announced will be allowed to check firearms even if their trips are well into 2008, Wagner said. He acknowledged that some passengers who were unaware of the policy change and intending to travel to the UK with firearms as checked baggage may have bought tickets after September 23. He said it's important to get the information out and that American passengers should consider shipping their firearms to the UK before traveling. To keep current with the policy, look under the heading "Restricted Items" in the "Baggage Information" section of the company's Website, www.aa.com.
Green said NRA and SCI members should look to those organizations' Websites for updated information: www.nra.org and www.safariclub.org. -Ed Carroll
The Growing Griffin & Howe Game Conservancy Showcase
It's late September and the leaves have a hint of color. Most shooters are thinking hard about the rituals of the upcoming bird season: getting guns, dogs and gear ready to go. At the same time, some serious gun people in the Northeast have discovered a new fall tradition in rural New Jersey: the Griffin & Howe Game Conservancy Showcase. The event, now heading into its third successful year, has a growing list of vendors and participants that should make it attractive to a wider audience.
What in the world is the Game Conservancy Showcase? First, it's a chance to shoot a clays layout that rivals any clays course anywhere. The Hudson Farm, home of Griffin & Howe's Shooting School, is sited amid a stunning landscape of rolling, wooded terrain, complete with a 75-foot-high waterfall. Here one can experience what good taste, vision and a relaxed yet encouraging atmosphere can do to elevate the shooting game. As one participant at this year's event remarked, "This is the Pebble Beach of sporting clays." It would be hard to argue his point.
The Showcase is also a chance to visit with gunmakers, artists and vendors displaying items that surpass the usual fare. Where else can you rub shoulders with Graham Halsey of Boss; Barry Wilcox of Dickson & MacNaughton; Guy Davies of Holland & Holland (who, incidentally, won the shooting event with a score of 92); Peter Blaine of Purdey; William Asprey of William & Son; Ken Duglan of Atkin, Grant & Lang; Duncan Cavanagh of William Evans; Chris Batha of Boswell; and gunmaker Peter Nelson? The Italians were represented by Marco and Christina Cavazzoni of FAMARS and Steve Lamboy of Zoli, and Austria's Peter Hofer completed the cosmopolitan flavor. Other participants this year included wildlife sculptors, taxidermists, dog trainers, Miller MotorCars, Land Rover and, of course, host Griffin & Howe, which was showing a variety of clothing, accessories and guns.
And last but not least, it is an opportunity to help raise money for the conservation of gamebirds, specifically the gray partridge. For although the Game Conservancy's scientific research is conducted in Britain, the peer-reviewed findings are of benefit to wildlife managers everywhere. (The Conservancy's work on pheasants has been used in my home state of Idaho.)
Dates for the 2008 event have not been set in stone, but expect a weekend event in the latter half of September. It's great fun in a spectacular setting, with wonderful people to meet, fine wares to be seen and, best of all, a noble cause to help serve.
This year's Game Conservancy Showcase clays tournament was limited to 90 pre-registered shooters. The '08 event will host up to 110. A wine tasting and banquet cap the two-day affair. For registration information, contact Griffin & Howe, 203-661-7900; Lsmario@ gcusa.org. -Clair Kofoed
Custom Mounts for Your Other Double Guns
Gunmaker Joe Smithson of Orem, Utah, recently devised an ingenious detachable-scope-mounting system for double rifles. Adapted from the mounts he builds for bolt-action rifles, these are some of the cleanest-looking and sturdiest mounts suitable for double rifles. They are shown in the white for clarity, as fitted to a James Purdey & Sons double rifle built in 1908 in .300 Holland & Holland. After engraving and bluing to match the rifle, the bases virtually will disappear.
The bases are small wafers of steel fit into the top rib, each attached with a single No. 8 screw with 40 threads per inch. There is just .050" of metal projecting above the rib. The ends of the bases are radiused, with the rear end of each serving as the recoil shoulder where it meets with the blind radiused slot in the rings. The mating surfaces are T-slots, the male being the base and the female milled into the ring bottom. The scope rings lock to the bases using a ball-and-socket arrangement, with a lateral spring-loaded plunger riding over the ball to mechanically secure it with more than spring tension.
The tops of the rings are attached to the bottom with angled screws that positively secure the scope. They are mounted about as low as possible to accommodate iron-sight stock dimensions. This system has been tested extensively with large-bore rifles-including examples chambered in .505 Gibbs and .585-for return to zero and the ability to withstand tremendous recoil, and it has passed with flying colors.
Smithson's ingenious custom mounts offer the minimum of alteration to the original rifle, minimal projection above the rib, and extreme strength and repeatable accuracy. The mounts are available only as manufactured in Smithson's shop, and they are made individually and fitted to extremely close tolerances. Prices start at about $1,500.
For more information, contact Smithson at 801-224-2041 or joe@smithson-gunmaker .com, or visit his Website at www.smithson-gunmaker.com. -Steven Dodd Hughes
The Saint Louey Twoey
Within the British gun trade there's scarcely any tradition of ornate firearms like those so covetously collected by Louis XIII of France. "Louis l'Arquebusier," as he was known, acquired his first gun at age 3 and was one of the first royal firearms connoisseurs. His cabinet d'armes held more than 200 fine guns. British subjects pooh-pooh such ostentation, and few really ornate guns have come out of Birmingham or London. The exceptions are the show guns built specially for international exhibitions like the one held in St. Louis in 1904.
Also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the 1904 World's Fair was intended to celebrate the centennial of America's acquisition from France of the lands between the Mississippi River and the Rockies. Louisiana was named after Louis XIV by the explorer La Salle, who claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi for France. He called it La Louisiane, meaning "Land of Louis." Napoleon sold it to Thomas Jefferson for $15 million in 1803 to finance his war with Britain. Considered an event in US history secondary only to the Declaration of Independence, the purchase increased the size of the US by 828,000 square miles and certainly justified the party held in St. Louis a century later.
The city, named for Louis IX of France, hosted the World's Fair from April to December 1904, and Birmingham gunmaker William Wellington Greener "recognized this unique opportunity to show off his latest sporting weapons to a maximum number of potential customers." In his history of the firm, The Greener Story, W.W.'s great grandson, Graham Greener, tells us the company sent an "exquisite pair" of Imperial-grade hammerless ejector 12-bore shotguns with 30" barrels. The idea appears to have been to create show-pieces on which engraving intended for big-game rifles, game guns and live-pigeon guns are all accommodated on one extraordinary pair. The guns feature gold inlays of blue-rock pigeons, stags, putti (an art term for happy, naked babies), ducks and dogs.
After the show, the pair was sold for £101 each. Years later, in the 1930s, the guns were sold separately and disappeared into private collections. In 1996 one of the pair resurfaced when it was donated to the Cody Firearms Museum. Two years later the owner of the second gun saw images of the first on an Internet site created to collect data for Graham Greener's book. He realized the importance of reuniting the pair and donated the second gun to the Cody Museum. In 2004, a century after the World's Fair, a Greener client was so inspired by the quality and opulence of the St. Louis guns that he ordered a new one for himself.
This new gun, which the owner refers to as his "Saint Louey Twoey," features engraving by Paul and Alan Brown. The Brown Brothers have found inspiration in the original style and then interpreted it liberally, not literally. Although many Greener design features remain, such as clam-shell fences and a scalloped back to the action, gone are the elements inappropriate to a birding gun. The remaining dogs and ducks are more realistic than ever. It is a fitting tribute to the historic events and to the pair of guns originally made to celebrate two Lous. -Douglas Tate
Mearns on the Border
There are Florida people and Arizona people. There are fly-fishing people and wingshooting people. That's because if you reside in a state that has real winter, after hunting season ends, if you don't head south, all you have to look forward to are several more months of cold weather. Recently, when my bird season in Washington closed, my wife and I motored down to southern Arizona to hunt Mearns quail.
Our ostensible season extension turned into a food-and-wine fest with other friends from the writing dodge. But we did have several fun days in the Coronado National Forest. We stayed with writer Jim Fergus, and he introduced us to Shilo Mathill, a fishing and wingshooting guide who Jim had fished with on Wyoming's North Platte. Shilo guides wingshooters to the Arizona desert's Mearns quail when the Wyoming winter turns him into a snowbird.
We met for breakfast in Patagonia, Arizona, and Shilo extended a hand and introduced himself. I half recalled reading about a Civil War battle of the same name, and Shilo easily could have been an officer in a tintype from either side: He was young and slim, with a straight back, although his beard was a little too neatly trimmed for 1862.
Less than a half-hour from Patagonia we were in deep cactus-covered ravines separated by grassy parklands. It was a lovely spot; the warm winter air was full of birdsong and heavy with the scent of juniper. The San Cayetano Mountains were monumental on the horizon.
We hunted with Shilo's and Jim's male tri-colored French Brittanys, Drake and Henri, respectively, and my all-American Brittany, Chuffey. Our hardworking dogs snuffled the dry grass but found little scent. Occasionally they dropped to the bottom of the deepest ravines where runnels provided cool relief.
Just as I was telling myself this was no different than hunting chukar, I slipped and grabbed what would have been benign sagebrush in chukar country but turned out to be something called cat's paw-a plant covered with every manner of sharp spines that had me bleeding like a stuck javelina. A quick look around at the ocotillo, cholla and blooming barrel cactus, and I dumped the chukar comparison.
I was proud to see Chuffey go on point and readied myself as Shilo shouted, "Mearns!" But our guide was observing from afar, and I saw a definite crest and the long, definitive tail as a roadrunner flushed. Beep, beep. Fortunately, no one shot.
Soon afterward I spotted Drake on point above me. I start uphill at a gallop, but before long the gradient reduced me to a geisha's pace. I almost had reached the dog when the birds got up. Suddenly five Mearns were streaking downhill toward me in a Blue Angels formation. A cooler character might have caught the middle one in his cap as they split around me, but all I did was panic.
By the time I recovered, the birds were sailing toward the safety of the junipers, yet I managed to puff the tail-end Charlie. Feathers still were seesawing down as Drake recovered the bird, and Shilo and Jim approached smiling and offering their hands as if I'd just won an Oscar. To shoot a Mearns quail was clearly an event.
During the rest of the morning we found four more coveys, and though the bag was modest, sitting in the local cantina that afternoon eating, drinking and laughing with one old pal and one new one, a contentment settled in. I knew the drive from Washington had been worth it.
For more information on hunting Mearns quail in Arizona, contact Shilo Mathill, 307-320-6699; www.fishstoney creek.com. -Douglas Tate