I have been extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to review many excellent firearms, including guns from Nosler, Blaser, MG-Arms, Turnbull and more. Some of these were custom-built, but even the ‘mass-produced’ firearms have been extremely well manufactured, which was reflected in their accuracy, reliability and beauty.
With all of these wonderful products in mind, I can say without hesitation that the Verney-Carron SD Eloge Grade 20-gauge shotgun ranks among the most beautiful firearms I have ever encountered. Of course, there is something about handling side-by-side rifles and shotguns that makes many of us feel like English/European royalty. But the fact of the matter is that Verney-Carron used only the highest quality materials to produce this lovely firearm.
Josie and Jessie, much to their dismay, were placed into their enclosure while Jacob suited up as the backer and Colby prepared to act as the guide. Sadie, the German Wirehaired Pointer and Jo-Jo, the Setter, were to accompany us on the second leg of our hunt on the South Fork Hunting Preserve, or maybe better put, we were to accompany them. Instead of wheat fields as our destination, we would head into the bottom land adjacent to a wide creek. However, our journey down did include our new companions coming across another bobwhite that took off like a rocket and was last seen heading toward South Carolina. Both barrels of the shotgun missed this time, and thus the retreating form was sent on its way by a ‘two-gun salute’, colorful language from the shooter and a “tsk tsk” from his incredibly-talented photographer/wife, Frances…
As we reached the bottomland, the dogs went ‘birdie’, or at least that’s what the trainers-cum-guides called it. There did seem to be a definite uptick in the urgency of the dogs’ movements, from no zig-zagging, to darting back-and-forth near water’s edge. It was Jacob who said, “I wonder if the birds heard us coming and flew across the stream?” Just then Sadie froze in front of a tiny clump of dead grass that didn’t appear large enough to hide even a small mouse. Colby signaled Jo-Jo to a halt, while Jacob led us toward Sadie’s’ position. The [significantly-larger-than-a-mouse] chukar exploded straight up, doing a very passable imitation of a towering woodcock. With the report from the first barrel, the bird descended back through the slowly-expanding cloud of feathers. Sadie had to wind her way through some dense groundcover to reach the downed bird, but appeared to relish the chance to bring back the game to her proud handler.
Our group headed out of the bottomland towards a grove of trees adjacent to another wheat field. As we made our way up the hillside, the beautiful surroundings – the green, gently-rolling farmland, the distant treeline and the azure sky – came into focus. There could be no better backdrop for the beautiful dogs that were once again working to-and-fro through the young wheat plants. We did not make it to the trees before the duo locked up once more into that lovely attitude seen in paintings.
Have you ever seen a melanistic form of the Chinese transplant that North Americans call, Pheasant? When the rooster exploded with a squawk, and with that feathers-in every-direction appearance, he looked like a small tom turkey. The series of photographs that Frances captured shows the shotgun being mounted and the hastily-departing rooster dropping from the sky after the first barrel was fired.
The bird was impressive in flight, but even more so when Sadie brought him back and we were able to examine his beautiful plumage and impressive spurs. The chukar and quail were beautiful, but this guy definitely took first prize. The taking of the rooster marked the end of our time with Sadie and Jo-Jo; we headed back toward the kennels, and the next set of dogs awaiting their release from pointer-prison.
The men from the French counterterrorist unit, Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (a.k.a. GIGN), raced toward the hijacked Air France flight 8969. They carried a variety of weapons and specialized equipment. Captain Thierry Prungnaud took point in the assault ending with the rescue of all the passengers and crew still onboard the aircraft.
The front-side door was forced open by the GIGN team and Captain Prungnaud moved into the airliner and into the sights of the four members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. Within a matter of seconds he killed two of the terrorists and seriously injured a third.
But, unlike what might be assumed, the firearm that went through the door first, and into the hail of terrorist rifle bullets, wasn’t an automatic rifle or a semiautomatic pistol. Instead, the three terrorists succumbed to wounds inflicted by a .357 Magnum revolver.
The weapon used by the GIGN point-man to, in his own words, ‘neutralize three of [the four terrorists]’ was the French-manufactured Manurhin MR73. This firearm was designed specifically to stand up to the incredibly punishing training regimen employed by this elite force.
I rely on Craig Boddington for advice and ideas as a former generation of hunters relied on Jack O’Connor. When I mentioned to him that I was going hog hunting and asked for any pointers, he immediately responded with “Biggest problem will be adequate daylight!” And followed up with “Dang hogs are nocturnal, but hopefully [the hunt operators] are baiting. Light is your only issue, hopefully some will cruise by at sunset!”
Given the successful outcome of my hunt, please do not suppose that I am about to cast aspersions on Colonel Boddington’s [extensive] experience with ‘pigs’ – including hunts for Wild Boar, Bushpig, Giant Forest Hog and, of course, many forays after North American feral hogs. Although I had no previous experience in hunting feral hogs, I am a biologist who for many years carried out research on species of mammals. Data from other scientists, as well as from my own research, led to the following conclusions: 1) mammals are most active at night, particularly heavily-hunted game; and 2) mammals need less food during warm weather, so their activity levels drop precipitously. So, as I stepped out of my truck and into the ~100o of the Georgia Gulf Coastal Plain, I assumed I was in for a disappointing hunt.
But, I was to discover that the owners and operators of Gum Log Plantation near Abbeville, Georgia knew their hogs…and how to give a hunter an opportunity to harvest them!
On a recent Safari to South Africa’s Eastern Cape, I was introduced to a hunting technique reflecting an unusual skill of my Blaauwkrantz Safaris PH, Arnold Claassen. This technique involved the use of an inexpensive varmint call to lure Grey (Bush) Duikers into the open, thus allowing a determination of not only gender, but the horn dimensions on the males. On our first outing, Arnold successfully called in a number of Duikers, but none of the males reached his self-imposed minimum length of 4.5 inches. A number of times as I readied myself on the bipod rest, he would whisper, “we can do better”. I must say that I didn’t mind at all not collecting the beautiful little brown animal on this initial foray, captivated as I was by my first ever hunting experience involving calling. Watching the animals dashing across the landscape, from one patch of vegetation to another, as well as crossing large open areas, just to reach the source of the call was a highlight of my hunting life. Some of these pygmy antelope traveled several hundred yards in order to investigate the sound, at time coming within bayonet range of our stands.
The next morning found us again heading back into the East Cape Lowlands to try and call in a trophy Duiker. As we walked from the truck, we passed into and through the chaparral-like habitat that I had come to, if not accept, at least expect. We finally arrived at the target of our hike, an open hillside from which we had a commanding view of a valley and the hillside opposite. Arnold blew only twice through his call, or what I now referred to as a Duiker love whistle, when a crashing noise was heard in the brush in the valley. Fortunately, I had already placed my rifle on the bipod before the Duiker bolted from the underbrush. Arnold had his binoculars to his eyes in an instant and quickly whispered, “that’s your ram.” As I aimed at the miniature mammal I asked, “How far?” Arnold’s “He’s seen us, shoot him!” preempted any further queries from yours truly. At the shot, the little form collapsed, immediately followed by “Let’s go collect him” from my never-flustered PH. As usual, the photos were carefully posed, this time with hunter and trophy ensconced in a handy bush. As I sat cradling the little ram’s chin, I realized that my PH and trackers had accomplished a transformation. In the span of one Safari they had changed a neophyte African hunter into a glassy-eyed fanatic. I now understood Ernest Hemingway’s quip that his plan now that he was back from Africa was to make enough money to be able return again to this hunter’s paradise. (Adapted from “Small Sizes Count!” – African Hunting Gazette, Volume 24(4), pp. 72-79)
If you would like to see just how receptive the little pygmy antelope were to Arnold’s ‘Love Whistle’ check out this YouTube video. This diminutive female came within 50 feet.
They gave fair warning. In fact, it seemed that they exchanged a look, shrugged their shoulders and then looked back as if to say, “Please don’t look for the bird on the ground. Look up.” ‘They’ were two beautifully-poised Brittanys, named Jessie and Josie Wales, heads cocked, eyes locked onto ‘their’ bird. It really was their bird, well, theirs’ and Jacob’s. Jacob was the guide, using hand signals to silently shift the two dogs one way or the other. Pellets from the top barrel dislodged some feathers, those from the bottom brought the chukar down. Jessie led the charge towards the falling body. Her retrieve was redolent of Robert Ruark’s wonderful renditions of his boyhood hunts for quail. As a matter of fact, just like Ruark’s dogs, the Brittany spat out the loose feathers before heading back into the midst of the wheat field, and her next bird.
The wheat fields, river bottoms and hardwood stands – all to be traversed in this outing after chukar, pheasant and bobwhite quail – were located outside Danielsville, Georgia. The hosts for this hunt were Colby Phillips and Jacob Nash, co-owners of South Fork Hunting Preserve. They were the reason for the wonderful cadre of spaniels, pointers and setters. Jacob and Colby train all of the dogs used on their property, currently 21 in number. We would be hunting behind three pairs of their companions/co-workers. Now, don’t get me wrong, Colby and Jacob were fantastic guides, but their dogs were something special.
It seemed that there was only a minute-or-two to briefly hold and examine the lovely chukar. Jessie and Josie wetted themselves in one of the small water tanks used as cooling-off stations for the dogs during warmer weather and then were once again on the move. It seemed to take only another minute for the two pointers to lock up on another bird. Once again, the bird was mostly missed with the first barrel of the 12-gauge, but at the report of the second it dropped. This time the dogs retrieved a hen pheasant. Again, there was only a moment or two for admiring the beauty of the creature before the dogs again took off. Crisscrossing the field in a way that looked like a choreographed dance, heads sometimes held down and sometimes in the air, they worked as a team to cover the most area. It was indeed choreography; the dogs had been trained by their handlers to ‘dance’ together, in a manner most likely to locate the game. This time the bird got up from directly under Josie’s nose. It was actually amazing that she chose not to snatch the bird out of the air, instead of waiting for the report of the shotgun. This time the pellets brought down a male bobwhite quail. The tobacco-stained coloration of the little bobwhite females is beautiful, but the bleached-white appearance of the cheek patches found on the males is even more striking. The downing of the quail marked the end of the two Brittanys’ work-day.
The folks at Turnbull Restoration recently sent me a Turnbull Government Heritage Model 1911 for review. This firearm, like all their work, is a thrill to handle. It is even more special because I think this is the one listed as ‘unavailable for purchase because some writer is reviewing it’!
However, Doug Turnbull and Mike Nelson, could not have known what working with their Model 1911 would mean to this freelancer.
The review of the Turnbull Model 1911 will be in memory of one of my very best friends, Grover Edward ‘Buddy’ Swinson. Buddy was a wonderful Father-in-Law to a long-haired kid who married his only daughter. He was also a WWII veteran who saw action in the Pacific. In my full review, I’ll write more about Buddy and one of the times he used his 1911 in combat. For those who knew Buddy, you know it will be somewhat humorous. Like so many service-men and -women, Buddy was an ordinary GI with a big heart. Likewise, as with so many veterans, he did not view himself as special for the service he gave to his Country. He thought of it as his duty.
Thank you Buddy, and all our veterans, for your sacrifices on our behalf.
The Verney-Carron Azur rifle sent for this review was equipped with ejectors, double triggers, pistol grip with extended trigger guard tang, steel pistol grip cap, recoil pad, a lovely Turkish walnut stock, light English style hand engraving, 24 lines to the inch hand checkering, a fixed single leaf rear sight, a pivot scope mount, sling swivels and a night/day front sight; the rifle weighed 11 pounds unloaded. The Azur side-by-side has a uniquely-designed receiver that includes a front closure, an interior cross brace, and a double interior longitudinal brace; all of these features yield added strength to areas affected by the pressures of Nitro Express cartridges. What is not reflected in these accurate, but one-dimensional, facts is the superb craftsmanship evident in the details of this double rifle.
(Full review to appear in Africa’s Sportsman Magazine, 2019, October/November/December issue)
Yep, a deliberate and somewhat inaccurate (photos are actually top-to-bottom…) play on words, but also reflective of the cool illustrations shown below. These photos captured the instant cartridges ejected from a Verney-Carron double rifle in .450/400 3″ Nitro Express and an SD Eloge Grade 20-gauge. I am currently writing up the SD review, and the double rifle review will appear soon in Africa’s Sportsman Magazine. Hope you like these photos as much as I; the photos were taken by my very talented photographer and wife(!), Frances Arnold.
Thanks again to Jérôme Lanouel of L’Atelier Verney-Carron (www.l.atelier.verney-carron.fr) and Ken Buch (www.kebcollc.com), the US Importer and Distributor for Verney-Carron firearms, for sending me the rifle and shotgun for review.