Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Custom Rifle, the beginning

I started shooting a BB gun in elementary school. Going deer hunting with my father the first time when I was about 12 or so, I used his old (pre-64) Win 94 in 30-30. Some years later, after our house had been broken into and all of his and our guns stolen, I was forced to choose my own rifle. Insurance paid off, and we both got new Ruger 77 bolt actions in .243. For whatever reason, mine would shoot into about 12 inches at 100yards no matter what I did.

I remember thinking that if I just had a Remington 700, that all would be right with the world. I was able to trade that Ruger for just what I wanted at a gun show when I was about 16. An old M700 with the pressed in checkering in .270. I thought then it was the ultimate gun in the ultimate caliber. It was in good shape, albeit older than the Ruger I traded. I had been reading about the .270 in Outdoor Life and knew, Just knew, that I had to have one.

After a time I began to think about "the perfect gun". You know, that one you imagine in the perfect caliber, with the custom stock, and maybe just a bit of engraving. The one that was a one of a kind, just for you. No one else would have a gun exactly like it. It would be a special gun, for a special person, in this case me (or you depending on who is dreaming of it).

Over the years I kept dreaming, because that's all it could be, of that custom rifle. I also kept that .270 I had traded for. The truth was that .270 caliber M700 was damned accurate, and killed everything that I shot at with one shot. It wasn't the newest gun, nor the fanciest. Neither was that old Redfield 3-9 scope the brightest. But they held zero year after year, hit hard, and never let me down. I still have that rifle, and it is still my "hunting" rifle. I just can't force myself to give up a solid dependable rifle.

But I never stopped dreaming about that fancy dream rifle either.

A few years ago I bought a Mauser 98 to make a custom out of. Actually it was a Spanish M 43, but that was just a name. It was a 98. I ordered a stock of AA Fancy Walnut that was semi-inleted. It was about that time that I realized that the Spanish Mauser was not as good a rifle as I thought it was, and that the stock was better than I could do justice to. I knew that if I built that rifle, on that stock, at that time, I would not be happy. My meager skills would not allow me to do either the metal work or the stock work that the custom rifle I dreamed of would require. I wasn't ready.

I'm still not.

You see, my custom dream rifle has a fancy figured walnut stock, with fine checkering in a Fleur de lis pattern. Custom metal with a deep dark rust blue, and case hardening. Tasteful but minimal engraving with just a bit of gold gilding. I can see it. I know what it looks like. I can see it so well, I can almost feel it. And the damnable misery is that I know how to do it.

But I don't have the skill to do it well.

It's like imagining a painting by DiVinci. I know how he did it, but I know I can't make it look like he did.

In truth, knowing I can't do it well makes it easier. My Grandfather taught me that it's not enough to do something, if you can't do it as well as you want to. That you have to be satisfied with your work. If you aren't happy with your own work, it won't make any difference what anybody else thinks. So I console myself with the knowledge that I would rather have my dream rifle remain just a dream, than to bring it to life and be dissatisfied every time I look at it. The rifle I dream of really is as much an object of art, as it is a tool. So I wait, and I continue to dream.

But there are other custom rifles. They may not be a "dream rifle", but they are more than just an "ordinary" rifle. Rifles somewhere between that M700 I still use, and the dream I still dream.

And they are not all for me.

Mr Fixit

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