Hunting with my grandfather’s rifle
Standing in front of my gun safe, forced to make a decision, I contemplated efficiency versus history. Should I hunt with my new synthetic stock, stainless steel, weather-resistant, ultra-light .300 Winchester Magnum, or should I once again shoulder my grandfather’s trusty old battered and beaten .30-06? It wasn’t hard to decide.
As I ran my fingers over the old wooden stock, tracing long, deep scratches time has turned a darker shade of brown, I dreamed of the journeys this rifle made out west. What was it like riding along with the old man and his crew as they traversed a two-track to the top of some distant Rocky Mountain in a rusted-out old jeep? I’ll never know, but I dream about it often. In my mind, grandpa and his buddies are laughing and carrying on. Talking about life back home while reveling in their momentary escape. I picture my grandfather young, wearing a tattered flannel shirt and worn-out blue jeans, a cigarette between his fingers. His rifle, now my rifle, gripped tight in his hands. I enjoy taking the old the .30-06 afield because it’s an extension of a man who meant the world to me, and when I hunt with his rifle my fondest memories of him come alive.
A quality firearm is sure to outlive its owner if properly cared for. Therefore, many of us are blessed to own heirlooms passed down through generations. I actually have a number of firearms that once belonged to my father and my grandfathers. In fact, I actually have a rifle that originally belonged to my great-great-grandfather. I wish I knew more about this particular firearm. Understanding its history would surely add to the feeling of ownership, but I never asked my grandpa for the details. One morning, as a child, I went to his closet to grab a .22 and instead returned to the kitchen with the old rifle. He sternly told me to put it back and leave it alone. It was his grandfather’s, he said. I never touched it again until months after his death when grandma told me to come and get “my guns.”
It’s common to take possession of a firearm you know little or nothing about. Whether you inherit a rifle or pick up a shotgun at a random auction, you must approach the firearm cautiously. Since you don’t know about the firearm’s history, you must learn all you can about it to ensure safety in the present and use in the future. Before you ever consider shooting a firearm you know little about, you need to thoroughly clean and inspect it.
Opening morning of firearms season; for passionate rifle hunters, no other day compares. I have been through enough of them now to understand that opening days worth remembering have some sort of underlying issue or meaning, like a much awaited first hunt with a child, the tagging of a monster buck, or a distant adventure years in the making. Yet sometimes, the forgettable days are the most enjoyable. The ones where nothing extraordinary happens, yet all is right in the world as you sit patiently, awaiting the arrival of a deer.
When opening day arrives on November 10, I’ll carry the same rifle my grandfather had carried so many times on opening days of his own. Over countless dinners, I sat at his table and ate venison his rifle had procured. Now I am the provider.
An inherited firearm is a true treasure, a tool that should last beyond your lifetime, passing through generations as an heirloom. Knowing the history of a firearm adds a special dimension to owning it. Be sure to ask questions of guns you may one day own, and tell stories of adventures with favorite firearms you expect one day will belong to your heirs.
See you down the trail…