Tuesday, 07 July 2009 21:23

The Accidental Commando

I was a very unlikely prospect, but Gary Jackson knew better.

The past President of Blackwater Worldwide and ex-Navy SEAL took one look at me and saw my inner commando. It speaks highly of his perceptive powers, because at the time my legs were ready to completely give out from under me, which is how we met in the first place.

Published in Destinations

We’ve witnessed the revival of shotgun legends in recent years, but based on our field tests of the three new Veronas, none have combined the affordability, reliability and performance as these Italian workhorses.

The resurgence of cherished shotgun brands has been most active in the over $10,000 market.

In 1999 we saw a return of the glorious Holloway & Naughton marque, which brought the British legend that was started in the early 1890s back into circulation for some $90,000 in a bare-bones, in-the-white canvas of shotgun artisanship.

The stunning Victorian-era English Boswell was resurrected by writer, instructor and impresario, Chris Batha, with prices that begin in the neighborhood of $45,000.

And you could buy a reproduction of the legendary A.H. Fox shotgun with its entry-level price of $15,500. Or the same company, Connecticut Shotgun, will sell you a reproduction of another side-by-side great, the Winchester Model 21, also starting at $15,500.

When it comes to shotgun revivals you can’t escape the feeling that this is a club for trust-fund babies.

But Legacy Sports International has chosen a different path when it came to reintroducing the Verona pedigree to the American shotgun scene. The new Veronas now favor hunters and clays shooters who hanker after an Italian icon with a Main Street price tag.

Verona’s new over/under and side-by-sides embody the classical look-and-feel that have served generations of independent shotgun owners. The new Verona semi-automatics, meanwhile, pose a direct challenge to the inertia-driven shotguns from the other Italians, Benelli and Franchi

In short, the many qualities that made the first Veronas a go-to shotgun for thousands of American sportsmen have been inherited by the new Veronas.

The management team at Legacy Sports International jumped at the chance of resurrecting the beloved Italian brand that has quietly become a mainstay to thousands of American sportsmen.

headshot
Andy McCormick

“The original Veronas initially came into this country in the late 1990s and early in 2000,” explained Andy McCormick, the Vice President Marketing and Sales at Legacy Sports. “We discovered that the name was available again and when we trademarked it we decided to take the Verona back to its Italian roots. Everyone seemed to be happy that the Verona brand was coming back into the United States.”

Like their older siblings, the new Veronas are dependable shotguns for real people. They are fully capable of putting meat on the table year after year. This fine hunting tradition is in keeping with both the original Veronas and the folks at Legacy Sports who are serious hunters.

The new Verona over/unders come from the original factory in Italy operated by Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, or F.A.I.R. as it’s known, in the Brescia region of Italy. Brescia is the cradle of the centuries-old, Italian gun industry.

Brescia is home to celebrated gunmakers such as Beretta, Perazzi, Fabbri, Fratelli Piottti, Rizzini and Abbiatico & Salvinelli.

It is here, in this exquisite valley, that F.A.I.R. got its start in 1971. F.A.I.R. now operates a 43,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art operation that houses everything from its own R&D group to CAD-CAM simulations to software-driven lathes that meet space-age tolerances.

The finishing can often end up in the skilled hands of a craftsman descended from the Medieval arms makers of the region.

Legacy Sports turned to another pillar of Brescia for the new semi-automatics. These guns are made by F. Lli Pietta. The company touts its expertise in making historical weapons such as Western-style revolvers, muzzleloaders and period rifles. It had an existing relationship with Legacy Sports, which clearly proved Pietta had the chops to make a modern semi-automatic with old-world TLC.

Legacy Sports turned to Fausti Stefano for its new side-by-side. The Brescia manufacturer has been in business since 1948 and sells shotguns all over the world. Its ultra-modern plant allows the company to produce quality shotguns at affordable prices with hand finishing by local artisans.

Although the Veronas are brand new shotguns, Legacy Sports has found a way to successfully mine a vein of expertise that stretches back hundreds of years.

In the spirit of continuity, Legacy Sports recruited Verona’s original gunsmith. As luck would have it, he had recently moved to Carson City, Nevada – a stone’s throw from Legacy Sports’ Reno operation.

“He was the Maytag repairman,” McCormick joked. “He did all the warranty work and maybe he’d get a cracked stock once in a while. That was about it.”

Having shot all three of the new Veronas, we can only surmise that not much will change for their gunsmith.

It was too early for bird season, but we did manage to get the guns out for skeet, 5 stand and sporting clays and they all felt rock-solid.

The Verona 401, 405 and 406 Semi-Autos

Verona’s inertia-operated semi-autos are available in 12 and 20 gauge, with either wood or synthetic stocks. The wood models come with 3-inch chambers while the synthetic models are also available with or 3½ inch chambers for 12-gauge only.

VeronaHomePage
The Verona 401 semi-auto in three finishes.

The wood versions will be available in three receiver finishes: blued, nickel and grey. We shot one in grey that had the traditional green Verona oval rendered in blue, and it was a handsome combination evocative of one of the most elegant and contemporary looking receivers in the shotgun universe, the Blaser F3.

Features:

¨      Chrome-lined barrel internally choked for steel shot

¨      12-gauge barrel length of 28 inches; 20-gauge barrel length of 26 inches

¨      Brass sight on standard model; fiber optic on deluxe model

¨      Pivoted head bolt with integral double-charging lever and sleeve

¨      Oil-finished walnut stock and forend with checkering

¨      Black nylon recoil pad

¨      Patented locking forend

¨      4 + 1 magazine capacity

¨      Length of pull 14¾ inches

The MSRP for the 12 gauge and 20-gauge Verona 401 varies between $1,199 and $1,250 depending on finish.

The Verona 405 is basically the Verona 401 with a black synthetic stock and forend and a blued receiver. The MSRP on the Verona will be forthcoming.

The Verona 406 is the model that handles 12-gauge, 3½ inch magnums. It’s finished with a black synthetic stock and forend and a blued receiver and has an MSRP of $1,199.

The Verona 501 and 702 Series Over/Unders

Named after the original over/under, the new Verona 501 Series field gun is distinguished by its nickel receiver. Standard features include:

¨      Enhanced walnut stocks with Scottish net-type checkering and oil finish

¨      Select fire single trigger

¨      Automatic ejectors

¨      Bottom locking bolt system on double trough

¨      Double sculptured receiver head

¨      Boxlock action

¨      Monobloc barrel construction

¨      5 flush-mounted chokes (F, IM, M, IC and SK) and a choke key

¨      28-inch chromed barrels with the X-CONE System (lengthened forcing cones) to reduce felt recoil

¨      Partially vented rib

¨      Fiber-optic front bead

¨      Solid lateral ribs

¨      Steel actions with automatic safety

¨      Ventilated rubber recoil pad

¨      Length of pull 14¾ inches

The Verona 501 Series is available with 28-inch barrels in 12, 20, 28 gauge and .410 models – all with an MSRP of $1,670.

A Verona 501 Series Combo set in 20/28 gauge has an MSRP of $2,599.

Verona-O-U
The new Verona over/unders.

There is a higher grade Verona 702 Series, which is the one that we shot (more on that in a moment). It features more embellishment on the receiver, trigger guard and elsewhere on the gun. The Verona 702 Series has an MSRP of $1,780.

A great feature about both these guns is that they can handle 3-inch magnum loads, making them ideal for wingshooters with a flair for over/unders. The 12 gauge weighed in at seven pounds (with the smaller gauges getting progressively lighter), making it a nice compromise between basic heft for the recoil absorption of 3-inch magnums and easy lugability in the field.

The Verona 662 Side-by-Side

The 12-gauge version of Verona’s new 662 side-by-side upland shotgun packs the wallop of 3-inch magnums like its over/under brethren. That means, not only can you take this gun anywhere, but you’ll raise some eyebrows when you make shots that most would think impossible with a side-by-side that shooters assume is maxed out with 2¾ inch loads. In the vernacular of a muscle car, this baby is a sleeper.

Standard features of the Verona 662 side-by-side include:

¨      Boxlock compound-steel action

¨      Single trigger

¨      Color case-hardened receiver with fine laser engraving

¨      Reliable Anson-type forend mechanism

¨      5 flush-mounted chokes (F, IM, M, IC and SK) and a choke key

¨      28-inch barrels with concave rib (26-inch barrels on the 28 gauge)

¨      Oil-finished English-style walnut stocks and semi-beavertail forends, both checkered.

¨      Rubber recoil pad

¨      Weight of 6 pounds, 4 ounces

¨      Length of pull 14½ inches

The 12 gauge and 20 gauge models of the Verona 662 share an MSRP of $2,187. The 28-gauge model has an MSRP of $2,800.

VeronSxS
The Verona 662.

Shooting the New Veronas

We had the unique opportunity to evaluate each of the new Veronas for some hard-core shooting. Since there’s not much bird shooting in the middle of June, we instead took the shotguns out for several rounds of sporting clays, 5 stand and skeet.

We’ll get to the individual shotguns in a moment, but uniformly they shared a very solid feel. Nothing wobbled when you closed the over/under and side-by-side. The barrels met the frame with an authoritative thud.

On the semi-automatic, the forend tightened down firmly. The joints between the receiver, spacer and stock were also tight.

Overall, the wood-to-metal finish on the shotguns was very good.

Shooting Impressions of the Verona 401 Semi-Auto

When Verona departed from the gas-operated actions of the previous 401s, Legacy Sports decided to take on the inertia champs, Benelli and Franchi.

We loaded 1? ounce Estate shells into the chamber and once we started shooting our first impression was that the Verona 401 seemed a little quieter than the Benellis. For an inertia-operated shotgun with a conventional wood stock we were also surprised at the low recoil.

The Verona 401 was deadly accurate, the slim receiver giving you a clear runway view along the rib and beyond the fiber-optic sight straight at the target. We found that this played well into intuitive shooting in terms of easily following the target to the desired point of impact.

With a smooth recoil pad and 14¾ inches length of pull, the Verona 401 came up without a hitch.

However, the Verona 401 felt a little nose-heavy to us, but so many shooters prefer that dynamic to maintain their swing we can only chalk it up to our own little subjective quirk.

The scalloped checkering and forend shape contributed to a sold and controlled grip. Likewise, the pistol grip of the stock was the perfect diameter so that our middle finger and thumb could meet as we held the shotgun. It also placed the front joint of our trigger finger comfortably on the trigger. The trigger pull was short and crisp, we figured coming in at around four pounds. Basically, the ergonomics of the Verona 401 were excellent.

Speaking of ergonomics, our favorite feature was the placement of the breech bolt release button. Most semi-autos have it on the right hand side, under the ejection port. The placement of the button on the Verona 401 is on the left side. Initially, this struck us as odd until we discovered that your right forefinger naturally finds it. We liked that a lot.

Shooting Impressions of the Verona 501-702

The gun we received from Legacy Sports was the more decorative 702. It featured 80% coverage of the floral engraving with gold inlaid birds on both sides and the bottom of the receiver. The rounded half-sideplates and floral hinge pins created a classical fascia that complemented the Schnabel forend.

While the walnut was in keeping with a shotgun for this price range, ours had a rich, dark hue with a stratification of tan and chocolate grains. The oil-finished stock and forend were perfectly matched.

The shotgun’s center of gravity felt exactly where your left hand held the forend – directly ahead of the receiver. This was ideal for shooting low gun, since the weight in your left hand facilitated you drawing the gun straight up and out until the gun was properly mounted on your shoulder and face.

At the same time, the angle and diameter of the pistol grip helped prevent you from see-sawing the gun – meaning that you lift it by the stock and consequently drop the muzzle.

Ultimately, the gun came up every time consistently for a smooth shot and follow-through.

We found the auto-safety to be intrusive for clays shooting, but remember as a field gun it would be essential. The shotgun had a single selective trigger and automatic ejectors, which should really be expected for shotgun in this price range.

The gun shot flat and true with unremarkable recoil for our 1? ounce loads.

All we can say is that we wished we could’ve gotten this shotgun out in the field with a bunch of birds. It would’ve been a heck of a lot of fun to shoot.

Shooting Impressions of the Verona 662

We much prefer interchangeable chokes to double triggers in our side-by-sides and so we approached the Verona 662 already endeared to it. The semi-beavertail forend that helped prevent you from burning your hands was icing on the cake (and we think that deep down inside those guys who shoot vintage side-by-sides with those splinter forends that barbecue your fingers would really like to step forward and give us a big huzzah).

We keep hearing about effete Europeans who make these impossible wingshooting shots with their 28 gauge and feel compelled to admonish us Americans for overkill (as in big ammo, big cars and big food). For those of the European school of shooting we politely say, Go away. The Verona 662 is clearly a side-by-side for American sportsmen who relish overkill.

Despite its straight English stock and case-colored receiver with fine floral engraving, the Verona 662 loaded up with 3-inch shells is a shotgun that you want to use on big, stubborn birds. Pheasants come to mind, and if you’re a pigeon shooter with a penchant for side-by-sides you should buy the Verona 662 now.

We savored shooting the Verona 662 for the sheer, raw power it exuded. At the same time, the gun never ran away from you; the straight stock and broad forend worked together for an empowering and accurate shooting experience.

Our only gripe with the Verona 662 was the lack of a selective trigger. Like the Verona 702, it also had an auto-safety that proved inconvenient during clays shooting. But part of that problem was our own enthusiasm in really wanting to shoot the heck out of the Verona 662.

Wrap Up

With the Verona 401 coming in at about $400 under the Benelli Legacy and a similar price as the Franchi I-12 Upland Hunter, it merits serious consideration for wood-finished, inertia-driven semi-autos.

The Benelli Legacy has more engraving while the Franchi I-12 Upland Hunter has a look that we think is bit more stodgy. The Benelli and Franchi are certainly celebrated for their reliability, but Verona’s own track record as a manufacturer of shotguns that go the distance certainly speaks to it own quality.

When it comes to the Verona 501-702, the price, quality and dependability pretty much put the guns in a class of their own. But does that mean you should buy the Verona a 501-702 on price alone? Chances are you are familiar with the most popular new over/unders in the $2,000 - $3,000 category. We believe the Verona 501-702 stands up for its workhorse virtues and classical looks – plus it will handle 3-inch magnum shells. From our perspective, that makes for a compelling package.

The Verona 662 has also carved out its own niche in the under $3,000 side-by-side market. Obviously, the Verona 662 is not for the breeks set. But with its 3-inch-shell capability, straight stock, interchangeable chokes and single trigger it would be hard to find a side-by-side that delivers more pure fun.

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Useful resources:

Legacy Sports International/Verona Shotguns

Davidson’s Gallery of Guns

Shotgun Life Newsletters

Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letters are for you.

Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

Published in Guns
Monday, 22 June 2009 20:18

Love, Shotguns and DIVAS

This is the third installment of our occasional series on DIVA, Women Outdoors Worldwide.

While there are certainly plenty of women in the great state of Texas who own a gun, Cheryl Long is special among them. That’s because she’s the current president of the organization, DIVA Women Outdoors Worldwide.

DIVA is thoroughly dedicated to encouraging and mentoring women of all ages in the shooting sports.  For more than 10 years through successful clinics for women and youth across the USA, this unique organization has introduced more than 3,000 women to the shooting sports.

And so it only makes sense that a devoted gun enthusiast like Cheryl takes the helm of DIVA. It also makes sense that the group was formerly known as Texas Women’s Shooting Sports, since Cheryl and her husband, Denny, love to hunt quail, dove, duck and mule deer on their leased 12,000 acre spread in west Texas.

Cheryl came into the world of shotguns and hunting from a fairly unusual start.

“I sang with a band called Maya for 20 years in Oklahoma City,” she recalled.

She subsequently became acquainted with shooting when she moved from Oklahoma City to Texas 1992. She had moved to Texas because of the big “L,” love.

“I had fallen in love with this gentleman who was very big into hunting and who was just an overall shooting enthusiast,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know a thing about guns, and really, I was afraid of them.”

Still, she was swept off her feet and onto the alter.

As proof that love conquers all, despite her fear of guns, she stuck by her man even though there were loaded guns stashed all over their house. “They [guns] were there for home protection and the occasional coyote and skunk.”

Eventually, Cheryl was talked into her first shooting experience by her husband. He handed her a Smith & Wesson .357 pistol and told her to hit the target. Without having any ear protection, the boom of that first shot only served to frighten her all over again. But she didn’t give up.

The turning point for Cheryl was a Dallas Safari Club convention where she found an instructor who offered an intensive two-day course in shooting. Shortly afterward, she purchased her very own first gun, a Glock 17 9mm. This Glock took her on a journey from someone who was frightened of guns to where she reached the point that she could speed shoot from the holster and sometimes “beat the men,” she said.

It was during this time as a crackerjack pistol shot that Cheryl was introduced to shotguns.

There was a one-year anniversary soiree in 1998 of the Beretta Gallery in Dallas, and she attended the reception. She registered for the door prize and sure enough won a 20-gauge Beretta 390. She was elated…until she tried shooting the gun.

“I shot horribly,” she recalled. “I tried to get better, but couldn’t.”

It turned out that the main problems were eye dominance and gun fit. Her first instructor, Gaylen Capps, recognized that she was a right-handed shooter, but left-eye dominant. He  had mentioned the eye dominance issue and suggested using Chapstick on the left lens...but that was way too messy for Cheryl and she really didn’t understand the importance of seeing the targets with the right eye...the SHOOTING eye.

After learning this important piece of information, she got that Beretta 390 fitted to her and started using a patch on her left eye to shift the dominance to her right one. As usual, there was no stopping Cheryl after that.

She started taking lessons from the greats such as Andy Duffy and Dan Carlisle, and made it into B Class for sporting clays.

As Cheryl’s sporting clays career began its ascent, she had a terrible and unfortunate turn of events. Her beloved husband passed away in 2003. Now a woman shooting on her own, she decided to join the Dallas Gun Club to find other people to shoot with.

Fate would intervene…

In 2005, a mutual friend introduced her to Denny Long. Their friend told Cheryl, “You have to meet this guy. He’s single, he’s fun and he’s a great shot and I think you’ll be wonderful together.”

They went on their first date that Memorial Day weekend. “I thought he was OK,” Cheryl confided. “He didn’t have much to say and he didn’t call me, and I didn’t think much about it because he didn’t make much of an impression.”  That was about to change.

It was about three weeks later that Cheryl went with one of her girlfriends to Backwoods Gun Range (sadly now closed) north of Dallas to practice skeet for an upcoming league at Dallas Gun Club.

“There was Denny,” she said. “When my girlfriend and I were finished with practice and about to leave, he convinced us to get to get into his 1949 Willys Jeep named Nellybelle and join him for some sporting clays. We had the best time, we laughed, had a lot of fun. We’ve been inseparable since then. We’ve been married three years now.”

 

CLongINSIDE
Cheryl and Denny Long

For their honeymoon, they went to South Africa to hunt kudu, blue wildebeest and impala. Last month, she and Denny went to Argentina with DIVA founder, Judy Rhodes and a bunch of her closest friends in the Provence of Cordoba at an estancia operated by SYC Sporting Adventures.

“We hunt a lot and love it,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl has graduated up from her 20-gauge Beretta 390, which she still uses for birds, to a 12-gauge Beretta Urika 391 for all other shotgun sports. 

By her own admission, the Urika 391 is chock full of aftermarket bling including a Briley action closer button and forend cap (both in red), Briley titanium chokes and a dropped and a canted stock by Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks. Her initials are engraved on the receiver by a renown Italian engraver. And DIVA TEAM is proudly displayed on the barrel.

Now most of her life is tied up hunting with Denny and staying involved with the DIVA WOW.

“DIVA has done so much for me,” she explained. “I receive great satisfaction from what I’ve learned by sharing and passing that knowledge on to other women. It’s extremely empowering to women. I know, because shooting and hunting has empowered me…and I feel a sense of purpose. To see it take shape in front of you, and see someone else run with it is extremely rewarding.”

Deborah K. McKown is Editor of Shotgun Life. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To read Shotgun Life’s previous stories about the DIVAS, please visit:

Judy Rhodes Gets Women Out of the Mall and into the Hunt

The Secret Passion of Anginette Jorrey

Useful resources:

http://www.divawow.org

http://www.sycsporting.com/hunting-argentina/Home.aspx

http://www.berettausa.com

Shotgun Life Newsletters

Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letters are for you.

Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

Published in Women Shooters
Media Contact:
Ryan Holmes
Bernard + Associates
775-323-6828

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

SHOTGUN LIFE IS FIRST PUBLISHER TO COUPLE PREMIUM ONLINE MAGAZINE WITH AUTHORITATIVE FORUMS FOR GREATEST ADVERTISER EXPOSURE

Shotgun Life Donates Forums to the National Skeet Shooting Association and

National Sporting Clays Association

PIKESVILLE, Md. – June 16, 2009 – Shotgun Life (www.shotgunlife.com) expanded its online franchise with new, authoritative forums – giving advertisers the most powerful integrated program for reaching customers and prospects on the Internet.

The Shotgun Life forums are intended to satisfy the unmet needs of both shotgun owners seeking accurate information and industry participants looking for a quality venue to establish productive relationships directly with shotgun owners.

The forums are fully integrated into the Shotgun Life format, giving forum members a seamless transition to the online magazine, which covers the best in wing and clays shooting.

“All too often people in our industry believe that the Internet is exclusively about banner-ad clicks,” said Irwin Greenstein, publisher of Shotgun Life. “While that’s certainly an important part of the equation, where the Internet really shines is in establishing a two-way conversation with the shooting community – to prove that you are a trustworthy authority whose brand name merits serious consideration.”

The Shotgun Life forums are located at http://www.shotgunlife.com/forum and are available immediately. The forums can also be located by going to http://www.shotgunlife.com and clicking the Forum tab.

In addition to launching its new forums, Shotgun Life has recognized the enormous strides that the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) and National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) have made to the shotgun community by donating the software, hardware and administration necessary for these organizations to start and maintain their own forums for members.

“We appreciate the generosity of the Shotgun Life organization,” said Don Snyder, Executive Director of the NSSA-NSCA. “By working closely with Shotgun Life, we can help establish an online community for reliable and unbiased information about skeet, sporting clays and good sportsmanship among our members.”

The Shotgun Life forums include:

  • Shotguns – A general discussion
  • Vintage Shotguns – American, British and European
  • Clays Shooting
  • Upland Shooting
  • Ducking Shooting
  • Goose Shooting
  • Turkey Hunting
  • Gun Dogs
  • Conservation and Habitat
  • Women in the Shotgun Sports
  • Travel
  • Sporting Art
  • Politics

Advertisers interested in gaining a presence on the Shotgun Life forums should contact:

Jeff Thruston
Bernard + Associates
775-323-6828
jeff@This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Published in Press Releases
Media Contact: Sherry Kerr
Outdoor Media Resources
Phone number: 256-831-7877
Email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NEW ONLINE FORUM ENGAGES MEMBERS OF THE NSSA/NSCA IN GLOBAL CONVERSATION ABOUT SKEET, SPORTING CLAYS AND GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP

 

After More Than Two Years Offline, the NSSA/NSCA Continue Their Forums as Part of a Cooperative Agreement with Shotgun Life

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – June 16, 2009 – The joint organization of the National Skeet Shooting Association-National Sporting Clays Association (NSSA/NSCA) announced today new online forums for members with the goal of sharing accurate and unbiased information about their sports while stimulating camaraderie worldwide.

The new NSSA/NSCA forums arose from an agreement between the NSSA/NSCA and Shotgun Life (www.shotgunlife.com), the first online magazine dedicated to the best in wing and clays shooting. Under the arrangement, Shotgun Life has donated all the software, hardware and technical support to resume the organizations’ forums, which have been dormant for over two years, as part of the 10 shotgun forums launched today by the online magazine.

The forums are available by visiting www.shotgunlife.com and clicking on the Forum tab at the top of the page. NSSA/NSCA members should see specific instructions distributed by the organizations for registering in the Forums.

“With the next generation of shooters becoming much more active in skeet and sporting clays tournaments, it was time to once again bring a meaningful exchange of information to our members around the world,” said Don Snyder, Executive Director of the NSSA/NSCA. “Shotgun Life came to us with a generous proposal that helped us accelerate our goals of using the Internet to help unite our members in an online global community.”

“It’s an honor to be underwriting the NSSA/NSCA forums,” said Irwin Greenstein, Publisher of Shotgun Life. “As a free, online magazine our intent is to break down the barriers of entry to participating in the shotgun sports. Our support of the NSSA/NSCA forums is in complete alignment with the goals of these two tremendous organizations that have enriched the lives of so many shotgun owners.”

Members of the NSSA/NSCA will be able to access the forums at URL after they receive login information for their respective organizations. They can start participating in the forums immediately.

The National Skeet Shooting Association

Founded in 1928 and headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the National Skeet Shooting Association is a not-for-profit organization owned and operated by its members. With nearly 17,000 members, it is the largest organization in the world dedicated solely to the sport of skeet shooting and sporting clays shooting. Membership is represented by a Board of Directors and an Executive Committee which employs an Executive Director to manage NSSA/NSCA affairs.

The NSSA is dedicated to the development of the sport at all levels of participation and vows to create an atmosphere of healthy competition and meaningful fellowship within its membership. Shooters who want to compete can enter fun shoots and skeet shooting tournaments. The NSSA also offers the hunter a recreational target shooting sport that will strengthen hunting and gun safety skills and extend "hunting" seasons.

You can access the NSSA’s web site at www.mynssa.com.

The National Sporting Clays Association

Founded in March of 1989 by the National Skeet Shooting Association headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the National Sporting Clays Association is a not-for-profit organization owned and operated by its members. With more than 20,000 members, NSCA is America's official premier sporting clays association. Membership is represented by an Executive Council which employs a Director to manage NSCA affairs. An Advisory Council and State Delegates provide members with an additional source of input.

The NSCA is dedicated to the development of the sport at all levels of participation and vows to create an atmosphere of healthy competition and meaningful fellowship within its membership. Shooters who wish to compete can enter sporting clays tournaments and be competitive immediately. The NSCA also offers the hunter a recreational target shooting sport that will strengthen hunting and gun safety skills and extend "hunting" seasons.

You can access the NSCA’s web site at www.mynsca.com.

Shotgun Life

Launched in January 2009, Shotgun Life is the first online magazine dedicated to the best in wing and clays shooting. In addition to covering all the major clays sports and waterfowl and upland shooting, Shotgun Life showcases the finest shotguns in the world, women shooters and features extensive background information about the equipment and sports to help encourage new shooters to participate. Shotgun Life is available free of charge. Shotgun Life also distributes a free weekly e-letter with clays shooting tips from some of the best instructors in the world.

You can access Shotgun Life at www.shotgunlife.com.

Published in Press Releases
Tuesday, 09 June 2009 22:20

Nemacolin: The Crown Jewel of the Alleghanys

This is the final installment in our three-part series, The Triple Crown of Sporting Clays Resorts. In the first installment, Shotgun Life Editor, Deb McKown wrote about The Greenbrier. The second installment brought us to The Homestead. To wrap it up, Deb now writes about the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Published in Destinations

Argentina. I could not believe it. My husband was taking me on my first wing shooting adventure. Granted, at this time I could not shoot my way out of a cardboard box, but it meant four days of "freedom" from the kids and four days of quality time with my husband. The adventure was about to begin.

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
Tagged under

For most people, The Homestead resort conjures up visions of golf, tennis, horseback riding and a romantic evening of four-star cuisine.

Published in Destinations
Monday, 04 May 2009 06:59

Carving Out the Time

People often ask me how I find the time to shoot in the midst of a very hectic life raising three children, keeping up with the daily responsibilities of living on a farm, teaching and all the other domestic and civic duties we manage to get ourselves into. I'll tell you how, and more importantly why I make it a priority.

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 05:30

How I Shot With the Stars

Most people agree that baseball is the all-American sport. But after spending three days in San Antonio, Texas at the National Shooting Complex, I would argue that the sport which best captures the heart and soul of the American spirit is skeet.

Professional baseball has been battered by drug scandals, crass commercialism and outrageous salaries - giving a black eye to the American core values of fair play, self-determination and mutual respect.

By contrast, tournament skeet remains firmly in the stronghold of the shooter who competes for the love of their sport and a burning desire to win fair and square. While these birds certainly don't have feathers, the hunger is still there to feed that great American quality of redemption - that you can always pick yourself up by the bootstraps to make a comeback target by target. It's the grit of the individual and their gun forging their own destiny.

While professional baseball now finds itself pulsing through the digital infrastructure onto big-screen TVs and multi-media web sites, skeet holds fast to the ideals of craftsmanship in the hand-finished shotguns that still produce a streak of 500 or more consecutive broken targets.

Although the predecessor to the baseball bat may have helped primitive man fend off sabre-tooth tigers, it is the gun that won the American West - a part of the country I found myself in for three days in March.

As an avid recreational clays shooter, I became immersed in tournament skeet through a remarkable program developed by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) - the sport's nonprofit governing body.

The NSSA and its sister group, the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), in conjunction with the state-level associations, keep track of just about every major skeet and sporting clays tournament in the U.S. The NSSA-NSCA is the repository for all registered scores shot in both large and small clubs throughout the country and in the world.

NSSA shooters often enter the realm of tournament skeet through grass roots organizations such as the 4H, which actively promotes skeet competition; through various instructors who want to see a promising student take their skills to the next level; or through local clubs where the NSSA sanctions competitive shoots.

But NSSA member, Stuart Fairbank, saw another way of opening the door of tournament skeet to recreational shooters. It's called Shoot with the Stars, and it has been held at the annual Toni Rogers Spring Extravaganza, one of the earlier Top 10 shoots in the country that shooters use to open the tournament skeet season for three years. This year it took place March 27-29 at the NSSA-NSCA National Shooting Complex.

Although Stuart says the concept for this type of program had been around for the past 20 years, it was in 2007 that he teamed up with NSSA Secretary/Treasurer, Bob DeFrancesco, to really make it happen.

As Stuart explained it to me in the club house "There were always people who felt that the shooting games were exclusionary. They belong to a home club where they feel comfortable, but in terms of tournament shooting they have a hard time getting started. It can be confusing at first especially when you travel away from home and don't know anybody at the shoot. And there's the apprehension associated with meeting, and being squaded with, and competing against the big shooters. We want to make it as easy as possible for the new folks to experience a first-class tournament, meet and shoot with some of the best in the game, and do it all on manageable budget."

For example, for someone like me who's managed to shoot his fair share of 25 straight in skeet, it would be an absolutely intimidating proposition to go up against the likes of some of this year's stars...

  • Sam Armstrong, whose 12-gauge average in 2008 hit 0.9920 (meaning that he broke slightly more than 99 out of 100 targets in each competition).
  • Dave Starrett, whose 12-gague average in 2008 was 0.9963
  • Billy Williams, who had a 2008 12-gauge average of 0.9907
  • Tami Meyers, with a 12-gauge average of 0.9826 in 2008
  • Bob DeFrancesco who racked up a 20-gauge average of 0.9958


Of course registered tournaments do not directly pit the new shooter against these stars, or the other stars who participated in the program including John Shima, Stuart Fairbank and John Herkowitz. A classification system that ranges from top-ranked AAA to E shooters ensures competitive equilibrium. I had been ranked D, given that I had registered for a single tournament skeet shoot in 2007.

Turns out, I was exactly the kind of shooter that Stuart wanted to attract through Shoot with the Stars.

Stuart believed that the sport needed to create "ambassadors," or recreational skeet shooters who were given the opportunity to mingle with the stars, and then go home and spread the good word.

So in 2007, Stuart and Bob posted the first Shoot with the Stars call on the Internet, attracting three shooters. Over time, a selection process was put in place. The names of up to 27 shooters would be drawn - three from each of the organization's nine regional zones.

This year there were 15 recipients including myself, since I was the only one to apply from Zone 2.

The 2009 sponsors were Ms. Toni Ann Rogers (Title Sponsor), Federal Ammunition, Browning, Rio Ammunition, Kolar Arms, Remington Arms (.410 bore), Winchester Ammunition (28 gauge), While Flyer targets, leathersmith Al Ange and the NSSA as sponsors.

With sponsors and organization in place, the 2009 Shoot with the Stars gave us newcomers 100 shells in each gauge (12, 20, 28 and .410 bore) for use in the competitions, plus they waived our entry fees in each event of $50 and the nominal target fees that came to $6 per day. The Shoot with the Stars program also provided the experience of a lifetime (for skeet shooters this is tantamount to playing golf with Tiger Woods).

My Shoot with the Stars adventure started when I landed at San Antonio International Airport at about noon on March 26th. After renting a car, I headed directly to Blaser USA in San Antonio, the U.S. arm of the German manufacturer that makes the marvelous F3 shotgun.

Story3insideF3
The Blaser F3 American Skeet Combo


Having shot an F3 before, I knew it would be the gun to shoot. Here's why...

  • The F3's 100% mechanical, single-selective trigger functions at a light 3.3-lbs trigger pull. The hammers of the F3 move in a linear plane - straight forwards and then backwards when the gun is re-cocked. Typically, most hammers pivot around the pin in a lower efficiency arc. This design gives the gun a crisp, confident feel every time you pull the trigger.
  • You can adjust the trigger blade length for a precise fit.
  • The gun's Inertial Block System prevents double, or fan, firing. It's coupled with a mechanical trigger group that doesn't rely on recoil to set the second shot. If you get lucky and hit your first shot with a poofer, the next shot will fire regardless.
  • The F3's receiver measures a sleek 2.415 inches high at its tallest point, making it one of the lowest-profile shotguns on the planet. Blaser managed this engineering feat by streamlining the conventional lock. The gun's low-profile receiver, and its low axis, help reduce felt recoil by directing the shock wave through the most dense part of the stock. This would be important in shooting 200 competitive rounds per day, plus several rounds of practice.
  • The balancer in the stock is a cylindrical weight on a long threaded screw. You can move the weight up or down to find your perfect balance. The additional weight in the stock also helps absorb recoil.
  • With Blaser's Ejection-Ball-System, the ejector springs are cocked automatically when the shot is fired and the gun is opened. This feature virtually eliminates hulls sticking when you crack open the gun.
  • The grip has a substantial palm swell.
  • At 8 lbs, 7 oz, the gun has a near perfect weight for recreational skeet shooters (tournament skeet shooters are known to add weight that could bring their guns to over 9 lbs for controlled swing momentum).


Norbert Haussmann, CEO of Blaser USA, had arranged for me to pick up the perfect 12-gauge model for Shoot with the Stars. It had a Monte Carlo stock complemented by an adjustable comb. The barrels were 30 inches in length. The lid of the hard case held three sets of Briley Revolution tubes in 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore. Along with a full set of chokes, Blaser packages this F3 as the American Skeet Combo. And I have to say, it is really impressive.

After a Blaser tech tweaked the comb for me, the gun came up just right. If ever I were going to shoot a great game of skeet, this F3 would be the shotgun to make it happen.

Mother Nature, however, had other things in store.

Before leaving for San Antonio, I had checked the weather. It was supposed to be sunny, mild and in the mid-80s. It didn't exactly turn out that way.

The next morning saw prevailing winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. For a flying disc such as a skeet target, winds that high create crazy turbulence.

Story3INSIDEflag
Winds hit 40 mph


Air density, drag coefficient, angle of attack - everything is up for grabs as the wind blew across the open, flat terrain of the National Shooting Center.

If the target is going with the wind, it can race out of the trap house with an afterburner burst, and then get driven into the ground even before it reaches the opposite house.

If the target is going into the wind, it can simply rise and stall - one of the worst things that can happen to a shooter who uses momentum to swing through for the target break.

Then there's the ongoing debate as to whether or not it's best to break a target in the wind sooner or later. Some experts believe that you should break the target as soon as possible before the wind knocks it off the line of trajectory. Others, meanwhile, say you should wait until the target adjusts to the wind before pulling the trigger.

All I can say is that conditions were not great to shoot the first event of the tournament, which was doubles (when the high-house and low-house targets are thrown simultaneously).

Of the 45 skeet fields at the National Shooting Complex, I was slotted to shoot on number 9. My squad star would be perennial All American Sam Armstrong from Maryland. At least it was a 12-gauge event (imagine if it was .410).

Introductions and hand shakes all around among the five squad members and we were ready to shoot. During the 100-round event, I was surprised at the ongoing chatter of encouragement. If someone made a great shot, the others shooters in the squad let him know about it. When you stepped up to the station, you were given a pep talk - "You can do it...come on, get in the groove, crush 'em now..."

Turns out it was the unspoken code among tournament skeet shooters. You helped your competitor achieve their fullest potential in the preliminaries and then faced him head on in the shoot-offs. This friendly banter contributed to a real sense of family among the shooters - even for a newcomer like me.

For Sam and the other highly ranked shots, doubles took on a beautiful cadence: BANG...1 Mississippi...BANG. It was the veritable heartbeat of doubles. Consistently, they knew the rhythm of the game and mastered it.

Story3Home
Irwin Greenstein with Sam Armstrong


My final score was 57. Not great. It turns out, I made a couple of mistakes when it came to shooting in strong winds, which were explained to me over dinner that night with Sam and his friends at a Saltgrass Steakhouse.

First, by following the school of thought that says you break the targets close to the house in the wind, I held the Blaser further back than usual. The gun swung so beautifully, I figured it would be no problem nailing that target right out of the house before the wind could grab it.

I found out afterwards that you do just the opposite when shooting in the wind. You hold further toward the center stake. By reducing your gun swing, you stand a better of chance of breaking the target as it slows down, as opposed to attempting to shoot it when it comes accelerating out of the house.

Another mistake I made was shooting the target when it stalled in the wind. For example, if I were shooting the low 1, and it stalled right in front of me, I ended up missing the target. I was wondering how was that was possible? After all, the target was stopped dead; it was close enough to be hanging right off the brim of the cap. How the heck could I possibly miss that target?

The answer was simple: I had unconsciously lifted my face off the stock to look at the unusually high targets. Break that seal between your cheek and the stock and you'll miss the target every time - even if the bird is dangling three feet in front of you.

My third mistake was trying to measure the target lead in the wind. If you look for the lead, you invariably take your eyes off the target - or worse end up glancing at the front bead. Either way, the target will get away from you.

OK, lessons learned. But would they stick? Let's see how I would shoot the next day.

Right after the alarm clock went off, I checked the weather on my iPhone. Wind was blowing at 15 mph, with gusts reaching 23 mph. Certainly challenging, but not as daunting as the day before.

When I arrived at the National Shooting Complex that morning, one word dominated the communal conversation: wind. One of the stars confided later that he had not missed a single 12-gauge target since August 2006 - until doubles the day before when he shot a 98.

Other top shooters said "the wind got to me." What did they mean by that? A strong, relentless wind can make you tense your muscles, slowing you down. Likewise, a sense of exhaustion sets in, both physically and mentally. Unlike them, I never expected to shoot 100 straight, often the threshold for entering the shoot-offs. While a 97 or a 98 would be great for me, it was unacceptable in the rarefied ranks of AAA skeet champs.

I had two events scheduled for that Saturday. I would shoot 12 gauge at 10:30 and 28 gauge at 3:00. I was optimistic. At least 12 gauge gave me the firepower for a wider margin of error in the wind. When it came to 28 gauge, I'd been shooting it for the past year at my local club. I think it's the perfect gauge for skeet, and I had recently nailed my first 25 straight in 28 gauge.

Stuart Fairbank, a multiple World Champion from Connecticut, turned out to be the star of our 12-gauge squad. An affable guy, he really kept up the chatter - giving the squad a positive vibe through all 100 rounds. My final tally for the event was 81. I have to give ample credit to the Blaser for what I thought was a good score. It performed flawlessly, giving me great site pictures, a controlled swing and a comfortable shooting experience.

Story3INSIDEstuart
Stuart Fairbank with Irwin Greenstein

With a few hours remaining until the 28-gauge event, I paid a visit to the NSSA-NSCA Museum on the grounds. The museum included a history of skeet with wonderful artifacts. There were Hall of Fame Photos for both skeet and sporting clays and some entertaining videos to watch.

After the Museum, I walked across to the concession and ordered a tasty pulled-pork sandwich. I took the sandwich onto the patio and watched the other events as I ate.

At about 1:30, I installed the 28-gauge tubes from the trunk of my rental car. They went in like butter. After I shot two practice rounds, I knew 28-gauge would be intimidating.

Everyone says that regardless of the gauge, you always shoot the target the same way. Keep your hold points and break points consistent, whether it's 12 gauge or .410. However, here's the rub: A standard 12-gauge 1-1/8 oz shell with #9 shot holds about 658 pellets. A standard ¾ oz, 28-gauge shell with #9 shot has about 439 pellets - or nearly 50% fewer pellets. For the highly ranked shooters, the lower pellet count wouldn't make that much of a difference. But I needed all the help I could get as the sundowner wind started to kick up, fulfilling the prediction of 23-mph gusts. In the end, I shot a 67.

My 28-gauge star was multiple World Championship winner Billy Williams from Montana, the only one of two shooters to score perfect 100's in doubles the day before. Throughout the event, Billy was a master of encouragement, leading the squad in a chorus of positive banter. Even with my less-than-stellar 67, it was a joy to shoot in that squad. By now, I was starting to feel like an NSSA son-in-law.

Story3INSIDEwilliams
Billy Williams with Irwin Greenstein


That night, the Party on the Hill was held in the massive Beretta Pavilion. A Mariachi band entertained as free Mexican food, cocktails and beer from a keg were served. From this vantage point, you could look down across the great expanse of the National Shooting Complex and the Hill Country Beyond. It was a clays shooting paradise.

Sunday morning saw me slotted for two events. At noon, I would shoot 20 gauge with star, Bob DeFrancesco, NSSA Secretary/Treasurer and many time All American from Connecticut. My .410 event would take place at 4:30 with star, Dave Starrett, another multiple World Champion winner from Ohio. The weather was a hold-over from the day before: 14-mph winds, gusting to 25 mph. In the 20-gauge event, I scored a respectable 75. My score for .410 score came in at 63.

What did I walk away with from my Shoot with the Stars experience?

For one thing, I learned that Stuart was absolutely right about the experts who volunteered as this year's stars. Every one of them was approachable, supportive and basically just a really nice person. Second, it rekindled my desire to shoot registered skeet at my local club. I discovered that the competition simply makes you shoot better. You keep a razor-sharp focus on the targets, you pay more attention to foot placement at each station and you shot the birds more aggressively - breaking them sooner. Finally, I learned valuable skills that I could apply just when I'm hanging out and shooting skeet with friends.

Tournament skeet is not for every shooter. But sometimes you just don't know until you give it a try. Based on my experience, I would urge any skeet shooter to give tournament shooting a test drive. Join the NSSA and find a club near you that holds registered shoots.

In the end, I had only one regret about my trip to San Antonio: it was having to return the Blaser F3. That shotgun sure was a keeper.

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your letters and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Helpful resources:

http://www.mynssa.com

http://www.blaser-usa.com/

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns





I will never forget the first time I saw one of my best friends take a shooting lesson...

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
Monday, 06 April 2009 07:40

The Triple Crown of Sporting Clays Resorts

Part 1: The Greenbrier

You know a road trip is going be great when, on the first leg of it, Johnny Cash comes on the radio and sings "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

Your SUV is packed with sporting clays guns, ammo and shooting gear and Cash's renegade ballad sends a shiver down your spine. You wonder, Does it really get any better than this?

For us, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Published in Destinations
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 02:49

Wingshooting In Uruguay With Eduardo Gonzales

Although my first shooting trip to South America took place in 1972 I didn't get to shoot in Uruguay until 1997. In retrospect I hate that I missed shooting in that country and enjoying those wonderful people for so many decades. This had been a winter trip, so the duck and partridge seasons were in full swing. Of course, it was summer back here in the USA.

Published in Wingshooting
Saturday, 21 February 2009 14:34

Jim and Bugsy: Against All Odds

In a riverfront honky-tonk deep in the South, the sliding doors open to the verandah, women sat on bar stools wistfully blowing cigarette smoke at the stars.

It was the kind of forlorn place where a man could bring his bird dog and let it curl up on the floor between the stools, and you could never tell which one stunk worse - the man or the dog.

Time was of no consequence in this place, here on the river, in the darkness, where the hours and minutes were marked by the bug zappers incinerating their random catch. Yes, the Universe was clearly at work, here, now, in this honky-tonk where men and women wandered in drawn by the Big Mystery.

I never did get the name of that bar, but there's one thing I'll always remember about that place. It was where I first met Jim and Bugsy.

Their table was heaped with the remnants of peel-and-eat shrimp and empty beer bottles. I'd accidentally bumped into a corner of the table on the way to the john, a bit sodden myself, when I whirled around to see Bugsy splendid in his Vintager apparel and Jim in a shooting vest and baseball cap.

They looked up at me - more startled than menacing. Both sported long, thick cigars, and I remembered what Freud once said.

Taking in the scene I thought "these men are my kind of men." So I decided to hold it in and rather than hit the john, and asked, "Can you buy you gents a beer for the inconvenience?"

Bugsy broke out laughing and turned to Jim: "Can you believe this guy?"

Jim simply nodded, world weary and wise.

"Of course you can buy us a beer," Bugsy shouted.

"Hefeweizen with a wedge of lemon?"

"Sure, why the hell not?" Bugsy shouted.

Jim simply waved his hand, as though to say, que sera, sera.

"Miss, oh, miss," I called to the barmaid. "Three Hefeweizen with a wedge of fresh lemon, if you please."

She was young and lithe with a tank tap and no bra and she leaned over into the ice box, drawing the attention of the great rough slab of tramp-steamer maleness, each of them shanghaied to this forsaken place, here on the river, and she put three long-necked Snake Venom Ales on the bar in front of me.

"We're outta lemon wedges, handsome" she said. "Start a tab for you and your pals?"

"That would be excellent," I said. "By the way, do you have any coasters?"

She turned away, and resumed her conversation with the burly men at the end of the bar.

"Hey, you gonna eyeball those beers all night or bring 'em over here?" Bugsy said.

"Sorry about the coasters," I said sitting down. "Fielding-Clapp, Cletus."

"Bugsy."

"Jim."

Bugsy had a mischievous glint in his eyes, his face part pugilist, part English professor. Jim wore a scruffy beard, his dark penetrating orbs awash in a secret sea of resignation whose powerful tides shifted with the whims of Lady Luck. I couldn't help but notice he wore an orthopedic shoe with a platform sole; one leg was longer than the other.

Their cigar smoke enshrouded us in a place within a place, here on the lazy river. The bar opened directly on to the water, giving the impression that we were on a slow boat to the end of the world.

"Shrimp?" Bugsy asked, pushing the plastic basket toward me.

"That's extremely generous," I said, "but I have a shellfish allergy."

"No worries," Jim said. "I always carry antihistamines."

I put forth a polite smile. "So I see you chaps are into shotguns."

Bugsy broke out laughing. "Hey, this guy's a regular Sherlock Holmes," he said to Jim."

"Don't start," Jim said.

"Actually, I write for Shotgun Life."

"I love it," Bugsy shouted. "Man, we've got something for you to write about."

"Well, fire away."

"That's a challenge we'll gladly accept," Bugsy said. "Go ahead, Jim-bo, you go first."

"I think I will."

It turned out, that Jim was a dentist, originally from Long Island. He ended up down South to attend dental school in Charleston, South Carolina. And that's when he started getting into shooting -- at the end of dental school and his first residency.

He got invited on his first dove shoot, borrowing a neighbors bolt-action 16 gauge. It was old and weird. "I was hooked. I had a knack for it, and killed my limit rather quickly," Jim recalled.

Well, by now Jim is married with three children and a successful dental practice.

Jim had also turned into a dove-hunting addict; and after doves he got hooked on quail. When he couldn't hunt birds, he started to shoot skeet. If it flied, it died, whether it sported feathers or fluorescent orange, it was going down. And as he got deeper and deeper into the shotgun sports, he joined a shooting club in Charleston, which was where he met Bugsy.

After skeet, Jim and Bugsy discovered sporting clays. They started to shoot competitively. Every weekend, Jim was out shooting - and it didn't matter what the heck it was...doves, quail, skeet, sporting clays...

Jim was telling all of this to me, until he paused for a moment of deep reflection., where he gazed into his fate like a warrior about to face the battle of his life... "Then I got bit by the tick," he said.

Bugsy nodded to me, puffing on his cigar.

"It's back in '94," Jim said. "I was on a dove hunt in Somerville, South Carolina. I got a tick bite without even noticing it - until the rash. Things started falling apart...neurological problems...my balance gave way and I started having pains and troubles with my legs.

"For almost two years, no one could diagnose it as Lyme's disease. I went to urologists, neurologists and internists. People weren't aware of Lyme's disease at this point -- and they never tested him for it. Mostly I was tested for MS, and it always came back negative.

"You see, Cletus, the doctors didn't really believe that Lyme's disease made its way all the way down south. You know, it was first detected in Lyme Connecticut.

"In the meantime my situation is deteriorating. Well, I finally got lucky. My sister and brother-in-law are physicians, and when they finally identified the problem, they put me on antibiotics immediately. And they also hooked me up with the head of infectious disease in Columbia, in South Carolina. My sister pulled strings."

Jim pushed out his chair. He showed me his orthopedic shoe. "That's what Lyme's Disease will do to you. You tell your readers, first to spray before they go out to hunt, and if they're bitten, they should run, not walk, to get treated."

"Jim, you gotta face it, you've always been jinxed," Bugsy said. "Falling on those fire ants...that woman who got sick on the plane next to you when we flew to Argentina..."

"Well, I do live under a cloud," Jim told me. "But I've never been..." He gave Bugsy a meaningful glance that only men who've seen it can know how meaningful it really is.

Bugsy nodded. He took a long, enjoyable puff on his cigar. "Heck, Cletus, what I've been through, that's just one more good story to tell."

And he proceeded to tell it with a flourish...

His introduction to the shotgun sports was more sordid than Jim's. At about 14, his parents introduced him to shooting in Savannah at the Forest City Gun Club in Savannah. They took him there because it was a private club and they could drink on Sundays.

As the years passed, he never lost of his love of shooting. He started a home-building company in Columbia, South Carolina called Colony Builders.

"That was 25 years ago when I started at Colony," he said wistfully, puffing on his cigar.

Well, in the great tradition of the South, Bugsy introduced his son, Bugsy II, to hunting. In 1998, the father took his son for his first shooting trip outside of the U.S., to Mexico, in John Wayne territory: Rio Bravo.

To minimize any dangers, Bugsy decided to stay in Texas. From their base in McAllen, Bugsy and Bugsy II would cross the Pharr Bridge and make day hunts South of the Border. Bugsy knew his outfitter well and they always adhered to the same routine. Pick-up at around noon, shoot until 6:00 or 7:00 on the preserve, and then to the world-famous La Cucaracha in Reynosa for dinner.

It was the kind of routine that men followed through the ages - for time immemorial -until such said day, when out of the blue, it happened...

"The horror," he said, gazing into the darkness, beyond the slow river.

"Well...," Jim said.

Bugsy, never one to lose his composure while telling a good story, sucked it up and resumed his compelling narrative.

"We were hunting some five miles from Rio Bravo when a storm came up," he recalled. "There had been a misty rain, the kind of rain that chills men to the bones and makes you want to brew up a strong cup of Earl Grey tea.

"So we get there, three vehicles full of hunters. It clears up and the rain quits. The day before it was all dry so you could drive to the spot but now it was all gumbo and you had to walk. We walk into the field - my son and myself and the two bird boys, and we're out in the field, it begins to rain again. I don't mind the rain but I don't like the lightning. You know what I mean, Cletus?"

I nodded, a somber nod, reserved for men of few words, like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

But off in the distance, lightning had hit an electrical transformer - causing a loud explosion. "By my count, 1, 2, 3, I figured it was about 10 miles away," Bugsy said.

Bugsy and Bugsy II decided to take shelter under a nearby mesquite tree. What they didn't know, unfortunately, was that it was the devil mesquite tree.

Yes, of all the mesquite trees in all of Mexico, they unbeknownst to them stood under the mesquite tree that went by the name of El Diablo. But before any of the outfitters could warn the two men, Bugsy II had asked his father "What are the chances of getting hit by lightning here?"

Suddenly, it came up out of the ground and hit Bugsy, lifted him off the ground like El Diablo itself, and threw him down with a body slam that would've made Hulk Hogan proud. A fireball ran down the outside of the gun and there was a huge explosion.

"I'm going to tell you something, Cletus, that was my moment of truth. Because if that bolt of lighting had gone inside the gun, well, just let me say that I had three shells in that guy and it sure as hell would've gone off and killed both me and my son," Bugsy said. "Yes, it would've...got us both."

There was a silent aftermath, the kind of long silence that makes men wonder, in the solitude of the vast nothingness where men have dwelled among other men in a silence of their own, wonder to themselves as they barely move their lips "It sure is mighty quiet - too quiet."

At first, Bugsy II thought his father had fired the gun.

Bugsy remembered what followed as clear as if he were laying in that field now.

"In my calmest voice, I said 'I've been hit by lighting, I'm hurt and you need to go get help.'"

You can imagine the fortitude of this man amongst men.

From the waist down he could feel nothing whatsoever. There was a tremendous pain in his left arm, so that he actually thought it had been knocked off and sent flying clear across the field.

There was blood, plenty of it coming from somewhere and he truly believed that his arm had been knocked off and sent flying across the field, where now the vultures had gathered. And they weren't ordinary vultures. They were the vultures known as El Diablo.

"I pulled on my arm to see if it was attached -- so I realized I didn't need a tourniquet. There was no wound either," he described with the most masculine fortitude I'd ever heard.

As fate would have it, the wound was on his hand and it came from falling on broken glass - also known as the tears of El Diablo.

"My son runs off, through the gumbo, to get some help, and I'm on the ground, can move a thing from the waist down, and there are the bird boys, speaking Spanish to me," Bugsy recalled. "Speaking Spanish."

"Yes, Spanish is a very manly language," I said.

Bugsy and Jim gave me a solemn nod.

"It took them about 40 minutes to get back though the gumbo, to find the guide on the other side of the field, and explain what happened and get them back to me," Bugsy said. "I'd been hunting with him for about eight years and when he saw me laying there and he said, 'Bugsy what have you done now?'"

Bugsy insisted they take him to the hospital on the other side of the border. It was the hospital known among the muscular men in this part of the world for its cherry Jell-O with fruit cocktail in it.

They got Bugsy to his feet - a brotherhood of hunters that has rung true and square through the millennium, and got him into Rio Bravo where they got a cab back to Texas. It was now about 7:00 PM, on a Saturday night, in the emergency room of a border-town hospital.

And he waited.

"By 10:00, they were bringing in the fighting victims, the knife fights, the fights of honor fought by men against men in parking lots with no name," Bugsy said.

By time the doctors got around to Bugsy, his blood pressure was 200 over 150 (normal is about 110 over 70). The doctors gave him several doses of medicine to lower his blood pressure, sewed up his hand and kept him on a heart monitor over night.

The next morning, the doctor comes in and says to me "You were really lucky."

"Let's see if I understand, doc. I'm in a field with 15 guys, I get hit by lightning, and you call that lucky. I think I'd like a second opinion. The doctor said 'that's not what I meant' and I said I know what you meant."

"Yes, now I know what you mean," I said. "Yes, yes, yes."

Jim was puffing on his cigar through Bugsy's tale of his travails. "Hey, Cletus, let me ask you something."

"Sure, Jim."

"Want to go shooting with Bugsy and me tomorrow?"

Cletus Fielding Clapp is an official correspondent for Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Tagged under
Monday, 16 February 2009 22:07

Meet the New Ladies Shooting Syndicate

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A venue for traditional wingshooting will soon open, tailored specifically for women - and it's about time.

Called the Ladies Shooting Syndicate, it's the brainchild of Blixt & Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Ladies Shooting Syndicate is by membership only. It organizes splendid shooting trips to luxurious destinations for like-minded women. In effect, Blixt & Co. has transported the Golden Age of Shooting into the 20th century for women with adventurous sensibilities.

Published in Women Shooters
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 07:04

My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley


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My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley

Written by Rick Robinson

Author, part-time fisherman and lousy shot

The picture which the folks at Shotgun Life have used to introduce me to you ought to tell you something.  All the people profiled in this fine publication are pictured holding their favorite shotguns.  My profile picture has me holding up a beautiful lake trout which I caught on the Niagara River cutting the border between New York and Canada.

What that has to do with clay shooting is what my story is all about.

Fishing (or at the least brackish lake water associated with it) is in my family's blood.  My dad had hunted when he was a young man, but by the time I was born he was afflicted with horrible arthritis.  So, instead of hunting, he taught me how to shore fish at a young age.  On my mom's side, I had an uncle for which fishing was his life.  Just to be able to fish on a daily basis, he spent his twilight living with a Seminole Indian tribe in the Everglades.

So, fishing is one of my sports of preference.  Although, the way I fish, calling it a sport is an insult to sportsmen everywhere.  I spend more time choosing my cigar for the day than I do choosing my lures.  Quite honestly, it's the quiet and solitude which I enjoy about fishing. Catching a fish is a side benefit.

One of my regular fishing companions, Lytle Thomas, mistook my love of fishing for being an all inclusive outdoor sportsman.  Lytle spends his weekends hunting things with and without a pulse.

"I'm running a charity sporting clays shoot next week at Elk Creek," Lytle said excitedly to me one day.  "I signed you up to shoot in my fivesome."

"I haven't shot since elementary school," I replied, hoping that would end the conversation.

"Yeah, I know," he persisted.  "You told me about it.  Remember?  You won a shotgun for breaking clay pigeons.  It's like riding a bike.  You'll be fine."

Lytle was only half right.  My bragging was catching up with me.  My dad had taken me to a youth shooter's safety clinic when I was a kid.  After a lecture from a local 4-H volunteer on safety (don't ever point a gun at anyone except your calculus teacher), everyone got a turn at the range.  Clays were going to be thrown out for us to shoot.  The prize for the most clays hit, winner take all, was the shotgun we were using.  I missed the first one and then hit all that were served up.  My dad was proud (although I do remember overhearing him explain to my mom that I had my eyes closed on each shot).

Dad had visions of some kid in my class with buckshot marks on his face from me trying to shoot rats along the river banks and convinced me to trade the shot gun to a neighbor for a baseball bat and glove or something.  Dad was a smart man.

"Anyway, it's a celebrity shoot," Lytle snapped me back to reality. "Our celebrity is George Quigley."

I gulped.  I knew just enough about clays to understand that George Quigley was an Olympic shooter.  But the thought of spending an afternoon with any athlete who is the best in his sport intrigued me.  I accepted the invitation.

"Great," Lytle exclaimed and told me the real reason for the invite.  "My boss is also in our group and he sucks.  I put you on my team so that he'll have someone to beat."

George Quigley is a legend around my community.  He is one of the best known ambassadors of shooting in the world.  He and his dad are both nationally ranked.  George, Jr. was on the United States Olympic Skeet team which finished 6th in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.  He won a gold medal at the 1994 World championships in Cairo.

On the day of the celebrity sporting clays event, I showed up at Elk Creek Hunt Club in Owen County, Kentucky - the home of this year's US Open.  Lytle had loaned me a 12 gauge Beretta 682 Gold E to use for the day.  In the parking lot he told me that it was bored and ported to reduce recoil and declared that I was going to use 1 ounce loads of number 8 shot rather than the standard 1 and 1/8th ounce loads.

I pursed my lips and nodded a knowledgeable nod.  I had no earthly idea what he was talking about. I took the gun anyway.

After a quick refresher on gun safety in the pro shop where we watched a Dick Cheney speech, I headed to the course.

I looked for Quigley, but didn't have to really search the crowd.  At 6'5" and around 250 lbs. he stood out.  And, he was the only guy at the practice range who was actually shooting.  Everyone else was just standing around watching him.  "Pull," he'd shout and two clays would fly out.  He'd shoot twice and both clays would explode.  "Dead Pair," he'd say as the crowd applauded.

I decided to wait to introduce myself.

I showed up at our first station. All the men in my group (including Lytle's boss) were dressed in gear appropriate for a shooting event - ammo vest, shirts with padded shoulders, and orange hats.  Suddenly my ensemble of a Bass Pro Shop baseball cap and "Fishermen do it With a Lure" tee-shirt didn't seem like such a good choice.  These guys were serious.

I retreated to what I normally do when I'm intimidated - I became a smartass.

"This clay pigeon thing sounds like fun," I said approaching the Olympian Quigley with my hand extended.  "I hear they are good eatin' when grilled."

Lytle shot me a WTF look.

Quigley just stared at me.  "Oh God, he's pissed," I though to myself.  "I've just insulted the king and his own sport.  This is not a good start to the day."

Then, Quigley smiled a rather sly grin.  "They're a lot more tender if you boil them first."

He was as nice of a guy as everyone had said.

I stepped onto the shooting platform, took my first two shots and missed both targets.

Quigley stood behind me shaking his head.  He gave a quick beginners lesson on how to balance my feet and gave me a better way to position my shotgun on my shoulder.

"And your eyes," he said.

"Yeah?" I responded.

"Try opening them."

What the hell?  It had worked the last time.

As I proceeded to each successive station, my shots inched closer and closer to a target.  Although I have to admit, I didn't particularly care if I ever hit a clay.   Learning to shoot was one thing.  Learning to shoot under the tutelage of George Quigley was quite another.  I was watching one of the best and from a very close range.

What was remarkable about George Quigley was the zen-like manner in which he zeroed in on his intended targets.  I make jokes about me shooting with my eyes closed, but George's approach to shooting was just that.  He didn't shoot with his eyes.  He shot with feeling.  He and the gun were one unit.  He didn't need his eyes.  He shot by pure instinct.

George Quigley hit 99 clays out of 100 on that hot summer day.  His only miss was a clay that was thrown from behind him.  I swear that the shot went past my head as a warning that I better start trying harder.  George said it didn't come anywhere near me.  Just to make sure, I started paying closer attention (and standing closer to Lytle).

I feared that George had visions that the president of the National Sporting Clays Association was waiting for him in the pro shop.  Being an ambassador of the sport is one thing.  But encouraging someone like me to enter the sport was enough for the Association to ban him from competition.

Whether a result of George's stellar lessons or pure dumb luck, with a few stations left, I suddenly got the hang of it.   He was right; you don't shoot with your eyes.  It's all feel.  Each time I hit a clay, Quigley would boldly declare "Dead Pair."

Suddenly with one station left, I found myself tied with Lytle's boss.  I had the distinct possibility of not being the worst shooter in the match.  Lytle glared at me.  His whole point of inviting me was to lose to his boss.   Quigley, knowing why I had been invited, winked at me.  I went 5 for 5.

Dead Pair!

Rick Robinson is an attorney with the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey, LLP in Northern Kentucky and the author of political thrillers.  His debut title, The Maximum Contribution, was named a Finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book of the Year for political fiction and earned an Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Book Festival.  The sequel, Sniper Bid, was released on Election Day and opened on Amazon's top seller list of political thrillers at #46.  He is published by Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books.  He can be reached via e-mail at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, The Maximum Contribution.


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Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, Sniper Bid.

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Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letters are for you.

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Monday, 09 February 2009 00:00

SHOTGUNS and SHE-NANIGANS

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
There was a golden time in America when fresh-faced kids could routinely bring their guns to school, stash them in their locker with books and lunch boxes, and then after football practice all run out to a big field and shoot at rusty cans and elusive squirrels with their very own .22.

As a girl growing up on a ranch in Texas, those days are still a living memory for Judy Rhodes - and it's her mission in this God-given life to share that boundless joy with other women today.

Judy has been toting a gun since the age of four and she got her start hunting rats, pigeons "anything that was a nuisance" using her first Red Ryder BB gun. At 8, she got her first real gun, which was a .410 shotgun.

Judy recalls that during those days she was "a ringleader of organizing people to go out and shoot. Maybe 30 kids would go after a game... only two girls, and the rest were guys...it was a time when girls weren't encouraged to play sports."

But being a rancher's daughter, Judy said she didn't know there were any limitations for girls. "I was used to the call of the wild."

Little did Judy know at the time that those wonder years of her life would set the foundation for her to become one of the leading advocates for introducing women to the shooting sports and that very same call of the wild.

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Judy Rhodes


When she left home to attend Oklahoma University, her natural talents as a hunter and leader roped in some "Yankees" from the East Coast, where she demonstrated her early talent to get people involved in the kind of life that Judy loved.

She recalled how she had invited those East Coast guys back to her home in Texas. "It was my first time around Yankees who had never been exposed to the outdoors," she says, laughing.

Judy remembered how she would get them on a horse and to touch a cow - often the first time her new friends got that close to livestock - or any big animal. Then, at night, Judy introduced them to hunting as they stalked coyotes.

After college, Judy returned to Texas where she landed a job as an interior decorator working on high-profile projects such as the Ritz Carlton in Dallas. Back home now, she got right back into hunting, which turned out to bring her some business because there simply weren't that many women at the time who shared her passion for the sport.

One day, she was on the job and "a cowboy gets in the elevator. He'd just come back from hunting in Wyoming." What neither of them realized was that they both worked for the same company. In fact, as the vice president of finance, he signed her checks.

The stars were aligned, and they got married. For their honeymoon, they went hunting in Wyoming.

In 1999, Judy was recruited to the board of the Women's Shooting Sports Foundation -- an arm of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The charter of the WSSF was to get women more involved in the shooting sports and hunting, as well as function as sort of a lobbying group to influence manufacturers and retailers on the special needs of women shooters (and Judy has some strong opinions about that).

When the WSSF ultimately dissolved, she started the Texas Divas, which is short for Texas Women's Shooting Sports/DIVAS. It is now known as Women Outdoors Worldwide - Divas WOW - and remarkably is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Today, DIVAS has members in 49 states and 15 foreign countries. Over the years, DIVAS has taught over 800 women how to shoot a shotgun. They don't call them chapters, they're called liaisons because it's a sisterhood - women who need encouragement to enjoy the outdoors.

Her motto is "Women Helping Women...Women Teaching Women...Women Supporting Women." Her leadership in shooting, hunting and civic organizations led to a major story with photograph (including shotgun) in the Today Section of USA Today in March 2006.

She has also been featured in stories promoting women's positive outdoor experiences throughout the world, including broadcasts on German Television and the United Kingdom BBC Television.

Maybe that's where she got the TV bug. She started Divas in the Outdoors Television Show for reaching women and families worldwide. The show taught simple techniques from professionals. Divas in the Outdoors was the number-two show on MOR (Men's Outdoors and Recreational) shown on Direct TV, DishNetwork, Comcast and Turner Media.

All the while, Judy has been to South Africa 18 times, in addition to Spain, Argentina, Scotland, England, Canada and Mexico, as well as all over the U.S.A.

Her leadership, enthusiasm and commitment have made Judy the voice of outdoor women within the industry. As you can appreciate, she has a word or two for shotgun makers.

"Make guns that fit us."

Judy believes that the Beretta 391 semi-automatic is probably the best-fitting full-size gun for women on the market. Otherwise, she recommends that smaller framed women get themselves a youth gun.

But knowing Judy, we can expect to see a lot more shotguns on the market tailored to women.

"When we conduct our clinics women are afraid and we tell them that women can't be afraid. They know what guns can do, but don't know how to use them. But once a woman hit her first target its amazing how they want to go out and be a marksman and buy their own guns," she observed.

There was something else Judy discovered about women involved in the shotgun sports.

"Women enjoy the smell of gunpowder." She went as far as to say that women considered the smell of gunpowder a turn on.

Does that mean there's a new women's fragrance in Judy's future? Not really, but she is exploring the possibility of returning to TV this September.

"It will involve a lot of women and the outdoors," she said.

Judy honestly feels that she has been chosen by a higher power to get women involved in hunting, shooting and the great outdoors. "It's a sisterhood, a bonding, to make sure we have that next generation of women shooters. This is a mission I believe that I have in life."

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Helpful resources:

http://www.txdiva.com/index.html

http://www.nssf.org

https://www.shopberetta.com/Default.aspx
Published in Women Shooters
Sunday, 11 January 2009 08:25

You do what... ?

She's a teacher, an artist, and a ballet aficionado originally from Brooklyn, New York--and an avid clay shooter!

If this doesn't entirely add up, don't be surprised. Sometimes, even Bonnie Berniger herself wonders how she ended up becoming passionate about clays shooting.

"My friends can't understand how I can go from the arts to shooting," she says. "People from Brooklyn don't understand that shooting could be a sport. They associate a gun with crime. When I come into work happy after a weekend of shooting, they looked at me very strangely."

Published in Women Shooters

The opportunity to shoot sporting clays on hallow ground doesn't present itself that often, but you can do it in the area of Manassas, Virginia where the battles of Bull Run were fought.

Depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you're standing, it's called either the First and Second Battle of Bull Run (as it's known in the North) or the First Battle and Second Battle of Manassas (the Southern name for it). The first battle took placed July 21, 1861 while the second, larger battle was fought August 28-30, 1862.

Published in Destinations
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