Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sometimes, the mishaps that occur among people who have been around guns all their lives are simply astonishing.

For instance, some years ago a hunting pal named Tiny — his last name must remain a secret — attended a shooting match where only old-style muzzleloader rifles and fowling pieces (shotguns) were used. As he stood under a sun-shading piece of plastic roofing, Tiny aimed and fired his first shot at a down-field target, put down his black powder shotgun and did something he’d never done before: he didn’t make sure his barrel was completely empty.

In the case of old-style percussion muzzleloaders, shooters often pick up their guns after they fire and blow into the firing nipple to clear the barrel of tiny remnants of still-smoldering patch material.

For once, Tiny didn’t do that. He poured a new measure of powder down the barrel, added a cardboard wad that would go ahead of loose shotgun pellets, and when he pushed down the ramrod that had a billiard ball screwed onto the end, the suddenly compressed powder ignited, sending the ramrod out of the barrel, badly bruising Tiny’s hands. But thanks to the smooth billiard ball, it did no further damage. Well, the ramrod did blow a hole through the overhanging roof. The shotgun barrel apparently contained some left-over piece of wadding that was hot enough to ignite the fresh powder.

He learned a mighty lesson that day.

Now comes my friend and sometime fishing partner, the farmer extraordinaire, Bob Greer, who has been handling shotguns and rifles since he was a young child. (He won’t tell you his real age, but will agree that he has hunted for 50 years.)

In anticipation of going after a deer or two, Greer recently prepared to sight in a newly purchased 20-gauge Harrington/Richardson slug gun, outfitted with a 3-to-12 Nikon scope, that would fire his favorite Hornady shotgun slugs. “This gun is a nail driver at 100 yards,” the proud Greer said.

The fun started when he chose his antique, A-1 condition 1981 Camaro as a shooting rest. He knelt between the open door and the car’s driver side, putting the arm with the gun on the hood near the windshield, ready to fire at a paper target some 60 yards away.

The moment he located the target in his scope, a groundhog sashayed between the Camaro and the target. Greer, being the groundhog-hating farmer that he is, figured he’d blast the hole-digging varmint. “But the groundhog went down a small rise in the field, forcing me to lift the rear of my gun a little, then I fired,” he said.

What he didn’t figure on was that the scope still showed a good part of the groundhog, but the gun barrel now was a bit lower than he’d originally planned.

Aw, heck. Might as well come right out and say it: Greer shot his Camaro.

My friend blasted a hole into the hood of a car that not too long ago received a $2,000 paint job. Not only that, the powerful shotgun slug went through the hood and into the top of the metal radiator.

“What really hurt, is that after I fired the shot the groundhog was still there and I had a pretty good hole in my car’s hood. It was a lesson to be learned,” said Greer, shaking his head in disbelief.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:

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