Sunday, July 26, 2009

My New RBL Has Arrived

Just one day after the 8-month anniversary of its order, my 16 gauge RBL arrived. Two boxes of low-gun skeet have since gone through the gun. This afternoon I’ve given it a good scrubbin’ from its packing grease, lightly oiled its metal parts and waxed its wooden ones, and have it lying on the gun bench downstairs. In this entry, I’ll record my first impressions starting with those most favorable, and provide several photos.

• When I opened the packaging, I found that the gun was exactly as I ordered it. It had 29” barrels with fixed chokes, nicely marked on the barrel flats as Skeet and Imp Cyl. The gun sported a single selective trigger, and the butt was finished to a thin, hard rubber plate.

Anyone wondering why this comment appears at the top of the list hasn't sufficiently endured the vagaries involved in ordering (semi) bespoke guns in the four-figure price range. Specially when dealing with guns made abroad, it’s a very, very happy day when the gun arrives as ordered.

• The next thing to worry about with a brand new SxS is barrel regulation. In the case of my order, the reliability of the single trigger was also guilty until proven innocent.

While 50 rounds constitute an admittedly small sample, they positively crushed any concerns I had. The relatively open chokes I ordered for this woodcock and grouse gun were perfect at skeet range distances, and several of the clays disappeared in satisfying puffs of smoke. And the gun went bang every time, whether right barrel first, or left barrel, or when fired at doubles.

Summing up, the gun arrived looking like it should and shooting like I hoped.

• I really like the look of the standard RBL rib. I am also happy with the “standard” wood on my gun. Since beauty is in the eye et c. et c., I’ll just post some photos here and let the wood speak for itself.

• When I weighed the RBL on the ancient mechanical scales that my country vet father in law gave me, it came in at 6 lbs. 8+ oz. Ten or so years ago, I may have thought this to be a tad heavy for a grouse-woods 16 gauge. Having owned and shot a lovely Arrieta 16 gauge that weighed an ounce or two over 6 lbs., I am no longer so much of a Rule of 96 purist. If I am going to find fault with actually shooting an upland gun, its 6 1/2 lb. weight is not where I'm going to start. Probably won't get there, either...

• As I understood at the time of my order, many features of the RBL are not subject to customized order. It is a $3,000 gun, after all, not a $30,000 gun. With that said, I found the wrist a tad bulky and of a shape “rounder” than what I’m accustomed to. But the checkering is sharp, and the gun feels secure in my right hand.

• Through the first 50 shells of its life, the gun has ejected the right barrel’s empties every time. The same cannot be said of the left barrel. This will not spoil the hunting that I do. What with all the missed shots that punctuate my bird shooting, the balky 2d-barrel ejector might just fix itself by grouse season's end.

• At several stations, the fore end seemed just a tad loose. I will monitor this, too. I'll probably have CSMC fine tune both conditions, and give the gun a proper cleaning as well, after the shooting stops on February 28.

I’ll probably shoulder the gun a few times tonight, swinging it on an imaginary right to left grouse in my basement. Then I’ll wipe the gun down well and lock it in the safe. A pre-season trial run will start in September when Gordie, the RBL and I can work out the kinks chasing some released pheasants. “Early” grouse season starts in northern NY on September 20. “Southern Tier” birds open on October 1, while woodcock open statewide on October 6. If we’re all lucky, I’ll report on how we three are doing then.

Friday, July 10, 2009

See No Bad, Hear No Badly

The vast but vastly underpaid editorial staff here at Cold Duck collectively cringes whenever it notices “badly” badly become “bad”’s substitute. And vice versa.

A pair of YouTube clips can help clear up the confusion. Watch this clip of a dog yapping at a skunk.

There are two things to learn from this clip. First, if you let your dog yap at a skunk so you can film him instead of getting your yappy dog out of harm’s way, then the inevitable conclusion is, as the kids say, on you. And on your yappy little dog. Second, and more to our point, the post-skunk yappy dog smells bad.

Now watch this clip of a beagle pup chasing a rabbit.

This fine looking pup looks like she’s from good stock. And since her owner has taken the trouble to find – let alone keep – a starting pen, I suspect that the pup will be a fine rabbit hound some day. But today, the pup loses the trail too often. To our point, sometimes this pup smells badly.

Get it? Then let’s consider this entry’s title. During deer season, or in the winter months when we’re snowed out of grouse country, Gordie and I chase a released pheasant or two at my shooting club. Although the club does not offer hunts for wild birds, it does offer us a chance at something second-best when third-best is the sofa and Oprah Winfrey. In these cases, I am happy to chase released birds, as I see no(thing) bad in it.

Suppose that on one of our deer-season hunts at the club, I see Gordie ecstatically rolling some substance deep into the fur behind his shoulder blades. Hint: when I get there, there will undoubtedly be some white tissue paper lying near what Gordie is rolling in. When he continues to joyously cover himself with this awful offal even as I run at him screaming “No! No!,” Gordie is then guilty of hearing “no” badly.

Studious Cold Duck regulars will want to complete this exercise to determine whether they’ve mastered the lesson. Suppose you’re hunting grouse with your brother in law on Tug Hill in January. It is raw and cold, of course. Your brother in law is suddenly offered an easy right-to-left shot at a grouse in an astonishingly open covert. However, although he swings at the bird, it fails to fall from the sky. In fact, no shot is heard. When you ask him what happened, he claims that his fingers were so cold that he could only feel the safety __________. Hours later, driving home in the car, you both grouse that that was the only grouse all day. You, of course, rub in his inadequacy in creative and cruel ways. You’re enjoying making him feel __________.

Shame on you!