WILTZ: Don't be too anxious to shoot that family heirloom firearm

Sometimes when I watch TV, after I realize how long I've been in front of the tube, I feel badly about it as it was time wasted. I could have been reading a good book. I like watching outdoor shows or a commercial free Turner Classic Movie. Two w...

Sometimes when I watch TV, after I realize how long I've been in front of the tube, I feel badly about it as it was time wasted. I could have been reading a good book. I like watching outdoor shows or a commercial free Turner Classic Movie. Two weeks ago, I really enjoyed the 1946 classic "Key Largo" with Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson. A few nights ago, we watched "West Side Story." That had sentimental value as Betsy and I saw it on our first date back in 1962.

My favorite viewing is on The History Channel where I'll watch "Pawn Stars."

As much as I admire Rick's knowledge and the experts he brings into the store, we are receiving some terrible advice when it comes to antique firearms. Rick would have us believe that a gun will be worth far more if it can be successfully fired. Nothing is farther from the truth.

This is especially true of antique muzzleloaders including flintlocks and Civil War muskets and revolvers. The value lies strictly in the arm itself, and not its ability to fire. I shudder at the thought of attempting to fire my 1849 Sheriff's Model Colt percussion pistol. I'm talking about damaging my valuable gun without giving any consideration to my own safety. If we have a desire to fire an antique muzzleloader, fine replicas are available at an affordable price.

We get into a gray area when it comes to antique cartridge arms. The 1st Infantry group from the Wagner area fires genuine Springfield "Trapdoor" .45-70 rifles on a regular basis. These guys use black powder and cast their own lead bullets. They are not damaging their authentic heirlooms that date to the 1870s so long as they keep them properly cleaned. By the way, their annual shoot is June 9-10.


I own some classic Winchester lever-action rifles including a Model 1873. I reload my own ammo for these, and I keep them very clean. In all instances, one must be certain that the arm is in excellent mechanical condition. If you are not sure, have a competent gunsmith look it over.

The most recognizable, the most collectable arm in the world is the First Generation (1873-1940) Colt Single-Action Army revolver. They are also called "peacemakers." The serial numbers on these Colts run from 1-357,000. Considering that prices for these begin around $4,000, I wouldn't recommend shooting one. (All of my guns are kept in a very substantial safe.)

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Speaking of old, the May/June 2012 issue of Sporting Classics magazine contains the article "Famous Hunting Parties of The Plains" by William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody. It made for a great read.

I've never thought of Cody as a conservationist, probably because he personally killed 4,250 buffalo in one year while supplying meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. However, he eventually became concerned about the buffalo, and was a key figure in saving them from extinction.

Cody had the opportunity to become acquainted with and actually accompany some of the wealthy foreign hunters. Lord Adair, an Englishman, came to Fort McPherson in 1869. The fort was located on the Platte River about 18 miles from North Platte, the location of Cody's home. Cody and Adair camped together along the Loup and Dismal rivers, where they hunted elk from horseback. Many of us, myself included, have hunted elk from horseback, but we didn't do it the way they did!

Six or seven riders would get as close as possible, usually within a half mile, to the elk that usually numbered 200-300 in a herd. When the elk spooked, the race was on. Courage and endurance prevailed. Once into the elk, the hunters would spur their horses, drop the reins, and pull rifles from both scabbards. If possible the hunters would poke their rifle barrels as close to the animals' ribs. In the meantime, the non-hunters would lasso young elk and take them back to camp alive.

Lord Adair shipped many live elk back to his English estate. I mentioned Fort McPherson. For whatever reason, probably safety in regard to hostile Indians, the U.S. Army generally escorted distinguished hunting parties.


While Cody wrote about such colorful figures as Russia's Grand-Duke Alexis, the Lord Adair adventure was the only one to feature elk hunting on horseback. Can you imagine trying to remain mounted on a galloping horse while carrying a cumbersome rifle in each hand? We lead rather tame lives today by comparison.

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about fish eggs and other delicacies on the table. I received a nice letter from Parkston's Dr. Richard Honke. His family always looked forward to fish eggs fried in butter and garnished with salt and pepper. "Way better than the fish" in Doc's own words. Another family favorite was fried squirrel and gravy over rice. My own grandkids would say "Yuck!" Maybe I need to tell them what's in those wieners they gobble down. "All beef" means it came from a cow. That's far reaching indeed.

*See you next week.

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