Thursday, March 04, 2004

Let's You and Him Fight

Shortly after i read Coyote at the Dog Show on Elmer Keith, i picked up a copy of Gun World. Lo and Behold, Jan Libourel touches on the same subject, but from a different perspective.

It may be worth noting that Jack O'Conner killed 10 grizzlies with a 30-06 and two more with a .270 and never came to harm. (This, by the way, is 10 more grizzlies than his arch rival Elmer Keith ever killed.)

Libourel also makes an interesting point about the two antagonists. Keith, the old cowboy, was actually stronger on the technical and theoretical aspects of shooting. He was a better experimenter and created new cartridges for both handguns and rifles. But O'Conner-- the journalism professor-- had more and wider hunting experience.

It's also something of a misnomer to portray Keith as a champion of big, heavy slow bullets and O'Conner as a small, light, fast proponent. Keith liked big bore cartridges, but he also liked them fast. Given a choice, he would opt for a a .340 Weatherby over a .35 Whelen. Similarly, O'Conner was not a speed freak. He speaks most highly of moderate cartridges-.270 Win, 7mm Mauser, 30-06-- rather than the magnums that were available. He didn't drop the 7mm Mauser for the 7mm Remington magnum or the Weatherby, even though both are faster.

I'm an odd duck on the Keith-OConner feud. I started out reading O'Conner and only discovered Keith years later. I never quite bought into the big bore magnum theory. But over the last couple of years Boddington and Seyfried have made me rethink.

They don't argue that a .338 Mag is always necessary for elk. They concede that a 30-06 will usually do the trick. But the critical fact they bring up is that most big game hunters now are time-constrained. With only a few days available to hunt elk or big horn sheep or brown bear, it makes sense to grab every advantage. That includes a flatter shooting, more powerful rifle. On a 21 day annual elk hunt, you can pass on shots too tough for a 30-06 and expect to get another opportunity later. On a five day, once-in-a-lifetime hunt, one chance might be the only one you get.