The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Professional Small Boy Christmas Gifts

My not so impractical Christmas gifts

While I may be a bit older than nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who wanted only one thing for Christmas: "a Red Rider Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time," I am still enough of a Professional Small Boy (as coined by the great late Peter Hathaway Capstick) to not only want, but truly desire impractical things for Christmas.

As I've been married long enough to be a grandpa, my wife already gave up any attempt to make me grow up a long time ago, and we both understand that if I need something I will just go to a store and buy it, and that special ocasions like birthday and Christmas are for gifts so impractical that they may approach being useless.

But the truth is that the world is round and if you push too much into one direction you will come around the other extreme, and end up in the other end of scale, and that is what may have happened this Christmas, since my gifts may not be so impractical after all.

Our new "Up North" life in Traverse City is presenting us with a large amount of snow and somewhat colder temperatures than in in southern Michigan, and while I have enough coats and jackets, the ones that are not camouflage are a tone of green or brown, olive drab best describing the color, and so my wife used the opportunity to change my wardrobe with a very warm Cabela's red & black plaid coat. While it may be a big step away from my traditional hunter's colors, the red & black plaid is a traditional up north team, and I guess at during next hunting season I will be able to dress like Elmer Fudd.

Next comes a fantastic Helle Skala folding knife. I bought my first Helle during a long family weekend in Luxembourg, and soon learned to appreciate the clean design, excellent manufacturing and fantastic laminated blade, where a hard high carbon core is swanduiched between two layers of tough stainless stell. The laminating process is not too different from the technology used in classic Samurai swords, and when the blade is sharpened the harder high carbon core always make the cutting edge. The Skala is a beautiful folder and its only potentially impractical aspect is that I already have one hundred and fifty other blades or so. Well, one never knows when there will be a lot of butchering or whittling to be done.

And finally we come to my Christmas alternative to Ralphie's BB-gun, the Savage Model 99 lever action rifle. In my opinion, the best word to describe the Savage Model 99 is elegant, and I believe that the brainchild of Mr. Arthur William Savage is the quintessential lever rifle. 

While Winchester undisputedly built "the gun that won the West" following the pattern laid down by the Volcanic and Henry firearms, their success at the end was a hindrance for innovation and it took an outsider in the form of Kingston, Jamaica, native Mr. Savage to recreate the lever rifle and make it a relevant hunting rifle for the twentieth century.

The main differences between the Savage Model 99 and other lever rifles at the time that it was created are its ability to fire high-intensity cartridges with spire-point bullets (something that the Winchester 1895 can also do) with greater precision due to a much faster lock-time made possible by a very well built hamerless action. Additionally, the elegant rifle is highly ergonomic, and it can be equaly well used by either right hand or left hand shooter, a scope can be easily mounted due to angle ejection, and the quality of manufacturing is really good.

My particular rifle is chambered for the 300 Savage, a cartridge designed in 1920 to basically offer 30-06 performance level in a package that would fit the Model 99, and is available both with 150 and 180 grain bullets. Later on, the 300 Savage was used as the basis for the design of the 308 Winchester or 7,62x51 mm NATO. 

The Savage Model 99 in 300 caliber is an effective 300 yard rifle for deer-sized animal, and very few lever action rifles can claim that. A short time ago I was reading Jeff Cooper's Commentaires and while that he considered that there were only three modern interesting rifles, the Steyr Scout (308 Winchester), the Blaser R93 (30-06) and Jim West's Alaskan CoPilot (45-70), in several passages he mentioned the Savage Model 99 (in 300 Savage) as one rifle that could fit the role of the Scout, especially for left hand shooters. Knowing how calous Mr. Cooper could be, this is a great compliment to this old rifle.

And what will I do with my rifle? Well, right now I will play with it indoors, at least until my doctor releases me to shoot again. Then I just may load some Buck Shot rounds for it and take it squirrel or rabbit hunting in the Old Mission State Park, at which time I will be wearing a heavy red & black plaid coat and will be carrying a Helle Skala folding knife to help me skin any game I may eventually shoot.

Doesn't that sound like the kind of thing that a professional small boy would do in order to run away from the world?


  1. Sounds like an excellent rifle. Merry Christmas, and enjoy the new year with this.

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