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Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall: Food and Drinks to Wow Your Friends

Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall

Food and Drinks to Wow Your Friends at BBQs and Dinner

Contributed by Jeremy Climer, Hunter, Rifle and Clay Target Shooter and Wine Connoisseur

We all know one of the best ways to recruit new hunters, or at least get people to support hunting, is through their stomachs.  Sharing our harvest is a sacred duty to hunters and backyard BBQs are as big of an American tradition as hunting itself.  We’re going to give you some simple tips to step up your backyard wild game BBQ this year with pre-meal cocktails as well as wine and beer pairings for three classic dishes.

Before we begin, a note about the products: I have done my best to offer widely available products that represent a value for their cost.  Costs and availability vary, so do not be afraid to ask your local retailer for a similar product if something is not available in your area or does not fit your price point.  

Pre-Meal Cocktails

There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a refreshing cocktail.  Each of these three cocktails are easy to make with few ingredients and can be batched in large quantities if you’d like.

Smoky Negroni
A twist on the Italian, gin based classic, very few spirits go better with smoked or grilled meat as mezcal.  Do not be afraid of its past, unfair reputation, just think of it as tequila, but better.  The smoky quality of this incredible mezcal will be well integrated with the sweet and bitter quality of the other ingredients.  

1 oz. Xicaru Mezcal
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Orange peel

Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir for thirty seconds.  Strain and pour into a highball glass (or over ice).  Break a strip of orange peel over the glass releasing the oils in the skin and garnish with orange peel.

Mint Julep
No cocktail says summertime quite like a Mint Julep.  A cocktail that is as old as America itself, it’s been poured on hot summer days since before bourbon existed (originally it was made with cognac).  

2 fresh sprigs of mint
½ oz. Simple Syrup
2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon

In the bottom of a highball glass, muddle one sprig of mint with the simple syrup.  Fill with crushed ice and add bourbon.  Swirl with a bar spoon until the outside of the glass frosts.  Top with more ice and garnish with the remaining sprig of mint.

Mexican Candy
A take on the popular spicy mango candy from Mexico, this will be sure to please your guests that like a little kick to their drinks.

2 oz. Crater Lake Hatch Green Chile Vodka
1.5 oz. Mango Juice
Soda Water
Mango slice

Pour vodka and mango juice over ice in a Collins glass.  Stir with a bar spoon until ingredients are well integrated and the glass is cold.  Top with soda water.  Garnish with mango slice.

The Main Course
The number of different dishes you can offer your guests at a BBQ are almost as many as those of you reading this.  However, we know there are certain staples to BBQs and there are definitely common ways in which many hunters process their meat.  Here are three basic options with wine and beer pairings.

Neck Roast Tacos
This is a great dish for many reasons.  First off, who doesn’t love tacos?  And secondly, this is a dish you can prepare in the morning or the night before thanks to the technology of a crock pot.  

Serves six.

2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp dried oregano
2 lbs neck roast
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce
½ cup Modelo Especial

  1. In a small bowl, mix together spices and rub over neck roast
  2. Heat the olive oil and brown roast on all sides
  3. In the crock pot, pour in beer, onion, garlic and chipotle with adobo and add the neck roast with juices from pan.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours
  4. When the roast is cooked and tender enough to fall apart, shred it with two forks.  Add shredded meat back to the crock pot.  Keep warm in the crock pot.  

Put meat into warm corn tortillas, garnish with chopped cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, chopped tomatoes and crumbled queso cheese, served with a wedge of lime on the side.  

Wine & Beer Pairing

Risk Taker:

  • Sanitas Hoppy Lager (Boulder, CO) – Bright and clean with bready malt and Citra hop aromas.  At 35 IBUs and 5.5% ABV you can have more than one.
  • Kung Fu Girl Riesling (WA) – Riesling goes with everything, but this slightly off dry Riesling with notes of white peach, mandarin orange and apricot from Washington State goes fantastic with spicy dishes. 

Playing it Safe:

  • Modelo Especial (Mexico) – A fuller bodied and more flavorful option to Corona, jam a lime in it and enjoy the taste of summer
  • Kaiken Ultra Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina) – Argentinians know a thing or two about meat and they make wine to match.  This spicy and bold red wine is soft on the palate with notes of dark fruits and dried herbs.

Bacon & Bleu Cheese Venison Burgers
Is there anything more classic for a BBQ than burgers on the grill?  For this recipe, if you have not already cut in some fat with your ground venison, simply add some ground pork or beef to your mixture so that it’s 80% venison and 20% fattier meat.

Serves six.

2 lbs ground venison
12 slices of bacon
8 oz bleu cheese or bleu cheese crumbles
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Sliced tomatoes
Chopped chives

  1. Mix in finely chopped garlic to ground meat
  2. Make into six 1/3 lb patties sprinkling salt and ground pepper onto both sides
  3. Cook bacon in skillet either on grill or stove top
  4. Grill burgers to taste.  About 1 minute before pulling off the grill, sprinkle bleu cheese on top of each burger (if desired, place buns on grill for a light toast at the same time)
  5. Place burger on bottom of bun, add two slices of bacon and sprinkle with chopped chives.  On top half, place lettuce and tomatoe.  Serve open faced.

Wine & Beer Pairing

Risk Taker:

  • Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (Comstock, MI) – This easy drinking IPA comes in at 7% ABV, well balanced between the malt and 100% Centennial hops.  Notes of grapefruit and pine will really match the bleu cheese on this burger to perfection.
  • Charles & Charles Rosé (WA) – Rosés are great for summer and great for grilling.  This Syrah based rosé from Washington State over-delivers for the price with notes of tropical fruit and citrus peel with a mouthwatering finish.

Playing it Safe:

  • Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) – The classic American IPA that has been around for 30 years.  Much like the Two Hearted Ale, the balance to the malt and hops make this a great pairing, however this wine is much bolder and less nuanced than the Bell’s.
  • Boneshaker Zinfandel (CA) – While Zinfandel has its roots in Eastern Europe, California has really become the preeminent producer of the varietal.  For years it was underappreciated and used in syrupy sweet White Zinfandel, but now it is being taken seriously for the delicious, bold and hearty red wine that it can be.  This wine is jammy, spicy and will stand up to the bold burger with bleu cheese and bacon.

Grilled Sausage
If you make sausage, you probably already have a favorite recipe, so I’ll skip the sausage making here.  However, there are some ways to take things up a notch by toasting pretzel bread buns, grilling some chopped vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, banana peppers and sauerkraut in some aluminum foil with a bit of olive oil.  Offer a selection of different mustards and fire up the grill.

Wine & Beer Pairing

Risk Taker:

  • Schlafly Kolsch (St. Louis, MO) – Hard to beat a cold kolsch on a hot day with grilled sausage.  Schlafly does a great job with this sessionable beer that has the fruity aroma of an ale with the clean finish of a lager.  Made with 100% German Noble hops.  
  • Bodega Muga Reserva (Rioja, Spain) – A great example of what kinds of wines Rioja can produce.  Bright cherry aromas, earthy elegance, great acidity and well balanced with supple tannins.

Playing it Safe:

  • Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic) – The original pale lager, the first pilsner.  Crisp, clean and palatable, a great pairing to grilled sausage.
  • Gerard Bertrand Minervois (Minervois, France) – This Syrah and Carnignan based wine from southwest France has note of licorice, dark fruits and lots of minerality.  Easy to drink and great with grilled meats.  

BONUS TIP: If you’re serving anything fried, such as chicken friend squirrel or rabbit, or having a fish fry, nothing goes better with fried foods than bubbles.  Try Ruffino Prosecco or Etoile by Domaine Chandon.  

Jeremy Climer
(502) 523-8354

More Than A Hunt At The Hixon Ranch

by Michael G. Sabbeth

Sometimes an event is infused with a meaning, a character, that goes beyond the details of the event itself. The experience has a message and an ethos that inspire the participants to pursue a higher virtuous purpose. The Heritage Hunt at the Hixon Ranch was such an event.

This past November 7th through the 9th, the Hixon Land and Cattle Ranch near Cotulla, Texas hosted the winners of the 2015 IHEA-USA Heritage Hunt. The hunt is sponsored by Focus Group, Inc. in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA). Hunter education students Bailey Maier from New York, Tim Coe from Kentucky and Madi DeGarmo from Idaho won an all-expense paid ‘hunt of a lifetime’ when their entries were drawn from those submitted to the IHEA Heritage Hunt contest in the Hunter’s Handbook, ( the official student publication of the IHEA-USA.

To qualify to win, all students must have successfully passed a sanctioned IHEA course in North America. Rick Webber from Washington and Theodore Loftis, Sr. from Tennessee were the winning volunteer hunter education instructors invited to join this special event.

Focus Group pays for and sponsors The Heritage Hunt along with a generous grant from the SCI Sables. Additionally, Focus Group partners including Buck Knives, Cabela’s, Federal Ammunition, Under Armour, Mossberg, HIVIZ Sights and GrovTec, made in-kind contributions. All filming was done by videographer Cody Prather with CarecoTV based in San Antonio, Texas.

The transcendent themes of the Heritage Hunt are captured in Focus Group President Brian Thurston’s eloquent statement: “This hunt allows Hunter’s Handbook and its partners to not only award instructors for their hard work and dedication in the field, but also offers young hunters a unique experience that will keep them engaged in hunting while learning hands-on field safety and hunting success.”

The Hixon Land and Cattle Ranch

The ranch is owned by Karen and Tim Hixon, two gracious and charitably-disposed people steeped for decades in Texas conservation programs and organizations. The Hixons began buying ranch properties in 1964 in the Texas Valley of South Texas and now have acquired approximately 13,000 acres. The main ranch house has a high vaulted ceiling of massive timber and a 180-degree expanse of towering windows that seamlessly bring the magnificent acreage to the viewers’ eyes. Rough-hewn wood tables and comfortable plush leather chairs and sofas create a welcoming atmosphere. Dozens of shelves are populated with Indian and cowboy art and artifacts; animal trophies decorate the walls. Signed photographs of notables such as John Wayne and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans are tucked away in smaller rooms radiating from the main salon and dining room.


Timo, Karen and Tim’s son, participated in every facet of the program. Two years ago Steve Hall, then Executive Director of the IHEA-USA and now TPWD’s Texas Hunter Education Coordinator, asked Tim and his parents to host the program. Timo agreed because he and his family recognized the role of youth hunting in game management, conservation and protecting hunting’s future. The Heritage Hunt was another extension of their past involvement in programs such as TPWD and Texas Wildlife Association’s Youth Hunting Program ( Steve pointed out “We wouldn’t have youth hunting on private lands in Texas without folks like the Hixons. This is awesome!” Events such as the Heritage Hunt punch into the solar plexus of what Steve Hall laments as the current status of modern youth: a Nature Deficit Disorder.

Timo explained that the Heritage Hunt is important to him and his family because young people are the future of hunting and without these experiences, hunting, and its heritage will be lost. “These hunts are a way for my family to advance a culture, instill respect for the land and the animals and pass those values to the next generation.” Particularly meaningful to Timo was seeing the bonding between a young hunter and his or her parent or mentor. “They smile together. They work together. They succeed and fail together. These experiences have worth beyond hunting.”

Hunting at the Hixon Ranch

The first full day we were up at five in the morning, not my favored time for opening the aging eyes and greeting the birds and rising sun.  Hot breakfast, hot coffee and a selection of snacks were available to the gathering hunters and guides. Our experienced guides, Landon Guilick; Brad Detmore; Gabe Chapa, Doss Summers, Mike Hehman and Eddie Price, exhibiting more energy than I could muster, were assigned to the young hunters and the instructors. The weather was cool and wind minimal. The intermittent rain from the previous day seemed to have left town. The day was perfect for hunting.

I went into the field mid-afternoon. Doss deposited me and Rick Webber at a well-crafted metal blind with plenty of room to move around and slots in all walls for observing and placing a rifle. Many qualities are required to increase the odds for a successful hunt. Patience is one of them; and it is not my strong suit. I opened a slot and looked at the magnificent scenery; magnificent in the sense that it was bathed in tranquility and silence, at least for me. For some of the animals, life is drenched in the unrelenting tensions of self-preservation.

What appeared to be a large doe ambled into our shooting lane perhaps 300 yards away. I maneuvered my CZ 6.5 x 55 Swedish rifle into position. Rick glassed it and concluded it was very young. I brought the rifle back to an upright position and opened the bolt. A chorus line of javelina (collared peccary) traipsed into our line of sight. A few looked large but when they marched right in front of the blind, their mass seemed to diminish like a melting snowman. A coyote appeared on a road several hundred yards away. We glassed it through the binoculars like dogs eyeing a distant bone. It never came into range. I thought of Oscar Wilde’s statement: “Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.”  Not having a legitimate shot, we didn’t take one.

The reality of hunting is strikingly different from watching hunting highlights on hunting TV shows—magnificent animals wandering by or being tracked, then the perfect shot from bow or rifle, the clean kill and the congratulatory satisfaction of a job well done. Then a break for a commercial. More realistically, hunting is tedium; waiting for hours, days or weeks to pull the trigger or release an arrow. Steve Hall opined that as a consequence of that distortion of reality, we tend to become spectators rather than participants in the hunt.

The hours ticked away, as time tends to do, until a rich pastel red and pink sunset bathed the west. As the starlit sky began to darken, Doss returned to take us to the ranch. Although neither Rick nor I took an animal, by the end of the program, Tim and Madi got lovely bucks and Bailey got a doe and a spike.

Panning for Gold

Talking with Tim and Kem Coe

I spent a lot of time talking with the participants and organizers. I talk with people as a prospector pans for gold: I look for gleaming nuggets of information, stories, experiences and arguments that enable me to be a better thinker, a more impacting writer and a more skilled instructor. I struck gold at the Hixon Ranch.

Tim Coe and his father, Kem, happened to be sitting at the table where I was chatting with Leaha Wirth, National Sales Manager for The Hunter’s Handbook and the driving force orchestrating this event. I struck up a conversation with Tim. I sought insights into the thinking and concerns of young hunters, which is important because about 50% of hunter education students are eighteen years old or younger. Tim thinks a lot before answering questions, and sometimes his words come out as slowly as drizzling chilled honey. They were worth the wait.

Tim’s grandfather encouraged him to take a hunter education course. Tim began hunting small game in Kentucky with an aged single shot rifle and advanced to a .308 for big game. Everyone in his family hunts, including his mother and his sister. Hunting, Tim told me, teaches many virtuous traits, such as valuing the outdoors as well as life skills such as self-reliance, self-discipline, and, above all, respect for the lives of the animals.


Pride motivates Tim to be a responsible hunter “A key issue is safety,” Tim said. “You see what a firearm can do.” Tim’s next words dazzled me. “Hunting is the best way to teach ethics. You see animals wounded or killed. You owe the animal to be a good hunter.” From such a young man, is this not a golden nugget?

Tim pointed out that the best instructors teach him to think of honor and character as he considers doing something. He added, “They make me feel I can make a difference in protecting wildlife. They make me think I can do something good for future hunters.”

We changed topics and talked about hunters being condemned by their peers.  Since most of his friends hunt, Tim has not found this to be an issue. He brushes off negative comments.  “They don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t pay attention to them.”

I asked if Tim if he had ever been called a murderer because he hunted. As he began to answer, his dad interrupted. “Let me tell you about one of my experiences,” Kem said. He was about twenty years old, a student at Lindsey Wilson College, a small college in south central Kentucky, taking pre-pharmacy courses. A new professor from New York City asked if he hunted. “Yes,” Kem replied. The professor then vilified him. “You are no different from a person that kills a family!” Many people, perhaps most, in Kem’s position would have lashed out at the professor with the savagery of a momma bear protecting her cubs. Kem maintained a stunning poise although he confided he fought an impulse to slap her.

With dignity and restraint, he made the professor an offer she, evidently, couldn’t refuse. “Why don’t you and your son stay for a weekend with me and my family at our farm?” She accepted his offer. Kem’s farm was in Turkey Neck Bend, Monroe County, Kentucky. When the professor saw her first deer, she exclaimed, “I didn’t realize you had deer here!” Kem chuckled.  

The professor admitted she had no insight into the conservation component of hunting or game management. She learned how hunters work to preserve animals. In a remark that most of us would find to be less than an extraordinary epiphany, she said: “I now see that every hunter is not a mindless blood thirsty killer!” Apparently that’s a major insight for many folks from big cities who only know of guns in the context of crime and know of animals only from zoos, a few TV programs and Walt Disney. She returned to Kem’s farm. They became friends. That’s a powerful story, a real chunk of gold with practical application for educators and hunters.

Speaking with Leaha Wirth


Leaha was taking notes as I chatted with Tim and Kem. After Kem shared his professor story, she stopped writing and added some of her perspectives to the conversation. “When the topic is firearms, people will engage in a conversation more quickly and intensely,” she said. “It’s a good topic to learn about responsibility. An informed hunter then has an opportunity to reach and persuade people in a non-threatening way.”

Leaha continued. “Hunting experiences are a vital part of who I am.” It is a forum for communicating values, wisdom and knowledge. “Whether in the field with friends, family or students,” Leaha said, “I can share a one-of-a-kind opportunity. It’s not the kill; it’s the people and the experience; and an intimacy with the amazing Earth, the wildlife.”

Her experience affirmed that the young hunter will come away with a thirst for more experience and knowledge. “That is the emotional foundation for what I do. I can produce positive results.” Her next comment penetrated to the core of the honorable hunter’s character. “There’s an experience you have to own that comes with taking a life.” No excuses. No blaming others. You are accountable. Echoing some of Tim Coe’s comments, Leaha added, “taking a life demands that a respect for life be acknowledged.”

Inherent in hunting are matters of honor, of ethics, of integrity. These traits determine the moral timber of one’s soul. Speaking with increased intensity, Leaha added, “I can make a difference. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Look at these young hunters! They are the future, and they are marvelous!”

Venison and Chili and Dove, Oh My!

Nutritious delicious cuisine is one of the great rewards from hunting. The chefs at Hixon Ranch were masters, serving up fabulous meals every lunch and dinner. We had baked ziti pasta with spinach, cheese, sausage, tomatoes and enough garlic to be noticeable all the way to downtown Denver. We had dove stuffed with jalapeño peppers and cream cheese wrapped in bacon. But the culinary triumph of the visit was Chef Siboney Chapa’s fried backstrap of venison. Soft as butter, the venison possessed a layered game flavor and was not masked by strong sauces. It reminded me of a rich Cabernet wine. My cut, done rare to medium, was a banquet for the senses. Who needs to go to Michelin-rated restaurants in Paris when you can have Siboney’s cooking in South Texas?


Siboney’s recipe was so marvelous I asked her permission to share it. Here it is:


Fried Back Strap of Venison

Slice venison into 1/4 in. Slices and tenderize. 

(To take out any gaminess)

Soak back strap in milk or butter milk for about 10-15min. Some people also use vinegar. I’ve never used it-

While the venison is soaking grab two mixing bowls and a skillet with some oil to fry. In one bowl fill about half way of flour or Panko crumbs, whichever you prefer. Salt & pepper or any seasoning to your liking. – I use Lawerys or Johnnys

Next grab about 5- 7 eggs or more if needed and mix.

By now the back strap is ready to coat with egg and flour. 

Time to fry!

Fry about two minutes on each side or until done. 


Final Thoughts

Hunting is a complex process that calls upon many skills and traits to do it honorably. In her illuminating essay, What Kids Can Learn From Hunting, Melissa Bachman writes: “Spending quality time in the field with kids is priceless, but there are a lot of things that hunting teaches them above and beyond the hunt….. such as physical labor, disappointment, patience, preparation, mental toughness and personal responsibility.” Hunting can provide meaningful lessons for those who have the character and wisdom to learn them.

“Let’s be frank,” as Vito ‘Don’ Corleone said in a different context to Bonasera in The Godfather. One aspect of hunting is taking the life of an animal. There is no joy in watching an animal die. Yet hunting has value and can accomplish noble goals. Without hunting, animals have no value, and without value, the animals will die. That’s reality. Preserving animals means preserving hunting. A lot of people do not like reality. And a lot of people prefer the soothing fantasy world of feeling good rather than doing good. Unfortunately, only the animals suffer in the fantasy world, not the smug anti-hunters.  

The informed hunter knows that hunting’s past does not pass on genetically. The past does not guarantee present or future acceptance and support. Hunting must be defended and advanced every day. Steve Hall, Leaha Wirth and the marvelous Hixon family understand the big picture, and part of that picture is encouraging young hunters to accept the duty to keep hunting and the animals sacred and protected. That’s the reality. Honorable people deal with reality, not with wishing and hoping the world would be some other way.

The Heritage Hunt at the Hixon Ranch gave substance to hunting by transforming the idea, the abstraction of hunting, into reality. The young hunters learned that the ideal of hunting cannot materialize without the real world effort. I was enriched by the Heritage Hunt. Meeting dedicated people pursuing a noble cause; spending days under clear skies, breathing air scented more deliciously than the finest perfumes and sharing great food with vibrant young hunters and instructors; well, as Ira Gershwin wrote in the musical I’ve Got Rhythm, Who could ask for anything more? 

Nebraska Quail Hunting and More Friends, Family, Fine Hunting and Fabulous Cuisine

By Michael G. Sabbeth

An Improbable Occurrence Leads To A Wonderful Invitation

This was to be a special weekend. It better have been. It took months to organize. The events of the weekend developed in an improbable way, as so many interesting paths in life do. I had been pheasant hunting with my brother-in-law Bryce on a piece of farmland north of York, Nebraska. It is presumptuous, actually, to describe as hunting our walk on the dirt road dividing sections of corn or milo. I was carrying a well-worn L. C. Smith that looked as if it had been used to fight off bunch of attacking zombies; Bryce has a brand new Ruger Red Label. No dogs joined us and it was unlikely that my singing New York, New York would have caused any pheasant with the slightest genetic survival predisposition to leave its comforting bed and take to the air.

We approached the end of the road, where it intersected with a larger county road, and a burst of birds exploded on our left from a small thicket of brush and hardwood trees. They flew away from us, low and fast, like curve balls from a major league pitcher. They weren’t pheasant, or turkeys or Bald Eagles, so I didn’t have a clue as to their species. “Quail,” Bryce said with about as much emotion as hired help picking programs off the floor after a concert. I’d never seen quail, and I didn’t the rest of the walk. It was a first for me and I was excited.

The next day we went to Oak Creek Sporting Clays in Brainard, Nebraska, to shoot clay targets at the five stand and the two full sporting clays courses. I’d been shooting at Oak Creek for years and consider myself friends with Dean Kriz and his son, Terry. They are fine sturdy honorable men. I like them. Each year Oak Creek hosts several charity shoots, competition shoots and hosts groups including the Boy Scouts and the Wounded Warriors. In between bites of his mom’s buttery brisket served for lunch and a sip of a lite beer, I told Terry about seeing the quail.

“I know some great places for quail hunting,” he said. “Well,” I blurted out, “I want to hunt quail with you.” “Okay,” he said, “we’ll set it up.”  He thought late September would be best. I began making plans. First order of business was to schedule a visit to the Hornady factory in Grand Island, Nebraska. I had developed a relationship with the company as a consequence of sharing a table with owner Steve Hornady at a luncheon reception at the 2015 NRA Convention and then meeting Neal Emery from the marketing department at the Hornady exhibit.

I asked Neal if he could help me with some writing projects, particularly my forthcoming pronghorn hunt in northern Colorado. The marvelous organization, Outdoor Buddies, would be hosting severely disabled hunters. CZ-USA had loaned me a Model 557 Sporter in caliber 6.5 x 55 Swedish. Might Hornady provide its acclaimed 140 grain SST Super Performance? “Absolutely,” Neal said without hesitation.


Fast forward to late September. I, my wife, Nancy and my friend, Rob Anderson, traveled a little north of York, Nebraska to visit my brother-in-law Bryce and sister-in-law, Janet. I had previously scheduled a visit at the Hornady factory for Friday morning. If you are ever out in that part of the country, a visit to Hornady is strongly recommended. Todd Knecht, Technical Services Manager, greeted us and guided Rob and me through the extraordinary facility. The entry boasts full-size mounts of big game and the walls in the main visiting and open work area feature magnificent full and shoulder big game mounts from around the world.

The processes for making bullets and complete ammunition cartridges are complex and extraordinary in detail and quality control. Glistening jacketed bullets in dozens of calibers and structures—SST, InterBond, GMX, V-Max and InterLock—came tumbling from their respective machines like a copper-flowing Niagara Falls. Although we were wearing surgical face masks, the facility impressed me as clean and sanitized as a hospital operating room. Quality control tests are run every few thousands of bullets or cartridges, which is thus quite frequently. Ammunition and components of unsurpassed quality requires time, money and monitoring processes of the highest standards. Observing how meticulously Hornady bullets and ammunition are made was an up-lifting experience that gave me a comforting feeling.

Heartland Shooting Park


We then drove to the Heartland Shooting Park, conveniently situated about three miles from the factory. Todd generously gave me several boxes of 6.5 x 55 Swedish ammunition so I could sight in the CZ Sporter in preparation for the forthcoming Outdoor Buddies hunt. Leupold had donated a VX-2 3-9×40 scope. Todd also gave me a few boxes of an array of .45 Colt ammunition to use in my two Uberti revolvers.

Heartland is a world-class multi-discipline shooting facility offering skeet, trap, sporting clays, rifle ranges out to six hundred yards, hand gun ranges, cowboy action formats (even a stagecoach and a jail!) and more. I had been there several times and it was like visiting friends again. Director Bill Starkey met us at the sign-in counter and cleared us for all shooting venues. Stellar employee Jacob Schwan escorted us to the rifle and handgun ranges.

Without burdening the reader with details, my two Uberti .45 Colts, a beautiful New Army Conversion Revolver and an 1873 Single Action Cattleman Revolver, sold under the Beretta brand as a Stampede, shot with superb accuracy. The Army Conversion .45 was particularly accurate with Hornday’s 255 grain Cowboy loads and the Stampede did admirably well with the 255 grain FTX load. The CZ rifle mated with the Hornady 140 grain SST Super Performance cartridges produced consistent groups of about two inches at two hundred yards, more than sufficient for our pronghorn hunt.

My task with the CZ sporter complete, Rob, Todd and I went to the skeet fields. I had with me two of my favorite shotguns, an Abiatico and Salvenelli 20-gauge Poseidon and a stunning Zoli 28-gauge over/under engraved by Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa. Dassa’s studio is in Collebeato, Italy, just north of the renowned Val Trompia region, Italy’s firearms center. Dassa’s soul-churning engraving featured on the underside of the receiver a bobwhite quail painted in enamel flying in the middle of Bulino bank-note engraving of trees and vegetation. All other metal surfaces on the receiver were engraved in a classic ornamental style. Rob was shooting his massive AyA 12-gauge side-by-side custom built by renowned instructor, gunmaker and gunsmith, Dale Tate.

We began shooting skeet. Todd shot his gorgeous Caesar Guerini 28-gauge which boasted a lovely marbled walnut stock. My shooting, was, I confess, not my finest hour. If the clay disks were quail, they would have reported back to their covey, “Nothing to worry about with the guy from Denver.” Todd seemingly crushed about every target, swinging the shotgun as smoothly as a conductor waves a baton.

Oak Creek Sporting Club


The next day, Saturday, we all went to the Oak Creek Sporting Club to shoot clay targets and to shoot quail. Oak Creek is located in Brainard, Nebraska, a part of this great country derisively referred to as ‘fly over country.’ As for me, I’d rather land in Nebraska than a lot of territories on the two coasts.

I find the region enriching and rejuvenating. It’s that part of America where you see billboards advertising businesses such as “Bill’s Fine Dining, Plumbing and Tires” and you hope Bill has kept the components of each business separate from the others. Brainard is a few miles from Loma, the diminutive town where much of the somewhat cultish movie “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar” (1995) was filmed, starring John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze.

Oak Creek resides in the larger geographic area known as the Bohemian Alps, a designation derived from the fact that the area was settled primarily by Czech immigrants. The region boasts lush farmland and gently rolling hills planted with alfalfa, milo, wheat and corn, which on the day of my visit, showed like a patchwork quilt of pastel shades of green and brown as far as my eyes could see.

This is big country, inhabited by big things: big trains, big trucks, big skies and, from what I have experienced, big hearts. Real blue jeans are worn and faded and made threadbare from real work. Boots are scuffed and cut on real iron, rock and concrete. It’s where the amber waves of grain wave and is home of the fruited plains some of us still sing about.

Located in the core of the Heartland, world renowned for upland bird hunting, Oak Creek has thousands of acres of prime upland bird habitat all within a controlled shooting environment. Native pheasant, Bobwhite quail and introduced chuckar populations thrive in this area and will most certainly satisfy even the staunchest wingshooter. Oak Creek’s guides and dogs are some of the best in the Midwest. With infectious personalities, significant knowledge and awesome dog handling, an upland experience at Oak Creek is like no other.

I had recently been to Oak Creek to break clays, hunt pheasant and write an article about a friend’s pristine thumb-lever Damascus-barrel Purdey built in London in 1869. This day we began shooting with Dean Kriz, one of the founders of the business and father of my friend, Terry. Terry is an extraordinary man by every measure. Most striking to me, he has adopted children and been a foster parent to several others, which, in my book, is as close to God as a human can get.

Quail Hunting at Oak Creek

The thing I like best about the Old Man is that he’s willing to talk about what he knows, and he never talks down to a kid, which is me, who wants to know things. When you are as old as the Old Man, you know a lot of things that you forgot you ever knew, because they’ve been a part of you so long. You forget that a young’un hasn’t had as hard a start on the word as you did, and you don’t bother to spread the information around. You forget that other people might be curious about what you already knew and forgot. ………The Old Man said he didn’t know what I would be when I grew up, and didn’t care a lot, but he said I might as well learn to respect quail, if only for practice in the respect of people. 

Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy

It Takes A Gentleman To Approach Another Gentleman


 As the morning was warming quickly, we cut short the clay target shooting and drove to the fields of corn and milo to hunt quail. Bryce, Rob and I gathered around Terry for a quick review of safety procedures. We had two young hunters joining us, Terry’s son, Cooper, and Colby, son of our guide and dog handler, Chad. Both youngsters were about thirteen.

The midmorning was graced by an azure sky and dots of cotton candy clouds. The fragrances of hardwoods, brush and damp earth appealed to me more than the finest perfumes. Some of the birds we were about to hunt were raised; a few would be wild. We uncased our shotguns. I gave my Abbiatico and Salvenelli to Terry, saying, “This is my finest shotgun. I want you to use it.” Terry grinned. “I’ve never seen a shotgun like this before.” I smiled. “Now you have. Enjoy!”

We began the excursion by walking to a corn field a hundred yards from the cars. Chad’s dog, Lucy, leaped about like a porpoise over the waves. Within moments a large quail flushed as if catapulted off an aircraft carrier, a severe right to left crossing shot with the bird rapidly gaining altitude. Terry gracefully shouldered the A & S and fired. A puff of feathers fell to the ground like dark snow. Lucy recovered the bird with speed and enthusiasm.

We kept walking with military like precision, keeping a straight line of guns, no one ahead that might get in the path of a shot as a shooter swung his gun. No shooting at birds behind and no swinging a gun beyond eighty degrees or so from the forward position in either direction. Proper hunting is safe hunting, and safe hunting demands self-discipline and thinking of safety in advance.

As we marched up one of the gentle rolling hills, a bird flushed. “No bird, no bird!” Rob yelled as the quail flew toward the non-hunters behind us. A moment later, another bird flushed. Colby brought up his Beretta Ukika 12-gauge with speed that some of us older folks could only envy. The shot was perfect. Lucy was on the bird within seconds, her tail wagging like the wings of a hummingbird.

We then went to a larger field of slightly rolling hills covered with corn stalks and beans, I think they were. Lucy zig-zagged with trained precision, returning to Chad for a quick drink of water. Moments later two quail flushed. With a lightning-quick move to the bird, Rob dropped one, expertly swinging his heavy AyA. The other bird was now gaining speed and quartering away slightly. I was shooting Fiocchi Golden Pheasant 28-gauge ammunition. I fired and the bird dropped like an anchor. The bird not wounded, I was relieved. As my colleague Steve Comus, editor of Safari Magazine, says, “When you make a great shot with a beautiful gun, for that moment, all is right with the world.”

One bird was enough for me. I moved from the line back to the observers. The youngsters could have any birds that would have been in my range.

The hunt ended triumphantly. Rob, Cooper and Colby each had several birds; the rest of us one apiece. Safety had been observed all around and there was a shared sense of joy as if our shoulders had been touched by rainbows. The way I see it, we older folks have duties—a moral duty and a duty to our heritage—to pass along hunting skills and hunting ethics to the younger folks. Hunting is a complex process that demands many skills and traits if one is to hunt honorably.

I urge the reader to read Melissa Bachman’s insightful essay,  What Kids Can Learn From Hunting,  Here is an example of her excellent writing. “Spending quality time in the field with kids is priceless, but there are a lot of things that hunting teaches them above and beyond the hunt, such as physical labor, disappointment, patience, preparation, mental toughness and personal responsibility.” For those who have the character and wisdom to learn them, hunting can provide meaningful lessons. Instilling ethics, elevating character, maintaining our hunting heritage and traditions are done slowly, meticulously and prudently, one step and one cartridge at a time.

Wild Game, Wines and Cuisine

            Terry prepared the quail and, graciously, gave me ten, more than Rob and I brought down. That’s the kind of person he was. After unloading and cleaning the guns, Terry took us to the Makovicka Winery, located three miles from Oak Creek. Butler County’s First Farm Winery, Makovicka is a beautiful little winery, the beneficiary of thousands of hours of work by owners Steven and Dianne Makovicka. Picnic areas and walkways grace the grounds behind the tasting room, offering an expansive soothing view of the rolling hills. Makovicka offers about a dozen varietals and blends, including some luscious fruit-based wines. Visitors receive a complimentary glass of wine, which can be enjoyed with selections of cheeses and crackers. My group bought a substantial collection of Makovicka’s offerings. I favored the La Crosse 2014, a white wine sporting a fresh fruity quality. I bought a few bottles, in part, because I liked it so much I decided I would use it in the recipe for cooking the quail.

Cooking with Boone and Crockett


We returned to Janet and Bryce’s spacious home north of York and I began cooking. Rob and Nancy selected wines to be consumed as I slavishly maneuvered in the kitchen. I had selected the recipe Grilled Quail with Jalapeño Sauce, a creation of chef Jon Bonnell, contained in the marvelous must-have wild game cookbook, Wild Gourmet, a Boone and Crockett Club Publication, featuring an Introduction by Mark Mondavi. For better or worse, I always tinker with recipes. In this case, I added extra garlic and jalapenos, guided by that maxim from Julia Child, (I am writing from memory here) “You can never have too much garlic.”

To accompany the quail I prepared scalloped potatoes—sliced potatoes bathed in layers of aromatic finely-grated Reggiano Permesan and prosciutto, a little salt and pepper and added cream and a sprinkling of white wine. Bake for one and one-half hours and wow!!! I report, without a hint of boasting, that the quail were magnificent—tender, drenched in flavor and thoroughly delicious. Get the cookbook and prepare your own!

I also share another quail recipe that I learned about coincidentally just one week after I returned from Nebraska. The recipe is so delicious I am convinced the reader will enjoy it. I had purchased a seat at a cooking class on preparing quail given by Elise Wiggins, the Executive Chef at one of Denver’s preeminent restaurants, Panzano’s. The recipe, accompanying this article, is somewhat complicated but well worth the effort. Also included is the recipe for Elise’s elegant tomato sauce.

Elise Wiggins is a culinary wizard, her signature dishes feature the best in contemporary Northern Italian cuisine with a focus on local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Panzano has been awarded 4 diamonds by AAA and named one of Zagat’s best restaurants in America.

Thus ended our marvelous quail hunt to Nebraska, blessed with good friends, a loving family and great food and wine. As Ira Gershwin wrote in I’ve Got Rhythm, “Who could ask for anything more?”

To download the recipe click HERE

For More information:

Oak Creek

Heartland Shooting Park


Makovicka Vineyard  402-545-2173

Boone and Crockett book


 909 17th Street, Denver, Colorado 80202

Shotgun Life


Outdoor Buddies

After the Last Shot: Estate Administration Issues With Firearms

by Michael G. Sabbeth

Firearms in an estate present unique administration challenges. Beyond their obvious inherent danger, the legal and prudent treatment of firearms requires specialized knowledge and practices. The uninformed or careless fiduciary risks jeopardizing estate assets and criminal and civil liability.

A lawyer went to the home of his recently widowed client. Her deceased husband’s firearms were sprinkled through- out the home like croutons on a Caesar salad. Retrieving handguns from under couches and dresser drawers, the client waved them around the room and at the lawyer. All the handguns were loaded.

This real-life scenario illustrates one example of why the treat- ment of firearms in an estate by fiduciaries and their legal counsel transcends sophisticated legal analysis. Practical wisdom is re- quired. People could be killed.

Firearms are unique estate assets highly regulated by an aggre- gation of federal, state, and local laws. Errors and ignorance in deal- ing with them in estate administration can result in civil and crim- inal liability for the attorney, the client, and third parties, and can cause irreversible tragedy.

This article addresses definitions and classifications of firearms, persons prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, transferring firearms, appraisals, and fiduciary duties. This article does not and is not intended to advocate higher fiduciary standards of care for personal representatives and their counsel than the law currently establishes regarding the possession and transfer of firearms in the estate administration context.

A Firearm by any Other Name

The attorney should promptly inquire whether firearms—or what appear to be firearms—are among the decedent’s property. The personal representative and all family members of the dece- dent should be unambiguously advised of the importance of find- ing, securing, and identifying firearms in the estate.

If firearms are found among the estate property, the attorney should methodically begin a sequence of actions. The first step is directing a competent, knowledgeable, and qualified person— whether the personal representative or some trained person desig- nated by the personal representative—to gather, unload, and safely secure all firearms. The next step is determining the type and class of each firearm. Justice Potter Stewart may have confidently known pornography when he saw it,1 but absent expertise and perhaps in- vestigation, such confidence likely will be misplaced regarding knowing the class of some types of firearms.

Federal law defines a firearm, in part, as “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be con- verted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”2 Colo- rado law defines a firearm as “any handgun, automatic, revolver, pis- tol, rifle, shotgun, or other instrument or device capable or intended to be capable of discharging bullets, cartridges, or other explosive charges.”3

For purposes of this article, firearms are divided into three classi- fications: National Firearms Act (NFA)4 firearms; antique fire- arms; and all other firearms. Analysis of federal firearms legislation begins with the NFA, as amended by the Gun Control Act (GCA of 1968),5 and the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA of 1986).6

NFA Firearms

Identifying all NFA firearms is vital because illegal possession or transfer of an NFA firearm can lead to prison terms; substantial fines; and the forfeiture of the weapon and any vessel, vehicle, or

aircraft used to conceal or convey the firearm.7 The NFA defines several categories of firearms:

• machine guns• short-barreled rifles (SBRs)• short-barreled shotguns (SBSs)• any other weapons (AOWs)• suppressors• destructive devices (DDs).8Under Colorado law, a “dangerous weapon” is defined in CRS

§ 18-12-102(1) as a firearm silencer, machine gun, short shotgun, short rifle, or ballistic knife. The language of the statute regarding machine guns, SBRs, and SBSs tracks the NFA.

Antique firearms are defined based on their date of manufacture and the type of ignition system used to fire a projectile. Any firearm manufactured in or before 1898 that is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire ammunition or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition is an antique firearm.9 Antique firearms are not covered by the NFA. Other non-NFA firearms include the more common bolt action, lever action, pump action, and semi- automatic action rifles, shotguns, and handguns (revolvers and pis- tols). In federal and state jurisdictions, statutes for possession and transfer treat handguns differently from other firearms.

Registered NFA Firearms

Only NFA firearms such as machine guns are registered under federal law. An unregistered NFA firearm is contraband and can- not be transferred. Possession of an unregistered NFA firearm is a felony. If an NFA firearm is in the estate, the attorney must deter- mine if the firearm was lawfully registered to the decedent. The National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) is the central registry of all NFA firearms in the United States that are not in the possession or under the control of the U.S. govern- ment. The registry includes: (1) the identification of the firearm; (2) the date of registration; and (3) the identification and address of the person entitled to possession of the firearm.

Registration of NFA firearms is mandatory. An exception to the registration requirement is a firearm legally brought back from a war—perhaps a captured firearm—which may be possessed legally if proper paperwork can be produced.

Persons or their fiduciaries who have firearms registered to them in the NFRTR are required to retain proof of such registration.10 Proof consists of a copy of the ATF form registering the firearm to the possessor. If the decedent’s representative is unable to locate such records, the representative may write to the NFA Branch to inquire into the registration status of the firearm. The written in- quiry should be accompanied by documents establishing the repre- sentative’s legal authority to represent the estate, such as Colorado Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary.11

The NFRTR may be unreliable regarding accurate records. If unable to find the registration, the attorney should contact the BATFE, in writing, to determine the weapon’s status. Although ATF is prohibited from disclosing tax information (which all NFA registrations are) the ATF may disclose the owner information of the firearm to persons lawfully representing registrants of NFA firearms.

Attorney David Goldman from Jacksonville, Florida, shared an anecdote that illustrates the hazards of dealing with NFA firearms. A personal representative brought an unregistered SBR—inno- cently or otherwise—to a gun shop for appraisal. A BATFE agent

happened to be in the shop. The personal representative was arrested.

An unregistered NFA firearm cannot be registered. The NTF Handbook advises the decedent’s representative to contact an ATF office to arrange for the disposal of the firearm. Transporting the unregistered firearm without obtaining instruction from the ATF is not advised.

Practice Tip

No economic benefit to the estate accrues when an unregistered NFA firearm is transferred to BATFE. A legally transferable regis- tered machine gun may be worth hundreds of thousands of dol- lars. The parts of an unregistered firearm also may have consider- able value. The BATFE allows for an unregistered firearm to be decommissioned into parts, thereby eliminating its character as an NFA firearm.12 In the event an unregistered NFA firearm is found, careful reading of the Handbook is recommended to become edu- cated about the decommission process.

Decommissioning the firearm may yield the estate a substantial amount of money. Some writers have hinted (although not assert- ed) that disposing of the firearm to the BATFE rather than de- commissioning it may be a breach of a fiduciary duty or even attor- ney malpractice.

It is prudent to become familiar with Colorado law on the nuances of legal versus illegal firearms. For example, in Colorado, it is unlawful to possess a defaced firearm, which is defined as a firearm where distinguishing identification marks have been re- moved.13

Prohibited Persons

Federal and state laws prohibit several classes of persons from owning or possessing firearms. A primary purpose of the Gun Control Act and the Uniform Firearms Act is to prevent “prohib- ited persons” from possessing firearms. A person prohibited at the federal level is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in any state.

The Gun Control Act defines nine categories of prohibited per- sons. A prohibited person is one who:

.    1)  is under indictment for or convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;

.    2)  is a fugitive from justice;

.    3)  is an illegal drug user;

.    4)  is adjudicated mentally defective;

.    5)  is an illegal alien;

.    6)  has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military;

.    7)  has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship;

.    8)  is under a restraining order against harassing, stalking, or in- timidating an intimate partner or child; and

.    9)  has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence.14

Transfers of Firearms

The main considerations regarding transfers of firearms are un- ambiguous: no prohibited person may receive a firearm and the transfer of an NFA firearm must be authorized by the BATFE. Only a person, including a personal representative, qualified under federal and state law may legally posses a firearm. Firearms trans- fers in most cases will be mundane and have little risk of conflict- ing with federal and state law or being infused with liability concerns. Some transfers, however, may be cause for trepidation and scrutiny.

The transfer of an NFA firearm is defined as the “selling, assign- ing, pledging, leasing, loaning, giving away, or otherwise disposing of an NFA firearm.15 This definition is applicable to the transfer of any firearm, including non-NFA firearms. Federal law prohibits a person from selling or disposing of any firearm or ammunition to any person prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm if the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the re- cipient of the firearm is legally prohibited from possessing or re- ceiving firearms.16

Two classes of people are relevant when discussing transfers: a federal firearms-licensed dealer (FFL dealer)17 and a non-licens- ee. Typically, a personal representative and the attorney are not FFL dealers. An FFL dealer as transferor has greater legal duties than a non-licensed transferor. For a non-FFL transferor (the typ- ical case) no duty exists to determine whether the intended recipi- ent is a prohibited person. Absent knowledge or a reasonable ba- sis to believe the recipient is a prohibited person, a transfer of a non-NFA firearm may take place.

An FFL dealer must perform a state InstaCheck (background check) on the intended transferee. The intended transferee must be approved before the transfer from the FFL dealer to the trans- feree can occur. In Colorado, this process is done through the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.18

A non-FFL dealer licensee intrastate transfer of a non-NFA firearm to a non-FFL dealer licensee does not require an Insta- Check. (As discussed above, an NFA firearm transfer has addi- tional restrictions.) The transfer remains subject to the operative mental state of knowing or having cause to believe that the trans- feree is a prohibited person.

Distribution of an NFA firearm to an heir or beneficiary quali- fied under local, state, and federal law is a transfer and must be done in accordance with the NFA. Before the firearm may be law- fully transferred, approval from BATFE must be obtained by fil- ing an application to transfer and register the firearm. The trans- fer may be completed without payment of the generally applicable $200 transfer tax.19

If the NFA firearm is being transferred to a dealer rather than to an heir or beneficiary, a BATFE Form 4 must be completed, a tax paid, and approval obtained. Transfer of an NFA firearm by auction can be done only through an auction house licensed to possess NFA firearms. Although beyond the scope of this article, an auction house can transfer an NFA firearm only to a qualified person approved by the BATFE.

Fiduciary Duties

The fiduciaries (personal representative and attorney) must safely secure firearms, identify their type, and understand transfer laws for each class of firearm. The attorney may wish to take possession of the firearms during the estate administration process if the per- sonal representative cannot or chooses not to do so. However, when doing so, extreme caution is urged on the part of the attorney for a number of reasons, including potential liability for accidents, theft, and damage.

The attorney accepting possession of firearms must be a quali- fied person. Indeed, the prudent personal representative might de- mand a background check of the attorney. If neither the personal representative nor the attorney is willing to take possession of the

firearms, the attorney should petition the court for the appoint- ment of a special personal representative empowered solely to pos- sess and transfer the firearms. In either scenario, adequate insur- ance for the firearms should be acquired. When dealing with firearms, the fiduciaries, particularly the personal representative, have unique duties that transcend the general obligations to mar- shal and inventory the assets, evaluate them, and distribute the property or proceeds from the sale of property to the proper bene- ficiaries.

Practice Tips and Hypotheticals

The following discussion presents practical considerations relat- ing to the types of firearms that may confront the fiduciary and applications of the laws that should influence the decisions of the prudent fiduciary. Recall that a non-licensee transfer of a firearm to another non-licensee does not require a determination that the recipient is not a prohibited person. That is the law, but it may not be prudent fiduciary behavior.

ØThe fiduciary must know whether a firearm can be distrib- uted to a beneficiary in the beneficiary’s venue. For example, an assault-type weapon cannot be distributed in California, and a handgun can be distributed in Pennsylvania only to a person with an appropriate license.

Unless the fiduciary has a high degree of confidence regarding the legal status of the beneficiary, it is recommended that the fidu- ciary receive from each beneficiary or other transferee a notarized document that lists all the prohibited categories mentioned above and requires the intended transferee to sign under oath that the transferee is not disqualified by any of the prohibited categories. The highest level of protection is to have all transfers conducted through an FFL dealer, if justified by circumstances, such as the ex- istence of beneficiaries the fiduciary does not know or where trans- fers are made to non-beneficiaries who are strangers to the estate. Some practitioners routinely advise clients to use FFL dealers in all but the most conservative instances.The fiduciary can ask a fed- eral firearms dealer to do a background check; the fee for such service is nominal.

ØA common scenario occurs when the sale of a decedent’s gun collection is advertised by e-mail among friends and is held at the decedent’s home. Often, however, many strangers show up at the home and some buy firearms. Sales and transfers in the home can be legal but they might not be prudent. Although there is no duty to inquire as to whether the purchaser is qualified, a purchaser may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The issue is risk man- agement rather than technical legal compliance.

An extreme example would arise if the personal representative affixed posters to neighborhood telephone poles advertising “Estate Sale of Guns at Joe’s House” or if the sale was announced on Twitter or Facebook. Although technical legal compliance with transfers may have occurred, if a prohibited person acquired a firearm and then committed a crime, expensive litigation against the estate and fiduciaries likely would ensue and no prudent lawyer could guaran- tee an outcome favorable to the estate or its fiduciaries.

ØA fiduciary bringing a firearm to an FFL dealer (often a gun shop) for consignment is deemed a transfer, as is an appraisal if the dealer takes possession of the firearm. If sometime before the expi- ration of the consignment or appraisal period the fiduciary became a prohibited person, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm back to the fiduciary. In such an instance, the personal representative must leave the firearm for sale, sell the firearm to the dealer at perhaps an improvident price, or petition the court to appoint a special fi- duciary to legally take possession of the firearm.

ØA seemingly harmless scenario that dramatically illustrates the vulnerability of fiduciaries when dealing with firearms can innocuously arise if the personal representative allows a benefici- ary or potential non-beneficiary purchaser to shoot the firearm for reasons as mundane as to determine whether the gun “fits” or whether the purchaser can handle the recoil. If the firearm is a vin- tage shotgun with Damascus steel barrels, a not uncommon firearm among collectors or that are handed down from previous generations, the shotgun likely cannot safely discharge modern high-pressure ammunition. It is quite likely the Damascus barrels will explode on firing one or more of such cartridges, possibly caus- ing injury or death to the shooter and to others in proximity. More- over, the destruction of an estate asset possibly worth tens of thou- sands of dollars would result.

If an injury occurred, the fiduciary who supplied such modern ammunition to the shooter or who failed to expressly inform the shooter not to use such ammunition exposes the estate, as well as himself or herself, to liability, probably without a right of contribu- tion or indemnification from the estate. Simply stated, the fiduciary dealing with firearms has to know what he or she is doing, and so should the attorney advising the fiduciary. As a general proposi- tion, the fiduciary and the attorney should be on notice to seek in- put from an expert if either or both lack the high degree of knowl- edge required when dealing with firearms.

ØThe fiduciary does not want his or her actions to result in harm to a beneficiary or to family or friends. For example, assume a fiduciary transfers a firearm to a nonprohibited beneficiary who lives with a prohibited person. A risk of criminal liability of the prohibited person can arise under the theory of constructive pos- session if the beneficiary does not properly isolate the firearm.

As a general rule, the nonprohibited person retains a Second Amendment right to possess or own a firearm, but does have a duty to prevent access to the firearm by the prohibited person. In United States v. Huet, the court stated:

[B]ans on felon possession of firearms also affect their law- abiding spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends, and other house- mates: Those people might be unable to safely possess guns in their homes because of the possibility that their felon housemate will be seen as ‘constructive[ly] possess[ing]’ the gun, and that they themselves will therefore be seen as criminally aiding this illegal possession.” There are limits on the constructive posses- sion doctrine (at least in the view of many courts), for instance if the housemate keeps the gun locked in a combination-locked safe.20

Also, under certain facts, the nonprohibited beneficiary might become criminally liable for permitting the possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. Although no fiduciary breach of duty would have occurred by transferring a firearm to a qualified trans- feree, and although the consequences of such a transfer are beyond the scope of the fiduciary’s duty, the prudent fiduciary should be aware of such possibilities and consider implementing an alternative asset distribution plan.

ØAlthough a beneficiary who is a prohibited person cannot possess a bequeathed firearm, he or she does retain a property right in it. Thus, the estate may be required to sell the firearm and give the beneficiary the proceeds or substituted property of equal value. In the alternative, the non-qualified beneficiary could give the firearm to someone else, as long as he or she never gains possession of the firearm.

Ø When distributing firearms, the fiduciary has a duty of loyalty to the estate and its beneficiaries. Distribution of firearms must be fair and not self-serving, as in the instance that could arise where a personal representative is a beneficiary and has knowledge of the value of firearms equal to or greater than other beneficiaries. A dis- cussion of this issue took place in the unpublished opinion in The Matter of the Estate of Howell. There, the Delaware Chancery Court concluded:

They challenge Jon’s allocation of the firearms. The values of the firearms were set by a friend and social acquaintances of Jon, and he then, exercising his fiduciary powers, selected for himself the firearms that he wanted based on those valuations. In essence, Sue and Lynn argue that if Jon is to use his power to allocate the firearms, he must obtain an independent valuation of the firearms. Alternatively, if appraisals by Jon’s friends and acquain- tances are to be used, then they should be entitled to select from the collection (perhaps after having first had a full and fair opportunity to have them valued by an appraiser).

By picking the more valuable firearms, presumably the true “collectible” firearms, Jon carried out a strategy that raises seri- ous questions as to the fairness and impartiality of the distribu- tion process. If Jon had set the value for the various firearms himself, it is clear that the approach he chose could not with- stand even a superficial duty of loyalty analysis.

Therefore, in light of all the circumstances and, in particular, Jon’s decision to distribute to himself the more valuable firearms, I find that Jon’s approach to valuing and distributing the guns was not consistent with his duty of loyalty and was unfair to his beneficiaries.21


The personal representative may hire appraisers to evaluate estate property.22 The rules defining fair market value for house- hold and personal effects appear in Internal Revenue Code (Code) § 20.2031-6(a):

The fair market value . . . is the price which a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller, neither being under any compul- sion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.23

This section also describes the requirements for taking inventories and the fiduciary obligations to affirm the evaluations. Section 20.2031-6(b) defines the value thresholds for requiring a valuation:

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section, if there are included among the household and personal effects articles having marked artistic or intrinsic value of a total value in excess of $3,000 . . . the appraisal of an expert or experts, under oath, shall be filed with the return. . . .

The vast majority of the millions of firearms in households are more or less fungible and the markets are well established. De- pending on conditions, values can be established with a high de- gree of accuracy and consistency over the years. However, many firearms are relatively rare and unique. The value of custom or rare, vintage firearms can be stunning. Firearms from some custom makers of sporting arms, for example, cost from hundreds of thou- sands to in excess of $1 million.

Value is determined by an array of variables. The prestige of an engraver, for example, can add as much as $100,000 to a firearm’s value. Slight dents and scratches on these “high-grade” or “best” firearms can significantly reduce value.

Of course, the time limitation for selling the firearms will sub- stantially influence their sales price. The resale of some custom or “bespoke” firearms may occur in an hour, or may take years. If bene- ficiaries want their money immediately, they will receive sales offers at considerably less than what might be offered within a lengthier span of time when the fiduciary is determined to maximize value to the estate. The valuation process is far more art than science when dealing with firearms in these very limited niche markets.

If the estate is not taxable and the filing of a federal estate tax return is not required, no appraisal is required. However, for rea- sons beyond the scope of this article, even if an estate tax return is not technically required, under some circumstances, it might be prudent to get appraisals, file an estate return, and start the statute of limitations regarding the finality of the evaluations for the bene- ficiaries’ tax basis.


The dangerous consequences of unsafely handling firearms are self-evident. Less obvious are the financial and criminal conse- quences from wrongful possession and transfers of certain types of firearms and the wrongful possession and transfer of firearms gen-

erally to persons prohibited from owning, possessing, or control- ling them.

The inherent lethal nature of firearms places great demands on fiduciaries and their advisors. The failure to fulfill those demands can result in catastrophic physical harm and incalculable economic damage. This article is a starting point for the prudent fiduciary and counsel, who should be motivated to ask proper questions, evaluate answers, and seek knowledgeable guidance. The goal is to enable fiduciaries to treat firearms in an estate respectfully and in- telligently, thereby reducing the likelihood of harm to fiduciaries and to those relying on their judgment and wisdom and, of course, to enhance society’s safety.


1. Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964).

2. 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a) (3). See also Prince, “Grandpop’s Machine Gun in the Chest,” available at machine-gun-in-the-chest (describing other National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms, such as “all other weapons” and suppressors, and difficul- ties that can arise when trying to identify them). See generally U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), National Firearms Handbook 59 ( June 2007), available at nfa_handbook); fireamrs.html (information for determining whether a firearm is an NFA firearm).

3. CRS § 18-1-901(h).

4. 26 U.S.C.S. §§ 5801 to 5872; 73 P. L. No. 474, 48 Stat. 1236. BATFE provides some identification assistance with Identification_of_Firearms_pt1.pdf and of_Firearms_pt2.pdf.

5. 90 P. L. 618, 82 Stat. 1235, 921.6. 18 U.S.C. § 922(o)(1); 99 P.L. 308, 100 Stat. 452, 102(9).7. 26 U.S.C.S. §§ 5861(d) and (j) and 5872; 49 U.S.C.S. §§ 781 to

788.8. 26 U.S.C.S. §§ 5801 to 5872; 73 P. L. No. 474, 48 Stat. 1236). A

short-barreled rifle (SBR), for example, is defined in part as a firearm “hav- ing a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length or an overall length of less than 26 inches.” An SBS is defined in part as “having a barrel less than 18 inches or has an overall length of less than 26 inches.” Instructions for measuring the barrels are contained within the definitions.

9. 26 U.S.C. § 5845.10. 26 U.S.C. § 5841(e); 27 C.F.R. § 479.101(e)11. The address of the NFA Branch is: BATFE, National Firearms Act

Branch, 244 Needy Rd., Martinsburg, WV 25405.12. See generally BAFTE, supra note 1 at 58 and Appendix B (ATF

Rulings 2003-1, 2003-2, 2003-3, and 2003-4). 13. CRS § 18-12-103.14. 18 U.S.C. § 992(d).15. 26 U.S.C. § 5845(j).

16. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1) to (9).17. 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a).18. See 26 U.S.C. § 5811. See generally BATFE website, United States v. Huet, No. 08-0215 (W.D.Penn., Nov. 22, 2010),

available at &q=us+v.+huet&hl=en&as_sdt=2,6&as_vis=1. See 11/24/second-amendment-protects-gun-possession-by-the-housemates- of-felons. See also State v. Caekaert, 983 P. 2d. 332 (Mont. 1999).

21. Estate of Howell, Nos. 117657, Civ. A. 17760-NC. (Del. Ch. Feb. 12, 2002 )

22. CRS § 15-12-706.23. IRC, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 20.



If Anti Hunters Had Compassion, They’d Support Hunting!

by Michael G. Sabbeth 

Hunters are accused of lacking compassion, of being heartless uncaring murderers of beautiful animals. These accusations are among the most vicious in our hypersensitive culture, comparable to saying someone is a racist or doesn’t recycle. Hunters’ neck hair sticks up like striking cobras as they try to fend off the assaults. “My money preserves habitat; my money manages game animals! I care!” they soulfully cry out. Hunters are correct yet they lose.  

I have seen pro-hunter / pro-firearms debaters, who have more brains in their urine samples than their opponents have brains, lose the debates. We have the facts, logic and morality on our side, yet we lose! Why? Because most hunter advocates have not learned this important skill: how to fight back by evaluating the consequences of anti-hunting policies using the language of the attackers. When we use this technique, we undermine the attacks and turn the tables on the attackers.  

Do hunters lack compassion? An examination of three situations shows conclusively that hunters have compassion and anti-hunters do not.

1.     The brutal winter of 2008 in Gunnison, Colorado  risked the deaths of a majority of deer and elk. Government agencies, hunters and businesses contributed money to buy and distribute food. Appeals for assistance to so-called ‘animal rights’ groups, PETA, HSUS, among others, were rebuffed. The rationale of the refusing organizations: they would be saving the animals only so hunters could kill them later.

2.     In 2014, under the auspices of The Dallas Safari Club, an auction was held to hunt one mature non-reproducing black rhinoceros in Namibia. The proceeds of the hunt would fund anti-poaching programs, clean water facilities, protect younger vulnerable rhinos and provide food for the villagers. This auction was viciously attacked by anti-hunters with tactics that included death threats to DSC staff and to hunters.

3.     The demagoguery following the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe created a “Cecil Effect” of losing hunters, revenue, food for orphanages and the need to cull two hundred lions which generated no revenue but which increased poaching.

What can we learn? Increased animal deaths, poverty, poaching and revenue loss result from the anti-hunting policies. But more profound lessons can be learned. Compassion, born of Latin roots, has two components: a feeling of sympathy for another coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion, then, requires both empathy and a desire to act on that empathy.

You see the problem with compassion? Compassion, a noble concept in theory, is easily abused and manipulated because it doesn’t require anyone to do anything! You can be judged as compassionate based on feelings alone. Compassion can be morality on the cheap. As Aristotle wrote, “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.”

My key point: hunters are accused of lacking compassion because they kill animals, yet the anti-hunter smugly views himself as compassionate without any regard to the destructive real-life consequences of his actions and beliefs. In the examples above, more animals died and more animals will die (and human suffering increases) as a direct consequence of the so-called compassion of these anti-hunting pressure groups. But the anti-hunter does not care!  Reality and truth are irrelevant. Feeling good is more important than doing good. Keeping animals alive is the measure of compassion for animals. Hunters possess true compassion. But we need to make the best arguments to show why we deserve to win the debate.  

Beretta Strikes Gold!

by Michael G. Sabbeth 

I watched Teknys shotguns being made about a year ago during a tour of Beretta’s main production facility in Gardone, Val Trompia. Production of the receivers was most intriguing. Billets of nickel chromium steel were stacked in a rack about ten slots wide and twenty high – gleaming in the direct overhead sunlight like precious bullion bars.

The long extension arm of the massive bright yellow robot removed a billet from a slot, and, in spastic bursts, moved it at changing angles for the drills to cut, shape and polish the steel. Machined to tolerances of about 1/10,000 of an inch, the completed receiver was returned to rack and, with computerized precision, the robotic arm withdrew another raw billet.

I became a fan of the Teknys shotgun series several years ago when I bought a 20 gauge sporting clays model. I was thus enthused to test the Teknys Gold Target and to share my impressions and observations. I provide a brief

history of the Teknys to illustrate the upgrades in the Gold Target model and then describe the shooting regimen I used to test it. Comments about the gun from novice shooters to well-seasoned coaches, in addition to my own, add to the evaluation of this shotgun.

Technical Specifications

As always when writing about Beretta guns, I obtained background information on the Teknys Gold Target model from Jarno Antonelli, the brilliant marketing manager with the fifty gigabyte brain at Beretta’s main office in Gardone. The name ‘Teknys’ was coined by Beretta to capture overtones of technology, research and innovation combined with practical experiences from the field and clay target courses.

The origin of the Teknys is the AL391 Urika (AL stands for Automatico Leggero – Lightweight Automatic) designed in 2000 and which replaced the AL390 series that was manufactured commencing in 1994. The Beretta family, primarily President Ugo Gussalli Beretta and son Franco, wanted a semi-auto shotgun series more refined than the Urika. Their collaborative efforts with dozens of engineers and research managers and designers resulted in the Teknys series, introduced in 2002.

Design advances included a receiver with a highly scratch and corrosion resistant nickel- based finish, a new gas valve design to reduce maintenance, a new barrel profile (Optima Bore), new choke tubes (Optima Choke), new recoil pad (Gel tek) and a luminous front sight (Truglo type).

Other changes enhanced the gun’s elegance and aesthetics – such as an innovative wood finish for the standard version (X-Tra Wood), an up-graded oil-finished wood for the Gold models, a green enamel insert for the Teknys field version and a blue enamel insert for the competition configuration. A new checkering pattern was also introduced.

As with all Urika and Teknys model, the Gold Target employs a self-compensating gas operating system. Gas from the fired cartridge cycles the action by being vented through the spring-loaded valve in the cylinder. The system adjusts automatically to the pressures of each cartridge, thereby achievingflawless andreliableperformance with anarray of shot loads rangingfrom 24 to 57 grams of anyfactory cartridge or equivalent. This gas system offers exceptional recoil reduction.

The Gold Target features Optima Bore barrels and Optima Choke tubes. These 12 gauge barrels have internal profiles of 18.6 mm of diameter (0.732 in.) whereas conventional barrels normally have 18.3/18.4 mm (0.720/0.724 in) diameters. The Optima Bore profile has been specifically designed for competition purposes. Beretta claims that its design considerably improves shot pattern distribution, felt recoil reduction and shot velocity optimization.

The Optima Bore barrel only accepts Optima choke tubes. The five choke tubes included with the gun are longer and slimmer compared to the traditional Beretta Mobilchoke tubes. Their internal profile is designed to enhance the concentration and distribution of shot patterns. Barrels and chokes handle steel shot.

Unlike previous Teknys models, the Gold Target has the same improved spinning and self- cleaning valve system as the Urika 2. As gas pressure is fed into the

gas cylinder, a series of expandable fingers on the piston expand outwardly to clean the gas cylinder as the action cycles. During cycling, the piston spins, causing the sharp ‘scraper teeth’ on its leading edge to cut into, dislodge and remove carbon deposits on the cylinder’s forward interior section. This improved cleaning action greatly contributes to enhanced reliability and longer functioning shooting periods between cleaning.

The four major enhancements of the Gold Target model elevate it to an out-of-the-box world-class target shotgun suitable for all clay target disciplines. The Gold Target has the Beretta Balance System to alter forward weight by adding an additional cap to the base forend cap. Three weights are provided, 10, 70 and 110 grams.

Beretta has added to the Gold Target an adjustable stock with a memory system. Comb height and cast-on and cast-off settings can be easily changed by using the patented locking design of the memory system. The device is made from a carbon reinforced technopolymer for durability.

Comb adjustments are made within seconds by inserting the supplied hexagonal key into slots in the device and loosening and tightening as desired. Cast-on and cast-offadjustments are equallyeasy but require theremoval of the comb.

The shotgun is supplied with a second rib, 10 mm wide and slightly stepped to the rear. Whereas the rib mounted on the gun is designed to shoot a 50% pattern over the aiming point, the second rib is designed to shoot 70% above the point of aim. I confess I shot only a few rounds using the second rib. I did not count pellet holes on the pattern board but my observation led me to conclude that the percentage distribution as described was reasonably accurate.

The engineering design of this rib system is creative in its durability and simplicity. With the barrel removed from the receiver, only thirty seconds or so are needed to remove and replace the ribs. A disassembly punch tool is inserted in a slot on the rib located a few millimeters behind the front bead and used to slide the locking metal strip rearward. By special order, two other ribs are available, one yielding a pattern 60% over point of aim and another yielding an 80% pattern over point of aim. (Please note that the ribs are not interchangeable with the Teknys Gold Sporting or Trap ribs.)

The system I found most impressive is the Recoil Reduction System. It is a removable spring- mass recoil reduction device installed in the stock, just above and going rearward from the pistol grip. As I describe in detail later, it is stunningly effective. Combined with the inherent recoil absorbing qualities of the self-compensating gas system, it is difficult to imagine a softer shooting shotgun.

A few other features of the gun merit mention. The Gold Target, only available in 30″ and retailing for $2100, boasts a select oil- finished walnut buttstock and forend, which is slimmer than standard Beretta Urika and Teknys forends. It has a 3 inch chamber, a

cross bolt reversible for left- handed shooters, a quick bolt release that can be easily installed, a white front bead and a steel mid bead and weighs, with the light forend cap, eight pounds. The gun also offers the shim buttstock adjustment system found in all Urkia and Teknys models. The gun is packed in a high-density plastic carrying case which includes a bottle of Beretta oil and an array of tools.


My plan for thoroughly testing the Gold Target had several components. I wanted to use a broad spectrum of factory and hand-loaded cartridges of dramatically different pressures, velocities and weights to experience their effects on recoil and the reliability of the gun cycling the different loads. I also intended to compare the recoil of the Gold Target with that of my own and older Urika model and with my eight-pound plus 12-gauge over/under target shotgun. Finally, in addition to my own testing, I wanted other shooters, from novice to experienced, to shoot the gun and give me their assessments.

To achieve the first requirement, I sought the support of colleagues from several ammunition manufacturers

with whom I’ve worked over the years – Jason Nash from Federal Ammunition, Patrick Thomas at Rio Ammunition, Jonathan Harling at Chevalier Advertising who represents Winchester Ammunition and Jackie Stenton at Fiocchi USA. Chris Hodgdon of Hodgdon Powder sent me supplies of several powders for crafting hand loads. About sixteen different factory and hand loads were used in testing.

To fulfill the third requirement, I visited three of the fine clay target ranges within an hour of my home that collectively offered trap and sporting and skeet formats – my thanks to Mark and Brenda Moore at Kiowa Creek Sporting Clays, Doug Kraft at Colorado

Clays and Jerry William at Quail Run.

To help me test the Gold Target, Doug at Colorado Clays hooked me up with several highly skilled competitive trap shooters. At Kiowa Creek I spent an hour shooting with renowned multi- discipline instructor Warren Watson and I took a bunch of friends who were beginner shooters to Quail Run to shoot skeet, trap and sporting clays.

It was a gorgeous Fall day when I visited Colorado Clays to shoot with Kim Butorac and Nick and Russ Digesualdo. After the initial few shots I tinkered with the adjustable comb for a few minutes

to eliminate recoil on my face. Thereafter recoil was a non-factor.

Every shooter, irrespective of their skill level, used the word “smooth” to describe the experience of firing the Gold Target. Kim had her own highly tuned Beretta Urika Gold. Tr ying the Gold Target, she exclaimed, “Wow! Smooth. Really smooth!” Nick and Russ, both high level competition trap shooters, commented favorably on the smoothness of its swing and its outstanding balance.

One trap shooter, who returned his $80,000 matched pair of highly customized Krieghoffs to the rack to try the Gold Target, said, “This guncandoitall–itcangetyouto the top!” Although he did not offer to trade guns, using the Gold Target he consistently turned the clays into puffballs from the 16-yard line with a selection of my ammunition.

It’s Amazing!

I wanted to give the Gold Target a legitimate and tough test. I’d shot thousands of rounds through a bunch of Urika and Teknys shotguns, but this one was supposed to be better. I wanted to determine if that were true.

I used an extensive array of ammunition. On the light end of the spectrum were the Winchester Xtra Lite 23/4 dram, 1 ounce 1150 fps loads and my custom hand loads used for my Damascus barrel vintage shotguns; 7/8 ounce, 1290 fps, 5500 psi, powered by 25.6 grains of IMR 7625.

On the heavy end, I loaded a few boxes of shells I deemed to be at the outer limits of sanity: 31.2 grains of Longshot that, according to the Hodgdon Manual, pushed the 1 1/8 ounces of shot at 1400 fps with 8,200 PSI. Other heavy loads included the Winchester Super Sport Sporting Clays, 11/8 ounce,

1300 fps, the Federal Handicap1 1/8 ounce 3 dram load, the Rio high brass 1 1/4 Game load and the Fiocchi Crusher, three dram, 1300 fps, 1 ounce load.

Within these polarities I used hand loaded shells matching the 24 gram Winchester International Target loads and mid-range one- ounce loads at listed velocities of 1180 fps up to 1250 fps. I used

Hodgdon Clays, International, Longshot and IMR 7625 powders and Winchester Super Target powders.

Some additional factory loads included the Fiocchi Spreader, the Winchester Heavy Target load, the Winchester International Target load, the Fiocchi Target load and theRioTarget3dram11/8 ounce load.

Friends, Steve Griesen and Lucas Schiff, both beginner shooters, shot trap, skeet and sporting clays with me at Quail Run. Although each had their own shotguns, they did noticeably better with the Gold Target. “Really smooth,” Lucas enthused, echoing the assessments of the folks at Colorado Clays.

I and my friends fired almost one thousand rounds during the ten days we tested the gun. No matter the load or the sequence of the loads fired, not a single cycle failure occurred – even when shooting the low pressure IMR 7625 loadings. Most amazing, however, was the reduction in recoil. Using the Winchester Xtra Lite as the base for comparison of recoil, cartridges of considerably greater power yielded insignificant increases in felt recoil. For example, the 11/8 ounce 1400 fps Longshot load yielded recoil only minimally greater than the Xtra Lite load. The recoil of any load was greater with my Beretta Urika than with the Gold Target and the recoil for any load was greater yet with my over/under. It is unarguable that the Gold Target dramatically reduces felt recoil compared to my heavy over/under target gun and to my Urika, which in its own right is an inherently soft- shooting semi auto.

Not only did I feel less recoil with the Gold Target, but according to Warren’s

observations when shooting at Kiowa Creek, there was less recoil. He watched me shoot many loads, ranging from theXra Lite on a springing tealtarget to the nutty 1400 fps Longshot recipe that crushed sixty-yard crossing targets. “There was no snapping back of your head,” he noted. “When shooting shotguns,” Warren said, “the first part of the body that goes is the head. That’s where the fatigue and pain and mental breakdown begin.”


Concluding Comments

This is an impressive shotgun. Peter Horn, Director of the Beretta Galler y in Manhattan, notes the success of the Gold Target is due to the high degree of personalization the user can impose without the need of a specialized gun fitter or gunsmith. It is easy to fine tune the sight picture and point of aim.

Warren Watson extolled the Gold Target’s mechanics. “The trigger is the heart and soul of the gun,” he emphasized. “The better the shooter you become, the more trigger sensitive you become. You can always depend on the quality of the Beretta semi auto trigger – they are consistently good. And Berettas are dependable. Period. They last.”

In conclusion, the Teknys Gold Target allows the shooter to transition fluidly from one target discipline to another. Offering the finest accolade for the Gold Target, Warren said, “With the adjustable comb, rib and shims, the Gold Target allows the everyday working man or woman to own a world class target breaker.” Fine praise, indeed, and well deserved in every regard. Beretta has struck gold.






It’s in the blood

by Michael G. Sabbeth

Tom Bryant exited the shooting cage and manipulated a small device hooked on his belt. “I was losing concentration,” he said. “My blood sugar was a little high.” He infused insulin from his pump into his tissue, then wished me well as I stepped into the cage. I’ve shot with Tom for years yet had not known he was a Type I Juvenile Diabetic.

Diabetes is a pernicious disease that requires constant vigilance. Because superb information is readily available on the Internet, I do not address the disease’s severe pathology. This article describes metabolic processes relevant to shooters and offers suggestions about how they can achieve peak performance through proper preparation and treatment during a shooting event.

Carbohydrates – sugars, starch and fiber – are our main source of energy. Digestion breaks them down into sugars called ‘glucose’ when in the blood stream. Insulin, a hormone, enables glucose to enter cells, primarily muscle cells, to be used for energy or to be stored as glycogen in the liver and kidneys for future energy use. Blood sugar is the sole energy source for the brain.

For most of us, insulin is produced in the pancreas and released into the blood as needed as the glucose level rises. However, the pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and, thus, the diabetic cannot process glucose for energy. The Type 1 diabetic must inject insulin from an external source to prevent blood glucose from rising to levels that can be fatal and to process it for energy.

A person with Type 2 diabetes produces insufficient insulin or is resistant to insulin and, thus, does not process glucose efficiently. As opposed to the Type 1 diabetic, the Type 2 diabetic has available various and less drastic treatments –exercise, weight loss, medication, sometimes insulin injection –to more efficiently process glucose. Many people with Type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed for years because the symptoms are common among non-diabetics.

Normal blood glucose levels range from 90 to 110 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (90- 110 mg/dl). The challenge for the Type 1 diabetic is to infuse into the blood stream the amount of insulin appropriate for the blood glucose levels so that a normal blood glucose range can be maintained under an array of physical and mental conditions.Hypoglycemia occurs when excess insulin causes the blood glucose level to drop below the normal range. Hyperglycemia occurs when the glucose level rises above the normal range because insulin in the blood is inadequate. In either instance, significant consequences will occur that, in the extreme, can be life-threatening. Severe consequences of mismanaged diabetes – for example, foot numbness or ketoacidosis

(poisoning the blood when inadequate insulin causes fat to be burned for energy) – are beyond the scope of this article.

How I Feel and Why

Blood glucose levels affect every function of the body and mind. An array of symptoms become apparent when the glucose levels are out of metabolic alignment. I wrote previously that Br yant noticed he was losing his concentration. Loss of concentration and focus can result from one or more causes, and when causes compound, the consequences quickly become detrimental and substantial.

Low blood glucose levels prevent the cells, including the brain, from receiving adequate energy. The body thinks it is starving. The person will feel weak, lethargic and unfocused. High glucose levels, the result of inadequate insulin, indicate that glucose is not entering the cells and generating energy. Symptoms such a dizziness, compromised vision, thirst and excess urination result.

Relevant to shooters, high glucose levels affect the eyes and diminishes concentration. Dr. Boris Draznin, Director, Adult Diabetes Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, explains that elevated sugar impairs the small vessels in the eyes and gets into the lenses, drawing in fluid and swelling them. Light penetration and vascular oxygen levels are diminished, compromising their functions and causing inaccurate information to be sent to the brain. Mental stress caused by impaired eyesight, somewhat similar to that caused by chronic back pain, for example, compounds the physical causes of sub-optimal performance. Blood sugar levels play a key

role in shooting because focus and concentration are vital. Br yant told me his vision is best and, thus, he shoots best, when his glucose levels are between 110 and 120mg/dl. He begins to get shaky below 90 and loses focus, just as concentration is compromised at high glucose levels. Br yant said he can ‘shoot through’ when he is low on energy but he can’t fight through bad vision. He cannot see well when blood sugars are high and when low, vision is compromised because he sees spots and flashes.

Mark Haywood is a long distance cyclist, a superbly fit athlete and a Type 1 diabetic. He experiences excessive urination and thirst when glucose levels are high. These symptoms not only negatively affect performance but also affect preparation for performance.

Dr. Shari Fox, a Denver endocrinologist, explains that at

high glucose levels, excess glucose overwhelms the kidneys and enters the urine. Osmotic pressure in this abnormal metabolic state pulls water from cells into the urine, increasing the need for urination and creating dehydration. A person feels thirsty because the osmotic pressure from high sugar concentrations signals sensors in the brain that there is not enough available water in the blood.

Another deleterious consequence of dehydration is decreased blood volume makes blood thicker – a higher concentration of red blood cells – and more resistant to flow, leading to poor circulation. The thirst and urination that result from hyperglycemia the night before a shooting event will affect sleep and concentration and undermine shooting performance.

With an understanding of the endocrinology of the disease, the diabetic shooter can now better understand why trying to reduce thirst and, perhaps, fatigue, by drinking a sugary energy drink will exacerbate rather than reduce the diabetic symptoms. Thirst and fatigue will increase because the blood sugar will spike. More insulin will be required to counter the high sugar levels, which then risks low glucose levels from excess insulin, continuing the destructive cycle.

Mark Haywood emphasizes the need for ‘tight control,’ the ability of the diabetic to keep glucose at normal or near-normal levels at all times. Tight control enhances a person’s sensitivity to small changes in glucose levels, enabling the diabetic to take small actions to achieve normal glucose levels rather than dramatic ones, thereby reducing the risk of a trampoline effect of repeatedly bouncing from high to low.

Doing and Attitude

All calories are not equal. They have different effects on insulin production in the non-diabetic and different insulin process requirements for all persons. Thus,diabeticshootersshould become familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), a sliding scale that ranks how different carbohydrates influence insulin production. Knowing the insulin response of a food helps predict blood sugar responses to insulin.

In the non-diabetic, foods and drinks with a high GI trigger a significant insulin response from the pancreas. In the diabetic, high GI carbohydrates require more insulin to be injected in order to process them.

In general, food with a low GI, and thus, a lower insulin response, are preferable for diabetics because they can be processed into energy with smaller amounts of insulin.

This results in a more normal metabolic state, sustained energy and consistent mental alertness.

Here’s how to apply the GI to the diabetic shooter. As a snack, it is preferable to eat the same amount of carbohydrates in the form of a peach (GI 28) than jellybeans, (GI 80). Similarly, if thirsty, it is preferable to drink water than a sugary energy drink.

A consistent disciplined routine is key to the diabetic’s success in life generally and in shooting sports specifically. Preparation is important, as illustrated by the need to control glucose levels the night before a shooting event. Mark Haywood takes notes on his blood sugars before, during and after every athletic event and reviews them to replicate all the variables that were successful in controlling his glucose levels. He then can make adjustments for future treatment.

Tom Bryant’s food intake is routinized and consistent. In the morning he eats a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinks coffee – always with the same amount of sugar. “If I take too much insulin in the morning,” Bryant said, “I tank bythetimeIgettotheshoot.”

Bryant integrates many variables into his pre-shooting and shooting routines – how many hours he must travel to the range, whether he will walk or use a cart, whether the shoot is half a day or a full day. He starts a shoot with his blood sugar a little high, knowing it will drop into normal range as he walks around.

He brings snacks of dried fruit, granola bars (low GI) and commercial low-carbohydrate drinks containing electrolytes. He checks his blood sugar level several times during the day and carries about fifteen grams of a high GI carbohydrate – glucose tablets, candy – just in case he miscalculates and goes low.

The insulin pump has been a blessing for Bryant because it keeps the glucose levels smooth and additional insulin is easy to infuse. He told me, “I am a master of no will power! Now I can eat whatever I want and just shoot up a little more.” He’s been a diabetic for more than half a century, but, he told me, “I’m better than I’ve ever been and having more fun. The pump has made it possible to compete at a higher level. I’m thankfulforwhatIhave.”

Colleague Steve Bieringer is a Type 1 diabetic, a cyclist and part of the legal staff of the American Diabetes Association. He emphasizes the importance of a positive attitude. He ignores the dismal advertisements of the dangers of diabetes. He’s motivated by positive reinforcement derived from the success of people despite their diabetes. He told me, “We’re ordinary people going through life having been dealt a bad hand. You work and take care of yourself and your responsibilities. That’s motivating. I won’t allow diabetes to undermine what I value.”

Diabetes, especially Type 1, is a difficult disease that demands near constant attention. However, with control and preparation, there’s no reason why diabetes should interfere with your fun or compromise your shooting performance. Type 1 diabetic Gary Hall Jr. won ten Olympic swimming medals. Type 1 diabetic Jay Cutler quarterbacks the Chicago Bears. Hundreds of Type 1 diabetics successfully compete in Iron Man Triathlons. Don’t let diabetes prevent you from getting your gold medal.




Engravers of Beretta’s Best

by Michael G. Sabbeth



The history of Italian engraving is a subset of the develop- ment of structures to advance the Italian language and art. For example, Dante Alighieri (1300), considered the ‘father’ of the Italian language, was the dominant force to have books written in an Italian language rather than in Latin. The Italian ‘language,’ however, was actually an array of several dialects. Regarding the engraving art, from the 1200’s through the 1500’s, Italy could boast of notable artisans such as Giotto. These artists, however, were solitary craftsmen that worked alone and independently, just as writers wrote in different Italian dialects. They were often secretive about their tech- nique and tools.

Beginning in the 1500s, a new structure variously referred to as ‘scuolas’ (schools) or bottegas (small shops or studios) or

academies flourished that institutionalized the apprentice system. Prior to the bottega institution, no structure existed to identify, train and promote the practitioners of the arts or to establish quality standards.

The academy system that began to flourish in the early 1500’s specialized in painting, engraving and sculpture. Collectively, they were referred to as the “Belle Arti” or the ‘beautiful arts.’ Significantly, the bottega/academy system implementated the Italian cultural philosophy that methodi- cal disciplined teaching within a defined structure was vital for cultivating and sustaining the arts.

Illustrative of this unifying structure is the Italian linguistic academy “Accademia Della Crusca,” the most prominent academy in the field of language. Founded in 1583, it served to unify and protect the evolving coherent Italian language first conceived by Dante.

The bottega system germinated at the time that Beretta was established. Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta considers its ‘‘birth certificate’ to be a receipt dated October 3, 1526 from the Doge of Venice to master Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone, Brescian territory, for 185 arquebus barrels.. Thus, Beretta’s ‘birth’ was contemporaneous with the institutionalization of promoting the fine arts. These two phenomena, one artistic, the other corporate, have sup-ported and elevated each other for a halfmillennia up to this moment when the engrav-ing art is at its zenith and Beretta has become the art’s dominant patron.

The Art is in the Blood

Un artista ce l’ha nel sangre,” Giulio Timpini told me. My skillful interpreter, Chiara Pivato, from Beretta’s marketing department, translated: “The art is in the blood.” Giulio Timpini knows whereof he speaks. Past director of the Beretta engraving bottega, he and his family have been engravers for Beretta for two hundred and fifty years.

During our interview Giulio referred to the concept “sensi- bilita,” by which he means the spiritual dimension of the engraving art, that which resides in the heart, the blood and in the soul of the artisan.

The rigorous training of elite engravers encompasses three foundational techniques, which Giulio poetically analogizes to the three classical art forms. The first and most fundamen- tal engraving technique is the use of the hammer. It is com- parable to the basic sculptor’s technique applied to stone. Both employ the same strength, motion and body position.

Bulino is the second technique taught. The engraver uses the fine burin or graver (actually, dozens of different ones) and the loop, a magnifying lens, to remove steel millimeter by millimeter from the object’s surface. Pressure from the hand rather than from a hammer strike guides the graver and makes the cuts.

The bulino technique yields those soul-stirring scenes of ani- mals that have the spark of life and landscapes so vivid you sense the whisper of the wind. Giulio compares the bulino technique with painting and the graver to the painter’s brush.

The engraver employing the bulino technique will usually be seated while the engraver applying the hammer technique will almost always be standing, and will usually walk around the vise with the precision of a ballet dancer to make the cuts.

One of the most daunting bulino applications is the techni- ca chiaroscuro, the darkening and lightening of the steel’s sur- face. The luminescence of oil paint seen in the works of the finest painters such as Caravaggio and Titian is replicated tri- umphantly by the engraver by minutely altering the depth and angle of the removed steel.

Oreficeria, the inlaying of gold and other precious metals, is the third technique. The skills are derived from crafting gold jewelry, the art that led to the careers of many of Italy’s earli- est engravers. The multiple facets of the engraving art can thus be understood as the synthesis of the arts of the sculp- tor, the painter and the jewelry maker.

A minimum of five years is required to become reasonably skilled at these three techniques. Transforming technique into art, however, requires mastery of another artistic dimen- sion – the knowledge of the animals, their habitat and phys- iology and the knowledge of landscape, terrain and sky.

To realistically reproduce the charging lion, the mallards against a misty sky, or indeed, your spouse, your home, your dog or your jet, the engraver must become an artist. The artist must also master the classical styles; Baroque, Romanesque, English scroll and the deep chisel cut. Also to be mastered are what Plato referred to as balance and proportion, not only within the objects themselves but balance and proportion within the physical constraints imposed by the borders and shapes of the object.

The Beretta studio has about fifteen engravers. Their work day begins at about seven in the morning, when the natural light flooding into the studio is bright and direct. Employment openings are rare. A new engraver is hired onl

every five to ten years. Each artist has his or her own artistic strength – scroll, birds, animals, gold inlay. “I let them create,” Giulio says. “Each artist must follow his own path.” Giulio discerns each artist’s passions and strengths and assigns high grade gun projects based on those individual talents.

Beretta’s ‘Cathedral of the Mind’

The artist that works on a vast canvas can illustrate more of his skills than the one confined to working on a small surface. Giulio lyrically analogizes the opulent opportunities on the large canvas to a cathedral. “If you work within a cathedral, the artist can do many things.” The cathedral metaphor also applies to working for a large successfulcompany such as Beretta, where moreopportunities to express artistic talentare offered.

“Working for Beretta,” Giulio says, “is like having a cathedral. There are so many different guns and artists and subjects. The artist has the freedom to express what is inside him.”

Chiara helped Giulio refine and clar- ify his ideas and imagery as he strug- gled to express thoughts he said he had not previously expressed. Their faces were luminescent, as if transported to another world as they interacted as flu- idly as an elegant pair of ice skaters.

Making a premium gun is a great responsibility. On all aspects of the pre- mium guns, Giulio has always worked closely with Ugo Gussalli Beretta

(Beretta’s CEO), who he refers to as his mentor. Giulio explains that Beretta has given him the possibility to build a cathedral. With a flourish he adds, “It is the same as when the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Ceiling.”

Giulio shared that he could have earned more money leav- ing the valley and moving to Milan or Florence. He stayed at Beretta, however, because of family and history. “You don’t forget your origins,” he said. “Would I leave?” he asks rhetor- ically. He shakes his head. “No, I will miss my cathedral.”

Independent Bottegas

In addition to its bottega engravers, Beretta contracts with the finest independent engravers. I visited several in Italy and had the serendipitous good fortune to meet with Ken Hunt this October at the third Grand Masters Engraving Program in Emporia, Kansas sponsored by the Glendo Corporation.

Bottega Giovanelli is located high in the mountains in Magno, about ten kilometers further up the valley from the Beretta facilities. The morning of my visit the air was clean and clear and as crisp as chilled apples. The building’s interi- or and exterior are adorned with murals, sculpture and pho-

tographs. The bottega employs about two dozen engravers, one third of which are women. Master engraver and Giovanelli manager Dario Cortini greeted me and Jarno Antonelli and gave us a leisurely tour of the spacious, multi-level offices and work areas.

Directing our attention to different gun actions as we walked through the studio, Dario explained the la tec- nica della linea, where very fine thin lines – molto fine – were used on the game scenes to control the light, a technique mastered by Durer.

Dario identified some advantages of the line technique. The engraver is less likely to make mistakes employ- ing it and the lines are less vulnerable to wear than are the fine points

employed in the tecnica puntino.“It is an honor to be selected by Beretta,” Dario said. It is

the most important firearms maker in the world, he added. No other maker has Beretta’s influence and prestige. But as an artist, more important to Dario than Beretta’s prestige is its philosophical relationship with the engravers.

Beretta doesn’t tell him what to do. No one tells him any- thing like, ‘I need two pheasant, a Labrador Retriever and an elephant to go!’ On behalf of all of its engravers, Dario told me how Beretta allows the engravers to engrave in their own style, asking their opinion about what they can do best. Dario then made arguably the most powerful statement an artist can make: “Beretta trusts me.”

Giacomo Fausti greeted me and Jarno Antonelli like old friends in the main salon of the Creative Art bottega. I had met Giacomo the previous year at the Grand Masters Engraving Program. Creative Art is the second most important bottega that does work for Beretta. Founded only eight years ago, Creative Art has catapulted to the highest world renown. Many of their best engravers started with Giovanelli and many had been students of Giulio Timpini.

Mingling among the busy engravers, I noted several Giubileos, exquisite DT 10 sporting target guns, one 687 EELL covered with magnificent pheasant and yelping dogs and a pulse-raising SO 6 EELL titanium action boasting gold inlays that prompted thoughts of a second mortgage.

Allowed to take the action from the vise, I studied its sur- faces with the respect and care of an angler delicately hold- ing the soon-to-be released trout.

I inquired how the engraver achieved the striking dark shading of the head of a charging elephant engraved on a double rifle. Giacomo explained it is done with meticulously fine cross-hatched lines that capture the light. No ink is used.

My last visit in Italy was with Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa. I have known Mauro for several years and consider him a friend. He is at the top of the craft and is imbued with -a contagious passion for the art. He has engraved many Beretta premium guns, including stunning new SO 10 mod- els, during a relationship that spans several years.

Mauro works with his uncle, brother and father at his airy, scrupulously neat bottega in Collebato, which means ‘beauti- ful small mountains,’ a mid-sized town about one-half hour’s drive from the Beretta offices. I chatted with Mauro amidst the background din of the staccato tapping of his brother’s and uncle’s hammers striking their chisels.

The studio’s several polished wood cabinets overflowed with books on art, engraving and travel. Photographs and small sculptures adorned the shelves like birds in a nest. Desks are covered with calendars and folios featuring its work.

One of the great joys and privileges of this assignment was interviewing Ken Hunt at this year’s Grand Masters Engraving Program. This article gave me the justifica- tion to ask specific detailed questions about the style and technique of this unsurpassed masteroftheart.

Beretta had asked Ken to engrave and adorn one of the surprise ‘birthday’ guns for Ugo Gussalii Beretta. “Of course, it is an honor,” Ken said, “to be selected to create this unique gun for Mr. Beretta.”

Since it was a dominant feature of the birthday gun, Ken patiently explained his unique methods for coloring the gold in exquisite hues and then applying it to the action and the barrels. He described the process as just like painting. The action must first be prepared to secure the gold so that it would withstand the contraction and expansion of the steel

from firing tens of thousands of cartridges. “No one else has used this technique,” Ken said.

Almost all buyers of Beretta high grade guns in the United States work with Peter Horn, the vice president of the company’s retail division. One of the reasons for Peter’s prominence is his close relationship with the elite engravers.

He knows their schedules, he knows their styles and he knows how to align their rep- resentations with the customers’ personal artistic preferences. Peter insightfully notes: “Working with the master engravers in and around Gardone is equivalent to

walking amongst the master painters of the Renaissance.” A unifying theme always effervesced to the surface in any conversation I had with these independent engravers: that Beretta is the dominant artistic force in the valley. Beretta sus- tains the engraving art. It has done so for five hundred years and I expect it will continue to do for so for as long as people value the art of the gun.




Noble Purpose and the Profession of Arms:Define It & Realize It.

by Michael G. Sabbeth

In Polymnia, the Seventh Book of the History of Herodotus, Demaratus, a betrayed Spartan, warned Persian King Xerxes against attacking the Spartans. “Valour is an ally whom we have gained by dint of wisdom and strict laws,” he said. Xerxes, scoffing, said the Spartans were weak because they are free men under no direct authority. Demaratus admonished Xerxes, “They are the bravest of all. For though they be free men, they are not in all respects free. Law is the master whom they own; and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee… It forbids them to flee in battle…and requires them to conquer or die.”

Xerxes ignored Demaratus and was defeated in the naval Battle of Salamis. The Spartans fought for a noble purpose, not personal glory or wealth.

Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, commander of the German Schutzstaffel(SS), the Nazi concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen death squads, expressed an elastic view of noble purpose in his speech to SS officers in Posen, Poland on October 6, 1943: “Most of you know what it means when a hundred corpses are lying side by side…..and at the same time— apart from exceptions caused by human weakness — to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard….. a page of glory in our history… We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us.”

Like beauty, noble purpose is in the eyes of the beholder. Himmler illustrates the infinite capacity of the human mind to behold the vilest evil as noble. The lethality of modern weaponry dictates that the survival of the human species and much else will be a consequence of the proper determination of the nobility of purpose our professionals in arms are commanded to implement.

Leaders determine what is noble, but they, even if democratically elected, offer no guarantee of wisdom and virtue. Ascribing something as noble is an easy rhetorical stunt, but, in George Gershwin’s words, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Noble purposes do exist. A realist’s perspective on noble purpose should incorporate criteria to measure its nobility, its consequences and the likelihood it will be pursued. The inherent ethics of the purpose, the existence of power to implement it, the moral clarity possessed by leaders assessing it and the existence of moral will to implement the purpose must be assessed. Those who choose a life of service within the profession of arms are duty bound to understand the morality of their assigned purposes and to make moral judgments among conflicting noble purposes.


In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

In Once an Eagle, a seminal novel on military honor, Anton Myrer expressed a noble purpose: “but what excited him (Sam Damon) most of all were the stories of Cincinnatus and Dumouriez and Prescot, of farmers and citizens who took arms to confound tyranny and crush it, who stepped into the mortal breach to save their native lands…”

Of the six purposes cited in the Preamble of the United States Constitution that justify its creation, one imposes a noble purpose on the nation’s profession of arms: provide for the common defense. The Preamble is derived from the classic Greek tragedian concept that the natural state of man is conflict rather than peace

due to its predatory and opportunistic nature. Thus, society has a duty to protect its citizens through deterrence and battle. In Western culture, the mission of the profession of arms is to serve the rule of law and individual freedom.

Augustine of Hippo, generally considered the greatest Christian theologian, asserted: “Peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin.” The premise of the ‘just war’ was that the evil of war could be justified only if war could prevent greater evils.


“Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience.” Blaise Pascal

Moral clarity, the intersection of the rational and the ethical, allows nobility of purpose to be judged on its own ethical integrity. A fighter pilot in Gulf War I was instructed to shoot Iraqis fleeing Kuwait. Deductive reasoning compels that the mission to get Iraqis out of Kuwait had been accomplished and the rationale for shooting them no longer existed. The pilot requested a change of orders. The granting of modified orders negating the instruction to shoot acknowledged a noble purpose premised upon sanctity of life, among other virtues.

Either a purpose is noble or it is not, based on reasonably objective criteria discerned by scalpel-like questioning: does the purpose advance ethical principles such as Autonomy, Justice, Sanctity of Life and individual liberty and personal freedom? Himmler’s didn’t. Neither did Mohamed Atta’s, the Egyptian hijacker who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.

The absence of moral clarity leads to moral confusion and false moral equivalencies, risking an Orwellian linguistic dishonesty where the narrative of the enemy defines the noble purpose. Moral clarity must distinguish between reasoning and rationalizing; between rational and sophistic rhetoric.


The nobility of a nation’s purpose is a function of its power to actualize that purpose. As power drains, what is noble becomes malleable. John Keegan, the great military historian, observed that a nation without a military is in a sense no longer a nation. Author Mark Steyn noted that “in a more general sense, nations that abandon their militaries tend also to abandon their national interests: Increasingly, instead of policies, they have attitudes.”

When nations lack the power to address serious issues, they become consumed with trivial ones, where, for example, concerns for windmills trump concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons. The nation becomes a bystander in its own fate.

Executing a noble purpose requires power. Nations promised fortunes in aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia. As food and goods piled up on docks, to be stolen or to rot, the United States military saved lives because it had the power—helicopters and pilots—to reach stranded and wounded people. If you’d wanted to donate to a useful charity to save lives, you’d have given your money to the United States Navy.

In the absence of power, a nation may, at best, mask its impotence by couching its noble purpose in narcissistic moral preening. The most assertive action almost any nation can now take to confront savagery around the world is to get a UN resolution expressing concern.


Moral will is the distillate of several qualities, including ethical character, the capacity to analyze facts and, through logic and reason, evaluate foreseeable consequences of actions and inactions. Character, however, is the most salient attribute of moral will. The essence of moral leadership is the ability to inspire loyalty and confidence through force of personal example; the difference between the officer yelling “Follow me!” as opposed to “Charge!”

Moral will in its most honorable incarnation is duty but duty does not define its boundaries. The most motivating force in war is not country or flag but protecting your buddy. ‘Leave no soldier behind’ is the quintessential expression of moral will.

Moral will is the willingness to risk all for a noble purpose. U. S. Army Ranger Sergeant Leroy Petry, the second living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, saved the lives of at least two men in his unit by lunging for a grenade before it could kill them, amputating his hand. “It’s not courage,” he said. “It was love. I looked at the two men next to me that day and they were no different than my own children or my wife. I did what anyone would have done.” Anyone would have done? If only!

Moral will directs behavior. It demands that the exigencies of the present not be cravenly ignored. It demands a credible deterrence against those that desire to undermine you. Rather than having perverse mesmerizing awe for the aggressive self certainty of those inflicting harm, the exercise of moral will effects an unalloyed commitment to defeat them. The nation that lacks moral will acquiesces in barbarism.

Lack of moral will degrades into moral confusion, undermines confidence in noble purposes and can lead to appeasement, the appearance of weakness and possibly the preemptive compromising of those values the arms professionals have sworn to uphold. Moral will enables a nation to have the right enemies and the right friends. You can be liked by all or you can be a great noble power. You can’t be both.


Noble purposes often conflict. A soldier’s work is inherently conflicted among obligations to the object of the conflict, the welfare of the men and the broader ethical context of the mission. If these conflictual choices are not recognized and their resolutions deliberated, there is nothing for the professional in arms to profess.

Conflicting noble purposes are evident in innumerable choices and decisions such as those pertaining to the release of prisoners from Guantanamo, the use of drone attacks, the concern for collateral damage as a factor to limit or reject lethal action and the rules of engagement.

We nobly aspire to be a nation of laws, not men, yet when decisions are made on the basis of bureaucratic legalisms, risks increase that released prisoners will return to kill Americans. The noble purpose of avoiding or reducing what is euphemistically called collateral damage is undermined when those targets are spared and, thus, allowed to kill more innocents. When the rules of engagement give greater value to the lives of enemy fighters than one’s own, its nobility of purpose begins to dissipate like smoke at a campfire.

The inherent conflicts among noble purposes are ineluctable and elude the consistent application of the same solutions. In harmony with the Greek tragedian sense, leaders must be adaptable and, with grit and nobility of character, struggle to find new solutions. However, consistent principles should guide leaders to find resolutions on a case by case basis. Classist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson advocates pragmatism and prudence but acknowledges that for them to have moral value, pragmatism and prudence must be wrapped in an ethos that defends the nation and its core values of individual liberty and personal freedom.


But what is strength without a double share Of wisdom?

– Milton

A discussion of noble purposes and the profession of arms should raise the kinds of questions informed engaged citizens must ask if they are to gauge and hold accountable the moral integrity of their society and the arms profession that defends it. Noble purposes should be premised on a commitment to truth, for the greatest evil is done by those who believe lies. Noble purposes should advance the principles of individual liberty and freedom. They should be identified unambiguously and vigorously defended without apology or equivocation.

Noble principles are not self-executing and ethics are not self-actualizing. Thus, leaders of moral character must be cultivated, nurtured and rewarded. Paraphrasing Thomas Sowell, ignorance draped in confidence is a dangerous quality and a leader’s ignorance conveyed through brilliant rhetoric will lead to national disaster.

If the leadership chain fails to interpret and advance noble purposes and allows them to morph into philosophies contoured by momentary convenience and expedience, then noble intent becomes polluted like a toxic chemical seeping into an aquifer, subverting the mission of the profession of arms.

The kinds of questions a society and its arms professionals ask—political, military, cultural, financial—illuminate their level of courage and honor. Noble purposes are more likely identified and achieved when leaders are not, in Edmund Burke’s phrase, “intoxicated with admiration at their own wisdom and ability.”

Those who have dedicated their lives to the profession of arms can best realize nobility of purpose through ruthless introspection of their wisdom, character and moral will. Spelunking into the labyrinthine caverns of their souls to confront the tyrants within may be the noblest purpose of all.

Why Are We Turning On Ourselves?

Why Are We Turning On Ourselves?

Fair Chase, Legacy, Crossbows and Joe Bell


For several reasons I felt compelled to read Joe Bell’s article, Thoughts on Fair-Chase Bowhunting, I aspire to be a student and practitioner of Fair Chase and ethical hunting. I write, lecture and consult on hunting and shooting ethics; and, coincidentally, I am learning to shoot and hunt with a crossbow. Given the article’s title and the prestige of the Pope and Young Club, I figured I could learn something about how bow hunting relates to Fair Chase. I share my thoughts about Mr. Bell’s article and my respectful disagreement with his arguments and conclusions.

I cannot divine Mr. Bell’s mind and soul but I can study the words he actually wrote and what he did not write and then draw conclusions from them. His title includes the phrase Fair Chase, which is a noble concept. I looked forward to seeing how Mr. Bell discussed it. The Pope and Young website has a definition of Fair Chase: . The definition is curious because it defines what Fair Chase is not rather than what it is. Example: “The term “Fair Chase” shall not include the taking of animals under the following conditions:…..” The definition ends with the even more curious and vague rule: “Any other condition considered by the Board of Directors as unacceptable.” Not much guidance there.

 Mr. Bell begins his statement with definitions of three of his most important terms: he defines a “bow” and an “archer” and a “bowhunter.” These terms are the foundation for his arguments and conclusions.

 “To begin with, the Club defines a bow as a hand-held, hand-drawn device, in which you pull the bowstring back using your body’s strength. This is where the energy comes from to propel the arrow forward. We believe anyone that uses such a tool is an archer and therefore a bowhunter when pursuing game.”

Mr. Bell writes; “This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool. For this reason, we are against them for use in archery-only hunting seasons.”

On the surface, Mr. Bell gives the appearance of weaving Fair Chase principles and ethics into his arguments.  His motive is obvious: his arguments and conclusions will gain credibility and moral justification if he can successfully draw upon Fair Chase and ethics to support them. However, Mr. Bell does not show why Fair Chase principles or ethics supports his definitions. He just says so.

 Mr. Bell writes: “But lines must be drawn, and the “bow” is a great place to make it clear cut. Again, it must be hand held, hand drawn, so your body takes up the power of the bow’s force in order to propel the arrow forward.” He doesn’t say why a line must be drawn. He doesn’t explain why, based on ethics and Fair Chase, anyone would care or should care if a line is drawn. He does not provide an explanation based on ethics as to why a line must be drawn. Again, he just says so.


Mr. Bell’s policy recommendation is limited: “Are we against the person using the crossbow? No, absolutely not. This is foolishness. We are simply against the “tool” for use during archery-designated seasons.”


Does Mr. Bell make a case based on ethics and Fair Chase principles for restricting the crossbow? I don’t think so.


Mr. Bell doesn’t offer evidence or show which Fair Chase principles support his conclusion that it is more ethical to ban crossbow hunting from archery-designated seasons.  Mr. Bell simply says it is so. More specifically, Mr. Bell offers no evidence that the “hand-held” bow is in any way more ethical or more consistent with Fair Chase principles than the crossbow.


No references are made to arrow speed, accuracy, range, power or other variables that might provide an ethical basis for distinguishing crossbows from hand-held ones.  Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows, which is fine, although he writes that the use of any kind of bow is up to the subjective sense of the individual hunter. But his bias is not supported by facts or ethics or Fair Chase principles.


Mr. Bell writes: “This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool.” Okay, fine.  He is entitled to his opinion; but he is not entitled to make up or ignore facts or twist the meaning of Fair Chase or ethics to support his opinion. Mr. Bell’s subjective definition of a ‘real archery tool’ has nothing to do with Fair Chase or ethics, and, in fact, he doesn’t try to show that it does.


Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows “Because it severs the line between what is archery and what is not.” It is easy, of course, for Mr. Bell to reach his conclusion because he defined the terms of bow and archer in such a way that no other conclusion is possible. His conclusion is not grounded in ethics but in manipulating definitions.


Mr. Bell wants the moral authority gained by saying his arguments are supported by the Fair Chase doctrine but he never shows how any of its principles apply to any of his arguments or definitions. He simply writes Fair Chase as if the words alone stops all debate.  He does not show why or how a vertical bow is consistent with Fair Chase and a crossbow is not. By itself, whether an animal is taken with a hand held bow or with a slice of month-old pizza has nothing to do with Fair Chase.


I try to understand and do justice to Bell’s arguments and then write accurately about my understanding. To do otherwise would be unethical, as if I, as a lawyer, misstated to a judge the facts or holding of a legal case. It may well be that, in Mr. Bell’s words, “it’s the practice of Fair Chase and high-ethical standards that keeps all Pope and Young Club members branded as one.” But he doesn’t show how ‘real archers’ advance these goals better than crossbow hunters.



Primitive-Like and Legacy

Another part of Mr. Bell’s bias against crossbows is that they are not ‘primitive-like.’ He writes: “we owe it to them and our sport to protect this legacy, which is to keep the sport primitive-like and as challenging as possible…to keep bowhunting a full-body shooting engagement.”

Several issues leap out. First, ‘primitive-like’ is a suspiciously flexible term that defies precise meaning. Thus, like tofu, you can make ‘primitive-like’ into anything you want. Second, defining the modern compound bow as primitive-like defies reason. Made of space-age materials such as carbon, titanium and specialized steel alloys, deriving great mechanical advantages from pulley systems, boasting luminous sight sticks, range finders and release triggers and machined to stunning tolerances, these bows are marvels of modern technology and precision. They are as primitive as a Porsche.

Third, Mr. Bell’s reference to ‘legacy’ is unhelpful. Legacy is a morally neutral concept. Some legacies are good; some not so terrific. Slavery comes to mind. Mr. Bell limits legacy to one factor: the mechanical action of how a string is drawn. Again, fine, but he fails to show how such a legacy in any manner advances Fair Chase and ethical hunting. Appealing to legacy without explaining why the legacy is virtuous is not a persuasive argument. Moreover, I would bet a substantial sum that the animal cares not a whit how the arrow was released.

When evaluating Mr. Bell’s arguments, another factor deserves attention.  I have volunteered on hunts with many severely disabled persons and persons not disabled but afflicted with upper-body injuries. They cannot draw a compound bow. They might be able to shoot a crossbow. Is Mr. Bell going to look into the eyes, for example, of the fourteen-year old I accompanied on a pronghorn hunt (rifle hunt) last year, a boy with no legs and two withered arms, and lecture to him that he can never be worthy of the title ‘archer’ or ‘bowhunter’? That he can never hunt according to Fair Chase principles because, at best, he can only use a crossbow? I hope not. But if so, the key question is: what benefit is derived from that argument?

Why Are We Dividing Ourselves?

I read and re-read Mr. Bell’s article, and several questions kept haunting me. Why did he write it? What was he trying accomplish that deserved to be accomplished? Why start the equivalent of an Animal House movie cafeteria food fight among hunters using different bow platforms for the trivial goal of eliminating some of them from the archery-designated season?

Hunters of every platform face real problems, problems that threaten every kind of hunting. We live in perilous times. If interest rates creep up, if the welfare state continues to consume the economy like a metastasizing cancer, if the economy contracts a little, the billions of dollars for hunting and conservation raised through Pittman-Robinson taxes will dissipate like smoke from a campfire. When photos appear showing an animal with an arrow through its head or neck, thereby creating the equivalent of Cecil the Elk or Bear or Deer or whatever, the Great White shark of viral social media won’t distinguish how bows were held or how the arrow was drawn. When hunting is ended and the animals are dead from starvation and poaching and so forth, it really won’t matter which bow platform you liked and disliked.

Much of the world has gone insane, and viciously insane, feasting on reptilian predatory opportunism. Turning bowhunters against each other strikes me as self-destructive and void of logic and reason. I’d much prefer we hunters focus on meaningful issues. Let us develop strategies for fighting anti-hunters that buzz drones over the animals and who on social media threaten injury and death to hunters and their families.  

Let us absorb the fact that we are one Supreme Court Justice away from perhaps losing the individual right to own or possess a firearm. “What’s that got to do with me?” some bowhunters might ask. Well, consider that Scotland is now enforcing its Air Weapons and Licensing Act,

requiring registration and permits to possess an airgun. Is there any rational basis to believe this could not happen to bows?

I never met Joe Bell. Pope and Young is an honorable organization. I believe Mr. Bell is passionately dedicated to preserving and advancing bow hunting. But, in this instance, whatever compels him, he allowed passion to dominate reason, and generally nothing good comes from such a dynamic. I conclude Mr. Bell did not make his case.  He did not persuade that the crossbow restrictions are justified by Fair Chase or ethics. We cannot afford to fracture the hunting population, bow hunting included.  The stakes are too high. We need to pull together, not create division, especially when there is no moral or factual reason to divide us.


Michael G. Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He lectures on ethics and rhetoric. He has written the book The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. It is available on Amazon at  He is now working on a book titled No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. Visit his website and his Facebook page www.facebook/thehonorablehunter.