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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.


Crafting Crucial Conversations Conference Atlanta Georgia August 3, 2016




Atlanta, Georgia

August 3, 2016

Michael G. Sabbeth, Esq.


As Presented at the Conference










Table of Contents 




Introduction. 4

I will talk about: 4

To begin I share three  anecdotes. 5

The environment 5

Clarity: 5

Motivation: 6

Black rhino:  a case study. 6

Priscilla Feral and the gazelles. 7

Quote: Thomas Pain. 9

Caring, compassion and Empathy. 10

Gunnison. 11

It’s Not Natural! 11

Black Rhino and Feral: Who Has Compassion?. 12

Rhetoric. 13

Examples; 13

Gun Control 13

Gun Culture. 14

Safari: 14

Trophy hunting. 15

Moral Clarity: A Socratic Dialogue. 15

Sensible gun laws. 17

Debating. 17

Crucial Conversations 17

Fighting back. 18

Sandy Hook. 18

Cecil 19

Poaching in Botswana: 21

Craig Boddington. 22

Unity and Katie Couric. 22

Churchill quote. 23

Lessons: Fighting Back. 25

Author quotes and analysis. 25

James Swan. 25

Concluding Thoughts 26






I am honored to be among you

So many insightful comments and perspectives… I have tried to integrate many of your comments into this talk


You have devoted much of your lives to conservation, writing, hunting  advocating for hunting rights. I am a relative newcomer

Words are needed for conversations. I am here to share my thoughts on how to have effective conversations; persuasive conversations; conversations that advance our goals.

Words can persuade toward virtue and words can subvert virtue.

words spread truth and words spread lies. I

 I hope, to advance and defend hunting.

It is my hope Russian hackers who are hunters will take interest in these files on my computer.


I will talk about:

The environment in which we must operate

Factual and Moral Clarity

Rhetoric with an emphasis of not surrendering the language to our opponents


How to Use Compassion, Kindness and Altruism to Refute Anti Hunters

Arguments for Fighting Back

Katie Couric, Cecil the Lion and the Black Rhino Auction in Dallas

And some concluding thoughts

To begin I share three anecdotes


Mgs hunting kudu in Natal,  S Africa… with Marcus Luttrell   my only big game hunting experience

Lady Colorado Division of Wildlife

The Worm Story


The environment

John Storm: change is constant. Yes, but some things do not change. Human nature does not change. And that is important to us in crafting our messages.

Vanity, narcissism, wanting to do good but wanting to take the easy route… all that has not changed.

An era .. a culture where oten truth does not matter;

-where consequences do not matter

Political Correctness: the emphasis is on the political, as in George Orwell’s prescient 1946 essay Politics and the English Language : it’s about politics and politics is about only one thing… one thing: power: who has it and who does not; who controls others; who can hurt others and who cannot. Who defines the permissible language.




Clarity is vitally important. Clarity should precede agreement or disagreement because clarity illuminates values, contradictions, moral strengths or moral flaws of an argument or policy.

Only when you can master the moral and Intellectual foundations of an argument can you fully defend it or craft strategies to refute the argument.

Non hunting Examples:

minimum wage

If you favor a minimum wage, you favor increased unemployment for minorities and youth generally


 that was discussed.

Here are some thoughts

We are judged, according to many of our speakers, in part by our motivation for hunting.

Should we permit such a standard of judgment without fighting back?

If food from hunters is distributed to the needy, is the motivation of the hunter morally relevant?

If a village gets cleaner water from the fees of the hunter, is the state of mind of the hunter morally relevant?

Why is motivation important?

Why do they get to judge the merit of our motivation?

We have to fight that.

My point: why give the anti hunter authority to define the rectitude of our behavior?


Black rhino:  a case study

Such a powerful illuminating example on many levels…

I wrote an article for Fair Chase Magazine Boone and Crockett, Black Rhinos and Strong Horses: A Template for Applying Persuasive Arguments

I interviewed Simeone Niilenge Negumbo, the Republic of Namibia’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and his colleague, Elly Hamunyela, Namibia’s Deputy Director of Wildlife Utilization.


Aged rhino; non reproductive; was destroying other rhino and other animals; was destroying property; the money from the auction would be used for anti poaching programs, clean water programs, land reclamation, schools, and so forth.

Those are the facts.


Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, who was recruiting opponents to protest on Saturday, the evening of the auction, asserted it was barbaric to hunt and kill an animal just because it was old and unable to reproduce. Ms. Oxley’s assertion merits scrutiny.

Here is how I deconstruct her words.

Her character, her integrity—and those who think like her—are discerned not only by what she thinks is barbaric but by what she thinks is not barbaric. Herein lies the strategy for gaining moral clarity of her beliefs and which offers the most persuasive method to refute her positions.


Clarity: they prefer impoverishing children and consuming dirty water, increased poaching  and, by the way, killing the animals rather than get money from a hunt of one animal in a very unique class. Those are the consequences; There is no argument.


We now know with clarity their values.  That must be our message…


Priscilla Feral and the gazelles

The three species of African antelope — the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle — are already nearly extinct in their native Africa. But they are thriving on the plains of Texas, mostly on ranches where hunters pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of hunting them.

Priscilla Feral on TV program: Sixty Minutes:  I would prefer they all die rather than inhabit their non-natural habitat in Texas

Since 2005 an exemption to the Endangered Species Act has allowed ranchers to raise the three species, and hunters to stalk them, without a special permit. In all, Texas ranchers had about 1,800 of the animals in 2004. With the exemption in place, those numbers swelled to more than 17,000 by 2011.

CBS News aired a “60 Minutes” feature story about the controversy on Jan. 29. Priscilla Feral, president of the animal rights group Friends of Animals, told correspondent Lara Logan that she has waged a seven-year legal battle to get the exemption overturned.

Thank you, by the way, for the epic legal work done by our own Anna Seidman and the SCI legal team for defeating Ms. Feral’s legal attack.

: Feral was  using Danae’s word, blunt. And

about as subtle as having Lucca Brazzi wearing a tutu and dancing in Swan Lake ballet

-now, she may be vicious; she may be spiteful; she may hate animals… but whatever else she is, she is clear…

This, I suggest, comprises our strongest arguments in defense of hunting…

This should have been our finest hour

We should have spoken confidently…. Aggressively… and as any trial lawyer and any communications expert knows, confidence trumps content…. … that is not a political endorsement…

Confidence scares off people who are uncertain, which is most of humanity most of the time.

As Osama Bin Ladn pontificated, people prefer a strong horse to a weak horse. We became weak, I suggest.

Instead, we became defensive, reacting, letting the anti hunters define the context; frame the issues…

We missed an opportunity


Here’s a key point: we aggressively counter attack and refute the Oxleys and Ferals, not because we expect to change their opinions, but to influence the vast middle… the people who are open to reason, to facts, to logic, and who care about animals.

That is our target audience … not the strident anti hunters

A few thoughts here:

Quote: Thomas Pain

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. Thomas Pain


And, as we lawyers say, It is pointless to argue with a person whose living depends on disagreeing with you.

And, in terms of persuasion, As a general proposition, people do not thank you for pointing out how stupid they are.

Here is the skill: focus on the consequences – not the platitudes.. that’s how we can make the best arguments to defend and advance hunting and be most credible for that vast middle ground


 focus on reality; not abstractions;


Nature is not a Rousseau painting, where the lion lays down with the lamb waiting for a meal of tofu and steamed broccoli

We need to be practical; to think practically: What the Greek philosophers called practical reasoning: phronesis:

Here’s a joke that illustrates phronesis:

Here’s a joke that embodies practical reasoning.

Our’s is prettier

Don’t wear anything expensive


Caring, compassion and Empathy


Every form of addiction is bad, whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Carl Gustav Jung

Barbara Oakley: Cold-Blooded Kindness,   a study of a murder of her husband by a woman who took advantage of people’s decency: P. 206


But, as polymath science fiction writer David Brin observes, this feeling of certainty can feel so good that it can sometimes become an addiction. We can see this addiction first hand in self-righteous people, who are keen to wallow in the wonderful feeling that they are right and their “opponents are deeply, despicably wrong. Or that their methods of helping others is so purely motivated and correct that all criticism can be dismissed with a shrug, along with any contradictory evidence.” Good intentions don’t somehow elevate us above this personal conundrum.


We can be accused of this defect also.. but the accusation is fallacious. We seek truth; we act based on consequences; we make corrections when evidence dictates. That’s the difference between us and them.

And also: p. 212

McGilchrist goes on to point out that left-hemisphere dominance seems characterized by “denial, a tendency to conformism, a willingness to disregard the evidence, a habit of ducking responsibility (and) a blindness to mere experience in the face of overwhelming evidence of a theory.”



Here are some quotations that provide a useful framework to think about the rhetoric of caring and compassion:


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

Recently wrote an article on this topic for Scott’s Mountain Hunter Magazine


The rhetoric of Compassion Caring, Empathy: these are the current God like terms in our culture’s nomenclature… caring… I feel your pain… not caring is the equivalent of child molestation or not recycling aluminum cans…


–deer and elk freezing; starving; hunters and Colo Div Wildlife made heroic efforts to feed the animals asked for help from so called animal rights groups, so called conservation groups — they all refused to help: they gave primarily 2 reasons for refusing to help:

         Why should we help you save animals that you are going to kill?

         It Nature’s way


Let’s examine the arguments:

Kill animals.. how many? Which will yield more animals?

Nature’s way: an orthodoxy they don’t believe

It’s Not Natural!

Romanticized notion of Nature: the lion sitting with the lamb, as in a Rousseau painting, waiting for a dinner of tofu and steamed broccoli

Nature is death; Nature is disease; Nature is starvation; Nature is cruelty


If they get cancer, get into a car crash, get attacked during a crime.. they don’t care about Nature anymore. They want the best medical care; unrelenting prosecution of their attacker;

They made a calculation.. a moral and financial calculation.. that they would prosper better if the animals died

Why do they make such false arguments?

Because they work

They are Darwinian: they survive because they are useful

Why do such false arguments survive?

Because, in part, we have not been effective in refuting them and shaming them and humiliating them.

The argument: who has compassion? Hunters or so called animal rights group?

The hunters have compassion and the anti hunters choose to kill the animals.

That’s the argument


Black Rhino and Feral: Who Has Compassion?


That’s the argument we must make: the facts are on our side; morality is on our side; consequences are on our side. We just need to step up our game in the rhetoric field.


True, most people want to do something; they want to do good. But wanting is not enough. And here is a point we must make: motivation does not matter. Either you do good or you do not do good.

A person is morally responsible for the logical consequences of his or her policies and beliefs.

They want to do good, so they say, but they are actually doing harm.

We can state this message gently or harshly, but the message must be communicated. Intent is not enough.



Mark Duda said “It’s not what you say that counts; it’s what people hear.”

Well, he’s technically correct. But certainly what you say and how you say it dictates in large measure what people hear.

Aristotle’s teachings on rhetoric: ethos, pathos, logos: focus on the audience

Rhetoric is persuasion. But it’s a lot more:

It’s how to refute; how to stop an argument; how to counterattack


One of the hunter education instructors I interviewed said this regarding the anti hunter: first, shut them up, then push them back and then have a reasonable conversation.

That requires skills in rhetoric




Gun Control

What does the phrase mean?

Wayne LaPierre: I told him.. the NRA should present itself as the most effective gun control organization in the nation…

So should the NSSF etc..

What does the phrase mean?

What is the effect when we commit to using words that have no meaning?

Who opposes gun control?

The rhetoric exhibits the logical fallacy of the Straw Man argument: it creates a false target and then seeks to gain moral authority and intellectual credibility by destroying the false target.



Armed teachers is not the answer: logical fallacy: strawman argument: it is not the answer.. true… but the question is: is it a partial answer?


Gun Culture

Put with Gun Culture and Michael Corleone…. The Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety…

It is dangerous to use phrases that have no meaning; it is more dangerous to allow people to demagogue by using phrases that have no meaning.

I think of the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone responds to Moe Green’s challenge to ‘talk business.’ Michael Corleone: “The Corleone family bankrolled your hotel; the Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety. You want to talk business, let’s talk business.”

You want to talk about gun culture then let’s talk about lots of cultures. Let’s talk about the culture of dependency; the culture of fatherless families, the culture of violence Each one of the cultures leads to social decay and crime, including crimes with firearms.

So, you want to talk culture, let’s talk culture. If you can make such a rhetorical connection, I assure you the only culture your opponent will want to talk about is the culture in yogurt!


Evidently safari now has a negative connotation

Our responses:

Safaris save animals

Safaris provide for schools

Safaris feed needy people


We have to be very cautious when we allow opponents dictate what words we can use. Recall Orwell and political correctness


Trophy hunting

The word ‘trophy’ seems to be causing a lot of misery for us, especially when the word precedes ‘hunting.’

Well, there are sports trophies; even trophy wives, and now we have trouble with trophy hunting.


What does the phrase mean?

Ponder this:

If you kill an animal and give the meat to the needy, is that trophy hunting?

Think of my words regarding motivation

If you kill an animal and thereby allow for greater reproduction by younger male animals, is that trophy hunting?

If you hunt and consume the meat but mount the head etc on the wall, is that trophy hunting?

If killing an animal thereby helps sustain a village, is that a defilement of the animal?

If not, what is the stigma to trophy hunting?


Moral Clarity: A Socratic Dialogue

         You want to preserve the animals?

         You are in favor of policies that preserve the animals?

         Preserving the animals is your main value?

         You are against trophy hunting because it slaughters the animals for no purpose than to display it and you think it reflects the hunter’s vanity?

         If I demonstrated that hunting saves the animals, would you change your mind about hunting?

         Give data

         If the animal is eaten, does it matter if the animal is eaten by the hunter?

         Do you now accept the reality that a trophy animal for one participant may be needed food for another participant?

         Do you accept that trophy hunting preserves animals?

         Do you now accept trophy hunting as legitimate?

So: ponder this: you are accused of being a trophy hunter.

Your response: damn right, and proud of it.

There effect: defang the attack; take away their power.

The anti goes apoplectic: I’m trying to insult you and you agree with me?

Perhaps my next article will be: Proud to be a Trophy Hunter!!


Again: the danger here is allowing the anti hunter to control our language.


And for whatever it’s worth, not using the word ‘trophy’ won’t change the minds of the anti hunter. Most likely, they will see us as weak. Strong horse and all.


Dealing with Wayne Parcell strategy: in the debate, changing topic to lying tobacco experts. How dare you!!

How dare you make a moral equivalence between shooting an animal and methodical lying about human health.


Andy Dufresne

We have to find the wit and will to break through the rhetoric of the mass culture, kind of like Andy Dufresne slogging through all that sewage in the Shawshank Redemption…. We might have to get a little dirty…


Sensible gun laws

reasonable gun controls;

We are using words and phrases that have no meaning; thus, they mean whatever the audience wants it to mean; it’s like tofu… you make out of it anything you want

Again, words that have no meaning… this is important to understand, because it affects our ability to persuade and to get people over to our side or at least make people neutral who previously were opponents:


Example: in a debate: I have seen.. pro gun pro hunting people with more brains in their urine sample debating anti hunting / gun folks and they get creamed… I saw it.. how people from the audience gathered around the anti speaker and ignored the better informed and better qualified pro speaker… because the anti spoke in terms of being reasonable and sensible.. and who stated, I think gratuitously, that he really didn’t want to restrict gun rights.

There is a point to be learned here: debates: don’t do it.. unless you have extraordinary skill. Don’t enter a debate with the mindset: we’ll each tell our side and we’ll let the audience decide. That’s a recipe for total disaster. It’s a model for losing. Don’t enter a debate unless you totally confident you can destroy the opponent as if you ran him or her trough a Cuisinart. Anything less is a defeat.

You are a murderer!

How can you kill those beautiful animals?

Do you know how many animals there would be if you hunters didn’t kill them?

You knuckle dragger clinging to your guns and your religion and your anti immigrant sentiments!!!

That question was thrust in the face of a hunter education instructor friend of mine. He had the good sense to grittily reply: Zero. He shut her up.

Crucial Conversations

Here’s the point: if we are going to have conversations, crucial or otherwise, then we better have a method, a goal, a measure whether our conversations are effective and we better be persuasive. That is, we better win. Otherwise, the conversation has not advanced our cause: defending and advancing hunting.

We must use the language of compassion, caring, empathy; being offended; saving lives; helping little children; developing clean water systems; Describe ourselves as animal rights activists.

We propose fair rules and policies; reasonable rules and policies.

Fair and reasonable are words that have substantial rhetorical power.

Use them


Fighting back

Sandy Hook

Just because there’s a subtext doesn’t mean the actual text isn’t important.. and the killings were horrific and needed to be addressed on their own terms.. and then the subtext had to be addressed

I suggest our response should have been : what can we do to join forces .. with anyone… any group… to increase the odds of preventing this from ever happening again… we’re all in this together. We are all parents and someone’s children.

We are always reacting.. on the defensive… the shootings—Orlando, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Charleston Church… our response should be;

         We are open to any argument that will advance policies that will reduce or eliminate these horrific killings

         We will work with any organization .. whether we have agreed or disagreed with them in the past… that will help create policies that will eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such horrific actions

         We are willing to reassess any positon, any policy, any argument, that we have advanced in the past in order to reduce these horrific crimes

         We want reasonable controls; things that work; common sense solutions… use the language of the attacker…. Sensible controls

         We want what works


Wasn’t done

Talk about the economic impact of hunters, gun purchases, rights, Second Amendment are not effective responses.

And that’s what it should be when the next psychopath does something horrible



The analogy Cecil is the Twin Towers of Big Game Hunting

Very powerful


Cecil: should have been our greatest triumph; could have been our finest hour…

I call it the lost opportunity


Walter Palmer: a dentist; an employer; a tax payer; a conservationist; a man who spent tens of thousands of dollars hunting and thereby preserving animals…

Class warfare


He tracks a wounded lion 14 hours or so… .and it was legal…

True: one of the audience made the very astute point: we didn’t know the facts, so we didn’t respond as quickly.

But not knowing the facts didn’t stop the anti hunters and immediately the attack reached tsunami force

Our response: we should have been more agile with our rhetoric.

So, we should have immediately shifted from the specific—Cecil—to the general:

We don’t know the facts… but:

Have you ever seen a lion starve to death?

What do you value more? An aging lion or food for a village?

An aging lion or medicine for a village?

An aging lion or anti poaching efforts?

We should have challenged them immediately: What are your values?

Why didn’t we ask the questions:

         Have you ever seen a starving lion?

         Ever see a lion die from hunger or disease:

         Ever see a lion ripped apart to death by younger lions?

         Ever seen the huts and shacks these natives line in?

         Ever drank dirty water rather than your Perrier or what have you?

         You will be able to think of better questions. Let’s use them… stop the anti hunters in their tracks; get them out of their comfort zone;

         Speak in terms of their moral weaknesses and inconsistencies

         These are people who would rather feel good than do good.

         Clarity: do you want animals to survive?

         Would you agree that policies that increase the survival of animals are good policies?

         Do you accept that people who enable animals to survive are doing good deeds?

         If a ban on hunting or a ban on importing ivory or a ban on importing animal skins led to more deaths of animals, would you still support the ban?

This would have been the textbook case of shutting them up, pushing them back and then offering to have a reasonable conversation.


                     I Am Cecil:   Jes Sui Charlie…

                     Smug middle-aged woman carrying a poster: “I Am Cecil,” a vile loathsome leeching a moral stance off the dead and wounded in the Charlie Hebdo Magazine attacks by muslim killers on the publishing office in Paris, France, January 7, 2015, and the #JeSuisCharlie” placards. Contemptible loathsome moral leeching.. a country she never heard of; the life cycle of an animal she knows nothing about;

                     And the point here: people believe so intensely in matters in which they are totally ignorant.

                     How much has she contributed to conservation? How many impoverished natives of Zimbabwe did she elevate?


                     The perverse morality of affluent leisured westerners arrogantly unconcerned about the consequences of their policies.

                     They attack us on our photos.. we should have done the same with this moral outrage .. in this unique instance.


The problem with Cecil.. we stopped.. we were first and goal on the three-yard line and we stopped; we didn’t get the argument over the goal line.  A few great essays, editorials, newsletter commentary… and we stopped… we didn’t make the best arguments and we stopped; we lost an opportunity. Will we be ready for the next opportunity?

And here is the key message point:

And now the self righteous airline bans… why don’t we have a unified message: Lufthansa or whatever kills more lions than a hundred Walter Plamers!!


Poaching in Botswana:

The poachers’ camps; the landowners will poison; the farmers will kill them. Allowing hunters to take their trophies ensures much needed monetary input into these very very poor countries who derive an incredible amount of revenue from Elephant and Safari hunters alike. Not to mention the 10s of thousands of lost jobs. The hunting and import of ivory by sport hunters is a win / win scenario. The ban on ivory imports by viable Sport Hunters is a lose / lose. It’s that simple. Hunters stop poaching- Not governments

-everyone in this audience knows of the poaching that flourishes as soon as a hunting ban is enacted.

Why didn’t we have a unified aggressive policy position on that?

Our messaging should have  been:

Poachers love hunting bans!!

Poachers Thrive; Animals Die!!!


Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington explained that the leopard populations have rebounded with estimates of between 700,000 and 2 million animals, which increase is specifically the consequence of the value that hunters have placed on the leopard.


Unity and Katie Couric

Katie Couric’s execrable loathsome deliberate altering interview footage of gun owners…

Katie Couric accused of deceptively editing gun documentary

May. 26, 2016 – 2:22 – Gun rights activists seem to have difficulty answering questions in the film

“Under the Gun,” Monday.

“I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League,” Couric said in a statement.

At one point in the film, Couric asks the Virginia Citizens Defense League, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

Read more:

Strategy Note: VCDL President Philip Van Cleave …Other scenes in the documentary, says Van Cleave, “accurately” represent the input of his fellow gun owners. But not the exchange on background checks. Van Cleave says he has audio of the entire interview with Couric — a backstop against bogus editing that he learned from his dealings with the media. “I do that as a matter of course when I’m doing things like that,” says Van Cleave. “It has saved me a few times.”

And then the obligatory apology when caught.. but the damage is done…


TV does not illustrate reality

The manipulate the media; they lie; the omit and edit. They are bereft of ethics and integrity. They abuse the public trust. They are not there for illumination and education. They are there to destroy us; to humiliate us. If any of us cannot grasp that reality, it is best that person has no conversations at all.

And any of our spokespersons who cannot grasp this reality will hurt us.

Katie Couric lied.. people died…


Churchill quote

Churchill; the lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets out of bed in the morning.


Gives us all a black eye

And Tom Opre’s statement: we are no better than our lowest common denominator:

Tom, with respect, I gently disagree

What is the message: that we hunters give moral legitimacy to be judged and attacked by the worst hunter offenders.

We would be saying.. I am no better than the worst out there.

I agree to have every hunter judged by the measurements of the worst among us.

I don’t accept that


Imagine what would happen if a thousand lawyers attending an American Bar Association conference were told: if even one of you overcharges a client, we all have back eyes!!

Are you kidding me or what?

The lawyers would rush the stage and beat the speaker to death with his $1,000 Italian shoes!!


What should hunters nurture this suicidal impulse?

As any trial lawyer would do, We should acknowledge our shortcoming, condemn bad behavior and then move on.

Don’t condemn the mass collectively.


I was part of a discussion several years ago at a conservation organization near Chicago. Beautiful place. Some unethical hunter did something terrible.. I forgot what… and the torrential self-flagellating began: this hunter gives all of us a black eye.


Not at all.

What other profession, activity, field of endeavor would accept that categorization? None


Only we can give ourselves a collective black eye.

Like the common trope from anti hunting anti firearms folks: The NRA gets blamed for crimes none of its members commit.


Lessons: Fighting Back

Lesson: this should have unified every gun and hunting related organization, newspaper, magazines, speaker, lecturer, writer…

If Wayne LaPierre says it, fine… if NSSF writes an  email to its members, fine… but if twenty million twitter, facebook, websites, have a unified message; a powerful confident hard-hitting message, then you have something..


Make them pay a price for their dishonesty.. that makes the cost increase and we will get less of their dishonesty.


Issue: do we have the brain power to identify these opportunities and then use them to advance our cause?

If not, how do we get that brain power?


Author quotes and analysis

James Swan


“We need to nourish ourselves with meaning as much as with food, especially in a modern world where meaning continually seems to be set aside in the name of convenience, progress and conformity…… In the act of hunting, we rekindle what Carl Jung called our “ancestral soul,” which is that primal part of us shared with all human history.”


“As the Hunter’s Moon rides across the autumn sky, the pulses of nature quicken, and so too do the souls of humans, even among those who do not hunt. What is right for one time, place, and person may not be appropriate for another. The primal energies of the hunt live it within us, as well as in the natural world around us, and they can be expressed in many ways. Our personal challenges to learn to do the right thing for us to be whole, individually and as a society. In learning how to respond to the magic and mystery of hunting in modern times we may find important keys to happiness, health, and peace, as well as ecological balance and proper relationship among species. The hunt can be a great teacher of much more than just the technique of killing.”

Concluding Thoughts

-you are part of a larger process.. the big picture.. you are helping manage wild game.. helping preserve wild game.. you are keeping the culture alive; you are keeping the animals alive…have your clients see the big picture… elevate them… in your advertising, your brochures….

Part of the big picture is learning how to use words; and using those words to craft winning arguments and to refute immoral or illogical arguments. If we don’

My opinion: if you want to change hunter’s behaviors, appeal to their honor; to their integrity;

-make them aware of the big picture: that their actions will influence whether or not hunting survives.

Thus, we must be unrelenting, inexorable, unified, unapologetic, confidence is more persuasive than content…

Our conversations must have a purpose. Winning the conversations; converting people to our cause with our conversations; defending and advancing hunting and our heritage are the goals of the conversations. Thought, skill and preparation are the foundation for effective persuasive crucial conversations.

I hope my words have helped toward those important goals.

Thank you.


Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

By Michael Sabbeth

Walter Palmer killed a lion bestowed with a name—Cecil. For a while, much of the hunting world, particularly hunting iconic African big game, imploded as if into a death star. For months people uninformed about lion hunting, who never heard of the Hwange Game Park and who couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if their fat-free soy lattes depended on it, issued death threats on social media, threatened the person and business of the hunter, condemned much of hunting with broad-brush swipes and raised fortunes for predatory opportunistic animal activist groups.

Drenched in ignorance, energized by a luscious sense of moral superiority and the need to feel good, they were unmoved by the damaging consequences their demands would have inflicted.  Unleashing a flash mob of hate, death threats and physical intimidation, they illustrated their deceit in purporting to value life.

Another Cecil-esque event will occur again, either by the act of a hunter or by an event orchestrated by an anti-hunter in a propaganda hit. We must be prepared to mobilize factual and rhetorical defenses for that next event. I offer eight strategies for crafting our defenses.

Strategy 1: Understand the Moral and Intellectual Terrain

We are in a defensive asymmetrical war against people and organizations that do not value reason, logic or consequences. Indeed, reason, logic and consequences are an anathema to anti-hunting people and organizations. Ignorance is a virtue for it facilitates self-righteousness. Hunters tend to see defending hunting and conservation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy. Consequently, hunters over-value truth and facts. We tend to see the battle through a narrow lens. This small aperture stifles a comprehensive understanding of hunting’s opponents. We tend to ignore the complexity of human nature; its narcissism and need to feel morally superior, its cowardice, its lust for easy solutions, the avoidance of pain and the pervasiveness of predatory opportunistic greed.

Our opponents operate on a more primal and effective level. They see anti-hunting in terms of power and the opportunity to advance anti-human and anti-conservation ideologies. Hunters value the research of South Africa’s Ron Thomson and are motivated by the stirring speeches of Shane Mahoney and the narratives of Craig Boddington. The anti-hunters disregard them totally.

In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote that “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”  Eliot is partially correct. Often human kind does not care much about reality. Reality impedes their ideological advancement. The anti-hunters grasp this fundamental truth; the hunting community does not. Our failure to grasp this point jeopardizes our ability to effectively refute the anti-hunters.

Strategy 2: Use Social Media More Effectively

We know a picture is worth a thousand words and that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Social media has exposed several undesirable qualities of the hunting community: its aloofness from reality, its complacency, its inability to present a unified front and, worse, its lack of confidence. For example, powerful forces in the hunting community turned on Palmer before the facts were known.

The new media era battle space is complex. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, as the expression goes. We must show the vile wires, snares and traps poachers use and the resultant loathsome injuries they inflict on animals. We must highlight the consequences of children with unclean water and food deprivation. Show the decapitated rhinos with a subtitle screaming: “This is what hunting bans cause!” We should have illustrated the vulgar immorality of the self-satisfied somber-faced American woman arrogantly carrying a sign “I am Cecil,” attempting to parasitically leach morality from the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris.  We must show the images; employ powerful iconography and trenchant rhetoric. We must change the social media paradigm!

Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions:

I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.

It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.

The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.

Strategy 4: Shift the Paradigm

We should focus less on the virtues of hunting and focus more on the arrogant and deceitful character of those that oppose hunting. Extolling hunting’s conservation virtues is a necessary but insufficient process to persuade the vast middle ground.

We know from studying the facts regarding Cecil the lion and the black rhino hunting auction orchestrated by the Dallas Safari Club that hunting saves animals and people. No rational decent human being can intellectually and morally refute these claims. Yet such hunting is opposed. What is the explanation? Let us not flatter ourselves. We do not have an exclusive divine link to wisdom and knowledge. I accept that many anti-Cecil protesters are decent but uninformed yet that is only a small aspect of their personality structure. What kind of person rejects a rhino hunt knowing that many young rhinos would be saved? What kind of person demands a ban on rhino horn trade knowing that the result is more poaching, more rhino deaths and more hunger for the local populations? These are the messages hunters must make. Data puts people to sleep. Mutilated animals inspire people to fight those that enable the mutilation.

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we know that those who choose animal protection over animal conservation will get neither. And we know that airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Palmers. We know that the feelings business is profitable and the thinking business not so much.


Strategy 5: Focus on the Proper Audience

Mark Duda of Resource Management estimates that as many as 60-80 percent of the population is non-committal regarding hunting in a general sense. My reading of Duda’s material leads to the favorable conclusion that most of these people can be reached by reason, ethical arguments, caring for native populations and passion. Thus, our strategy should be to forcefully refute the radical anti-hunters, not expecting to change their minds, but to persuade the large ‘middle’ of uncommitted people. This vast group will align with those that seem to have winning arguments. 

Strategy 6: Get Legislation and Enforcement

We must develop strategies, including legal action, to combat the extreme anti-hunters’ sadistic fetish for violence and intimidation. Civil and criminal legal action should be taken in extreme cases by skilled lawyers. We should lobby state legislators to pass legislation assessing criminal and civil liability against those who make credible threats, whether in person or through cyberspace, against hunters, their families and their businesses. Paraphrasing Michael Corleone, we must become wartime consigliaris

Strategy 7: Don’t Avoid the Fight

I spoke with many people who advise hunters to maintain a low profile when confronted with a Cecil-like situation. “Let it blow over; don’t draw attention!” they say. This passive avoidance is self-destructive. Our strategy should be to make the anti-hunting attacker pay a price for its misinformation, greed, narcissism and the unethical consequences of its beliefs. Let us be guided by two of the most fundamental laws of human nature: avoidance is interpreted as weakness and weakness invites aggression. Unlike donors to the anti-hunting causes, the animals we fight to conserve do not live in a therapeutic utopian world. Nature’s one constant is life-and-death brutality. The lion does not co-habit with the gemsbok waiting for a dinner of locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten free, organic steamed broccoli. We must fight for reality if we are to conserve the animals.

Strategy 8: Unify with a Central Resource

Our focus must be on persuasion, which is not the same as spewing out data and making abstract arguments. We must identify and then use people who are smart enough and intellectually agile enough to deconstruct future anti-hunting attacks in concise, simple language. We must identify and emphasize the morality or lack of morality of the consequences of policies advanced by the anti-hunters.  We must give our hunters the words to fight back. We must craft arguments that align the virtues of animal conservation and human enrichment with the values of the larger audience. Strategic thinking and action offer the best hope for conserving animals and those in the hunting world who lives are affected.

Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available at



Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

By Michael Sabbeth


“What’s in a name?

That which we call rose by another other name would smell as sweet.”

Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

The history of the phrases “trophy hunting” and “trophy hunter” is imprecise, but whatever their history, their meanings have suffered an evolution from a morally neutral denotation to a phrase freighted down by vile connotations. In this essay, I assert that the phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is vague and essentially without coherent meaning, yet, its vagueness is the source of its power for attacking hunters and hunting. I offer levels of analysis of the phrase and show how understanding its unethical architecture can help us refute the anti-trophy hunting attackers and, thereby advance hunting’s interests.

I met Volker Grellmann, esteemed Namibian author, teacher and professional hunter, after my first presentation at the 2016 NAPHA annual conference this past November. He shared, with some lament, that he may be partially responsible for infusing the phrase “trophy hunting” into the lexicon when he attempted to distinguish non-commercial from commercial meat hunting.

Whatever his influence, research by Jan Manning, my dear colleague and skilled hunter education instructor, informs of earlier uses of the phrases.  In 1968 hunter and author Elgin Gates published a book titled, “A Trophy Hunter in Asia” and in 1971 a book titled “A Trophy Hunter in Africa.”  The term “Trophy Hunter” was in regular use at the time, and, in fact, carried a degree of social status. The Boone and Crockett Club, founded in 1887, was then and is now best known for its records of North American trophies.  The British taxidermist Roland Ward started his “Records of Big Game” in 1897 to record the trophies taken primarily by British sportsmen around the world.  Sir Samuel Baker, who died in 1893, was widely known as an explorer and big game trophy hunter.

Trophy Hunting Is a Virtue

In much of the organized hunting world, ‘trophy hunting’ denotes a virtue. The incisive science-based writings of Ron Thomson, for example, irrefutably illustrate the virtues of trophy hunting. This past September at the CITES Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, a resolution on trade in hunting trophies was adopted unanimously recognizing that:

“Well-managed and sustainable trophy hunting is consistent with and contributes to species conservation, as it provides both livelihood opportunities for rural communities and incentives for habitat conservation, and generates benefits which can be invested for conservation purposes.”

The April 2016 Briefing Paper of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) addressed bans on trophy hunting imports. The Paper stated, in part:

“However, legal well-regulated trophy hunting programs can—and do—play an important role in delivering benefits for both wildlife conservation and for the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous and local communities living with wildlife. Well-managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions, (including anti-poaching interventions). In many parts of the world indigenous and local communities have chosen to use trophy hunting as a strategy for conservation of their wildlife and to improve sustainable livelihoods.”

Trophy hunting would seem to be an unqualified good for animal conservation and enriching human communities. Why, then, is trophy hunting so feverishly attacked by anti-hunters?  

The Rhetoric of Trophy Hunting

Words have power. Words show biases. Words frame issues. Word shape arguments. George Orwell wrote, “Those who control the language control the argument, and those who control the argument win!” Anti-hunters have controlled the language. I offer strategies to regain its control.

I have written and lectured that a war of abusive words is being ferociously waged against hunters through the profligate use of the phrase “trophy hunter.” The phrase has become weaponized. For the anti-hunter, the phrase is the sordid equivalent of such thuggish accusatory phrases presently degrading our culture such as ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi.’

As with all effective propaganda, the anti-hunter uses the power of imagery to besmirch the hunter. Negative false extreme stereotypes present the hunter as a beer-swilling tobacco-spitting knuckle-dragging murderer joyously slaughtering innocent beautiful animals out of blood lust and vanity. Not food nor game management nor the quest for a unique experience inspires the hunter, only bloody braggadocio.

Words and arguments and concepts have layers. The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ has layers. Research by Mark Duda of Responsive Management discloses that the vast majority of Americans, for example, support hunting. But if asked if they support ‘trophy hunting,’ public support for hunting drops like an anchor. Why?

To answer the question and to regain control of the language, we must understand the logical and ethical defects in this anti-hunting attack. I offer seven examples how the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ is abused. Only by understanding the moral defects of the attacks can we craft strategies to win the war of words.

FIRST: anti-hunters advance the misrepresentation, no doubt intentionally by many, that trophy or conservation hunters do not eat the meat.  In fact, very little if any of the animal goes to waste. Almost all meat is consumed, either by the hunter, the outfitter and his employees, or is donated to schools, villages, orphanages or old-age homes.

In British Columbia, Canada I interviewed Dr. Valerius Geist, renowned scientist, author, biologist and hunter. He offered a biologist’s insight into consuming meat taken by hunting. The biological value of an animal is an inconsistent guide to a meaningful definition of ‘trophy’ animal status, he told me. Geist explained that large ‘trophy animals’ in many species are shikars; defined as a lazy animal that does not reproduce. The animal’s biology prevents it from losing much body fat and, thus, although the animal and its horns get larger, it does not strengthen the herd. Many ‘trophy’ animals are too old to reproduce.

The value of a ‘trophy’ animal as a source of meat may be also misplaced. Geist noted that many “trophy animals” have terrible meat and thus would not be logically taken for consuming but could ethically be taken for other reasons. Also note, basing the morality of a hunt on the single criteria of eating the meat is deceitful and illogical. Other consequences are as much as or more relevant in determining the hunt’s morality.

SECOND: the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ and its variants are vague. In terms of rhetoric, this is an important characteristic. Paradoxically, the quality of vagueness is the source of the phrase’s power. It can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean—hunting an aged animal, hunting just for large horns, killing for joy, feeding your family, leaving the dead animal to rot. Whatever! Vagueness facilitates intimidating hunters because they don’t know the terms of the attack.

Vagueness shuts down discussions because the aggressor has control of the language and most hunters are not trained to respond under such an assault. Also, ambiguity enables the attacker to avoid responsibility for their beliefs while hiding their larger anti-hunting agenda. 

Here’s the key to unlock the intent of the anti-trophy hunter’s words. In his 1946 Essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell asserted that our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.  ‘Trophy hunting’ is a slovenly phrase. It leads to foolish thoughts. Its vagueness has strategic value: it becomes easier to make foolish and inaccurate accusations against a larger collection of hunting activities and it makes it more difficult for the hunter to defend him or herself. The slovenliness is employed not only to attack a certain kind of hunter but to attack all hunting.

THIRD:  the phrase is morally flawed by two logical fallacies. The first is the strawman argument. The fallacy works like this. Since anything negative can be described as a trophy, all things negative become the strawman. It is easy to successfully attack a highly negative abstraction. Then the successful attack against the strawman—for example, attacking a hunter who kills an exotic animal for the mount and leaves the carcass to rot—is used as proof that the attacker has successfully attacked all hunters because in some manner they are all trophy hunters. An attack is made on one target and then the claim is made that a different target was persuasively attacked. This logical fallacy is effective because it challenges the hunter to exhibit considerable intellectual and rhetorical skills to fight back while being on the defensive.

The second logical fallacy is using the singular event to condemn all events. An anti-trophy hunter might select a specific practice—which can be rare—he finds objectionable. By condemning that practice with the vague ‘trophy hunting’ phrase the opponent indulges in the logical fallacy of besmirching all hunting.

The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is valued by anti-hunters because it enables them to appear discriminating and intelligent and thereby mask their irrational anti-hunting bias. It’s like covering a ship’s rotting hull with a fresh coat of paint.

The phrase stifles debate. Someone attacks trophy hunting and the listener must either make an informed logical rebuttal (in terms of skill, this is difficult for many to do) or continue the discussion with nit picking at examples but—and this is the key point—letting the opponent define its terms.  

FOURTH: hunters have allowed anti-hunters to frame trophy hunting in terms of INTENTIONS rather than of CONSEQUENCES. This framing gives anti-hunters control of the language. Why should the hunter’s intentions determine the morality of trophy hunting if the consequences are virtuous—clean water, more food for villagers; reducing poaching, conservation of animals? An appropriate response to the accusation of killing an animal as a trophy is “So what?” It is immoral to assert that trophy hunting is wrong or unethical based on the hunter’s intentions when the consequences are virtuous.


FIFTH: hunters and their advocates have allowed the anti-hunter to link an object—a trophy—with a process—hunting. They are unrelated. Either a hunting practice is justified by morality, sportsmanship and economics or it is not. The trophy aspect is irrelevant. We don’t use phrases like trophy soccer or trophy rugby or trophy tennis. We do have a phrase ‘trophy wife,’ but that’s a more complicated article.

SIXTH: there is a darker, more insidious aspect of anti-trophy hunting assault. Anti-hunters have conflated trophy hunting with poaching. The two activities have nothing in common. They are ethically opposite. The linkage is morally obscene. It cannot be accidental.  But, it is effective for undermining hunting and for vilifying hunters.

SEVENTH: those who condemn trophy hunters; who call them murderers, have failed in their moral duty to learn the facts and master the truth about hunting and its relationship to animal conservation and community development. By this failure, the anti-hunters are no more than smug uninformed bullies. They are frauds. Their behavior and words are mere moral preening and virtue signaling in pursuit of morality on the cheap. They are immune to human suffering, to animal suffering, to truth, logic and consequences. They are shallow smug people consumed by a need to feel good despite their behavior leading to destructive consequences. I am reminded of the statement by French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when done with a good conscience.” I argue these people have a moral duty to transcend their ignorance. The duty is particularly acute when animals and native populations are threatened and even more exigent when the attackers are relatively wealthy far-removed people who will never pay a price for their ignorance.



The anti-hunting attacks are Darwinian—they continue because they work. At the core of the anti-trophy hunting arguments, and the persons making the arguments, are the assumptions that the animals will always be there; that the infrastructure of government and legitimate conservation groups will always be there, and some force, unidentified, will save the animals from the policies the anti-trophy hunters want to implement. They want all the dynamics of hunting to change, yet they do not want the success of past policies to disappear.

The task of conservationists and hunters is to analyze the underlying logic and morality of the anti-trophy hunting attacks, identify their weaknesses in morality and logic and then use those deficiencies to craft strategies for fighting back. We can do so justifiably with confidence, logic and moral certainty. We have the better arguments. Truth is on our side. Our arguments appeal to the decency of humanity. They will resonate with the vast middle of humanity who are currently uninformed about hunting but who value human and animal life. The cost of failure is high, not so much for the hunters but for the animals. Once they are gone, after a generation they won’t be missed at all, and all of humanity will be diminished from that loss.


Michael Sabbeth is the author of The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. See He is currently writing the book Proud to Hunt: Tips for Being an Effective Instructor and Student