Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grooms' Gun: Mostly a Guest Post

Steve Grooms, the man who wrote the book on pheasants, is reluctantly giving up his gun.

He writes:

"It is an "Ithaca" Model 600 made by SKB and imported by Ithacagun around 1976. I'm the only owner.

"12 gauge with 2 3/4" chambers, 26" barrels bored improved cylinder and modified. The barrels (at least on the inside) are chrome. I never messed with the chokes. Because the gun shot so well for me I was afraid to pattern it and possibly learn something that would mess up my head. What I can say without reservation is that these barrels, when fed a premium shotshell with #6 shot, put out a pattern that is absolutely devastating for pheasants at any reasonable range. This is one reason I regard this as the perfect pheasant gun. The first barrel kills roosters at all sensible ranges without destroying the bird for the table. The second barrel is about the same, and it reaches out pretty far with quality shotshells.

"Weight: this is an issue, since I don't have an accurate way to measure it. I used to think the gun was a bit over 7 pounds, but all the SKBs I find on the internet have greater weights (but usually longer barrels). I think the weight is probably 7 pounds 6 ounces, or something close to that. I always carried the shotgun one-handed like a pistol, and I am not a muscular guy, so you know it couldn't be as heavy as the weights I see on the internet. I think later SKBs were made differently from these Ithacagun imports and were heavier.

"The stock is factory standard specs. I have NO idea why this gun--so standard in so many regards--shot so amazingly well for me. The first shot I fired from it was with a portable cocking trap. My buddy didn't know how to load it properly, so the bird came off the machine at an incredibly sharp angle. I smoked that bird, and I was so amazed that I'd hit it that I just stared at the gun and asked, "Where have you been all my life?"

"My one modification was to put a linseed oil finish on the wood. It came with that awful urethane finish that I'm sure you have seen. That stuff chipped off, especially after my disastrous swamp crossing. So I refinished the wood, and I think I did it well. I cleaned off the plastic finish and then put four or five thin coats of linseed oil on, rubbing the wood in between applications. The wood is not fancy, but is FAR superior to most SKB stocks of the time.

"I don't know how to rate the condition. There are no big gashes or unseemly cuts. The finish has held up well. There is no bluing, so the bluing has not worn off. That silly fluorescent pink front sight has lost its glow. I guess. I never see the front sight when shooting. The gun has obvious marks of a life of use, but nothing ugly, nothing nasty. The action is as tight as the day I got it (I hear some folks call these guns the Japanese "Merkel", with Kerstin crossbolt and side bolsters.

"The action is single selective trigger. It always works. The ejectors are selective and never failed to perform perfectly.

"I've been trying to figure how many roosters this gun took. I shot it for 30 years, and there were years when it claimed 100 roosters. I think a grand total of 700-800 roosters is realistic. And I'm not talking about those pathetic things on commercial game farms. My birds were all wild, many of them coming late in the season when the game is so difficult. I can remember shooting eight doubles with this gun, one of which was almost a triple because I reloaded so fast without moving, but we'll have to call that a double and a single! A couple of times I went a whole season without missing.

"Lifetime species list: pheasant, quail, ruffed grouse, prairie chicken, sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge, spruce grouse, Canada geese, white geese, mallards, woodies and woodcock. Hunting in: Ontario, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

"If I know the name of the buyer, I'll autograph a copy of my Pheasant Hunter's Harvest for that hunter.

"My personal opinion (highly biased) is that this is the perfect pheasant gun. I sometimes regretted that I couldn't change the chokes. But guess what? The IC/M combination is right for most pheasants in most situations. Just when you change to a tighter choke because it is late in the year and the birds are jumpy, you step on a rooster skulking in the snow and if you put in a tight choke you better be prepared to wait a long time before firing. In other words, the fact the chokes are fixed means you cannot over-think things and make a choice that is not as good as the IC/M standard."

Steve B again: Pheasant Hunter's Harvest is one of the best books on pheasants in the USA ever written, if not THE best, is full of tales and photos of this gun, and contains the wonderful (and frightening) essay "A Cold, Lonely Death" I later included in my anthology The Art of Shooting Flying. This book and this gun make up to a once in a lifetime deal. If you are interested (serious offers please), contact Steve at: mnstorytelr@comcast.net


PBurns said...

Nice. My grandfather shot pheasants with this gun in Kansas. I just bought two 12's or I would rise to the fly on this one.

Anonymous said...

Sounds an ideal combination for hunting wily, walked up game of all varieties up to wild pheasant size. The short barrels would help in heavy cover, but I prefer the slightly longer variety, as I am 6ft 3ins tall.
If you use 30 grms of No.6 shot, you could also maybe chance takimg the left choke out to 3/8 , or even a 1/4, using plastic wads, and pattern the shells at 45 yds !!!( As we did with my son's S/S last Saturday!)
It's also a gun with "Heritage"!, so someone will love it forever!.


CZLion said...

I know, I've been looking at two at the gun show; one silver, one blued. If one needed a pair, there you go.
I want a match to my Superposed, though.

So many guns, so little time.

Johnny W.