Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Zumbo

My first thought: "I can't afford to comment here lest Steve lose points by association with the likes of me."

Second thought: "Steve is in no danger of losing credibility in the gun club."

Third thought: "Maybe this Zumbo guy had the same thought?"

I don't hunt with a gun. I own two: both .22s (a rifle and a pistol); both hand-me-downs from great-grandfather and grandfather, respectively. I killed a squirrel with the rifle once. That is the extent of my firearms experience.

Yet I hunt about 90 days a season (with hawk and dog), and I have opinions about it.

I have to say, I dislike the idea of a military gun as a hunting weapon. Why is that so out of line? Hunting is not war. War has a very specific purpose and needs its own tools. If you face multiple human attackers, each with his own weapon, you need the right tool for that. Thankfully, these are available. (...And if there is anyone of any political stripe who claims there is no legitimate need for effective personal defense from multiple armed attackers, I refer you to any homeowner in post-Katrina New Orleans. Obviously, other examples are available.)

And yet, again, hunting is not warfare. Hunting is accused of being a lot of different evils, but 'a metaphor for war' is one I always hated (notwithstanding Harry McElroy's "war on quail," which tickles me). No one who works that particular angle has ever been hunting, or at least, hunting for real. The lampooning of hunters as square-jawed paramilitaries makes a good cartoon, but it bears little similarity to actual people who hunt. I'll submit my own weak jaw (and cammo-free wardrobe) as evidence.

If Mr. Zumbo, in a moment of probably unwise light speed communication, expressed his opinion that military weapons seem out of place on a hunt, he did nothing more than state what many hunters would find obvious. Why cannot an adult at (...luckily) retirement age not make this perfectly defensible observation?

Well, as I said, I don't hunt with a gun. So I was surprised by the reaction Zumbo received. But my question stands: Why should one man's opinion about proper hunting tools be interpreted to say anything about his views on tools of war or self defense? For all we know (and this seems the case), Zumbo supports everyone's right to own whatever sort of gun they want.

He was stating, essentially, an artistic opinion. Right?

I sent Steve an email with this question. Steve knows I am ignorant of guns and gun issues generally, and he is a natural teacher. He wrote back:

"It's definitional. There are some guns based on the American military 'platform' that are pure, high- tech, rather expensive hunter's guns (AR varmint-style heavy-barreled .223's-- things poor ignorant Zumbo didn't know existed). There also are poor people all over the world who use SKS's (old Soviet rifles from before the AK, less "machine gun" looking) because they are cheap and the widely available old 7.63 X 39 cartridge is a passable deer round (similar ballistics to .30- 30). I own one myself as a backup to my pretty classic rifles-- and 1000 rounds of cheap ammo. Several of the Russian nomad photo- anthropology books show tribal folks with them (an added draw for me)

Yukaghir hunter with SKS in the Siberian taiga
(from The Peoples of the Great North)

Steve's Russian SKS-- a useful tool, like the axe...

"The main thing that antis hate is that they are 'semiauto', a new swear word (heard it recently on Cold Case-- Dad's eevil semiautos made his kid a Columbine- style spree killer)-- which means simply that you don't work a bolt between shots. So?? THEY ARE NOT MACHINE GUNS.

"SOME mil-spec semiautos are not accurate-- mil. configuration AK's for instance. Therefore, nobody hunts with them. Even in that case, Saiga of Russia made a reasonable hunting- style version.

"Antis don't like these (so- called) 'assault rifles' because they look scary. Snob hunters because they are 'Non-U' (look it up) and CHEAP. Poor people can afford them, people 'not like us'. It is a non-issue, with most people (as usual) uninformed and talking past each other."


Anonymous said...

Did you read Zumbo's original post? I think it was his reference to terrorists and equating people who use black rifles with terrorism that caused the problem. He also used the word "ban" and did not clarify what he was saying. If he has simply said that he didn't think military rifles with deep magazines should be used for hunting, I don't think there would have been the uprising of outrage that occurred.

Steve Bodio said...

Syd: I'd agree (don't know if Matt has read the original).

But: our side's reaction might yet bite us on the ass. Zumbo should have been corrected and rebuked. A gunwriter who doesn't know (A)that semiautos HAVE a sporting purpose and that (B) you don't concede ANY type of firearm to the antis --because, yes, I know and agree, the Second Amendment is not about hunting-- is not up to speed, to take the most charitable tack. Maybe it is time for him to retire.

Still, the amount of vituperation and intolerance on show does not show us in our best light.

Now Tom McIntyre, whom I personally know to be NO anti- gunner, is being libelled as one by some people determined to "Zumbo" him on the basis of an allegd hunting camp conversation that nobody can remember but his accuser. This is nuts!

We are likely to be facing a presidential election between two anti- gun candidates next time, and we'd best have our house in order.

Anonymous said...

Pat Wray, who wrote a chukar hunting book, has some comments on

that he is being attacked for now. He joined a forum on

where a lot of NRA zealots hang out it seems, to defend himself. That is courageous given the climate there.

Matt Mullenix said...

Syd: I did read his post and the references to terrorism, etc. But it was clear to me, with his multiple in-line apologies and caveats, that he was NOT saying owners of military rifles are terrorists. That was inferred, liberally, by readers.

Zumbo seemed on my reading most concerned with (A) his artistic vision about what's proper gear in the field and (B) the possible negative impression of hunters held by non-hunters.

In this respect, his choice of words simply supported his thesis, right or wrong.

As a falconer, these remarks struck me in the same way I read curmudgeonly claims that "Harris hawks will ruin our sport," and should never be allowed to apprentices.

If you aren't a falconer, that won't mean much to you; but my point is that this is a matter of opinion. No one who holds that opinion should be attacked for it, even though--clearly--it's wrong. :-)

Maybe there wouldn't have been as much of an uprising had Zumbo left out the terrorist references, but there would have been many sharp words, I bet.

And that's what gets me. Here a fellow is asked to tow the entire line of a hugely weighted political issue when he is simply making comments about hunting, one small part of the much larger gun picture.

Do we all have to watch our words so closely? Do we have to fear the reproach of our own as much as of others? If that's the case, we are no community at all.

My guess is that Zumbo bit the hand that long had fed him--gun manufacturers and gear advertisers--and that maybe his first mistake was to misunderstand his benefactors' top priority.

Anonymous said...

How big is this Zumbo lynching going to get. It was even played for laughs on The Colbert Report, a satire on right wing TV talking heads. See the link above for the Colbert link.

Some of the replies in the link are funny too.

Anonymous said...

When hunting was reformed in this country more than a century ago hunters deliberately set limits on their behavior to create a Fair Chase ethic.

But people now are always trying to game the system - with trail-monitoring cameras, hearing enhancers, scopes and sabots for muzzleloaders - and new rifle technologies.

In addition to just being bad PR, should we allow large magazine capacities on military style rifles in the field? Won't this encourage spray & pray behavior instead of building marksmanship?

Do we really think it is a good idea to allow people to lob .50 cal rounds at Elk a half mile away on yon hillside?

Many 2A activists seem to believe that placing any limits on the use of firearms in the field is the same as prohibitng ownership of them. It's not.

Steve Bodio said...

I think restraint (including in pursuit of game) should be encouraged, and excess discouraged, by custom and peer pressure.

I do NOT think most of this should be law-- and my inclination on this goes beyond hunting-- ie, I don't believe in compulsory anti- smoking, to pick an issue at random, but I DO in manners.

Bag limits are (or should be) compulsory and biologically determined. The rest is culture. It may be too late to promote good manners and sportsmanship in this society but I am willing to try.

Bad sportsmen should be shunned and shamed and "outed" as mercilessly (and with more reason) than poor Zumbo.

OTOH why should a ten- round mag make a person less of a sportsman than a five round one? I have NEVER seen an opportunity for three consecutive shots on a big game animal! (That is, without something like a late "finishing" shot).

My SKS plus 1000 rounds of sporting-- not surplus-- ammo cost under $200. I have shotguns worth 20 times that much. And neighbors who hunt that could not afford more than the first.

"Means" are more culturally determined than not. In England, 10, 8, and 4- bore shotguns, and even punt guns, are legal (and surrounded by much custom) for wildfowl. Night shooting is legal, as are silencers for .22's. But hunting with dogs is banned (and sill practiced).

Until and unless we can (re?) introduce restraint and sportsmanship to the average American hunter's toolkit unfair "advantages" will be taken. Magazine size is irrelevant. I think the use of modern black powder arms in special seasons more intellectually offensive and more contrary to the spirit of the law.

Also: Dave Petzal-- whom I have defended-- wrote gleefully this AM about new bullets that will "explode" (delicious) woodchucks*. I think that-- and using 50 caliber BMG bullets on deer-- is obscene and immoral. BUT I DON'T THINK IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL-- just booed by all folks with standards.

Let me suggest one more analogy: wanting marijuana decriminalized doesn't mean you want people to be stoned, or your kids to smoke dope.

* Marmot- loving Mongols would doubtless string him up...

Anonymous said...

Well we all hope, and prefer, that self-restraint and peer pressure can withstand the commercial and competitive pressures that may push hunters into behaving in ways that the non-hunting general public may view as unsporting or unethical. If we lose public support, or at least their tolerance, then the AR people will win.

Of course, this will be difficult to do when outdoor journalists, who should be leading the discussion, are dependent on these same commercial interests for their livelihood. Thank God for blogs!

mdmnm said...

In terms of having to "toe a line" and watching his words, I think Zumbo managed to trip a couple of particular triggers, the most significant of which is the recent introduction of a bill to reinstate and expand the now-expired 1994 assault weapons ban. When the original version passed, a lot of hunters (and some gun writers like Dave Petzal) opined that it would be a good thing. That severely gored the ox of a lot of collectors, hobbiests, and competitors.
I don't think Zumbo particularly bit the hand of his sponsors so much as they were running shy in the face of such a large and strong reaction from the public. Remington, one of his former sponsors, doesn't even build an AR type rifle, although they did develop a cartridge for that action recently. Similarly, Cabela's doesn't have much, if any of a piece of the competitive shooting market.

Matt Mullenix said...

syd, mdmnm, Steve and others: I appreciate the education and can certainly use it. I'm in strange waters speaking about guns, and I usually keep well out of the deep end.

I just hate to see a guy pounded (now, "zumboed") for speaking his mind. I bet the only beneficiary of this flap will be the O.E.D., which will get a snazzy new word to list.

mdmnm said...

I got into a little more detail about the assault weapons bill and why it matters at In the end, I think that the division and excesses of rhetoric are going to hurt all shooters much more than the original comment, which is a real shame.


Matt Mullenix said...

mdmnm: I just visited your blog and first want to thank you for the very nice comments. You've summed up my position well (such as it is!) and helped me see some of its limitations. Appreciated! Please continue to help keep me in line on this blog. :-)

Chas S. Clifton said...

Matt, if military rifles are not appropriate for hunting, then I had best dump my sporterized Mauser 98, no?

But, seriously, Zumbo probably thought he was expressing an aesthetic choice. As an earlier commenter mentioned, he chose the wrong time to do so, when many gun owners are apprehensive about seeing an new (so-called) assault weapons ban introduced in Congress.

Using the word "terrorist" even in a measure and metaphorical sense was not a wise idea either, given the current political climate.

Pat Wray wrongly credited the NRA for anti-Zumbo reaction. The gunnie bloggers were all over Zumbo while the NRA staff were out to lunch.

Funny thing about the NRA: a lot of the same gun-bloggers think that it is too "pro-hunter" and not enough "pro-shooter." Yes, the NRA condemned for being too moderate. Ponder on that.

Now, Ted Nugent claims that Zumbo is rehabilitated. Maybe in 6 mos. all this will be forgotten, mostly.

Matt Mullenix said...

Chas please keep your Mauser with my blessing. :-)

Old goshawk guys like Steve find my Harris' hawk unsporting, but I don't want to give that up, either!

Actually, the more I read on this Zumbo deal (and I think I'm near capacity), the more it reads like any number of firefights I've waged on the falconry message boards. It's good that we do this with keyboards and not with our sporterized Mauser 98s.

One last question: Is the whole country one big Internet message board now?

Steve Bodio said...

Hardly "un- sporting", Matt-- after all I am probably getting one this season (;-)) Just new and odd- looking and dauntingly easy-- which come to think of it DOES translate metaphorically a bit...

Steve Bodio said...

Oh and-- my " '59 Cadillac" rifle is built on a (Czech) military action too...

Anonymous said...

Check this out

Pat Wray had the guts to approach this mob with an open mind and now they are trying to ruin his book's reputation. A lot of these morons are ex-military where honor is supposed to mean something. Not anymore.

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