Tuesday, October 08, 2019


I think this is what our most recent commenter referred to...

Monday, October 07, 2019


 The best smart phone accessory money can buy.

Remember when, if you wanted a new phone, your choices were wall-mount or tabletop? Oh, sure, you may have had some color options, but guys solved that easily enough by just grabbing the top box on the pile and then whistling happily all the way to the check-out counter.
          The damn phone stayed at home where it belonged and you went in the house and used it when you needed to. It didn’t follow you around everywhere you went like a homesick puppy…(“And this is where you activate ‘bathroom mode’ so you can use it in the shower.”) It didn’t pester and badger you or make strange noises when you were trying to set the hook on a lunker bass. It didn’t buzz and vibrate in your pants at the exact moment a trophy buck stopped broadside twenty yards from your tree stand. When you were camped out in the mountains ten miles from the trailhead you could look into the flames of the campfire or gaze up at the stars at night instead of sticking your nose up to a little glowing screen.
          There were a few occasions when a smart phone might have come in handy for an outdoorsman. But, since you didn’t have one, you didn’t know you needed some obscure app, so you just shrugged and got on with life and found a way to make do without it. This may come as a shock to Gen X, but mankind survived and thrived and was actually aware of its physical surroundings throughout the centuries with no ill effects without being permanently attached to an electronic phone. Hundreds of generations of people lived out their entire lives quite happily and successfully without ever texting, Tweeting, Googling or updating their status.
          I was secretly very glad when we lived over in Granite County. Mountainous and sparsely-populated, maybe 10 percent…12 tops…of the entire county had any kind of cell coverage, so I was spared the “joys” of owning a smart phone. My loving wife did get me a trac phone that permanently resided in the glovebox of my pickup truck. Two or three times a year, an occasion might arise when it would be useful. At such times, I would whip the trac phone out of the glove compartment, turn it on, and have just enough juice to indeed confirm that there was no cell coverage where I was at before the battery died completely. I would make do without it, re-charge it when I got home, and toss it back in the glovebox for another three or four months, at which time I would complete the same cycle all over again. I don’t think I used the initial 90 minutes of call time in the decade I had it. I was more than happy with this arrangement.
          Eight years ago we moved and wound up in a county that is cursed with some astronomically good cell coverage for Montana, something like 65 or maybe even 70%. My wife insisted it was high time I join the rest of the industrial world and I was forced, at gunpoint, to accept the smart phone of her choice. Olivia is very tech-savvy and does her best to educate me about these things. I really am grateful for her tech-support; with the children grown up and gone and out on their own I can’t ask them to help me with computer issues when they get home from school.
As a writer, I have learned a bit about computers over the years since I find them extremely useful, especially considering that I originally taught myself to type as a kid on Mom’s old manual Remington typewriter. With phones, on the other hand, I was just fine with the status quo. If I needed to call someone, I walked in the house and called them. If the phone rang when I was actually in the house, I answered it. If not, I checked the answering machine when I got back. The only phone technology that impressed me over the decades was getting rid of the rotary dial, going cordless, and caller ID so I could, at a glance, choose whether or not to answer the phone and swear at the RNC or simply ignore their call altogether. That was progress.
At first, I tried to resist the smart phone.
“It’s not that hard,” my wife would insist. “My Mom learned to use hers just fine, except for disabling that ‘random and inappropriate emoji generator’.”
“There’s one big difference,” I would reply. “Your Mom wanted to learn to use hers.”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake. At least let me show you how to use to 3-D Topographic Terrain Holograph app. As an outdoorsman you’ll love it!”
So she would take me through the 158 simple steps required to use the app. A few days later, I would try to actually use the thing and get lost around Step #23. She would come home to find me crouched down behind the cover of my recliner, peeking around one side and poking at the smart phone on the floor with a stick.
One evening a few years back, however, my wife insisted on cooking supper, a meal which made me suddenly extremely drowsy. When I woke up, I was tied to a chair and my new Uber-Fhon was chained to my wrist. The little wife, God bless her, made a heroic effort to educate me on all of its functions. After about the first 372, my eyes unfocused and glazed over and my mouth fell open and began to emit a long streamer of drool. She just set the Uber-Fhon to “underwater mode”, threw a five-gallon bucket of ice water on me, and kept right on going. Only by convincingly feigning death for a quarter of an hour was I able to escape unharmed.
          The new Uber-Fhon has, by my count, some 9,347,332 separate functions, gizmos, devices, apps, widgets, accessories, contrivances, contraptions, doo-dads and thingamajigs. There’s even a corckscrew that folds down out of a little niche like on a Swiss Army knife. Of these, I’ve found, at best, four that are marginally useful and maybe two that I actually use. Even on those rare occasions when I finally do try to use them, I wind up using my fist as a hammer because the touch screen refuses to recognize my calloused finger as a human appendage and after the first three or four dozen unsuccessful swipes my patience begins to wear thin.
I think Uber-Fhon hates me as much as I hate it and does little things just to annoy me. For instance, when I pick it up and look at it, it instantly begins to defy gravity and spatial orientation so that no matter how I hold it the writing on the screen is always upside down. If I try to text, it immediately shrinks the keyboard buttons down to such a small size I can only hit the letter on either side of the one I’m aiming for. When, after muttering and back-spacing umpteen times, I finally type in the word I wanted, auto-correct kicks in and changes it to something completely different and totally unrelated. I usually don’t notice that my painstakingly constructed sentence has morphed into utter gibberish until the moment after I’ve hit the send button. What the duck, Uber-Fhon? I finally found it easier to capture and train a chickadee to peck out texts for me with its tiny little bill.
Miffed at being outsmarted thusly, Uber-Fhon sought revenge by constantly introducing itself as Skynet and asking me for the nuclear launch ‘go’ codes every time I tried to use it and then, late at night, waking me up by staring at me with an unblinking red light and lisping in its creepy HAL voice, “What are you doing, Bawb?”

 "What are you doing, Bawb?"

          The other day my wife came home to find my Uber-Fhon tied to a chair. Wearing a monocle and jabbing what I hoped were the phone’s short ribs with the muzzle of a loaded Walther P-38, I was snarling at it in my best Major Hochstetter accent, “Ve haff vays of making you talk!”
          “What on earth are you trying to do?” She asked.
          “Make a phone call.”
          “Oh, I’ll show you that one more time. But first, real quick, you need to know that this icon will take you into the set-up menu so you can take pictures and videos.”
          “I have a camera for that.”
          “What about the weather? Before you go hunting wouldn’t you like to check the weather first?
          “I do. I look out that window.”
          “But it’s so easy. You just push this button, swipe this image, enter your password, erect the dish array, connect to the network, wait until this red dot turns green, get three sonar pings, hit this icon, enter the combination 12-4-732, activate the HUD, and voila…it will tell you if there is a hazardous weather outlook anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere! Simple.”
          “Or I could just look out the window.”
          “Well, technically you could. But now you don’t need to go through all that bother.”
          “What bother? Turning my head?”
          “Now just let me just show you how to use the GPS Waypoint-Finder Navigational Beacon System real quick…”
          “I just want to make a damn phone call.”
          “Oh. Uber-Fhon doesn’t actually do that. I’d need to buy and install a new app. Hey! Where are you going?”
“To throw Uber-Fhon in the truck glovebox for the next five months and then go make the call on the land line, like I always end up doing. I just wish it was a wall-mount instead of a desktop.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Of course the US Army couldn’t bear to give a piece of equipment so simple a name as canteen cup, so the official nomenclature is technically “Cup, Water, Canteen: Steel W/Folding Handle, 1 ea.” By the way, in case you’re into memorizing National Stock Numbers, it’s NSN 8465001656838.
To carry the stuff I need for hunting as well as just-in-case survival gear when I’m hunting up in the mountains I wear an LBE supporting a butt pack, ammo pouches, a compass pouch, my emergency satellite transponder beacon, and two canteens. One of those canteens is always an old metal USGI one-quart model (if you’ve ever tried to thaw a plastic canteen over an open fire, you know why I use stainless steel instead) so it seemed like a no-brainer that I should include the cup with it. It takes up almost literally no room since the canteen and cup are designed to neatly nest one within the other and both then fit just right into the canteen holder.
           At first glance it might seem like an unnecessary accessory, but it actually comes in handy in quite a few ways.
          One simple little thing that I’ve found in the mountains, especially up high, is that the water sources you find may be little more than a tiny trickle, certainly nothing you could submerge a water bottle or canteen in. Here, the canteen cup makes the job of gathering water from these small sources much easier. Once full, you simply out the water into your canteen or water bottle and repeat the process until you’re all topped off.
          You can also melt snow, warm liquids, boil water or even cook simple meals in a canteen cup as well. This is why I prefer the old school M-1910 World War-style cup which has a long, single folding handle that locks in the open position with two metal tabs that slide into slots on the riveted mounting plate. This type of long handle allows you to safely pick up the cup from a fire or other heat source without burning your hand. The newer, smaller LC-1 cup with the folding wire bail “butterfly” handles doesn’t offer any length between those handles (and the fingers that hold them) and the fire.
          The canteen cup is hardly perfect. The metal rim, especially on the aluminum cups, can get hot enough to burn your lips while having your morning coffee if you’re not careful. Otherwise, it’s a KISS simple piece of gear designed for hard use in the field.
          One nice non-USGI accessory I added is the inexpensive Rotcho stainless steel canteen cup lid which is designed to snugly fit the top of the cup and has a small, folding wire bail for handling on top. Especially at high altitudes, a cover allows you to heat up the contents of the cup quicker and easier.
          For stirring, cooking and eating I also carry an old metal spoon. My thoughtful wife once got me a thick plastic survival spork, which I managed to break the first time I used it. So I went back to my old spoon since even I have some difficulty in breaking metal.
          There are other uses for a canteen cup in survival situations. I’ve used mine to scoop up snow to throw into the body cavity of a field-dressed big game animal, to clear snow from the ground, and you could probably do a little digging with it in soft soil if you really had to. A sane person would be highly unlikely to equate “canteen cup” with “boot dryer”, but where there’s a will (or an extreme need) there’s a way.
          On the second of two occasions I had to spend an unanticipated night on the mountain while hunting, it was in a snowstorm in the depths of winter. Even after changing into the dry wool socks I carry in the butt pack, I just could not get my feet warm in my boots, which were damp and clammy inside from my own perspiration after strenuous hiking in rough, steep country all day.
Recalling an old infantryman trick I’d read about long ago in a book about the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, I decided to give it a try. I gathered a bunch of small, smooth stones from a nearby creek, put them in my canteen cup, and set it in the fire until the stones were bone dry and piping hot. Then I put the hot rocks in a wool sock and lowered it into a boot to let them help warm and steam the shoe dry inside. It did require multiple applications to each boot, but eventually I got them dried out enough inside that my feet finally stayed warm.
          Here’s where ye olde canteen cup really saved my butt one time. It was the first time that I had to unexpectedly spend a night on the mountain when I couldn’t get back to my truck. I’d been black bear hunting and glassed one feeding on a distant hillside more than a mile away. It took awhile, since I first had to descend the main ridge, cross a stream, and then work my way over multiple lower but still steep finger ridges to get within range. Eventually I topped one last ridge, the crest providing cover in the form of clumps of Douglas fir, ranged the bear at 281 yards, and dropped him with a 180-grain Sierra from my .30-’06.
          After the shot, of course, is when the real work begins. It was also my first attempt at field dressing and skinning a bear so I was at the bottom end of the learning curve. It was a beautiful September Indian Summer day, really too nice since a daytime high temperature of near 80 degrees had been forecast. In direct sunlight on a west-facing slope catching the full blast of the afternoon sun lay my bear. I stripped my upper body down to just my T-shirt for the procedure.
When it came to skinning, I wanted to cut off the paws and head intact within the hide for the taxidermist to make a rug, which shouldn’t have been a problem. Until I reached for my bone saw and found that the belt loop on the cheap nylon carrying case it came in had torn off somewhere in my travels, leaving me without said bone saw and holster. Fortunately, I still had my Leatherman. When I unfolded the saw blade, I suddenly remembered I had broken it, leaving me with a stub of a saw only about an inch and a half long. An already involved job now became a long, tedious and physically demanding procedure to sever four leg bones with that thing.
          By the time I was done, I was utterly parched, soaked with perspiration and well baked in the afternoon sun. I had long since consumed the two quarts of water in my canteens. So, after washing up the best I could in the tiny stream at the bottom of the draw, I broke out my compact and hardly inexpensive Katadyn Mini water filter to refill my canteens. The filter almost immediately crapped out on me and refused to work.
          This was kind of a big deal, since I knew I was sliding rapidly towards dehydration. Up high in the wilderness I can often find springs that are safe to drink from directly, but this particular area was lower down and part of a very well-used grazing allotment. Every stream, rivulet, trickle and spring I might be able to find was well plastered with cow pies and thus virtually guaranteed to be contaminated with Giardia. Already dehydrated, the last thing I needed was to start losing more moisture out the other end. When the Giardia takes hold, your bowels start to gurgle ominously and the next thing you know you can, as a friend of mine once put it, “Shit through a screen door at ten paces.”
          I drug the carcass down the hillside to the small creek at the bottom and cooled it off the best I could before dragging it up on a fallen log and putting some fir boughs over it for the night. I rolled up the hide, tied it with p-cord, and slung it over one shoulder. Then I headed for the truck, where I had some bottled water stashed in the box.
          By now, of course, it was dark. I found my way through the woods with my headlamp, often consulting my compass to stay headed in the right general direction. The return trip somehow proved to be much longer and harder and steeper than the route in, when I was still fresh and charged up with the stalk. I toiled endlessly up and down the intervening finger ridges, which had treacherously managed to multiply and steepen in my absence, now with the added weight of a bear hide on my back. I wasted a great deal of energy climbing a hilltop I didn’t really need to ascend trying unsuccessfully to find a spot with some cell phone coverage so I could call my wife to let her know what was going on. All the physical exertion and lack of water were taking their toll and I started to get a headache.
          Eventually I emerged atop the last finger ridge. By only starlight, I could make out the towering black silhouette of the last timbered ridge I still needed to cross to get back to the trail that led to the truck. It was a steep SOB, ascending around 800 feet in altitude in less than a quarter of a mile, and the entire north-facing slope was covered with thick timber that had large swaths of blowdown which required climbing through and/or crawling under. Even after conquering that ridge, it was still nearly two more miles back to the truck.
          I just simply didn’t have it me to make all that. I needed to spend the night and recover and, most importantly, get hydrated. I simply went straight downhill until I found water at the very bottom of the steep draw, a tiny silver stream trickling through a bed of mossy stones and cow pies.
          I broke off some boughs to make a thin browse bed on the ground under the shelter of a stout, wide-limbed Doug fir, then built a fire. I filled up my trusty canteen cup in the stream, put the lid on, and set it in the edge of the fire. After it reached a roiling boil for a few minutes, I carefully poured the water into my canteen, which I set in the streambed in a couple of inches of water to cool. Then I repeated the process.
          This is basically how I spent half the night. I’d drink the contents of one canteen as I boiled more water to fill the other one. I was really dehydrated. I recall going through four full quarts, one gallon, as fast as I could boil and cool the water. Then I made a canteen cup of tea followed by another one of soup bullion from my little sardine can survival kit. After all that, I finally managed to urinate a tiny amount after many hours of having no urge or need to do so. I celebrated by polishing off another quart canteen of water.
          I didn’t try to go to sleep until I had both canteens refilled. I chugged one for breakfast before beginning the hike out and consumed the other en route, since it took me over two hours to get back to the truck. Without my trusty canteen cup giving me the ability to purify drinking water and re-hydrate myself, the adventure could have ended badly. At the very least, I would have wound up with a case of Giardia.


 Down at the Tacti-Cool Gun Shop

I used to, and often still do, enjoy visiting every little hole-in-the-wall gun shop I come across in my travels. It was a lot more fun in the days before the gigantic nation-wide sporting good chain stores moved in. You know the behemoth “everything outdoors” mega-stores I’m talking about. The kind my wife and I went into in Butte years ago to buy a new .22 Long Rifle gopher shooter, asking the teen-aged kid behind the gun counter to see a Ruger 10/22, the single most numerous and common rifle in the United States. A confused deer-in-the-headlights look came across his pimpled face and he just started grabbing random long guns off the rack and shoving them at us with the query, “Is this it?”
“Nope,” I’d reply. “That’s a Winchester Model Seventy in Four-fifty-eight Win Mag.”
With each failure, he would simply repeat the process a bit faster, over and over. It kind of reminded me of the movie UHF and the brief scene in the park where a blind man is trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
If the kid would have slowed down for a moment I could have just told him something like, “Third one from the left.” Instead he continued to thrust random guns at me.
“Is this it?”
“Nope, that’s a Remington Eight seventy twelve-gauge pump.”
“Is this it?”
“Is this it?”
          Thus, I really miss places like the Bullet Hole, my favorite little gun shop in Bozeman for many, many years, a sort of mom-and-pop with an FFL kind of place where what the curmudgeon owner lacked in politeness he made up for in decades of firearms knowledge. Alas, that place has been gone for well over a decade and I haven’t found a real replacement yet.
          So, the other day when I was in town and noticed a fairly new but small gun store tucked back in a sort of out-of-the-way area, I wheeled the truck right in there to check it out. It was a nice enough little gun shop but really only some of the older guns on consignment sale piqued my interest. Most of the new merchandise and weapons were obviously geared towards the tacti-cool market. You know, the guy who will buy literally anything the salesman even remotely hints at because the salesman introduces himself as a former SEAL, or the guy who will find an extra inch of Picatinny rail somewhere on his AR-15 when he discovers a new tactical accessory not already included amongst the 27 other accessories already mounted on the rifle, or the guy who instantly purchases a bayonet for his Glock “Foh-Tey” because, by God, he might actually need a pistol bayonet to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.
          Nevertheless, I went on in and the 20-something kid behind the counter was polite, well-informed, and had pretty good knowledge about the consignment guns especially. My mistake was asking about the .460 Rowland, which I had been looking into of late. He didn’t know anything about them, he realistically confessed, but the store owner sure did and here he comes now.
          I never did learn much about the guy himself, but at least he had Army veteran plates on his truck when he pulled in. For all I know, though, he could have been a clerk-typist or chaplain’s assistant. By unfortunately using the words “handgun” and “bear” in the same sentence, I apparently inadvertently keyed some kind of trigger words and a Pavlovian response sent him into a very passionate and seemingly endless rant about the most awesome bear medicine under the sun.
          Any spark of interest I had almost immediately evaporated when I found out, to my astonishment, that the latest, greatest uber-grizzly whacker turned out to be the Glock 10-mm Auto pistol fed a steady diet of the end-all and be-all of bear loads in the form of a solid copper 115-grain bullet with lots of little ridges all over it. This little pill was so devastating, he claimed, that merely informing a grizzly bear you were locked and loaded with one was sufficient, in 73% of the cases studied, to cause the bear to simply die of fright on the spot. The single determining factor which made this little copper bullet more deadly than a .500 S&W Magnum was velocity, which was repeated so many times that it will likely be stuck in my head for eternity.
The conversation went something like this:
ME: “It’s still a little bitty ol’ one hundred and fifteen grain bullet which, in the Nine millimeter Parabellum, has hardly proved to be a very effective man-stopper let alone bear-stopper.”
HIM: “But that one hundred and fifteen grain bullet has a paltry muzzle velocity of only twelve hundred feet per second. This one has a muzzle velocity of seventeen hundred fps.”
ME: “It’s still a very small bullet which are notorious when used against large and dangerous game for being easily deflected from their true course when trying to penetrate tough hide, muscle mass, and major bones.”
HIM: “But it has radial flutes and acts like a miniature buzz-saw wherever it goes, cutting veins and arteries, and it has a muzzle velocity of seventeen hundred fps.”
ME: “A grizzly bear can keep right on going for a good fifteen or twenty seconds even after being shot through the heart with a thirty-ought six. Little buzz saw cuts through surface muscle and tissue that never penetrate to the vitals aren’t going to slow him down much. You’ve got a few seconds to stop a charge; you can’t wait half an hour for the thing to finally start getting weak from blood loss.”
HIM: “But I have a high capacity magazine and can get off a bunch of rounds quickly and reload fast, and each one of those rounds has a muzzle velocity of seventeen hundred feet per second.”
ME: “Muzzle velocity and even foot-pounds of energy don’t tell the whole story. Since the formula squares the velocity, lighter, faster bullets get higher ‘scores’ of energy, but it doesn’t take into account bullet diameter, shape, or construction, amongst many other factors. Are you telling me you would rather face down a Kodiak bear with a twenty-two two-fifty shooting a fifty grain varmint bullet at thirty eight hundred feet per second than an old forty five-seventy lobbing a four hundred grain flatnose just because the former technically has maybe a dozen more foot-pounds of energy?”  
HIM (facial tic beginning): “I wouldn’t use either! I would use a ten millimeter one hundred fifteen grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of seventeen hundred feet per second!”
ME: “Velocity isn’t everything.”
HIM: “Blasphemer! Heretic! Unholy one! Of course velocity is everything, and mine has seventeen hundred feet per second of it. Your forty-four Mag load is only getting twelve hundred fps and even the four-fifty-four Casull only gets fourteen hundred! Seventeen hundred is higher, and thus obviously superior.”
ME: “Uh, I can’t help but point out the forty four Mag’s actual bullet is a three hundred and five grain flat-nose and the Casull’s throwing a four hundred grain bullet. A big hardcast chunk of lead that size is gonna penetrate a whole lot deeper and do so with a whole lot less deflection from its course. We’re not talking about poking cavities in ballistic gelatin; we’re talking about penetrating heavy hair, a thick hide tough as leather, inches of fat, large ropes of muscle mass, and extremely heavy bone structure.”
HIM: “But your precious big, heavy bullets can’t go seventeen hundred fps, so they’re worthless!”
ME: “Old timers like Elmer Keith and John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor killed literally thousands of head of big game between them; they, and many others, were of the opinion that it takes a big, heavy bullet to take down big heavy animals. Elmer and John even agreed that trying to kill large, tough, dangerous game animals with very smallest caliber bullets fired at extremely fast speeds was a form of mental illness.”
HIM: “Ha! Old School! They may have killed every major game animal on two continents, but they never saw the YouTube video I did of a guy killing a two hundred pound black bear with my magic bean. Besides, back in their day, they didn’t know any better because they did not yet have a hundred and fifteen grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of seventeen hundred feet per second!”
ME: “Two…dollars! Want…my…two…dollars!”
HIM: “Seventeen…hunh? What?”
ME: “Never mind. Eighties movie reference.”
HIM (voice now a high-pitched shriek and emitting spittle in all directions): “Eighties bad! Seventeen hundred fps good!”
ME: “Good God, man. I like the Glock platform and the ten millimeter is a damn fine defensive cartridge. But if I had walked in here with a pocket full of money and the specific intent to buy a Glock Twenty in ten mil, your kind of salesmanship would have driven me out of here without it.”
HIM (frothing at the mouth): Seventeen hundred! One fifteen! Copper! Youtube! Radial flutes!”
ME (Now trying desperately to get back out the door): “Goddamn it, quit humping my leg! Down boy, down!”

Wednesday, March 13, 2019



 "My, that's a big one."

At the time of the American Revolution and afterwards, small cannon mounted on swivels that could traverse and elevate, primarily used on small boats and fortifications, were known as swivel guns. Between swivel guns and conventional small arms there also existed gigantic flintlock muskets that the French, who classified them as light artillery, called amusettes. A later British classification was demi-gun. Also known as boat, wall, or rampart guns, these fully stocked mega-muskets could weigh as much as fifty pounds and were barreled for solid shot weighing as much as four-ounces and could be sized up to 1.25 inches in diameter. One of the largest individual wall guns I could find reference to was an Austrian flintlock model from 1734, which had a 1-inch bore diameter in a barrel some 7 feet 6-1/2-inches long, giving it an overall length of 9 feet 1 inch. There are examples of French rampart guns with the caliber given as 1.74-inches. A metal swivel was attached to the stock and had a single mounting rod on the bottom which could be slipped into holes bored into a boat’s gunwales or the top of a fortification’s log wall. Prior to 1776, all wall guns seem to have been smoothbores.
On February 4, 1776, Fielding Lewis, Commissioner of Virginia’s Fredericksburg Manufactory, wrote to his brother-in-law, George Washington: "I propose making a Rifle next week to carry a quarter of a pound ball. If it answers my expectation, a few of them will keep off ships of war for out narrow rivers, and be useful in the beginning of an engagement by land. ..."
General Washington and the Continental Congress approved of the idea since manufacture of rampart rifles was begun. If any were produced by the Fredericksburg Manufactory, no examples exist today, but there are a few surviving rampart rifles manufactured by James Hunter, whose Hunter Iron Works was located directly across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg. An example held in the Springfield Armory Museum has a 1.25-inch caliber octagon barrel 45-1/4 inches long, giving it an overall length of 62-3/8 inches (well over 5 feet), and a weight of just under fifty pounds. Manufactured in 1778, the gigantic lock mechanism is marked “RAPA FORGE” and this example has only a fixed V-notched bar-type rear sight and a brass blade front sight. Some later rampart rifles were noted for having much more elaborate “Swiss”-type rear sights fully adjustable for windage and elevation. Some rampart rifles were later made at Harper’s Ferry Arsenal and a US Army Ordnance inventory of 1802 indicated some 465 of these wall rifles were available in American arsenals. This figure did not include those being used at forts and garrisons around the country.

 Hunter 1.25-caliber rampart rifle from 1778.

Charles Winthrop Sawyer explained the benefits of such weapons. “In building a frontier fort if a strategical position was not already in the midst of a large open area, all trees, bushes, and bowlders that might offer cover to the savages were cleared away for a distance exceeding ordinary rifle range. These rampart rifles, with accurate range about double that of shoulder rifles, therefore gave the defenders of the fort considerable advantage.”
Although wall guns seem to have been used very little during the Revolutionary War, their effectiveness was attested to by General Charles Lee, who wrote from Williamsburg in 1776: "I am likewise furnishing myself with four-ounced rifle-amusettes, which will carry an infernal distance; the two-ounced hit a half sheet of paper 500 yards distance." A later British author said the Rampart Rifle was capable of, “…throwing two-ounce leaden balls, to from 400 to 800 paces, with great precision…”
The range and precision, great or otherwise, a particular rampart rifle might be technically capable of was, of course, hobbled by the limits of the human eye and the open iron sights of the era. Charles Willson Peale, much better known for his famous portraits of George Washington and other Revolutionary War leaders, was also a soldier, scientist and inventor who attempted to create a telescopic rifle sight…(“…a Riffle with a Tellescope to it.” Per his diary)…in early January 1776. In this endeavor, he enlisted the aid of David Rittenhouse, an astronomer who also built telescopes, and a local gunsmith by the name of Palmer.
In early February he spent four days in a row shooting and trying to zero his telescopically-sighted rifle which led, on February 9th, to Peale creating a, “piece with springs to prevent the Eye being hurt by the kicking of the Gun.” Optical technology of the day being what it was, eye relief was extremely short by today’s standards, and one had to place the eye quite close to the ocular lens of a telescope to see clearly through it. This meant, in turn, that a telescope mounted to a rifle could be driven back into the eye by the recoil when the weapon was fired. Peale may have been the first rifleman to get “scoped” and the project was eventually discontinued for lack of success.
Since the big rampart rifles were few in number to begin with, there are not very many accounts to be found of them being used. One, however, exists and stands out as an early example of what today would be considered a Heavy Sniper Rifle. It may have lacked optics and its ballistic coefficient would be laughable to modern snipers, but it got the job done.
In North Carolina, Welch-born immigrant Colonel Thomas Bloodworth had been a member of the Wilmington Committee of Safety in 1775 and was later a militia leader; his family manufactured swords, pikes, pistols and rifles. With the Whigs temporarily beaten back by the British….
Bloodworth built himself, “…a huge rifle of uncommon caliber & length…” which threw a 2-ounce ball. This equates to 8 balls to the pound, or 8-bore, approximately .835-caliber. Tradition has it that Colonel Bloodworth named his wall rifle “Old Bess”. The colonel painted a man-sized target on a barn door and practiced at the range he intended to shoot at until he worked up a load that delivered the best accuracy.
          Where the two forks of the Cape Fear River combined there was a point of land known as Negrohead Point. Rumored to have once been a hideout for bandits, in 1871 it remained wild swampland, a forest of cypress trees with a thick understory of loblolly, rattan and bamboo briars. The bald cypress is a slow-growing and long-lived tree that can reach extraordinary proportions; Wilmington still boasts the tallest bald cypress tree at 145 feet. Dominating Negrohead Point was a particularly large cypress with a trunk some seven feet in diameter which appeared solid from the exterior but was in fact hollow on the interior.
          Years before the war, Colonel Bloodworth had been on a fox hunt and the chase led him and his hounds to Negrohead Point. Arriving there, Bloodworth could hear the dogs baying but could not see them anywhere. He eventually found where his hounds had dug into a small cavern in the earth, just large enough for a man to crawl through, and followed it to find his dogs and the dead fox inside the large hollow cypress trunk. Remembering this tree, which was situated across the water almost a quarter of a mile away from the Wilmington city dock, Colonel Bloodworth decided to use it as a sniping post to strike back at the British and Tories in the town.
Accompanied by his son Tim and another local boy by the name of Jim Paget, Colonel Bloodworth and his big rampart rifle infiltrated Negrohead Point by canoe under cover of darkness. They brought with them rations and jugs of water sufficient for several days and some hand tools. Inside the hollow tree, they erected a scaffolding to perch on and, with an auger, bored some holes through the tree trunk on the side facing Wilmington. Here they set up Old Bess where the rampart rifle could be fired from a good vantage point.
The next morning, said to have been the Fourth of July in at least one account, Colonel Bloodworth readied Old Bess and took aim at a group of British soldiers and sailors standing in front of the liquor store on Market Wharf. He took his shot and one of the men crumbled to the cobblestones and was carried inside the store by his mates. Reloading the rampart rifle, Colonel Bloodworth waited patiently for another shot. He soon fired again, cutting down another redcoat, who was also carried into the store while, according to one colorful local account:
“Utter consternation seemed to prevail on the wharf, men running to & fro’ some pointing one way, and some another, but no one suspecting the secret source of their annoyance. The drums beat to arms, the fifes to squeal, muskets & bayonets gleaming thru the streets, all uproar tumult and confusion; but all in vain! They were struck down by an unknown and invisible hand.”
Apparently, the big gun was fired from within the hollow tree cavity without the muzzle protruding in order to conceal the tell-tale cloud of blackpowder smoke and deaden the sound of the muzzle report. With his knowledge of the local area, the cagey colonel knew that during the summer months by mid-morning the wind would generally blow straight north up the river and last until sundown. He only fired under these conditions, so that the breeze could disperse and blow the remnants of the powder smoke back into the cypress swamp behind them as well as help to deaden and confuse the origin of the gunshot. These well-laid plans seem to have paid off since the British had great difficulty in locating the sniper hide. The extreme range also led the enemy to initially discount Negrohead Point as the source of the fire. One early account claimed that the distance to have been 400-500 yards, while one more recent author believes the range was more like 350 yards. Whatever the actual distance, it was well beyond musket range and extreme range for even the best Pennsylvania rifle sharpshooter.
The snipers fired only three shots the first day, claiming three hits, then remained silent. Firing only one or two carefully chosen shots per day, the three rebels reportedly continued their sniping for the better part of a week, and hit a man with nearly every shot. Foot patrols of British soldiers and Tory militia combed the shoreline and small boats rowed up and down the river in search of the firing point without success.
Eventually it was claimed that a local Tory heard rumors of Colonel Bloodworth’s rampart rifle and deduced Negrohead Point to be the sniper’s location. A party of twenty British and Tory soldiers came ashore on the point in boats and began clearing away the trees and undergrowth. During the night, the three rebels were able to slip away from their hide, retrieve their hidden canoe in the swamp, and escape unharmed. The next day the enemy detail began cutting into the trunk of the giant cypress and discovered the empty hide. 
The rifle-bore amusette had the potential to be something akin to the .50-BMG caliber heavy sniper rifles or special application rifles so in vogue with military snipers and Special Forces today. During the Revolutionary period, however, there were no precision high-tech targets to deliberately target and destroy, and the lack of telescopic sights severely limited the useful range and precision of rampart rifles. Other than Colonel Bloodworth’s unique feat, if there were other instances of rampart rifles playing a role in the conflict, these accounts have been lost to history.