Author Archive

The sport of hunting

This came up in my “research” on US hunting culture (along with the fact that not many people hunt/stalk, and the number of hunters/stalkers is declining due to loss of habitat and change in lifestyle).

“Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of fair chase. This concept addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.”

“The Rules of Fair Chase”, Chatfield, Minnesota: Pope and Young Club. Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012:

One hunting club declares that a fair chase shall not involve the taking of animals under the following conditions:

  • Helpless in a trap, deep snow or water, or on ice.
  • From any power vehicle or power boat.
  • By “jacklighting” or shining at night.
  • By the use of any tranquilizers or poisons.
  • While inside escape-proof fenced enclosures.
  • By the use of any power vehicle or power boat for herding or driving animals, including use of aircraft to land alongside or to communicate with or direct a hunter on the ground.
  • By the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating or pursuing game or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached.

One of the issues raised with the change in self-defence laws to allow for deadly force is that the number of sporting shooters is declining. The market is more than saturated for sporting firearms, which means there needs to be a new market found to sell weapons.

Posted 04/03/2017 by lacithedog in fair chase, hunting, Uncategorized

The problem of probate

Or is it really a problem? It was for Michael Bellesiles who lost his career because it was assumed that Arming America was solely based upon that information.purdey

The problem is that “common items” such as hoes don’t show up, but firearms do. Which is “proof positive” that firearms were somehow common.

This neglects the expense that firearms most likely were in pre-industrial revolution, colonial America.  On the off chance that there were gunsmiths cranking out firearms, let alone rifles, we have to address the issue of coming up with metal that would withstand being used as a firearm.  That means any steel would have to be hand forged given the Navigation Acts, in particular the Iron Act of 1750, ban on colonial industry (and Birmingham’s monopoly on firearm manufacture).

My previous post comes up with a budget bespoke firearm going for £2,500 (US$3,115.03 at today’s rate). I would post the top end of the firearm range, and some used Purdeys selling in the range of US$65,000. Now, wouldn’t it make sense for something which would cost roughly US$3,000 to 65,000+ to be listed in probate record over something which might have cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to maybe 100 in modern funds?

Also, which would be more valuable? Obviously, the more expensive firearm.

If we are going to say that gunsmith were common, we have to address the cost of tools on top of the cost of producing metal which could be used in firearm production. I seriously doubt that a rifling lathe could have been produced on the frontier.  That would mean that such a device would have had to have been imported from Europe: those pesky Navigation Acts might have been a factor.

It is common knowledge that rifles were being produced on the frontier, which might have had something to do with a prohibition on industry more than societal factors. While muskets may have been inaccurate, early muzzleloading rifles had more problems than they were worth.

I’m sure expense would have been one of them.

While rifles were the more complex firearm to build, they still were like building clockworks. And we are talking about hand making clockwork in a pre-industrial society.

Which leads to two issues:

  1. Were firearms really common, or luxury items that would have been contested after death?
  2. Were colonial gunsmiths actual full blown firearms manufacturers, or just somebody who fixed broken weapons?

I am under the impression that firearms are one of the great American founding myths since it doesn’t look too good when one realises that independence really came because of a grudge match based upon the Seven Years/French and Indian War (e.g., most firearms used were European manufactured): not colonial superiority of any kind. We have documentation of a lack of firearms and firearms manufacturing capability in colonial North America, which I have mentioned before and in this.

The need to make firearms a common item at the time of the founding is a fundamental key to any attempt to portray the Second Amendment as somehow not relating to the common defence.  The problem is that it is painfully obvious  that firearms were luxury items in preindustrial societies, as anyone familiar with hand made firearms will attest.

I would bet the farm that firearms would be as expensive as a Purdey, if not more so, back then.

That’s why probate records are not reliable.

Shooting…a rich man’s sport.

horton-bespokeI am trying to put together a piece on why hunting is not a right in relation to the Second Amendment. That is a proposition which is pretty apparent to anyone who is familiar with the history of hunting, which has long been a pursuit of nobility and the landed gentry. The people who had the time and access to the land to be able to hunt.
The firearm technology which was available at the time of the drafting of the US Constitution did not make hunting with firearms for subsistence a viable option.  Especially since firearms were hand made.

And also not very accurate, unless one owned a rifle.

Rifles didn’t begin to appear until the 18th Century.  The famed long rifle appeared in Pennsylvania around 1740.  While more accurate, they were far from common.  The Ferguson Rifle was a breech loading carbine used by the British forces in the War for Independence.  Had these been common, the war probably would have gone in favour of the British.  But:

Its superior firepower was unappreciated at the time because it was too expensive and took longer to produce – the four gunsmiths making Ferguson’s Ordnance Rifle could not make 100 in 6 months at four times the cost per arm of a musket.

Even muskets were expensive since they were handmade.  I would bet that someone doing an honest cost comparison would find they would be in line with bespoke English guns.

I would add that the Horton guns ad that led to this is relatively cheap for a handmade English, as anyone familiar with marks such as Holland and Holland and Purdey will attest.

Even if we get away from the cost of owning a firearm at this time. we have the fact that farmers on the frontier were fairly busy with the tasks related to farming:especially clearing the land on the frontier.

So, given that deadly force was a last option in self-defence at the time of the founding (and up until fairly recently in the US), the cost of owning a firearm was probably prohibitive for the average person, and hunting was a pursuit of the idle rich, superfluous language is not a characteristic of legal documents at the time of the founding, and the legal maxim “expressio unius est exclusio alterius”: it seems that it is probably more likely than not that the founders were talking about the common defence when they stated “a well regulated militia” was necessary for the “security of the free state”.

Misquotations can be safely disregarded in this debate.

Hunting with Hounds

Another repost of my material from MikeB’s blog. One of the critiques of UK fox and stag hunting is that the dogs rip the prey to shreds.

I did some posts a while back about hunting where I mentioned hunting boar with hounds fd0c0-wildboarhuntuffiziand a boar spear. Someone made a comment about wanting to see me do this believing that I wouldn’t be willing to give it a go.

Far from it, I would love to try it, but the problem is that the hunter isn’t the first to encounter game when one hunts with dogs–it’s usually the dogs who will encounter the prey first.

Upon finding a pig, a dog pack will chase the animal until he or she is exhausted. Hunters follow on foot, horseback, or in swamp buggies (that’s usually in the USA).

” . . . a wild scene. Leif and Tucker [dogs], who have raced past Cock [hunter] just before he reached the bay, are latched onto the pig’s ears. The other dogs bard and dart in to bite the pig’s flank. The pig squeals with a pitch and volume that would make the whine of a table saw seem like a low hum. Cock grabs its back legs, throws it down, puts a knee on its shoulder and begins stabbing. After four or five tries, he pierces the heart. The blood flows, the squealing stops and the admiration of the carcass begins.”
– description of a hunt, St. Petersburg Times, June 4, 1999

Before the dogs are restrained, the pig can suffer horrible injuries. Occasionally, a wounded pig will escape, only to later die a lingering death.

Of course, dogs enjoy the hell out of this, especially if they are hunting breeds as the picture of the dogs with historic hunting reenactor Richard Swinney show. Anyone who knows dog expressions can tell the dog with Swinney is pleased as hell, and the dog in the background wants another boar! Hunting is a natural activity for dogs and hunting with them bonds one to the pack.

Naturally, the animal rights crowd find this to be repugnant and hunting boar with dogs is illegal in some jurisdictions: this includes where I live. I believe that the nearest place for me to do this is in Germany and I would have to join a club.

And yes, I do go hunting with dogs and have experience in these matters.

There’s hunting and there’s HUNTING

I am reposting this from MikeB’s blog.  No allegations of plagiarism, please, since I wrote the original post, which was published on 24 Aug 11 (which relates to the Glorious Twelth comment).  I want to do this since I will be discussing hunting in relation to shooting, which this show are two different concepts.

I realise this post is late for the Glorious Twelfth (and the repost is too early), but I think most people’s minds were still on the riots at that time instead of grouse shooting.

For the most part, hunting has been the pastime of the landowning classes and royalty–even with the popularisation of the sport in the US. Two good reasons for this–they have the land and they have the time. But, I am not talking about using firearms to hunt.

As hunting moved from a subsistence activity to a social one, two trends emerged. One https://lacithedog.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/645f4-medieval2bhunting.jpg?w=390&h=344was that of the specialist hunter with special training and equipment. The other was the emergence of hunting as a ‘sport’ for those of an upper social class. The meaning of the word “game” in middle English evolved to include an animal which is hunted. As game became more of a luxury than a necessity, the stylised pursuit of it also became a luxury. Dangerous hunting, such as for lions or wild boars, often done on horseback or from a chariot, had a function similar to tournaments and manly sports. Hunting was considered to be an honourable, somewhat competitive pastime to help the aristocracy practice skills of war in times of peace.

One of the hunting methods which requires a firearm is also called stalking where one follows signs and trails of game (usually deer). The hunters slowly walk along trails persuing the game.

There are also driven shoots, where beaters are employed to walk through woods and over moors or fields, dependent on the quarry and time of year and drive game towards a line of 8 – 10 standing guns standing about 50 or 60 metres apart. The guns will have paid in the region of £25 per bird for pheasants and much more for grouse, and the total bag (number of birds shot) will be anywhere between 80 and 400, again dependent on the budget and quarry.

The day may be very formal, and the head gamekeeper or a shoot captain will oversee https://lacithedog.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/ac017-shooting.jpg?w=321&h=241proceedings and great emphasis is placed on safety. Pickers-up with dogs are also employed to make sure all shot or wounded game is collected. On estates holding driven shoots, large numbers of pheasants, partridge and duck, but not grouse, are reared and released to provide sufficient numbers of game. Grouse cannot be reared intensively but the heather moorland where they live is intensively managed to maximise numbers.

Rough shooting, where several guns walk through a woodland, moor or field and shoot the birds their dogs put up, is increasingly popular. It is less formal and may be funded by several people grouping together to form a “syndicate”, paying a certain amount each year towards game and habitat maintenance.

Wildfowling is often a lonely and uncomfortable sport. A single gun sits in pursuit of wildfowl by a body of water, or on the coastal foreshore, often at dawn or dusk, and waits for birds to “flight” in. This is sometimes undertaken in total darkness or by the light of the moon. Duck are also shot on the two former methods.

The phrase hunting, however, has also refers to the traditional practice of chasing animals with packs of hounds, now illegal under the UK Hunting Act of 2004. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there were many horse based hunt clubs in England.

One doesn’t need horses to hunt, as there is also beagling. Beagling is the hunting of hares, rabbits, and occasionally foxes with beagles. A beagle pack (20-40 hounds) is usually followed on foot. However, there is one pack of beagles in the U.S. which are distinguished as being the only hunting pack to hunt fox and be followed on horseback. Beagling is often enjoyed by ‘retired’ fox hunters who have either sustained too many injuries or lost the agility to ride horseback, or who enjoy the outdoors and the camaraderie of the hunt. It was also traditionally a way for young men to learn how to handle hounds on a smaller scale before they went on to hunt with foxhounds, and many famous public schools and universities had a pack of beagles.

The picture above is of the Connaught Square Squirrel Hunt (Laci and I are members of this hunt) which is the world’s only urban hunt and the first hunt club founded after the 2004 UK hunting ban. The CSSH drag-hunt squirrels across Hyde Park, meaning that one member runs through the park with an old sock on a string, and the dog chases after this pretend ‘squirrel.’ Close on the paws of the dog are the hundred or so sweating followers, trying to keep up. After no more than thirty seconds the dog catches the sock, has a good chew, and after a short break for everyone to catch their breath, it all starts again.

Ratting was a more democratised version of beagling and was related to rat baiting (one needs rats to bait). Ratters would collect, or kill, rats and other rodents with small dogs such as Jack Russels or Chinese Cresteds. Although, ratting dogs were typically working terrier breeds, which included, but were not limited to, the Bull and Terrier, Bull Terrier, Fox Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Traditional Boar hunts were seen as a test of bravery. Unlike modern hunts, boars were chased on foot or horseback with a specialized boar spear. The boar spear was sometimes fitted with a cross guard to stop the enraged animal driving its pierced body further down the shaft in order to attack its killer before dying. Dogs are used in the hunt to physically take hold of the boar, typically seizing the base of the boar’s ear. Once the catch dogs have physical control of the boar, they will hold it down by the head indefinitely until the hunter arrives. The hunter then comes in from behind the boar, and dispatches the boar with a knife or spear.

Hunting has been democratised in the US, but it still requires land where one is able to hunt. One aspect of this democratisation is that traditional methods of hunting have been replaced by the use of firearms. Additionally, landowners can bar hunters and shooters from their land. That leads to the question of whether the sport is truly popular if one has to have both the time and the land to hunt. State governments allow for hunting, but how long will that practise last?

The 007 attache/briefcase

I like to shop, which doesn’t necessarily include buying.  In fact, I usually don’t if we are sab-bond-briefcase-croptalking about places like Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. Although I have shopped and bought things there: It can get really expensive if you make a habit of buying in these shops.

Case in point (yes, bad pun intended)–I just learned that Swaine Adeney Brigg (SAB) made the iconic briefcase for James Bond in “From Russia With Love”.  I grew up with that in my mind.  I believe there was a kid’s toy version made of it.

It makes sense since SAB makes “bespoke luggage for Aston Martin owners – think Aston Martin and you cannot help but think James Bond. 007 is one of our customers too.”

Q issued 007 with a range of explosive spy gadgetry. One of Bond’s most memorable weapons was the black leather briefcase issued to him in “From Russia with Love”.

Swaine Adeney Brigg made this case. Within its distinctive red skiver lining, the case hid 20 rounds of ammunition and gold coins, plus the flat throwing knives used to dispatch villain Red Grant aboard the Orient Express. The case also usefully hid a 0.25 caliber AR7 folding rifle with infrared sight. (Used by Bond to shoot down the SPECTRE helicopter pilot who was dropping grenades on him at the end of the film.)

You don’t need to be Sean Connery to own 007’s attaché. We offer the Q-Branch briefcase as standard issue to all of our customers. It’s a must-have for collectors of James Bond memorabilia and 007 gadgets.

The case has no pockets in the lid, so is an open box inside. We will supply you with an exact replica of James Bond’s case that we made for the Bond movie; any modifications you choose to make are down to your own imagination.

Most of our customers ask for a pocket here, a strap there. But we can, of course, accommodate more unusual requests from agents in the field. Often, just a small twist on a classic design can turn your attaché case into a real talking point.

Given Bond was one for the good life, shopping at Jermyn Street, Picadilly, and Saville Row make sense.  Swaine Adeney Briggs is mentioned twice by Ian Fleming: first in From Russia With Love: “Q Branch had put together this smart-looking bag, ripping out the careful handiwork of Swaine and Adeney to pack fifty rounds of .25 ammunition, in two flat rows, between the leather and the lining of the spine.”They are also mentioned in You Only Live Twice, where Bond remarks: “I must get Swaine and Adeney to make me a two-yard-long walking stick.”

You can stop in at the store: 7, Piccadilly Arcade, Jermyn St, St. James’s, London. Failing the ability to make a personal visit, the case is available at: www.swaineadeneybrigg.com/store/swaine-adeney/attache-cases/sab-bond-35.

I will say that you should have a fair amount of loose change since this will set you back £1,995 for the basic case (options are extra).  Not to mention that SAB doesn’t mess with lesser craftsmen’s work: that should clue you in that you will be paying for nearly 300 years of English quality.

SAB is worth a visit if you are in the area (and look like you can afford to shop there…). You can read up about them online and in the book, In Good Hands: 250 Years of Craftsmanship at Swaine Adeney Brigg.

Oh, and if you do need a non-SB umbrella fixed in London, don’t bother with James Smith either.  Neither SAB or James Smith do repairs on umbrellas these days.

Bradshaws (and other guides)

The first thing I thought when seeing Great British Railway Journeys was “someone should publish copies of the guide he is using…”

Well, someone has been doing that since the first Bradshaw’s guide was rare (the only complete copy).  It seemed it would have made more sense to use the copy than walk around with a rare book, but that’s me.  Not to mention people at home wanted to follow along.

That is probably why my first post on the topic got so much attention: down to Michael giving the link to it!

Anyway, these guides are available in facsimile editions. Quite nice ones I have to say.  Part of me wants to do a tribute “with my Bradshaw’s guide” video.

Go for the “official guides” which look EXACTLY like the ones Michael uses since the reprint editions tend to be other versions (and not well defined as to WHICH version it is since there are lots of different versions of these guides).  Amazon carries them, which is good if you are in the States or otherwise outside the UK.  You might have to copy the title to your local Amazon site to find it, but they can be purchased for a reasonable price outside the UK.

NOTE: The guide used in the Great American Railway Journey’s is Appleton’s Railway Guide to the USA and Canada (link is to reprint edition: ISBN 978-1471159947).  Watch out for the other reprint editions since they are NOT the same.  Also, the quality of those isn’t that good.

It seems that the original guide was one of Amazon UK’s top sellers!  So, it WAS a good idea to reprint it in facsimile!

I should also give a plug to Robert Humm & Co, which is the specialist book store that sold Michael the original Bradshaw’s used in the series.  They are an independent bookseller specialising in railways, other transport and industrial history.  They bill themselves as “Britain’s largest railway bookshop”.