John M. Browning, American Gunmaker

Book Review

I didn’t know of the existence of this book until I saw it for sale on BidOrBuy. Now, everyone who likes guns (should) know who John Browning was, but I don’t know how many people actually realise the impact this man had on the development of firearms in general.

The story starts with Jonathan Browning, JMB’s father, who moved to Salt Lake as part of the great Mormon migration (because of religious persecution) in 1847. He, too, was a gunmaker, and this is where JMB and (some of) his brothers got started (they were 22 siblings in all). The book follows JMB’s life, describing not only his well-known frequent trips to Winchester, but also the less well-known two year period where he did missionary work as required by the Mormon church (It seems that JMB’s religion was no deeper than required by society, he didn’t have time for anything but designing guns, good ones). The story ends, as we know it must, in Belgium, where JMB died, in his son’s office at Fabrique Nationale.

The book gives extra insight into the familiar stories (the salesman from Winchester, the shotgun Winchester didn’t want), but it also contains a lot of new (to me) material. There’s also a lot of background information which recaptures the era and gives a better understanding of how things were and why things happened the way they did.

“I wonder from time to time,” John once confessed to one of his sons, “whether we are headed in the right direction. For instance, we are making guns that shoot farther, harder, faster, and calling it progress.” He shrugged, “If just getting farther and farther from your starting place is progress, I suppose the meaning we usually give to the word is correct. But if we limit the meaning to movement towards a destination where the most pleasure and satisfaction are to be found, then this progress we brag about is just a crazy, blind racing past the things we are looking for — and haven’t the sense to recognise. And,” he grinned, “in the matter of guns, that makes me crazier than most.”

Recommended to anyone with any interest whatsoever in JMB.

John M. Browning, American Gunmaker, by John Browning and Curt Gentry. Amazon is currently out of stock, but Midway does show stock. Or use your google-fu.

Happy Birthday JMB

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Saint John of Ogden.

Problem is, I have nothing with which to properly celebrate it.

Oh, I own a 1911, a Winchester ’94, a 1900, a semi-auto 22 rifle, and an Auto-5 shotgun, all designed by The Man Himself, but these are all stored at various gunshops, since I don’t have licences for them… yet.

I submitted 22 (!) applications back in August, but the wheels of government turn slowly, if at all.

Maybe next year I can burn some powder with my JMB toys.

(I’ve shot the 1911 before, before my friend Etienne (who moved to the states) sold it to me for a pittance. Man oh man, that’s a lekker pistol. (I think it’s a 1944 Remington-Rand model)).

Happiness is a warm, dirty gun.

Last year, at a GOSA meeting, Adrian persuaded Thomas and me to shoot IDPA with him (didn’t take much persuasion, truth be told).

Also last year, I joined the False Bay Gun Club. I mean, it’s 5km on the dot from our house, I can just about walk there. Good excuse to shoot more often. I initially thought it was a pistol range only, but it turns out there’s a 130m rifle range too. Amazing what one can fit into an old quarry.

So when I heard, on Friday, that they were shooting IDPA qualifiers on Sunday, I had to get my act together. I had 40 odd rounds of 38 Special lying around (158 grain SWC, 5.5 grains of MP200, PMP magnum primer). Took that to the range on Saturday, to check where it shoots relative to my carry ammo (125 grain Hornady XTP, 1400 fps). Turns out it shoots to exactly the same point-of-aim. Bonus!

Then I had to rush off to Bellville to get primers and powder to make more ammo. While in Bellville I helped Pieter pull a 3 phase circuit into his kitchen extension. Back in Fish Hoek I set up the Lee Pro 1000 and made a few hundred rounds.

Sunday morning was the qualifier, which took a bit longer than anticipated. I think more than the expected number of people pitched. A second range was quickly set up, and great fun was had by all. I was told I did OK for a beginner, will see when the scores come out :-)

Things I learned:

I’m used to silhouette shooting. That’s slowly aimed single-shot single-action work. IDPA is fast and double-action. I need to practice my offhand double action shooting.

Also, revolvers strike the primer a little bit harder in single-action than in double-action mode. I had a few soft strikes. Of course with a revolver the trick is to just keep going, in general the round will fire the second time it’s hit. If not, well, then you need to reload. But I need to shim the hammer spring just a little.

I have a habit of trying to collect the brass. This can get you killed in a real-life confrontation. I need to learn to ditch the brass, pick it up later.

And my carry holster works fine for its intended purpose, but it’s not going to work for IDPA. I needed to remove the holster, holster the gun, and then slip the holster back IWB. I have other holsters, but they’re in Bellville…

Goofing off

I’ve been spending more time on fun & games and less time on the house. Naughty, naughty me.

This is our silhouette range at Atlantis. If you look really closely you can see the Koeberg Nuclear Reactor poking out towards the right hand side of the picture, behind the flagpole.

This is the view from the False Bay Gun Club.

This is the hard work that I need to do so that I can go and enjoy the outdoors at the abovementioned venues.

And that is why nothing’s happening around the house.

OK, I promise to post pics of the completed drip tray cupboard above the kitchen sink as soon as the backsplash is tiled.

Silhouette Nationals, 2009

The SAMSSA National Championship was held at the Eastern Cape Silhouette shooters‘ headquarters at Kuduskloof. I wasn’t really planning to attend, but Tanya saw the opportunity to get me to park the kids off at the in-laws in Knysna, leaving her free to attend her scrapbooking course.

Which is what we did.

Left for PE at oh-dark-thirty on Wednesday the 30th, popped in at Fuller Firearms along the way, dropped the kids, some books for Charl, and some stuff for my boss off in Knysna, and got to the Blue Skies Country House just before 17:00.

Thursday morning I was at the range at 08:00 and… it was raining. Bugger. No fun shooting in the rain. But first, I’d been squadded as Range Officer, so that’s what I did — walked around making sure that people don’t do silly things, as we are all likely to do when things go wrong under pressure.

Now my first set of licences for silhouette guns took six years, and I’ve been waiting for the current set for a bit more than a year already, so the reality is that I need to borrow guns to be able to compete in all the events. By design, I was squadded with Francois, who also borrowed some of Juan’s guns, so we decided to start with Event 1, Big Bore Revolver, and he, being somewhat foolish, elected to go first.

Which means that when my turn came, we had the sight settings for Juan’s Freedom Arms .357 Magnum pretty much sorted, and I klupped 8 chickens, 7 pigs, and 10, yes, count ’em, 10 turkeys. And this is where the wheels came off. It was raining all the time, and dripping on me through the awning, and I was not particularly happy, but what doesn’t kill us makes us strong. But then some well meaning fool went and stuck a pole under the awning, causing all the water which had pooled on top to come over the side and drench me completely. This made me more than slightly unhappy. Fortunately there were no kids on our side of the range.

I managed to get two rams, for a total of 27, earning me a bronze in A class.


Of course after all of this I was cold, wet and miserable, and in no mood to get even more wet, so I called it a shooting day and went to support the tannies in the food tent, who made hamburgers for R15 and pancakes for R2 — absolute bargain.

Friday was a lot better, weatherwise, and I shot a 25 in Small Bore Revolver using Gunther’s Freedom Arms, a 28 in Production using my Anschutz Exemplar, an 8 in Standing (I suck at standing) with my Browning Medalist, and a 30 in Unlimited, again with the Anschutz. Believe it or not, 8 out of 40 gave me a silver in B class. And I got a gold for Unlimited, but only because I hadn’t entered for Unlimited before, so I was shooting B class — I’m now firmly bumped up into International, and bound never to win anything again (I’ll need a 37 to get bronze, and then only if the other guys are shooting badly…)


Saturday I shot Smallbore Rifle, for the first and second times in my life, scoring 10 and then 11, not bad, but I’d need around 15 or more to start winning anything. Saturday evening was the prize giving, which was all good, despite the last minute venue change, and Sunday was the long drive back (750 km, a bit over 8 hours).

Thanks to the EP silhouetters, they’re a great bunch.

Results on the SAMSSA page.


At the National Championships, I borrowed Gunther’s Freedom Arms .22 revolver. Gorgeous gun.

Walked over to him after the event, said “I owe you money”. “Huh?” “Well, you’re not getting your gun back”.

Now with a gun like this, those are fighting words. Good thing we’re buddies.

Ludi overheard and mentioned he had a Freedom Arms revolver for sale, on behalf of someone else. This only happens when someone dies or emigrates — there is no upgrade path, so people tend to hang on to these things. Fortunately, in this case, the fellow emigrated. So that same evening I bummed some computer time off a friend, and a ridiculous amount of money changed hands.


Behold, Biatchez! My shiny new toy (apologies for crappy phone photograph).

Now to convince the nice fellows up in Pretoria to give me a licence before I die or emigrate… :-)

Happy Birthday JMB

Last year I bitched about the lack of licences for my Browning-designed ironmongery. Just before Christmas, the situation improved markedly.

So I could shoot my 1911 and my Winchester ’94 on Saturday the 23rd of January.


Post ’64 Winchester ’94 in .44 Magnum. Not a particularly good example of a Winchester, the beancounters got involved and the post ’64 Winchesters are cheap (the beancounters were supposed to make things less expensive, and got confused about the difference between cheap and inexpensive).


1944 Remington-Rand produced M1911A1. Carries British proof marks on the barrel. An excellent example of a 1911. Made towards the end of the Second World War, I’m pretty sure this pistol never saw service. Sat around in stock until being sold as war surplus.

My friend Etienne bought it and fitted the Pachmayr grip and magazine. I liked the gun so much I told him if he ever wanted to sell it I wanted it. He emigrated to the USA, the 1911 stayed behind.

This is one sweet pistol.

(And Tamsyn really liked the Norinco 22 levergun).