Living with the Big .50
by Robert H. Boatman
You Are Not Alone
Living with the Big .50
by Robert H. Boatman
Copyright 2007 - 2011 Winter Communication, LLC
Fifties are only for rich dentists from Cleveland. Fifties are only for retired machinists with big garages. Fifties are only for those self-righteous benchrest nerds. Fifties are only for soldiers and cops. Fifties are only for paranoid survivalists. Fifties are only for prairie dog hunters who want to shoot across state lines. Fifties are only for big game hunters who are too lazy to walk. Fifties are only for wannabe snipers. Fifties are only for young kids who like to play with big firecrackers. Fifties are only for old men trying to recapture their childhoods. Fifties are only for macho types who want to blow up abandoned trucks. Fifties are only for timid souls who want to shoot coffee cans from two miles away. Fifties are only for guys with too much time on their hands.
The fact is, Fifties are only for people who support the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The gun fraternity is a large one, made up of an extremely diverse group of individuals. When the members stick together, the gun fraternity is one of the most powerful political forces for freedom in the world. When the members fall prey to petty internal politics, fight among themselves like spoiled children, degenerate to the level of self-absorbed jealousies and squabbling we expect to find in the local PTA or a city council meeting or a riotous barroom on a Saturday night, then gunowners become their own worst enemies.
Every person who owns a gun should be a member of the National Rifle Association. The NRA is the largest and most effective gun rights organization we have. Only four million of us are card-carrying NRA members. There should be ten times that many. Still, and with whatever faults such a large association is bound to have, the NRA is a powerful political force for the good of all shooters.
Rock McMillan believes the community of Fifty shooters was attacked by the left-wing extremists in our Congress because “They figured we would be the sacrificial lamb, that the NRA would be glad to give us up if they thought it was going to buy them something down the road.” But they were wrong. McMillan says, “The NRA started off a little slow, but once we got their attention they’ve been supportive.”
Beyond the NRA, every shooter should be a member of other gun rights organizations, his local gun club as well as any shooting association that supports his special interests. Safari Club International, Ducks Unlimited, Quails Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Single Action Shooting Society, there are so many and most of them are excellent.
For Fifty shooters, one such organization may be the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association, a 3500-member organization which purports to represent Fifty shooters across the board. FCSA was started by benchrest target shooters and has been dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that most 50-caliber shooters, and most of its current members, are not dedicated target shooters but hunters and plinkers.
When I contacted FCSA for information which might be of use in this book, I was flatly refused. Mr. John Robertson, who was then and still may be Secretary/Treasurer of the club, wrote me a formal letter declining to furnish me with any information whatsoever. He said the club was not interested, had no desire to be involved, might want to write their own book someday.
I found this miserly response to a simple request for information rather astonishing, especially since I am a dues-paying member of FCSA myself. I was left with the impression that at least some individuals in positions of influence in the FCSA are more interested in self-congratulatory milk and cookies than increasing the understanding of the .50 BMG among other segments of the gun fraternity and informing the broader public about the positive benefits of owning and shooting 50-caliber firearms.
Fortunately, in the course of writing this book, I have found that the head-in-the-sand attitude which marked my first encounter with the FCSA is not representative of the organization’s membership as a whole. Over the last several months I have talked to many Fifty shooters who are also members of FCSA, some of whom are officers and board members of the organization, some of whom founded the FCSA in the first place, and these individuals have been forthcoming, helpful and candid with only a few exceptions. Perhaps there are understandable reasons for the defensive posture taken by some officials of the Fifty club. More likely, the FCSA just needs a good housecleaning.
Skip Talbot, one of the top benchrest Fifty shooters in the world, a founder of FCSA whose member number is “1” told me, “I think it’s time we put new blood in here and get new people running. We find that when we do this we have guys with new ideas and new ways of looking at things and it helps us all. We’re still a little paranoid. But you can’t go into a hole with it. You have to go out and take your licks with everybody else.”
After all, if it hadn’t been for the famous Cincinnati Revolt at the NRA meeting 1977, wherein uncompromising Second Amendment defenders like Harlon Carter and Neal Knox took over the reins of the organization from the wimps and apologists and cowards and put hard-core gun people like Jeff Cooper on the board, the NRA today would be a harmless little target-shooting club out in Colorado somewhere and the Second Amendment would have been thoroughly trashed long ago.
The target shooter who scorns hunters, the hunter who abhors recreational machine gunners, the rifleman who can’t stand shotgunners, the shotgun enthusiast who despises rifles and handguns - these are no better than the hypocritical politician who keeps a pistol on his nightstand, makes sure his bodyguards are armed with automatic weapons, and votes for every anti-gun bill that comes down the pike.
There is a type of half-assed thinking out there, and even some shooters fall victim to it, that makes some foolish distinction between good guns and bad guns, between ordinary revolvers and Saturday night specials, between target rifles and snipers’ rifles, between hunters’ guns and terrorists’ guns. I personally know of no firearm whatsoever that leads a dangerous life of its own or chooses the person who pulls its trigger or is good for only one use. A benchrest target rifle works fine as a sniper’s weapon. An assault rifle is the height of handiness for a backpacker in the woods. An engraved side-by-side 12-gauge will decimate a gang of home invaders as quickly as it will scatter a covey of quail.
It’s just this kind of fractured thinking that, among its other serious evils, is allowing anti-gunners to inch the .50 BMG away from the grasp of American shooters. Portray the Fifty as socially unacceptable, make it politically incorrect, and the “good” gunowners will shun it.
The real and present danger is as Rock McMillan clearly explains: “Once they’ve established a precedent that says we can outlaw a cartridge based on how powerful it is, that just opens the doors for everything.”
On the bright side, McMillan also says, “We’re getting support from non-Fifty shooters.” Though probably not as much as should be expected.
“One of our struggles in the Fifty world,” says Jim Schmidt, “is that we’re getting banned from ranges. Right and left. I’m the only one allowed to shoot a Fifty on the Ben Avery range and that’s because I have a $10,000 bullet trap out there that contains Fifties. They built a $55,000 berm to contain the Fifties, but Arizona Game and Fish doesn’t like Fifties, so they figured out a way to cause it to fail the test. The new range going up in Flagstaff has banned Fifties before it’s even been built. They didn’t do any tests, they just decided not to allow Fifties. Ranges all across the country are banning Fifties based on false perceptions, not documentation.”
Skip Talbot concurs: “There are ranges that say, We don’t want you to shoot Fifties here. They’re practicing gun control. … they say they don’t like them because of the noise. That doesn’t matter. They’re a legal gun by all BATF standards.”
Every shooter worthy of inclusion in the great firearms fraternity must stand tall and proud, shoulder-to-shoulder with his fellow shooters, with no apologies to his critics, no compromises with his enemies, no hiding in the closet when the heat gets turned up. He must defend with all the ferociousness of which he is capable, not only his own guns and his own shooting activities, but those of all others, no matter what kinds of guns they own or what they shoot with them or where or when or how or why.
I hesitate to repeat Ben Franklin’s timeless admonition for the billionth time, but I will anyway because he might have had the gun fraternity in mind when he wrote it: We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.