Sunday, July 21, 2024

Article Preview... Source to Sea - Fishing Rt. 33 from the blue lines of the West Virginia border to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.

I’ve written a couple of times on why I would consider Virginia a bucket list fishing destination. This past week I fished a single highway, Route 33, (with the exception of a 15 mile detour on 208 to Lake Anna), for 300 miles from Skidmore Lake on the West Virginia border to Deltaville where the Rappahannock River empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
I covered every type of water from blue line streams containing wild brook trout; mountain rivers filled with large and smallmouth, musky, panfish and more; Lake Anna, a large man-made lake containing bass, stripers, wipers, and crappie; the lower Rappahannock with largemouth, blue cats, flatheads, snakeheads, gar and carp; to finally the delta and salt full of summer flounder, cobia, red fish, spot, croaker, blues, stripers and more. Venture a bit further offshore, and you’re into blue water pelagics. I'll be mapping the route, talking about what to fish for and where, discussing tackle and shops to stop in along the way, as well as some great guides to consider booking with to get the most out of your time spent on a week long adventure. I'll also throw in some great places to stop for good eats and other interests.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Fall Run was HOT!!!!

This year's fall run was hot! Whether slot sized stripers crashing beaches or big pigs feeding before the migration, the fishing and catching was outstanding. I don't think I made a single run out where I couldn't find fish 40"+. Whether 40" fish on the fly, or 40lb.+ crushing bunker and sucking down eels, we couldn't ask for much better fishing. While the young of the year report has certainly raised alarm bells, maybe these new regs have helped boost numbers of big breeders that will make up for shortfalls in the years to come. Time will tell.  

Fish like these on the fly.

Filling a Gap - Egyptian Snider Enfield Smooth Bore

My little collection of British military surplus rifles grew by one today. I have Pattern 53 Enfield which was developed to fire the .577 Minnie style ball and saw use in conflicts from the Crimea to India and the US Civil War in both Union and Confederate armies. By 1867, the muzzle loading Pattern 53 was becoming obsolete, and the British initially addressed this by adopting American Jacob Snider's conversion breech for the Pattern 53s. These bridged the gap for only a handful of years until the introduction of the .577/450 Martini-Henrys, and left me with a gap as well. P1864 Snider-Enfields have jumped up quite a bit, but at the Ye Connecticut Gun Guild show today I came across an inexpensive Snider conversion gun, the Egyptian Snider-Enfield Shotgun, manufactured circa 1870s. These shotguns were made from obsolete Snider rifles from the 1870s. The operation is basically the same, except this gun fires either .577 round ball or shotgun pellets (24GA brass). The British did not want indigenous security forces armed with the latest weapons, and we also see later Lee-Enfields converted to single shot .303/.410 shotguns as well (on my want list!). The breech is commercial with the Snider Patent markings , and there are Egyptian markings in Farsi throughout. The stock is in good shape (faint 1902 stamp). The bore is smooth and clear, and the rest of the metal is free of any pitting. The action on this carbine is strong, hold half cock and full. If I load some black powder brass shells, I should be able to shoot this old gun. Imagine if I showed up and broke a few clays with this!  

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Brutally Bubba’d Beyond Belief to the Point of Buggering the Imagination

I like oddball stuff, and while the C.S. Shattuck “American” hardly made its mark on American history, it does hold a place as representative of a booming firearms industry in the late 19th century North East. New small scale manufacturers came and went with regularity. Maj. Charles Shattuck designed and manufactured a number of inexpensive pistols and shotguns in and around Springfield Massachusetts from the late 1870s to around 1910. While Shattuck shotguns didn’t become a household name, his employee Oscar F. Mossberg did pretty well for himself.(1)  This particular shotgun, one of about 961, was manufactured in 1889 and has a pretty unique barrel break. The front trigger actually opens the breech, while the rear trigger fires the gun. Iver Johnson employed a similar trigger action at the turn of the century. I just thought it was cool, and so I bought it online from a local auction house.  

Unfortunately, this gun, while in otherwise very good shape for 133 years old, was fairly recently brutally Bubba’d beyond belief. The barrel band was visible in a photograph, but not any evidence or listing description of the hack job on the barrel itself. As you can see from the images, not only was this newer handguard “fitted” utilizing the barrel band and a modern hex bolt, for some inexplicable reason, the barrel was filed down during the process. 

I like bringing these old relics back to shootable condition. While a lot of things I can fix, this not so much. They took a lot of material out of an old Damascus steel barrel. I think my immediate plan is to re-Bubba in a manner more consistent with the early 20th century using old parts and relegating this to a conversation piece, while I also have a lead on another gun that I can maybe swap the barrel and foregrip over from. These things are pretty worthless, but I like the idea of keeping one of these oddball pieces of history in an original, shootable condition.  


(1) - (2013) Shattuck, C.S. American Firearms. Available at:,%20C.S/Shattuck,%20C.S.html (Accessed: November 8, 2022).

Sunday, September 11, 2022

RTI Italian Vetterli Model 1870/87/15 Part 3 - End Result

The Royal Tiger Imports Italian Vetterli Model 1870/87/15 is finished up and restored to a fully functional state. As this rifle was twice converted, and the barrel sleaved down to the current 6.5 Carcano, it's had a reputation of being a bit on the iffy side with regard to safety. This was the case when it was issued, much less 100+ years after its retirement. I will send a few low pressure rounds down range, probably with the safety of a bench rest and a lengthy trigger lanyard! The Italians make some of the finest shotguns, but there military rifles left a little to be desired.  

After the complete disassembly and some of the wood cleaning I described in Part 2, all of the metal parts went into an ultrasonic bath with a solution of water and Simple Green, followed by drying in the air fryer (don't tell Gemma, but this works great!!) For teh most part, the metal is in decent shape, with crisp stampings and some light surface pitting. The barrel cleaned up OK, though the rifling is worn with considerable corrosion near teh muzzle end. I made some of the minor stock repairs necessary to avoid further damage, and blended stain to match the stock as best as possible. The goal here was not to hide any repair, or restore the stock to a newer looking condition. Remaining light surface rust was removed with Break-Free MilSpec CLP and #0000 steel wool, which leaves any remaining bluing and existing patina intact. 

Overall, this was a fun an inexpensive project. I brought back to life a rifle that likely saw a great deal of action in the late 19th century past the first World War, both in Europe and Africa. Would I have wanted to carry this into battle? Hell no!!! I'll stick to Swiss made version, or just about any other late 19th century military firearm. However, it will fill a nice little niche in my collection 


Monday, September 5, 2022

RTI Italian Vetterli Model 1870/87/15 Part 2 Update - Disassembled and Cleaning the Wood

So the Vetterli disassembled quite easily even after 100+ years of sitting in an Ethiopian shed! There is a really good video on Italian Vetterli disassembly at Vetterli 1870/87/15 Rifle Disassembly Part 1 by TheKoba49, so I won't reinvent the wheel. This gun will never be a beauty/safe queen, and teh goal is to restore it to a fully functional condition as opposed to a complete restoration. There won't be any rebluing, sanding down or replacing stocks, etc. Cleaning the accumulated grime was pretty easy with Murphy's Oil Soap and a nylon brush, followed by a little light scrubbing with extra fine #0000 steel wool with the Murphy's, following the grain. Once cleaned, I applied Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish. The wear, nicks and compressions of a rifle originally manufactured in the 1870s and converted twice still show in the wood, but some of the grain and original color really show now as well. (Before and After) 

One interesting aspect of these guns as that they were converted twice. The first was from a single shot 10.4mm Vetterli black powder cartridge to a repeater by adding a magazine that would also be adopted by the Dutch Beaumont as well. This required some widening of the receiver well. Later, in the WWI era, it was again converted to a 6.5mm Carcano round by sleeving the barrel and also filling the previously widened stock well. As you can see on mine, one of these stock repaires has come out and will need to be worked on. 

Part 3 will be the complete disassembly of the bolt and receiver parts, followed by a bath in the ultrasonic cleaner and then some TLC on the surface rust. 


Sunday, September 4, 2022

Royal Tiger Imports Italian Vetterli Model 1870/87/15 Part 1 - The Before

Today I received a Royal Tiger Imports Italian Vetterli Model 1870/87/15. This is one of thousands of antique and early 20th century military surplus rifles purchased by RTI in Ethiopia, where they have been sitting in storage for the past 100+ years. Unlike many Eastern European rifles, these were not packed in away cosmoline. These rifles have been sitting in quonset huts, stacked like cord wood, since before your grandpa or great grandpa was living in one during the WWII era.

The article linked above provides an interesting historical background to this large cache of weapons. The Vetterlis were left over from Italy's attempt to occupy and bring the Abyssinian empire under control. Needless to say, they aren't in NRA Very Fine condition, but many are in surprisingly good shape once restored. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have paid a Benjamin for an Italian Vetterli in fair to good condition. They're hardly Ferraris of the military surplus world, and even by the Italian military assessment of the time, this rifle was pretty dodgey to say the least. However, with the prices of surplus going through the roof, and these things to be had for cheap, I decided get one. It's about like picking up a lottery ticket, as it may turn out decent, end up a wall hanger, or blow up in your face. OK, lottery tickets don't blow up in your face. As my daughter would remind me, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset."  

This is definitely a Before/After project. The rifle is about as I'd expect it to be after sitting for a century. It does pass a basic function test. The next steps will be to completely disassemble everything and go to work cleaning and working on rust. Most of the rust appears to be surface, and the barrel looks to be in decent shape, though bluing is non-existent. The wood may clean up nice as well, but there is one major chunk that will need a repair under the receiver. The stock is solid. The fun part will be finding out what emerges as I really get this rifle broken down and get to work on it. After all, there isn't much I can do to screw it up, which is what makes these fun.    

Here are a few more pics of the "before," and I'll document the process and the finished product as well. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

A little high strung, and I'm not talking about the line lb. test.

Had an interesting fishing experience up at Lake George. It was my first time up there, and a family trip where I couldn't disappear fishing every day, so I left my boat and yak at home, and booked a short morning trip for Danny, my brother Doug and I. It was definitely one of the more "interesting" trips I've booked (and I've fished with tons of captains and guides). A week and a half before the trip, at the height of the tourist season, you kinda get who you can get, and most everyone seems to run the same trips anyway. I'd had a recommendation from a friend, but of course he was booked through September. I spoke with our guide whom I found on Google, letting him know that we didn't mind trolling downriggers for a while early, but if it was slow, would much rather just switch over to targeting smallmouth. The day arrives and my son Dan and I meet my brother Doug around 6:30ish at the dock. The 7:00am departure times arrives, and our guy is not there. That's pretty damned annoying to say the least. I could see at his 7:05 arrival that the "plan" was a non-starter, as the only rods he had were trolling setups, and a look at his chart plotter on the way out confirmed he hadn't altered his routine in God knows how long. Run to one spot, troll, run back. A little chatter on the way out was not in his wheelhouse, but we were fishing soon enough, and he did know what he was doing. Pretty soon a rod went off, and so did the captain. Not sure if he was over caffeinated or just naturally high strung, but I about jumped out of my skin as he let out a high pitched, "fish on!" From the reaction, one might think that a school of yellowfin had hit every rod in our spread. He coached Danny who landed the first lake trout of the day, and the process repeated itself often enough to keep us busy. I let Danny and Doug take most of the fish, as frankly I was more entertained by the manic scenes than catching 20" lake trout. I even watched a few rod tips go and just sat, waiting to see how long it would take for the others to notice and the hilarity to ensue. In the end, I couldn't really complain as we all caught some fish, had a decent time, and a really good laugh about the entire experience over a late breakfast when we returned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

My Choice for the Trenches? .303 Lee-Enfield

What would you carry into the trenches of WWI? A look at my choice, the British .303 Lee-Enfield. Think you'd go with something else? Springfield M1903, Mosin-Nagant 91/30, or the Gewehr M98? Make your case!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Reflections on a surreal few weeks and a look ahead.

What a surreal few weeks! Today we began on-line classes for all of my high school students, and my guess is that this will be the new norm for quite some time. There's still no sign of any toilet paper arriving in stores around here. Ironically, the were no runs on bullets and booze until just this past weekend. I'm OK with the social distancing, and perhaps it will keep back those annoying guys who want to fish right next to you as soon as they see you hook something. The Gemma Rose II just returned from Suburban Marine, so I plan on doing a lot more social distancing over the next couple of weeks. The lure of $50 round trip flights to Florida is pretty tempting as well, but do I want to be that selfish guy? I feel a bit like Pinto in Animal House. (My wife pointed out that a week at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach is only $300!) These are pretty uncertain and terrifying times for many people, fearing the Covid-19 virus and/or the impact it's having on our economy and so many peoples' livelihoods. While I certainly plan to do a lot of fishing, maybe a few trips to the range and some hiking while riding this thing out, I am also very much aware that to pull through this, we're going to have to reach out a hand (at least metaphorically) to our friends and neighbors in the community. It's time to pull together while keeping our 6' safe distance. If that means ordering some takeouts from local restaurants, or booking a charter to make sure a buddy has an income, great. There are also a hundred others ways that just about anyone who is healthy can help someone out at this time. If each of us find just a few of these around our communities, we'll pull this this Corona Spring OK. Stay healthy and positive!