One man’s contemplation of what once was and what is.
by Wendell Deaner
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more.”
– Edgar Allen Poe
I’ve apologized to the old masters before and will again. Why do I include this poem? This was my fate one rainy night not too long ago as I poured over a volume of quaint and curious lore, specifically the Shooter’s Bible No. 55, 1964 Edition. The cover shows a black grizzly roaring atop a mountain and the 576 page soft-cover book retailed for $2.95. How long ago that seems.
Was the gunsmith’s life really that simple and uncluttered back then? There was a Mauser or Enfield to drill and tap for scope mounts. A military barrel needs turned down to finish sporterizing. Fitting a stock means just that, making sure the wood was within a hairline of the metal, and good checkering goes on every one. A peep sight needs to be added to the action with the help of the Forster jig and an ivory bead ramp sight fitted to and soldered on the front of the barrel. A dovetail needs to be cut, a recoil pad installed, Poly Choke and middle bead placed on the old shotgun. No problem. Soldering, welding, and making a screw or a pin—sure thing.
You couldn’t put a scope on a handgun. Scopes weren’t for handguns, with the exception of the space age Remington XP-100 .221 Fireball introduced in 1963 and retailing for $99.95. Touch one off in low light and you’ll quickly understand its moniker. Bushnell offered its 1.3 power Phantom going for $29.50, suitable for mounting on the XP-100. According to Bushnell, no drilling or tapping was needed to mount the Phantom on such revolvers as S&W, Colt, and Ruger. Extra mounts for the XP-100 were sold for $5.00. I couldn’t find any other scope listed that was suitable for handgun mounting. I can’t remember any articles of the era documenting the use and longevity of the Phantom on heavy recoiling big-bore handguns and, having never owned one, can’t comment on its worth. Leupold advertised three scopes, 3X, 4X and a 3-9X variable. That was it. The wonderful little 2X long eye relief optic that I later mounted on my own Fireball had not yet been invented.
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