A Positive Spin for a Change

I am writing these words on January 1, 2000, a day that will no doubt go down in history as marking the end of the greatest hoax in the history of humanity - the Y2K scare. Interestingly, although wackos, aided on occasion by unscrupulous merchants and ever ready to comply media, tried their best to spread panic in the final days, for the most part, the people didn't take the bait. I have gained a renewed hope in the common sense of the public. In line with that, I would like to start off the first column of the 00s with some positive stories.

First, I'd like to offer a heartening tale of customer satisfaction, which many have come to believe is no longer a prime concern of retailers. Last summer reader Paul Lockhart advised me that the 1861 Special Model rifle musket he had ordered from Chattahoochee Supply had arrived with a cracked stock, which had been repaired, apparently by the manufacturer, rather obviously with epoxy.

Paul called Chattahoochee and informed the staff that he would not accept the gun in the condition it arrived in. He also advised them that he had intended to use it at the big Grant vs. Lee reenactment that coming weekend. In response, Chattahoochee immediately shipped him a replacement musket via UPS Next Day Air at the company's expense. Paul was advised to send the other musket back at his own convenience.

As promised, the new gun arrived the following day, and was "flawless." A complimentary powder flask was included as compensation for Paul's trouble. A few bad experiences earlier in the year had caused him to change his long held positive view of Civil War sutlers and suppliers. He reported to me, however, that "Chattahoochee has more than made up for that."

There is some good news on the firearm front as well. In December, the New York Times, the nation's leading liberal newspaper, published two stories which reflected favorably on the legitimate sporting use of firearms by citizens. One account, featured in the paper's New Jersey Sunday supplement, related the stories of the Garden State's numerous championship shooters, providing biographies of and interviews with a diverse group of people involved in a diverse group of shooting disciplines.

A second Times article, dealing with the Hunter Safety program and special kids' hunts sponsored by New York Metropolitan area state fish and game agencies, appeared on the paper's front page the following week. It provided an evenhanded approach to the subject, quoting both pro and anti-hunting sources. The story was fair to hunters, however, and "our side" was portrayed in a positive manner. I believe an unbiased reader would agree that we were ahead at the end.

In other gun news, the National Shooting Sports foundation notes that the recently released National Safety Council report for the year 1998 reveals a continued decrease in the number of accidental fatal shootings in America. The 900 fatal shooting accidents reported in 1998 was the lowest total number since record keeping began in 1903, when the country's population was much smaller. The 1998 total revealed an 18 percent decline over the previous year. Fatal gun accidents have declined by 40 percent between 1989 and 1998 and 65 percent over the last 35 years.

Contrary to the anti-gun publicists, accidental firearms deaths of children have also declined precipitously. A review of the National Safety Council reveals that accidental deaths of children aged 0-14 years of age have declined 56.8% since 1976.

These statistics, by the way, cover deaths from all firearms. Accidental deaths caused by mishandling of black powder breech loading or muzzle loading guns are, no doubt, a tiny fraction of the whole, if any. By way of comparison, in other 1998 accidental death totals, 16,600 people died in falls, 4,100 from drowning, 3,200 from choking, and 9,400 succumbed due to poisoning.

There's more interesting information regarding sports injuries. Unsurprisingly, target shooting did not even make the list. If any sport shooting activity is considered more dangerous than others by the general public it would, no doubt, be hunting. Hunting, in fact, does not even make the top 20 sports in injuries sustained by participants, even though hunting injury totals include falls from tree stands and twisted ankles, as well as firearm-related injuries. The number one sport for injuries is, unsurprisingly, football, with 20,100,000 participants and 334, 420 injuries. A total of 45,100,000 bicyclists generated 544,561 injuries. Even the country's 44, 700,000 fishermen reported 72,598 casualties. In stark contrast, hunting, with 14,750,000 heavily armed participants, suffered a total of 880 injuries. There was, unfortunately, no breakdown for black powder or muzzle loading hunting, but again, I am sure it provided a minuscule percentage of the total. All of this information reveals the continuing and increasing safety of firearms sports. I'd much rather be on the rifle range than skydiving.

Ordnance Anglophiles will be interested in a new book scheduled for publication in March 2000. The book, De Witt Bailey's British Board of Ordnance Small Arms Contractors 1689-1840, details the names of 605 contractors and subcontractors for the British military arms industry during the period. Bailey identifies the contractors both alphabetically and under a combination of their date periods and the nature of their work, for example stocks, barrels, locks, etc.

The book is available from the publisher, W. S. Curtis Ltd., PO Box 493, Rhyl, LL18 5XG United Kingdom (email wsc@wscurtis-books.demon.co.uk) for $18 US plus $3 pounds shipping overseas shipping surface mail or $6 pounds airmail. Payment may be made in sterling or US dollars by check or by American Express card.

(c) 2000 by Joe Bilby

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