Hoeffel’s Horror - and Other Stories

by Joseph G. Bilby

He’s back yet again! Who? The pesky Pennsylvania Congressman Joseph M. Hoeffel, who never misses an opportunity in his crusade to harass Revolutionary and Civil War reenactors, antique arms collectors and muzzle loading target shooters and hunters. Hoeffel has reintroduced his legislation placing antique and reproduction small arms under the same legal restrictions as modern guns.

In a nutshell, passage of the Hoeffel bill would prohibit mail order sales of antiques like an original Brown Bess or Model 1861 Springfield, as well as all reproduction arms. Such sales in other venues would be tied to the same restrictions and requirements as modern gun purchases are. Passage of this law would force many Civil War memorabilia vendors, antique dealers and sutlers out of the firearms business immediately under pain of imprisonment. Those who wished to continue in business would have to apply for Federal Firearms Licenses, and then comply with all the intrusive BATF regulations that go long with such licensing, causing considerable retail price escalation and inconvenience for collectors and shooters. It would also mean the effective end of antique gun shows.

In the world according to Hoeffel, we Civil War shooters, reenactors and collectors should bow to his arrogant whim, which the Congressman says, “has to be accepted as part of responsible ownership.” His idea of the obligations of “responsible ownership” involves punishing gun owners with firearm restrictions exceeding some of the most repressive anti-gun legislation in the Western world. Great Britain does not require licensing for antique firearms and there are no controls on the ownership of flintlock arms in Canada, whether they are antiques or reproductions. It will be a sorry day in this country when we have to hold up Britain and Canada as exemplars of enlightened gun legislation.

It appears that Hoeffel, like his allies the Clintons, is never going away. Last year, Hoeffel’s repressive and discriminatory proposal never made it out of committee. His strategy this year, according to a newspaper article, is to attach it as a rider to other bills likely to pass. Let your Congressman know that you will not look kindly on a vote for this Draconian legislation. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we should let this guy, and his compatriots along the Potomac, know that we are watching - and will not forget them come Election Day.

Summer is the high point of the Civil War target shooting and reenacting season, and, as might be expected, Virginia is a hotbed of such activity. If you’re down that way this year, I strongly urge you to stop by the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum.

What’s new at the museum this year is the “World of Beretta” exhibit, with 100 dazzling firearms celebrating the famed Italian gunmaking company’s 475th year in business. Among the guns on display, many of them ornately engraved and finished, are a 17th century muzzle loading pistol and a percussion over-under shotgun as well as more modern exotics like a 24 gauge side-by-side shotgun.

The National Firearms Museum is open daily from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m, but closed on major holidays. It is located off Interstate 66 (Exit 57A) on the first floor of the NRA Headquarters building at 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax, VA 22030. (703-267-1600 or click here) Admission is free but donations are encouraged.

So you think you’re a big bore man (or woman) because you shoulder a .58 caliber muzzle loader? Well, thanks to October Country Muzzleloading, the innovative Idaho dealer in front feeding firearms and accessories, your .58 won’t qualify you as a true big bore shooter any more. John and Linda Shorb of October Country have introduced a series of muzzle loading rifles reminiscent of those carried by intrepid British explorers and hunters of the 1860s era like Sir Samuel W. Baker and Civil War veteran Henry Morton Stanley (who fought on both sides) in his quest for Dr. Livingstone.

October Country’s single shot “Heavy Sporting Rifle” features a checkered English walnut pistol grip stock, ebony nosecap, blued steel furniture and thirty-inch octagonal barrel, and is reminiscent of Baker’s favorite African game gun. The rifle’s barrel is slow-twist rifled with narrow lands and wide grooves at a rate of one turn in twelve feet to accommodate heavy loads of FG black powder behind patched round balls. A faster twist would cause the ball to “strip” the rifling and shoot wild. A musket cap nipple provides positive ignition.

This massive gun is available in two calibers, a fourteen-pound “eight bore” firing an .820 ball, and an eighteen-pound “four bore,” which takes a .989 ball. As with shotguns, the term “bore” when applied to rifles indicates the number of round balls of bore diameter that can be cast from a pound of lead, an “eight bore” ball weighing around 2 ounces, a “four bore” double that. By way of comparison, a .58 Springfield is a “twenty-five bore” and a .577 Enfield a “twenty-four bore.” The “Heavy Sporting Rifle” sells for $2,995.

Besides being a source for big bore guns, October Country is a full service muzzle loading dealer with a fine line of shooting bags, powder horns, and every black powder shooting accessory one could think of. For more information, send $3 for a catalog to October Country, PO Box 969, Hayden Lake, Idaho, or surf by the company’s website.

With hunting season closer than you think, you may well be glad you did.

© 2001 by Joe Bilby

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