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>> An Endearing Story To Warm Your Heart :: By Larry Gibson on 2001-10-05
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Years ago I got a M94 30-30 for my 14th birthday. A year later my grandmother gave me $20 for my 15th birthday. The next day found me in Fosters Sporting Goods in Dallas, Oregon trying to figure out how many 30-30s in combination with 22 LR HPs I could get. There was an old gentleman observing my one person conversation and he decided to butt in. He convinced me to get a Lee loader, an 8 oz can of Unique, 500 CCI 200 primers, a small plastic head mallet and a tapered punch. I even had enough money left over for a couple boxes of 22s.

Out parked in front on the main street kitty-cornered across from the County Courthouse was his PU, a 52 or 53 Ford. He lowered the tailgate and retrieved a large coffee can full of cast bullets. Right there the old gentleman proceeded to teach this young teenager how to reload. He had a box of 30-30 brass that he said had been full length resized and would work in my rifle but cautioned me to use brass that I had fired in my rifle only in the future. I had 3 boxes of brass at home that were from the only three boxes of ammo I'd been able to get for the rifle so my head was swirling at the possibilities. He showed me how to use the Lee loader (made me read the directions), how to clean the necks with #0000 steel wool. How to clean the primer pockets with a nail driven into the end of round wooden clothes pin, then flattened and filed to shape. How to seat primers without setting them off. I set off the first one and it scared the bee-jesus out of me and I can still hear him laughing.

(Try doing some reloading off the tailgate of a PU parked on Main street across from a courthouse these days and see where it gets you!)

He showed me how to flare the case mouth slightly with the tapered punch so the bullets wouldn't be damaged seating them. He gave me a small scoop made from a german steel 9mm case soldered to a bent nail stuck in another round clothes pin. He cautioned me to only use one "small" scoop of Unique. Said it wouldn't blow the rifle up if I used two but would streak lead down the bore and I wouldn't hit anything anyway. He made me promiss not to do it and I faithfully kept that promiss. I found out later the bullets were Lyman 3118s lubed with Lyman graphite lube. Also the "small" scoop held about 8 gr of Unique and the velocity was about 1400 fps. He also made me promiss to re-read the directions when I loaded full power loads. He threw in a pint jar of surplus H4895 and a half box of Speer 170 gr FPs.

He asked if I knew how to zero my rifle as he said this load wouldn't be zeroed. I said I did but he made me explain it anyway. He seemed satisfied as he began filling his pipe with Prince Albert and asked me how I was going to get all this stuff out to my home which was 5 miles away on James Howe Road. I said I guessed I'd have to carry it since my folks were at work but he laughed and told me to pick up the can of bullets which was full. I knew it was going to be a loooong walk home!

He said not to worry and gave me a ride home. I still remember the wonderful smell of the Prince Albert and the magical thoughts that were dancing in my mind on the ride home. I took the reloading stuff in the house and brought out my M94 to show him. He looked it over as if it was the most wonderful rifle he had ever seen! He "hhhmmm'd" at this and "aawwww'd" at that and shouldered it a couple times commenting on the balance and handiness. He handed it back and said it was a very fine rifle indeed. He then said he had to go and I watched him drive down our ranch driveway with his hand and a puff of smoke waving out the window to me.

Well the summer went by and I had many magical experiences hunting and shooting my M94 with that load. I had zeroed the rifle as the old gentleman had said to, at 50 yards. Many a squirrel, a few rabbits and some headshot quail fell to my rifle. Also a large number of pine cones, sticks and dirt clods! Fall came around and I found myself back in Fosters Sporting goods to get some more primers to load up the 170s for deer hunting.

My mother, seeing how much I enjoyed the rifle and reloading, told me to get the gentlemans name the next time I was in Fosters so I could thank him. I asked the guy who ran Fosters if he knew him. He paused and then sadly said he had known the old gentleman for years. Said the old gentleman had "the cancer" and wasn't with us anymore. When the old gentleman saw me in the store the spring before he had already sold most of his rifles and reloading equipment as his own boy had been killed in the Pacific during the war and he didn't have anyone else he wanted to leave the equipment to.

He told me the old gentleman had mentioned me the last time he'd been in saying he'd wished he had a grandson he could teach to reload the way he did me. The guy then reached behind the counter and brought out another coffee can full of cast bullets and a whole brick of primers on top! The guy had a tear in his eye as he slid the can across the counter to me. Then he told me the old gentleman figured I would be needing them. It was a long five mile walk home carrying that coffee can of bullets, I cried the whole way.

Well, a lot of years have gone since then. I went off into the Army and my brother ended up with my M94. His interests were different and the Lee loader was lost somewhere along the way. I finally got the M94 back from him about 10 years ago. Still shoots quite well though I had to have it refinished. This summer my grandson, age 12, came out for a visit from Florida. He took a real shine to my M94 and shot it a lot. He really likes that it was my first big game rifle and thinks it should be his too! And so it will be. I picked up a new Legacy M94 for me last week with a 24" barrel so I can see the sights. I can't wait for my grandson's next visit when we can both walk through the woods with our M94s.

And, oh yes, there is a Lee loader, a can Of Unique and a coffee can full of Lyman 3118s waiting for him! I'll try to fullfill the old gentleman's wish.

Larry Gibson


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