There are collectors and there are hunters, and while I can appreciate the fine guns that are displayed in places such as the Cody Firearms Museum, I prefer to take my long-guns afield simply because quality firearms can make even game-less days more enjoyable. They look great, carry impeccably and all you have to do is to wipe them down when you’re done, send them to the gunsmith for periodic cleaning, and you’re all set to utilize them in the manner for which they were created. If you’re a fan of high-quality firearms and aren’t afraid of getting them wet, muddy, or covered with snow, you’re not alone. The following field guns aren’t necessarily all high-value collector’s items — unless you’re one of the hunters who gets to tote them around. And these hunters and shooters do just that — all for rather unique reasons.
1. Burt’s Gun
Friendsville, Pennsylvania — Field & Stream readers remember Burton L. Spiller as the Poet Laureate of grouse hunting. His first byline, “His Majesty, the Grouse” appeared in 1932, and the rest is history. Spiller contributed more than 50 pieces over the next four decades and wrote several books on the subject as well. His Parker VH 20, which was built in 1934, was as legendary as the sword Excalibur and became immortalized in outdoor lore.
Spiller hunted with many F&S writers and editors, and one of his buddies was “Tap’s Tips” author, Tap Tapply. When Tapply’s son Bill came of age he joined the crew, and that’s when the magic happened. Spiller casually asked the young Tapply if they could swap shotguns — his Parker for young Tapply’s single-shot Savage 20 gauge. The boy agreed, and that’s how the 78-year old legend bequeathed his favorite shotgun. Many years later Bill Tapply wrote about that event in the November 1982 issue of guess which magazine: Field & Stream. The masterpiece is titled “Burt’s Gun.”
“Burt’s Gun” is currently owned by Morris Baker, the owner of RST Shotshells, a man who truly recognizes the shotgun’s provenance. I had the opportunity to see that Holy Grail several years ago while having a cup of coffee with Baker in his Pennsylvania ammunition factory.
“Wanna shoot it?” he asked.
“Heck yeah,” I said, and off we went up the road to his friend’s clays course called Hausmann’s Hidden Hollow.
Based on the stock dimensions I shouldn’t have hit a single clay. It was too short for me, and there was far too much drop at comb and at the heel. But there was magic in that shotgun, and a 3/4 ounce RST 20-gauge load from its cylinder bore crushed orange disc after disc. That shotgun has good juju, and it’s wonderful that Morris shoots it instead of storing it in a museum.
See the full list at Field & Stream.