Guns in the field

In ’76 a young geologist was working on a prospect on Prince of Wales Island. He was doing a magnetometer survey near his camp. Of course he wasn’t carrying anything magnetic as you might imagine. That included guns. He was defenseless.

His partner heard screaming from the camp and ran to help. A one hundred seventy pound black bear had attacked and killed the young man. He had tried to climb a tree but the bear pulled him down. His partner shot the bear.

Prince of Wales is noted for some of the largest black bears. They can reach 600 pounds. So for this young man to be killed by such a measly little bear was a reality check.

In ’77 another geologist working for the USGS was chased down by a grizzly. I’ve forgotten on what island it happened. The USGS did not allow its geologists to carry guns. Brilliant.

The bear attacked her from behind and held her down and began to eat her shoulders. She was able to get into her backpack and retrieve her radio. She called her helicopter pilot for help.

By the time the helicopter arrived her arms were gone. She survived. If she were armed with even a hand gun it could have saved her arms. If she had time enough to retrieve a radio she also could have retrieved a gun and put it in the mouth of the bear. The government was at fault for denying her the right to carry a gun.

Bears and people don’t mix.

Needless to say I carried a gun, sometimes two. I preferred a lever-action Marlin 444s rifle and a Smith and Wesson Model 29 44 magnum when in the field. The 444 shot a bullet almost half an inch in diameter and was dependable in all conditions.

I couldn’t hit a barn with the 44 magnum. Once I took a coffee can out to an air strip and tried to hit it at twenty paces. The trigger was so stiff that the gun would move in my hand as I squeezed off a round. It kicked so hard I suppose I was afraid of the recoil too. I emptied the gun without hitting the can once. I stopped practicing with the 44 but I carried it everywhere in a should holster. I had the trigger adjusted.

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