Not So Primitive – The Progression Of Modern Weapons

| Last Updated May 4, 2020

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Not So Primitive By John Simeone “So easy, even a Cave Man can do it.” If you have lived long enough you have heard special interest hunting groups crying in the name of tradition. They claim they are being left out of some special season, or the weapons presently used are too advanced to be used during a particular season and so on until it gets so confusing the entire argument is lost in immature vindictiveness.

Of course before you know it the same groups will elect themselves “The Voice” for the whole nine yards. Traditionalist have their way sometimes when it’s logical, but when it’s not they will continue to lay misery upon all those who disagree. The voices in my head exclaimed, “Yea, right.”

As the Chinese insult goes, “May you live in interesting times.” As far as hunting we are living in interesting times. The liberals hate hunting, school teachers in many areas are quietly laying the “Bambie” story on the kids getting them to despise hunters, while infighting among well established hunting groups is leaping and bounding in epidemic proportions.

P.E.T.A. is toasting to their new found allies, while states like Louisiana are losing potential hunters at an alarming rate. Perhaps its time to make things a little easier for the hunter, to keep the interest for the grass roots gang, while the traditionalists cry on. But don’t look now, let’s see what happens as we ease into the Obama administration.

Here are some of the gripes that have come down through the ages, sparked by traditionalist that honestly don’t have anything to do with the big picture when it comes to game management, laws, or ethics, or who will shoot the next deerduckturkey or whatever.

When Browning came out with the auto loading shotgun, the A-5, it was considered far too advanced for sportsmen. A gun that would shoot five times out of the same hole was unheard of, so a special interest group wailed enough for the magazine to be plugged to three shots. Of course no one remembers that.

However, recently when outdoor writer Jim Zumbo cut down the hunting use of the Stoner rifle design, (M-4, M-16, AR-15 and AR-10) referring the American battle rifle as a weapon of terror, he got his traditional self excommunicated from every outdoor sponsor that he had. Times have changed.

With a little practice you can split a playing card with a crossbow bolt, as I did at 20 yards.

Then came bow hunting interest. This was a good thing as it brought about more hunters into the “Two Season Hunter” outlook that the “Father of Bow Hunting” Fred Bear professed. But the guys that shoot the chipped flint points and stick bows complained about the guys with recurves and then in the latter part of the 1970’s along came the Alan compound bow.

Up until then bow hunting and archery target shooting had only advanced in modern construction material, but now we had a quantum leap in archery technology allowing “let off” as the string is pulled back. Now up to 95% let off, equaling the pressure it takes to squeeze the trigger on a rifle to pull back a hunting bow. It doesn’t take a genius to see this is not as primitive as they would like you to think.

Never the less bow hunting rightfully remains a great one shot close range challenge. I can’t help to enjoy compound bow shooters of this generation who can’t even start to pull back my 60 pound recurve bow, which I shoot with no problem because I’m used to it.

Still there was a great outcry from traditionalist complaining about the compound bow being far too easy to deer hunt with, and so the never ending story goes.

Of course there was an out and out war when the crossbow movement got underway as the last great hurrah in the hunting world. A group of vertical archers convinced themselves the inclusion of the crossbow during the early archery deer season would ruin bow hunting forever. I guess they didn’t want us to play with our new toy in “Their Woods.”

They attacked the crossbowmen with so much malice it made them sound like dyed in the wool anti hunters which soon led to a noticeable divestiture that took away their credibility. Politicians said two words, “Prove It,” and as no statistics were at hand except for favorable information on the subject from states that had already legalized the crossbow for all archers, the crossbow folks won. Now legal for all hunters in Louisiana, the crossbow continues to gain ground nationwide.

At least the lines were clear with the vertical and horizontal bow hunters but it doesn’t stop there. Let’s have a look at Black Powder weapons, or is it Muzzle Loaders, no, now they call it Primitive Weapons.

When they came out with Inline Muzzle Loaders the traditionalist howled at the moon till the wee hours of the morning. After thinking over the inline gun, I can not for the life of me figure out why it was not invented first, in the first place, once the percussion cap came into play. Usually, more simple designs come first when inventing things. The Inline lock is about as simple as it gets. You can compare this to inventing the wheel 300 years after the car.

To show this primitive weapon shot would be a bit graphic, but I shot the coyote through the right eye at 50 yards with the Thompson Encore 50 cal muzzle loader

I really like Primitive Weapon hunting and have used all the popular locks stocks and barrels associated with black powder rifles. Of course with me it has nothing to do with tradition, they won’t let me wear my coon skin cap anyway unless I dye it Hunter Orange. I, like most, just want to extend my deer season, and I will hunt and practice with, whatever the law will allow.

I have gone from Kentucky rifles to the Thompson Encore with telescopic sights, and now to the black powder cartridge rifles, running the whole spectrum of the sport, I like it. What I don’t like is the mess associated with Black Powder or even the substitutes, which has plagued me for years. So I was relieved when they told me I could use a 45-70 cartridge rifle as long as it had an exposed hammer and was a single shot (Louisiana and Mississippi).

Logically I figured I would just buy a 45-70 barrel for my Thompson Encore and be done with it. Here we have a hinge action rifle that is a copy of the old design with an exposed hammer, or so I thought. But no, here came the traditionalist again tossing a monkey wrench in the machinery of logic, saying the gun also had to be designed before 1900.

So I got to buy myself a new rifle instead. In this case I modified an 1871 Harrington and Richardson “Buffalo Classic” to my idea of a hunting rifle. I removed the target sight and installed the Swift 3X9 scope I removed from the Encore. Wow, did I feel primitive. I yelled like Tarzan when I shot one inch groups at 100 yards with Hornady flex tip bullets. Of course I can do the same thing with the Encore muzzle loader, if I want to get my hands dirty.

Comparing the H&R 45-70 to my top of the line Browning X-bolt in 325 Winchester Short Magnum is interesting. This season I killed 6 deer with six shots, a buck and two does with the 325 and two bucks and a doe with the 45-70. Their spirits were instantly swept from this earth with no visible difference. The 45-70 kicked harder and was a little heavier to carry, but so well balanced it was hardly noticeable.

After writing about both guns everybody ran down to the store and bought them out, as they did when I wrote and tested the Horton Crossbow. When you write a weekly column on exactly what you are doing with the equipment, with an up to the minute report, people take notice. Frankly I don’t feel handicapped with any of these respective weapons; I just have fun hunting with them. But for the normal once a year hunter as most are, there is a great challenge just in getting to go deer hunting no matter what you are packing. These are the folks I want to see have a good time.

During the Horton Crossbow tests I shot this 70 yard three arrow group, but crossbow shots on deer should be kept less than 40 yards.

I pretty well know all the outdoor writers in this state, they fish a lot being experts in the field. I will go as far to say that I spend 3 times as much time in the field hunting as any of them. I design, invent, test, evaluate and lecture on hunting equipment. Therefore I get to shoot more and hunt almost everyday during the season. I also travel and observe and note what I see. I do not sell out to a sponsor, so if I say a product is good, you can bet it is, because it passed the Team Top Gun evaluation of a group of master sharpshooters and archers, who posses unbelievable skills, so its not just me.

First of all the crossbow did not threaten bow hunting although they were selling like hotcakes. However no matter where I went the only guy carrying a crossbow seemed to be me. There were only two seen at the shooting range, one of the largest in the state at Ft Polk.

It seemed once the new crossbowman found it was not the “Silent 30-30” that the old wives tales and arm chair quarterbacks pontificated, many went back to their more advanced compound bows. Unfortunately I didn’t see that many bow hunters either, normally parked along the roads in the wildlife management areas during the bow season, they were sorry fully missed.

As far as the cartridge guns killing off the muzzle loading interest, I don’t think so. I have only seen two traditional muzzle loading rifles in the field in the last 5 years, the rest are all shooting inlines. Sales were down on inlines and up on the cartridge guns, partly due to my reporting favorably on the H&R Handy Rifles and Buffalo Classics.

I saw no Sharps Rifles in the field due to there expense. This includes the fine Knight KP-1 hinge action rifle that is supposed to be a copy of a Wafflien Rifle of the 1800s. Most grass roots hunters could care less, they were more expensive than the H&Rs so they stayed on the sporting goods shelves.

So let’s just see how primitive these weapons really are. On June the 27th ,1874, Billy Dixon, at the second battle of Adobe Walls, shot an Indian war chief off a horse at a range of one mile with an original 1874 Sharps rifle.

That’s a pretty good shot for a Marine Scout Sniper today. You can buy that same rifle for a little less than $2000 and be just like Quigley, but it will also be made out of modern steel and you can if you like; use more powerful smokeless powder ammunition.

By the way smokeless powder ammo is quite legal to hunt with when using the single shot cartridge guns, with exposed hammers, before 1900 that are supposed to be primitive. I know I do.

 By the way smokeless powder came out in 1894 or there about.The 45-70 and 38-55 are plenty powerful for deer hunting at normal ranges. The first deer I shot with the 45-70 was knocked flat and then slid three feet sideways on the ground.

I found that even the hot new 325 WSM is outclassed in the Taylor’s knock out rate by the primitive 45-70, but in the field in side by side comparison, instant death is hard to rate. That goes for the inline 50 caliber muzzle loading rifles as well. I have never had anything but instant kills with the Encore, about 15 times maybe more.

Attach a Nikon Omega Scope with a Bullet drop compensator and haul along a laser range finder and you can be like my partner Dave Miller, who easily took a doe 251 yards away. But it takes a lot of practice to make a shot like that.

You should have seen him make the head shot on a crow with the Mathews compound bow, but when he is not working with the rifle he is doing the same perfect practice with the bow. Perhaps, “It ain’t the arrow, it’s the Indian.”

Dave Miller strikes again with one of his "Normal" shots, A head shot crow with a bow, Mathews by the way.

But let’s look at what else is legal in the primitive cartridge selection. The old black powder cartridges run all the way up to 50-140, certainly enough to decimate the American Bison to near extinction, but you can also use a 44 Remington Magnum, 444 Marlin, a 450 Marlin, or a 500 Smith and Wesson all of which are from the 20th and 21st Centuries, and have never been loaded in single shot primitive guns until just recently as the market suddenly opened up. Remember that little innuendo, marketing.

Just for conversation I had a prosecuting attorney look at both a legal H&R and an illegal Encore cartridge rifle and all he could say was, “Who do they think they are kidding.” Of course if the Encore happens to have a muzzle loading barrel it is perfectly legal for you to endanger your local species.

251 yard Muzzle Loader shot, TC Omega, Nikon Omega BDC scope, Leupold Lazer range finder...and one good Sharpshooter, Dave Miller.

Now remember all these primitive guns come with modern composite stocks, stainless steel, telescopic sights and high pressure ammunition that is another quantum leap over the old black powder guns originally used by the pioneers. But they left the Thompson Encore out of the picture because Warren Center designed the gun in the 1960s attempting to improve the old hinge action from the 1800s. All he really did was beef up the original so it wouldn’t blow up in your face with modern components. But isn’t that what the others have done with modern steels and plastics, you go figure. Look for recalls soon, as I predict.

Otherwise they all look and operate so much alike, it is hard to tell them apart. The rule here is never be first at anything, and maybe it’s a good idea to have a politician buddy before you go into the gun business.

You may think I’m opening a can of worms here; no it’s already been opened. I understand TC is furious, I’m just commenting and enjoying the show. In the field you won’t see any difference between a single shot H&R, Thompson Encore or Ruger Number One in side by side comparison. I wonder, am I the only one that has done this.

A single shot 45-70 operates the same if you flip off a safety catch or cock back a hammer. It just doesn’t matter; it still only shoots one time. Notably the Ruger number one was designed from an old Faquarson rifle of the 1870s, and is almost a dead look-a- like of the old hammerless single shot rifle. Really I don’t have a problem going by the law; I just find some of this hysterically amusing.

As far as original designs, both hammer and hammerless designs have been around since about 1870. If you have never seen the hammerless black powder rifle known as the Martini-Henry, go see the movie staring Michael Cane in “Zulu” there you will see it in action, then check the date of the Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa. You can get originals at any gun show, but they won’t be legal to hunt with during primitive season. I suppose some brilliant traditionalist that never cracked a history book decided an exposed hammer was primitive as long as the hammer wasn’t exposed before 1900. So remember to check your hammer to see if it is exposed, before going into the briar patch.

In summary, we have some strange arguments here. The crossbow has been around since King Arthur was a Corporal, invented by the Chinese 6000 years ago, but it took 6004 years to get it legalized in Louisiana to hunt with, due to some over exposed traditional egos. A single shot rifle only shoots one time, but as you can see there are some real strange variations to this primitive weapon thing that is truly a head scratcher to a real gun expert and historian. “OK Kade you can let the Belly Dancers back in, I’m over my tantrum.”

It is a good thing we legalized the crossbow and cartridge guns because in some ways it will in fact bring more hunters into the fold, which was the original mission. With the new Obama administration looming as a threat to all hunting, we as hunters have only days to bury the hatchet about trivial gripes and differences and get ready to unite to protect the entire hunting fraternity. There will always be the great challenge of the vertical bow, while the horizontal bow hunter now joins in the challenge.

As far as the cartridge guns go, I’m glad to see them. I hate to clean that Encore even though it is nothing more than a 45-70 that blows smoke and is nasty to clean. I don’t have to do that anymore, but you can if you please, and you can clean mine too. It is in fact all about personal choice. I think all we have really done is take Neanderthal Man, give him a college education, a credit card and promote him to CEO, weather or not he is insured by GEICO is his own choice. Pass it on.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.