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Confessions of a mountain gunner: in our mind's eye we bravely fight off bears but reality is often a bit more, well ... real.

I was checking my cowboy hat for daylight cracks. The hat must have been up to the task, because the last I remember, the inside of the crown was nice and dark. About fifteen minutes into a snore pattern all hell broke loose.

The hat was ripped off my face and the bright noonday sunshine blinded me. My so-called buddy was yelling nonstop as he pulled me off the ground. I was in a fine state--half-awake, blinded, confused, cowboy boots tangled around each other and haphazardly vertical.

The "S-Word"

My eyelids (big orange flashes on the inside) were shut tight. My non-alert brain was somewhat registering words like "horses," "saddles" and "creek bank" while it was working up the ability to allow me to stand on my own. None of those words were having much effect on me until I heard "snake."

As people from certain parts of the U.S. of A. will tell you, all you need to hear is the "S word." I got awake. My brain cleared. I forced one eye open to a squint. My self-righting balance returned. I got my hat on my head, my boots pointed in the same direction, and my feet working. My buddy and I hastily made tracks for the (borrowed) horses.

We proceeded at a last cowboy-boot-run and my one "squinty eye" indicated horse backsides roughly 50 feet ahead. About this time my pard asks, "Where's the pistol?"

Now, I hate to stop right there, but you really need a little background information before I continue. I'll even throw in some "locals only" geographic material.

A buddy had discreetly asked if I wanted to ride some fine quarter horses on a large farm in LA. LA is short for Lower Alabama. LA is a bit north of the Redneck Riviera, the beautiful white sand and green wooded coastline of the Florida panhandle along the Gulf Coast.

In my best Gary Cooper drawl I said "Yup" to a horse ride and asked about bringing a new "horse pistol."

"No problem on the pistol, and I'll see you, boots, blue jeans, and hat equipped, around oh-dark-thirty Saturday morning."

Snake Shooter

The horse pistol in question was a brand new, lightweight Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum "Mountain Gun." The very first Mountain Gun S&W produced.

The Mountain Gun concept comprised a satin-finished, stainless steel "N" frame M629-2. To keep it light it featured a tapered four-inch .44 Special barrel, chamfered and fluted cylinder, and a smaller, rounded "K type" grip frame with one-piece, Pachmayr grips. It was a neat arrangement.

The .44 Magnum Mountain Gun was a "factory special" dreamed up by Roy Jinks and a few other guys at S&W. They were looking for, in Roy's words, "a lightweight .44 Magnum pistol we could carry hunting." The first production run, S&W product code 103652, occurred in April 1989 and comprised 8,204 pieces. The retail price was $509.

The pistol is very straight forward, offering a fairly small and lightweight package in a powerful caliber. My .44 Magnum Mountain Gun weights 2 pounds 9 1/2 ounces and measures 8 7/8 inches from the rear-most curve of the grip butt to barrel's end. By comparison to today's titanium models, those numbers are not real eye-openers, but to other .44 Magnum pistols of its time, the Mountain Gun was a rather compact arrangement.

The double action on the pistol is a smooth 12.7 pounds. The 4.3-pound single action breaks clean. When shooting for fun or practice I normally load the pistol with .44 Specials, and fire at targets from seven to 50 yards. These practice ranges are what I consider sufficient for most all the shots I'd make when needed, but I've also fired the pistol at targets out to 100 yards may times. The bullets go where I want them, and the large caliber seems to cause the desired effect.

In addition to all the expected .44 Magnum and .44 Special loads, I've kept a small stock of CCI "snake shot" cartridges on hand, which brings us back to that the adventure in hand.

Long Snakes And Tall Grass

As you may recall, my buddy asked, "Where's the pistol?" Running alongside him, I hollered back, "On my left hip!" At the time the new Mountain Gun was strapped into an also new El Paso Saddlery floral-carved Tom Three Persons holster.

We slowed our approach to the saddles, lying in the thick grass, just this side of the horses. It was spring, sunny, but still cool for the Gulf Coast. It seems the snake had taken a shine to the sun-warmed saddles.

The horses knew nothing and we decided to keep it that way, moving them about 90 feet to a small tree. Returning to the saddles was accomplished with aid of a tree limb and a sharp eye on the tall grass. In short order it became clear to us that the snake, a big Eastern Diamondback Rattler (the largest of the type), had decided to keep one of the nice warm saddles. Naturally, he picked the saddle I'd borrowed.

We removed the saddle the snake didn't want and began several different, humorous to any observer, but failed approaches to the problem. We were repositioning when negotiations broke down.

The rattler gave up the saddle and made straight for me at an alarming rate. I checked my geographical situation and immediately noticed I was between the irate, rapid snake and the muddy, steep, brush covered creek bank. At that moment, I'm almost certain it occurred to me that I was remiss in my church attendance.

Without further thought I drew the Mountain Gun and fired. The .44 Magnum shot shell, comprised of 170 No. 12 lead shot, completely flattened a two-foot oblong grass circle off the snake's nose.

The old rattler slithered hard right from the indentation, hit the creek bank and went subsurface in the brush. I carefully watched his progress through the pistol sights and when the ripples in the creek indicated he'd apparently remembered an appointment elsewhere, I re-holstered.

After a few blank stares, some comments, and several laughs, a unanimous decision was reached to head for the barn. We got the horses, saddled-up, and rode off for a Saturday night of hitting the hot spots on the Redneck Riviera. Happy trails ya'll.
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Author:Brown, Ed R.
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:1060
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