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* I can't remember a time when any device propelling any kind of projectile was not of interest to me. Of course, firearms were the most logical focus for that fascination, especially in my case where the ultimate end was always the same: hunting.

As a yough growing up on the east side of Cleveland, however, interests such as guns and hunting had to be tempered by reality. And reality for me meant stalking sparrows, starlings, and an occasional pigeon in the neighborhood back yards and vacant lots with slinghot and BB gun. Until one fateful Saturday morning.

It was while browsing through the male magazines at the barber shop (I was getting my hair cut rather frequently in those days), that I came across an article about hunting small game with, of all things, a blowgun! Like most people, what little I knew about these primitive weapons was what I had seen in movies and comic books. You know: the pygmy raises this long bamboo tube to his lips, goes fftttt, and the poor schnook who's the target clutches the back of his neck and keels over. Of course curare was always involved, but I can never remember them actually showing what a dart looked like, so it lent just that much more to the blowgun mystique.

Anyway, here's this magazine article showing close-ups of the blowgun--darts and everything! The photo that really got my attention though was one showing a defunct red squirrel. This mean-looking, five inch-long dart had fully penetrated the rodent and pinned it to a tree. Hey, these things were more powerful than I realized!

I couldn't get home fast enough to try to fashion my own blowgun based on the pictures and descriptions in the magazine. The darts looked to consist of nothing more than a plastic golf tee (I was a caddy during the summers), with a long wire reware store. Sure enough, the head of the golf tee fit inside a 1/2-inch copper tube with nary a hair to spare. And in the back yard of a local dry cleaners was a pile of disposable-type coat hangers made of very thin wire. I was all set.

I cut a five-ince piece of wire and at one end took about a 1/4-inch bite with a needle nose plier and folded it over into a tight loop much like a big sewing needle. I then snipped off the stem of the tee just below the funnel-like head section, heated the straight-end tip of the wire over a stove flame for a few seconds, then pushed it (melted, actually) through the funnel-like hollow in the tee head. I then slid the impaled tee head to a point mid-way on the dart shaft, heated the loop end a couple of seconds, then pulled that end up into the tee head where it melted into the plastic to lock the two together. A few more seconds on a grinding wheel to put a point on the business end, and I was ready to shoot with my home-made blowgun.

I placed a piece of 1/4-inch plywood against a wall, took 7 or 8 paces back and inserted my newly-made dart in the mouth end (so designated by a few wraps of electrical tape). As i put the piece to my lips I recalled how the story had described "propulsion" as consisting of taking a deep breath and trying to spit it all out at once. So I did. A split second after what I considered to be a very authentic fftttt-sound, the dart hit the board with a resounding thunk. Impressed, as well as extremely self-satisfied. I walked over to the dart and gave it a tug. It wouldn't budge. I then grabbed hold of the dart with one hand, held the board with the other and pulled for all I was worth. Still the dart wouldn't budge. I then looked at the back of the board and, in utter disbelief, I saw a slight bulge of wood indicating the dart had penetrated the entire 1/4 inch! And in a pine board it went even deeper.

As for accuracy, it took but a few minutes to get the hang of it, and soon I was shooting groups of two inches or thereabouts from a distance of 25 to 30 feet.

Until my neighbors actually found out that I was doing with that innocuous-looking piece of pipe I was sneaking around with, I had a ball. Unfortunately, a blowgun dart has virtually no shock value and though it would fully penetrate even a pigeon right up to the base of the tee, the birds would all to often fly off to expire at a later date and, alas, with great dramatic flourishes in front of my bird-loving neighbors. Soon, dead birds started piling up around the neighborhood, all impaled by these strange looking darts. It didn't take long before the neighbors put two and two together and came en masse to the house of "that Sundra kid." My poor mom. "How that lovely woman could have spawned such a fiend" was a comment I heard more than once.

Anyway, while browsing through G & A's Sportman's Directory section I noticed a couple of sources advertising commercial blowguns and my curiosity got the best of me. After all, I always made my own and with 25 years having passed since last I did so, I thought it was as good a way as any of turning back the clock.

Because the blowgun itself is nothing more than a pipe (aluminum in the case of the commercial ones), the makers try to gussy them up with camo paint, rubber mouthpieces, hand grips, and take-down features. Despite the bells and whistles though, it's still just a pipe. The darts, however, are a real improvement over the ones I used to make; they're injection-molded polymer with a hollow, funnel-like shape which obturates to form a perfect seal. The 4-inch shafts are tempered wire of thinner stock that what I used. Consequently, they are more accurate, faster, and flatter-shooting than my old tee jobs. You can even order broadhead darts--something I could have really used in the old neighborhood on those occasions when I went up against a particularly ill-tempered pigeon. Darts range in price from 3 to 10 cents apiece, which is very reasonable. A couple of handfuls are supplied with the blowguns which start at around 12 bucks.

If you've never tried a blowgun, you will definitely be impressed by their power and accuracy. And they're just plain fun. You can write the following folks for their brochures: Great Pastimes, Inc., Box 55, Dept. GA, Allen, TX 75002; House of Weapons, Box 794A, Dept. GA, Provo, UT 84603; Exotic Sports, Box 129A, Dept. GA, Fayette, MO 65248


The Uncle Mike's folks, once known primarily for their sling swivels, started what amounted to a revolution a couple of years back with their Sidekick line of Cordura nylon hosters. Each year since, they've expanded that line. For '85 they've added a bunch or related belt accessories, including several models of cartridge carriers.

For years I've been looking for the ideal means of carrying a few spare rounds while out hunting, and these new offerings from Uncle Mike's come closer than any I've yet seen. And believe me I've tried every conceivable carrier made--from leather, hard plastic, nylons, elastics and various combinations thereof. To my way of thinking, most cartridge belt slides accommodate too many rounds. I mean, I don't want to look like Pancho Villa; I just want to carry five or six rounds on a carrier that will fit between two belt loops. Unfortunately, the new Uncle Mike's Rifle Cartridge Slide won't do that; it holds 10 standard '06 or belted magnum rounds in tis elastic loops, but as such is 7-1/4 inches long overall--too big, too long and too many rounds for my liking. However, UM's new, six-round Handgun Cartridge Slide is just what I've been looking for. It measures only 4 years long by 2-3/8 inches wide, which means I can wear it where I want--on the front side of my right hip just ahead of the belt loop. The 1-inch wide elastic loops hold any .30-06 or belted mag round snugly, yet are instntly accessible.

For those who like to carry more than six rounds, UM's Folding Rifle Cartridge Carrier is the ticket. It's barely 3-1/2 inches wide with a double tier of two pouches, each of which holds five rounds (belted mags are a tight squeeze but will fit). The two halves fold together and are held by a large Velcro-closure. One good tug on the closure flap and the carrier unfolds to expose all ten rounds. It's neat ... but I prefer the single row arrangement, which does not protrude as much.

The aforementioned are but three of over a dozen belt gizzies UM has introduced this year, among which are pouches for still other types of cartridge carriers. Naturally, as Sidekick accessories, all these items are made from the same, double layered and padded Cordura nylon as used for the holsters. Like the holsters, they are offered in a choice of black or brown-splotch camo. Retail prices are very reasonable, too, starting at $3.95 to a maximum of $10.95 for the double speedloader pouch.

There are a lot of gun-related goodies crammed into Uncle Mike's 28-page catalog, some of which are sure to trip your trigger. If you don't have one--the catalog I mean--write 'em at Box 13010, Dept. GA, Portland, OR 97213.


Seems a year doesn't go by that Federal Cartridge doesn't come up with at least a dozen or so new loadings in rifle, pistol and shotshell ammo. This year is no exception.

In the 12 gauge there are a couple of interesting new additions on opposite ends of the recoil scale. On the light end is a new 1-1/8-ounce Gold Medal trap loading; on the other, a 3-inch magnum 2-ounce load of BB's and 6's to join the 2's and 4's already in the Heavyweight Premium line.

According to Federal's Bill Siems, some trapshooters were finding their scores actually improving when they switched from 1-1/8-ounce to the lighter-recoiling 1-ounce loads. With today's quality of competition and the grueling nature of prolonged shoot-offs, fatigue obviously has become an increasingly important factor. By using a specially-formulated powder that slightly reduces the nominal muzzle velocity, Federal claims its new Gold Medal Extra-Lite combines the best of both worlds (i.e., reduced recoil while still throwing the full 1-1/8-ounce shot charge). Available in either 8 or 8-1/2 extra hard shot, this new load should also be the perfect choice for south-of-the-border dove shooting, where it's common to go through five or six boxes of shells in the morning and another five or six in the evening.

As for the new two-ounce BB and #6 loadings in the Heavyweight Premium line, the former should be a stellar performer on big Canadas. The 550 pellet payload of No. 6's should by dynamite turkey medicine for those experienced enough to withstand the temptation to "shoot for the bird" and hold for the head.

For one of my favorite cartridges, the .223 Remington, Federal has introduced a new 40-grain spitzer Blitz HP loading that churns up 3,650 fps.

This same 40-grain. 224 slug was first introduced last year by Federal in a .22-250 loading at 4,000 fps. Apparently, that was well enough received that the .223 was singled out for the same treatment this year.

The rationale for this blitz-type, super-frangible varmint bullet is that it virtually disintegrates on contact with anything, thereby making it safer to shoot in more settled areas. Based on my limited experience with these ultra-light, thin-jacketed bullets, I've never found them to be as accurate as the heavier bullets with their proportionately longer bearing surfaces. Then too, I've never noticed any lack of frangibility or more tendency to ricochet with the heavier slugs and their slightly thicker jackets, so I've felt much need for this type of bullet. The relatively poor sectional density of a 40-grain .224 bullet will shed that 400 fps margin over a 55-grain bullet within about 200 yards; beyond that the heavier slug will take over. To that distance, though, this 40-grain Blitz loading will get there sooner and over a slightly flatter trajectory. If you're a high velocity fan and most of your varminting is done at ranges under 250 yards, you might look into this new .223 Blitz loading.
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Title Annotation:blow guns
Author:Sundra, Jon
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jun 1, 1985
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