America At Her Best

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I do some work for the Weatherby Company, makers of some of the finest rifles in the world, including the renowned and vault-like Mark V, and I went to my local range yesterday to play with their new ladies’ model, called the Camilla.

It’s a private, unsupervised range, and the only other person there was an older gentleman shooting a few tables away. When I turned to signal for down time to check my target, I noticed he was shooting a Weatherby and that his truck had a “Semper Fi” sticker on it with the cursive Weatherby W decal right above that. I had never met this gentleman before, he had no idea who I was (we didn’t even exchange names until later), and I said nothing to him about my having any connection to Weatherby. This, paraphrased and condensed, is what came out, unsolicited, in our conversation:

His name is Jim Neal and he is an eighty-year-old former Marine, originally from Montana. He and his family (children and grandchildren) drive up to Dillon, Montana ever year for a couple of weeks of deer and elk hunting. His rifle is a synthetic-stocked Mark V .340 Wby that he bought secondhand thirty-two years ago as his all-purpose hunting rifle. He had Weatherby install a muzzle brake a few years back when age began to make the recoil a little unpleasant. He had a Kahles scope on it originally, but earlier this year, when he started to practice for his family hunt, the focus ring froze up. He sent the scope back to Kahles, but they told him it would be months before they could repair and return it. He mounted another scope and found, to his horror, that his shots were going all over the paper. He asked a friend to shoot it as a double-check. Same thing. Another scope. Same thing. He called Weatherby and then drove the rifle across the state to them in Paso Robles. He dealt with a lady named Cheryl in the Service Department who took him in back to talk to a gunsmith named Vladimir, who examined the rifle.

How it happened, or how he had been able to shoot the rifle, I don’t know, but this is what they found:

The stock was cracked, the magazine was bent, the floorplate hinge was cracked, and the safety wouldn’t engage properly. Weatherby put on a new stock, repaired the magazine and the floorplate, fixed the safety, and installed a new trigger, but the new trigger had too much creep in it, so they replaced their replacement. Then Cheryl and Vladimir gave Mr. Neal a Weatherby cap, a butt-stock ammo carrier, a sling, and Vladimir gave him his own ratchet screw-driver because Mr. Neal likes to do his own gun-smithing.

The total cost to him for all their time and labor was exactly zero. On a secondhand, thirty-two-year-old rifle.

Ask me why I’m proud to be associated with Weatherby.

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