I’m not sure how you can get so far behind just being gone a couple of days, but you can!! In an attempt to get ahead, I’m going to use today’s weekly update to jump ahead and wish everyone and early happy July 4th!! We have company coming in for the Fourth on Sunday and I have no plans of getting close to the computer unless I absolutely have to.
The S&M #3 EXP’s were listed this week and one of the nicest pieces in the whole lot (to me anyway) is the spiral cut Buffalo Horn.
What really struck me was how practical that deep spiral cut would be in a ‘working’ situation. You could have cold slippery hands and be able to hang onto that rascal with NO problem. So many times we see a handle that looks pretty but is impractical as hell. This one looks good and is practical.
GEC is dribbling out the 66 Calf Ropers and today I receive the OD Green Canvas Micarta. It seems like they’ve run more Linen Micarta then Canvas lately. I hadn’t noticed how much ‘grippier’ (is that a word?) the canvas feels. Again, it would definitely be a good handle for actual use.
I’m still basking in the glow of our shoot out west last week. So much so that I ended up buying another rifle that is going to be exactly the tool to help eliminate more of those critters. You know how you feel when you find that knife that you just can’t get enough of? Well, I don’t collect knives, but I feel your pain!
On a final note, I want to wish all of you a fantastic 4th of July next week. This is one of my favorite holidays and I always look forward to it. Our little town of 8k swells by 8-10k on the 4th with folks coming in to share over a mile of city beach to watch the display. Years ago we found out it was way more fun to watch the fireworks in our backyard then to fight the traffic in town. We load the pontoon with snacks and beverages, head out on the water around 7PM and float around watching fireworks till close to midnight. It gets to be a competition between a half dozen of the more affluent neighbors on the lake to see who can put on the best display. Kind of fun to have fireworks going off all around you. Stay safe and have fun!!
Mike and I had about a 5 hour drive to get out to the ranch. Lots of flat prairie land you can cover at 80-85 mph without worry of a speeding ticket. Once you reach Dickinson, it’s obvious you’re in oil country. Lots of active oil derricks and truck traffic. Dickinson itself is in the midst of a financial boom and a visit to a local sporting goods store makes it obvious you are in serious hunting country. The local Runnings store had a terrific selection of guns and a selection of ammo the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
Shortly after meeting one of our hosts, we got set up in a pasture with a prairie dog town that was close to a 1/3 mile long and probably 300 yds wide. We set up about 100 yards from the dens. They’ve been shot at before and are pretty skittish about a truck pulling up in the neighborhood so you don’t just pull up next to the dens and start shooting.
Mike started out with a .22 and quickly found out there was no way he could reach out 125+ yards with it. He switched over to a Savage in 17HMR and things changed in his favor immediately. I started out with a Savage LP, heavy fluted barrel in .223. After getting things settled in at a 200 yard zero for me and 150 for Mike, we started connecting with targets. We’d shoot for maybe 15-20 minutes until they started hiding in their dens. Then we’d take a 15-20 rest until things picked up again.
The next morning was another bluebird day but we had gusty winds in the 25-30 mph range. The wind always blows on the Dakota prairie but Wednesday it was a bit stiffer then usual. We moved to another pasture and got setup in a tree line that gave us a field of fire that was pretty much straight into the wind and a nice shady spot to sit.
To give you an idea how long our shots were, the first fence in the foreground is about 75 yards in front of us. About half way between the patch of trees and the first fence is a second fence line that is roughly 250 yards out. I would estimate that 75% our shots were beyond the second fence line ranging out to probably 400 yards.
One detail I haven’t mentioned is the size of our targets. Prairie Dogs are about 12-14″ tall when they stand on their hind legs. Width, maybe 4″. Think of a 20 oz water bottle and you’ve got a pretty good idea how big they are. Some of the young ones were roughly 1/2 that size. At 200 yards I can see the adults without binoculars or a scope if they’re moving. Beyond that, these old eyes can’t pick them up without assistance.
The second day I switched over to a target grade AR15 with a bull barrel, 10x scope and a Chip McCormick trigger. Mike shot the Savage with a 5-15x scope and we both learned a whole lot about windage and holdover. When you’re sighted in for 200 yards and your stretching out to 350-400 yards you adjust to hold the cross hairs about 2-3′ over your target. What keeps it interesting is your last target may have been at 375 yds and your current one is 225 yds. Factor in a wind gusting to 30 mph that’s moving around giving you a 2′ bullet drift to the left every now and then and you’ve got some damned challenging shooting conditions.
At that range with the wind blowing towards us, the prairie dogs had a hard time hearing the shot and were just startled when a puff of dust blew up a foot or two away. Mike and I would try to spot for each other and would then try to walk the next round onto the target. I know I had situations where I had the opportunity to put 4 rounds down range at a dog and did nothing more then blow dust in his eyes. In fact, I think one died from laughing at my efforts. I’d credit most of our hits Wednesday to luck rather then skill.
That Wednesday while we were patting each other on the back for some of our shooting, we heard the news about the confirmed kill at 2.2 miles by the Canadian sniper. And we thought a 400 yard shot was difficult. Damn.
To sum it up, we had a great time. Round count was just over 500 in a day and a half of shooting. We honestly connected with a few (damned few) dogs in the 400 yard range. I wouldn’t speculate on actual percentage of hits but lets just say we didn’t hit everything we shot at and put a pretty small dent in the population. It was a learning experience for both of us.
The people in that part of the country seem genuinely glad to see you and even the service in the local restaurants made us feel welcome. Mike and I were fortunate to be the guests of a couple of super nice ranchers that gladly pointed us in the right direction and graciously opened up their land to us. My sincere thanks to them and we really hope we can make a repeat trip this fall.
If you enjoy long range shooting under variable conditions, give prairie dog shooting a try. They range from the Dakota’s down through Texas so there’s plenty of area to explore. For the ‘expert’ that doesn’t get to spend a lot of time shooting other then in a controlled environment on a shooting range at a fixed distance, this will show you just how good you are.
In the last week there have been a number of new knife arrivals that I’m just getting around to listing today. Here’s what we have so far….
The new GEC 66 Calf Ropers started coming in. This is a nice sized traditional Stockman that sold well the first time around and will no doubt be popular again. The first to come in were the Ebony Wood and Antique Autumn Jig Bone.
The Schatt & Morgan #3 EXP in Stag was the next to show up. Without a doubt some of the nicest looking stag you’ll come across.
There were also a handful of relatively hard to come by handle materials in the #3EXP as well.
In the next couple of weeks, the following knives are scheduled to be coming in from Queen.
#27 Yankee Muskrat ~~ Smooth Green Bone, Amber Bone, Smooth Oil Bone
#13 Wildcat Driller ~~ Black Maple, Marble Wood, Golden Maple, Oiled Bone
#41 Folding Hunter (2 Blade) ~~ Stag, Black Micarta
In just the last half hour I’ve had 3 inquiries requesting confirmation of the next Mountain Man releases. Here’s what I can tell you as it stands…..
50 Marvel Wood
42 Damascus Stag.
48 Damascus Bone.
25 Damascus Smooth Oiled Bone
50 Drop Point Black Buffalo Horn
50 Drop Point Marvel Wood
25 Drop Point Lightning Wood
50 Drop Point Smooth Oiled Bone
50 Drop Point Iron Wood
50 Drop Point Shock Wood
25 Drop Point Rams Horn
25 Drop Point Micarta
50 Drop Point Stag
100 Drop Point Bone TBD
I have no doubt the demand for the Damascus will be high and I will be putting up a page to take early orders for them shortly. Please don’t email me to request a reservation, wait until the link is up to place an early order.
As a kid growing up back in the early to mid 50’s a buddy and I used to spend many days in the summer shooting our .22 caliber rifles at all sorts of challenging targets. Striped gophers, golf balls, blocks of wood floating down the crick in our backyard. It wasn’t unusual to go through a brick of 500 rounds on a good weekend.
That joy of shooting and the challenge of hitting a small targets at long distances really bit me when I got into shooting steel silhouette targets 25 years later. We had 4 sizes of targets set up at 25, 50 75 and 100 yds for .22 competition. You had to take down all five targets at each range with your rifle or pistol within a set time period and it was truly a challenge. It really honed your skills.
Over the years, I transitioned to shooting hi-power rifles at longer ranges. I’ve owned (and own) everything from 220 Swifts, to 45/70’s and most calibers in between. Kind of surprised me recently to realize I have loading dies for almost 40 different calibers.
Living in Minnesota, I’ve hunted deer in our north woods and as you might expect, most deer are taken up here under 100 yards. In fact, if the truth be known, most probably under 75 yards. You just don’t have the wide open spaces for taking the long shots which in the case of a lot of shooters isn’t a bad thing!
I still enjoy shooting but have given up hunting. The challenge of trying to put all my shots into the smallest area possible is kind of like playing golf. It’s one of those sports no one ever perfects. All you can do is keep challenging yourself to get better.
Last week I got the chance to put those years of target shooting into play on live targets in Western North Dakota. Through a friend of my wife’s, my nephew Mike and I got an invitation to shoot prairie dogs on her parents ranch west of Dickinson, ND.
Their ranch is located on the edge of the “Badlands” which is one of the most incredibly rugged, forbidding, gorgeous landscapes East of the Rockies. About 4 miles from the ranch we hunted on, you hit the edge of the rolling hills, come over a small rise and are met with this….
Just a mile or so in, the scenery changes dramatically. This kind of terrain stretches from North Dakota into South Dakota and is absolutely mesmerizing to drive through.
But back to the ‘target’ of our trip.
These cute little critters might be fun to watch and observe, but to ranchers they’re anything but. On the ranch we hunted we saw hundreds of acres of pastureland that was no longer fit for grazing. The prairie dogs will clear the grass around their den and ‘graze’ on the remaining grass. Living in groups that can cover up to a 100 acres, the effects can be devastating particularly in times of drought like they’re currently experiencing.
Now that you kind of understand where we were and what drew us there, I’ve got to get back to work to get caught up. When I get a bit more time, I’ll share a few more pix and let you know how the hunt went.
Had a great week shooting (at) Prairie Dogs in Western North Dakota this week and will fill you in later. Hated to come home and in a way wish I hadn’t!!!
I just got word this morning that the Trestle Pine Topper has been pushed back to late July. Originally it was supposed to come out in late May or early June. Things never seem to work out the way we hoped, but I really hope this one comes through sooner rather then later.
There were also a bunch of knives that showed up to be processed. In the group are some new S&M #3 EXP’s in some of the nicest looking stag I’ve seen in a while.
There is also another group of the #3EXP’s coming out in the next 4-6 weeks with at least a half dozen handle/blade options. Two that I’m really looking forward to are a drop point blade and…. a release with a Damascus Blade. That should be a gem.
I have to keep this weeks update brief as I’ve got some catching up to get done. Orders to get shipped and emails to follow up on. Monday I’ll try to share a few photo’s of this weeks adventure out West. Truly a good time!
Hard to believe its already time for another weekly update. Sometimes they feel like daily updates! The biggest news was the arrival and delivery of the Schatt & Morgan #3 EXP Mountain Man knives.
The S&M autos have been very well received but there’s a caveat to new buyers. These aren’t to be confused with the modern day Microtechs or Benchmade type tactical autos. The collectors of older auto’s for the most part know what to expect but the non-collector or those new to autos aren’t always aware of the difference. John Henry 71 and #3 EXP Mountain Man knives are throwbacks to an earlier time when most auto’s were built to be hard working tools used in the outdoors by hunters, ranchers, trappers and such. Reliability was the key and a smooth, light touch to deploy the blades were secondary to reliability. Queen did a great job carrying that authenticity forward.
I believe the last of the GEC 38’s came through this week in the form of the Sambar Stag. Now we wait for the run of 66’s. For whatever reason, folks seem to finally be getting a bit ‘irritated’ with the abundance of SFO’s and did I get an earful.
Briefly, some of the grumbling I heard (from multiple GEC collectors) was first, there just wasn’t much interesting coming out of GEC anymore. To paraphrase: …”It seems like they’re (GEC) taking a pattern and just putting 10 different colors of bone on them as SFO’s…. Production knives are being run in higher and higher quantities and only the SFO’s are limited in quantity….. You have to chase 5 or 6 dealers or individuals to collect all of the different handle colors…. I don’t think you even have to be a dealer to run an SFO (you don’t. Anyone can join in).
One customer asked me if I had considered working with all of the folks ordering the SFO’s, buying some of their knives and offering them through my store. NO, I haven’t. That’s already happening on a limited basis. Doesn’t make much sense to be a GEC distributor and have to go to a non-dealer to get inventory.
I can’t blame GEC for going for the sure sale. When you’ve got half a dozen dealers and individuals lined up to take 1000+ knives, that’s pretty hard to walk away from. It’s just an incredibly odd business model. Build up a dealer network and then turn your back on your dealers by working with anyone with a handful of $$ wanting to buy an SFO.
I’ve complained about all of the SFO’s and lack of regular production knives for a couple of years and have been criticized for complaining. I’ve been told countless times in the last 3 years from within GEC that there were considerations to cut back on the number of SFO’s and go back to producing more ‘regular production’ knives’. It seems the SFO’s will be and are becoming the ‘production’ run knives of the future from Great Eastern. Frankly, I could foresee the day when GEC becomes a private label company and for the most part vacates their identity. I think we’ve seen that happen with one of the patterns already.
I’ll no doubt be criticized for repeating these comments and that’s fine. This week has been the first time I’ve had so many individuals complain and ask what’s going on with GEC and I wanted to pass it on. It’s just good to know I’m not the only one that’s getting weary of all of this. Only one of the people I exchanged emails with said they’d spoken up and asked if GEC was going to go back to more regular production items. It’s not going to affect me in the long run but if you want to see things change, you have to speak up. Tell GEC.
In the past, GEC has made up a major portion of my business. As my sales continue to grow, I’m finding GEC is playing an ever decreasing part of that growth. They’re are other good things happening and that’s where my emphasis is shifting to.
But today, my emphasis is shifting to a prairie dog shoot and some time on the water!!! This afternoon is going to be spent at the reloading bench and getting things ready to head west. My golfing partner is going to be laid up with a bum knee for a month or so but at least I’ll have someone to drive the cart for me. Enjoy the weather!
In the last couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at the new S&M #3 EXP Mountain Man. While I’ve had no practical experience actually using one, I have taken the time to give it a good lookin’ at.
The #3 EXP’s I received included a number of one of a kind and very low run pieces. Here’s a group of 4 that I believe were the only ones made that now reside in a pretty impressive and complete collection of #3EXP and #71’s.
There were also more Shockwood handles like the Silver Shockwood pictured below. As I’ve said before, the Shockwood is really a great looking handle material particularly on a larger knife like the Mountain Man and the John Henry Auto’s.
For the first time, there is also a jigged bone handle which I hope we’ll see more of in the future.
When you compare the original John Henry 71 Express with the #3 EXP Mountain Man, the size difference is pretty obvious. I always felt the Mountain Man was a pretty big knife, but handling it alongside the John Henry…. it feels pretty slim and trim. In fact, it feels very comfortable in hand.
The locking mechanism on both knives is identical in design and function. The release button is situated as such to make both of these knives a right handed knife. For the southpaw, either will be awkward to use at best.
The only comfortable way to deploy the blade is by holding the knife in your right hand …
using the tip of your right index finger to depress the release.
The force required to depress the release is noticeably less the that required on the 71 John Henry. Smaller blade, smaller (shorter) spring, less effort.
Once released, the blade swings open with authority. If you’ve handled the 71 John Henry you know there’s a fair amount of torque created when that big blade swings open. The #3 EXP is much more civilized upon opening. There’s plenty of spring tension to open the blade and lock it up securely all the while letting you feel secure you’ve got control of things. The blade design is in keeping with the original Mountain Man. A reasonable length clip blade made of 1095 steel.
The fit and finish of the #3 Mountain Man is in my estimation better then the #71 John Henry. I get the feeling that the Mountain Man was an opportunity to refine some of the same/similar processes used to build the John Henry. Even the later runs of the John Henry were more refined then the first run and it seems like the #3 takes it a step further. Over all, nicely done.
From the feel of the knife in hand and fundamental similarity to the Mountain Man can only lead me to believe it would make an excellent full size work knife. I’m not accustomed to using a larger knife in my day to day routine and while I don’t envision carrying a #3 EXP, if I had a need, I see no reason why I wouldn’t!
It always gratifying to hear from the blog readers when I miss the Friday update. All I can say is everything is going fine and it’s just summer in Lakes Country. LOTS going on.
It’s been a couple of weeks that included acquiring a different boat, new camper, getting a prairie dog shoot lined up in North Dakota and finishing up the spring ‘planting’. And then throw in a funeral, wedding anniversary, wife’s birthday, getting things ready for her to have some minor knee surgery and getting the old boat and camper sold. Add to that a bunch of new knives coming in and you quickly run out of time.
I’ve gotten more feedback regarding Blade and by all reports it was a success in every sense of the word. The crowd must have been incredible and knives were flying off the tables. One of the fun things to share from Blade is a picture and an email I received from Ken regarding Queen’s Kiddo Knives project.
“There was a whole lot of this going on, to the tune of about 80 smiles. This is what makes it worth while to me.” (Ken Daniels)
“Mr. Ryan and Mr. Ken,
We cannot thank you enough for the Kiddo knife program. Our son was so excited to see you this year, he kept his coin in his hand all morning until we could make it to your booth.
As your dad instructed me to do so, I have attached a picture of William with his Queen Kiddo knife and I am supposed to tell you that he said to include him in your next catalog.
Again, thank you both for your kindness and generosity. Please know your program is a success. With your knife this year, our kiddo wants to make his own knife case like his daddy’s.”
What an incredible way to promote knife collecting with the younger generation. It’s great to see a group of individuals and a company like Queen promote the industry.
This week also saw the arrival of the Schatt & Morgan #3EXP Mountain Man Express. What a sweet auto. I’m going to try to put up a brief review of this one tomorrow. I’ve shipped most of the Pre-order knives already but haven’t had time to list any in the store. My order was short due to the high demand at Blade, but more are being run and should be coming through soon.
I also received the latest run of the GEC 38 Specials. Handle options include the Northfield Indian Paint brush and ALVS Green Abalone. These will also show up in the store tomorrow.
And that my friends is what’s been going on! Our summer days start early and supper usually doesn’t happen until 7-8PM most nights, later others. We don’t have a lot of time to make up for those long winter days and have to make the most of it.
I’ve had a number of emails in the last few weeks from customers asking how to sharpen the 154 series steels. These aren’t folks that don’t know how to sharpen a knife, for the most part they’re just not used to working with the harder, wear resistant steels. Like me, they’ve used knives with 1095 or 440 series blades for years and have the basic technique but are having problems getting a fine edge on the 154’s.
There’s no particular trick but I’ll admit I had my own issues with a (somewhat) brief learning curve. Hopefully, these tips will help.
Personally, I’ve always prided myself on being able to put a very decent working edge on a 1095 blade ‘free handing’ with a medium stone and finishing up with a fine stone and a strop. When I started using the Edge Pro, I found out I could cut the time in half to bring up a perfectly beveled edge. Using the Edge Pro on the 154, D2 and ATS series gave the same results but it was the final finishing touches that require a little more attention to reach perfection.
In all honesty, I have a helluva time putting a really fine edge on those harder steels using the freehand process without spending some time on them.
First, my experience a bit more pressure is required to actually remove any steel from 154. Once I figured that out things started coming together. The issue then became getting that razor edge. Once I started getting a razor edge it seemed like the edge wanted to roll over and dull quickly with average use. The edge retention didn’t seem a great deal better then 1095.
Through trial and error, I figured out I needed to spend more time ‘finishing’ the edge. In other words, I needed to do more honing with the fine stone and strop. I’ll spend about a third to half of my sharpening effort honing.
Here’s what your doing.
On the left is a properly finished blade. On the right you can see that during the sharpening process your creating thata nearly imperceptible “burr” that can be a major frustration if it’s not removed. On softer steels, you can frequently see the burr if you roll the blade back and forth under a bright light. It’ll look like a shiny wire on the very edge and you can usually actually roll it over with your finger nail. On 1095 its relatively easy to knock that burr off with a good strop.
On harder steels with higher wear resistance, that burr is only removed by honing the blade alternately on a fine stone from side to side, literally ‘wearing’ the burr off. If you get in a hurry you’ll straighten it temporarily to give the feel of a razor edge but if it’s still on the edge of the blade it will roll over with a little use resulting in a blade that needs touching up. You need to go back to a fine stone and work on eliminating the burr completely. Don’t rush it. When you think you’ve got it, give it another half dozen strokes.
So the lesson is take your time. Don’t hurry it or think you can bring up a perfect edge with a lick and a promise. When I go out camping or fishing I want an edge on my knife that I know isn’t going to let me down. My experience has been that CPM154 will hold an edge two to three times longer then 1095 if I’m willing to spend the time sharpening it right. That small investment in time pays good dividends!