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OMG! He’s got a gun!

Well, yes, actually I do. Here’s the backstory:

A few years back, in the course of my genealogy search, I found my great-grandfather’s obituary. He joined the Toronto Naval Brigade when it was formed, in 1860, in response to the threat of the Fenian raids. An Irishman ready to fight other Irishmen. Hmmm …. let’s not go there.

He died in 1863, before there was any fighting, and was accorded a pretty elaborate military funeral. Here’s a transcript of the obit. They spelled his name wrong, but it’s definitely my great-grandfather.

The Globe, Friday, April 10, 1863

(Punctuation and spelling as printed).

“VOLUNTEER FUNERAL.–Mr. James McGuire, of the Naval Brigade, who died a few days ago, was buried yesterday with military honours. The funeral procession left his late residence, King street west, at three o’clock in the afternoon, headed by the firing party. The coffin was wrapped in the “Union Jack,” with the cap and side arms of the deceased lying on the top. The members of the Naval Brigade, Capt W. F. McMaster, commanding, formed the escort. After them came the band of the 30th, and fife and drum corps. Following the hearse were deputations from the several companies composing “The Queen’s Own” battalion, 10th battalion, non-commissioned officers of the 30th Regiment, and a large number of citizens on foot and in carriages. The bands played “The Dead March in Saul,” and other funeral dirges, as the cortege passed on its way to the cemetery. The streets were crowded with spectators. The coffin was deposited in the vault at St. James’ Cemetery, and after the burial service of the Church of England had been read, the firing party paid the usual honours by firing three volleys. The troops were then formed in column, and returned to the city about 5 o’clock.”

I’m not sure what he’d done to warrant that funeral procession. Did he do something heroic? Or was it because he owned a bar at 115 King Street West and stood drinks after muster? Whatever, it’s a long march from there to St. James Cemetery. I know. I took the bus.

Just for reference, that address is now the entrance to underground parking at the TD Centre. Some might call it progress.

I was caught by the line “… the coffin was wrapped in the Union Jack with the cap and sidearms of the deceased lying on top.” Sidearms? What’s this?

Sometime later, I visited the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and ran across the diorama of one of the militiamen that volunteered to fight the Fenians. His sidearm looked like an 1851 Colt Army revolver. The 1851 Navy looks almost identical, so I bought a replica. Here it is:

Pietta .44 calibre 1851 Navy Colt replica

It’s a pretty cool connection to my ancestor, and it’s fun to shoot. Unfortunately, if Bill C-21 passes, my son will not be able to inherit this small connection to his great-great-grandfather.

I’m more than just a little offended that, as a handgun owner, I seem to have to bear the responsibility for every gangland gunfight and random shooting in the rest of the country. Why am I being punished? My son and I are both licensed and vetted. We are not the problem.

There. That’s the obligatory political statement. Now back to being fun to shoot.

This gun just takes forever to load. It takes me about 20 minutes to get ready for six shots. Loading a black-powder firearm takes a lot more thought than just inserting a cartridge:

first the powder …

then the wad …

then the ball …

then tamp it …

then the Crisco …

Wait a minute. Crisco? Yes. It reduces chances of igniting stray grains of powder that could light off all six chambers, blow up your gun, and wreck your hand.

Now repeat the process four or five times. And, finally, carefully put percussion caps on the nipples.

By the way, there is no “safety.” You can keep the hammer on an empty chamber, if you loaded five, or there’s a convenient position between chambers that you can park the hammer on if you loaded all six.

I can’t fire it in the indoor range ’cause it’s smoky as hell and would clog the ventilation filters. So it’s parked for the winter, or at least until there’s warm weather. In the summer, I have to take my camper to the range so I can load it out of the breeze. We can’t have gunpowder blowing all over the place. Meanwhile it’s trigger-locked, in a safe, in a locked house, and the powder and caps are somewhere else under lock and key.

That’s too much thought and concentration for your average gangbanger, so I don’t think you’ll see one of these on the street any time soon. Still, some would have you think that my great-grandfather’s gun and I are a threat to society.

People nowadays are concerned about the influence of shoot-’em-up video games and their effect on kids. I’m the first to admit that they have a point … because another reason I like this gun is that it looks like a movie cowboy gun. Remember the Saturday matinees and TV westerns? I grew up with this stuff. Okay, I’m old. Get over it. You’re probably too young to remember Andy Devine as Jingles Jones—one-time sidekick of Wild Bill Hickok. Can you see him firing a pistol like this from horseback, 22 times, without reloading? At a full gallop? Barrel straight up in the air as he cocks it? Ain’t that a stretch?

Apart from the fundamental racism in most of those movies, as I recall, Jingles and Wild Bill were mostly chasing bank robbers and rustlers.

Anyway, I think your kids will be just fine. Look at me after a childhood of bad movies.

I’m OK. Right?

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