Guns with Soul

Each gun possesses a story. My old Stevens Model 30 is brought to life after years of glory and triumph in the squirrel woods. This is my Guns with Soul story.

Where I grew up, there were not many deer to be hunted on public land, so we mostly stuck to small game. Squirrels just soul 1happened to be my specialty. We parked at the clearing and ventured into one of the few hardwood patches left on this management area. The fog lifted, and the leaves fell quiet, still wet from the morning dew. It was surprisingly cool that morning, not your typical early October in southeast Louisiana. My shirt pocket on my Filson shirt was full of CCI mini mags. I was ready for the morning and hopefully, a pile of bushy tales.

Slipping into an oak bottom, I found a big tree to sit beside. Cradled in my lap was my favorite squirrel rifle, the trusted friend that carried me through many tough hunts. Just after first light, I saw the subtle swinging of an oak branch in the distance. Moving up slowly, I made my way to another patch of oaks on the edge of a fence row. Leaning up against a tree, the squirrel stopped, my rifle barked, and a squirrel was ready for the pot that night.

Morning likes this with that Stevens model 30 favorite was the highlight of my youth growing up. Looking back on that rifle, I would not trade it for anything. Countless squirrels, rabbits, and crows fell to that gun. I'd trained and educated folks on the importance of safety with this gun. In essence, this was part of my childhood and transitioned me into the man I am today. For me, the rifle is more than a tool. It had soul.

I did not grow up in a hunting family, but my dad loved shooting and taking me to the range at a very young age. When the time came for me to have my own rifle, he took me down to a gun shop in Baton Rouge and bought the Stevens model 30. soul 2This was not an original Stevens from the early 20th century, but a Savage Arms reproduction. I fondly remember setting up empty coke cans on a log when I was a boy and thinking to myself as a great hunter like Col. Patterson from the Man-Eaters of Tsavo. The rifle came with a half round half octagon barrel, walnut stock, and iron sights. As a rule, growing up, if my chores were completed and my grades were in order, my mom would bring me down to the local feed store, and I would be rewarded with a 100 round box of CCI .22 shorts for practice in the back yard. It generally did not take long, even with a single shot for 100 rounds to go quickly.

Over the years, the finish began to turn purple on the frame. The walnut stock had its fair share of scars, nicks, and dents. The screw holding on the forend was stripped because when I was 11, I had the bright idea of trying to take it down with an undersized screwdriver. The bottom buttplate screw became missing, and I used to keep spare ammo in the buttstock removal hole and swing the butt plate out of the way to access it. 

One day I was on the phone with Andy Larsson of Skinner Sights. Andy and I engaged in a conversation about rifles that shaped our youth. Being a huge fan of his products, I sent him the little rifle. A few months later, I had a rifle with renewed life. The gun had been drilled and tapped, a Skinner peep sight added, the stock refinished, broken or stripped screws replaced, and a new front sight. This new life for the rifle only added to its soul and character.

The first frost of November saw me slipping through those same hardwood bottoms I knew so well as a boy. This time equipped with the Stevens rifle of my youth recently returned from Skinner Sights. It was a surprisingly slow morning, but I soul 3connected with one unlucky grey squirrel. This was under the same patch of white oaks I found them in for years. I can't put a feeling into words about how I feel walking oak bottoms with that rifle. Cradling the gun in my arms, I feel a connection to my youth, memories of hunts, and good times with friends. Enjoying guns with soul is a permanent fixture of who I am as an outdoorsman.

What is a gun with soul? What gives what is essentially just a tool for sport such life?

Something having soul is entirely up to the person. What one person sees as valuable in soul the next guy might see as junk. For me, the soul is when a gun transcends the boundary from being a mere tool to being truly a part of who I am as a sportsman, gun enthusiast, and amateur sporting arms collector. These pieces of hunting history were not to be locked away in a safe forever. Go down to your local gun store and pick up some memories, take them hunting and enjoy. ~ Ian

Ian Bradley Johnson
Ian Bradley Johnson is a passionate firearms enthusiast. His gun hobbies include historical military and sporting firearms, hunting, and collecting. Johnson is an avid hunter who enjoys travel and experiencing different hunting cultures abroad.