Remembering Elmer Keith
In the late 1960-s and early 1970's, in California's pre-Stalag years, my interest in firearms soared along with both my abilities as a geotechnical technician and my earning ability. Suddenly, I had enough money to indulge in hobbies and intellectual pursuits. I've always been a reader, and gobble up books one after another. I stumbled 'pon Ayn Rand in 1966, and still read Atlas Shrugged about every eighteen months and I read books and articles by Rand's intellectual heirs in between times--along with numerous novels, etc.
Meanwhile, my interest in firearms increased in direct proportion to my ability to buy them. I owned well over two dozen different firearms between 1970 and 1975, including a Springfield 1903-A3 for which I hand carved a sport riflestock with a Buck knife, wood files and sandpaper. I owned three different .44 magnum handguns--one of which was Pasadena's own Automag .44, which I dearly wish I'd hung onto--and a few weapons I still have.
I used to hand load my own cartridges (I still have the gear, but haven't set it up) and I visited the old Silverado Canyon Range at least once a week. Once, I shot side by side with Gunny, the range's master, he with an accurized Colt 1911-A1 .45, and me with a Ruger .44 magnum Super Blackhawk. We shot at two-foot diameter steel plates hanged from chains, at 300 yards. He averaged five hits out of seven, I averaged three for six. It felt good to lose that way, to that great a shooter.
One of the men whom I consider a mentor, even though we've never met, is Mr Elmer Keith. Born in Missouri in 1899, he grew up in Montana, Idaho and eastern Oregon in a time when that area was still part of the Wild West. He became an avid and successful big game hunter, developing numerous new cartridges and bullets for both rifles and handguns, and thus was instrumental in the development of many of the sporting and defense weapons popular today.
Mr Keith was an avid writer, penning books on handgun use and writing a monthly column for Guns & Ammo Magazine from the 1960's into the 1970's. I read his Gun Notes columns regularly for many years, and began to develop my shooting philosophy thereby. Other mentors were Col Jeff Cooper, and Massad Ayoob. Ayoob still writes for a number of periodicals and has several books on handgun self defense. He also conducts handgun training through his Lethal Force Institute.
Keith was the one who started it all. His experiences and opinions on hunting and handgun handling, including his advocacy of handgun hunting, helped my to develop my abilities and some of my choices in weapons purchasing. Even though he passed away twenty-four years ago, I still I still remember, and miss his Gun Notes columns.
Gun control means hitting your target.