February 1945
As he held his hands up over his head, Gefreiter Frederic Schoenherr mused, as he would for the rest of his life, about his thoughts at this moment. It seemed ironic that, after all he had seen and done, his first concern upon learning that they were about to surrender was, "what will happen to my rifle?" It was an understandable, and far more common than he knew, sentiment among soldiers. After all, a rifle was the only thing that stood between him and certain death. Before he ate or slept, the rifle had to be cleaned and oiled. And, whether he was cold, wet, hungry, or exhausted, the rifle was always kept in the best possible condition. He slept with it cradled in his arms, he never let it out of his sight, and he kept it close at hand even while taking a shit. In short, he cared for it better than he would his own child.
Schoenherr looked remorsefully at the rifle he had lain upon the ground. It was of Czech manufacture and it was a good weapon. It was accurate, reliable and, in Schoenherr’s hands, deadly. He had fought for three years on the Western Front and had used that rifle to take a murderous toll on Americans and British alike. But, the fortunes of war had turned against The Reich, and the Allies had relentlessly driven them back.
How could it be otherwise? Chronically short of food, ammunition and especially fuel, the Americans had recovered from the breakout in The Ardennes and slammed into them with everything (and they had so much of everything) they had and broken the back of his unit and so many others. For Gefreiter Schoenherr, the war was over. He joined his comrades as they stepped out of their defensive position and walked towards the Amees (Americans). The looks on their faces caused any ideas of escape to evaporate from his mind; Schoenherr had no doubt that they would shoot him down without a second’s hesitation.
With a glance back and a shrug, Gefreiter Schoenherr walked towards whatever fate had in store for him.
TSGT Sean Dugan considered himself a lucky man. Despite the fact that he had been a top competitor on his High School’s rifle team, and that he had also been a pretty good wrestler, when he joined the Army they, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to make him a truck driver. For two and a half years, his duties had taken him all over Europe. "See the world at 50 miles per hour!" was his unit’s unofficial motto. And, despite the terrifying times when German aircraft had strafed his convoy, or when the Germans ambushed them on the road, he had never been wounded.
Still, he looked at his job as vital to the war effort. In his time he had transported troops, ammo, food, and supplies to the front, and POW’s, wounded troops, dead bodies, salvaged and captured weapons to the rear, and just about everything in between.
His current assignment required him to transport truckloads of captured weapons back to the Ordnance Depot which, once again, had proven lucky for him. His third such trip, he had managed to glean several Kar 98’s to send home. He had wanted to get one for his father and each of his two brothers, so that they could each use them to hunt the Whitetail Deer that inhabited the woods near his Western Michigan home.
The latest addition to his collection now sat between him and his co-driver, Odell Scruggs. A lanky kid from Georgia that kept calling him "sir", Odell had four brothers; two in the Navy in the Pacific, one that was a waist gunner on a B-17, and one that was back home after being wounded in The Huertgen Forest.
He, along with Dugan, looked their latest prize over.
The rifle looked like a Kar 98 with a straight bolt handle. The markings indicated that it was made in Czechoslovakia. His inspection revealed that, although the stock and the finish indicated it had seen some hard use, the bore, action, and outer surfaces were immaculate. He wouldn’t know for sure until he could take it apart, but it didn’t seem to have any pitting anywhere. It, and a bunch of others like it, had been gathered up from a recently surrendered German Wehrmacht unit that had already been transported back to the rear.
Odell looked at Dugan, "Sir?" It came out sounding like ‘Suh’, "You s’pose I might be able to get one them?"
Dugan shrugged, "Shouldn’t be a problem. You fill out the forms, and send them on. You just have to hope that no one filches ’em."
I’d like to get me one o’ them Lugers."
"Not much chance of that; the officers grab them when they show up. Machine pistols, too. Best thing to do is snag a rifle; No one seems to want them."
"You think I could grab one outta the back?"
"Sure. I’ll help you find a decent one when we get back to Depot."
November 1948
Once again, as Sean Dugan sat in the woods on this cold, crisp, morning, he felt the gentle hand of Lady Luck caressing his shoulder. He had watched this area for months, always seeing sign of deer, knowing that a sizeable buck frequented the trail he was overlooking now. His rifle, a Czech VZ24 that he had sent home from Germany, bore slight resemblance to its military configuration; the stock had been sporterized, the barrel-mounted rear sight had been removed and replaced by a Williams receiver sight. Sean liked that arrangement because it was closer to the type of sights that he had had on his M1 rifle in Basic Training. The barrel had been rechambered to 8mm-06; a 30-06 case necked up to accept 8 Millimeter bullets. His gunsmith had suggested that as an inexpensive conversion for someone who was making his way through college. An extra few dollars paid for reloading dies, a pound of surplus powder, brass, 100 bullets, and primers. Sean had used these materials to work up a load that printed inch and a half groups at 100 yards.
Now, he was just waiting for the opportunity to use them to bring some meat home.
His thoughts wandered, straying to Delores Hawthorne, a waitress at the local diner. She had caught his eye the first time he stopped for breakfast. Brown hair and eyes, her smile lit up the room. And, unless he misread the signals, she seemed interested in him. She always lingered a little at his table, and always seemed to wait on him regardless of where he sat. She filled out her waitress uniform very well, especially the backside.
He had begun to dwell upon the way she filled her blouse when his reverie was broken by the sound of hooved feet running through the forest. Alert now, he watched as, ninety yards away, a large doe ran into sight. She paused for a moment to look over her shoulder, and then continued on her way.
Less than a minute later, a very large eight-point (Eastern Count) buck wandered in to view. Sean, who was sitting next to a tree, raised the rifle to his cheek and immediately took up the slack in the rifle’s trigger. A second later, the rifle’s report echoed through the trees and Sean, who knew he had made a good heart shot, jumped to his feet. He had seen the buck jump, and take off running the way he came. A quick search revealed that the buck had piled up thirty yards away.
Smiling with satisfaction, Sean walked up to the deer and touched its eyeball with the muzzle of his rifle. Satisfied that it was truly dead, he set his rifle down and pulled out his knife to begin gutting it.

June 1955
Sean Dugan took a deep breath, exhaled to the bottom of his respiration, and squeezed the trigger. The rifle’s report came a millisecond after the trigger broke. Moving as little as possible, he worked the rifle’s bolt, settled in, and fired another shot. He repeated the process three more times and then sat back. Picking up the binocular sitting on the bench next to him, he looked at the target 100 yards away. The five holes were clustered dead center of the target, two inches above the Bull’s eye.
He got up and walked the distance to the target. Pulling a tape measure from his pocket, he measured the span of the group, nodding in satisfaction at the 1 1/4" group he had just shot. By his calculation, he should be able to aim at the vitals of a deer out to three hundred yards without worrying about fiddling with his rifle scope.
He walked back to the shooting bench and looked appreciatively at the rifle. The Mauser was now in its third iteration since he had picked it up during the war. The Mauser action had been drilled and tapped, the bolt handle contoured to allow for the 4X Weaver scope mounted on it. The barrel was a Douglas Premium Grade, chambered in .257 Roberts. The whole thing was glass bedded into a Fajen ‘White Line’ stock. This latest batch of handloads proved to be the most accurate. He felt the satisfaction that came with the ownership of a fine firearm, which led to him reflecting on the blessings in his life.
He started packing up, placing everything in the toolbox he used for trips to the shooting range. As he was slipping the rifle into its case, one of the other shooters on the range came up to him; Angelo Catania, another of what Sean considered a ‘serious’ shooter.
"Hey Sean, how’d it go?"
"Five shots into an inch and a quarter. I think I’ve found the right load. The hundred grainers actually get under an inch. This one is definitely a keeper."
Angelo chuckled, "Like you’d ever get rid of it. Do your dad and brothers get the same accuracy?"
"Dad had his built into a .30-06, Michael and Tim both went with the .270. They get about the same results if they do their part."
"Why did you go with The Bob?"
"With two kids and one on the way, I needed one rifle that could do anything from Groundhogs to Deer.
Plus, the recoil is so mild, I can shoot all day."
"How is Delores? Maria saw her while shopping and said she’s due any day now."
"She’s doing fine. She says that she’ll be happy when this one arrives, because she’s tired of being fat."
"Man! They really don’t get that we think they’re beautiful do they?"
"Very true. I tell her all the time, but it’s hard to get through to her when her feet are swollen."
Angelo laughed at that, "I’ll say! When Maria was pregnant with our fourth, she’d start crying every time I told her I loved her. Heck, I was afraid to say anything to her. I did overtime shifts at the plant just to keep from having to face her. Turned out okay, though; we got a gorgeous little girl, and the extra money helped us to buy a second car."
"I know what you mean. I’ve been doing the same thing. Del had to stop working at the diner last week because she can’t stand all day."
"Say, changing the subject, are you going to shoot in next month’s match? I could use the competition."
"I can’t. I had to sell my rifles last Fall to put a down payment on the house."
"What??? Please tell me you kept your National Match M1!"
"Dad bought it off of me. David bought the Model 52 and Michael bought the Springfield. I traded a couple of others to get this one built. I’ve got this one, a .22 that I use for Squirrels, and that Smith & Wesson .38 that I keep in the house."
"Well, at least they’re still in the family. Still, if you want to shoot, you can always sign out one of the club guns."
"I might do that. I can’t just give it up."
"Of course not. You’re a shooter."
June 1968
Sean was both excited and a little apprehensive; he and his oldest son, Michael, had just spent the last three days driving across the country to Western South Dakota in order to meet up with Sean’s brothers. While their International Harvester Travel All was comfortable enough, it was still a long time to be riding in a car. When they pulled up to "The Sleep-Ease Motel" in Belle Fourche, both men were relieved to be done driving for a while. Sean smiled when he recognized his brother’s station wagon,
"Looks like the guys are all here."
"You think Mickey and Ray are here, too?"
"That’s what they told me. All of the oldest boys and dads are going to be here."
Just then, a door to the motel opened and out stepped 4 men, the two younger obviously the sons of the two older. The oldest man,. Mark, stepped forward to greet them, "Hey! We just got here ourselves. We were just figuring out what to do for supper."
The next oldest, Sean’s brother Tim, smiled and moved to help with their bags, "Yeah, I’m in the mood for a steak, but these three want burgers."
Sean smiled, "Well, this is supposed to be cattle country; maybe we can get both."
They began pulling duffle bags and gun cases out of the station wagon and moving it all into the motel. Michael picked up a locked gun case he had never seen before and asked, "What’s in this one? I don’t remember packing this."
Sean just smirked, "Never you mind. That one comes with me. In the meantime, get the ammo boxes out of the back and put them in your Uncle Mark’s room while I check us in."
"What is it?"
"It’s a rifle. Now hurry up, I’m hungry."
They had managed to find a small diner in town where they were able to find good food and cold beers. The three younger men ate like it was going out of style and then polished off a slice of Apple Pie a la mode each. It was a short drive back to their motel, where they congregated in Uncle Mark’s room again. Mark addressed the group; "Okay, here is the plan; out here, they have these rodents called Prairie Dogs. They’re actually a type of ground squirrel but they make a funny barking sound so, they call them Prairie Dogs. I was out this way during the war when I was attached to a bomber wing out here, and I have seen these things in their colonies. The locals call them ‘towns’, and they are huge. The ones I saw had between one and five thousand rodents on them. The farmers and ranchers hate them, and would like nothing more than to eliminate them. That’s where we come in; I’ve written and called the Chamber of Commerce in the area, and they have given me the names of a few ranchers that might let us shoot a few hundred of them. All we need to do is make sure that we don’t hit their cattle and we leave their gates the way they found them."
Sean motioned, "How did you come up with this idea?"
"I saw an article in ‘Guns’ magazine. I thought it looked like fun, sort of like when we used to shoot rats at the dump when we were kids."
"That’s it? We came all of the way out here for that?"
"That, and I thought we could look at some land out here. There’s a river nearby with pretty good fishing. Deer and Antelope live out here, and we could shoot these rats whenever we want. Land is not too expensive, we could make this our family vacation destination."
Sean looked over at his other brother, Tim, "You’re the real estate guy; what do you think?"
"Well, he’s right about the prices. The location is excellent, I suspect it’s just going to get better as time goes on. I think it’s a good idea. I’ve done some checking, there are a few places available. We could look at them tomorrow when we’re done shooting."
Michael could hold it in no longer, "Speaking of that, what’s in that case?"
Sean smiled as he got up and moved the case to the bed. He unlocked it as he spoke, "I was going to wait until you came home from Basic to give you this, but then Mark came up with this idea, so I thought that this would be a perfect place to give this to you."
Tom looked alarmed, "Basic??? Did your number get called up?"
"No, I enlisted the day after I registered for the draft. I’m going into the Army."
"The Army? Why the Army? Why not the Navy, or the Air Force?"
"They both have waiting lists because of Vietnam. I figured if I enlisted, I could decide what job I would do. Draftees usually end up in the Infantry, I figured I’d go into something like driving a truck. My recruiter said they’re always looking for motivated people that want to do well."
Sean grimaced, "What if you end up driving a truck in Vietnam? There’s a lot of things that could happen."
"I’ll go and do my job like you did."
Sean was silent as pride and worry wrestled for control. He shook his head slightly and turned to the rifle case, "Well, nothing to be done about that now." He opened the case and pulled the rifle out, "This is the rifle I brought home with me. It’s been through the wringer, but I had it spruced up for you."
"Your old .257? What did you have done to it?"
"Well, it’s now a 6MM Remington. It’s got a Timney Trigger and I had a Douglas bull barrel put on it with a tighter twist so you can use heavier bullets. The Fajen stock is cut like a target rifle, and I had it glass-bedded. The scope is a Redfield 3200 12X Target scope. The loads I developed will reliably print under an inch at a hundred. I figure you should be able to get hits out to four or five hundred yards with this."
Michael held it like he had found The Holy Grail, "When can we test it out?"
"Well, I figure tomorrow morning. We can ask around town after breakfast. Hopefully, someone won’t mind if we apply some lead poisoning to their rodents."
"Oh man! I can’t wait to get behind this thing!"