The Truth About Guns

Sarah Palin Didn’t Bring Enough Gun. Or Did She?

The author of the article Sarah Palin’s bad shooting: Maybe it was a good thing at jumps through a lot of hoops to prove that it was OK for the former Alaskan governor to go caribou hunting with a .225 rifle. Even though Ms. Palin was not successful with it. I’ll share some of Craig Medred’s thoughts on the matter in a mo’. But as you read them keep in mind that Sarah’s a home town hero in Alaska and Medred’s operative philosophy is that there are a lot of hunters in the great white north without a great deal of funds to spend on ammo . . .

The so-called varmint rifle with which she shot at and repeatedly missed a caribou in TLC’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” was a .225-caliber Winchester. Given that, were the misses a bad thing or a good thing?

The .225 Winchester is a big sister of the .223 Remington, which is generally considered underpowered for hunting whitetail deer. A really, really big whitetail buck is about the size of the small caribou cow Palin shot. There is considerable debate among hunters about shooting deer with any of the .22-caliber center-fire cartridges, of which the .225 is one.

So, Sarah didn’t bring enough gun.

The .223 is not prone to knock caribou down on impact even if they are vitally wounded, but that is not a vital concern in Arctic Alaska, where there are about half-million caribou and very few people. The limit on caribou there is five per day, and some biologists have privately made an argument that wounding loss in some places might be a good thing. The Western Arctic caribou herd has for years been growing at a pace that threatens to overtax its range. Dead animals don’t graze.

So, confidentially, wounding is OK. She did bring enough gun.

Sarah Palin clearly doesn’t face an economic incentive to shoot a small gun.

She’s now a millionaire. There aren’t many of those in rural Alaska. Most rural residents shooting .22-caliber centerfire rifles have an economic reason to do so . . .

Some would consider the .30-30 marginal, if not inadequate, for shooting caribou, though it — like the .223 — has killed a lot of those animals. Many would consider all of the .22-calibers — from the .22 Hornet Swift through the .223 to the .22-250 Remington to the .223 Winchester Super Short Magnum — to be inadequate for deer, let alone caribou. And, in fact, some states ban anything smaller than the .243-caliber for deer hunting.

So no, she didn’t bring enough gun.

In Palin’s defense, shooters unanimously agree, the deadliest rifle is the one you shoot best. The odds of wounding go down and the odds of killing go up as cartridge size increases, but only to the point where rifle recoil becomes punishing and a hunter afraid of it starts to flinch and miss the target. Palin obviously knew enough about the recoil problem to inquire about the “kick” of the rifle she was handed after giving up on her .225 (a childhood rifle, like kind a father would buy a daughter?) after all those misses.

So yes, she did bring enough gun.

Had she hit the caribou with the .225 — given the shooting display — her hunting party would likely have been chasing a wounded animal across the tundra. That is not a criticism of Palin. There is unlikely to be anyone in Alaska who has done much caribou hunting who hasn’t at some point found herself, or himself, chasing a wounded caribou across the tundra. Responsible hunters like to be more humane than wolves in their killing of Alaska big game, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

So no, she didn’t bring enough gun.

Still, a big gun generally helps. The rifle Palin was handed in the end was a .300 Winchester Magnum, the big brother of the .30-06. It is the gun with which she finally made the kill. The 300 Win Mag sends a 180-grain bullet hurtling down range at more than 3,000 feet per second. It produces nearly 3,000 ft. lbs of energy at 100 yards. It is equivalent to getting dumped on by a ton and a half of force. It will kill quickly and cleanly. That is what has made it among one of the more popular cartridges in the 49th state.

So no, she didn’t. Glad that’s settled.