I'm a gun-nut! I have been since my 5th birthday, when I received my first .22 rifle. It was given to me by my father. I was the proud owner of a Mossberg 44 U.S. ... but according to the markings on the barrel, the previous owner was the United States Government!

Since 1948 I have owned hundreds of firearms. Some have been real works of art, while others have been real pieces of, well, you get the idea.

I have owned at least two of everything that Ruger has ever manufactured, several old Winchester Model 70's (both pre-64 and pre-war), several new Winchesters, AMCs, Berettas, Brownings, Colts, Dalys, High Standards, Marlins, Oates & Waters, Remingtons, Rossis, Sakos, Smiths, Stars, and the list goes on and on.

It's difficult to say which was the best ... since each had it's own niche.

I enjoy shooting old single-action pistols at tin cans, but would never rely on one for defense.

I do hunt with two single-action revolvers. For deer and antelope from around 50 yards to 100 yards I use a Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 7-1/2 inch barrel, in .44 Remington Magnum. For the same animals at 50 yards or less, I use a Ruger Blackhawk with a 6-1/2 inch barrel in .357 Magnum. I don't believe in scopes on pistols (call me "old-fashioned"!), so I use it with what Bill thought proper at the time of its manufacture.

For a defensive pistol, I have had many, but found that there were three that I really enjoyed carrying, and felt confident in their ability to do the job, should they be called upon.

Thirty years ago I carried either a Smith 36 or 60. Small, light, and powerless! Then I switched to a Colt Government, nickel finish, white stag grips, in .38 Super. One hell of a looking gun, and the .38 Super is not a cartridge to sneeze at. But it was bulky, and drew a lot of smirks from my friends ... more than George Patton got over his ivory handled Colt SAA! (But then, I never had 4 stars on my shoulder!)

When Ruger began making double-action revolvers I switched to one of his Security Six models, in stainless and with a 2-3/8 inch barrel. Caliber? .357 Magnum, of course! This was a good pistol. Rugged, reliable, and accurate. But it was still heavy, and having accepted the general idea that more is better, I switched to a different pistol.

This one was a Smith Model 659, 9mm, 15-rounds! WOW! And I even carried a spare magazine! I was ready for anything ... however, everything never happened, and lugging all that weight and bulk became more of a problem than my original Colt.

Then I found Firestar! Small, compact, medium weight, Starvel finish, 7-round capacity, and best of all ... it was in .45 ACP! I could carry it all day, keep an extra magazine hidden away, and had the confidence to know that should the need ever arrive, the Firestar would work flawlessly.

Since then I have added the Firestar Plus in 9mm (both in blue and Starvel) and a S&W 645 in .45ACP to my carry gun list. I have also added the Taurus 85 and 605 (both in stainless) and a pair of Ruger SP101's (one in .38 Special and the other in .357 Magnum). Those four keep my old S&W 36's and 60's company on long and cold Montana winter nights ... but when the weather is warm and the clothing light, they do get "fresh air".

I still like the Firestar M-45, but find that I am carrying the Firestar Plus, with three 13-round magazines, more than the rest.

My first shotgun? Hell, that came really late in life! I never had any respect or love for shotguns. They were only used by those that couldn't hit a target with one bullet ... but eventually I bought a Savage O/U combination rifle/shotgun. it had a .22 Long Rifle top barrel, and a .410 shotgun bottom barrel. I killed a small critter with it once.

My first 'real' hunting rifle was a Winchester Model 70, purchased around 1961, in .243 Winchester. Blonde wood, dark blue finish, and a Weaver scope. I learned to hate light wood! But I used that rifle for years, hunting in Pennsylvania, California, and Wyoming.

After that things went either "up-hill" or "down-hill" rapidly! It depends on how you feel about guns! It seems that every month or two I would be buying another gun.

From around 1967, or so, the only guns I bought had to have "Ruger" stamped on them! I had every variety of his 10/22 semi-auto rifle. And I had every variety of his .44 semi-auto carbine. And I had Number 1 rifles in everything from .220 Swift to .45-70. But my favorites were the original model 77's.

First .22-250, then .220 Swift, then .243 Winchester, then 6mm Remington, then .25-06 Remington, then .264 Winchester Magnum, then 7mm Remington Magnum ... and the list goes on!

Some of the more different firearms I have owned were several Ruger Hawkeyes in .256 Winchester Magnum, a Marlin Model 62 in .256 Winchester Magnum, a Ruger Blackhawk in .30 Carbine, a Marlin Model 62 in .30 Carbine, a Thompson in .45 ACP, a Colt in 5.56mm, and a .22-50 (something I was working on while I was in California during my military days). It was a 50 cal. BMG casing necked-down to .22 caliber. We were trying to get a 29-grain sintered bullet to break the 5,000 fps mark. We never did...

Around 1970 I became more familiar with shotgunning. I had been in Pennsylvania for a few years and the guys that hung out at the gun shop were all into something called 'Trap Shooting'. They talked me into trying it one Sunday, and I finally found a use for a shotgun! My first was a Remington 1100-TC. And it worked just fine, until winter came around, and then it just gummed-up all the time.

I just had to have a shotgun that wouldn't get sluggish when the temperatures dropped, so I bought a Daly Superior Grade Single Barrel trap gun. I loved it so much that I shot the rib off of it! While it was away, I needed a gun, so it was a Browning BT-99, Single Barrel trap gun. Then I was introduced to 'doubles'. They are extremely difficult to shoot with a single barrel shotgun, so I had to have a Browning O/U. Diana Grade. (Soon to be accompanied by Midas and Pigeon grades.)

My last shotguns were Rugers in 20-gauge and 12-gauge. And, a Browning Grade VI.

About optics ... I have tried them all ... Weaver, Simmons, B&L, Redfield, Tasco, Swift, Nikon, and others. But I have found that the only 'scope that I couldn't break, the only 'scope that wouldn't fog-up, the only 'scope that held it's center when changing power, was Leupold! So all my optics, since 1968, have been Leupold. I don't even think about putting any other glass on one of my rifles! Sure, it's dumb to put a $500 scope on a $135 rifle! But I do it.

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Steves last known photo

Copyright Chris Hayes 2015