Ever since the hijacking of airplanes at gunpoint became popular several years ago, commercial airlines have cracked down on sportsmen carrying rifles and shotguns on board. Some understanding pilots permit hunters to stow their firearms in the cockpit or even under their seats, but many airlines insist that guns be checked and carried in the baggage compartment, where they are quite likely to be handled without care. More than a few hunters have deplaned in Anchorage, James Bay or Nairobi to find that the delicate telescopic sights on their favorite rifles have been smashed or that the stocks on their valuable English double-barrel shotguns have been cracked or broken in two.
Some hunters have gone to extremes to get around this problem. One famous big-game hunter packed his guns in a large cardboard box, wrapped it with fancy paper and ribbons and managed to carry the box to his seat by explaining that it contained a rare and fragile Greek vase.
An easier and a more sensible approach is to use a sturdy luggage case designed to protect a valuable gun from the most violent blows. One of the best is available from Continental Arms Corp., 697 Fifth Ave., New York. Made of solid bass-wood covered with a tough water-repellent leatherlike plastic, the case is lined throughout with a thick cushion of foam rubber covered with soft pile. The gun lies flat between the layers of foam and is held firmly in place when the case is closed. It will hold a scoped rifle, as well as several boxes of ammunition and accessories. The case has brass hinges, three clasps (one with a lock), leather corner bumpers and a carrying handle. It is available in any size for one gun and costs $49.50. For an extra $10 Continental Arms will make up a case for two guns. Shooters should send along outline tracings of their guns.
Abercrombie & Fitch (New York, Chicago and San Francisco) has a lightweight thermoplastic luggage case with a moistureproof polyurethane foam lining that will hold a fullsize rifle with scope or two rifles or carbines without scopes. It is 48 inches long and 11 inches wide and sells for $30.
The hunter who packs in on horseback after bighorn sheep, mountain goat or elk needs a good saddle scabbard, one that will protect his rifle scope from being knocked or jarred out of alignment. The George Lawrence Company of 306 Southwest First Avenue, Portland, Ore. has a custom-made rifle scabbard of thick hand-molded saddle leather with two adjustable straps that can be buckled to the saddle, and a buckle-down boot, or top, to protect the rifle and scope from rain, snow or dust. The boot can be flipped back for quick access to the gun or removed when the weather permits. The Lawrence scabbard is thick enough to resist sharp briers and cactus and has a rich mahogany oil finish that makes it almost waterproof. Though basically a saddle scabbard, it also makes a handsome and practical carrying case for a rifle—the straps can be buckled together to make a shoulder sling or a handle. The Lawrence scabbard is made to order from an outline tracing of a rifle with scope mounted and should be ordered well in advance of a hunting trip. The price is $61 for the plain, oiled model. Basket-weave or flower designs, leather-laced edges and linings of woolskin or glove leather are extra.
A very compact and rugged case for takedown double-barrel or over-under shotguns is the Leg-o-Mutton, available from Abercrombie & Fitch for $50. Made of thick, oiled cowhide with a green felt lining, it has an adjustable divider to separate the barrels from the stock, a buckle-down cover, a sling strap and a carrying handle. Specify gun model and barrel length when ordering.
Continental Arms' zippered Double Gun Case of water-repellent duck is ideal for a shooter using a rifle and shotgun on a hunting trip. It has two well-padded pockets to hold the guns in place and a combined leather sling and carrying handle. It costs $40.
Browning Arms Company, 1706 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, has a flexible, zip-around gun case for shooters who can transport their rifles and shotguns by automobile. Covered with a heavy gauge, waterproof vinyl, the well-padded Browning case has a silicone-treated pile lining and double handles of vinyl-covered steel that come together around the nylon zipper track. The case, not the zipper track, supports the weight of the gun. Brass sling loops are attached to the case, but shooters must supply their own slings. A three-inch-wide elastic strip inside the case holds the gun butt in place when the case is partially opened. Browning makes five sizes (barrel lengths from 22 to 32 inches) for shotguns and rifles without scopes ($16.50), and three sizes for scoped rifles ($18).
RICHARD B OPPENHEIM