column By: Steve Garbe | April, 18
Lately our travels have taken us to Sheryll’s homeland of New Zealand. We enjoy our trips there for the obvious reason that it allows us to visit family while dodging a significant portion of the cold Montana winter. Another thing that we both enjoy is that time spent there gives one a different perspective on many aspects of life, which I think makes us appreciate both places to a greater degree.
Obviously, being a certified gun crank, I can’t leave my interest in firearms back in the U.S. and have to seek out gun shops when I’m in New Zealand. Hunting and firearm competitions are still popular recreations in New Zealand and I’ve been lucky to have been involved in both. Of course, there are some differences concerning firearm regulation and ownership, but generally speaking they are easy to live with. I’ve written about the process of getting a firearms license in a previous issue of BPCN; probably the biggest thing one has to remember is that gun ownership in New Zealand is a privilege afforded to responsible individuals by the government and not a right guaranteed by a constitution. One can get into all manner of serious debates on that point, but deciding that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is the smart decision if you are an overseas visitor. I will say that being exposed to the firearms laws of another country does make me appreciate and treasure our own Second Amendment, however.
So, even though Sheryll rolled her eyes at me, one of the first things I did when I arrived in the “Land of The Long White Cloud” was proceed to the first available gun shop to see what was up. It is always interesting to see what is being offered for sale, their prices and availability. The first thing that a gun guy from the States will notice is that there is not nearly the wide assortment of firearms and accessories that we are used to. That being said, there is a ready supply of the basics. Just don’t expect to see the more esoteric stuff, especially when it comes to vintage or antique firearms. Prices can make you catch your breath, but one has to remember that the Kiwis (residents of New Zealand) are a long way from the source of supply.
New Zealand Hunting and Fishing in Palmerston North was my first stop and I was gratified to see a good selection of ammunition and reloading components. As in the States, I use a .22 rimfire for much of my recreational shooting, and they had a wide assortment of ammunition. The folks working there couldn’t have been more helpful, and in short order I was taken care of. My Martini .22 target rifle would be happy with a fresh supply of match ammunition.
Kiwis are naturally friendly and soon I was engaged in “gun talk” with several of the customers. I had to smile – you might find yourself in a different country but gun cranks are the same, no matter where you’re at. We were soon talking politics, as it related to firearms ownership and it was enlightening to see their opinions on issues taking place in the U.S. They were very interested in our new legislation on concealed carry and reciprocity over state lines. One can own handguns in New Zealand, but it is much more regulated than in America. Conversely, firearms suppressors (“silencers”) are still highly regulated in the States, whereas New Zealand has recognized the benefits of suppressors towards preserving the hearing of shooters. Virtually every rifle one sees, including rimfires, are fit with threads for attaching a suppressor. No extra forms or regulation; just pay for a suppressor when you purchase that new firearm and out the door you go. My new Kiwi acquaintances couldn’t believe how involved the procedure was in the United States for buying and owning a suppressor. They told me that many landowners were now requiring suppressors on firearms used by hunters in order to minimize the disturbance to livestock. Being a black powder shooter, I was a little dismayed to hear this, but they assured me that once a farmer knew that I would be using black powder there would be no problem. I guess the “boom” of a Martini-Henry is preferable to the sharp, cracking report of a modern centerfire.
As I left, having made several new friends, I reflected on the fact that gun people, no matter where they are from, speak the same language. I was also impressed with the friendly attitude shown to me by New Zealand shooters, much like what one encounters at any black powder match in the States. Shooters, especially rifle shooters, are just naturally friendly and helpful no matter where they live. I hope that never changes, both in New Zealand and the United States.
* * *
We recently received the sad news that our good friend Steve Rhoades passed away. Steve was an enthusiastic rifleman, expert gunsmith and tireless promoter of black powder cartridge competition. Largely through his efforts, the Ben Avery range in Phoenix, Arizona, became one of the most popular destinations for black powder riflemen throughout the United States. To say that he will be missed in the BPCR community is a huge understatement.
Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. Steve will be missed by all who knew him and our sport is truly diminished by his passing. Take a moment to reflect at your next match on individuals like Steve who have given unselfishly of their time to promote the black powder shooting sports. Without them and their efforts, we would not have the competitions that we enjoy today. – Gut Ziel