This is my rifle - December 2nd 2012
2nd December 2012
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine... Well, it's not my rifle as it goes, but I will be armed throughout my time in arctic with a 12 gauge pump action shotgun as protection against the polar bears. Keen not to blow my feet off, it's quite important I know how to use one! Off to the Wylye Shooting Centre in Wiltshire I went...
Q. Why do you need a gun!? Hopefully I won't... but to quote Carlito Brigante (Pacino), I would much rather have a gun and not need it, than need a gun and not have it. Polar bears are phenomenally dangerous and I intend to avoid them at all costs - the gun is really my last resort...
Q. Do you know much about bears? Well, I am no Timothy Treadwell (see 'Grizzly Man'), but I have had some bear training in the past. Spending time up in Denali (Alaska), I had to sit through a rather fascinating 'bear defence lecture'. I have seen a fair few bears over the years and fair to say that regardless of any training, I still crap my pants and hope for the best.
Q. When would you actually fire this? The first few rounds of chamber are full of 'bear bangers', essentially mini grenades that explode after a fraction of a second after leaving the gun. The sound should (in theory) scare the pants off the bear and it will hopefully back away. Should he keep coming, we have some non lethal rounds to really scare it. Only after all options have been exhausted and if the bear is coming towards me aggressively do you fire live rounds.
Q. How would you feel about shooting a polar bear? This would be utterly devastating and I absolutely hope this never happens. It is quite rare to have to kill a bear, so I am hoping for once I fall into the percentage that makes up the large number... I am passionately against hunting and shooting for sport and the gun is purely for defence and used as a last resort. I am entering their territory and will do everything I possibly can to avoid me ever using the shotgun.
Q. What happens if you were to kill a bear? As polar bears are endangered species, any shootings will be investigated with almost the same level of diligence as a murder. You have to, by law, report the shooting and the Canadians will send a plane with a team to investigate and recover the bear. If you haven't followed all the protocols, there is a very good chance you will end up in jail.
Q. So, can you shoot? Actually, I was pretty good... only missed a few out of a whole box of cartridges, so would be pretty confident in hitting a bear. However, clay pigeons don't weigh 750kgs or run at you at 40kph... it also wasn't -50c. So who knows... The price of missing is pretty high.
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