Steve Comus' Blog

    Steve Comus is a former Guns and Hunting Editor at WON. Before joining the staff at Western Outdoors more than a quarter-century ago he had a complete career as a frontline journalist with the L.A. afternoon daily Herald-Examiner, including quite a bit of foreign correspondence and years of investigative assignments.

    Since he took a break from WON, he has written articles for most of the major publications in the shooting sports industry, authored a couple of books and published a couple of others, spent a while as editor of Gun World magazine and is currently director of publications for Safari Club International.

     His writings focus on guns and shooting and all of the things that affect them, as well. 
A true carryall
I don’t very often get excited about something as basic as a sling – a device to carry things in the field. A sling is a sling is a sling, right? Not necessarily so.

One thing that decades in the fields, on the mountains and in the woods has taught me is that it is always better to hunt smarter than harder. Hard gets you tired. Smart gets you game. It’s that simple.

THE TENSING SHERPA sling is a really handy thing to have in the field when carrying things is part of the plan.

Usually when I talk about Tenzing products, the subject is some kind of pack. One of the best fanny packs I have used is from that company. So, when they announced a new sling, I took a look. Here’s what they say about it:

“The new Tenzing TZ SS15 Sherpa Sling is the ultimate carryall load sling – a relatively simple idea executed with maximum impact through Tenzing’s brand-defining engineering and attention to detail. The secret? The Sherpa Sling takes heavy loads off the back and arms and distributes them among the stronger muscle groups in the legs, shoulders and core.”

That means:

“The Sherpa Sling is designed to comfortably tote light or heavy loads, as well as any difficult or awkward-to-carry item. Sure, it makes a great bow, crossbow or rifle sling, but the TZ SS15 Sherpa Sling comes into its own when carrying the hunter’s tree stands, climbing ladders, coolers, decoy bags and more. Around the homestead, it’s the perfect tool for carrying propane tanks, firewood, hay bales… even laundry baskets. If you can secure the load with rope or any of the three included strap sets, the Sherpa Sling will carry it… easier and a lot more safely. The Tenzing TZ SS15 Sherpa Sling can attach to itself and be worn like a belt until its heavy lifting power is needed. When pressed into duty, the Sherpa Sling can be worn over a single shoulder, or across the body, bandolier-style.”

It is possible to use any number of straps, ropes and connectors to jury-rig the means to carry just about anything. The more awkward the shape/weight of what needs to be carried, the more complex such a rig needs to be.

That’s where the Sherpa Sling makes total sense. It is engineered to hold a really wide variety of loads in ways that make moving whatever it is easier.

The worse the terrain, the more that such rigs become important. For example, when negotiating the mountains, there is nothing more maddening than a shifting load, because the load always shifts exactly when doing so throws you off-balance. Bad news.

The Serpa Sling is among items to be introduced at the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades (SHOT) Show that is held in Las Vegas this month.


* 1¼-inch wide primary strap webbing

* 2¾-inch wide x ¼-inch thick non-slip Neoprene shoulder sling covered in Realtree Xtra Spandex

* 8-, 10- and 12-inch Hypalon carrying straps with Velcro closures to secure a variety of loads

* Duraflex hardware

* MSRP: $49.99

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

.30 caliber cartridge of choice
If hunters couldn’t kibitz about pet cartridges, what would they talk about around the campfire?

I am between deer camps – one here in the West for mule deer and the other in Wisconsin for whitetails. I chose caliber .30 for both.

In the recent deer camp, we were sitting around, chatting about rifles, cartridges etc. Normal discourse in camp, to be sure.

CALIBER .30 CARTRIDGES get the job done. Here, from left, are the .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum. They all shoot the same diameter bullets and the same bullet weights. Main difference is powder charge – bigger means more powder, which means more velocity for the same bullet weight.

Different folks had different ideas about what is best. When asked, I replied that for most hunting anymore, I use rifles chambered for the various .30 caliber rounds. Simplifies life.

On the mule deer hunt, I packed an HS Precision rig chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum, topped with a 6-24x Swarovski scope with TDS reticle. It’s a long-range rig, pure and simple. That’s because I was hunting canyons and open areas where longish shots are common.

That is the real reason for having a .300 mag – distance. Without getting into terribly detailed ballistics, the .300 mag gives a hunter a solid 100 yards more in usable distance when compared to the .30-06 Springfield, for example.

I rarely shoot long on game, but there are times when it is really handy to be able to do it with confidence. So, that’s why I was using a rig that delivers quarter to third-inch groups at 100 yards, and which shoots flat enough to go beyond the effective hunting distance of 400 yards for the ’06 and its .270 Winchester sibling.

For the whitetail hunt in Wisconsin, I am taking a new Ultra Light Arms rig in .308 Winchester, topped with a Leupold 2.5-8x36mm scope. NULA proprietor Melvin Forbes made up the rig for me, and it overlaps bullet holes at 100 yards.

Since I do not need the distance offered by the .300 mag on the farm in Wisconsin, where the longest shot possible is 200 yards, a handy, light little .308 makes total sense. Easier to take up and down from tree stands and easy to use, once in the confines of a tree stand, where sometimes it is handy to shoot from the opposite shoulder, etc.

The last time I hunted in Wisconsin, I used a .30-06 rig. Worked great. And for practical purposes, there is no effective difference on a hunt between an ’06 and .308.

Over the years, I have gone through caliber “phases.” Started out with .31 and .30, went to 7mm, then to .270 and now, back to .30. They all work fine.

It is heartening to see the .308/7.62 NATO make a significant market comeback as a result of the Modern Sporting Rifle ethic. I find myself using it more and more as the years pass. With today’s high tech bullets, it can do just about anything needed between varmints and big dangerous game.

One of these years, it may be the only cartridge family I still use for most hunts –.308 Winchester, .243 Winchester, .260 Remington or 7mm-08 Remington. All fine, short cartridges that fit nicely into light, handy rifles.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at scomus@cox. net.

Thanksgiving and hunting
Consider going on a hunt this year during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

For me, Thanksgiving means hunting. It is something that just was done when I was growing up. No one made a big deal of it. They just did it.

Typically, meat from the hunt was combined with other goodies to make a truly memorable feast — a feast that generally continued both formally and informally from Thursday through Sunday.

FAMILY HEIRLOOMS COME from different eras, depending on when they became part of a tradition. Here, for example, is a muzzleloader from the early 19th Century, a double-barreled shotgun from the early 20th Century, and a semi-auto from the early 21st Century. Each one was new at some point in its existence. Using a family heirloom on a Thanksgiving hunt adds still another level of meaning to the event.

There were no wild turkeys in the area where I grew up, so we hunted what was available — pheasants, quail, rabbits and such. Had they been available there at the time, we gladly would have added deer, moose or elk to the hunt and the menu.

Type of hunt and game is merely coincidental to the ethic of Thanksgiving. The operative concept is that hunting and Thanksgiving be combined, both in thought and deed.

And the hunt doesn’t have to be on Thanksgiving Day itself, although that is really nice if it can be scheduled that way. The hunt could be anytime during the long weekend.

Assuming these Thanks­giving Day forays are or become a family tradition, it is really fun to take along one or more of the family heirloom guns on the annual festival hunt. It adds another level of enjoyment to the overall experience.

Hunting is tradition. It is one of the original human activities. Truly, it, like the bounty from fields and woods celebrated originally in 1621 need to be practiced, in order to be passed on to future generations.

For those who do not think that they have a family heirloom gun, think again. A brand new gun this year can become an heirloom in the family if it is used annually for the Thanksgiving Safari. That’s what is so beautiful about the whole concept: It doesn’t matter when a person gets into the game, the only thing that matters is that they get into the game.

It is very easy not to go hunting over the Thanksgiving weekend. There are all kinds of other things to do, to say nothing of having to put together the entire feast itself.

There are sports games on television throughout the entire weekend, and all kinds sales at stores where shopping has become its own version of hunting for some folks.

And for some members of the family, those other kinds of activities make sense and are fine for them. But for those of us who enjoy hunting, Thanksgiving is special.

I still can remember vividly how excited I was to go on my first Thanksgiving hunt — I was a youngster. The year was 1949. Since then, I’ve missed Thanksgiving hunts only a very few times — when I was in the Army in far away places with strange sounding names.

Of course, I plan to go out again this Thanksgiving. It’s what I do. And I invite all to join me in spirit on such hunts during that special time of year. It’s the right thing to do.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at scomus@cox. net.

M-1 9mm Citadel Carbine
There is nothing like having fun with a gun.

The folks at Legacy Sports International have come up with a total winner in their new Citadel M1 carbine in 9mm Parabellum. This model is offered in wood or black synthetic stock and comes with two Beretta style 92FS 10-round magazines.

Action is blowback and weight is approximately 5.8 pounds. Barrel length is 18 inches, with overall length 35 inches. MSRP is $699.

AUTHOR SHOWS CITADEL M1-9 carbine. This is both a cute and fun.

So much for the specifications. Now about the fun. This is simply one FUN gun that shoots ammo that is both available and relatively inexpensive.

Although both plinking and small game hunting are logical applications for this model, fact is that it also would make a superb personal/home defense tool.

Because of its light weight, small overall size and uber-mild recoil, this is the kind of a gun that can be enjoyed by folks, both large and small, young and old.

When I took the carbine to the range to check it out, I did notice one thing about it, however. It loves to gobble lots and lots of ammo. Seemed like I would load a magazine and then the next thing I knew, the magazine was empty and the target had lots of holes in it, all clustered in the middle. What I am saying is that the carbine is so easy and fun to shoot that one tends to shoot it a lot.


NEW CITADEL 9MM CARBINE is true in both look and feel to the original GI M1 carbine of WWII and Korea times.

This model is fashioned after the U.S. M1 carbine of WWII/Korea fame. The original military version shot a .30 caliber bullet and was intended to serve the role that had been designated for handguns before. The military still issued handguns concurrently with the M1 carbine, however.

The whole idea from the get-go was to offer a carbine in lieu of a handgun to many of the officers and troops with the thought that they would be able to hit better with the carbine. Made sense then, and continues to make sense now.

I have no problem shooting much tighter groups with the M-1 9 Citadel carbine than I can shoot with a 9mm handgun.

But there is another “plus” to think about regarding this little gun. When coupled with a 9mm handgun, the world becomes much more fun (and effective). And, from a supply perspective, having both long and short guns chambered for the same cartridge means that it is easier to stock-up on just one flavor of ammo.

M1-9 CITADEL CARBINE shoots straight, as this five-shot group shows.

The carbine is made in Italy by Chiappa, a company that has been making news in the gun industry for some time with a wide variety of handguns, rifles and shotguns.

Whether it is the original GI M1 carbine, or this 9mm model, there simply is something about the look and feel of this particular design. Which means that if you pick up one in the store or at the range, changes are you will want to have one for yourself. It’s just that kind of a gun. Bang, bang.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

Umarex ‘Fuel’ Airgun puts silence first
Face it: airguns deliver more “bang” for the buck than anything else out there. Okay, so they don’t really go “bang.” But they do offer maximum shooting enjoyment, whether it is backyard plinking or small game hunting.

comusaccuracyisACCURACY IS GREAT with the Umarex Fuel air rifle. Here, the airgun is shown with two targets shot, using RWS Superdome field line pellets. The tighter group was shot at 10 yards and the larger group was shot at 25 yards.

Umarex has a real winner in the model they call the “Fuel.” This is a .177 barrel-cocking design that delivers pellets on-target at high speed and low noise. That’s because the Fuel has a really effective five-chamber noise dampener permanently affixed at the muzzle.

The reversed axis gas piston system not only works really well, but it also contributes to overall smooth operation, reduced vibration and felt recoil, which means increased delivered accuracy and consistent velocity.

But there is more. It has an adjustable trigger (the test rifle had an effective 5.5-pound trigger pull, right out of the box). It also has a handy integrated bipod system and comes equipped with micro-adjustable fiber optic rear barrel sight and fiber optic front sight. These are nice, but the rifle also comes with a 3-9x32 airgun specific scope that mounts onto a Picatinny rail base with rings that also are included. Truly, this rig has it all.

comusintegratedINTEGRATED BIPOD COMES standard with the Umarex Fuel air rifle. This is a really handy feature, whether shooting off the bench or in the field.

Velocity is rated at 1,200 fps with alloy pellets, and 1,000 fps with lead pellets. I used the RWS Superdome 8.3-grain field pellets. When I loaded them properly, they worked outstandingly in the rig. A note here about shooting pellet rifles. It is very important to load each pellet properly – it needs to be placed into the barrel straight, and needs to be fully seated before closing the action. The more consistent the loading procedure, the tighter the groups.

I was able to get overlapping three-shot groups at both 10 and 25 yards (smaller overlap group at the shorter distance). This is quite good enough to be effective for any use one might want to imagine for an air rifle.

Particularly pleasing is the relative ease with which the rifle can be cocked. For such actions, it is necessary to pull the rifled barrel downward, arcing the cocking movement around the pivot at the rear of the barrel.

Some air rifles are quite difficult to cock, which makes it hard for some folks to use them repeatedly and can degrade the fun factor, so to speak. The cocking routine for this rifle does take some effort, but not dauntingly so. Very nice. Makes one want to shoot it more.

During the cocking process, the rifle is automatically put into the “safe” mode, which means that the shooter must slide the manual safety lever before each shot. The safety lever is located fore of the trigger inside the trigger guard. To put the rifle on “safe,” push the safety lever forward. To put it off “safe,” push the lever rearward toward the trigger.

Anyone interested in getting a serious airgun should consider the Umarex Fuel model. Truly, it is a highly evolved airgun that comes with everything needed, right out of the box. That is very nice.

AUTHOR GETS READY to shoot the Umarex Fuel air rifle. Trigger finger is raised to show the trigger and manual safety lever that are located inside the trigger guard. Trigger is adjustable. Manual safety lever goes on “safe” when pushed forward, or off “safe” when pushed rearward.

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