The recent August issue of Outdoor Life featured a Q&A session I had with their gun editor, John Snow. I wanted to share that here with you guys, and OL kindly gave me permission to do that. So here’s what John wrote:
Lifelong hunter and gun enthusiast Cal Zant tapped into his engineering background to create PrecisionRifleBlog.com, one of the most informative sources for shooters on the web.
OL: How did you get involved in the outdoors?
CZ: I grew up in West Texas and have been around guns my whole live. I don’t even know how old I was when I got my first rifle and shotgun. I’m a hunter — always have been.
OL: What’s your favorite game to go after?
CZ: I love hunting whitetails, mule deer, hogs, and dove.
OL: When did you start shooting long-range?
CZ: I got into long-range shooting to improve as a hunter. I took a class where we shot out to 1,000 yards. My instructor was good and I got hooked. I love the elegant mix of science and art that goes into it.
OL: Your background is in computer engineering. Is it fair to say you’re a bit of a gun geek?
CZ: Definitely. I’m a nerd among nerds. The first time I shot at a target at a mile, I missed 20 times. I went back and did the calculations and figured out what I was doing wrong. Next time I hit it on the first shot. I had the Coriolis effect backwards.
OL: You’re a hunter, too. What’s your take on the long-range-hunting craze?
CZ: I know some guys who do that, and I’ve seen Facebook contests for who can take a deer at the longest distance. I don’t think most guys practice enough to do that. The way I see it, the ethical distance to shoot a deer is the distance at which you can hit a 10-inch plate 10 times out of 10. For some guys, that might be 200 yards; for others, it might be 800.
OL: When did you start PrecisionRifleBlog.com?
CZ: In 2012. I wrote for almost two years before I had a following.
OL: That’s certainly changed now. Was there a particular piece you did that put you on the map?
CZ: There’ve been a couple of them. The first one was the McMillian stock photo gallery I did. Then a buddy asked me what I thought he should look for when buying a scope. That’s a loaded question. Marketing people like to focus on what’s different about a scope and not about what you need. So I wrote a list of the features I look for when I’m interested in a scope. That post is still one of my highest rated blogs. And finally there’s my tactical scope test. I couldn’t be more proud of that—I put more than 400 hours into it. I didn’t expect that going into it. But if I set my mind to something, I’m going to finish it.
OL: What’s your general philosophy about testing gear?
CZ: Don’t take anything for granted. Measure everything. If I can’t find a way to objectively quantify something, I won’t write about it. I try hard to remove my opinions and let the data speak for itself. I’d rather my website disappear forever than be a source of bad information. If I’m not helping people, then I’ve wasted a lot of time here.
– Written by John Snow, and republished with permission. Originally published in the August 2015 issue of Outdoor Life, and related post on the Outdoor Life blog.
The interview matches my earlier impression from your muzzle brake test article. Another thing about long range shooting that I learned from an acquaintance is that whilst you may be able to kill the animal easily, you might not be able to get to it before the meat goes off on a hot day, due to tight scrub between your shooting position and where the animal has fallen. John was heavily into bow hunting before he got himself a Blaser Sniper rifle and returned to rifle hunting. He only made that mistake once and (apparently like you) believes in doing things right or not at all. Yes, the Blaser Sniper rifle is arguably a bit of overkill but he likes nice toys and is an ethical hunter.
Thanks for the feedback, Michael. And I hear you about getting to a downed animal. If you’re separated by a canyon and dense brush, it can be more than a little difficult to even find it. I literally get physically sick and fairly depressed when I’m unable to recover an animal I shot. I almost quit hunting all together when that happened on a buck I was hunting about 10 years ago. I just have a lot of respect for the animal, and don’t want it to die a painful or prolonged death for no reason.
In reality, wild animals rarely die a nice quiet death without pain and suffering (anthropomorphic statement applied here). I have done a lot of research on wildlife in my 40 year career as a biologist with telemetry and other methods on large mammals (deer, elk) and wild turkey. Animals usually starve or are eaten alive by predators. Old age and rest homes are not the norm. An animal that is not immediately killed by a lethal shot will be found and eaten quickly. The wild in not a kind and gentle place.
Agreed, Terry. Great points. It still doesn’t want me to take more risk that might lead to an unrecoverable animal. Too many guys Hail Mary a shot. I’ve seen it. I’m not that guy, and hope I never will be.
Congratulations to Mr. Zant! You do excellent work, sir. Keep it up! As a Gunsmith, I find your articles very helpful and informative, and gives me a great deal to teach to my customers when they come in looking for work to be done on their rifles. I look forward to your next article, sir.
Thanks, Will. Glad you’re finding some nuggets worth keeping the content. I really am just trying to help out.
I follow a while and helped me a lot in making deciciones.
Several times I did not agree with some personal choices, but not in the objectivity and methods.
I would love to have this product in Spanish for all my colleagues do not have difficulty with reading and could also read your articles. I make public the offer to help you create this blog in Spanish.
Big hug from Argentina.
Hey, Hernado! Glad you find the content helpful. I would love to offer the content in other languages, and even partner with you to do that … but the overhead to set that up is too much for me. I’ve done website localization in my professional career before, and it is a ton of work. The translation is only a small part of that. So I’m afraid I’ll have to decline the offer for now. If the website continues to grow, who knows … maybe I could afford to pay someone to help with the technical part of that at some point.
Thanks again for the encouragement!
John Snow? He knows nothing.
Saw his scope article awhile back and it was very good with the exception of weight. I don’t care what scope it is, I have almost not tolerance for a 40oz piece of glass. Everything else I agreed with him on.
Meant Cal on the second part of my post
John seems like a knowledgable guy to me. You might not agree with him, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid … it just means you have a difference of opinion. I use a heavy Schmidt & Bender 5-25 (like many of the other top shooters around the world) … am I dumb for doing that, or do we just have different priorities? It’s easy to get the contagious disease of dogmatism in this industry. I get it sometimes too. Like I said, it’s easy. But, we can still learn stuff from people even if we don’t agree with everything they say. Just something I try to keep in mind.
My guess is that “John Snow. He knows nothing.” Was a reference to Game of Thrones. There is a character named Jon Snow and they say that about him.
Either way thanks for your work on the blog it has been very informative for someone like me just starting to shoot a longer distances.
Ah … Sorry! I’m not a Game of Thrones guy, so I totally missed the reference. My bad! Sorry for the over-reaction. I appreciate the clarification.
Cal, the article was why you do this, and the article is why we read,follow, ask questions, take your expertise to the fullest. The main reason is because you are very good at what you do and are serious about the results.
I have read almost all your testing on all the products and have gained so much knowledge about shooting and the equipment i need to attain the best results.
Thanks, EC! That’s a big compliment. I really am just trying to help out fellow shooters and contribute to the community. Glad it’s hitting the target!