I have had need of a gun when facing two-legged predators but twice thus far. However, I have had cause to wield a firearm for real numerous times against malevolent animals capable of killing me. This week was one for the books.
In the interest of full transparency, I really hate venomous snakes. There are doubtless those who feel that water moccasins are our pals whose irreplaceable contribution to the great circle of life is what keeps us from being utterly overrun by vermin. Whatever. Something else can eat the mice. It’s not like they’re endangered rhinos or federally protected snail darters. According to the WHO, venomous snakes typically kill between 81,000 and 138,000 people per annum worldwide.
I live in the Deep South. I stepped on a really big one once while out walking in the woods with my kids. It felt like I had trod upon Arnold Schwarzenegger’s forearm. I had that one ventilated with a .22 pistol at a slant range of three feet before my 7-year-old son walking behind me knew anything was amiss.
We have a lake on the place, and that attracts them like locusts. I killed thirteen moccasins the first year we lived here and nine the next. I snatched my precious daughter up one time when her little bare pink foot was about to come down on one coiled up on the back patio. In my corner of heaven they’re literally everywhere.
Know Your Enemy
There are four venomous snakes endemic to the US, only three of which are common. Coral snakes employ a neurotoxin akin to that of a cobra that is unimaginably lethal. However, coral snakes are by their nature docile and also fairly rare. I’ve never seen one in the wild. I’m told they have to gnaw on you a bit to do any real damage. The day I sit still and let a snake gnaw on me will be the day I vote Democrat.
The real players are the pit vipers—copperheads, water moccasins, and rattlesnakes of sundry flavors. These animals employ a hemotoxin that breaks down tissues and disrupts blood clotting.
Around 25% of poisonous snake bites are dry, meaning they do not involve envenomation. However, bites from pit vipers can produce some truly hideous wounds. I’ve seen a few as a physician, and snakebite is high up on my list of medical things I don’t want.
Antivenin is trade-named CroFab, and it costs $3,198 per dose. CroFab is made by milking poisonous snakes and synthesizing the nasty bits out of the venom. This stuff is injected into sheep, and the subsequent antibodies are harvested, cleaned, and tested. These antibodies are then dehydrated and packaged as a powder.
CroFab is polyvalent. This means that this one drug treats bites from all three pit vipers. As a result positive identification of the snake in question is not necessary.
Treating a snakebite can require a single dose of CroFab or quite a few. An article I read recently concerned a nine-year-old bitten on the big toe by a copperhead while at summer camp in Illinois. She kept the toe. However, her entire hospital stay cost $142,938. A friend bitten in the hand by a water moccasin ultimately shelled out $36,000 for the privilege. Did I mention that I really hate venomous snakes?
My bride and I walk around my rural farm about five days a week. I invariably carry a gun. This particular day I chose a really nice suppressed .22 rifle from TacSol. I slapped a ten-round magazine in place and called it good.
We struck out around the lake and saw a real monster as soon as we got near the water. He was swimming across the lake with his head held unnaturally high. Moccasins do that. He was heading away from me at a slant. If he got to the far bank I’d likely lose him. I’d conservatively estimate his size as breathtakingly gigantic.
I ran around the lake but could only get within about fifty meters before the brush got thick. I stopped, took a few deep breaths to steady my heart, and drew a bead off-hand. The snake was moving so I had to lead him just a hair.
The first round was right off his nose. The second was a bit behind. The third centerpunched the monster’s head. It sounded like I had hit a side of beef with a boat paddle. The massive snake rolled, showing me its cream-colored speckled belly. I jogged over close, found a small hole in the brush, and hit him with a single round of insurance amidships. A stream of bubbles erupted, and he headed down to meet Old Hob.
I caught my breath, suddenly feeling really good about being me. My beautiful bride had that “My hero!” look in her captivating eyes. One less water moccasin meant the world was now a better place. However, I needed some more ammo.
I jogged back to the house and dropped a box of fifty Federal Premium Hunter Match hollowpoints in my pocket. As I headed back to meet my wife I saw number two.
This one was almost but not quite as big as the first. He was heading across the lake at a leisurely pace. This time I could quietly slip around to roughly where the serpent planned to make landfall. He stopped about twenty-five meters out, curled his head back, and stared at me all hungry-like. I popped him between the eyes with a single round. My security shot pithed his gut, but he still floated.
If the hides aren’t terribly perforated I like skinning these things. The entrails smell like rotten fish, and you want to mind the pokey bits at the front. However, soak the skins in a 50/50 mixture of glycerin and rubbing alcohol and then stretch them out on a board and they’re quite pretty. The last couple of nice ones I had got eaten by something in my workshop. This would make a splendid replacement.
I ran over and mounted the canoe to fetch the demised beast. About halfway there number three broke cover and started trekking left to right. I paddled like a madman on an intercept course. Once within about twenty meters I swapped my paddle for my rifle and judged the geometry of the engagement.
The snake was moving left to right, while the canoe was slowing down of its own accord. I was about to launch a 40-grain bullet at about 1,000 fps from a moving platform at a moving target. Churning through all that math would have been a Gordian chore for a computerized fire control system. However, the system God designed that perches atop my homely shoulders managed it all in an instant. I blew this guy’s head off with a single round. Three up, three down, all in the span of ten minutes.
A brace of c-notes will land you a fabulous base model Ruger 10/22 from your local Walmart. This gun shoots straight and well. Many’s the burgeoning shooter has cut his or her teeth on such an entry-level smoke pole. However, the suppressed TacSol X-Ring Takedown rifle is the .22 rifle for professionals.
Everything about this gun is literally perfect. The extended charging handle is reversible. I keep mine on the left so I can run it with my weak hand.
The Magpul X-22 Backpacker furniture is indestructible and nicely executed. Lock the bolt to the rear, pull forward on a spring-loaded stud, give the barrel a twist, and the gun breaks in half for storage. The front half snaps into the bottom of the stock to make a nice compact package. Assembly takes less time to undertake than to describe.
The 6061-T6 aluminum receiver has a built-in 15-MOA Picatinny rail for optics, and there’s a rear port for cleaning access. The Ruger BX trigger breaks like a prom queen’s heart, while the extended magazine release makes mag changes fast and painless. The all-up weight of this gun is a paltry 3.7 pounds, so it is easy to tote.
My X-Ring Takedown rifle also sports a TacSol TSS integrally-suppressed barrel. This suppressor is the same diameter as a bull barrel, so it fits the Backpacker stock perfectly. It also includes a top-end set of fiber optic sights mounted both front and rear.
The can is aluminum, while the entrails are titanium. It is just stupid quiet. I can shoot this thing all day long without plugs in complete comfort.
I topped my Rolls Royce rifle off with a Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4x20mm optic. All up this rig is just crazy expensive. However, it carries like it’s not there, shoots like a laser, and lets me leave my muffs at home. I can consistently hit a target the size of my thumb on the move at fifty meters so long as I do my part.
Thanks to my TacSol rig there are currently three fewer deadly creatures wandering around my world waiting to poke me with poison. I’m stoked. That and my wife now thinks I’m kind of awesome.