September 2000

Letter From Alaska

I get lots of mail from readers with interesting stories to tell, and occasionally, one is so compelling that I want to share it with the rest of the Gun Tests family. The following is from Charles Lakaytis, chief engineer for KBRW AM/FM in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost broadcast station in North America. It’s located at 72 degrees north and 155 degrees west. Chuck shares his insights on guns he thinks are right for living at the top of the world:


First of all I want to congratulate you on a wonderful magazine. I have nearly given up on the other gun magazines. All the other writers seem to be testing products when guests of the manufacturer at some fancy game ranch or resort. We all know there is a bunch of crap out there, and these guys are not about to do a report that will not get them invited back. I rely on your tests for purchase of my firearms. Enough said.

I am a rare bird. As you can see by my address, I live in one of the wildest places left on the face of the earth. I have had polar bears (Nanook to my Inupiat friends) in my front yard. I live within 50 yards of the shore of the Arctic Ocean. I am a member of the NRA and am a certified basic pistol and rifle instructor. I am also a member of the ACLU. My friends call me a “liberal with an attitude.”

I have a CCW permit from the State of Alaska. At last count I own seven handguns: two Colts, a Beretta, and four Smith & Wessons.

My personal carry is a S&W 242. Seven shots in the Bodyguard style, titanium and aluminum. Why do I carry it? Simple: It is small and light. I have a piece of masking tape over the barrel to keep the barrel clear when I carry it in my pocket. No holster needed. Have you noticed that the crop of holsters for the newest pistols weigh more than the guns?

I know about blah blah blah stopping power. Jeez, you’d think you need at least a .475 Linebaugh with atomic augmented bullets to discourage that drunk or drug dealer. Well, I think that two shots from my 124-grain .38 +Ps will pretty much protect me. I doubt very much that many “stopping power” writers would like to stand in that line of fire.

However, when I go to the villages for radio-repeater work, I carry a pretty much stock Para-Ordance P13-45. I have a large magazine-release button on it to help release a magazine when I wear Arctic gloves. It works, is simple, and shoots to point of aim.

When the Fish and Wildlife folks tell us that Nanook is on the prowl hereabouts, I carry my S&W Mountain Gun in .44 mag with 300-grain castcores. I hate to practice with it, as it is a bitch for recoil.

My favorite revolver is a S&W 686 Power Point done up by the Custom Shop. What a wonderful gun. Everyone should have one gun like that. I recently had a student, a 40-year-old woman from San Francisco who had never shot or even held a gun in her life. At the end of the instruction, she loved it. Strangely, she felt most comfortable shooting it double action. And boy, was she good. She now shoots a duplicate of my revolver with our club and humiliates a lot of the good old boys with the expensive rigs. Have you ever noticed that women will generally only buy things that work? They are not interested in the least in buying something for a grand or so and then fiddling with it.

My caribou gun is a Browning BLR in .308 with a Burris 4X scope. I call it my Scout Rifle—it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Cooper Scout rifle. It is just the ticket when shot off a snow machine or four-wheeler ATV. Very American. Now I know why horsemen liked those thin, nothing-sticking-out lever actions.

In the closet I have a Ruger #1 in .375 H&H. Just in case Nanook wants to climb in the bedroom window. Simple, beautiful and accurate enough.

Shotguns for ducks and geese up here? Well, I use what the Inupiat guys use. Good old 870. They work, don’t break, and are cheap. The guys have their eyes on the new Mossbergs, however.

And in Anaktuvuk Pass, the village store still sells a hell of a lot of .30/40 Krag ammo. It seems that decades ago a gazillion of the old Krags were sold to trading posts for $4 or $5. The posts then sold them to the hunters for $6 with ten rounds of ammunition. Not many of those old Krags are left, but the people up here have stuck with the caliber. After all, they want the meat and look askance at trophy hunters with the big mags. Last week I even saw an elder reloading on his front porch with, believe it or not, an old 301 tong tool. And I bet he has taken a hell of a lot more game than all the gun writers in the gun magazines.

Take care, and I hope we don’t all become dinosaurs.

—Charles Lakaytis