Mike “Duke” Venturino, GUNS Magazine
Photos: Yvonne Venturino
For our 20th wedding anniversary Yvonne presented me with a beautiful Damascus Bowie knife handmade by our friend Steve Brooks. What did I get her? Nothing! She caught me flatfooted because never before had we exchanged gifts for our wedding anniversaries. And neither did I plan to get her anything for our 38th one in 2016. Besides I was away at a gun show.
Fate intervened. At that gun show in Kalispell, Montana, a young fellow named Andy Larsson, owner of Skinner Sights visited me. He asked, “Do you have a moment to look at something?” Certainly, but little did I expect to buy it. And even less did I figure something called a Bush Pilot Kit to be Yvonne’s long awaited anniversary present.
Of course some readers must be thinking, “Sure, you found something you like and then used her as justification to buy it.” Not at all. I certainly do like it but she actually had asked for something similar. What Larsson unveiled for me was a nifty survival kit all rolled into a 22-inch package.
Yvonne and I are not pilots but we do drive about Montana in the wintertime. Also, Yvonne still loves her horses and envisioned having a camping kit including a gun. At only about 6-1/2 pounds and 22 inches in length, this Bush Pilot’s Kit is extremely handy. Of course the heart of such a kit must be a firearm. Some might think a small .22 rifle of some sort would be preferable. But Larsson has thought this through. Most people needing a survival kit are in country where critters can be harsh—as in bears or wolves—both of which we have in plenty here in Montana.
Therefore, a more powerful caliber is appropriate. Yet the firearm still need be small enough to fit into a kit. Larsson made a fine choice here. It’s a .44 Magnum lever action. But not just any lever action. It’s a takedown replica of Winchester’s Model 1892. Back in Winchester’s heyday of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of their special order options was a takedown feature.
For their 20th wedding anniversary Yvonne had this beautiful Damascus Bowie knife made for Duke by Steve Brooks.
The method by which this was accomplished is referred to as the interrupted thread. Instead of the barrel and receiver threads being totally around its circumference, they have smooth portions. To install, the barrel is turned 90 degrees, making it possible to slide it into the frame. When turned upright the threads engage. Of course, such thread engagement isn’t tight enough, so the full-length tubular magazine is threaded at its frame end. A lever on the muzzle end folds out to provide a handle. Once the magazine tube is dropped into the frame, by tightening it with the handle the barrel and receiver are snugged tight. Once tight, the handle folds back alongside the tube. Mounting or dismounting the barrel takes but a minute or so.
The heart of Larsson’s Bush Pilot kit is a fine replica of Winchester’s Model 1892 as produced by Chiappa Firearms of Italy. In the past some shoddy workmanship has shown up on Italian firearms. That is not the case with this Chiappa. It is a smoothly operating carbine with fine wood to metal fit. Consider the following as its bona fides. I bought this kit. It was not a “gun’riter present” and I don’t throw my bucks about lavishly.
Inscribed “Bush Pilot Skinner Sights Limited Edition” in two lines on the action’s left side, its 16-1/2-inch barrel is of octagon configuration. Rifling is six grooves with twist rate of 1:20 inches. All the metal is steel with a finish described as “stainless hard chrome.” Wood is semi-fancy walnut with nicely sanded oil finish. Buttstock shape is straight grip with a slightly curved steel buttplate as was standard on original Winchester levergun carbines. Length of pull is 13 inches. The walnut fore-end is capped in steel as were vintage Winchester rifles so Chiappa has combined the features of original ’92 carbines and rifles. The result is a fine little lever gun.
This is where the Skinner Sights come in. There is no open rear sight. Instead one of the Skinner aperture arrangements is dovetailed to the barrel. It has provision for windage by loosening a set screw and moving it laterally. There is a scale by which amount of movement can be judged. Also it can be easily changed for elevation by replacing the stem holding the aperture with a taller one. This likewise is done by loosening a single set screw. Front sight is also by Skinner; a fiber-optic red one also dovetailed to the barrel.
The left side of the receiver sports the Skinner Sights Bush Pilot Kit logo.
The rifle wears a Skinner Sights red fiber optic front sight.
To start dismounting the barrel, a lever at the end of the magazine tube folds out to provide a handle to unlock the magazine tube.
A Skinner Sights aperture rear is adjustable for windage.
Andy Larsson doesn’t intend this little lever gun for target shooting. Its purpose would be hunting or self-defense so it is pleasing that throwing it to your shoulder quickly brings the rear aperture in perfect alignment to your eye. It works for me and Yvonne both. She is a bit recoil shy so I’ve been having her mostly shoot .44 Specials in it with just a few full .44 Magnum factory loads. It’s perfectly sighted in windage-wise and varies slightly up and down by load fired. Function with the shorter .44 Special rounds is perfect.
As said earlier, this Chiappa .44 is only part of the kit. Inside that well-designed nylon pack are several other necessities for someone stranded out of doors. Next to a firearm, or perhaps even more important at times, is a knife. The Bush Pilot Kit contains a hefty one by the Ontario Knife Company. The blade is 7-inches long and overall length is 12 inches. Thickness at the hilt is 3/16 inch narrowing down to 1/8 inch just in front of the Micarta handle. On top of the blade is a small area of serrations that could be useful for cutting or breaking wire. In other words, this is a “utility knife” not a showpiece.
Along with a knife and firearm are means to start a fire. The Bush Pilot Kit has two methods. The easy one is a set of Titan stormproof flare matches in a waterproof container. I’d like to try one for a test but there are only a dozen so I didn’t waste one. The second method is a Doan Magnesium Fire Starter Tool. This is a 3-inch long by 3/8-inch thick piece of magnesium with a steel rod set into one side. In use, a small pile of magnesium shavings are sliced off with a knife. Then the knife is used to throw sparks into them by striking it against the steel.
The Bush Pilot Kit’s Chiappa .44 Magnum takedowns and fits in a 22-inch case with plenty of survival accessories.
Although the Chiappa Model 1892 take-down is chambered for .44 Magnum, Duke and Yvonne found that it functioned perfectly also with .44 Special loads (above). Some of the groups Yvonne fired at 25 yards (below) in getting the feel of the Chiappa Model 1892 and in checking its zero.
Included is a heavy duty sheath made of the same fabric as the larger kit bag. It can be dismounted from the kit and belt carried. On the sheath is a pocket for the Doan Magnesium Fire Starter. I think perhaps we will shift the Doan tool to another pocket and carry a knife sharpening steel in the sheath pocket.
Some might argue this point, but I’ve always told Yvonne the following when we were hunting in Montana’s mountains: If we get separated for some reason just follow water downhill and you will eventually come to people. Hence we have never carried a compass. However, one time I hunted on Quebec’s Anticosti Island where the terrain was flat as a pool table and densely forested. There I wished I had a compass and knew how to use it. The Bush Pilot Kit comes with a Brunton Tru-Arc 3 compass. I still do not know how to use one properly but I have former Army and Marine friends who can instruct me.
A component in this kit is similar to one that came in handy in the past. It is a tube tent. Many years ago I was caught out in the hills on horseback when an unseasonal snow storm brewed up. I strung a rope between two trees and crawled in my tube tent. It kept me warm and dry overnight. One big enough for two people comes with the Bush Pilot Kit along with 50 feet of mil-spec paracord to help string it.
It’s likely Yvonne and I will never have to use this Bush Pilot Kit for an emergency. After all, we have lived all these years in Montana without one. Still, it is an unobtrusive thing to have along. Besides, now I don’t carry the guilt of not having a return anniversary gift all those years ago.
Maker: Chiappa Firearms
1415 Stanley Ave, Dayton
Customized by: Skinner Sights
P.O. Box 1810
St. Ignatius, MT 59865
Type: Takedown lever action rifle
Caliber: .44 Magnum
Barrel length: 16-1/2 inches, octagon
Stock: Walnut, oil finished
Finish: Hard chrome
Ontario Knife Co. RAT-7 knife, DOAN magnesium fire starter, 50-feet Paracord,
Titan stormproof flare matches in waterproof container, Brunton Tru-Arc compass,
Space Blanket tube tent, Folding 22-inch takedown case.