Perfection is a shotgun

Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.


I would submit that few of us have a coherent idea of what de Saint Exupery meant when he wrote that.  The rear foot of a squirrel, for example, performs a difficult job consistently and one assumes has no extraneous parts, but imputing human understanding onto something so far beyond us, and which came into being without any goal beyond the moment-to-moment, has always seemed silly.  But I am not an engineer.


It must be the tirelessly accursed engineer within all humans which makes us think of stuff whenever perfection is mentioned.  It’s a concept worth interrogating, and reveals to us our status as tool makers and how irrevocably that process is built into how we understand anything.  Ironic and fitting then that the perfectest tools are those which allow us to come closest to the squirrel leaping from limb to limb without conscious thought or extra-bodily encumbrance.  For me, two tools come immediately to mind: the Citori pictured above, and my Werner paddle.  Why are they so good?  The answer brings up another St. Ex quotation:

“I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind.”

Before I owned the Citori I though I didn’t really need a shotgun.  Now, just like my paddle, I look for excuses to use it just because doing so is so pleasurable.  With the Werner I just paddle the water, and either have the muscle and skill to move the boat, or not.  With the Citori I stalk squirrels, grouse, and turkey in the woods, and either have the luck and skill to find them and put myself in position for a makeable shot, or I don’t.  Growth in either case is for the purposes of one human life unlimited.

I’ve mostly gotten over banging the Shuna on rocks, and realize that at some point quite a ways down the road even proper care will not be enough to prevent it from needing replacement.  The expense of the paddle pales before the Citori, which I have every intention of using for the next 67 years.  I hesitate to take it on backpacking trips and in a packraft.  Also, as a citizen of Montana M needed a shotgun.  So when I saw a fine old singleshot 16 gauge at a gun show recently I didn’t hesitate.


This Topper M48 has a serial number starting with an F, which means it was built in 1945.  The action is tight, the ejector rings crisp, the trigger pulls solid, the bluing on the receiver has been worn to tiger stripes, and the walnut stock is gorgeous, if well used.


One side of the forearm was obviously left too close to the wood stove at some point, but some linseed oil made that just another bit of character.  The forearm has worn against the barrel a bit, and needs a bit of shimming to take away the play.

Call it situational perfection.  Something some things are more predisposed to than others.

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