GAYLORD, Mich. -- The Marine Propeller Manufacturer's Association is a thing.
I learned this Monday at the annual conference for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. During events like this, one shares a table with people from all sectors of the hunting, fishing, shooting and boating industries, as well as with fellow media members. One of my table mates on Monday was a representative from Yamaha Marine, whom you will meet at greater length at a later date. He had some phenomenal technology on display that is redefining the role of the outboard motor.
Yeah, I'm with you. Manufacturers introduce some "revolutionary" new thing every year that's going to change their industry, but it's always old technology with a shiny new wrapper. This is different, except for one thing. An outboard motor, no matter how advanced, needs a propeller, and there's a trade organization representing people that make boat propellers. Who knew?
"They're like every other manufacturer's group," my table mate said. "Nobody has any product to sell right now. So, when you go to one of their conventions, they've got these props on display, but you can't get them. So you've got all these people trying to buy their displays."
Representatives for FX Airguns are also attending the conference. We sampled some of their products at a local shooting range, and we were mighty impressed.
FX airguns are precision instruments that are engineered for accuracy and consistency. Like all high-end air rifles, they have match grade barrels. However, they also have valves that allow you to tune your air charge to your bullet and scope setting. For centerfire shooters, it's like metering individual powder charges for your rifle and pistol reloads. It also has micro and macro adjusters for the hammer spring tension.
One model has mounts for twin compressed air bottles.
Also available is a muzzle attachment that allows you to tune your barrel's harmonics to your bullet. It is similar to the BOSS system that Winchester and Browning once offered on their rifles.
The rifles load from a high-capacity disc magazine by way of a side-mounted cocking lever that operates effortlessly and fluidly.
FX airguns are available for calibers .177 to .35. In Arkansas, .40-cal. is the minimum size for deer hunting. They are designed and built for match shooting, and that is where they shine. Adjusting for drift in a very strong crosswind, I spun targets and rung steel with an FX airgun mounted on a tripod. If I competed in that arena, FX is the brand I would want.
We were delighted to meet Denny Guerink, a former Field & Stream editor who in the 1980s became the first American to hunt in the now defunct Soviet Union. That experience enabled him to open a highly successful hunting guide service across the Soviet Union and later, its former republics.
One of his clients was Earl O'Loughlin, a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general. Guerink said he wasn't sure how that would be received, but O'Loughlin insisted.
"Oh, and I want to bring a friend," O'Loughlin said. His guest was Jim McDivott, an Apollo 9 crew member. With great trepidation, Guerink said he asked his contact, a former KGB colonel, who gave his approval.
"You can come, but I'm not taking any responsibility for anything that might happen to you," Guerink said.
Upon landing, Guerink said he immediately spotted KGB agents waiting for them.
"You can spot them a mile away, and they came right to us," Guerink said. One of them asked, 'Which of you is Astronaut McDivott?' "
McDivott identified himself.
"And which of you is General O'Loughlin?"
O'Loughlin identified himself.
The KGB guys greeted them warmly.
During a vigorous vodka toasting session after killing a bear, O'Loughlin stood up and talked about having flown spy missions over the land they had hunted. Guerink tried vainly to silence him, but the room grew quiet as the interpreter translated O'Laughlin's words.
"One guy started talking real fast," Guerink said. "He said he was a fighter pilot, and that he had most certainly chased O'Loughlin trying to shoot him down.
They embraced and toasted each other exuberantly.
"O'Loughlin turned to me and said, 'Denny, this proves that the Cold War is over!' "