The Mama Mia Mishap


Shooting Times Magazine

June 1980



General Delivery

Horsethief, NM

(Sunday Night)

Alex Bartimo, Editor

Shooting Times

Box 1790

Peoria IL 61656


Dear Bart:


This isnít actually from Horsethief. Iím camped in the big timber about halfway up the side of San Miguel mountain. Saint Mike, we call it. You may not be able to read my poor handwriting because of the the watermarks on the paper. I know I should be weeping about missing the deadline on this monthís gun review, but Iím sorry to say these splotches werenít made by tears.

Rain and snow did that.

Iím trapped here, and itís my own fault. Down at the house in Horsethief, I contracted cabin fever. No pals had visited in more than a month. I donít take a newspaper (you can get bad news anywhere). Iíd read every book on the place at least twice, and Horsethief has no library or newsstand. We get one television station from Albuquerque via a repeater in the mountains, and it runs Bozo the Clown, As The World Flips, intriguing situation comedies about the family problems of New York taxi drivers, and wilderness stories about mountain men who feed themselves and their pet mountain lions with mushrooms and rosehips gathered in the dew.

My set is still like new-it never gets turned on.

The fact of the matter is, I was bored stiff when I got this foreign .380 you wanted shot and decided to make it my excuse to come up to this big stretch of forest belonging to a friend of mine. I was going to stay a couple of days, shoot, and drowse in the sunshine.

Didnít work out that way.

I like to carry extras, so I packed my old pickup with sleeping bag and big tarp, groceries for two or three days-including canned corned beef hash, chili con carne, coffee, bacon, eggs, and a sack of fresh biscuits. And one jug of Henry McKenna redeye to ward off the weeps around the evening fire. Luckily, I also brought a Coleman camp stove and lantern because I planned on cooking on an open fire.

I stowed the camera equipment, figuring on getting pictures of .380 on tree stump and (using a selftimer) heroic poses of my classic profile looking off into the horizon.

The trip up was nice. Plenty of sunshine. Few melting snowbanks left from winter. Jeep road a little tough on pickup, but made it to campsite okay. Strung lariat rope between two trees and wired end of tarp to it. Made lean-to. Took rocks from clear, cold stream and built fireplace. Gathered enough dead wood to last two days. Unrolled sleeping bag, laid holstered Ruger .44 beside it. Was home.

Built fire, had hash and biscuits, raunchy coffee. Took tot of McKenna while looking at stars. Wondered what city folks were doing. Turned in early.

Up before first light. Drizzling rain. Get GI poncho from truckís toolbox. Trouble getting fire going with wet wood. Pour on Coleman fuel. Burn fingersÖ..Biscuits, bacon and coffee.

Sitting in lean-to, I examine new .380. Most unusual. Called the Mama Mia. Made in Costa Rica by Hijos de Basura, S.A. and imported by Larson E. Rippoff Inc. Homossa Springs, Florida. Price: $469.98. About five inches long. Ten-shot staggered magazine extends one-half inch below butt. Double action with pull of approximately 20 pounds; single-action pull about 25 pounds.

Shiny plastic grips. Shiny plastic trigger guard (combat style). Shiny plastic sight rib and sights. Rear sight adjustable for windage. One click equals 12 inches at 25 yards.

Extra 48-shot magazine is curved. Might not do much for feeding but looks jazzy, making pistol five inches long and 1 ľ feet deep. Optional flash hider and grenade launcher supplied with my review gun. Extras cost only $189.98.

Many cast parts in pistol. Nothing wrong with well-cast parts, but these of somewhat lesser quality than lead soldiers I made as a boy.

Canít shoot, must wait out rain. Wait all day. Except for small supply under tarp, wood is soaked. Crank up Coleman stove. Chili and biscuits. Wish had brought tortillas and refried beans. Hit sack early. Sleeping bag feels damp.

Third day now. Raining harder. Decide to go home. Dismantle camp, pack truck. Trouble starting engine. Drive 10 feet from camp on muddy trail, skid, nose into boulder. Rear wheels spin. No four-wheel drive. No tire chains. Stuck. Rebuild camp. All wood wet. Hunker around Coleman stove. Things have to get better. Feast on bacon, eggs, soggy biscuits. Long pull at Henry McKenna, then dream in wet sleeping bag. Fourth day. Bear sign around truck. Glad I hadnít woke up. Might have made mistake and shot bear with .380. Wish I was in Horsethief, watching taxi driver program. Still no interest in mountain man and lion.

Go to stream for coffee water and wash. Bank full, running fast, water chocolate brown. Wash in muddy water and get gallon jug of emergency water from truck. Use sparingly. Going nuts.

Sun peeps through in afternoon. Rain stops, but pickup still stuck. Grab opportunity to shoot the Mama Mia. Staple dry targets from toolbox to big conifer pine. Have W.W. R-P, and Federal factory loads. Load 10 round magazine. Brace against tree now. Squeeze off first round at target. Low/left in 7 ring. Empty case smokestacks. Feed next round into chamber manually. Not on paper. Now shooting low/right 6s. Go through 20 shots, all hand operated. Group is high, right, low, left, 16 inches (diameter of tree).

Forty-eight-round magazine loaded and put in place. Will not feed first round. Note for first time that loading ramp is very steep-about 45 degree-and narrow. Get screwdriver kit from toolbox and dismantle pistol.

Many tool marks inside shiny exterior. Horseshoe rasp, maybe. Springs all piano wire type. Apparently from very small piano. After some difficulty, reassemble and try 48-round magazine again. No dice. Big magazine apparently meant to be handy place to carry ammunition.

Shoot single shot for a while. Groups donít improve. Curious square holes cut by bullets. Perhaps due to quadrangular rifling in bore. Try all brands of ammunition. Results the same.

See squirrel munching acorn in nearby tree. Very fat. Squirrel out of season, but I get an evil idea. Rations low. Squirrel rolled in biscuit crumbs and fried in bacon drippings would be great morale builder.

Sight seven inches high and left on squirrel with Mama Mia. And miss. Squirrel munches acorn. Hold upper right quadrant or rodent. Does not disturb dining squirrel. Working slide by hand, fire five quick shots. Squirrel looks on with interest. Think of going for .44 Magnum, but donít believe squirrel tail and ears would make good supper.

Fifth day. Grub low. Biscuits turning green. Hunting squirrels, porcupines, and even bears with .44 Magnum. Mighty hunter in magazine articles; dripping dud in wet forest.

Sixth day. Definitely in deep trouble. Old bones wonít stand up to 40-mile walkout. Wife home from Flower Arrangers Convention in Santa Fe by now. Will find me gone and cats unfed. Will be mildly irritated. Probably throw things. But she will call friends in State Police and Forest Service. They will check out jails, hospitals, then Kelly Canyon, Desert Saloon, El Paso. Then they will settle down to look for me. Shouldnít be longer than one more dayÖ.

Down to dregs of coffee by seventh morning. Broken clouds. Mama Mia WD-fortied and put away. Reading labels on empty hash cans. Stomach growling.

Suddenly hear chopper working way up canyon. Use Coleman fuel. Make smoky fire. Helicopter hovers, lands in mud near pickup. Pilot is Dick Shaw, a State Police friend.

Embarrassing situation. Shaw disgusted. Dismounts from machine, walks toward pot of weak coffee, gets dirty cup, and drinks. Sees Iím cold, wet. Gives me a cigarette.

ďHowíd you get yourself in this fix, Skeeter?Ē

Mutter something about big job I had to do-caught by weather. Shaw not at all sympathetic. Says he will radio for four-wheeler with chains and winch to come get me. Will probably cost at least $100. I say okay.

Shaw blasts off. I start breaking camp again. Must go home and face music. Will mail this letter tomorrow.

Might be just as well if this was one gun review that didnít get printed.

Su amigo,