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Better Call Bass Pro

April 13th, 2017

Mike Ehrmantraut is a Spendthrift

I’m highly distraught today, with ample reason. I’ve been watching Better Call Saul, and the writers completely screwed up the scenes in which Mike Ehrmantraut tries to kill Hector Salamanca with a scoped rifle.

Sorry if you’ve been asleep for two years and consider anything in the above paragraph to be a spoiler.

Mike went to some kind of outlaw gun dealer, and the dealer sold him a “7.62” bolt-action rifle with a scope. He sold it to him out of the back of a car, in the desert. They acted like they were handling canisters of sarin gas; as if there would be big trouble if anyone found out the deal was going down.

I have all sorts of problems with this.

First of all, what is a “7.62” sniper rifle? The Russians have a 30.06 equivalent called the 7.62mm x 54R, and you could certainly use it in a sniper rifle, but I’ve never heard of anything like that. Nothing modern, in a bolt action.

The Soviets used to use 7.62mm x 54R in their battle rifles, and they had sniper versions. That was like a billion years ago. Later on, they had a semiauto called the SVD or Dragunov. Other countries produced an AK74 version called the Romak III, PSL, and God knows what else. Mike’s gun didn’t look like any of these guns. It looked like a deer rifle with a cheap plastic camo stock. Is there a 7.62 rifle that looks like that? I’ve never heard of it.

Second thing…it’s 100% legal to own a sniper rifle, even in most totalitarian states where Hillary got most of the votes. Sniper rifles, with a number of weird exceptions, are similar, or even identical, to hunting rifles. In Vietnam, our snipers used the Winchester Model 70, which was (and is) a common deer rifle. Carlos Hathcock, the king of Vietnam snipers, used a Model 70 in 30.06 with an 8-power scope. I don’t actually recall the highest power among my (completely legal) scopes, but I believe it’s 14. Leupold sells a 25-power scope. You can just walk into a store and buy it, in front of a cop! No desert. No car trunk.

All Mike had to do was walk into a sporting goods store one state over, buy a deer rifle with cash, and go home. Or he could buy a used one in a private sale. He could shoot Salamanca with that and leave a mall-bought 30.06 round in him, and no one would have been able to trace it back to him. There are probably a hundred thousand 30.06 rifles in New Mexico. Throw the gun into a river, and you’re golden.

Mike’s rifle had what is known as a bull barrel or varmint barrel. This is a heavy barrel about an inch in diameter. The idea is that it will be slower to heat up and deflect than a thin barrel. Question: why do you need a bull barrel when you’re only shooting Hector once or twice? It’s not going to heat up. The gun would be heavier to carry through the desert than a gun with a regular barrel, and the cops would wonder why your sporting rifle (in a caliber not generally associated with prairie dog and coyote hunting) had a barrel like that. That barrel says, “I think I’m cute.” Way too flashy.

Here you go; I found Mike’s ideal rifle: the Savage Arms Model 11 BTH. It has a nifty target stock. Retail: $982. Legal, and not too expensive. Spend $500 on glass, and you’re ready to pop Salamanca.

Here’s something else that bugs me: Mike has terrible taste in pistols. I’ve seen him use a Beretta 92 and some kind of magnum snubnose revolver. Why? Why? Why?

The Beretta is a great-looking gun, but it’s not all that reliable, and it’s heavy. That stupid revolver is useless at over 20 feet, it’s heavy, it only holds 6 rounds, the recoil would be crazy, and it takes a long time to reload. A real Mike Ehrmantraut would have carried a Glock. It’s homely. It’s cheap. It’s incredibly reliable. It’s accurate. It’s light. It holds up to 18 rounds. You can’t trace the bullets because of the way the barrel is cut. Glocks are easy to find, and they are extremely common. No cop is going to say, “Well, we may not have a witness, but how many guys carry a Glock?”

I guess now I’ll Google and see if I’m wrong.

Well, now. Knowing relatively little about rifles, I did not know this: some people refer to the .308 Winchester round as 7.62mm. If you’re a gun person, you know that 7.62mm equals .30 caliber. Personally, when it comes to American rifles, I have always heard “308,” and I happen to have one, but maybe I’m out of the loop. Thing is, who carries one in bolt action? It’s a machine gun caliber, and it’s also used in the AR10, but bolt action?

Hmm…one website says .308 is the “standard” for sniping. Is that true? I hear so much about things like .338 Lapua and whatnot. I always assumed the .308 was out of style. I just figured we had gone straight from 30.06 to things like the .300 Winchester Magnum.

Google says Georgia Precision makes a bolt action .308 for snipers, and it does have a camo stock and bull barrel. Buy why would Mike want one? The recoil is bad, and .308 is not the greatest round for sniping. I mean, if you’re going to go with a Rolls-Royce, why not get a kooky boutique caliber that has less recoil and more accuracy? Why not a Creedmoor or Grendel or .260 Remington?

A slug in one of those calibers would be rare enough to get the cops’ attention, though. I guess .308 makes more sense. Same slug as a 30.06.

The Georgia Precision gun costs $4100 without glass or even a free beer coozy. What?? Mike wasn’t crazy. He would never have spent that much money to shoot a guy at 200 yards. I’ll tell you who would have: the guy whose Adam’s apple Mike bent in the parking garage. Remember? The guy who did a voice for a famous video game. After taking his gun and hitting him in the throat with it, Mike made fun of his Wilson Combat 1911. Guns like that are for plastic surgeons and securities traders who close both eyes when they shoot.

Imagine this. The cops find a dead Mexican with a weird .308 Prvi or Lapua or some such round in his chest. Then they find you with a $4100 .308 rifle. Is that a good situation to be in? No. You want a 30.06 with ammunition from Bass Pro Shop, plus a used rifle that cost you $750. If it’s accurate enough to hit an antelope, it will work fine on Hector.

Next time, maybe I’ll write about Mike tailing people in a highly distinctive 1988 Chrysler New Yorker. In a world jammed full of silver Japanese sedans, who in his right mind spies on people in an American car so out of style and butt ugly it would stand out in a wrecking yard even after crushing?

I guess I need to learn more about sniper rifles, but I am positive the Better Call Saul 7.62mm mess made no sense at all. You don’t need a rare gun in order to be a sniper, and whatever you buy will almost certainly be legal.

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13 Responses to “Better Call Bass Pro”

  1. Steve B Says:

    7.62 mm is considered a “NATO Standard” round, along with the 5.56 mm, because so many of our European and Middle Eastern allies use some variant of these two. Yes, the 7.62 is essentially a .308, but we continue to use the .308 terminology in most civilian models primarily because of our long-standing allergic reaction to the metric system.

    The M40 Marine Corps sniper rifle fires a .308. If you look online it will say “.308/7.62.” Basically the same round. I suspect true sniper rounds are packed with a tad more powder for higher muzzle velocity, and are tooled to a slightly higher spec. But your are absolutely correct; a .300 WinMag will about cut a human being in half with the right round, and is a bit more common than the M40. That or a Remington .308 could be hanging in the back window of any number of pickup trucks and no one would bat an eye.

  2. Juan Paxety Says:

    In an earlier episode, Mike looked at several rifles and he and the gun “trafficker” discussed the sniper rifle Mike had used in Vietnam. I think Mike wanted the same rifle as he was used to it. I don’t know what it would have been, but I do know that in the 60s and early 70s the army still used a few 7.62 rifles as well as the smaller caliber M16.

  3. Steve H. Says:

    Mike was a sniper? I didn’t remember that. I can’t see a sniper carrying that ridiculous revolver.

  4. Steve H. Says:

    NOW I see what’s happening. I found the episode on the cable box. Mike looked at three weapons when he was making plans to hit Tuco. One was the gun he took with him to visit Hector. The seller showed him the M40 he ended up buying.

    It still makes no sense. A totally legal rifle, being sold in secrecy like a kilo of cocaine, at an inflated price. He could have gotten the same basic gun (without the heavy barrel) in the parking lot at a gun show, without camo, in 30-06, for $400. Bud’s Gun Shop sells new M40’s for $652.

    The dealer also offered him an Armalite AR50, which is a 34-pound .50-caliber bolt action. He said the serial number had been ground off. I’m not sure I understand that. Removing serial numbers is for thieves, not assassins. If you’re going to kill someone with a rifle, what do you care if the cops find the gun in a creek and learn it was stolen?

    Also, why show someone a huge .50-caliber gun for shooting a weak old man with no cover? It’s not like Mike expected to shoot Hector from half a mile away, through both sides of a Hummer.

    I wonder if the show’s writers are from the Northeast. Maybe they think every state has ridiculous gun laws, and that buying a bolt-action rifle is a big deal.

  5. Monty James Says:

    I’m doing something wrong, I guess.

  6. Steve H. Says:

    You mean by not carrying a Desert Eagle AND a 1911?

  7. Monty James Says:

    Does putting tags in the body of the post mess it up?

  8. Steve H. Says:

    Danged if I know.

  9. Steve B Says:

    Generally, the only reason you carry a sidearm as a sniper is in the unfortunate eventuality that they bad guys get close enough you have to be shooting them inside 50 meters.

    I’ve always thought the desert eagle is the muscle car of the gun world. To own one, you’re pretty much compensating for something.

    1911’s are great for the I-want-something-to-die-the-first-time-I-shoot-it kinds of days. But a Ruger .40 with hollow points makes more sense and achieves almost the same goal. I’ve never seen he show to which you refer, so, I must assume they got their technical consulting from Huffington Post or something.

  10. Steve H. Says:

    I can’t imagine a sniper carrying a revolver with a tiny barrel and microscopic sight radius. If you’re used to using accurate weapons all day, surely you would feel funny carrying the Popeil Pocket Fisherman of firearms.

  11. Monty James Says:

    Fourth time’s the charm:

    The first part of my comment was in line with what Steve B. said, above, about the 7.62 NATO round.

    When we were trying to standardize small arms ammo for NATO, the British proposed a smaller cartridge with less recoil, .280 Enfield, which was sort of like the 6.5 Grendel. Long bullet, shorter case. They even developed and briefly adopted a bullpup rifle for it, the EM-2, then unadopted it and chose the FN FAL when we insisted on a full-power cartridge, the 7.62 NATO.

    And then a few years later we switched from 7.62 NATO to 5.56. And everyone else ended up going along. Now we’re talking about a more effective round like 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC. Which are bullets with diameters of .264 and .277 inches, respectively. So, more like a .280 Enfield.

  12. Steve H. Says:

    I might as well confess that I own a .308 sniper rifle. But when I order ammunition, I don’t Google “7.62.”

  13. Monty James Says:

    An informative video about the EM-2:

    British EM-2