Hunting on horseback is one of life's finest experiences. Unfortunately, the combination of a fine rifle and a horse is a recipe for disaster. This is especially true if you don't offer the rifle some extra protection. The traditional saddle scabbard will attach the rifle to the horse, but does less than nothing toward keeping the rifle in one piece. Over 20 years ago, Elmer Keith realized that the ordinary "cowboy" scabbards could be bettered. His recipe for rifle protection was a full-length gun case, made from the best leather and closed with a zipper. The gun case was designed so that it could be carried horseback. The plan worked then and it works now.

Murray leather has taken the idea to its finest degree. Their Ultimate Scabbard gives a rifle as much protection as is realistic ...if it has to be close to a horse. The scabbard is made of heavy, high-quality saddle leather. The lining is extra-thick, synthetic "sheepskin." This lining is very kind to bluing and stock finish, is breathable, and won't hold moisture. The design of the scabbard is such that it completely encases the rifle. It closes with a heavy brass zipper that zips around the butt of the rifle. That is, the zipper starts at the trigger guard on the bottom, runs around the butt-plate and stops at the action on top. When it is unzipped, the end of the case opens butterfly-style, providing a large opening and good access to the rifle. When it is closed, nothing except the thick fleece touches the rifle. Heavy, lined, 1-1/4-inch straps attach the scabbard to the saddle's "D" rings. These straps go completely around the rifle, making the entire package extremely strong. The chance of any leather or hardware breaking, even in the worst wreck, is almost an impossibility.

This system essentially eliminates any kind of minor damage to the rifle that is so common with ordinary open scabbards. The leather is so heavy that it even prevents most bumps and bruises from contact with trees and heavy-brush trunks.
The usual scratches and abrasion caused by brush are completely eliminated. The rifle is kept clean, dry, and ready for action at all times.

This isn't a "quick-draw" rig, but the notion of jerking your rifle and shooting from the saddle has its best application in the movies. I carry my rifles either on the left or right side of the saddle, with the scope up and the muzzle forward. The action rides under the bend in my knee and really isn't noticeable. It is often beneficial to carry the rifle on the right side, if you get on from the left. The weight of the rifle helps balance the rig when you get in the saddle. It is possible to take the rifle out of the case while you're in the saddle, but the best plan is to get off and then get your rifle.

"This system essentially
eliminates any kind
of minor damage
to the rifle ...."

One thing I always do, is take the gun off of the horse if I am going to be away from him for even a few moments. As I said, horses and rifles are poison. Get off and leave your rifle, and expect the horse to roll, or run off. The Murray scabbard might help, but nothing except prevention will keep your rifle alive during the major wrecks. Taking the rifle in your hands every time you leave the horse is the best disaster prevention I know of.

I have run into some opposition, from guides and outfitters, to the size and weight of the full-length scabbards. My Murray weighs 8 pounds - not a sizeable amount if you balance your rig with camera and lunch on the opposite side. Actually only about 3 or 4 pounds more than a little scabbard.

The notion that our good gun protection is more apt to damage a horse than the little cowboy scabbards is mostly in their

Murray's Ultimate saddle scabbard completely encases your hunting rifle, offering maximum protection.

minds. I doubt if many men have ridden further with a rifle than Elmer Keith has. Nor have there been many with a better understanding of horses, saddles, dudes, and rifles. He used the big cases and you can be sure that he wouldn't adopt any system that would put his mounts out of commission. Good saddles, pads, and horses with decent whithers are far more significant than 4 extra pounds of gun case that can make your hunt a success.

I have done considerable riding with a Murray scabbard and have never seen a horse's back suffer because of the case. On the other hand I have seen lots of sore backs due to lousy tack.

The Murray Ultimate costs $$$. Yes, you're right, as much as an ordinary rifle, a small fraction of a fine custom rifle. In either case one horseback trip can put lifetimes of wear on a rifle. Bangs, jars, snow, pine needles, and dirt might keep you from having a successful hunt. The cost of the scabbard is cheap insurance that will last a long time. Murray leather makes several models of cases and scabbards as well as holsters, belts, slings, saddle-bags, duffel bags, and shell pouches. Every item is best quality, in the tradition of the finest saddle makers. Dick Murray understands the translation from a cow's hide to fine leather gear. High - quality leather, outstanding design, and not a stitch out of place.

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