A Weighty Issue

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The Ideal Real-World Poundage For An
All-Day, Fully-Dressed Hunting Rifle Keeps
On Shrinking.

By Dave Anderson

A nicely balanced hunting rifle, chambered to a reasonably powered, flat-shooting cartridge and weighing 8 pounds “all-up” is a very useful tool. By “all-up,” I mean what the rifle tips the scales at when fully dressed for the field with scope, bases and rings, sling and cartridges.

In the 1960’s, my first deer rifles, a cut-down Lee Enfield .303 and a Winchester 94 .30-30, were well under 8 pounds, mainly because I used them with iron sights. But adding a scope meant giving the whole weight matter a bit more thought.

In the 1970’s, I assembled a few “8-ups,” notably a pre-’64 Winchester M70 Featherweight .30-06, a short-action Remington M700 .243 and a couple of Ruger 77’s in .250 Savage and .30-06. I also tried the Remington 600 (still have a couple, but never liked the muzzle-light balance).

In the 1980’s, Winchester reintroduced the M70 Featherweight, Remington brought out the Mountain Rifle, Ruger made a lightweight version of the M77 and the Browning A-Bolt came into the picture. I put together several 8-up ensembles. For the next 30 years, these were my go-to hunting rifles, and they’re by no means retired!

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Dave’s lightweight lineup (above) includes a Kimber Montana 84M in .223 Rem,
Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight in .240 Wby, Savage 11 Lightweight Hunter
in .260 Rem, Tikka T3 Superlite in .308 Win, Ruger American Compact in .243
Win and Sako 85 Finnlight in .243 Win. A few of Dave’s earlier 8-Ups include
(below, left to right) Remington M700 Mountain Rifle .280 Rem (3-9X Swarovski),
Browning A-Bolt Micro Medallion 7mm-08 Rem (Redfield Revolution 3-9X), Browning
A-Bolt Hunter .284 Win (Swarovski 6X), Brno ZG-47 7×57 Mauser (Leupold M8 6X),
1981-vintage Winchester M70 Featherweight .270 Win (Leupold M8 4X) and current
Winchester M70 Featherweight 7×57 Mauser (Leupold 2.5-8X).

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How Low?

Still, if 8-up was good, maybe 7-up would be better. Let’s first consider accessories. Two of the lightest scopes available are the Leupold 4X and 3-9×33 Ultralight, both weighing 9.3 ounces. A set of Talley lightweight 1-piece bases/rings runs 2.3 ounces. Four cartridges of the .260 or 7mm-08 Rem class weigh about 3 ounces. A couple of web/fabric slings I have weigh—respectively—3 and 4 ounces (with detachable swivels).

In total then, these accessories come to about 18 ounces. To keep all-up weight to 7 pounds, the basic rifle can weigh no more than 5 pounds, 14 ounces. A turn around the gunroom produced six rifles making the cut.

Just a note: I don’t really obsess about overall weight. I’ll admit I do obsess over balance and trigger quality. But if the assembly balances and handles the way I want, I don’t care about a 1/2-pound either way.

The reason I’ve come to like sub-6-pound rifles (basic weight) is they give you options. You can choose a light scope for an overall lightweight package or choose a heavy-duty tactical scope with durable adjustment turrets and still have a fairly fast-handling combo. Or you could fit a lightweight scope and use the weight saved for other accessories, such as a bipod or suppressor.

Some of the basic rifle weights I’ve shown differ from nominal factory specs. Weights were taken on a certified commercial scale and are accurate for the specific rifles listed. So let’s take a look at these “Sub-Sixers” in order of weight, beginning with the lightest.

The Kimber Montana 84M, .223 Rem (5 pounds, 6 ounces) is one of the very best of the lightweights, with a high-quality, synthetic stock and 22-inch barrel –– larger caliber versions are even lighter.

Since it’s so light, you have the option of using heavier, robust scopes suited for “turret spinning” (dialing in adjustments for shots at varying ranges). On mine is a 21-ounce Bushnell Elite Tactical 5-15X with Leupold DD rings. all-up weight is 7 pounds (empty).

The Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight, .240 Wby (5 pounds, 8 ounces) features a fluted, blackened stainless 24-inch barrel. This 6-lug Mark V version is a lightweight gem, and one I think is often overlooked. It seems to get lumped in with the 9-lug versions, which are chambered for most of the Weatherby proprietary cartridges, but are a pound heavier.

Although my .257 Wby on the 9-lug action is an all-time favorite, this one is something. It’s a special model made exclusively for the Canadian market. Weatherby’s Canadian distributor, Chris Profata, is a rifle enthusiast and hunting guide. Working with Dean Rumbaugh at Weatherby, they took another 1/2-pound off the already lightweight rifle with a carbon fiber stock. Mine’s got Talley lightweight mounts and a Leupold 4.5-14X scope. All-up weight is 6-1/2 pounds (empty).

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The Nightforce NXS 2.5-10X scope weighs about 19 ounces. So why fit a fairly
heavy scope on a .308 Tikka T3 SuperLite? Well, the tough, repeatable scope
adjustments allow dialing in corrections for shots from off the muzzle to
1,000 yards or more in a package weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

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These slings (with swivels) illustrate the difference even a simple
accessory can make in overall weight. From left to right, they weigh
11, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3 ounces respectively.

(Note: American shooters needn’t feel deprived. The standard 6-lug Ultra Lightweight in .270, .308 or .30-06 weighs 5 pounds, 14 ounces and still makes the 7-pound all-up mark. For cartridges of this power level, I wouldn’t want it any lighter. Current Mark V’s carry Weatherby’s sub-MOA guarantee. In terms of trigger pull, accuracy and overall quality, I think the current Mark V is the best ever.)

The Savage 11 Lightweight Hunter, .260 Rem (5 pounds, 12 ounces) with a 20-inch barrel and a Burris 3-9X Fullfield II in Weaver rings and bases is a nicely balanced, easy-handling setup.

Recent Savage design changes, such as the smooth barrel nut and unobtrusive bolt release, make it much more attractive than previous models. With an excellent trigger, fine accuracy and moderate price, this is an exceptional value. All-up Weight is 6 pounds, 13 ounces (empty).

The Tikka T3 SuperLite, .308 Win (5 pounds, 12 ounces) with its 22.4-inch fluted barrel is a variation of the stainless Lite. It doesn’t appear on the company website, although I have seen it on dealer shelves in the US, Canada and New Zealand. This rifle gave me another chance to put the weight saved into a heavier scope. I fitted it with a Nightforce NXS 2.5-10X, using Burris tactical bases and Z-rings. Still light and portable, it has the capability to engage and hit targets from off-the muzzle ranges out to a 1/2-mile or more. All-up Weight is 7 pounds, 6 ounces (empty).

Ruger American Compact in .243 Win (5 pounds 14 ounces) sports an 18-inch barrel and is the best value I know of in a sub-6-pound rifle. Mine is blued carbon steel (the dealer had it on sale), but (don’t do as I do, do as I say) get the All-Weather stainless steel version.

The Ruger is one of few .243’s with a 1:9-inch twist. I decided to stay in light overall mode with this rifle, so I fitted it with a Leupold Ultralight 3-9X variable. All-up Weight is 6 pounds, 10 ounces (empty).

Sako 85 Finnlight .243 Win (5 pounds, 14 ounces) wears a Swarovski 3-10X scope and has taken several deer without needing a second shot. I love this little rifle with its 20.3-inch fluted barrel. If it had a 1:8 instead of a 1:10 twist, it would be absolutely perfect. All-up Weight is 6 pounds, 7 ounces (empty).

You know, at the beginning, I said if 8-up was good, maybe 7-up would be better. Now I’m thinking… nah! Never happen.

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