Category Archives: Rifleman

The Lightweight Rifle

Let’s Explore A Savage/Kimber Connection.

Early in the 20th century Savage developed a light bolt-action hunting rifle called the Model 1920. Later a few minor revisions were made. The revised model was called the 1920-1926. Two cartridge choices were offered, .250-3000 and .300 Savage.

Fewer than 12,000 were ever made. Savage dropped it from the catalog in 1931. A number of factors kept it from achieving popular acceptance, such as the American preference for lever actions. Those who wanted bolt-action rifles often wanted them in .30-06. The Depression ended what modest demand there was.

Nonetheless the 1920 was a landmark rifle. It was the first American-made, lightweight, bolt-action sporter and one of the first made anywhere. Unlike some early lightweights (such as the famous 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer), the1920 is a rifle—not a carbine—with either a 22- or 24-inch barrel. Depending on cartridge, barrel length and wood density, individual rifles weigh from just under 6 pounds to a few ounces over.

The action of the 1920 shows the influence of the Mauser 98 and ’03 Springfield, with two forward locking lugs, long external extractor and controlled-round feeding. The base of the bolt handle serves as a back-up/safety lug. The receiver is a machined section of steel tubing, while the recoil lug is a thick washer sandwiched between barrel and receiver. The original 1920 had a light, slim barrel and stock.
In The Rifle in America, Phillip B. Sharpe wrote, “The 1920 represented the latest and highest development of the American hunting rifle at the time of its introduction… it was considered the acme of perfection…The rifle as a whole shows extreme attention to detail… large locking lugs ensured extreme strength and this rifle was capable of handling the maximum pressures in use during its era.”

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The Kimber 84M Montana shares many qualities with the century-older Savage 1920: controlled-round-feed bolt action, integral blind magazine, 22-inch barrel, along with superb balance and handling. It has a tougher, more rigid synthetic stock, stainless steel metal, a far superior trigger and is adapted to scope use. As shown with steel rings/bases and Swarovski 3-10×42 scope, the Kimber weighs 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and the Savage weighs 6 pounds, 6 ounces. With alloy rings/bases and a lighter scope it would be easy enough to match the weights of the two rifles.

Savage supplied rifles for Roy Chapman Andrews’ 3rd Asiatic Expedition (1923) to Mongolia. Andrews wrote to the factory, “In the .250-3000 you have a splendid product” and praised its “astonishing shocking power.” He went on, “I am taking your model 1920 Bolt Action .250-3000 on the Third Asiatic Expedition… I consider it the best all-around rifle obtainable.”

The rifle has its faults. The trigger pull is terrible; the 1:14-inch twist (in .250-3000) limits bullet choice; there’s no convenient way to fit a scope. While I consider it historically significant, this is not a plea to bring it back. Rather, I’d like to convince shooters of the virtues of lightweight and moderate recoil, as well as excellent balance and handling.

Some lightweights are built by chopping and slimming the barrel. Personally I don’t much care for barrels under about 20 inches. They are loud, for one thing, and generally result in an unbalanced, muzzle-light rifle. What I want is a barrel length of 20 to 24 inches, balance point about 5 inches ahead of the trigger, moderate recoil and weight (loaded) of 6.5 to 7 pounds.

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The Kimber 84M Montana .223 is a shooter too. Five shots at 100 yards,
using reloads with Hornady 55-grain V-Max bullet delivered this group.

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Dave’s Savage 1920 .250-3000 left the factory September 11, 1920. John T. Callahan (P.O. Box 82, Southampton, MA 01073) can supply letters with date of manufacture and other interesting information for many Savage, Stevens and Fox firearms for a modest fee ($25 for most Savages, up to $40 for some double-barreled). The Lyman 54 bolt sleeve sight was an option on the 1920, standard on the 1926. The receiver bridge is slotted, should you prefer to load with clips.

I also want a scope, though I can get by with a receiver sight. Scope, rings and bases add at least 12 ounces and generally more. To stay under the weight limit, the rifle itself can’t weigh much over 5.75 pounds.

Jump forward nearly a century and compare the 1920 to my Kimber 84M Montana. The rifles have a lot in common. Bolt action, controlled-round feeding, blind magazine, 22-inch barrel and balance point 5 inches ahead of trigger. The Kimber has a really excellent trigger, a stable synthetic stock dimensioned for scope use, stainless steel barrel and action. Even with steel bases, rings and 3-10×42 Swarovski scope, the weight empty is 6 pounds, 9 ounces.

Keeping rifle weight under 6 pounds costs money, with most examples working into four figures. Currently, the 5.5-pound Savage Lightweight Hunter is one of the few (barely) under $1,000. Accepting just a bit more weight (say 6.25 to 6.5 pounds) opens up some attractively priced options, for example the Tikka T3 Lite and Ruger American. I’ll compromise a bit on weight, but not on balance, handling or recoil.

The biggest mistake people make is the “someday I might hunt moose so I better get a…” I have a 6.5-pound .30-06, and a .340 Weatherby a bit over 8 pounds. I consider them special-purpose tools. If the power is genuinely needed, they are marvelous devices. But they are not fun to shoot.

Okay, go ahead and get the .300 Magnum and get it out of your system. When high ammunition costs, recoil and muzzle blast lose their appeal get a light .243. Or look around and find a nice Savage 1920 .250-3000. A light, well-balanced rifle with moderate recoil is an absolute joy to shoot.
By Dave Anderson

84M Montana
Maker: Kimber
1 Lawton Street
Yonkers, NY 10705
(888) 243-4522
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/kimber/
Type: Bolt-action repeater,
Cartridge: .223 Rem (tested), .204, .243, .257
Roberts, 7mm-08, .308
Capacity: 5
Overall Length: 41.25 inches
Barrel: 22 inches
Weight: 5 pounds, 4 ounces
Length of pull: 13.6 inches
Finish: Stainless steel barrel/action
Stock: Kevlar/carbon fiber
Price: $1,359

Swarovski
2 Slater Road
Cranston, RI 02920
(800) 426-3089
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/swarovski-optik-north-america-ltd/

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What’s In A Word?

Dave Ponders Some Favorite
Quotes Regarding Rifles.

Rifles are special, and I enjoy and use all types of firearms. To my eyes no firearm matches the grace and beauty of a fine English double shotgun. I’ve fired more rounds and won more medals and trophies with handguns than any other type. But rifles, especially big-game rifles, are to me, the most appealing. I’ve assembled some quotes to try and explain why.

Brown on Resolution (1929) is a novel about leading seaman, Albert Brown during the First World War. A German warship is anchored near Resolution Island making repairs. Brown is on the island with a rifle. He wants to delay the ship to give British warships time to arrive, which he does by shooting anyone who appears on deck.

“On the one hand lay the ‘Zeithen’ with her ten, 6-inch guns, and her hundreds of crew, and her horsepower measured in thousands. On the other a lad of 5 foot, 8 inches, aged 20, dominating her and enforcing his will.

“But Brown was only powerful in consequence of his rifle; the handiest, neatest, most efficient piece of machinery ever devised by man. Not for the first time was the rifle altering the course of history. Brown was not a marvelously good shot…but he could handle his weapon in good workmanlike fashion; and the rifle asks no more.” — C.S. Forester, Brown on Resolution.

“We loved a great many things; birds and trees and books, and all things beautiful, and horses and rifles and children and hard work and the joy of life.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

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This little gem is one of the first 200 Remington 700 Ti rifles.
A .30-06, it puts a lot of power in a light package. Leupold
2.5-8×36 scope (Did I say the scope is my favorite?). Kicks a bit though.

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Rifles come in various formats. All have their place including
(above, left to right) Savage 99 .300 Savage, Winchester 88 .284,
Ruger .44 carbine, pre-’64 Winchester 70 Featherweight .270,
Ed Brown Damara 7mm-08, Sako Vixen .222, Browning BLR .358,
CZ-550 9.3×62 and a Ruger 77 .338 RCM. Rifles can be both
functional and beautiful.

“And—the rifle? Wouldn’t go out naked of a rifle. When shoes and clothes and food, when even hope is gone, we’ll have the rifle. When Grampa came here—did I tell you?—he had pepper and salt and a rifle. Nothing else. That goes.”—John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

During the Boer War, British regulars had a healthy respect for the marksmanship and field skills of the Boers. Rudyard Kipling summed it up in his poem Piet (pronounced Pete):

“And when there wasn’t aught to do

But camp and cattle guards,

I’ve fought with him the whole day through

At fifteen ’undred yards…

’Is Mauser for amusement an’ ’is pony for retreat,

I’ve known a lot o’ fellers shoot a dam’ sight worse than Piet.”

The movie Rio Bravo starred John Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance and Ricky Nelson as Colorado. In the movie, Chance was armed with a Winchester 92 carbine with the trademark big-loop lever, in addition to his holstered Colt revolver.

Colorado: “You always keep that carbine cocked?”

Sheriff Chance: “Only when I carry it.”

Colorado: “How come you carry a rifle?”

Sheriff Chance: “I found some were faster’n me with a short gun.”

“As Thomas Hudson reached for the rifle it was chunky and heavy in its clipped sheep-wool-lined case… he pulled it out by the butt and slid the case under the decking of the flying bridge. It was a .256 Mannlicher-Schoenauer … The stock and forearm were browned like a walnut, nut-meat with oil and rubbing, and the barrel, rubbed from months of carrying in a saddle bucket, was oil-slick, without a spot of rust. The cheek piece of the stock was worn smooth from his own cheek…

“It was really too good a gun to keep on a boat but Thomas Hudson was so fond of it and it reminded him of so many things, so many people and so many places that he liked to have it with him… it made him happy to pull it out of the case now and pull back the bolt and shove a shell into the breech.”— Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream.

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Carrying a favorite rifle in Africa is one of life’s great joys.
The rifle is Dave’s Weatherby Mk V Ultralight in .257 Wby with
4.5-14×40 Leupold. Dave shot this impala 60 years—almost to the
day—from the date Roy Weatherby shot his first African game.

“To me the rifle has always been the most romantic of all weapons, and of all rifles the one I love most is the rifle for big game… Because I love rifles and because I love wilderness country I have carried my rifles all over the North American continent, from the hot, dry, barren sheep mountains of northwest Sonora to the glaciers of the Yukon.” — Jack O’Connor, The Rifle Book.

“The musket, like the uniform livery of the dynastic armies that used it, was a mark of servitude. So short was its range that its effect could be harnessed to battle-winning purposes only by massing the musketeers in dense rank, and keeping them “closed up” at pike-point. The rifle, by contrast, was a weapon of individual skill… as Thomas Carlyle put it, “the rifle made all men tall. A rifleman was as good as any man.”— John Keegan, The Second World War.

“… the invention of the rifled barrel ranks as one of the world’s greatest inventions. The effect it has had on the course of history should never be underestimated.”— Jim Carmichel, The Book of the Rifle.

“A moral man may give away his treasures, but probably he should not sell them. Thus it is that at my advanced age I seek to find appreciative comrades who will provide good homes for my treasured rifles, but I will accept no money for them. The Queen is not for sale.”— Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle.

What do rifles mean to me? Big open country, wilderness and wildlife, independence and self-reliance, self-discipline and training, plinking at tin cans with Dad and his Savage .22, stalking red stag in Scotland, kudu in Africa, gophers in the pasture, silhouette matches and three-gun matches, plinking at tin cans with my daughter and her grandfather’s Savage .22…

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This .270 was built by three generations of the Biesen family:
Al, Roger and Paula. You might say Dave thinks rather highly
of it. The scope is his favorite light hunting rifle scope,
a Leupold 2.5-8×36.

Riding in the pickup with my friend Barrie looking for prairie dogs with our old ’50s-era CZ rifles, talking of bullets and powders and scopes and ballistics. Talking too of plans for a hunt in Africa, and resolutely not talking about Barrie’s next chemo session…

When I was born in 1949, the rifle in its modern form had been in existence for only about 50 years. By 1900 most of the elements were in place—breech-loading actions, self-contained cartridges, smokeless powder, jacketed bullets and relatively high velocities.

Which means I’ve had the good fortune to live through more than half of the modern era of the rifle. I like them all. One final quote, from my friend Jim Carmichel: “My favorite rifle is the one in my hands.”
By Dave Anderson

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A Vintage Performer

The Venerable 7x57mm.

The 7×57 has an illustrious history, nostalgia, performance and a worldwide reputation. The cartridge lets you feel a connection with great hunters of the past like W.D.M. Bell and Jim Corbett.

story has shown it is adequately powerful for most thin-skinned, non-dangerous game—and it has taken plenty of thick-skinned and dangerous game with the right loads in the right hands.

My own experience with the 7×57 is so trifling (around 15 or 20 whitetail and mule deer, along with a pronghorn or two) as to scarcely merit mention. Bell shot that many elephants with the cartridge in one day.

The load I used almost exclusively was the 139-grain Hornady, both pre- and post-Interlock, along with IMR-4350 in W-W cases with W-W standard large rifle primers.

I see current manuals have reduced maximum loads a little. I got my first chronograph (an Oehler Model 12) in 1982 and was pleased to find muzzle velocity averaged just under 2,900 fps—a bit on the warm side but no problem for a strong, modern action.

Current Winchester 70’s I’ve tried are exceptionally fine rifles. I was most impressed with the quality of a Featherweight .264 I recently purchased. When Winchester announced a special run of Featherweights in 7×57, I found a dealer with one in stock and bought it.

It’s a handsome little rifle with a light 22-inch barrel, weighing 6.75 pounds out of the box. The barrel is floated and has a 1:9.5-inch twist. It is on the long action with a 3.30-inch magazine box.

Using 168-grain Berger VLD hunting bullets I could seat the projectile to just engage the lands at an overall length of 3.24 inches, with the rounds fitting and feeding from the magazine. Incidentally, the website said magazine capacity is three cartridges. With mine the magazine holds five.
Most loads tested gave sub-MOA accuracy. The rifle is completely reliable and balances and handles beautifully. Trigger pull measured a crisp 3.5 pounds and was easily adjusted to around 2.75 pounds.

Some early 7×57 rifles were not particularly strong. Current SAAMI maximum average pressure standards for the 7×57 are 51,000 psi. MAP standards for comparable cartridges are: .280 Rem: 60,000 psi, 7mm-08 Rem: 61,000 psi, .270 Win: 65,000 psi.

Typical factory velocities (approximately) for the 7×57 for 139- to 140-grain bullets are 2,660 fps; 160-grain, 2,500 fps; 175-grain, 2,400 fps. How effective these loads are on game I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never fired a factory 7×57 round.

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For comparison, (left to right) are the 7mm-08 Rem topped with a 120-grain Barnes X,
the 7×57 Mauser with 139-grain Hornady and the .280 Rem with a 130-grain Speer. Case
lengths respectively are 2.035, 2.235 and 2.540 inches. Nominal case capacity in
grains of water (fired case full to brim) are 56, 59 and 67 grains.

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Dave used the 139-grain Hornady bullet on several deer and antelope with great success.
For those looking for long-range performance, (center) is a 168-grain Berger. Long loaded
in 7x57mm is the 175-grain roundnose (right, also a Hornady bullet), the type of bullet
with which the 7×57 first earned its reputation, (Although Bell preferred FMJ bullets
and once wrote his 7×57 barrel, “…has never been polluted with a softnose bullet.”)
Dave bought the RCBS dies in 1982. They must have been on the dealer’s shelf for
some time as they are marked as being made in 1977.

In a strong modern rifle, and with quality modern components, it is no trick at all to add 150 to 200 fps over factory loadings. Some go even further, but if I need more velocity I’ll get it with one of my .280 or .284 rifles. The charm of the 7×57 and 7mm-08 is excellent performance combined with moderate recoil, mild report and long barrel life.

With the aid of the Oehler 35P chronograph, the loads I settled on include 139-Hornady or 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2,850 fps, 162-grain Hornady A-Max or Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2,750, 168-grain Berger VLD Hunting at 2,700 and 175-grain Hornady Roundnose at 2,500.

IMR 4350 is still a good powder choice today, as is WW 760 (and its twin, Hodgdon H414). Two modern powders, Ramshot Hunter and Alliant RL-17, were real standouts with 140-grain bullets, achieving the desired velocity with moderate charge weights and with excellent accuracy.

The same powders worked well with 162-grain bullets though slower powders such as IMR-4831 and RL-19. Even H4831SC and Alliant RL-22 aren’t too slow for 175-grain bullets. Don’t know why, but the sight of a 7×57 cartridge loaded with a 175-grain RN bullet makes me want to shoot a moose.

Since the 7×57’s roots are European, I thought it appropriate to use optics whose roots are also European. On my Brno I fitted a Minox 3-9×40, a scope I’ve reported on earlier and like very much. On the new Winchester, I used a Meopta MeoPro 3-9×42 with BDC reticle. Though they have a European heritage, both of these scopes are assembled in the USA.

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Released as a limited edition, the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in 7×57 Mauser
is an outstanding rifle, accurate, reliable and well balanced. The scope is a 3-9×42
Meopta MeoPro with BDC reticle in Talley bases and rings. The MeoPro is very crisp
and sharp and a fine match for the rifle. The 7mm Mauser is a pleasant, straightforward
cartridge to reload with bullet weights from 100 to 175 grains available. Dave’s personal
favorite load is a 139- or 140-grain bullet at 2,900 fps.

This was my first experience with a Meopta scope. Not inexpensive, but quality and performance is at such a price it seems like a bargain.

Optics and optical coatings must be exceptional, as the resolution and brightness of the scope are just amazing. The view is like looking at a brighter world. Adjustments are crisp, accurate and repeatable.

I dunked the scope and froze it as usual, tests it passed easily. Aesthetically, it is a beautiful scope exuding quality. The heavy-duty construction carries a bit of a weight penalty. At nearly a pound, it is a wee bit heavy for a 3-9×42. But for such a quality instrument it’s a penalty I’ll gladly pay.

It makes a very effective and attractive combination with the new Winchester 70 Featherweight. I’m impressed with the combo in 7×57 and expect it to see a lot of use. If you’d rather have the 7mm-08 in a short action, or in stainless/synthetic, Winchester has those models as well, and I wouldn’t argue with your selection.

Unless of course we’re sitting around an evening campfire or a deer lodge, in which case we can happily argue the merits of our rifles. Most likely it won’t matter because by then we’ll already have taken our game.
By Dave Anderson

Model 70 Featherweight
Maker: Winchester Repeating Arms
275 Winchester Avenue
Morgan, UT 84050
(800) 333-3288
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/winchester-repeating-arms/
Action type: Bolt-action repeater, long action
Caliber: 7×57 Mauser
Capacity: 5
Stock: Walnut
Finish: Blued
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Overall Length: 42.75 inches
Weight: 6.75 pounds
Retail: $919.99

MeoPro 3-9×42
Maker: Meopta USA
50 Davids Drive
Hauppauge, NY 11788
(631) 436-5900
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/meopta-prerov-as/
Magnification: 3X-9X
Objective: 42mm
Eye Relief: 3.8 to 3.9 inches
Tube Diameter: 1 inch
Click Value: 1/4 MOA
Adjustment Range: 75 MOA windage & elevation
Weight: 15.73 ounces
Overall Length: 12.4 inches
Reticles: BDC (tested), ZPlex, 4
Price: $391.99

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6mm Dream Team

This Rifle/Scope Combo
Will Max Out The .243 Win.

The first rifle in .243 Winchester I ever purchased—more than 40 years ago—was a secondhand Remington Model 700 BDL. It was blue steel and walnut, of course, with (a bit of nostalgia for the old-timers) the RK-W “bowling pin” finish and impressed checkering.

Several other .243s have come and (mostly) stayed, including a mint pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 Featherweight, a Winchester Model 88, a couple of custom-barreled 700s and my current favorite, a Sako Finnlight. Except for one 24-inch Shilen, the rifles have either 20- or 22-inch barrels.

I checked the websites of well-known makers looking for a rifle featuring: 1) a 24-inch sporter weight barrel, 2) stainless steel and 3) a twist faster than 1:10 inches.

I’ll be darned if the trail didn’t lead right back to the Remington 700!

The 700 SPS Stainless featured here is one I bought off the rack at a local store. The 24-inch stainless barrel and action are nicely machined with a frosted matte finish. The rifle has a recessed muzzle crown, hinged floorplate and Allen-head action screws. The bolt operation is smooth and reliable. Everything functions as it should. On a certified scale it weighs 6 pounds, 10 ounces unscoped.

Out of the box, the trigger pull weighed 3.75 pounds. With the weight of the pull adjustment screw at its lightest, it broke at 3.25 pounds. Other than being about a pound heavier than I’d prefer, trigger quality was very good—no perceptible creep, a clean break and minimal overtravel.

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The synthetic stock of the Remington 700 SPS Stainless has two pressure
pads at the end of the forearm. They could be removed if you prefer a
free-floating barrel, but this rifle shot very well with the pads left in.

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The first powder Dave ever used in reloading the .243 was IMR-4350 and it remains one of the best. Excellent newer offerings include W-W 760, Ramshot Hunter, H-4350 and AA 4350. For bullets under 100 grains, he prefers RL-17, while W-W Supreme 780 gave the highest velocities with heavier bullets. The 1:9.125-inch twist of the Remington 700 SPS provided excellent accuracy with bullets such as the Hornady 87-grain V-Max and 95-grain Nosler BST.

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Hornady 87-grain V-Max with RL-17, just under 3,200 fps in the Remington 700 SPS Stainless, gave this group at 100 yards. Both the fine V-Max and the 95-grain Nosler BT shot consistently into 0.75 MOA with most powders tested.

The dimensions of the synthetic stock are well suited for scope use, with a 0.625-inch drop at both comb and heel, measured from the centerline of the bore. Remington provides a quality recoil pad. That may not be a big deal on a .243, but it’s a nice feature on heavier calibers.

I’ve noticed an improvement in injection-molded synthetic stocks in recent years, as manufacturers seem to be supplying more rigid stocks even in their basic packages. The SPS stock isn’t too bad, though there’s still a bit of flex in the forearm.

The tip of the forearm has two pressure pads contacting the barrel. We can debate the issue of free-floating vs. forearm pressure endlessly, though I tend to be an agnostic on the issue. The rifle will show you what it needs when you shoot it. Other than checking action screws for tightness, I shot the 700 just as it came, and it shot very well.

The barrel twist is 1:9.125-inch (I’m darned if I know why they didn’t make it an even 1:9). Accuracy with bullets no longer than about 1.15-inch was excellent. Two of my favorite bullets—Hornady’s 87-grain V-Max and Nosler’s 95-grain Ballistic Tip—both grouped five shots in 0.75 MOA or less.

I had hoped the twist was fast enough for some of the longer, ballistically efficient 105-grain bullets. Manufacturers generally recommend a 1:8-inch twist, but some shooters report good accuracy with 1:9-inch. Loaded to 3,000-plus fps, the Hornady 105-grain BTHP shot into an uninspiring 1 to 1.5 MOA. At 300 yards, groups were still around 3 inches, but with some of the bullet holes a bit on the oval side. At 600 yards, some bullets missed the 4-foot square target backing. In my rifle at least it appears to be just on the wrong side of stable enough. Oh well, it was worth a try.

The 87-grain V-Max doesn’t resist wind drift quite as well as the best 105’s, but with a ballistic coefficient of 0.400, it hangs in pretty well—especially considering it starts off about 200 fps faster. From the deck of my house I can shoot out to about 900 yards. If shooting 100-yard groups gets boring, try selecting a target from 400 to 900 yards, laser the range, dial in the correction and get a first-shot hit. Now try it on a windy day. You won’t get bored, I promise.

MODEL 700 SPS
Maker: Remington Arms Company LLC
P.O. Box 700, Madison, NC 27025
(800) 243-9700
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/remington-arms-co-llc/

Action: Bolt action
Caliber: .243 Win (tested)
Capacity: 4
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Barrel Twist: 1:9.125-inch
Finish: Matte stainless steel
Stock: Injection molded synthetic
Length Of Pull: 13.375 inches
Length Overall: 43.625 inches
Weight (Empty): 6 pounds, 10 ounces
Price: $805

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A Force to Be Reckoned With

Nightforce Optics has earned a reputation for quality and durability. Mostly when we think of Nightforce we think of big, powerful scopes such as the 5.5-22×50 or the 8-32×56 on dedicated competition and military rifles. But hunters shouldn’t overlook the Nightforce NXS Compact series, which offers toughness and durability in a package that’s practical for hunting rifles. Currently the line includes a 1-4×24, 2.5-10×32 and a 2.5-10×42.

Now, “compact” is a relative term. The 2.5-10×32 shown here has a 30mm main tube, is a foot long and weighs 19 ounces. By hunting scope standards it’s a bit more than full-size. But what a scope it is! Optics are crisp and sharp. Adjustments are dead on, reliable and repeatable.

What appears to be a parallax adjustment turret on the left side is actually the dial for the illuminated reticle. Recently Nightforce has introduced a new scope in the Compact series, a 2.5-10×42. I certainly wouldn’t go to the trouble of trading off my 32mm version, but given my choice of the two, I’d get the newer one, if only for its parallax adjustment capability.

With prices in the $1,400 and up range (depending on the reticle and other features), it’s a lot of scope for a hunting rifle. If you don’t plan to use turrets for long-range shooting, there are plenty of scopes costing far less that can be relied on to hold zero.

But if you want to spin turrets and get exactly the adjustment you dialed in—again and again—then the best you can buy is none too good.
By Dave Anderson

2.5-10×32 NXS COMPACT
Maker: Nightforce Optics, Inc.
336 Hazen Ln., Orofino, ID 83544
(208) 476-9814
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/nightforce-optics/

Magnification: 2.5X – 10X
Eye Relief: 3.7 inches
Objective Diameter: 32mm
Tube Diameter: 30mm
Overall Length: 12 inches
Weight: 19 ounces
Adjustment Range: 100 MOA elevation and windage
Adjustments: 1/4 MOA
Illumination: Variable intensity
Reticle: IHR (International Hunting Reticle)
Price: $1,400

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Across The Pond

Hunting—No—“Stalking”
The Red Deer In Scotland.

In Scotland, as throughout the UK, “hunting” means riding a horse and following a pack of hounds. What we in North America call hunting the Scots refer to as “shooting” or “stalking.”

Scotland has substantial and well-managed populations of roe deer and red deer. Roe deer are handsome little creatures comparable in size to our Coues deer. Red deer are the largest species hunted (OK, stalked) in the UK.

Red deer are distributed throughout Europe and seem to vary considerably in size, apparently depending on factors such as diet, weather, and genetics. In Scotland, red deer stags seem to run about the size of large mule deer, weighing around 225 to 300 pounds on the hoof.

For shooting roe deer centerfire .22 cartridges are acceptable with minimum 50-grain bullet, 2,450 fps muzzle velocity, and 1,000 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. For hunting all deer species minimum bullet weight is 100-grain, with the same 2,450 fps muzzle velocity minimum, and at least 1,750 ft-lb of muzzle energy.
In the rest of the UK, a rifle for red deer must be at least .243 caliber. While Scotland doesn’t specify caliber for red deer, the 100-grain bullet weight minimum in practical terms has the same effect.

The 2,450 fps minimum eliminates a lot of “deer cartridges “ of the .30-30, .32 Special, .303 Savage class, even some heavy bullet loads for the .300 Savage and .30-06.

On our Scotland visit we stayed at Corriemoille lodge, once the home of legendary African hunter W.D.M. Bell. During an early African safari, Bell kept the entourage fed by shooting hundreds of plains game animals using a 6.5×53 Mannlicher cartridge.

Colin Hendry (left) has been a Head Stalker on Scottish estates for some 35 years.
He and Dave made a long and interesting stalk on this red stag. Dave shot it at
about 80 yards using Colin’s Tikka T3 .243 Win fitted with 6X Zeiss scope, using
100-grain RWS cartridges.

After the .220 Swift cartridge was released Bell used it to hunt red stag on the estate. Both rounds would be illegal for red deer today, the 6.5 being too slow, and the Swift bullets too light.

While hunting (stalking!) red deer stags at the Scardroy estate in Scotland, I asked Head Stalker Colin Hendry for his thoughts on deer cartridges. Hendry has been Head Stalker for some 35 years, the last 20 at Scardroy.

“Seven mil (7×57 Mauser) is a good all-around cartridge for stags and hinds. The .270 is another good one, I find it a bit noisy, I have a suppressor on it now but still find it that little bit noisy. The suppressor is very useful, anything to keep the deer on your ground and not scare them too much.”

Another cartridge Hendry likes is the .25-06. “It shoots a good bullet, a fast bullet.” The 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser and the .308 Win are also popular with UK shooters.

Hendry does most of his own shooting with a Tikka T3 in .243 Win fitted with a 6X Zeiss scope. The “two-four-three” is highly regarded, though some consider it better suited to expert shooters and precision shot placement. For roe deer and pest control (foxes) the .223 and .22-250 Rem have a following.

Many foreign shooters prefer to avoid the hassle of traveling with firearms by using an “estate” rifle. Hendry says they get quite a few German shooters, who really like using their own rifles and put up with the inconvenience.

Often these German shooters use relatively powerful rifles such as 9.3×62 and 9.3×66. Such power isn’t needed for Scottish deer, but they use the same rifles to shoot boar in Germany, sometimes to hunt in Africa as well, and stick to their old favorites.

The bullet holes in this steel plate were put there by one of the most famous of African hunters.
On Dave’s Scotland trip he stayed at Corriemoille lodge, the home of legendary hunter W.D.M. Bell,
from the 1920s until his death in 1954. This old steel plate still stands not far from the house.
Bell evidently used it for targeting his rifles, possibly for testing penetration of various bullets.

The ammunition for the .243 we used was 100-grain softpoint loads from RWS. Colin Hendry has found these loads to give excellent accuracy in his Tikka. The bullet is a bit harder than most other cup-and-core 100-grain loads. Hendry likes it because it stays together, gives good penetration and won’t break up if it hits bone. Hunting partner Wayne van Zwoll and I both had 1-shot kills on broadside shots at close range (both at 60 yards) and in both cases the bullets exited.

Suppressors are very popular with Scottish riflemen. Of course they protect the hearing of the shooter and stalker, with a benefit of also tending to reduce recoil. Gamekeepers like the reduced noise, as it doesn’t alarm the remaining animals in the herd after the shot.

Another popular accessory is a bipod, all those I saw were made by Harris. Generally the shot comes after a hands-and-knees crawl followed by a belly slither to the crest of a hill, or at least a bit of a fold in the earth. The shot is taken from prone with bipod at close range. For red stag stalkers the sport is in getting close without the game ever being aware you’re in the area, then one sure shot and a clean kill.
By Dave Anderson

Lodging Upper Corriemoillie
Corriemoillie Lodge
Garve
Ross-Shire
IV23 2PY, Scotland, UK
Tel: +01997 414253
www.corriemoillie.com

Stag Stalking
Scardroy Sporting Estate
Scardroy, Strathconan
Ross-shire
IV6
Scotland, UK
Tel: +01997 477280
www.scardroy.com

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Kaitlyn’s Rifle

The Weatherby “Girls Hunt-2” .243.

The education system in America is making a concerted effort to demonize guns, shooting, and hunting. We’ve all heard the zero-tolerance horror stories: kids suspended for pointing a finger, nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun, or just saying the word “gun.”

Educators of previous generations used exactly the same tactics to terrify children about the dangers of drugs and sex. How did that work out again? So don’t curse the anti-gun zealots—they are getting more young people interested in the shooting sports than any pro-gun program ever could.

The increasing interest in shooting activities among young women has been particularly strong. Recently with several shooting projects on the go I was spending several hours a day at the range. Every day the range was busy, and invariably there were more women shooting than men—handguns, mostly, but a few were sighting in their hunting rifles.

My friend Kaitlyn Hanson recently acquired a new hunting rifle. Kaitlyn’s dad is a shooting buddy and friend of many years standing. Weatherby has a new GH-2 (“Girls Hunt Too”) model in its “WBY-X” series. As it is intended for young women hunters I decided to get the views of a young woman hunter. Oh the cleverness of me!

The Weatherby GH-2 model is based on the S2 Vanguard with a composite stock with black/red spider web design in several short-action cartridges, this one a .243 Win topped with a Redfield Revenge 3-9x42mm with Dial-n-Shoot option in Warne rings/Weaver bases. Knife by CRKT, binocular is 8x33HG by Minox.

The handsome stock of the Weatherby GH-2 has a removable spacer so length-of-pull can be either 12-1/2 or 13-5/8 inches. Other stock features include black/red spider web design, thick recoil pad, and sling swivel studs.

The Redfield Revenge 3-9x42mm scope comes with five bullet-drop compensating (BDC) dials. Standard dial has graduations in 1/4-MOA increments. Four additional dials are matched to approximately coincide with the trajectory of several popular cartridges/loads, or other loads with similar trajectories.

The Rifle

The GH2 It is based on the short-action Weatherby S2 Vanguard with 20-inch barrel. Metal finish is a matte blue, the same incidentally as used on the Mark V. The test rifle is chambered for Kaitlyn’s favorite cartridge, the .243 Win. It is also offered for other popular short cartridges.

The GH2 differs from the standard youth model in having an upgraded stock. Not only is it strikingly handsome with its black/red spider web design it is also stronger and more rigid than an injection-molded stock.
Length-of-pull can be adjusted by adding or removing a spacer, from 12-1/2 to 13-5/8 inches. Esthetically it looks much nicer without the spacer. I can’t get excited about the line between spacer and stock.

I suspect most women will prefer how the rifle handles with the spacer removed. Kaitlyn is 6-feet tall but still said she liked the shortened stock better, especially when wearing a heavy coat for cold weather. Just as an aside, the late Jeff Cooper, who stood about 6 feet, 2 inches, often wrote of the virtues of shorter stocks and felt the industry standard of around 13-1/2 inches was too long for most men.

The S2 Vanguard trigger is a gem. The trigger on the test rifle was one of the best factory triggers I’ve encountered, breaking crisply at 2 pounds after a short smooth takeup.

I shot the GH2 with Winchester and Black Hills ammo with bullet weights of 55, 95, and 100 grains. All gave sub-MOA groups—no surprise, since Weatherby guarantees it. Functioning was smooth and reliable. This is a terrific rifle both in appearance and performance.

Kaitlyn Hanson has been shooting and hunting with her dad, Al Hanson, since her early teens. Al is a knowledgeable collector of Winchester 76 rifles but for hunting he uses one of his Weatherby rifles, such as the Vanguard .270 carried here.

The Scope

I used the very strong Warne rings to attach a Redfield Revenge 3-9x42mm scope with Accu-Plex reticle and Dial-n-Shoot feature. It appears to be an excellent scope, attractive, well made, with good optics. It passed the warm water/deepfreeze test with no fogging or leaks, and adjustments proved accurate and repeatable.

The Accu-Range reticle can be used to estimate range, by turning the power ring while bracketing the game. Space between the thick portions of the reticle spans a 16-inch target (e.g. deer, antelope). On the top of the vertical reticle is a short hashmark—using it with the bottom thick part of the reticle spans 25 inches (e.g. elk). Once the target is bracketed, range to the nearest hundred yards shows at the top of the field-of-view.

Frankly, I much prefer a laser rangefinder to any bracketing system. I liked better the Dial-n-Shoot system. One elevation turret cap is marked in 1/4-MOA increments. Using whatever cartridge you like, it is possible to record the settings to match trajectory.

Four additional caps are provided, premarked to approximate the trajectories of several popular cartridges. With the .243 cap installed I sighted at 100 yards, reset the cap to zero, then used the dial to engage targets, rapidly switching from 230-, 450- to 100-yard targets (steel, approximately 8 inches) by spinning the dial. Darn thing worked perfectly! But I did use my LRF to get the ranges.

By the time you read this Kaitlyn and her dad should be out hunting with their Weatherby rifles, old and new, and I’m betting they both get their deer.
By Dave Anderson

Vanguard GH-2

Maker: Weatherby, Inc.
1605 Commerce Way
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 227-3600
www.weatherby.com
Action: Bolt, internal box magazine, Caliber: .243 Win (tested), .22-250, .223, 7-08, .308, Capacity: 5, Finish: Matte blue, Overall Length: 40″, Barrel Length: 20″, Weight: 7 pounds, Stock: Black/red spider web synthetic with removable spacer, Length-Of-Pull: 12-1/2″ to 13-5/8″ , Drop-At-Comb: 3/4″, Drop-At-Monte Carlo: 3/8″, Drop-At-Heel: 1-1/8″, Safety: 3-position,
Price: $749

Revenge 3-9x42mm Dial-n-Shoot

Maker: Redfield
14400 N.W. Greenbrier Pkwy.
Beaverton, OR 97005
(877) 798-9686
www.gunsmagazine.com/redfield
Magnification: 3X – 8.6X, Eye Relief: 3.5″, Tube Diameter: 1″, Overall Length: 12.4″, Adjustments: 1/4 MOA , Adjustment Range: 70-MOA elevation and windage, Weight: 14.8 ounces, Reticle: Accu-Plex, rangefinder feature (with indicators for 16″ and 25″ bracketing), 2 MOA tic marks on horizontal crosswire, Other Features: 5 BDC dials provided, Price: $229.99

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The Winchester .264 Win Mag Featherweight

The “Westerner” Returns With The Advantage Of Better Bullets And Ammo.

The current Winchester Featherweight Model 70 in .264 is an excellent marriage of rifle and cartridge. Last fall (November 2012 issue) I talked about my 1962-era M70 Westerner in .264 Mag. My Westerner with 26-inch barrel weighs 8-3/4 pounds, over 10 pounds all up. Winchester ads touted it as a mountain rifle. Maybe they were comparing it to a .470 double.

Winchester quickly chambered the pre-’64 Featherweight to .264. The 22-inch barrel gave velocities not much different from .270 figures with similar bullet weights, but with greater recoil and muzzle blast. They sold so poorly today they are valuable collectors’ items.

Though its initial burst of popularity is long since over, the .264 is still with us. One factor is the increased interest in long-range shooting. There are some mighty slippery bullets available in 6.5/.264 caliber. I think the .264 will always be a niche cartridge, a handloaders’ cartridge, for riflemen with specific performance requirements. I like it enough I purchased one of the new M70 Featherweights with 24-inch barrel.

The current Featherweight in .264 Mag uses a different barrel contour than the Featherweights for standard (.308/.30-06-based rounds with 0.473-inch case head diameter) cartridges. The classic Featherweight contour has a very short shank, extending only about 1/4 inch from the front of the receiver ring.

For the magnum cartridge with 0.532-inch case head diameter the new Featherweight barrel has a contour like the one used on the Sporter model. There’s a long, gently tapered shank extending past the chamber, then a straight taper to 0.605-inch (measured on my rifle) at the muzzle.

Obviously the extra steel adds weight. Winchester specs say the magnum Featherweights weigh 7-1/4 pounds. In fact weighed on a certified commercial scale my new .264 weighs 7-3/4 pounds. Another Featherweight I just purchased, in 7×57 Mauser with the light barrel, weighs 6-3/4 pounds on the same scale.

With Burris Z rings and a Leupold 6X scope, weight is 8 pounds, 10 ounces. For a “Featherweight,” those must be awfully heavy feathers from a big bird. The weight is about right for the .300 Win Mag cartridge, which is also available in this model. Still, it is over a pound lighter than my vintage Westerner. With the heavier barrel balance point is about 6 inches ahead of the trigger, a bit more muzzle heavy than my ideal.

Current Model 70s I’ve examined are very well made. In terms of fit, finish, and function this rifle is exceptionally well done. The stock wood is particularly nice which is maybe just luck of the draw.

Trigger pull out of the box is just about perfect for a hunting rifle with a crisp, virtually motionless break at 3 pounds. I saw nothing wrong with the original M70 trigger, and my perfectly normal reaction is to fear and resent change. But the new trigger is very good indeed, and time will tell how it stands up after years of use. As a matter of personal taste I wish the trigger piece itself was serrated instead of smooth.

The 24-inch barrel is free floated and has a 1:9-inch twist. Throating is such I could seat a Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet to just touch the lands with an overall cartridge length of 3.30 inches, with cartridges still able to fit and feed from the magazine. I may not always want to seat bullets to touch the lands but it is nice to have the option.

Winchester-Western’s 140-grain Power Points gave an average of 3,021 fps, very close to factory claim (3,030 fps). My Westerner with 26-inch barrel gave 3,107 with the same load. Nosler Trophy Grade loads with the 130-grain AccuBond bullet averaged just over 3,100 fps in the 24-inch barrel, 3,150 in 26-inch and with superb accuracy of around 0.75 MOA in both rifles. I also used some Nosler Custom loads with the 140-grain Partition at 2,960 in 24-inch, 3,010 in 26-inch, and 1-MOA accuracy.

These Nosler Trophy and Custom loads are a bit more costly ($49 and $56.20 per box respectively) but performance is exceptional. Plus if you’re a handloader, you’ll have Nosler’s superlative brass for your reloads. Speaking of reloads I’m getting excellent results with Ramshot Magnum powder, though comparable ultra-slow burners are appropriate as well.

I have two purposes for the new .264. With 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips, Barnes TTSX, or Hornady GMX bullets I get about 3,300 fps at the muzzle. On deer/antelope size game I can forget trajectory out to between 325 to 350 yards. Just hold on a vital area and make a clean trigger break.

The other role is long-range shooting with those lean, slippery 6.5mm, 140-grain javelins. The Berger VLD hunting bullet has the rather staggering ballistic coefficient of 0.612. The Hornady A-Max is close behind at 0.585. Although a 1:8-inch twist might be better for these long bullets, the 1:9 in my rifle seems to work.

Assuming 2,000 feet elevation, 3,100 fps muzzle velocity, from a 100-yard zero it takes just 22 MOA on the elevation turret to get to 1,000 yards. More importantly in a 10 mph full value wind bullet drift is less than 21 inches at 1,000 yards. As one who needs all the help available in dealing with wind I love this kind of performance.
By Dave Anderson

FEATHERWEIGHT
MAKER: Winchester
Repeating Arms
275 Winchester Ave.
Morgan UT 84050
(801) 876-2711
www.gunsmagazine.com/winchester-repeating-arms

Action: Controlled-feed bolt action, Caliber: .264 Win Mag (tested), 13 others, Capacity: 3+1, Barrel Length: 24″, Overall Length: 44-3/4″, Weight: 7 pounds, 4 ounces, Finish: Blue, Sights: None, drilled and tapped for mounts, Stock: Walnut, satin finished, Price: $919

FX II 6x36mm
Maker: Leupold
1440 N.W. Greenbriar Pkwy.
Beaverton, OR 97006
(503) 646-9171
www.gunsmagazine.com/leupold-stevens

Magnification: 5.9X (actual), Objective Diameter: 36mm, Eye Relief: 4.3″, Internal Adj. Range: 64 MOA elevation & windage at 100 yards, Click Value: 1/4 MOA, Tube Diameter: 1″, Weight: 10 ounces, Overall Length: 11.4″, Reticles: Duplex, Price: $374.99

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Light Recoil

If You Need To Rethink Hard-Kicking Guns.

Recoil isn’t a big deal, until it is. During the 2013 Shot Show I began seeing a lot of “junk” floating in my left eye. An ophthalmologist found two horseshoe-shaped tears in the retina.

Emergency and follow-up laser treatment isolated the tears, greatly reducing risk of a detached retina. All the docs said I was very lucky to get treatment before the retina detached.

According to the doctors a detached retina in someone with healthy eyes is most often caused a severe blow to the head, e.g. from boxing, or a vehicle accident. They didn’t seem to think recoil alone would be a cause (though I doubt they had ever fired, or seen fired, a really hard-kicking rifle).

The risk factors they identified are heredity, nearsightedness, and (ahem!) age. While recoil may not be a primary cause, I’d still like to keep recoil exposure to a minimum.

In this column I want to talk about getting the most performance for the least amount of recoil. The accompanying chart shows recoil velocity (RV) and recoil energy (RE) for a range of cartridges. The rifle weights and powder charges shown are typical, for comparison sake.
Recoil can be reduced by lighter bullets, slower velocities, smaller powder charges, or heavier rifles. We can, of course, change combinations of all four factors.

The powder charge plays a significant role in felt recoil. A larger case needs more powder than a smaller case to achieve the same velocity. Increasing velocity, assuming a constant bore size, is a game of diminishing returns.

rifle1

Dave bought this Ruger 77 Hawkeye .223 mainly to illustrate shooting tips in the Shooter’s Edge column. Rather to his surprise it has become one of his most-used rifles. With the outstanding Leupold 3.5-10 Mk IV scope, and bullets such as the 77-grain Sierra and 75-grain Hornady A-Max, it’ll shoot tiny groups at 100 yards, ring steel at half a mile, and do it all with negligible recoil.

For example, a .308 Win can accelerate 180-grain bullets to 2,600 fps with 44 grains of powder. A .300 H&H with its much larger combustion chamber may take 58 grains of powder just to reach the same 2,600 fps. Assuming an 8.5-pound rifle for both, recoil velocity is 11.3 fps vs. 12.4 fps, recoil energy 17.0 ft-lbs vs. 20.5 ft-lbs.

Of course the .300 H&H can shoot a 180 at 3,000 fps, which the .308 can’t. My point is, if we’re satisfied with 2,600 fps and want minimal recoil, it’s better to use a smaller case filled to capacity than to download a larger case.

Rifle weight matters. Strictly speaking there aren’t any hard-kicking cartridges, only hard-kicking rifles. Extreme examples: a Savage .338 Lapua I tested was quite pleasant to shoot—hardly a surprise since all-up weight was 18.5 pounds, with RV of 8.9 fps, RE 22.8 ft-lb. My early-model Remington 700 Ti .30-06 weighs just 7 pounds and has much more recoil, with RV 16.0, RE 28.0.

I believe it was Jeff Cooper who speculated one reason American shooters tend to be recoil-shy is they carry their own rifles and are concerned with weight. British hunters in pre-WW II Africa had gunbearers and were more concerned with rapid recoil recovery.
For unlimited centerfire shooting I like the .223 Rem. Where game regulations allow, and with appropriate bullets, it is a capable deer/antelope cartridge.

If a larger diameter bullet is required, with absolute minimum recoil, wildcats using 6mm to 7mm bullets on small cases, such as .222, .223, and .222 Rem Mag are worth considering. In my wife’s 7mm-08, a 120-grain bullet at 2,700 fps has proven to be a very effective deer load. The same ballistics could likely be achieved in a 22-inch barrel using the .222 Rem Mag case or the 7×45 Ingram (7mm x .223 Improved).

The .243 Win and 7mm-08 Rem are standouts, with a wide array of choices in both rifles and ammunition. I’m using this as an opportunity to spend time with some old favorites. I bought my first .250 Savage, a Ruger 77 in 1975 and have since added two Savages—a 1920 and a 99R.
Around 1981 I bought one of the new Winchester 70 Featherweights in 7×57 Mauser. I still have it, along with another 7×57, a classic Brno ZG-47.

Until I’m sure the eye business is squared away the plan is to hunt with a .223 delivering a 75-grain bullet at 2,800 and a .250 Savage delivering a 100-grain bullet at 2,800, or 7×57, 140-grain bullet at 2,800 fps. If I really need something bigger it will be my CZ-550 FS in 9.3×62, although I’ll likely add some weight to bring it to 10 pounds.
By Dave Anderson

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Air Power

From Airforce.

Modern air rifles are extremely accurate and durable. Cost per shot is low, making them ideal for training. For more than 50 years I’ve never been without at least one spring-piston air rifle.

My favorites are those of relatively modest power, such as .177 calibers with velocities in the 500 or 600 fps range. The rifles are fairly light, easy to cock, pleasant to shoot. They have all the power I need for controlling pests (mainly sparrows) around the farm, without damaging the barn and machine shed.

Just as with cartridge rifles, the lure of velocity and power is irresistible to many shooters. Certainly I get the attraction of 1,000+ fps power. Developing such power with a spring-piston rifle requires a powerful spring and a heavy receiver to contain it. The rifles tend to be heavy, difficult to cock, and hard on scopes.

One solution is two rifles, a 500 to 600 fps model for training and plinking, and a 1,000+ fps hunting model. Another is to select a Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) design. Some PCP rifles, such as those used in Olympic competition, are among the most highly developed, sophisticated rifles ever made.

Airforce airguns offer an outstanding line of PCP rifles. They are extremely well made. Considering the exceptional design, workmanship, and performance they are reasonably priced. They are virtually impossible to wear out with normal use. With no heavy power plant, the rifles are light compared to spring-piston rifles of comparable power.

PCP rifles have several advantages. For one, they are virtually recoilless. They don’t have the peculiar “double-shuffle” recoil of spring-piston designs, which is so hard on conventional scopes. With PCP rifles you can use any scope you’d use on a cartridge rifle.
Airforce rifles such as the Condor model allow the shooter to easily adjust power level, from 600 fps to as high as 1,250 fps, depending on caliber and pellet weight.

Since recoil isn’t a factor, why not just run at full power all the time? The principle advantage of reduced velocity is more shots per reservoir fill. In .22 caliber, a filled reservoir will give around 50 to 60 full-power shots, compared to 300 to 500 at reduced power.

For training, 10-meter competition, or small-pest control there’s no need for more than 600 fps. It’s more fun to be shooting than filling the air tank. But if you do need the power, for small game hunting or extended range shooting, just dial it in.

The .22 Condor rifle I’ve been shooting exudes quality in every respect. The barrel is by Lothar Walther, a company known for fine custom barrels. Trigger pull is 2-stage, with smooth take-up followed by a crisp break less than 3 pounds. The trigger piece itself is adjustable for position to suit individual shooters.

Rifleman

The Condor weighs 6.5 pounds and is one of the most powerful PCP air rifles made. Power is adjustable over a range of 600 to 1,300 fps, available in .177, .20, .22, and .25 calibers. A wide range of accessories enhance the utility of the Condor, such as a 4-16×50 scope and rings, bipod, fiber optic backup sight, thumbhole/accessory bar. The LS-1 laser sight, however, is discontinued. Photo: Airforce

Accurate

Accuracy was very good with groups (five shots at 50 yards) averaging in the 3/4-inch range. Be aware, though, even a light wind is the bane of accuracy with pellets. The combination of low ballistic coefficient and modest velocity (compared to centerfire cartridges) makes the pellets very wind sensitive. The only way I could get small groups was to wait for ideal conditions with virtually no perceptible breeze.

I like a “middle of the road” approach, so I used .22-caliber, 15-grain pellets at around 800 fps. There are hundreds of pellet brands, weights, and styles available. Part of the fun of airguns is finding the one, which works best for your needs. Another nod of respect, incidentally, to the Oehler 35P chronograph. It never failed to detect the little pellets and give an accurate velocity reading.

Much the easiest way to fill the air reservoir is from a scuba tank. The convenience of being able to refill at home likely makes it worthwhile to buy such a tank.

If you don’t want to buy a scuba tank, or if there’s no convenient location to get the tank refilled periodically, consider a hand pump (available from Airforce). It takes a bit of time and effort to pump the reservoir to full capacity, but it’s good exercise and it makes you independent of the need for outside assistance.

Those who still think of airguns as Red Ryder BB guns with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time might be shocked at what a quality PCP air rifle costs. No doubt they would be equally shocked at the high quality and high level of performance. Combining extreme precision with moderate cost per shot, the modern air rifle should be part of every rifleman’s battery.
By Dave Anderson

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Tight Turns

Rifling twist rates have been changing due to longer and longer bullets.

Jim Carmichel, whose wisdom I trust in all things involving the rifle, once wrote, “No shooting subject is more likely to make one sound like an expert, and at the same time prove him a fool, than a discussion of rifling twist.” And since Jim went on to say, “I hope I am quoted on this,” I’m happy to do so, and in turn, hope I can avoid sounding foolish.

Twist is generally measured in terms of distance traveled for one revolution of the projectile, for example one turn in ten inches, usually written as 1:10″. Twist can also be expressed in terms of calibers (e.g. a “40-caliber twist,” or in the angle of the rifling grooves relative to the bore axis, but we’ll stick with rotation/distance terms.

The purpose of rifling, of course, is to impart spin to the projectile so it follows a more consistent and predictable path. A projectile with little or no spin tends to go straight for a short distance, then move about unpredictably—which is why in baseball, when a knuckleballer is on the mound pitching, the catcher wears an oversize catcher’s mitt.
A sphere is relatively easy to stabilize, so early muzzle-loading rifles had twists such as 1:66″. The longer a projectile is, the faster it must be spinning to stabilize. Since heavier bullets are usually longer we tend to equate spin with bullet weight, though in fact bullet length is what matters.

Bullet stability depends on how rapidly the bullet is spinning. Rate of spin depends on two factors: rifling twist, and bullet velocity.

Compare two 0.224″ barrels, both with a 1:12″ twist, both firing identical 50-grain bullets. One is chambered in .222 Rem, with 3,000 fps muzzle velocity. At one turn per foot, and going 3,000 fps, it exits the bore spinning at 3,000 revolutions per second, 180,000 rpm.

The other is a .220 Swift with muzzle velocity of 4,000 fps. The bullet exits spinning at 4,000 revolutions per second, or 240,000 rpm. If we want the same rate of spin from our .222 Rem, we’ll need a barrel with a 1:9″ twist, which at a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps spins the bullet at 240,000 rpm.

If a bullet isn’t spinning fast enough the result is obvious; bullets yaw until they lose all semblance of stability and accuracy, tumble end for end, and hit the target flying sideways if they hit it at all.
The negative effects on a bullet spinning faster than necessary are less obvious; in fact there may not be any. If the bullet is out of balance, spinning it faster just makes things worse, though with today’s bullets you have to search hard to find a bad one.

A thin-jacketed bullet spun too fast may simply fly apart in flight. Now there’s a fairly obvious effect, though one a shooter can easily avoid by selecting bullets appropriate to velocity.

A faster twist opens more doors than it closes. It gives the shooter the option to use longer bullets. Any loss of accuracy with shorter bullets is generally either nonexistent or so small as to be important only to benchrest competitors.
For a long time riflemen firmly believed rate of twist should be just fast enough to stabilize the heaviest bullets which were likely to be used, and no faster. Factory rifles often had slower twists, for example 1:14″ in the .250 Savage, 1:12″ in the .244 Rem.
In recent years the trend has been to faster twists, for several reasons:

• Spitzer bullets are longer than roundnose bullets.
• Monometal bullets are less dense than lead-core bullets, and are longer for the same bullet weight.
• Ballistically efficient very-low drag (VLD) bullets are longer than conventional spitzer bullets.
If your rifle has a slower twist but does what you want, just keep on using it. I’m not going to quit shooting my various .222 to .220 Swift rifles just because they have 1:12″ and 1:14″ twists.

Twist rates for most current cartridges are adequate, but a few could use improvement. In a new .223 Rem or .243 Win rifle I want at least a 1:9″ twist. If you’re planning to use some of the heavier VLD bullets (75 grains in 0.224″ or 105 grains in 0.243″) a 1:8″ is a better choice. Any .223 Rem rifles I’ve bought recently have 1:8″ or 1:9″ twists.
In .243 Win I want at least a 1:9″ twist. I’d take a 1:8″ if it was offered or if I was installing a custom barrel. The other cartridge worth noting is the .308 Win. A lot of rifles for this cartridge have a 1:12″ twist. For use with heavier VLD bullets (175 grains and up) a 1:10″ would be better.
By Dave Anderson

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