Category Archives: Rifleman

Forgotten Speed Demon

The .264 Winchester Magnum Has Many Attributes Today’s Shooters Demand.

The .257 Weatherby Magnum and .264 Winchester Magnum are remarkable cartridges. They deliver very high velocity with ballistically efficient bullets, with tolerable recoil.
Many shooters were intrigued by the .257’s ballistics, but not enough to lay out the bucks for a Mk V. When Weatherby began offering the Vanguard in .257 Weatherby, demand exceeded all expectations. The Weatherby Vanguard is one of the best sporting rifles available and, at current prices, a fantastic value. The popularity of the .257 is probably higher now than it has ever been.

Other factors include increased interest in long-range shooting; more choices in slow-burning powders, slippery low-drag bullets, monometal bullets which maintain their integrity even at high impact velocity. The increased popularity of the .257 seems to have renewed interest in the .264.

They are about as alike as two cartridges can get. My fired W-W .264 cases averaged 86-grain water capacity, compared to an 87.5-grain average for fired Weatherby/Norma .257 cases, an insignificant difference.

Bullet diameter difference is just .007″, really not very much. Mind you—the same .007″ difference between the .270 Win and .280 Rem has fueled many an argument.
Originally it appeared the .264 Mag would be a solid success. In addition to the Winchester 70, Remington, Savage, Sako and Browning offered rifles in .264 Mag.
By Dave Anderson

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2-Stage Triggers

Often derided, they are growing in popularity and quality.

A century ago when armies were equipped with bolt-action rifles most had 2-stage triggers. The Lee Enfield rifle has a wide sear and engages a wide surface of the cocking piece. This substantial sear engagement provides a safety margin against the cocking piece being jarred off the sear by impact.

A military rifle must function under adverse conditions. In the trench warfare of WWI a soldier might be firing his rifle and the next minute have to use bayonet or buttstock in hand-to-hand fighting.

In the Lee-Enfield action the first stage (“first pressure”) moves the sear down and partially out of engagement with the cocking piece. In every example I’ve seen the engagement surfaces are angled so first pressure actually moves the cocking piece back slightly—just a little extra safety margin. The second stage pulls the sear fully down and releases the cocking piece to fire the rifle.

American hunters have generally expressed a preference for single-stage triggers. As the shooter places the trigger finger and begins building pressure there is no trigger motion. Pressure builds smoothly until the sear releases. Certainly there has to be some movement or the gun couldn’t fire, but properly adjusted the trigger movement is so small you have to pay close attention to see it.

Most post-WWI American bolt-action sporting rifles use single-stage triggers. Notable examples include the Winchester 70 introduced in the late 1930s and the Remington 721/722 series. Many a military action had its trigger mechanism altered or replaced so as to have a single-stage pull. As a result there’s a misconception that 2-stage pulls are just a military expedient, while single-stage triggers are inherently superior. In fact good and bad triggers can be made with both styles.
By Dave Anderson

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Looking

Through A Glass.

A hunter’s binocular ranks in importance right behind the rifle. I can get along without a scope if I have to (and as a teenager I had to), I can even get along without a knife (OK, that would be tough) but I can hardly imagine being outdoors without a binocular.

rifleman 1

The new Conquest HD from Zeiss is a terrific binocular and an excellent
value. I’ve used the Victory FL extensively, including on an African hunt.
The Conquest is very nearly as good, and at half the cost.

Generally, I wear a binocular on a short neck strap. Hunting mostly in northern regions of North America, I always wear at least a light jacket and sometimes an insulated parka. When it comes time to crawl or slither it’s easy to tuck the binocular in the jacket where it won’t drag on the ground or flash a signal to the game, and is safe from the elements.

I never cared much for binocular harnesses until I hunted in Africa, and found even a light jacket was often too much. We didn’t do much slithering (too many thorns) but lots of hands-and-knees crawling. To keep the binocular from flopping around I had to undo a couple of shirt buttons and stuff the binocular inside the shirt. I soon realized why hunters in warm climates, from Texas to Tanzania, like harness systems.

Rifleman 2

The Leupold Yosemite 8×30 is a porro prism design. Well made and
with sharp optics it is an exceptional value.

Using A Binocular

A binocular is useful even at close range in heavy cover. It lets you selectively focus at different distances, making it easier to pick out what you want to see—antlers, for example—from surrounding branches.

Using a binocular to locate game in big, open country is a skill. Above all it takes patience. A friend I sometimes hunt with has many fine hunting attributes. He’s fit, determined, persevering, a decent shot and “cheerful in all weathers.” But does he like to walk! He’ll reach the edge of a big valley, take one fast sweep with his binocular, announce there’s nothing there and charge off for the next valley.

I’d rather move slowly and take my time, often an hour or two just using binoculars. My buddy says I’m just lazy. I call it playing to my strengths.

Glassing from an observation point, I like to find a comfortable place to sit, preferably out of the wind and with some kind of cover to break up my outline. A big rock which can serve as cover and a rest to steady the binocular is convenient though not always available.

Start by taking a careful look around without the binocular. Once when I was young and innocent I spent half an hour studying distant antelope with a binocular, when a nearby movement caught my eye. At the base of the hill on which I was seated, an antelope was standing in plain view watching me with great interest, about 90 yards away. And yes, I did shoot him.

Have you ever watched a nature show where the camera pans across a scene? It’s hard to pick out details with the camera moving, isn’t it? So hold the binocular as motionless as you can while carefully studying every detail in the field of view.
When you’re sure you haven’t missed anything (you probably did, but it’s all part of learning) shift the binocular to another piece of real estate and repeat the process. With experience you’ll learn where animals are likely to be at different times of the day; when they are up and feeding, when and where they like to lie up while resting.

Rifleman 3

This Minox 8×33 is an outstanding hunting binocular, light and
compact, and with excellent optics.

Buying

Binoculars can be a lifetime investment, and provide a lifetime of enjoyment. They are an item which justify stretching the budget.

If money is no object just buy the most expensive models from names such as Leica, Minox, Nikon, Swarovski and Zeiss. But there are terrific binoculars available at every price level. We’re living in a golden age of optics. Never has your dollar bought more performance and value.

Two examples at different price points are the Zeiss Conquest HD and the Leupold Yosemite. I confess to getting a lot of my binocular input from birding forums. In fact I sometimes sit out in the yard with a binocular and watch birds. It’s more interesting than it sounds.

The Conquest HD is a fabulous binocular. In terms of resolution it provides at least 95 percent of the performance of the top-line Zeiss Victory model, and at half the price. It is built on an aluminum chassis for strength and durability, values prized by hunters. Currently retailing at around $1,000 it is not cheap, but for the performance it provides it is an exceptional value.
Birding forums also gave a high rating to the Leupold Yosemite 8×30 porro prism, especially impressive since it retails for around $100. I haven’t tried one other than to look through it at a store. It certainly seems solidly made and amazingly sharp. While I haven’t tested it thoroughly yet, it does provide excellent results at a very moderate price.
By Dave Anderson

Leupold
1440 N.W. Greenbriar Pkwy.
Beaverton, OR 97006
(800) 538-7653
www.gunsmagazine.com/leupold-stevens

Minox USA
438 Willow Brook Rd.
Meriden, NH 03770
(866) 469-3080
www.gunsmagazine.com/minox

Zeiss
13005 N. Kingston Ave
Chester, VA 23836
(800) 441-3005
www.gunsmagazine.com/zeiss

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GUNS Magazine Nov 2012

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Long Live The .22!

A family’s generations with rimfire rifles.

Around 1918 my grandfather, with help from neighbors, built a big hip-roof barn on the family farm. Grandpa was a highly skilled carpenter. There was no “contractor” involved. He wouldn’t have known what a contractor was.

It’s just another barn, not at all unusual for its era, but to take a closer look at the quality of materials and workmanship is to marvel. The rafters are of seasoned fir, straight as a rifle barrel and about as hard.
Wood joints (all hand cut, there was no electricity on the farm then) fit together seamlessly. Nails were driven with hammers, not nail guns, and you’ll look long and hard to find any “owl eyes” around the nail heads.

A decade ago, when it came time to reshingle the barn, my wife and I decided to spend the money once and use steel. When the contractor had finished the installation he said, “That is the straightest building we’ve ever roofed. We didn’t have to make a single adjustment as we went along, and the last sheet lined up as perfectly as the first.”

While Grandpa was building his barn, workers at the Savage Arms factory in Utica, N.Y., were making a Model 1914 pump-action .22 rifle. Their skills were different, but their approach was the same. “Do it once — do it right.” It was how they did things back then.
By Dave Anderson

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The High-Tech Rifleman

These few items can prove indispensable in the field and on the range as you learn about your rifle.

The current interest in long-range shooting isn’t just because of the fine rifles, ammunition, and optics available. Accurate, reliable measuring and calculating devices are equally important.

The Leica Rangemaster CRF1600 laser rangefinder is compact and lightweight. Just 4-1/2″ long by 3″ high, and weighing under 8 ounces it can be tucked away in a shirt pocket.

The 7X optics are very good, as would be expected from Leica. The rangefinder uses a roof-prism design with phase correction coating on the prisms. External lens surfaces have a water-resistant hard coating.

The eyepiece has a folding eyecup for use with or without glasses, and can be adjusted to suit individual eyesight. Pressing the main button illuminates a bright, sharp, red square used for aiming, a second press gives the reading.

I set the Leica to read in yards (it can also read in meters). In testing I only counted a reading as valid if five consecutive readings were in close agreement. I was pleased to get readings of 1,660 yards (+/- a couple of yards) off a steep, grass-covered hill. This was around 2 p.m. on a day of heavy overcast. Very impressive.

Press the main button to illuminate the square, then press the secondary button and the display shows three numbers in succession: target declination in degrees up or down, temperature and barometric pressure.

Temperature readings in Fahrenheit appeared to be accurate, within .2 or .5 degrees F of my Kestrel 4000 pocket weather tracker.
When US units are chosen, barometric pressure reads in psi. Generally in the US, barometric pressure is reported in inches of mercury (in Hg) for weather reports, while scientists prefer to use millibars. I set my Kestrel to read in psi and with elevation set at zero, pressure readings of the Leica and the Kestrel were very close.
By Dave Anderson

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Weatherby Series 2 Vanguard

A New Affordable And Accurate Bolt Action

The Weatherby Vanguard has been an outstanding bargain for many years—not just a “best buy,” but also one of the best hunting rifles available. The new Series 2 Vanguards are even better.

A criticism often heard of the original Vanguards was the trigger pull. The trigger design was sound, and trigger components well made and fitted. But pull as set at the factory was generally quite heavy.

In recent years triggers were tuned more carefully at the factory, Those I tried were in the 4- to 4-1/2-pound range, still heavier than I like, though with a reasonably crisp break.

The S2 Vanguards have a 2-stage pull. On the test rifle there’s a short, smooth takeup followed by a beautifully crisp, clean break. Weight is adjustable down to 2.5 pounds. The test Vanguard proved very consistent; when I pressed the “Avg” button on the Lyman gauge after 20 trials it read exactly 3 pounds. Just what I want on a big-game rifle, and with superb pull quality.
The S2 safety is different as well. As before, pulled to the rear the safety locks the bolt and trigger, fully forward is the fire position. Now there’s an intermediate position which unlocks the bolt. The rifle can be loaded or unloaded with the trigger still locked. Each safety position has a detent and the safety clicks positively and crisply to each position.

The S2 has a newly designed stock with the distinctive Weatherby Monte Carlo. Other features include a soft recoil pad, a modest palm swell (right side only), and soft rubber inserts on grip and forearm. They call it the “Griptonite” stock, a term which got me thinking dark thoughts about the future of the language and civilization while brooding in my Fortress of Solitude.

For some years Weatherby has offered a “Sub MOA” Vanguard, with the barreled action pillar bedded in an upgraded synthetic stock. Some shooters got the impression regular Vanguards were “seconds” incapable of MOA accuracy. In fact virtually every Vanguard will shoot sub-MOA.

With the S2 series Weatherby guarantees it. Every single rifle in every Vanguard variation is guaranteed capable of firing a 3-shot sub-MOA group using quality ammunition. Shooters wanting the upgraded stock can now order the RC (Range Certified) model which includes a test target and data, signed by Ed Weatherby.
By Dave Anderson

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The Lever Action

A Truly American Action

The lever action is American. Other nations do bolt actions well with their Mausers and Mannlichers. But other nations just don’t get the lever action—I suppose because other nations didn’t have Oliver Winchester, John Browning, Arthur Savage and John Marlin.

From the beginning of the self-contained cartridge era and for a century, the lever action dominated America’s hunting fields. Following the WWI, bolt-action rifles slowly began making inroads.

Millions of soldiers had been trained in their use. Inexpensive military surplus rifles and ammunition became available. There was increased interest in more powerful, flat-shooting cartridges such as the .30-06.

Nonetheless an American hunter was still far more likely to carry a lever rifle than any bolt action. I was a boy in the 1950s, growing up in a rural environment where just about every household had a .22, a shotgun and a deer rifle.

Almost always the deer rifle was a lever action. There were Winchester 92s and 94s, Marlin 36s and 336s, and Savage 99s. One fellow had a .303 Savage 99 on which he had somehow attached a 3/4″-diameter scope, the first I’d ever seen.

The real enthusiasts had 99s in .250 and .300 Savage. A few, much admired and envied, had the new Winchester 88. One friend of Dad’s had two 88s, in .243 and .308. A modest man, he carried his fame lightly.

In the early 1960s, dreaming of the day I’d order my own deer rifle, studying catalogs on cold winter evenings as the snow swirled around the isolated farmhouse, the only decision was whether it would be an 88 or a 99.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the lever-action era was coming to an end. Several factors came together. Millions of military surplus bolt actions were available at low cost. The Winchester 88 I wanted cost $140, and might as well have been a million. With hard work and thrift I was able to afford $17.88 for a Lee Enfield .303.
By Dave Anderson

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Firmly In The Middle

Ruger’s New .338 Compact Magnum.

Of the many big-game cartridges introduced in the last couple of decades, my favorite is .300 RCM. Not because there is anything particularly dramatic about it. It’s a short cartridge with a bit more capacity than the .30-06. My fired RCM cases hold about 75 grains of water; a lot closer in capacity to the .30-06 (69 grains) than to the .300 Win Mag (90 grains)

No, the magic of the cartridge lies in the strong .30-06 ballistics in the outstanding Ruger 77 Compact Magnum rifle. This little rifle is just a gem, being less than 40″ long with a 20″ barrel and a field-ready weight just over 8 pounds. It is perfectly balanced, handles beautifully, provides the power and trajectory I want, and does so with moderate recoil.

I like the combination so much I decided to have a look at the similar .338 RCM. Calibers in the middle ground between .30 and .375 have a steady, if not particularly large, following with North American hunters.

Such cartridges have a long and honored history. In classic hunting literature of the 20th century there are plenty of references to cartridges such as the .318 Westley Richards, .333 Jeffery, .35 Whelen, and 9.3×62. Very seldom will you find a critical opinion. It seems these and similar cartridges produced velocities well matched to bullet technology of their era. With heavy-for-caliber bullets they gave good penetration, adequate expansion, adequate trajectory and tolerable recoil.

The .318 is a particularly intriguing cartridge. Despite its British bore-diameter name, it fires .330″ bullets. Case capacity and dimensions are very similar to the .30-06 case (which in fact can be used to form .318 cases). It earned its reputation with a 250-grain bullet at a nominal 2,400 fps.

There was also a 180-grain load at a claimed 2,700 fps. With bullet design of the era it apparently couldn’t handle the velocity, with very rapid expansion and fragmentation, making it unsuitable for all but the smaller-plains-game species.
By Dave Anderson

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Want To Grow Old?

Safe Gun Handling Skills May Help.

Some of the shooting-related stuff I see and read on the Internet fills me with despair. It appears many gun owners either (a) don’t know the rules of firearm safety, or (b) know them but think they are silly.

A common thread is resentment against the old geezer at the range who criticizes their gunhandling. That old geezer would be me. I’m shy and retiring by nature, soft spoken, diffident to a fault, and willing to overlook much. If I get really bad service at a restaurant I teach them a lesson by tipping just 15 percent. I’m the sort who apologizes when someone else steps on my foot.

But anyone who points a firearm at me, intentionally or unintentionally, loaded or unloaded, is going to get corrected, immediately and loudly. I won’t tolerate it; nor should you. If I sweep you with the muzzle you need to let me know about it in no uncertain terms. And my reaction should be to apologize and thank you—sincerely—for pointing it out.
There are four basic, inviolable, unbreakable rules:

1. All guns are always handled and treated as though they were loaded.

2. Never allow the muzzle to point at anything you are not prepared to see destroyed.

3. Finger off the trigger unless sights are on target.

4. Be sure of your target, along with what is behind and in the vicinity of the target.

Why am I so adamant about Rule 2? Because it is the last line of defense. You can do everything else wrong and still not kill or injure anyone provided you control where the muzzle is pointing. Not most of the time. All of the time. It’s a concept that is hard to grasp in a society that gives second, third, twentieth chances.

You didn’t learn the material taught in Grade 5? What the heck, we’ll promote you anyway. Fail your drivers’ written test? Keep trying it until you pass. Commit cold-blooded murder? Well gosh, it’s a first offence and the murderer is a “youth” of 17, so why ruin his whole life because of one mistake?

But firearms are tools, and tools don’t forgive. They’ll kill you—or your best friend, your child, your spouse—the first time you make a mistake. Many shooters have no real understanding of what a bullet can do, especially a bullet fired from a hunting rifle.

A while back I watched an episode of Sons of Anarchy. In the episode an old man gripped by dementia wrongly concludes one of the bikers is assaulting his wife. He uses his deer rifle to shoot the biker in the shoulder at a range of about 3′. In the show the man shot reacts about as dramatically as if he’d been stung by a wasp.

Then we get the usual solemn, “We’ve got to get the bullet out” discussion. Following the bullet-digging scene he’s up and around in a day or two and within a couple of weeks has apparently made a complete recovery.

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Long-Range Optic Redefined

Trijicon Brings A Thoroughbred To The Tactical Scope Arena

Trijicon has a well-earned reputation for high quality optics, from the combat-proven ACOG to the Accupoint hunting scopes. When they decided to make a long-range scope they didn’t just dip a timid toe in the water. This is a company with technical know-how, facilities, resources, and a commitment to quality. In designing and building this scope they held nothing back.

Long range shooting demands a lot of the riflescope. Adjustments must be accurate. If the shooter dials in 15 Minutes Of Angle (MOA) elevation the scope has to deliver 15-MOA movement, not 14.5. Adjustments, especially elevation, must be accurate over a wide range.

Optics must be high quality, so the shooter can resolve small, far-off targets. The scope needs adjustable parallax. With hunting scopes parallax can be factory-set at some midrange distance (usually 150 yards), and be adequate over typical hunting ranges. Aiming errors which are inconsequential at moderate ranges become critical at long ranges.

The scope has to be tough and durable. Not just water resistant (that’s basic), but tough in every way. Long-range shooters shoot a lot, often with rifles of considerable recoil. Everything about the scope (optical elements, reticle cell, focus and parallax adjustments) has to be tough enough to handle the recoil over a long period. The adjustments are used constantly, every time the range or wind changes.

It isn’t enough to be mostly good. There’s no point in boasting of brilliant optics if the adjustments aren’t accurate. Accurate adjustments are useless if they aren’t durable. The scope has to excel in every aspect. Such quality doesn’t come cheap.
Trijicon’s new scope, made in the USA, is a 3-15×50. Let’s start with the foundation, the main tube. Many scope tubes have front and back sections, attached to a third section holding the adjustment turrets. Trijicon wanted a scope capable of handling the recoil of powerful cartridges such as the .338 Lapua and .50 BMG.
Story By: Dave Anderson

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