Skinner Sights Bush Pilot .45-70

Lotta'-Fun Survival Gun

Accuracy was excellent, even fired with a casual “elbows on bench” style.

Fantasy is the catalyst responsible for many gun purchases. With lust-filled eyes, racing heart and sweaty palms, we think to ourselves, “I need that gun … now!” At least it happens to me. Repeatedly.

Certain guns trigger responses, capturing our spirit, whisking us away from the monotonous doldrums of everyday life to faraway places we dream about. I blame His Editorship Roy Huntington for this latest escape from reality. How come Roy?

The Bush Pilot assembled, loaded and ready for .45-70 action.

Hooked … Again

I first saw it while thumbing through American Handgunner — a simple photo of a takedown Winchester 1886 rifle. It’s of Italian descent (made by Chiappa) and tuned to the specifications of Skinner Sights’ Andy Larsson. It comes with its own carrying case and survival kit, also designed by Andy. The caliber? Why the mighty .45-70 of course.

I’ve always liked the idea of a takedown levergun. Carried in a small, compact package along with ammo, knife and any other survival necessities, it conveniently fits under the seat of a bush plane taking us off to some far-flung adventure. It’s just what the doctor ordered for this fantasy to play out.

A self-diagnosed gun-junkie, with a touch of terminal lever-gun looniness, I knew I had to have it within nanoseconds. I called Andy and we talk for a couple of hours. He agrees the only cure for my malady is to place an order, so I did. Andy understands people like you and me because he’s just like us! Why else would he put together such a cool package?

The Skinner Sights Bush Pilot/Survival Kit

Heavy-Duty Leverage

Ever since I read Elmer Keith’s words, “We have no fewer than 5 of these rifles at home” in Rifles For Large Game, I’ve always wanted a Winchester Model 1886 to call my own. I knew I’d eventually get one someday but now, finally holding the Bush Pilot in my hands and working the lever, I’m convinced more than ever it’s one of John Moses Browning’s best designs. Made for the most powerful cartridges of the day, it is extremely strong even by today’s levergun standards.

My Chiappa version of the 1886 is just as impressive, following Browning’s nomenclature and Andy’s request they be made to his “specs,” meaning all internal parts are given special treatment when assembled.

The Bush Pilot’s heft, fit and finish have me excited and impressed — the special treatment is apparent. Everything flows smoothly, cycling the fat .45-70 cartridges effortlessly, as it should. The gun is industrial hard-chromed, giving it a soft, durable, warm-tone finish, perfect for the rough Alaskan bush and inclement weather.

The barrel is threaded for either a suppressor or muzzle brake, but now has a thread protector on it. I requested a white-line front sight, which is dovetailed in the barrel, making for easy windage adjustment should it be necessary. The barrel is half round/half octagonal. The wood-to-metal fit is immaculate everywhere on the rifle.

The Skinner rear sight is mounted on the bolt, giving an extra 10″ of sight radius compared to being mounted on the barrel. The blued-steel base and brass aperture peep are both windage and elevation adjustable. Looking like they were made for the 1886, the Skinner peep complements the soft-tone hard-chrome, perfectly.

The 1886 is a dual-lugged, slick cycling lever-action repeater. It’s the dual lugs of the bolt — riding in recesses milled in the frame — which give the 1886 its exceptional strength.

The action and barrel are made of 4140-steel, known for its toughness, abrasion/impact resistance and high-fatigue strength.

The side-plate is beautifully laser engraved with the Bush Pilot logo, displaying the silhouette of a bush plane and in bold lettering, Bush Pilot with Skinner Sights limited edition below. All screws are gorgeously fire-blued and beautifully accent the soft-toned hard chrome. The wood is very dense, slightly figured walnut, enough to please any traditional wood-stocked rifle lover.

Putting the Skinner two-piece together is easy, thanks to the original Winchester interrupted-thread design. Holding the rear stock, with action open, you insert the barrel shank with the forearm bottom facing left and give it a quarter-turn. Screw in the magazine tube and you’re ready for action.

Don’t fret over its Italian lineage. This gun is well built and after firing over 300 rounds (we’re talking over 16 lbs. of lead), it’s as tight now as it was new.

To boil down things down to mere numbers doesn’t do the Bush Pilot justice, but here goes: It weighs 7.8 lbs. and is 37″ long. The barrel is 18.5″ and half-octagon/half-round configuration, with 7″ of those inches being round. Length of pull is 13 3/8″. The trigger pull on mine weighed a creep-free 2 lbs.14 oz.

A quarter-turn to the left separates barrel action.

Big Bullets Downrange

How a rifle feels is one thing but how it shoots can be quite a different story. In this case, the Chiappa did not disappoint. The long-radius Skinner peep sight combined with the white-line front sight provided a beautiful sight picture. Groups of 1″ or better were the norm at 50 yards. When I moved back to 100 yards, 1.5 to 2″ groups were routine. The gun is a shooter and will handle whatever it’s asked to do.

I had some old handloads on hand consisting of Remington 300-gr. JHPs seated over 50 grains of IMR 4198, as well as some 420-gr. cast bullets over 50 grains of Reloder 7, both sparked by Winchester Large Rifle primers. Velocity was 2,007 fps for the 300 grain and 1,931 fps for the 420. I also shot some Black Hills HoneyBadger 300-gr. ammo through it as well.

The Chiappa showed no real preference. It liked ’em all.

Unscrewing the magazine tube allows you to twist the rifle apart for stowage.

Kit and Caboodle

The heart and soul of the included survival kit is the carry bag. Made of tough 1,000-denier Cordura, the bag conveniently carries the rifle with a fold-over flap which buckles shut to keep your broken down Bush Pilot safe and secure.

The kit also contains an Ontario Knife Co. RAT-7 knife with Bush Pilot logo and matching serial number to your rifle. A DOAN magnesium Mil Spec USA fire starter and 50 ft. of Mil Spec 750 Paracord are also included. Rounding out the kit are Titan Stormproof Flare matches in a waterproof container and a Brunton USA Tru-Arc Compass. Finally, a Space Blanket Tube-Tent large enough for two is provided.

So, if your heart’s racing for a traditional big-bore classic in takedown trim, don’t miss the plane on this deal. MSRP is $1,850.

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