Rifles for troubled times

Making good choices in bad times
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Dave’s irreducible minimum for life in the country — (from left) Ruger American rimfire .22
Magnum, Redfield 3-9x40 scope; Weatherby PA-459 12 gauge with Streamlight light/laser
on sight rail and Viridian green laser on forearm rail; Ruger Scout .308 with Meopta reflex
sight on sight rail and a Streamlight ProTac flashlight on an accessory rail.

“If you could only own one gun” is a hardy perennial in firearms literature. For firearms enthusiasts the question is ludicrous — many of us carry more than one gun. When it comes to rifles I must admit although I own many, I only carry one at a time. As I write this we are going through yet another apocalyptic scenario. This one involves the corona virus; a few years ago it was SARS, H1N1, Ebola, Y2K, Legionnaire’s disease. A few years from now it will be something else.

In troubled times — and for many, even in untroubled times — the idea of a sanctuary away from big cities becomes very attractive. My wife and I live on the farm our family has owned for three generations, in the house my grandfather built in 1925. Our nearest neighbors (there are only two) are a mile away; the nearest traffic light is 40 miles away. I won’t play the only-one-gun game but a few thoughts on rifles I use most might be of interest.

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The .22 LR firearm doesn’t have to be a rifle. The Ruger Target model (left) and Ruger frame
with Volquartsen upper (right) are as accurate as most rifles while being handy to store.

Start With .22s

It’s a good idea to have something to shoot .22 rimfire cartridges. The .22 LR is useful for controlling pests in the garden or outbuildings and the ammunition is compact, relatively inexpensive and widely available. Something like a Ruger Mark IV or Browning Buckmark pistol with a sight rail holding a low-power scope or red-dot sight can do quite nicely while being handy for easy storage and access.

There are so many good .22 rifles, old and new, I’d hardly know where to begin making a recommendation. Worthwhile features include stainless/synthetic construction, detachable magazine for quick loading/unloading and a rail for a scope or reflex sight. However, one of my favorite .22s is a Winchester 61 pump with none of those features. I never claimed to be consistent.

I yield to no one in my admiration for .22 rifles but more and more I use them mainly for practice and for plinking. For practical use in controlling vermin and for hunting, I’ve come to dote on the .22 Magnum. The ammunition is expensive compared to .22 LR but inexpensive compared to most centerfires. Compared to .22 LR the .22 Mag. shoots flatter, drifts less in the wind, is easier to hit with and is far more effective, especially on vermin or game bigger than gophers and squirrels.

I’ve owned a Winchester 9422M since about 1975, a beautiful classic rifle. These days my favorite and my most-used rifle is a Ruger American Compact in .22 Magnum. It is accurate, reliable, rugged and moderately priced.

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A Ruger Scout in .308 Win. will handle about any centerfire task. The grab-n-go chest pouch
from Hill People Gear completes the load-out.

Centering It

A powerful centerfire rifle is of fairly limited use to a city apartment dweller but out here in the boondocks, I want one. Any good big game rifle would do. I have come to like the “scout” concept, or at least some elements. I can take or leave the forward-mounted scope, nor do I care about arbitrary weight and size limits. I do like an effective and widely distributed cartridge, the reliability of a bolt action, ample magazine capacity, rapid reloading, and the durability of stainless steel.

Currently I have three such rifles, all in .308 Win. — a Steyr Scout (the original Jeff Cooper package), a Ruger Scout and a Tikka Arctic Ranger. Oddly enough my favorite, the Ruger, is also the least expensive. I keep it cased with five magazines and various lighting and sighting options.

Defense against looters and such hasn’t been a big worry — so far, at least. Neighbors tend to look out for one another so extra ammo on hand is not for shooting at neighbors but for swapping for a few steaks or a side of pork. As for strangers, for 115 years no one has ever come to the farm needing help who didn’t get it. This will never change, or my ancestors would haunt me. On the other hand, should people come wanting to do my family harm or take things by force, well, we have an answer for that too.

Scatterguns

Two answers, in fact. For intruders into a dwelling I don’t know of anything better than a shotgun. My preference is a 12-gauge pump, short overall length, extended magazine and with rails for lights, sights and lasers. My favorite is a Weatherby PA-08 but I’d be happy with any reputable make. The only objection to the shotgun is recoil. If it is an issue the second answer is a compact .223/5.56mm.

My “irreducible minimum” is the .22 Magnum and .308 rifles, and the 12-gauge shotgun. Add a .22 LR firearm and a .223/5.56 semiauto and I feel well prepared. Oh, and you may have noticed I haven’t mentioned a .45 ACP pistol or .38 Spl. pocket revolver. I haven’t mentioned socks or underwear either, and for the same reason — they are just part of everyday wear.

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