The Column, No. 20:
Experienced Shooters (Read "Geezers") Favor Traditional Calibers
By Chuck Hawks
I remember that the late Jack O'Connor once wrote something to the effect that new shooters bought the latest fad calibers, but that connoisseurs stayed with the classics. That old bit of wisdom recently came floating up out of the sludge at the bottom of my mind when I acquired a .30-06 rifle, the very same Remington Model 798 that you will find reviewed on the Product Review Page. It's a hunter's rifle, based on a traditional Mauser 98 action, and I decided after the review that my personal rifle battery needed a .30-06, so off went a check to Remington in lieu of returning the test rifle.
So, my newest rifle is chambered for a cartridge celebrating its 100th birthday this year (2006). That got me thinking. The last two big game hunting rifles that depleted my checkbook before the new Model 798 were chambered for .270 Winchester (introduced in 1925), and 7x57 Mauser (introduced in 1892). And among my other favorite cartridges are the .257 Roberts (1934), 6.5x55 SE (1894), and .30-30 Winchester (1895). In fact, the newest calibers for which I own rifles that could reasonably be described as "favorites" are the .243 Winchester (1955) and the .350 Remington Magnum (1965). Hmmm.
Of those, only the .350 Magnum could be called contemporary, in that it is a short magnum cartridge, albeit introduced decades ahead of its time. And the Guns and Shooting Online staffers whose names appear on our masthead are almost as old fashioned as I am about rifle cartridges. In fact, the same cartridges that I listed as my favorites are also among their collective favorites. Double Hmmm.
Evidently Mr. O'Connor was right (as usual) for, while we on the Guns and Shooting Online staff may not necessarily be good shooters, we can at least fairly accurately be described as experienced shooters. (A more charitable description than simply "old shooters," to be sure.)
Either experience counts for something or we are just hopelessly old fashioned, or both. At least we are in good company. The aforementioned Jack O'Conner, the "Dean of American Gun Writers" and probably the most knowledgeable hunter and shooter to practice this dubious profession, also wrote very favorably about the .257, .270, 7x57, .30-30, and .30-06. The late Warren Page was a fan of the .243 Winchester and contributed greatly to its design and, through his writings, its popularity. And the inimitable Jeff Cooper wrote very complimentary things about the .350 Rem. Mag.
A startling number of fine custom built rifles are chambered for cartridges such as the .270 Winchester, 7x57, and .30-06, tending to support the proposition that the hunters who can afford a bespoke rifle also tend toward the classic cartridges. Craig Boddington, for example, one of the best and most experienced contemporary gun writers, recently ordered his first custom built rifle--in 7x57. Mr. Boddington has also written very favorably about the .270 Win. and .30-06.
Earlier this year I had the sad task of helping the family of my friend the late Larry Brace, who built fine custom rifles for select customers, inventory his remaining personal battery. Larry not only built bespoke rifles, he hunted around the world, especially in Africa. The calibers of his personal big game rifles included .270 Winchester, 7x57, .30-06, .358 Winchester, .375 H&H, and .458 Win. Mag. Like I said, we may be geezers, but at least we are in good company!
Copyright 2006 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.