By Chuck Hawks
I am frequently asked about my favorite hunting rifles. I suppose that every shooter develops a special fondness for certain firearms he or she has owned. Whether it is because of success in the field, accuracy, aesthetics, or some other reason, certain rifles just stand out in one's gun rack or memory. In my case, I have a fondness for slick actions, crisp light triggers and genuine walnut stocks, which are features shared by all of the rifles featured below.
While the rifles described below are among my favorites (and I have owned many rifles during my lifetime), they are not necessarily the models that I recommend to others. I understand that other shooters may have different needs or requirements.
I consider this Anschutz bolt action to be the finest rimfire hunting/varmint rifle in the world today. The Anschutz 1717 D KL MC truly qualifies as a "best rifle" in all respects. The Olympic class, Match 54 barreled action is highly polished and deeply blued. Its Monte Carlo stock with a roll-over cheekpiece is fashioned from highly figured Miester Grade European walnut and hand checkered in a French skip-line pattern.
Perhaps the best feature of the Model 54 action is its superb trigger. Experienced shooters know how important a good trigger is to practical accuracy. The single stage trigger is adjustable for weight of pull, sear engagement, and over travel by means of set screws. Pull weight adjustment range is 2 to 4.4 pounds.
The Model 1717 is a very sophisticated design, precisely manufactured from top quality materials, that displays the results of superior workmanship throughout. Its performance is top drawer, aided in no small part by the incredibly accurate, flat shooting .17 HMR cartridge for which it is chambered.
This is one of my "go to" rifles. It was built on a polished and high luster blued Husqvarna HVA (improved Mauser 98 type) action by the late Larry Brace. The very clean, single stage, grooved trigger is user adjustable for pull weight, sear engagement and over-travel. In this rifle it has been adjusted to release consistently at two pounds.
My rifle's stock is crafted from highly figured walnut and the wrap-around point pattern checkering is beautifully executed, a Larry Brace trademark. Ditto the glowing, hand rubbed oil finish. The stock design is modern classic style with a pistol grip, straight comb and a shadow line cheekpiece. There is a palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip. The forend is round in cross-section to accommodate the shape of a half closed human hand.
The 7x57 Mauser is a classic all-around cartridge that is used and respected around the world. It is one of those well balanced designs that does its job with minimum muss and fuss. The loads I use, both factory and reloaded, launch a 139 grain Hornady BTSP InterLock bullet at a MV of 2700 fps. This has never failed to do the job.
The Marlin Model 39 has been a top of the line .22 rifle throughout its long existence. It was one of the very few adult .22's before that category became popular. Always expensive, the knock on the Model 39 has long been that it costs as much as a .30-30 deer rifle. This is true, because it is made just as well as a Marlin 336 deer rifle, from forged steel and American black walnut.
Most Model 39 rifles have 24" barrels and pistol grip walnut stocks with beavertail forend, but the Mountie version has a 20" barrel, straight hand stock and a slender forend. These are features that I strongly prefer in a traditional lever action rifle. My personal Mountie has a butter smooth action and a light, crisp trigger pull that is the result of hand polishing and tuning.
My Model 39M shows a fair amount of external wear, because it has been used to take hundreds of small game animals (and a few deer) since it was made in the 1950s. I traded a friend out of it back in the middle 1960's and somehow have managed to hang onto it ever since. This is one rifle that I will not sell or trade!
All Nosler M48 rifles are hand built at the Nosler plant in Bend, Oregon USA, where premium components are carefully assembled. They are designed and built to be simple, rugged, weather resistant and MOA accurate with available Nosler ammunition. All Nosler rifles must pass a stringent fit and function quality control inspection before they are shipped.
The Nosler Heritage is the walnut stocked, "production" version of the M48 and it is surprisingly reasonably priced. It is offered in something like 19 calibers, including 9.3x62mm, which has become my go-to medium bore caliber. 9.3x62 Heritage rifles are supplied with 24 inch, magnum contour barrels, a Cerakote external metal finish and a MOA accuracy guarantee with Nosler factory loaded ammunition.
As Nosler admits, their push feed M48 is not a ground breaking action design. Rather, it was designed to be very strong, mechanically precise and incorporate as many of the best features of existing bolt actions as possible. The action and internal components are CNC machined, then blue printed and trued after heat treating. The locking lugs are hand lapped for precise lock-up and barrel alignment.
M48 rifles are supplied with a custom, hand tuned trigger. This trigger can easily be adjusted if the barreled action is removed from the stock. My rifle's trigger releases at a crisp three pounds without any excessive over-travel and it came that way out of the box.
The M48 Heritage comes with a classic style walnut stock with a slender forend, straight comb and a shadow line cheek piece. The pistol grip has a comfortable, medium curve and is commendably slender. To provide a secure grip there is attractive and functional 24 lpi borderless hand cut checkering in a generous three-panel point pattern that wraps around the forend.
The 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridge has been proven for over 100 years on big and dangerous animals (Class 3 and Class 4) around the world. It is a standard length (.30-06 size) cartridge that has a sterling reputation in Africa and Europe and is finally catching on in North America, where it is an appropriate choice for hunting elk, moose, the great bears and bison.
The No. 1A is the "Light Sporter" version of Ruger's elegant No. 1 falling block single shot rifle. I have long regarded the Light Sporter to be the best looking of the Ruger No. 1 series, which automatically means of the entire Ruger rifle line. Its proportions are just "right." The 22" barrel balances perfectly with the short Ruger falling block action. The classic walnut butt stock and Alexander Henry forearm nicely complement this traditional rifle's lines.
The Ruger No. 1A has a catalog weight of about 7.25 pounds and comes with 22" barrel. The trigger is user adjustable for weight of pull. This example is a Lipsey's special (distributor exclusive) rifle with a stainless steel barreled action, making it weather resistant. This is a short, well balanced, reasonably light rifle to carry and yet it is not too light to hold steady in the field when the time comes to shoot.
The 6.5x55 cartridge for which this rifle is chambered is one of my all time favorites. It is a well balanced cartridge that is suitable for all Class 2 class game and it is easy to reload. Launching a 140 grain bullet at an honest 2700 fps, it shoots flat enough for almost any sane hunting purpose. I regard it as the optimum .264 caliber cartridge and one of the finest hunting cartridges ever developed, period.
I have mentioned in other articles that the first Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifle I ever saw was a .257 Magnum and how that rifle, far beyond my price class at the time, made a lasting impression. Many years later I acquired my first (used) Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifle. It is also a .257 Magnum and it remains one of my favorites.
The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe is a superb hunting rifle. The quality, finish and workmanship are first rate. So is the engineering and design behind this fine rifle, which uses the famous Mark V nine locking lug bolt action.
As they say: if you've got it, flaunt it and the Mark V Deluxe does. The barreled action is mirror polished and high luster blued. The Weatherby style Monte Carlo stock is made from nicely figured, hand checkered walnut with a high gloss finish and comes with a rosewood forend tip and grip cap set off by contrasting maple wood line spacers. There is a white diamond inlaid in the grip cap.
The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe has the right stuff for go as well as show. Its strength, durability, excellent adjustable trigger and accuracy are the stuff of legend, and in this case the legend is true. The Weatherby Mark V is America's finest production hunting rifle.
The .257 Weatherby Magnum was one of Roy Weatherby's early creations and his favorite cartridge. You'd think that a cartridge that can throw a 120 grain bullet at a sizzling MV of 3305 fps would kick like the devil. In a lesser rifle it probably would, but the Mark V Deluxe is no lightweight and the design of the signature Weatherby stock does an excellent job of handling magnum recoil. Unlike the great majority of ultra-long range cartridges and rifles, the .257 Wby. Mag./Mark V Deluxe combination is actually pleasant to shoot.
The controlled feed Model 70 is one of the best bolt actions ever designed and the flat shooting .270 Winchester is one of the best all-around (Class 2 and Class 3 game) hunting cartridges ever designed. Together they are an awesome combination for the great majority of big game hunting.
Jack O'Connor, the Dean of American gun writers, was an aficionado of both. In 2012 his son, Bradford O'Connor (a successful outdoor writer in his own right) and Winchester Repeating Arms collaborated to reproduce a limited edition of Jack's most beloved .270 hunting rifle, which he carried on many hunts in both North America and Africa.
This limited edition Tribute is modeled on one of Jack O'Connor's favorite hunting rifles, a custom stocked Model 70 that epitomized his concept of an ideal hunting rifle. I have been fortunate to see this rifle a couple of times. It was based on a pre-'64 Model 70 barreled action with the barrel shortened to 22", steel bottom iron/trigger guard assembly and checkered bolt knob. It was restocked to O'Connor's specifications in fancy French walnut by, I believe, Al Biesen, who also tuned the action.
The JOC Tribute rifle is similar to the original in most respects. It is, of course, based on a new controlled feed Model 70 action with a crisp, user adjustable MOA trigger. The highly polished barreled action has a luster blued finish and some tasteful laser engraving. The AA grade French walnut stock is laser checkered at 24 lines-per-inch in a borderless fleur-de-lis pattern derived from the original. Features include an ebony fore end tip, shadow line cheekpiece, recessed detachable sling swivel studs and a black Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.
This rifle shoots as good as it looks and it is not only beautiful, it is an extremely practical hunting rifle. (Jack O'Connor knew a thing or two about hunting rifles!) For complete details of this and the other rifles described in this article, see the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2004, 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.