Favorite Rifles

By Chuck Hawks

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.

I am frequently asked about my personal favorites, so this article is partly an attempt to put my thoughts in writing. Please believe me when I tell you that 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.

Anschutz 1717 DKL Meister Grade, .17 HMR

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 Match 54 barreled action is highly polished and deeply blued. Its Weatherby-esque stock is fashioned from highly figured Miester Grade European walnut and hand checkered in a French skip-line pattern.

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. A complete review of this rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.

Browning/FN Safari Grade, .458 Winchester Magnum

This is surely not the most practical rifle for a North American hunter to own. In fact, unless you spend a lot of time shooting elephant, rhino, or buffalo you really don't need to own a .458 Magnum at all. There is no North American game that the .458's smaller cousin, the .338 Win. Magnum, cannot put down with authority (and considerably less recoil).

What really attracted me to this particular rifle was its excellent condition and fine workmanship. I purchased it used, of course, since FN Browning bolt action rifles are long out of production. It was made some time during the 1960's and they literally don't make them like they used to. The three-step barrel contour, express rear and hooded front sights, oil finished French walnut stock, hand checkering and careful action inletting and barrel bedding all speak of the kind of workmanship available only from custom builders today. They even engraved the heads of the dual action crossbolts and the magazine floorplate, since in those days all Browning rifles were hand engraved as a matter of course.

For the North American hunter with a yen to own an "elephant" rifle, the .458 Win. Mag. does have its advantages. For one thing, factory loaded ammunition is widely available. Because the .458 was designed with a standard length case, it is easier for the reloader to work up reduced power loads. (Thank you, Dupont, for SR 4759 powder.) And .458" bullets are more plentiful than bullets for the other big bore calibers.

Husqvarna HVA Custom, 7x57 Mauser

This is one of my "go to" rifles. It was built on a Husqvarna/Mauser 98 action by the late Larry Brace. The HVA is, in my opinion, one of the best bolt actions ever made. My rifle's classic style stock is crafted from finely figured walnut and the wrap-around point pattern checkering is beautifully executed, a Larry Brace trademark. So is the glowing, hand rubbed oil finish. There is an article about this rife, complete with photos, on the Rifle Information Page.

The 7x57 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.

Marlin Golden 39M Mountie, .22 Long Rifle

The Marlin Model 39 has been a top of the line .22 rifle throughout its long existence. It is and was one of the very few adult .22's, long 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. True, and that is because it is made just as well, from materials just as expensive, as a Marlin centerfire rifle.

Most Model 39 rifles have 24" barrels and pistol grip walnut stocks, but the Mountie version has a 20" barrel and a straight grip stock. 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 are the result of painstaking hand labor.

My Mountie shows a fair amount of external wear because it has been used to take hundreds of small game animals (and a deer or two) during the last 45 years. 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! A complete review of this rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.

Ruger No. K1-A, 6.5x55 SE

The No. 1A is the "Light Sporter" version of Ruger's elegant No. 1 falling block single shot rifle. It has a catalog weight of about 7.25 pounds and comes with 22" barrel. This is a special production rifle with a stainless steel barreled action stocked in genuine black walnut. It is short, well balanced, reasonably light to carry and yet 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 CXP2 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. There is a review of the Ruger K1-A on the Product Review Page.

Ruger No. 1-S, 9.3x74R

The No. 1-s is the "Medium Sporter" version of Ruger's elegant No. 1 falling block single shot rifle. It is essentially the same as a blue/walnut No. 1-A, except for a heavier contour barrel required for the bigger bore cartridges for which it is chambered (9.3x74R and .45-70). My No. 1-S weighs about 9 pounds with a scope and rings and sports a 22" barrel. This is a regular production rifle with a blued steel barreled action stocked in handsome black walnut. It is short, well balanced and yet not too light for the powerful cartridges for which it is chambered.

The 9.3x74R has become one of my favorite medium bore cartridges. It is an impressive looking, very long (3.72" C.O.L.--longer than the .375 H&H), tapered cartridge designed for use in single shot and double rifles. It is the minimum cartridge generally regarded as sufficiently powerful for heavy, dangerous game (given proper bullets and accurate shot placement) and it kicks a little less than the other "all-around" (CXP3-CXP4 game) medium bore cartridges, such as the .375 H&H Magnum. Typical factory loads launch a 286 grain bullet (SD .305) at a MV of 2360 fps, which offers enough close range killing power for any animal on earth and a MPBR beyond 200 yards. It is hard not to appreciate a cartridge like that, particularly when it is chambered in a rifle as classy as the Ruger No. 1. A complete review of this rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.

Uberti Model 1873 Special Short Sporting Rifle, .357 Magnum/.38 Special

This beautifully made and finished replica of a Winchester Model 1873 is not the world's most practical rifle, nor is it inexpensive, but it sure is fun to shoot! And, because it is chambered for a revolver cartridge, it is economical to shoot as well. Perhaps surprisingly, this is a very accurate rifle with just about any load using a jacketed bullet that it is fed. (I don't know how it shoots lead bullets, as I avoid them like the plague.) It is also 100% reliable whether its lever action is operated fast or slow. Those factors combine to make it my favorite centerfire plinker.

The Uberti 1873 is certainly among the most beautiful rifles that I own. It features a hand checkered walnut stock and a highly polished and blued 20" octagon barrel. The receiver has a color cased finish. Great beauty and great function make for a memorable rifle. A review of this rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.

Weatherby Mark V Deluxe, .257 Weatherby Magnum

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 spectacular hunting rifle. The quality, finish and workmanship are first rate. And so is the engineering and design behind this fine rifle. As they say: if you've got it, flaunt it. The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe has the right stuff for go as well as show. Its strength, durability and accuracy are the stuff of legend--and in this case the legend is true. Weatherby is America's finest rifle. You can read more about that in the Weatherby Mark V review on the Product Review Page.

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 lessor 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 fun to shoot.

Winchester Model 70 Classic Featherweight, 6.5x55 SE

The Model 70 Classic Featherweight just has to be one of the best looking bolt action rifles ever made. There is nothing special about my Model 70. It is just an average Featherweight, no better and no worse than thousands of its sisters. It has the usual blued steel barreled action and handsomely checkered walnut stock. But the Featherweight is such a well designed rifle and the Model 70 Classic bolt action such an excellent one that your average Model 70 Featherweight is one of the best hunting rifles that has ever been produced.

A perfect complement to the well balanced Model 70 Featherweight is the equally well balanced and versatile 6.5x55 SE cartridge. It too is a classic. I shoot a handload that drives a 140 grain bullet at a MV of about 2700 fps. I know that doesn't sound particularly impressive, but its killing power is. That bullet has a sectional density of .287 and it shoots flat enough to be practical in open or mountainous country and hits hard enough to be deadly to all CXP2 game. The recoil is moderate, making accurate bullet placement relatively easy. There is a full length review of this rifle on the Product Review Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.