Hagn Falling Block .30-06 Rifle
Custom Built by Steven Dodd Hughes

By Chuck Hawks

The custom rifle described in this article was built by Steven Dodd Hughes on a Hagn falling block barreled action. I am a sucker for falling block rifles, so I jumped at the offer to write an article about this rifle (with the buyer's permission!) before it was shipped him in Europe. Martin Hagn owns and operates Hagn Rifles and Actions in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada. (www.martiniandhagngunmakers.com) The firm offers complete rifles, barreled actions, actions, custom stocking and other gunmaking services.

Steven Dodd Hughes, a life member of the American Custom Gunmaker's Guild, is well known in the gunmaking trade and for many years penned the gunsmithing column and articles for Shooting Sportsman magazine. His website is http://finegunmaking.com/

I have known Steve for many years, dating back to when he lived and worked in Eugene, Oregon. His shop is now located in Livingston, Montana.

The rifle that is the subject of this article is the product of the talents of several well-known firearms artisans. The basic barreled action is from Martin Hagn, the engraving was done by E.L. "Larry" Peters and the color case hardening by Doug Turnbull. The wood work, including stock making, checkering and the hand rubbed oil finish were done by Steven Dodd Hughes. Hughes also rust blued the barrel, niter blued small parts, worked on the action, installed a peep sight in a dovetail on top of the receiver and assembled the completed rifle. The customer wanted an ejector, instead of the standard extractor, so Steve incorporated one. As befits a $30,000 firearm, the finished rifle looks like a work of art.

The immensely strong Hagn falling block action is available in small, medium and large sizes and can handle any hunting cartridge, up to and including the .600 Nitro Express. It uses coil springs throughout and incorporates a huge breech block machined from a steel billet that is tapered to precisely fit the bottom of the receiver. When the action is closed, everything fits flush and only fine lines on the bottom of the receiver indicate where the action opens. Internally, it is a marvel of strength and simplicity. Steve wrote a detailed article about the mechanics of the Hagn action, which is reproduced in its entirety on the Martini & Hagn website (http://www.martiniandhagngunmakers.com/technicalinfo.htm), so I won't repeat it all here.

The Hagn action is assembled without visible pins or screws, leaving an open canvas for engraving. This .30-06 rifle's medium Hagn action is embellished with extensive scroll engraving on all sides of the receiver. The breech block, lever, trigger guard, tangs and scope rings are also engraved, as is the barrel's quarter rib. Larry Peters did an excellent engraving job.

Hughes/Hagn action--side
The side of the action showing engraving. Note how tightly the operating parts fit the bottom of the receiver.

The Hagn trigger mechanism is not adjustable. Fortunately, at least by my standards, the three pound trigger pull is close to perfect for a hunting rifle. There is only a slight amount of creep and virtually no over-travel.

The Hagn safety is a rotary-action wheel mounted in the top tang. It is rotated rearward for "safe" and forward for "fire." This safety locks the trigger and blocks the hammer. It is ideally positioned, easy to operate, positive and unlikely to be accidentally disengaged.

The Martini & Hagn barreled action features a tapered/swamped octagon barrel with a low, full length, hand stippled rib. The top rear section of the barrel incorporates an elegantly carved, raised quarter rib with integral flats and slots for Talley scope mounts. The breech end has a short, round section about 3/8" long. The upper surface of the quarter rib is engraved in a fine English scroll pattern. The barrel finish is rust blued. Offhand, I can't recall a more elegant barreled action.

Hughes/Hagn quarter rib
The quarter rib. Note round barrel section immediately in front of receiver

The primary sight is a Swarovsky Z6 1-6x24mm variable power scope in Talley detachable mounts. Secondary iron sights consist of a receiver mounted peep rear and ramp mounted front blade. The front sight ramp is beautifully contoured so that its shape matches the quarter rib, an excellent example of elegant design.

Hughes/Hagn scope and mounts
View showing scope and mounts. Note little peep sight on top of the receiver, ebony forend tip and pistol grip.

The stock and forend are carved from highly figured walnut with long dark streaks. An ebony forend tip and pistol grip cap provide accents, while the slightly "S" curved butt plate is checkered steel. Three panel, hand cut, 22 lines per inch checkering in a point pattern with borders wraps around the forend and adorns both sides of the gently curved pistol grip. Sling swivels are provided, with the front sling swivel brazed to the underside of the barrel. The butt stock is graced by a shadow line, European style cheek piece, as requested by the customer. The stock design nicely complements the barreled action, while meeting the customer's specifications, as a bespoke rifle must.

Buttstock with cheekpiece
Buttstock with cheekpiece; pretty wood!

Here are some basic specifications for this Hughes-Hagn rifle:

  • Action type: Falling block, single shot with ejector
  • Caliber: .30-06 Springfield
  • Barrel length: 26 inches
  • Rifling twist: 1 turn in 10 inches
  • Trigger pull: approx. 3 pounds
  • Metal finish: rust blued barrel, color cased receiver
  • Stock: California claro walnut with ebony forend tip and grip cap
  • Checkering: 22 lpi
  • Stock finish: hand rubbed oil
  • Overall length: 42-3/4 inches
  • Length of pull: 14-3/4" (per customer request)
  • Weight: 7 pounds, 8 ounces
  • 2011 price: Approximately $30,000
Hughes-Hagn rifle at the range
The Hughes-Hagn rifle being tested at the range. Photo by Steven Dodd Hughes.

This is a hunting rifle and it will be used as such. The British buyer hunts extensively in both Europe and Africa and .30-06 is a universal all-around caliber. From a shooter's standpoint, the action operates smoothly and precisely with practically zero play. Extraction and ejection are very positive. The trigger pull is good and the safety is conveniently positioned and easy to use. It is a confidence inspiring action; you just know that it will not let you down. The rifle balances and handles beautifully. If the shooter flubs a shot, it will not be the rifle's fault.

Steve tested the Hughes/Hagn with Stars & Stripes ammunition using 180 grain Nosler Partition bullets and Nosler Custom ammo using 165 grain AccuBond bullets. The test target fired at 100 yards showed the S&S Partition load shooting into .875", while the Nosler AccuBond load did slightly better at .600". (See target photo below.)

Hughes-Hagn rifle target
Hughes-Hagn rifle target.

This is excellent accuracy for any hunting rifle, considerably better than is normally required in the field. Even better, the rifle is comfortable to shoot, if you are wearing more than a Tee-shirt. Of course, no 7-1/2 pound .30-06 is going to be recoil free, but I am confident that the buyer, an experienced shooter, will be very pleased by its performance.

When evaluating a custom built rifle, the issue of cost is invariably raised. We all know that you can buy a functional .30-06 hunting rifle for about 1/100th the price of this Hughes/Hagn. An economy rifle won't look pretty, shoot as accurately, handle as well, operate as smoothly or engender pride of ownership, but it will kill game animals if the shooter manages to get a bullet into the right place. The difference is in the details, and it is a big difference. The closer you look, the more apparent the difference becomes. The "value" of a custom built firearm, or any other work of art, is ultimately determined by the buyer. If he or she is satisfied, then the rifle is worth the price paid. Having spent a couple of weeks with the Hughes/Hagn .30-06, I believe its new owner will be very pleased.




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Copyright 2011 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.


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