Rifle FAQ

E-mail questions with answers by Chuck Hawks

Gun values

Q: I have a ________ (make and model) gun. Can you tell me what it is worth?

A: Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately estimate the value of a gun without examining it. I would recommend that you look up the make and model of the gun you own in Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values. Fjestad's includes a great many makes and models of guns, and rates them by condition. You should be able to find a copy in most gun shops and bookstores.

Gun identification and history

Q: I acquired an old gun, the serial number is 12345 . . . can you tell me something about its history, when it was made, what ammunition is safe to shoot in it, etc.?

A: No. It is impossible for me to tell you about your gun without examining it. And, in any case, not being a collector it is unlikely that I could help you very much. Take it to a local gun shop and let them have a look at it, they can probably answer at least some of your questions after inspecting it.

Sending photos or attachments

Q: I sent you a picture of my gun, but I never heard back from you. Did you get my e-mail?

A: Please do not send photographs or attachments of any kind without prior authorization. Due to the volume of mail I receive I automatically delete all e-mail containing attachments or graphics.

Calculating recoil, trajectory, etc.

Q: I shoot ________ (make and model) gun. What is the recoil? What is my trajectory like and for what distance should I set the sights?

A: Please do not ask me to compute your recoil or trajectory for you; these are things that you can figure out for yourself. GUNS AND SHOOTING ONLINE includes information to help you do this. Take a look at the relevant lists and tables on the "Tables, Charts and Lists Page," they are there for your benefit.


Q: Why is the .25-06 seldom, if ever, listed as one of the viable deer cartridges?

A: Beats me, the .25-06 is an excellent deer cartridge. With a 120 grain bullet it comes close to the performance of the .270 Win. Even better is the .257 Wby. Mag. Both are covered on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

6.5x55 Winchester Model 70

Q: Back in 1986 I obtained a Swede Model 38 and was impressed by the accuracy of the cartridge. I quickly started looking for a modern hunting rifle to use it in. As I recall at that time SAKO was the only way to go unless you wanted to have your gunsmith build you a rifle.

Then I saw an article about a batch of Winchester Model 70 lightweight Europeans with a schnabel forend that had been manufactured in 1984 (?) to be exported for sale in Sweden and Norway. A I recall, the run was about 2,000-3,000 guns and there was an overun component involved.

There was no Internet to search at that time and it took me almost a year of searching and word of mouth to locate one of these rifles NIB. I believe at that time the cost was about $485.00. Like you, the owner of the shop said it had been sitting on the shelf for more than a year, because no one wanted to pay $40 a box for Norma ammo for it.

I rushed to send the man a certified check and then impaitently waited a week while it made the 150 mile journey to my gun dealer. It finally came; a beautiful, graceful Model 70 with European stock lines. I had it topped with a Burris Signature 3x9 scope.

In the almost 20 years I have had this rifle it has accounted for 16 deer, one for every year I managed to get out and hunt. Additionally, it has also "bagged" it's share of hunting rifles. Once I started hunting with the Model 70 in 6.5x55 I found no need for my .270 or my .243. I sold them both and have never regretted doing so.

Now, of course, everyone makes 6.5x55 ammo and brass is widely available. I found a commercial load that worked with my Model 70 and simply bought a case of it. The funny thing about that is that even with two to three rounds fired every year to make sure the scope is still sighted in and the deer I've taken with it, I'm just into my fourth box of 20 rounds. I've never had a deer require a second shot. Placement, placement, placement, it always puts them right where I aim and none have run farther than 30 yards once hit.

A: See the article Choosing a 6.5mm Hunting Rifle


Q: Does the 7mm-08 caliber have the power to produce adequate internal damage and exit wound on CPX2 game like whitetail deer for quick kills? What are the optimum types of ammo for that purpose?

A: Absolutely. The harder the bullet (Nosler Partition, for example) the more likely an exit wound. I prefer conventional soft point or plastic tipped bullets that are likely to do maximum tissue damage and are, therefore, less like to exit. These are likely to be found under the skin on the far side, after shredding the lungs. Examples would include the Hornady SP InterLock and SST, Sierra Pro Hunter and GameKing, Winchester Power Point, Nosler Ballistic Tip and Remington Core-Lokt, to name just a few).

7mm-08 for Moose

Q: First of all, do you think the caliber can do the job as long as I place the shot well and the animal is no more than 200 yards away?

A: Yes, I do. But drive the bullet directly into the heart/lung area from the front or side. Don't attempt any "raking" shots and don't attempt to shoot through the heavy shoulder bones. Bullet placement is everything.

Q: Secondly, would you stay with the 139 grain Hormady Light Magnum load I have been using or switch to a delayed expansion bullet like a Nosler Partition or Winchester Fail safe. Both of those factory loads are available to me, but they start at 2800 fps, 200 fps less than the Hornady.

A: They will provide deeper penetration, but less energy and expansion. If you go that route, I'd choose the Nosler, as I believe it expands better than the Fail Safe. The Federal/140 grain Nosler Partition is probably the best of the factory loads for your purpose.

As a handloader, I'd go with one of the 150-154 grain bullets at a MV around 2700 fps--probably the 154 grain Hornady InnerBond or 150 grain Nosler Partition, depending on which my rifle preferred.

Q: As you know, many of the Moose in Scandinavian countries are taken with a 6.5x55 SE.

A: True, although the Scandinavian moose (alg) are smaller than North American moose, actually about the size of our elk. The Scandinavian hunters mostly use a 156 grain bullet at a MV around 2550-2650 fps, which is why I'd prefer a 150-154 grain bullet in a 7mm-08.

.270 vs. .30-06

Q: Which is better for elk hunting. a .270 Win. or a .30-06 Spfd?

A: Both are satisfactory elk cartridges. The .270 and the .30-06 are based on the same case, have the same powder capacity, and are about equally effective on game. For large game like elk, moose and the great bears, the .30-06 is probably superior due to its ability to handle heavier bullets (180 grains plus). There is an article directly comparing these two cartridges on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

.30-30 accuracy

Q: I have a ______ (make and model) .30-30 rifle in good condition . . . is this an accurate rifle?

A: Most .30-30 rifles in good condition give good accuracy if equipped with a telescopic sight and shot from a bench rest using proper technique. Most shooters can shoot a .30-30 more accurately than the harder kicking high intensity calibers under hunting conditions. Many years ago, when I sold rifles at the retail level, among the .30-30 models I sold were the Savage 340 and Remington 788 bolt actions, and the Winchester Model 94 and Marlin 336 lever actions. The Savage 99 lever action was no longer available in .30-30 at that time, but we sold it in .300 Sav. All were good, reliable and accurate rifles which invariably resulted in a satisfied customer. I don't remember any one model as being consistently more accurate than the others.

.30 Remington AR vs. .308 Winchester

Q: A couple of weeks ago while watching the TV show "Modern Rifle Adventures," Dick Metcalf and J. Guthrie started the show by talking about the relatively new .30 AR Remington rifle cartridge. In describing it's ballistics and capabilities they chose to compare it to the .308 Winchester. Metcalf claimed the .30 AR would provide better ballistics than the .308. He said that the .30 AR has a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps with a 125 grain bullet. That is true, but when he added that the .308 Win. only produces a muzzle velocity of 2660 fps with a 125 grain bullet, I immediately new he was referring to the reduced velocity Remington Managed Recoil load. I have shot the Remington Managed Recoil load with the .308 and could not even zero the gun past 100 yards, because the ballistics were so poor. The difference between point of impact at 100 yards and 200 yards was anywhere from 8-9 inches.

This is a highly unfair and inaccurate comparison where the .308 is concerned. Here are some representative factory loads for the .308 with a 125 grain bullet: Double Tap 125 grain MV 3150 fps / ME 2754 ft. lbs., Corbon 125 grain MV 3150 fps / ME 2754 ft. lbs., Nosler 125 grain MV 3175 fps / ME 2798 ft. lbs., Lapua 123 grain MV 3204 fps / ME 2803 ft. lbs., Conley Precision Cartridge 125 grain MV 3200 fps / ME 2842 ft. lbs. The average muzzle energy of these five loads is 2790 ft. lbs. That is 614 ft. lbs. more than the .30 AR!

Further, Remington also loads a 150 grain bullet for the .30 AR: MV 2575 fps / ME 2208 ft. lbs. Again, this is a significantly less than the capabilities of the standard 150 grain Remington .308 load: MV 2820 fps / ME 2648 ft. lbs. This is more than a 600 ft. lb. advantage in favor of the .308. I'm sure the .30 AR is a fine cartridge for its intended purpose, however it is not even close to the capability of the .308 Winchester when both are compared with standard factory loads.

A: You are absolutely correct. The .308 is a better all-around cartridge.

.308 Win./7.62mm NATO

Q: What is the difference between the .308 Winchester cartridge and the 7.62mm NATO? Can they be interchanged?

A: 7.62mm NATO is the military designation for the civilian .308 Winchester cartridge. The 7.62mm NATO is interchangable with the .308 Win., and may be fired in any rifle (in good condition) chambered for the .308 Win. For more information, see my article on the .308 Winchester.

.300 H&H in .300 Wby. rifle?

Q: I have heard that a .300 H&H cartridge can be fired in a .300 Weatherby chamber. Is this true?

A: The .300 Weatherby Magnum cartridge case was originally formed by "blowing out" .300 H&H Mag. brass in a chamber cut to .300 Weatherby dimensions. Now, of course, .300 W. Mag. is manufactured from virgin brass, just like any other factory load. But you can still fire .300 H&H cartridges in a .300 Weatherby chamber. The brass will (usually) stretch to fit the larger chamber. You will get .300 H&H ballistics, of course.

7.62x39mm question

Q: I have recently purchased a plinker in 7.62x39mm. From what I read on the site, you don't spend a whole lot of time on this round. Is there any down side to using this round for deer sized game out to 150 yards?

A: Guns and Shooting Online is primarily for recreational shooters and hunters; it is not about military arms, assault rifles and the like. If it were, the 7.62x39 would get a lot more attention. Still, we have covered it in detail in these articles:

Compared: .30-30 Win. and 7.62x39 Soviet (Rifle Cartridge Page)
The 7.62x39 Soviet (Rifle Cartridge Page)
The 7.62x39 Russian (Reloading Page)

As a hunting cartridge, there are about a hundred better choices, so why choose such an inferior cartridge for deer hunting? It will kill a deer at modest range with a hunting bullet and proper shot placement, but so will a .22 LR. That doesn't make either one a good choice for the purpose.

Downsides to the 7.62x39 as a deer cartridge? Well, lets see, it is inferior in sectional density, trajectory, bullet weight, energy and killing power to most of the common deer cartridges, not to mention the inherently inferior accuracy of most 7.62x39 rifles.

7.82 Lazzeroni Warbird

Q: Chuck, you�ve ducked this gun long enough. While you apparently don�t care for John Lazzeroni, he had done some amazing things as far as the hot-shooting cartridges that he builds. You should at least provide your thoughts and analysis. I would be glad to ship my Sako Warbird to you for testing, if you would like. I am short on shells / cartridges, as you might expect. I any event, I certainly have enjoyed all aspects of your website. Keep up the great work!

A: I have never met John Lazzeroni and have no opinion about the man. We have not reviewed any of his rifles or cartridges simply because they are proprietary, totally unavailable in my area, and I prefer to use my limited time reviewing more mainstream products. I can't cover everything, so companies that produce only proprietary rifles and cartridges are mostly excluded.

I admit that I do find Lazzeroni's oddball metric nomenclatures irritating. The "7.82mm" Warbird actually shoots ordinary .308" bullets, so why not just say so? The correct metric nomenclature for a .30 caliber cartridge like the Warbird is 7.62mm. Intentionally confusing nomenclature is a disservice to consumers in general and in particular to the new shooters that we need to attract to our sport. In the case of Lazzeroni calibers like the Warbird, another drawback is that they kick like the dickens, developing far more recoil that the average shooter can handle and thus encouraging flinching. In the field, the result is far too often a trail of wounded animals left behind.

Out of respect for the game animals we hunt, I am strongly opposed to shooting at any range beyond the hunter's ability to keep 100% of his shots inside of the targeted animal's vital area, or beyond the MPBR (+/-3") of any rifle cartridge (whichever is closer), no matter how much energy the cartridge in question develops at 500 yards or beyond. (As you know, John Lazzeroni openly advocates taking 500 yard shots at game animals with his cartridges.) I know that, no matter how good the rifleman and his rifle, in the field there are too many uncontrolled factors to make such shots responsible or ethical. My stance is that if you are not morally certain that your first shot will result in a quick, one-shot kill, you should not shoot at all. PLEASE get close enough to be absolutely certain before you pull the trigger!


Q: How do I find out how accurate my rifle is?

A: The easiest way to determine just how accurate your particular rifle is would be to take it to a 100 yard rifle range and shoot some groups from a bench rest. Use a good scope, or you are really testing your eyes more than the rifle. Shoot slowly from sandbags, letting the barrel cool down between shots, just like the serious target shooters do, and you will probably be pleasantly surprised. If you shoot factory loads, be sure to try at least 3 brands. All rifles are different, and some have a definite preference for one brand and bullet weight over another. If you handload, you might try bullets from several manufacturers. Powders can also influence accuracy. Follow the powder suggestions in your reloading manual. Experiment until you find the combination that works best in your rifle.

Accurate hunting rifle out of the box

Q: Which bolt action rifles do you like best as having inherent accuracy out of the box?

A: All modern rifles that we have tested are more than sufficiently accurate for big game hunting. Accuracy is therefore not a critical factor. The factors that matter most are quality of materials and construction, reliability in the field and handling. Sufficient weight is important to help control recoil. On all counts, I like the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight and Super Grade, Weatherby Vanguard and Weatherby Mark V, Browning X-Bolt White Gold Medallion. For a full list of recommended hunting rifles, see "Recommended Centerfire Hunting Rifles."

All-around hunting cartridges

Q: I am shopping for a rifle chambered for an all-around cartridge that is: 1) widely available, 2) low in cost, 3) reasonably flat shooting. Any suggestions?

A: I cover this subject in some detail in my article "The All Around Rifle Cartridges," you might want to give it a read. Briefly, the cartridges that meet your criteria (since you are hunting in North America) are the .270 Win., .308 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag. and the .30-06 Spfd. A rifle chambered for one of those cartridges should meet your needs.

AR-15 reviews

Q: I notice that you don't review many AR-15s and their derivatives. In my quest for my first varmint rifle, I looked at the Bushmaster AR-15 Varminter. I eventually ruled it out because of its high price tag, but I am curious to know if you have ever reviewed one and what you thought of it.

A: The fact is that I am not very interested in that category of weapon. I was forced to qualify (shot "Expert," no less) with the M-16 in the military. It was designed as a rifle for half-skilled troops that don't know how to shoot and must rely on a weapon that sprays like an aerosol can. That is, in fact, what we had in Vietnam and why the AR-15 was adopted in the first place. (Thank God that today we have a volunteer military--the best in the world--a totally different situation than during the Vietnam War.)

As a varmint rifle for civilian use, the AR-15 and its clones are not the best choice. Stick with a heavy barrel bolt action or single shot rifle specifically designed for the purpose of shooting small varmints at long range, rather than a modified assault rifle.


Q: You make numerous references to the Browning BAR and BAR Mk. II rifles in your various articles. Is this essentially the same Browning Automatic Rifle that, chambered in .30-06 Spfd. and using a 20 round box magazine, served infantry autoriflemen so well in the two world wars and Korea?

A: NO! The military BAR you refer to was an squad level light machine gun that weighed about 16 pounds, complete with bipod. The current BAR is a much lighter autoloading (semi-automatic) hunting rifle chambered for several contemporary sporting cartridges. There is no similarity at all except the name "BAR" and the fact that the Browning name is associated with both. In the first instance, John Browning was the designer, in the second Browning Arms is the manufacturer.

BAR / Dangerous game

Q: I have been reading comments about the Browning BAR semi-auto rifle in .300 and .338 Mag. not being a good choice for brown/grizzly bear hunting, due to the possibility of jamming when it is needed most. But, you seem to lean toward the .338 Safari Grade BAR Mk.II. Comments please?

A: Any rifle can jam, even a single shot, there is no doubt about that. And even though a good falling block single shot is a reliable type of action, I wouldn't hunt dangerous game with one. Clearly, factors other than reliability must be considered, including such things as the speed and number of repeat shots available and the user's level of excitement during the encounter, which may impact (among other things) his ability to reliably operate the rifle correctly.

A malfunction its not a matter of possibility, but of probability. The Safari Grade BARs that I have used have been extremely reliable. My personal .338 Safari Grade BAR Mk. II has proven to be 100% reliable in actual use (which is more than I can say for my push feed bolt action rifles), so I regard its probability of failure at a critical moment to be very low. And, unlike those bolt action rifles, it is not susceptible to user caused jams (short stroking, etc.).

I have a lot of faith in my Safari Grade BAR Mk. II. That's important, too. Everyone should use whatever rifle they trust, as the human factor usually outweighs mechanical considerations during stressful situations.

Barnes TSX bullets

Q: I am hunting with a 7mm-08. I was using Federal ammo with 140 gr. TSX bullets. The good news is that I bagged two deer with two shots. The bad news is that they were both kill shots and they didn't drop where I shot them. In one deer I got a double lung shot and it went almost one hundred yards before he collapsed. I am not used to deer running like that. Could it have been the type ammo I used and should I go with another brand?

A: It is probably the TSX bullets, which are designed for 100% weight retention and deep penetration. For quick kills on deer (and most CXP2 game), I prefer a bullet that expands fast and creates secondary missiles (fragments). A conventional soft point or plastic tipped soft point bullet (Sierra Pro Hunter or GameKing, Speer HotCor, Remington Core-Lokt, Winchester Power Point, Hornady SST, Nosler Ballistic Tip, etc.) would probably have resulted in a quicker kill. Personally, I don't like solid copper bullets for anything except the heaviest, toughest game.

Barrel break-in

Q: What is the proper break-in for a rifle barrel?

A: There seems to be an obsession with the subjects of barrel break-in on the Internet. Don't worry about it. Just sight the rifle in and clean normally after you get home. Most shooters probably go through 20 to 40 rounds per range session, which is just fine.

Whenever shooting any rifle, of any age, avoid heating the barrel unnecessarily. Heat speeds erosion. That is why I prefer to shoot 3-shot groups (instead of 5 or 10 shot groups) at the range, and why I let the barrel cool after every group with standard caliber and after every shot in the case of ultra-high velocity calibers like the .220 Swift or .257 Weatherby. High velocity and burning large amounts of powder per shot create a lot of heat and accelerate erosion, so shoot moderate loads and moderate calibers if you are concerned about barrel life. This is good advice whether the barrel is new or old.

Barrel erosion

Q: What can you tell me about rifle barrel erosion?

A: Many factors influence barrel wear. But the general principle is that the more powder you burn and the faster you drive a bullet (both of which generate heat), the faster a barrel erodes. The 55 grain factory load for the .243 WSSM should erode a barrel very quickly, for example. The .270 WSM will eat up barrels faster than the .270 Win., but not as fast as the .270 Wby., assuming that the steel in the barrels is the same.

Barrel length and MV

Q: Is there a noticeable performance difference between the short 18-20" barrels supplied with some lightweight rifles and 22-24" standard length barrels?

A: Yes, there is a difference. But the real question is "how much difference?" Velocity loss depends on many factors. One important factor is the caliber for which the rifle is chambered. Velocity loss is generally greater with higher velocity calibers. See my article "The Rifle Barrel" for more on this subject (http://www.chuckhawks.com/rifle_barrel.htm). The accurate way to find out is to chronograph the same load in the rifles you are comparing, and then decide if the difference is noticeable to you. Personally, I don't like a barrel less than 20" long on any centerfire hunting rifle.

Barrel length and velocity loss (again!)

Q: I purchased a Remington 700 with a 20" barrel. I am loading a Barnes 100 gr. XBT bullet using 45 gr. of H414 powder. By the Barnes Manual I calculated a MV of about 3,000 fps. How much performance do you think I will loose due to the shorter barrel? Or will I loose performance? I have read 50 fps for every two inches, but I'm not sure if that is based on a 24" barrel or a 22" barrel.

A: You will lose velocity from a short barrel. The standard of comparison is a 24" barrel. The actual amount of velocity lost depends on the cartridge/load and the indivudual barrel/rifle. You might profit from reading my article "The Rifle Barrel": http://www.chuckhawks.com/rifle_barrel.htm

Break-open rifles

Q: Why didn't you cover break-action rifles in your series of articles about rifle actions?

A: Break-open actions are more common in shotguns than in rifles, so I covered them in my article "Shotgun Action Types," which can be found on the Shotgun Information Page. Their operation is the same in shotguns or rifles.

Bullet selection

Q: I've been reading the G&S Online articles about bullet construction -- very fascinating. One thing I've not been able to wrap my head around is when to use some of them over standard bullets. Here is a quick example looking at .308 Win. from Federal:

Power Shok is offered in 150, 180 grain
Fusion is offered in 150, 165, 180 grain
Trophy Bonded Tip is offered in 165, 180 grain

From your site, I get that the Trophy Bonded Tip is very tough construction bullet. If has going to use a .308 Win rifle for heavy Class 3 animals, I'd choose the Trophy Bonded Tip in 180 grain to maximize my caliber's effectiveness. Here is where I get fuzzy, larger Class 2. Would the Fusion and Trophy lines let me go down in bullet grain weight (for less recoil) compared to the Power Shok? Something like 180 Power Shok = 165 Fusion or 180 Fusion = 165 Trophy Bonded Tip? If not is there another reason to use them in this case?

I saw the staff ammo summary and it looks like in .308 Win. everyone used standard bullets (CoreLokt, InterLock) while for .30-06 it was split (CoreLokt, Partition, Barnes MRX).

A: Not everyone has the same needs in terms of hunting conditions and range and not everyone agrees about bullets. We have choices and that is good.

Both bullet construction and SD (a function of caliber and bullet weight) influence penetration. As a bullet expands, its SD decreases and penetration diminishes. A "harder" (less expansion) .308/160 grain bullet may finish with a higher SD than a "softer" (greater expansion) 180 grain bullet and actually penetrate deeper. Terminal ballistics is a complex subject, there are so many variables that a direct bullet construction to weight formula is not practical.

I want both maximum expansion and adequate penetration and I avoid long range shots, raking shots and, for the most part, magnum rifles. Thus, for me, a conventional JSP bullet (GameKing, Core-Lokt, InterLock, Power Point, etc.) usually fits my needs. As anticipated animal size increases, I am more likely to go to a heavier conventional bullet than a harder bullet.

When in doubt, an excellent compromise in a premium, controlled expansion bullet is the Nosler Partition. The front end of this bullet expands relatively easily for a premium bullet, yet its base remains intact for adequate penetration. Sort of a "best of both worlds" situation and the reason it has such a good reputation among big game hunters.

In the case of the .308 Winchester, I use conventional 150 grain bullets (usually Core-Lokt or GameKing) for hunting all hoofed Class 2 game. Perhaps I would go to a 165 grain or 180 grain bullet (same brands) for large black bear.

I don't hunt elk or moose with a .308, as I own medium bore rifles, but if I did, I would choose the 180 grain Nosler Partition as my first choice. These are reasonable choices given my hunting conditions. They might not be the best choices for someone else.


Q: I'm looking for a new rifle and I think a 7mm-08 in carbine length would be a "perfect" deer rifle. Do you know of any manufacturer that makes such a combination?

A: I guess that depends on how you define "carbine." Traditionally, a rifle had a 26" barrel and a carbine had a 22" barrel. The carbine was much handier and the ballistic loss was acceptable for most purposes and cartridges. But now "standard" high intensity caliber rifles come with barrels only 22" long, and "carbines" run 16.5-20", which is too short for cartridges on the order of the 7mm-08.

So, would I recommend a 7mm-08 rifle with a 22" barrel, yes. Would I recommend a 7mm-08 with a barrel shorter than 22", generally not. Are there any 7mm-08 "carbines" out there with 22" barrels, yes. My favorites are probably the Remington Model Seven CDL, Remington Model 700 Mountain LSS and Ruger M77R, all bolt action rifles. In a lever action, there is the Browning BLR.

There are always exceptions to any rule. The Merkel K3 and K4 takedown rifles have 19.7" barrels and are available in 7mm-08. These compact single-shot carbines are ideal for the traveling hunter (they can fit into a large briefcase) and I myself own a K3 in 7mm-08. It is my "go to" rifle anytime a commercial airline flight is required to get to a hunt.

Cartridge interchangability

Q: Can I shoot .243 Winchester ammo in my 6mm Remington rifle? (Or .22 LR in my .22 Mag, or .270 Winchester in my .270 Weatherby, or .300 Win. Magnum in my .300 Wby. Magnum, etc., etc., etc.)

A: NO! You must shoot only the ammunition for which your rifle is clearly marked on the barrel. Do not experiment! There are many calibers that sound similar, but I assure you that they are not interchangable.

Comparing rifle and shotgun recoil

Q: I need to purchase a more powerful hunting rifle, but I am worried about the recoil. Would the recoil of a magnum rifle be similar to a 12 gauge shotgun with magnum shells?

A: Take a look at the "Expanded Shotgun Recoil Table" and compare it to the rifle cartridge you are considering in the "Expanded Rifle Recoil Table." Both can be found on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page. But be advised that, subjectively, shotgun recoil bothers most shooters much less than equivalent rifle recoil because shotguns are usually fired from a dynamic standing position while the shooter concentrates on the target. Rifles are fired from a static position, and the shooter's attention is on the sights. Try shooting your shotgun from a bench rest at a rifle target, slowly squeezing the trigger for best accuracy as you would a rifle, and see how it feels.

Factory load velocity

Q: Why do ammunition companies back off the velocity of cartridges? Perhaps for safety is one reason in older guns?

A: Perhaps. At least that is probably what they would say. My suspicion would be that it is mainly to sell newer calibers. From a marketing standpoint, rifles are too well made and last too long. (Some of the newer designs are unlikely to have that problem, though!) New cartridges, redundant though they may be, are one way to sell new guns.

In some cases the change in catalog velocity is due to the availability of inexpensive chronographs. Many of the old velocities were taken in 26" test barrels built to minimum specifications, and when consumers got access to chronographs, they found that factory loads did not deliver the advertised velocity in their hunting rifles. Such a stink was raised that a couple of decades ago the ammo manufacturers revised their testing procedures, changed the standard barrel length for most rifle calibers to 24", and started printing more accurate catalogs.

Around the same time they also lowered the pressure to which some of the established cartridges were routinely loaded; why I don't really know. But that is why I hypothesize that they wanted to spur sales of newer cartridges that would not otherwise catch on since they could not offer better performance. I mean, who really needs a .270 WSM that delivers something less than 3200 fps in actual rifle barrels if the .270 Win. was still loaded to an actual velocity of 3160 fps, as it once was? But maybe that is just my cynical and suspicious nature . . ..

Favorite deer rifle

Q: What is your favorite deer rifle?

A: There are so many good deer rifles that it is hard for me to pick just one. Right now I am mostly carrying a stainless Ruger K1-A in 6.5x55 SE. I have always liked the Marlin, Henry and Winchester lever action carbines, having found them to be handy, well made, reliable and attractive. My article "The Deer Rifle," which explores the subject more fully, might be of interest to you.

Free Floating Barrel

Q: Why do some manufacturers and custom makers advertise "free floating"? Does it improve accuracy?

A: Free floating refers to the barrel, and the idea is that it does not touch the forend. You can easily see the gap between forend and barrel if the barrel is free floated. This is a way to avoid the time consuming and expensive process of properly inletting the barrel into the forend so that it bears evenly for its entire length. Check that a free floating barrel is not touching the forearm by sliding a dollar bill between barrel and stock. Free floating is primarily a cost cutting measure that has been sold as an accuracy advantage.

Rifles with heavy match barrels usually shoot better when free floated. A hunting weight rifle usually shoots better with a solidly bedded barrel and the tight fit between forend and barrel prevents the entry of dirt and crud.

Gas operation

Q: Does gas operation reduce the muzzle velocity of a semi-automatic hunting rifle like the Browning BAR Mk. II or Remington 7400?

A: There is no measurable velocity loss due to gas operation.

Gas operated rifles

Q: I hope you might give me some advice on selecting my next rifle. I'm torn between a Remington 7400 and a Browning BAR Mk. II in either .270, .308, or .30-06. I want a rifle that will last 30 years with minimal use (60 rounds/year average). I also need a caliber that does not kick too hard, as I am sensitive to recoil.

A: You will find that the gas operated action really does soften apparent recoil. I can't give you a figure, but the difference is very apparent. I doubt that you will notice much difference between the three cartridges, especially in an autoloader like the Remington or Browning. For an autoloader, I would choose the .308 because it was designed for reliable operation in autoloading actions.

I think the 7400 and BAR are both good guns. I prefer the Browning, mostly because I like the looks and finish of it and I have more experience with it.

Getting started reloading

Q: My question is, if I decided (or needed) to start reloading, what can I expect to spend for the equipment? Also, how does someone learn to do it?

A: Go to your local gun shop or sporting goods store and take a look at an RCBS starter set. They are pretty much complete and come with a Speer Reloading Manual and all the information you need to get started. Price varies by retailer so you will have to check that out for yourself. Midway USA (online) can also help you and has generally good prices.

Glass bedding

Q: What's the "low-down" on glass bedding your rifle? Does it improve accuracy?

A: There is no inherent accuracy advantage in glass bedding the action. It is merely a cheap way to avoid precisely inletting the action--the glass fills in the gaps between wood and metal that should not be there in the first place. Sometimes glass bedding is used around the recoil lug to reinforce the stock in an area of high stress.

Howa rifle review

Q: This website is one of the best online resources of any genre or subject matter; keep up the great work! I have one request, and that is to post a review of newer Howa/Hogue stocked rifles.

A: We have reviewed several Weatherby Vanguard rifles, which use the Howa 1500 barreled action. The same comments apply to both, and they are good rifles!

Hunting with surplus military rifles

Q: Why is it that most people do not hunt with army surplus arms? I mean, these arms were used to hunt other people, often in adverse conditions, and they have proven to be very reliable rifles, so why not use them? Rifles like the Russian Mosin-Nagant, in particular, are often sold for less than a $100. They are reasonably accurate and fire a powerful cartridge. Perfect, no?

A: No. Most people do not choose to hunt with traditional military arms like the obsolete Mosin-Nagant because they are long, heavy, bulky, unwieldy, slow and are often chambered for cartridges that are hard to fine factory loaded with decent hunting bullets. Actually, the accuracy of these rifles can be pretty sketchy; sometimes quite good and sometimes horrible. In addition, it is usually difficult or nearly impossible to mount a modern telescopic sight on most surplus military rifles. The newer assault rifle clones typically shoot cartridges that lack adequate killing power for big game hunting and they are not particularly accurate.

Chamber a sporting rifle for a cartridge like the .308 Win. and you have a far more effective hunting weapon than any military rifle. Military requirements are very different from hunting rifle requirements. Have you ever seen a Remington Model 700 with a bayonet lug or a straight bolt handle? And how many have you seen without a scope sight?

Light all-around rifle

Q: I am interested in a all-around big game hunting rifle that is not too heavy to carry all day. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Consider a light weight lever or bolt action rifle chambered for the .260 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem. or .308 Win. cartridges. The short action Browning BLR would be a good example of a suitable lever gun, and the Remington Model 700 Mountain Rifle would be an example of a suitable bolt action rifle. Equip such a rifle with a good quality 2-7x variable scope and a sling and you should have it made.

Light recoil deer cartridges

Q: My young son wants to go deer hunting, but is bothered by the recoil of a .30-30. Does a .243 Win. or 6mm Rem. kick less?

A: A .243 or 6mm rifle of the same weight kicks less than a .30-30. I own both and I can definitely tell the difference. As it happens, I had both my 6mm and .30-30 rifles at the range recently and a couple of my shooting pals mentioned the difference in recoil. The .30-30 kicks about 30% harder. See the "Expanded Rifle Recoil Table" on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page for a comparison of these cartridges and many more.

The .250 Savage and .25-35 Winchester kick even less than the .243 or 6mm. However, if your son can't shoot at least a .25-35, he is too young to go deer hunting.

Long Range Cartridges for Class 4 Game

Q: If the taking of thick-skinned, heavily-boned, heavily-muscled animals like rhino, Cape buffalo and hippo at 300 or 400 yards (or perhaps more) had become standard practice, what cartridges and bullet types would be up to the job of killing such beasts humanely at great distances, if there even are any cartridges that would be appropriate for this application?

A: Dangerous game is not shot at long range and never has been, which is why cartridges are not offered for the purpose. The reason is simple: there is too much likelihood of wounding when shots are fired at long range (beyond about 160 yards, as proven in recent studies) and animals wounded at long range are seldom recovered. This is unsportsmanlike when Class 2 game are the victims, but very dangerous for other, innocent people in the case of dangerous game, as a wounded Class 4 animal may seek revenge on any convenient passerby.

The .50 BMG has the energy to kill Class 4 animals at 1000 yards or more, but its MPBR is only good for around 400 yards, even on very large animals. Don't even think about it.

Long Range Elk Question

Q: Before I ask the question, I know you say three to four hundred yards is as long a shot as you should take, but here is the scenario. I have lost a 400 yard plus bull two years straight, the same bull I might add, because 800 to 1200 yards is the nearest I can get to this bull. So now here is the question. I have read all this long range gun stuff online and get mixed views of what is right and wrong. In the real world, what is the best rifle and calibre I can buy to shoot 800 to 1200 yards? I mostly read .338 Lapua, but some say .338/378 Wby. Mag. and some say .50 BMG. What do you say? I want to be ethical, but I want this bull next year.

A: I say never shoot beyond the MPBR of your gun and cartridge, so that you never have to "hold over" or think about trajectory. Trajectory isn't even the biggest problem, the wind is. Statistics show that incidents of wounded and lost animals increases dramatically when shots are taken beyond 160 yards. That is just the way it is. Ethical hunting demands that we absolutely know we can kill an animal with the first shot--or we don't shoot. If you think you can, you will probably miss or wound. You are supposed to out smart the animal, not kill it with artillery.

Passing on long shots is part of hunting, the biggest part. I have passed on a lot more shots that I have taken and, obviously, you should have passed on those two attempts at that bull. Find a way to get close or find another animal.

If you persist in this long range foolishness, you are eventually going to wound the animal and he will never be recovered, dying alone in agony. He doesn't deserve that. In addition, you have denied another hunter his chance to stalk in close for a sure, humane kill, as well as a quick, honorable death to the majestic bull.

In closing, being an ethical hunter is an absolute. You are or you are not. An ethical hunter does what is right, period. The trophy you "want" has nothing to do with it. Even if you "luck out" and kill a trophy animal at extreme range, it is nothing to be proud of. Indeed, you should be embarassed and feel guilty every time you see that trophy, because inside you know you took an unwarranted chance with a valuable animal's life.

Long Range Hunting

Q: I am an avid hunter and shooter for more than 25 years. Curious, you state in an article that you wrote about practical accuracy that �no one is justified in taking shots beyond the MPBR of their cartridge/load with any hunting rifle.� Why would you make such a statement? I quite regularly make the �unjustifiable shots� just as often as the �justifiable� shots. My gun kill�s with great lethality at the ranges you say are not justifiable. My friends and I make 700 and 800 yard one shot kills on small game, as well as big game. I will definitely say that this is due to years of practice and sub MOA guns. The bullet selection is very critical as well as the conditions we choose to shoot in. I do not wish to argue this matter, but merely find out why such an experienced and knowledgeable shooter would not condone long range shooting like I have mentioned.

A: It is real simple. No matter how good a shot you are or how accurate your rifle, at such distances circumstances entirely beyond your control (a puff of wind 300 yards away, for example) can move what you think is a perfectly aimed bullet from the kill zone to the paunch or other non-vital area. As responsible hunters, we have a duty to the game we hunt and future generations of hunters to take only shots that allow us to stalk within the MPBR of our cartridges and that we are morally certain will produce clean kills.

Hunting is not about killing, setting records, or braggin' shots. It requires stalking, forbearance and the willingness to turn down many more shots than we take in order to eliminate all reasonable possibilities of error. I have zero tolerance for wounding animals, as should all hunters, because it is simply THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

Long Range Practice

Q: Would it be a wise thing to practice shooting at extended ranges to improve our accuracy at MPBR? It seems to me that this would be a good type of practice.

A: Absolutely! It is fun to shoot at targets at long range and it is great practice for any rifleman. If you are a hunter, you should also practice quickly assuming field positions and getting off a timed (accurate) shot. Practice shooting quickly at short range (50 yards), from unsupported positions at 100 yards and from a rest as far away as you can keep bullets on paper. In the field, confine all shots at live game to your sure kill distance and never shoot beyond the MPBR of your cartridge and load.


Q: A friend tells me that the 150 grain .270 bullet penetrates better in game (we hunt elk) than a 150 grain .30 caliber bullet of the same type at the same velocity. It is hard to believe that a smaller caliber could be as good for killing an elk as a .30-06. Is he right?

A: Yes, he is. Bullet penetration is a function of Sectional Density (SD), other factors such as weight, design, and velocity being the same. Sectional density is a measurement of a bullet's weight compared to its diameter. The larger the number, the better (for penetration). A 150 grain .270 bullet has a SD of .278; a 150 grain .30 bullet has a SD of .226, so the .270 bullet should penetrate better. In fact, the 150 grain .270 bullet is very similar (actually slightly superior) to the 180 grain .30 bullet, which has a SD of .271. For practical purposes, the penetration of the 150 grain .270 and the 180 grain .30 bullets are nearly identical. For more on SD, read my article "The Sectional Density of Rifle Bullets."

Polar bear protection

Q: Our family spends most summers sailing in northern Labrador, where polar bear encounters are frequent. Friends who also sail the Labrador coast tell frightening stories of being tracked by bears and even pursued back to the boat. Nearly everyone who frequents that coast carries a rifle for protection when ashore.

I've narrowed the choice down to three firearms: the Remington 673 Guide Rifle in .350 Rem. Mag., the Marlin 1895M in .450 Marlin and the Rem. 7400 "Weathermaster" in .30-06.

Judging from what we hear, these emergencies would likely be at medium to close range. My mental image involves firing several shots at a charging animal. I have no confidence we'd have the luxury of properly aiming.

I'm tempted to eliminate the Marlin because of worries about recoil. (What do you think?) It seems to me that the .350 Magnum is a near-perfect match for our needs, but it too is a lot of gun and I worry about rust with the blued barrel and action. We're not likely to give the rifle much TLC. Also, I don't think a bolt action is ideal for our purposes.

I'm inclined to go for the auto-loading .30-06, in spite of the marginal nature of the cartridge. What would be the best bullet weight for the .30-06? I'm hoping that the recoil, especially in a gas operated auto-loader, would be noticeably lighter than the .350 or .450 Magnums.

What do you think of my reasoning? Do you have an alternate recommendation?

A: Let me assure you that you can't miss fast enough to stop any kind of attack and certainly not by a bear. Nor will peripheral hits get the job done. Your bullet must disable the animal so that he physically cannot continue the attack, or cause immediate death. Your entire family needs to understand and accept the need for precise bullet placement.

It would also be wise to spend the required time to keep your rifle in good condition. Do you really want to trust your life to a weapon that has not been properly maintained?

For myself, I would choose a Henry .45-70 lever action, which is similar to a Marlin Guide Gun with better sights and a smoother action. However, it is made entirely of ferrous metal and will require more maintenance, particularly in a salt water environment, so it may not be the best choice for you.

In an autoloader I would recommend the Browning BAR Mk. II Lightweight Stalker in .338 Win. Mag. This rifle has a plastic stock and aluminum alloy receiver, which will somewhat reduce the maintenance required. It will kick harder than the Safari Grade BAR or Rem. 7400 in .30-06, but it is light and easy to carry and more effective than a .30-06. The autoloading action really does reduce the felt recoil.

One possible compromise for your situation is the Marlin 1895GS. This is the stainless steel Guide Gun in .45-70 caliber. It does kick, no doubt about it, but less than the .450 Marlin version. The advantage of the .45-70 caliber is that you can use standard 405 grain factory loads for practice and to gain proficiency and then, if you wish, switch to powerful +P 350 grain loads from PMC or Cor-Bon for carry in bear country. The rifle itself requires the least maintenance of the bunch, due to its stainless steel construction. (It must still be maintained, however, particularly around salt water.)

If you do decide on a .30-06, use the 220 grain bullets. Remember that bullet placement is everything.

Recommended elk and moose cartridges

Q: I have read that Native Americans and other experienced subsistence hunters often use .30-30 class rifles for hunting elk and moose with a very high success rate. And they claim that these cartridges destroy less edible meat. But you do not recommend these calibers in your articles "Elk Cartridgs" and "Moose Cartridges." Why not?

A: Subsistence hunters are operating in a different environment than most sport hunters. They typically pass on all but the easiest shots, they can always come back tomorrow, they know game anatomy, they are excellent trackers, they have intimate knowledge of the local terrain, etc. I know, for example, that some of my Indian correspondents use the .30-30 for moose and elk with near 100% success. Get close, put the bullet into the heart or lungs, and a .30-30 class cartridge will do fine, no argument there.

But the average sport hunter does not have the skill or experience to get that close, and he only has a few day out of the entire year to hunt, and he sure does not have dogs to track down wounded game as subsistence hunters often do. He needs to be able to take longer and less favorable shots (he shouldn't, but human nature being what it is, he probably will), and he definitely needs to stop the animal quickly. He is not a tracker, so if an animal gets out of sight it is pretty likely to get away, even if it dies within 200 yards of where it was hit.

Since elk and moose are large animals with a lot of lung capacity, it makes sense to me to use a pretty big bullet and try to destroy as much lung tissue as possible. From my perspective, this destroys virtually no edible meat. I do not recommend shooting any table animal in the shoulder, flank, ham, or anyplace else that would ruin a lot of edible meat.

Remember, the recommendations you read in my articles are, of necessity, aimed at the general hunting population. They are not intended for the specialist, the substance hunter, or the professional guide. These people are much more experienced than the average hunter and already know what works for them in the conditions that they hunt.

Rifle rests

Q: I noticed that at the range that my rifle shot higher when I rested the forearm over a 4x4 piece of wood, and the groups were bigger. Why?

A: Any rifle will tend to shoot away from a hard surface. No matter where you are, in the field or at the range, never let your forearm or (even worse) the barrel touch a hard surface. Cushion the gun with something soft--for instance your hand.

Rifles for Dangerous Game

Q: I read your article Rifles for Dangerous Game. Altough I found it generaly interesting, I have some comments and minor corrections.

1. The American Bison ("Bison bison") is not the largest bovine in the world . . . The Indian bison, called Gaur ("Bos gauris") is generaly considered the world's largest wild oxen.

A: Interesting, although it is my understanding that Indian Guar are no longer legally hunted.

Q: 2. Since it has become quite rare to have the chance of killing an elefant, people lost the old know how about BIG game hunting. One rule of safety was: NEVER use a bolt action to kill an elefant! Any serious hunter knew, back then, that your life could depend on that fast second shot. Effectively, no one would go hunting elefants alone. The aproaching party would comprise two men, the hunter and an auxiliary. Others could be around with bolt rifles. The two men would aproach the target to 20 meters, more or less; the hunter would then take the front position with the second man behind him. The hunter would then aproach carefully down to 10 meters or so. At that distance he coldn't possible reload a second shot from a bolt rifle before being "roadkilled" by the raging elefant. Rhinos are nearly the same thing, altough there's a diference between the black and the white, since the later are so nearsighted that they have the nasty habit of charging anything they see (or don't see)

The Cape buffalo is another story. Hunters used to say that they were the most dangerous of the big five, since they are quite impervious and extremely vigorous. A buffalo can fall down with the first shot, only to stand up in a flash and charge at the aproach of the hunter. Another serious danger is the possibility of a stampeed. In general, buffalos stampeed downwind. Since a hunter must aproach from that direction in order to keep himself unnoticed there's a real danger. Some more carefull professionals would go around the heard and shoot from a safer position.

A: The mistrust of bolt action (repeating) rifles was, of course, a long time ago; certainly before WW II and dating back to pre-WW I experiences. In those days rifles, and especially cartridges, were less reliable than they are today. Under those circumstances a double rifle, essentially two rifles on a common stock, made sense in case of a mis-fire. It is my understanding that most African countries today issue bolt action rifles to their game wardens and control hunters and have for decades. I don't believe that there is a single country in Africa today that supplies double rifles to their game departments for dealing with dangerous rogue animals.

For lions, the firing distance was greater, but so was the target's reaction speed. A second and even a third man with bolt rifles would be good sense. Lions use hunting tactics and they apply them against hunters; the females usually attack, at least, in pairs. One will charge full speed, usually downwind, while the other will take the flank or the rear unnoticed. The males, if there's more than one, can do the same, but they usualy attack from shorter distances, so they can be even more dangerous. The leopard is a bit similar, although a solo hunter and smaller. The real chalenge was to find one, since they hide from humans.

A: This is where, in a pinch, I'd really like a Browning Safari Grade BAR in .338 Win. Mag.

Q: 3. The BAR Safari is not the only exception, at least not in Europe. There's the Voere 2185 in .300 Win. Mag. and the benelli R1 in .300 Win. Mag.

A: The .300 Mag. is not a medium bore caliber. For me, dangerous big game calibers start at .33 (the lower limit for a medium bore caliber) and go up from there. Obviously, in addition to adequate bullet cross-sectional area, any dangerous game cartridge must have the energy, bullet sectional density and bullet construction to do the job required.

I found your e-mail most interesting. I appreciate your taking the time to write and share your, obviously knowledgable, comments and opinions!

Safari rifles

Q: I am interested in purchasing an "African" or "Safari" bolt action rifle. Which ones would you recommend?

A: Please see "Recommended Centerfire Hunting Rifles," as there is a bolt action safari rifle category there: http://www.chuckhawks.com/rec_cf_rifles.htm

You might also be interested in the article "Bolt Action Rifles for Dangerous Game": http://www.chuckhawks.com/bolt_rifles_dangerous_game.htm

With any hard recoiling rifle stock fit is paramount, so I would suggest that you purchase the rifle that best fits you.

Short and long actions

Q: What do the terms "short action" and "long action" mean? I have a .243 Winchester rifle; is the .243 a short or long action cartridge?

A: These terms refer to the length of the cartridge for which the action is designed. A short action is for .308 Winchester length cartridges (approximately 2.81" long), and a standard length action is for .30-06 length cartridges (approximately 3.34" long). A short action is usually about 1/2" shorter than a standard length action. There is also a long or magnum length action, which is for .375 H&H length cartridges (approximately 3.6" long). Your .243 is a short action cartridge.

Stainless or blued?

Q: What is the difference between stainless steel and blued carbon steel rifle barreled actions?

A: The difference between stainless steel and carbon steel rifles is in their rust resistance and appearance.

Tikka T3

Q: I have some opinions about the Tikka T3 rifle based on owning two of them for more than 3 years. I own one chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum that has a stainless barrel and the other is chambered in .270 Winchester and it has a blued barrel. I reload all of my own ammunition.

I consider the Tikka to be an economy rifle. The stock and the clip are cheap. I have many rifles that look much better than the Tikka. If you are judging the Tikka on looks and quality of the stock and clip, it looses.

Now compared to my other rifles, the Tikka is the winner in accuracy. My 300 Win. Mag will shoot five shot groups at 200 yards that average not more than 1.5 inches. The 270 shoots even better. At 100 yards, my 15 year old son will has consistently shot 3 shot groups into around 1/2 minute of angle.

Now what is a rifle worth that can shoot that well? Would you pay $500 or $600 for it even if it has a cheesy clip and stock? I would. I know many people that have spent over $3000.00 for a custom rifle that might not even shoot this good.

One more note. The "free" bases that came with the rifle need to be thrown away and replaced with Sako bases.

A: The article in question (http://www.chuckhawks.com/critical_look_T3.htm ) is NOT about Tikka T3 rifles. It is about how gun writers have failed their readers. Tikka T3 rifles were merely used as an example of a model that incorporates production shortcuts not usually identified in the reviews published in the popular sporting press. Every production short cut identified in the article is, in fact, employed in the manufacture of T3 rifles. The examples are completely factual and the article was based on test firing hundreds of hunting rifles over a period of more than 40 years and using many of them in the field.

Accuracy does not enter into it one way or the other, except that Tikka advertises certain accuracy claims that many of their production rifles (I'm not saying "all" or even "most") do not, on average, meet. (I'm not talking about a "best group" here, but the average group size with factory loaded ammo.) We have tested several Tikka T3 rifles and corresponded with a number of T3 owners and none of the rifles would consistently shoot 1" groups at 100 yards with factory loaded ammunition. That doesn't mean that your pair won't, but it does indicate that not all T3's will.

In any event, it is unimportant whether a big game hunting rifle will shoot .5 MOA, 1 MOA or 1.5 MOA groups from a bench rest. As you know, big game animals are large targets and offer a big heart/lung vital area to shoot at. A 2 MOA big game rifle is as deadly as a 1 MOA rifle in the field. As I stated, accuracy has nothing to do with the subject of the article or my use of the T3 as an example of a rifle that incorporates most of the production shortcuts known to man.

Other factors are more important to a hunting rifle than the ability to shoot tiny groups from a bench rest. Things like absolutely reliable function, including the most reliable extraction and ejection systems, the ability to single load a cartridge rapidly in an emergency and the rifle's ability to maintain the same point of impact when fired from a variety of positions (over impromptu rests, shooting sticks, offhand, from a tight sling, etc. (usually a function of stock rigidity and bedding precision) matter in a big game hunting rifle much more than pinpoint intrinsic accuracy. I don't much care whether one of my big game rifle shoots .5 MOA or 1.5 MOA groups from a bench rest, either way it will never cause me to miss a big game animal in the field due to a lack of intrinsic accuracy, but it must maintain its point of impact under field conditions. This mitigates against injection molded synthetic stocks and slipshod inletting, but you never read reviews in the popular gun press that tell you that.

Actually, If S&W had introduced their wretched "I-Bolt" rifle before I wrote the article I would have used that as my example, as it is worse than the T3. It sets new standards (lows) for a production rifle. Oddly, neither the T3 nor the I-Bolt are actually inexpensive rifles from the standpoint of the price to the consumer. It is the manufacturer's profit margin that is exceptionally high.

Trigger pull weight

Q: In your opinion, what is the ideal trigger pull for a hunting rifle? I realize that it is a personal preference, but I would like your opinion.

A: I set my triggers on big game rifles as near as possible to 3 pounds. I set varmint rifle triggers to about 2.5 pounds.

Twist rate (1)

Q: I am wondering what are the best bullets for my three different calibers with the following barrel twist rates:

    25-06 Rem 1-10"
    308 Win 1-10"
    30-06 SPRG 1-10"

A: The rifling twist does not determine the best bullet weight. As long as the twist is acceptable--and those are all standard twist rates--they will handle a wide variety of bullet weights well. Therefore, the best bullet depends on the intended purpose. If hunting, it depends on the game sought and the local conditions. For big game hunting, I generally like 115-120 grains in .25-06 (CXP2 game), 150 grain (CXP2 game) and 165 grain (CXP2-CXP3 game) in .308 and 150 grain (CXP2 game), 165 grain or 180 grain (CXP2-CXP3 game) in .30-06.

Twist rate (2)

Q: What is the best rifling twist for a custom .300 WSM rifle?

A: There is entirely too much emphasis placed on twist, particularly on the Internet. People with too much time on their hands seem to delight in second guessing the major arms and ammunition designers and manufacturers. Winchester selected a 1 turn in 10 inches twist for the .300 WSM, and they know more about it than you and I or the guy online. Go with a 1 in 10 twist.

Twist rate, how to determine

Q: I bought a savage 340v (.225 Win. caliber) back in the 60's. Can you tell me what the twist rate of the barrel is?

A: You can determine the barrel twist of any rifle by pulling a cleaning rod with a brush or patch through the barrel from the muzzle end. Mark the rod with a spot in line with the front sight while its down the barrel. Pull the rod through the barrel, watching it turn until the spot has made one complete revolution. Make another spot on the rod where it emerges from the barrel. Measure the distance between the stops on the rod and that is the distance for one complete turn--the twist rate.

Ultralight rifle

Q: I have an older model Ruger 77 Ultralight (not a Mk. II or Hawkeye) in .257 Roberts. I am thinking of having the barrel floated, or the action bedded, or both. I got the scope dialed in and then my first shot at 100 yards was a 1/4" high, shot two was an inch and a quarter high and an inch to the right and then shot three was an inch and a quarter high, but two inches to the left. I was a little disappointed when I walked down and checked my target at the range. By the time the range went "hot" again at least 15 minutes had passed and my next shot went about a half inch above my first cold bore shot. I waited ten minutes and shot again and this shot was a quarter inch to the right and a half inch above the previous shot. The cold/cool bore shots deviated less than 1/4" left to right and were within 1" vertically of each other.

I know that this is well within the requirement for a deer rifle, but I think I am not getting every bit of accuracy I can out of the rifle. Do you think the rifle would be best tweaked by bedding the action, free-floating the barrel or both?

I don't see a problem, but I can tell you that a hunting weight rifle usually shoots better with a solidly bedded barrel. Rifles with heavy match barrels usually shoot better when free floated. I would not free float your M-77's barrel.

Ultralight rifles almost never shoot as accurately as heavier rifles, particularly as the barrel warms, but yours is doing fine and I would leave it alone. There is no free lunch in the real world and when you decrease weight, you also decrease accuracy. Seen any lightweight match rifles recently?

Warrantee Repair?

Q: I purchased a Rock River lower and DPMS Varmint 24" stainless barrel upper from a gun broker online. When I received the weapon I went to the range and chambered a round. The round got jammed in the chamber. I could not get the live round out of the chamber. I took the weapon to a reliable gunsmith. He separated the lower and upper and extracted the live round. He then checked the chamber's headspace with a go/no-go gauge set. This is a three gauge set. The chamber would not accept any of the gauges in the set; it was totally undersize.

I had the gunsmith re-chamber the upper and do a trigger job. We also checked the target crown on the end of the barrel. There were burrs protruding from the land and grooves on the crown. I also had this problem fixed. This is a brand new varmint rifle and had never had a round fired through the barrel. I paid $790 for the rifle and then paid another $160 to have the weapon fixed so that it will function properly.

I contacted DPMS online. They informed me that I should have sent the upper with barrel back to have the weapon fixed. They said that every weapon that leaves their facility is test fired. THERE IS NO WAY THIS WEAPON COULD HAVE BEEN TEST FIRED! I asked the customer service department if they would refund the money for the repairs I had to have done. They refused and reiterated that I should have sent the weapon back to the factory for examination and repair.

I'm a life member of the NRA and TSRA. They will be notified of the poor workmanship that DPMS puts into their products.

A: Stories like yours are common. I suggest you only buy guns that you can inspect before purchase.

You should have returned the gun to the source for adjustment/repair (after extracting the stuck cartridge, of course). Having at one time worked in retail myself, I can tell you that no manufacturer or retailer is going to reimburse you for repairs conducted without their knowledge or permission and before they even had an opportunity to inspect the gun. They've been ripped off before, too. All warranties are voided by unauthorized adjustment or repair.

I'm surprised that your local gunsmith did not remind you of that before he agreed to work on your rifle. He's not required to do so by law, of course, but the 'smiths I know would have warned you as a matter of course. DPMS sounds like a good brand to avoid, but you made it easy for them to refuse to help you.

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