Trophy Hunting for a Gun

By Bruce Rutherford

With all the new cartridge and caliber combinations currently available, it is hard to imagine that anyone could not find the perfect blend of ballistic technology to satisfy any conceivable scenario, as long as you are willing to pay the price. It goes without saying that some of the new cartridges will go by the wayside as the novelty wears off and then you will really pay the price, if you picked wrong. On top of that, with the shrinking economy, practically everyone�s discretionary spending is tighter than it was before and it's more difficult to justify forking over the cash for the latest novelty. Then there is always the quiet voice of logic in the back of your mind that says, �If you own a .22 rimfire rifle, a .357 Mag. revolver, a 12 gauge shotgun and a .30-06 hunting rifle, that�s all you will ever need.� Well, golly, what fun is that?

My suggestion is that we approach gun purchases the same way we approach trophy hunting. When we first started out, we just wanted to �get one.� Then, as we became more proficient, we were no longer satisfied with just filling our tag, we wanted more of a challenge, even to the point of going home empty handed if we couldn�t find an animal that met our minimum requirements. So, how about buying a gun the same way?

Say, for example, we are convinced that we just have to have a scoped lever action in a hard hitting, flat shooting caliber. Rather than laying down the cash for a new .308 Marlin Express, instead look for a 99 Savage in .308 Winchester. The .308 Winchester is universally available, in any loading you want, and cheaper than the .308 Marlin Express. Moreover, it is guaranteed to be available as long as ammunition is still sold to the public.

Here is where the trophy part comes in. The .308 Winchester came out in 1952 and Savage chambered the 99 for it about 1955. Problem is, starting about 1960, Savage started getting cheap with their rifles. The brass rotary magazine turned to aluminum and the cartridge counter went away. Then the rotary magazine became a clip and the walnut stock with the elegant Schnabel fore end turned into clunky, stamped, hardwood. The .308 was chambered throughout this time, but only the pre-1960�s guns are trophies. Here�s the challenge: find a .308 Model 99 Savage made before 1960 in excellent condition and then top it with a used Leupold scope (this still carries the unconditional lifetime warranty), all for less than $500.00.

It is not going to be easy. A quick perusal of the internet will show you that $500.00 is pretty cheap for a good pre-�60 Model 99 Savage, without the scope. However, you didn�t expect to bag a trophy sitting on your butt in front of your computer, did you? Go out and beat the bushes. Annoy your friends by constantly telling them about your quest, to the point where they will help you scout just to rid you of your obsession.

Do not settle for less than a trophy. Any fool can lay down a plastic card for a new gun at Ganderblast Sports Warehouse. You are not one of those. Do your research. Go to the site and familiarize yourself with the pre �60 models. Learn the serial numbers so you can instantly identify the manufacture date. Focus. Narrow down your search to just one gun. As you hunt, you will see guns that no one else does. Know their value. Buy them at a good price and sell them at a profit. Keep track of the profit and set yourself the goal of purchasing, or trading for, the exact gun of your dreams.

Not interested in a Model 99 Savage? Feel free to insert the gun of your choice. How �bout an original Model 77 Ruger, back when they had good, adjustable triggers and a convenient, quiet, tang safety. Or a pre-�64 Model 70 Winchester? Maybe a custom gun built on a Mauser 98 action in your favorite cartridge, or a Winchester rifle and a Colt revolver in the same caliber? Just be sure that it is special and stocked with quality walnut. Set your sights high. Any gun that still functions perfectly after 40 years or so is a good bet to continue that way for a long time. It will probably also be chambered for a cartridge that does what it is supposed to do without a lot of slick marketing.

You get the picture. Unless I miss my guess, the economy is not going to get better for a long time. A new gun is instantly worth 25% less than you paid for it the minute you walk out the door. A classic firearm, from the days before the bean counters and marketing people took over the gun companies, is worth a little more than you paid for it, every minute you own it. It is money in the bank, at interest, that is not dependant on the Federal Reserve System. Good Luck and Good Hunting!

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