March 13th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

Tactics, tips and a passel of great gear for your upcoming battles with Mr. Gobbler. 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE

A selection of Undertaker calls from HS Strut.

The wild turkey is an American bird right down to his red, white and blue head. You may recall that shortly after we had that little scuffle with the British a few hundred years ago, Ben Franklin himself wanted to make the wild turkey our national bird. Thank heaven ol’ Ben was outvoted on this particular idea. Imagine the wild turkey as a completely protected species. We would be forced to hunt something else, like maybe the bald eagle. Hunting eagles wouldn’t be much fun, and I sincerely doubt they are anywhere near as tasty.

But even if it had never flirted with a highfalutin yet largely ceremonial government title, the wild turkey would remain unique among game birds. We don’t hunt any other feathered creature the way we hunt turkeys, with the basic premise being sitting and attempting to call them into shotgun range. Their habits and wariness, coupled with ultra-keen eyesight and hearing create a need for the use of hunting tactics and equipment that we apply to no other type or breed of fowl. Herewith are some strategies and gobblerappropriate gear for you to consider for your next feathered frenzy.

HS Strut’s Triple Trauma call has an adjustable lid that allows you to mimic three different hens.

CALLING TURKEYS HAS BECOME the most overrated, mystifying, and downright lied about phase of turkey hunting. Some supposed experts claim that calling comprises only about 30 percent of what is needed to seal the deal with a gobbler, maybe less. I could argue with that figure, but if you are a beginner, you will need to find a call that you are comfortable with. I would go with a box call or a slate friction-type call. Learn to make the simple yelp of a hen turkey and maybe the cluck to begin with, and that will give you a strong start.

Don’t worry about doing 14 different calls like the guys on TV. If a turkey is ready to be called in, sometimes a couple yelps and a cluck or two is all that is necessary. Let the guys at the calling contests do all the fancy stuff; you are out in the woods to shoot turkeys. Give the gobbler just enough to keep him interested. If he is coming toward you, quit calling. Less is sometimes better than more.

Nomad’s Rip Stop shirt in Mossy Oak Obsession.

Whether you call more or less, you still need a call. And, friends, there are a lot of turkey calls out there. There are many good ones that will call turkeys most days. Prices run from really cheap to what you might shell out on the down payment of a nice truck. HS Strut offers several moderately priced box calls that work; they sound like a turkey. What I like about the Undertaker box call is it features an abrasive, waterproof surface on the paddle and the striking surfaces of the call. If you have ever been afield and have your favorite box call get soaked and rendered useless, you know what a great feature this is. MSRP is $39.99. The new Triple Trauma box call has an adjustable lid that allows you to change the tone of the call and mimic three different hens. MSRP is $29.99, and you can contact them via their website (hunterspec.com).

Nomad’s Rip Stop pants in Mossy Oak Bottomland features the National Wild Turkey Federation logo on the side pocket.

Finally, the new Hensanity call from Primos offers a couple new twists to a tried-and-true form of turkey call. (Editor’s note: This was featured in last month’s News column.) The body of the call or “pot” has four sound ports that you control with your hand and allows you to make a wide array of variations in your calling. The frictionite surface means you don’t have to worry about losing your sandpaper to rough up the call. MSRP is $29.99, and you can find more information from Primos (primos.com).
WHEN TURKEYS HAVE SEEMINGLY quit talking (they will do this often during any given season), sometimes the best thing to do is to get really aggressive. Cinch up your boots, call like you mean it, and cover as much real estate as possible. Go to your listening place and use your locator crow or owl call; if you hear nothing, try the turkey calls. Get assertive with a lot of loud calling, cuts and cackles. If no gobbler responds, move on to the next spot. One down side of this method, of course, is sometimes the gobbler shows up for a date after you leave. You can deal with it; if you hear him gobble at your last stop, get back over there.

The opposite of the marathon runner with a shotgun technique is to simply wait them out. If you know the place you are hunting well and you know the turkeys are there, maybe you just want to sit tight. Find a good spot to call from and set up camp. Get comfortable, call every 15 or 20 minutes, and by all means take a nap if you want to. A word of caution on the nap thing: You need to be ready for the dreaded “come in silent” gobbler. These are the turkeys that never say a word, slip in on you and don’t gobble. And a turkey with these antisocial tendencies needs to be taken out of the gene pool.

The three-pack flock of Strut Lite decoys from HS Strut feature a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen.

But no matter if you run and gun or sit on your hindquarters all day, you still need durable camouflage clothing that is functional for turkey hunting. Nomad performance hunting apparel has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to create a line of premium performance fabrics that feature the NWTF logo and the new NWTF Mossy Oak Obsession camouflage pattern. A collection featuring the Bottomland pattern (one of my favorites) is also available. A portion of all profits from this line will go to the NWTF for conservation-based projects.

Primos’ Gen 3 Trigger Stick series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability. They come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.

Although I have hunted spring gobblers in the snow (notice that I didn’t say I liked it), most spring hunts are in warmer weather. The Nomad/NWTF collection should have you covered from early to late season. Their woven long-sleeve shirt and pant features rugged, lightweight Rip-Stop Technology with secured cargo pockets – designed specifically for the turkey woods. For warm-weather hunts, the company offers a quarter-zip and cooling T-shirt option built from breathable materials that feature vented back/underarms and offers moisture transport. To round out the collection, Nomad also offers hats, gaiters and gloves. Their website is nomad.com.
EXPERIENCED TURKEY HUNTERS KNOW that the last several yards of a turkey’s approach toward you are the most critical. Make a mistake after he crosses the 50-yard line and you will not be partaking of fried turkey breast. The key here is just to be ready. Sit at the base of the largest tree you can find and face the direction the gobbler will approach from. If you are a right-handed shooter, point your left shoulder at the place you think he will appear; do the opposite if you are a lefty. This allows you to swing the gun in order to cover as much area as possible. As you sit with your knees up, the shotgun is on one knee. Get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll need to be able to sit like this for some time.

When the gobbler comes into view, you cannot move. Let me repeat that sentence and add an exclamation point for emphasis: You cannot move!

As the moment of truth draws near, you may need to make a very slight adjustment in aiming at the turkey. This is accomplished by carefully watching the bird and waiting until his head goes behind something big, usually a tree (and the tree has to be pretty large for this to work). Keep in mind the turkey must be within a few feet of this tree if you are to go undetected. Remember the old turkey hunter adage: “A turkey can see through a thin rock.”

Ask any experienced turkey hunter; the scenario of sitting at the base of a tree while the gobbler approaches can be torture. The gobbler may take his own sweet time in getting to you, longer if you’re sitting on a rock, tree root or other sharp object, all while you are trying to hold the shotgun on your knee without moving! (Did I mention you cannot move?) Through the years, I have sat and watched the barrel of more than one companion’s gun start to wobble in increasingly larger circles. Turkey shotguns can be heavy, and so something to help relieve the weight of that gun may be in order. The Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 series can really help with this.

The best feature of this product to me is it will adjust to the desired height with one hand. Simply grab the “trigger” and boom, it’s right where you need it to be. The Gen 3 series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability, and the gun rest rotates so you can easily adjust your aim. These sticks come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.

The Remington 870 – this is the Express Super Magnum Waterfowl model – may account for more dead turkeys than any other shotgun, the author argues.

ONCE TURKEY DECOYS FINALLY MADE their debut, I began to see some hunters get away with movement near an approaching gobbler that would previously have been impossible. The reason is simple. The turkey has his eyes on the decoy and is less likely to see the hunter. However, until recently, I’ve been discouraged from carrying decoys because they are too bulky and heavy, and some early versions of light, packable decoys were often lacking in the appearance department, resembling a mutant ostrich as much as anything else.

But I’m beginning to change my opinion on that, because HS Strut’s new Strut Lite decoys look and feel great. They have a flake-resistant paint job and have a foldable, hollow body construction for easy storage in your vest. They are available in a three-pack with a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen, and individually. MSRP for the flock is $99.99; singles range from $34.99 to $44.99. See hunterspec.com.
ALTHOUGH SOME STATES ALLOW RIFLES for taking turkeys, it is generally thought of as a shotgun sport. The choices for turkey shotguns out there are wide and varied, and choosing just one or two shotguns to discuss with you here is not easy. I’ve gone back to my roots a bit with the choice of two pump guns, but I may have balanced that out with decidedly new and improved ammo.

Chris Ellis of Ellis Communications and his son Jack proudly pose with their Osceola gobbler. It was Jack’s first turkey.

With more than 12 million models sold since it appeared in 1951, what can you say about the Remington 870 that has not already been said? I will stick my neck out (pun intended) and say more turkeys have been shot with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. It has the rock-solid dependability and functionality that turkey and waterfowl hunters demand, and I’m sure that many of you out there are still hunting with your dad’s or granddad’s 870 Wingmaster. I am not sure I can even count the number of variations of the 870, but the Super Magnum Turkey/ Waterfowl model will do most anything you need a shotgun for. The “Super” in the name designates it will handle 2¾- to 3½-inch shells for those days when you want a little extra punch for turkeys, or Canada geese. Another good reason to choose this one is because it comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland. MSRP for this model is $629.00.

If for some reason you’d like another brand or flavor of pump gun, the 612 Magnum Turkey from CZ-USA may be the one for you. And, although this smoothbore was designed for turkey hunting, you won’t have any trouble taking it to the duck blind or pheasant fields. It weighs in at an amazing 6.8 pounds, a big bonus that you are going to appreciate if you need to lug it though the turkey woods. The 612 Magnum Turkey is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, shoots everything up to 3½-inch ammo and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys and a modified for upland game and steel shot. This pump gun has an action reminiscent of the Model 12, and with an MSRP of $429 it is hard to beat.

As with the countless calls, there are various and sundry shotgun shells out there for turkeys these days. Winchester seems to be ruling the roost in this area with their Long Beard XR ammo. The boys at Winchester made shot shell history when they perfected the Shot-Lok technology, which allowed them to load shot in a liquefied resin. This resin hardens, and upon ignition in the chamber of the shotgun it shatters and produces a super-effective buffering compound. All of this translates into the tight downrange patterns today’s turkey hunters want. New this year will be 20-gauge rounds in the Long Beard XR line, so stay tuned for news about this. MSRP is $18.99 for a box of 10 3-inch shells for 12-gauge shotguns, and $22.99 for 3½-inch shells.

CZ-USA’s 612 Magnum Turkey model is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys.

FINALLY, AND FOR BETTER OR worse, turkey hunting has become a game of tightshooting shotguns, and to many turkey hunters the tighter the better. Today’s gobbler hunters want effective killing patterns on turkeys at 50 yards and beyond. George Trulock in Whigham, Ga., has been making choke tubes for many years and he is good at it. Mr. Trulock has forgotten more about choke tubes on shotguns than most of us will ever know. Currently TruLock Chokes (trulockchokes.com) has an inventory of over 2,000 choke tubes in stock, so take your pic. Trulock went so far as to not only make a choke tube specifically to be used with the Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, but he is making choke tubes specific to the shot size you want to use. He’s said, “If you shoot different shot sizes through the same choke, you could see a big difference in the pattern for each size. That’s why we decided to make each choke model specific to the Longbeard XR No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, and to tell you the truth, the results were quite impressive.”
PERSONALLY, I’M VERY THANKFUL that Mr. Franklin lost out on his bid to make the wild turkey our national bird. I would hate to think about the redbuds blooming and all of those old gobblers filling the spring air with their racket and we couldn’t be out there pursuing them. Not only do we get to match wits with this most American of birds, but we also get to justify the purchase of some really cool guns and gear. I love turkey hunting. Don’t you? ASJ

This big Missouri gobbler was taken with CZ-USA’s 612 Turkey model shotgun. The gun also comes in a Magnum version. (CZ-USA)

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , ,

March 8th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

The gun that made it safe for the Winchester to win the West.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

Christian Sharps already had some limited experience with breechloaders when he patented his fallingblock action in 1848. He’d worked at Harpers Ferry where the Hall breechloaders were made, and many people have assumed that that was where the seed was planted in his head to design a better breechloader.

But designing that “better mousetrap” was only the beginning for the young gunmaker. Unfortunately, Sharps had difficulty in selling or marketing his idea. Over the next three years, he had a number of different business partners, and the total output of rifles and carbines he produced was very low. At one point, Sharps sold his patents as well as his interests in the company, receiving a cash agreement plus $1 per rifle made. Then, very late in 1851, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was formed and that’s when things finally got rolling.

A number of the features of the Sharps rifles were redesigned, primarily to make various parts more adaptable to increased production. While the models of 1849, 1850, and 1851 were all basically hand-fitted and hand-finished, beginning in 1852, models were built with a much greater dependability by using machines for fitting and finishing. This is all related here in a highly summarized form, but it is generally accepted that the Model 1852 Sharps is the first rifle to be in the form or profile that we recognize as the famous Sharps rifle.

A Hartford ’74 with a No. 1 heavy barrel, chambered for the .50-70. The author (inset) proudly poses in colorful period regalia with his favorite .44-77 over his shoulder. (BJ LANES)

THE 1852 MODEL WAS THE FIRST of the highly recognizable “slant breech” Sharps, with the breech block at a back slant instead of being vertical. It was also the first Sharps to be produced in the thousands of rifles rather than just in the hundreds. The very distinctive slant-breech Sharps were made as military-style rifles and carbines, plus sporting rifles and even a few shotguns. The slant breeches included the models of 1852, 1853, and the very rare tall-hammered Model 1855.

Incidentally, it was carbines of the slant-breech Sharps that were smuggled to John Brown and his followers, hidden in cases that were marked as “Bibles.” A preacher, Henry W. Beecher, was an abolitionist who supported Brown. That’s where the slang expression referring to a Sharps rifle as a “Beecher’s Bible” came from.

Some Sharps cartridges: .44-40 Winchester (for comparison), .44-77 paper patched, .44-90 paper patched, .45-70 carbine load, .45-110, .50-70, and the Big .50 – .50-90.

With the model of 1859 another notable change was seen – the beginning of the vertical-block actions.  The reason for going to the vertical breech block was for operation of a more effective gas seal.  This is the model of the Sharps that really went to war, our Civil War, and some of these rifles that went to Berdan’s Sharpshooters were equipped with double set triggers.

Further updates and slight improvements were made in the New Models of 1863 and 1865, and the reputation of Sharps rifles for accuracy, particularly for long-range shooting, got began to build during that War Between the States. Afterwards, when self-contained cartridges were being considered much more seriously, the late models of the Sharps rifles with the vertical breech block were updated and converted to chamber those cartridges, primarily the new government cartridge of 1866, the famous .50-70.
THIS IS THE ERA OF THE SHARPS rifle history that I find the most interesting. It was the cartridge-firing Sharps rifles that “went West” in search of the buffalo herds, and in the hands of hunters and frontiersmen who needed a rifle that would perform at long range. These were the Sharps rifles that proved to be legendary.

The author’s .44-77 again, a semicustom Classic Hartford model with 28-inch barrel.

The Model 1969 was the first sporting model of the Sharps rifles that was made for use with centerfire metallic cartridges. It was chambered for the .50-70 Government and it also introduced a new Sharps cartridge that was designated as the .44-2¼-inch, with .44 for the caliber and 2¼ inches for the length of the case, as guns for it were marked on their barrels. That .44 fairly quickly became known as the .44-77, which was the UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge Company) loading for it, and it became the most common and popular cartridge in the Sharps rifles until the .45-70 edged it out in popularity beginning in 1876.

Despite their heavy usage and good reputation, the Model 1869 rifles were made for only two years. In 1871, the Model 1874, the Sharps rifle that many people remember the very most, was introduced. And yes, you read that correctly. Although the Model 1874 was first manufactured in 1871, it went unnamed for three years. It was finally given recognition when the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was reformed as the Sharps Rifle Company in 1874. It is also a fact that Christian Sharps died in 1874 and the designation for the rifle might stand as a monument to him although I doubt if that was really intended.

A five-shot group fired with the .44-77 using grease-groove bullets.

But no matter why the naming delay occurred, there is no doubt that the 1871 debut of the Model 1874 was timed perfectly. The great buffalo hunts were just beginning, and the Sharps – with its powerful long-range cartridges – were just what the buffalo hunters wanted. Both the .44-77 and the .50-70 made names for themselves, and the .44-77 was the most produced Sharps chambering during the Hartford era. But the buffalo hunters kept asking for longer-range cartridges, so in 1872 both the .44-90 and the “Big .50,” (what we today refer to as the .50-90) were introduced. Those cartridges, particularly the .44-90, made more long-range shots possible, and good shots out to 1,000 yards were not unknown.

It was during that time when the “buffalo wars” were fought, including the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls. That’s the legendary battle where 28 buffalo hunters withstood the attack of several hundred Indians from a collection of tribes. The hunters’ success is generally attributed to the long-range Sharps rifles which most of them were using. One hunter, Billy Dixon, is credited with the long shot that truly became a legend, shooting an Indian off of his horse at a very long range. The actual distance for that shot is lost to time, but various claims put it at more than 1,000 yards to over 1,500 yards.
IN EARLY 1876, the Sharps Rifle Company moved their factory from Hartford to Bridgeport, Conn. Some changes were made in the rifles, so a Bridgeport Sharps is generally recognizable to the trained eye when compared to a Hartford model. For instance, the silver-colored pewter nose cap on the forearm was generally no longer used. More important than that, the famous Sharps .44- and .50-caliber cartridges were no longer chambered except for special orders. That’s when the .45-70 became the most popular cartridge in the Sharps sporting rifles lineup, and what we call the .45-110 (Quigley’s cartridge) became the leader in long-range shooting.

Shooting over crossed sticks, the author aims at a target over 800 yards in the distance. (ALLEN CUNNIFF)

In 1878, Sharps introduced their hammerless model, the SharpsBorchardt. While the Model 1878 had certain advantages, it was not particularly popular in the West. The big buffalo hunts were rapidly coming to an end, and with them the demand for a rifle with the “personality” of the big Sharps was also diminishing. The Sharps Rifle Company closed their doors for good in 1881.

Still, the Sharps rifles deserve a fair amount of credit for opening the West up for other brands of rifles. What had been the “wild” West was pretty well tamed by the time the Winchester ’73 appeared on the scene. There were a few .44 rimfires shooting the Henry cartridge at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but odds are those were mainly fired from revolvers. The .44-40 simply hadn’t made it out West at that time, and it is a simple fact that the Winchester repeaters had neither the range nor the punch of the big Sharps.

Today, however, we can still enjoy some “Sharps shooting” because excellent modern copies of the old rifles continue to be made, and remain in high demand. These include those manufactured by the C. Sharps Arms Company (csharpsarms.com) of Big Timber, Mont., which made each of the guns you see pictured in this article.

The author’s best Sharps for longrange shooting is this Hartford Model in .44-90 caliber.

And so, whether your target is a live buffalo bull on ranches where they can still be hunted, or a paper target posted at 1,000 yards, firing a big Sharps with lead bullets and black powder loads remains a long-range thrill. And while shooting one of the newly made Sharps rifles, you can’t help but have the feeling that you’re holding history in your hands. ASJ

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , ,

March 7th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

How one rifle and load became a go-to combo for deer-sized game.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON

As an outdoor writer, I’m often asked what my favorite rifle is. My standard answer, especially when I’m in the field, is whatever rifle I happen to be holding in my hands at any given moment.

But that’s not entirely true. We all have our favorites. For some, it may be a beat-up rifle that’s been handed down from generation to generation. It may be one with high-grade wood and fancy engraving. Many prefer turnbolt-action guns. Some swoon over a fine double gun, while others may shoot only an AR platform rifle. A favorite may be a rifle that shoots tiny little groups, or one that’s light enough to pack up steep mountains. For some, it might be the only rifle they own – or one that literally saved their life.

One of the author’s favorite rifles for deer-sized game is an original Weatherby Vanguard chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It’s been much modified from its original configuration with the addition of a fine Timney trigger and a Fiberguard stock.

In truth, I have several favorite rifles for several specific jobs. For deer-sized game, however, one rifle in my collection has accounted for more animals than all of the others combined. It’s not the fanciest rifle in the safe, nor is it the most expensive. It’s the one I’ve made more great memories with than any other.
THAT RIFLE BEGAN ITS LONG RUN with me many years ago as an original Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It had a Tupperware stock and creepy trigger, so it did not long stay in its original configuration. I installed a fine Timney trigger and swapped the stock out for a pillarbedded Fiberguard stock, in an attractive tan color with black spider web finish.

I long ago lost count of the number of deer and hogs I shot with this rifle in the coastal mountains of central California before I left that state for more gun-friendly environs. It was with me when I shot my first pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, and it was the rifle I used to bag a record-book pronghorn in New Mexico. There’s a nice axis deer on my wall, thanks to that rifle, and a snarling javelina. The rifle has taken mule deer in several Western states, and was the one I used to take my best whitetail buck, a barrel-chested 11-pointer nudging the 160 Boone and Crockett mark.

It was also the rifle I held when I made a running shot on a whitetail in the state of my birth, Kentucky, a number of years ago. He was an old buck, with thin, broken-up antlers,
and wasn’t much to look at. But it was a hunt I’ll never forget. It was the first time I had seen many of my relatives in nearly two decades, and I was able to share a venison dinner with them from that homecoming hunt, surrounded by the warmth, laughter and happiness I remembered so well from my childhood. Sadly, many of those relatives are no longer with us, and I think of them every time I pick up the .257.

This large axis deer fell to the author’s Vanguard pushing a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet out of the muzzle at 3,300 feet per second.

And that, as Forest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.

LAST YEAR, I REALIZED THAT the rifle had become something of a safe queen. I was spending so much time testing and hunting with new rifle models that I had little time left to shoot or hunt with my own guns. Determined to remedy that, I carved a day out of my schedule last December and visited my friend, Bryan Wilson, of Frio County Hunts. Bryan runs a great hunting operation on his family’s lowfence, high-quality hunting ranch in south Texas.

He had been keeping an eye on a big-bodied, 5½-year-old, eight-point buck that made regular appearances on game cameras. His antlers weren’t going to get any better, and he was bossing around some younger bucks with greater trophy potential, so that made him a prime candidate for my freezer.

Sitting in a blind with Bryan in the predawn darkness that December morning, we watched deer filter out of the thick south Texas brush and into an open field in front of us. It took some time before we had enough light to make out antlers, and bit more time before we could count points. There were a couple of younger, promising bucks in the field, and far down a sendero to our left, we spotted a truly spectacular young buck. But none of them were on the menu. We were after the boss eight-pointer.

And then he appeared, walking slowly and confidently down a long path to our front before entering the field. The younger bucks watched him nervously, and it was clear that this old fellow ruled the roost. I watched the buck feed for a while, and then reached for my old friend with the words “.257 WBY MAG” stamped on the barrel. I centered the crosshairs of the Leupold scope on the buck’s vitals, and touched off the Timney trigger, which is set to break crisply at a trigger pull of a hair over 2 pounds.

The author used his Vanguard to take this recordbook pronghorn antelope in New Mexico.

AS IT HAD SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet found its mark. The buck ran about 20 yards, staggered for another 10 yards, and fell over. That bullet, in factory loading, is all I’ve ever fed the rifle, and it will shoot sub-MOA groups with the load all day long. Launching the 120-grain Partition at .257 Wby. Mag. velocity, the rifle has proven to be nothing less than a death ray. The vast majority of animals I’ve shot with that rifle and load simply dropped in their tracks. A few made it 30 yards or so, as this big buck did, but none have ever required any tracking to recover.

I’ve been on several hunts where people, after watching the rifle perform, have offered to buy it from me on the spot. Needless to say, it’s not for sale.

The .257 Wby. Mag. was reportedly Roy Weatherby’s favorite caliber, and it’s easy to understand why when you take a close look at the ballistics. The 120-grain Partition load I favor steps out at a bit more than 3,300 feet per second from the muzzle. Using the old-timer’s trick of zeroing the rifle to place bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards, it is dead on at 300 yards, and a bit less than 4 inches low at 350 yards.

This means that, for the vast majority of hunters and the majority of hunting situations, you need only hold steady on the vitals to make a clean kill out to 350 yards.

Notably, that .257 isn’t the only Vanguard in my safe. I also have a Vanguard sub-MOA model chambered in .300 WSM. It has the same Timney trigger installed and the same stock, albeit in a different color. I also have this rifle zeroed at 300 yards, with a 150-grain Winchester XP3 load grouping 3 inches high at 100 yards. The trajectory is nearly identical to that of my .257 zeroed at the same distance. Picking up that rifle is, for all practical purposes, the same as picking up the .257. It, too, has accounted for its fair share of game, including a scimitar-horned oryx in Texas. These are large animals, weighing up to 460 pounds, and the Weatherby handled the job nicely.

You may, by now, not be surprised to learn that I have yet another Vanguard rifle in my safe. This one is the newer Vanguard S2 Back Country rifle, a featherweight rifle weighing just 6 pounds, 12 ounces. Chambered in .30-06 Springfield, it’s a real tack driver, especially with Federal’s VitalShok 165-grain Trophy Copper load. I also have this rifle zeroed to group bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards. They’ll impact less than 4 inches low at 300 yards, allowing for a dead-on hold at that distance, and I’m looking forward to putting the rifle to good use.

All of this, I suppose, lends a lot of truth to the old adage, “Beware the man with one rifle.” Or, in my case, two or three. ASJ

The author most recently put his old favorite Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag., to good use on a whitetail hunt with Frio County Hunts in south Texas.

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , ,

March 2nd, 2017 by Sam Morstan

With the introduction of two MSR-10 rifles for hunting and long-range shooting, Savage Arms gives shooters some excellent choices.

Story by Craig Hodgkins | Photos by Savage Arms

 

Savage Arms’ new line of next-generation semiautos comes to the marketplace with an attitude – the company has cleverly co-opted the MSR acronym for branding the guns, using the tagline “MSR now stands for Modern Savage Rifle” – but the guns are poised to deliver in the field and on the range as well, with everything from expanded caliber choices and badass designs to a full suite of custom upgrades packaged as standard features.

The new MSR-10 Hunter is part of a four-gun family of next-gen semiautos from Savage Arms. (Inset) The Long Range ships with one 10-round magazine (foreground) and the Hunter uses a 20-rounder.

Although the four-gun family includes two MSR-15 models in 5.56mm (the Recon and Blackhawk), our focus here will be on a dynamic duo of aptly named, hard-hitting MSR-10s, the Hunter and the Long Range. And while the company’s slick new AR-15 rifles are already gaining a reputation as straight shooters, the chance to zero in on building a better AR-10 was a perfect fit for Savage – offering opportunities to play to the brand’s strengths, including longrange accuracy and innovation.

SAVAGE MAY BE BEST KNOWN for its extensive collection of bolt-actions for hunting, competitive shooting and plain old plinking, but the company has also been in the AR business, off and on, for years, quietly creating custom barrels for other manufacturers.

Simply put, the AR-10 platform offered Savage engineers a chance to innovate. According to Al Caspar, president of Savage Arms, “One of the stumbling blocks to unbridled creativity with the AR15 platform is the nagging need for conformity – in other words, keeping the rifle compatible with a variety of accessories. With AR-10s, there are far fewer such constraints. Savage engineers were able to think outside the box to bring gamechanging features to both the MSR Hunter and MSR Long Range.”

While developing its modern, precision AR-10s, Savage also addressed other longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges.

“For example,” Caspar added, “AR10s have traditionally been heavy, bulky and unwieldy. We tackled these issues head-on, shaving off unnecessary weight and trimming size with a smaller, lighter chassis that strikes a perfect balance between performance, fit and function. As a result, both the MSR-10 Hunter and MSR-10 Long Range feature a compact AR-10 design that feels and handles more like an AR-15.”

The buttstock on the MSR-10 Long Range is a Magpul PRS Gen3.

“Savage’s new AR-10s also feature custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything afield or on the range, plus a free-floating forend that locks down so tight you can bridge a scope mount from forend to receiver with no loss of accuracy. Tactical Blackhawk! grips, buttstock and flip up sights are also standard.”

Professional 3-gun competitor Patrick Kelley knows a thing or five about the needs of long-range shooters, and he knows the Long Range model well, having been involved in early testing of the gun.

“It’s got all the cool features that a free gunner would want in one package,” said Kelley at the recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “A longer gas system, 5R-rifled barrel, Melonite coating, 22-inch barrel length for 6.5 Creedmoor, 20-inch in .308 Win. An M-Lok hand guard.”

“The upper and lower are both proprietary,” Kelley added, “and shorter in length, which allows us to make the gun more compact, bring the center of balance back closer to the center line of the shooter, which makes for better handling. The bolt carrier group is also lighter than a standard bolt carrier group. Again, less reciprocating mass means a lower recall impulse.”
“It’s got every feature in it it should have,” Kelley concluded, “at a price point that will make you smile and make you want it all the more. (This) rifle has all the cool features that little boutique gun makers can do, but in one rifle from a large manufacturer: Savage Arms.”

A closer look at the muzzle of the Long Range model.

BOTH MSR-10S ARE AVAILABLE in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings, each of which offers applications in hunting and long-range shooting. The .308 Win. is a fine all-around choice for big game, not to mention a top traditional pick of snipers and other long-range shooters. A relative newcomer, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a long-range performer developed for target shooting but perfectly capable in hunting applications as well.

The nonreciprocating side charging handle on the Long Range model.

Savage tailored barrel length to caliber and purpose. The .308 Win. version of the MSR-10 Hunter sports a 16-inch barrel (and weighs just 7.5 pounds), while the 6.5 Creedmoor Hunter carries an 18-inch barrel. MSR10 Long Range barrel lengths are 20 inches for the .308 Win. and 22 inches with 6.5 Creedmoor.

Regardless of length, all barrels are button-rifled and paired to their particular action with Savage’s obsessive attention to precise headspace control. To further enhance accuracy while reducing fouling, the bore features innovative 5R rifling. And to extend barrel life, Savage applies an ultradurable, Melonite QPQ surface hardening treatment inside and out.

Although the MSR-10 Hunter hit the market too late for extensive range testing before our monthly print deadline, American Shooting Journal columnist (and current cover boy) Mike Dickerson enjoyed obvious success with the brand-new gun on a recent west Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)

With roughly 10 million modern sporting rifles already in the hands of American gun owners, there’s no denying the platform’s appeal for a variety of uses. And, after talking to thousands of shooters online and in person at ranges across the continent, Savage knew exactly where to aim with their new line. The company is convinced that both new MSR-10s will quickly find a place in the hands and hearts of discerning shooters, and with early results trending so favorably, it would be hard to argue otherwise. ASJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , ,

February 22nd, 2017 by Sam Morstan

RTH Firearms CEO Ralph Hicks explains their amazing semi-auto’s.

 

Like most I have been a firing situation where a quick follow-up shot is needed. The circumstances all vary: It could be because you are having to make multiple shots at differing ranges in a competition, the game animal went from standing to running, or the rapid advancement of enemy combatants. Having the ability to rapidly follow-up is only one element; the other two elements are precision and power. The Anvil series of rifles by RTH Firearms provides the ability at any moment to produce speed, power, and precision. And if you going to own a rifle that performs like a Ferrari it should look like one too.

The New Year bought many blessings to all of us, it is also when RTH Firearms released their first semi-automatic rifle chambered in 6.5x47mm Lapua, 6.5mm Creedmoor and .308 Win. The rifle achieves amazing precision, hitting sub-sub MOA at 100 yards with the ability to reach out to 1,400 yards with little felt recoil. The Anvil rifles feel like you’re shooting a 22 rimfire rifle but yet with the 6.5×47 Lapua round allows to make mile long shots.

 

RTH Firearms hasfive goals in producing their beautiful rilfes: : Precision, speed in follow-up shots, knock-down power, minimal felt recoil and attractive design.

 

There are some fine semi-autos on the market today but they rarely achieve sub-MOA performance, and most cannot feed precision rifle cartridges. We know that precision rifle shooters are very familiar with the Lapua 6.5 x 47mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridges — both have flat trajectories and each cartridge retains a very high rate of kinetic energy downrange, providing both competition rifle shooters and hunters with the range and power they need. And unlike many other 6mm cartridges, these calibers are gentle on the barrel, providing a much longer barrel life. We wanted our rifle to feed both hunting and competition rounds — and we offer your favorite cartridges upon request. Our thinking was that if we could make a 6.5 x 47 Lapua work in a semi-auto, we could make all other cartridges work as well.

 

This means we had to design a unique and precise gas impingement system with low tolerances that aligned perfectly with the bolt carrier group. We had to develop our own barrel approach in order to match the very tight tolerances of the upper receiver and contour the barrel to allow it to flow to the titanium muzzle break. Our triggers are like no other — they really give you that tactical feeling and bring to mind the classic statement, “It feels like I just broke glass.” The reset is also super-fast.

 

I put together a solid team to make this rifle possible. I wanted experts not just from the firearm community but also from the aerospace community who were familiar with a culture that looks beyond the norm. That is why I ended up working with Aaron Cayce of Phoenix Weaponry and his amazing team. They had that aerospace and firearm precision manufacturing experience and barrel development experience. If you work with engineers and manufactures that make instruments that are life saving and build components that are used in space exploration, and who decades of firearms experience you have a team that can outperform anyone in the market. But it was their proprietary trigger that sold me, I have used many triggers in my shooting career and never felt a trigger like the trigger they developed. Together we achieved what others have failed to do. And the beautiful lines of the rifle speaks for itself.

 

After three years of prototyping and hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital, I took it out on my private range where I literally hit dimes several times over with little effort at 100 yards. I also traveled to a nearby desert area and had little difficulty in reaching torso-size targets at 1,400 yards in windy conditions.

 

We package the rifle in a beautiful tactical hard case that includes a matching custom-made paracord sling Foxden. If you want optics, we like to work with Nightforce. When we deliverer the package, it comes pre-zeroed, tested and ready to deploy.

 

To be able to release the rifle this year feels is an honor more than an achievement. I am so proud of our team and my family for having the staying power to make this happen. I feel that each of our individually crafted firearms provides the opportunity to maximize targeting success without compromise. And that’s the goal I wanted to reach.

 

The price point of the rifle is high-end. It comes with a hard case match to suit the rifles. I want to give the readers of the American Shooting Journal  a very special opportunity to own these rifles to celebrate or achievements. Simply send Ralph an email and he will provide you with a very special discount only offered to our readers. To have this opportunity please send a note to Ralph@RTHfirearms.com and he will take care of you.   

 

For additional information about RTH Firearms see rthfirearms.com

Posted in Long Range Tagged with: , , , , , ,

February 17th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

In the 1820s, Samuel Hawken joined his brother Jacob at his St. Louis shop, and together they made rifles that helped make history.

Story And Photos By Mike Nesbitt

 

The author poses with a Hawken in full period regalia (JERRY MAYO)

When Jacob Hawken first began making his “mountain” rifles, he incorporated features into each gun that were well thought of based on his experience. Hawken wanted his rifles to be the very best available and, therefore, desired by the most people. His strategy worked, because these days, they are the rifles we remember the most from the early to mid-1800s.

Dan Phariss, a highly regarded gunsmith and black powder historian, may have said it best: “The Hawken, the fully evolved mountain rifle, be it full or half-stock, was the final evolution of the American muzzleloading hunting rifle.”

In my opinion, no other muzzleloading rifle ever surpassed the classic percussion Hawken rifle.

MOUNTAIN MEN NEEDED A RIFLE that was dependable, one that could last a whole year or more in the wilderness. Generally, it had to function without the possibility of major repairs and need for replacement parts, although trapping brigades sometimes had blacksmiths or gunsmiths traveling with them. But with Hawken, that strength and dependability was built right into their rifles.

A Hawken-style rifle and some plunder from the rendezvous era.

For example, muzzleloading rifles were often susceptible to damage with breakage to the stock right at the wrist. To strengthen that area, Hawken rifles and their replicas have the long upper tang, as well as the extended trigger plates. Those two iron or steel pieces reinforced the wrist of the stock at both top and bottom, and screws from the tang go through the stock to anchor the trigger plate.

Unlike many modern modular 70 designs, the barrel is the literal backbone of muzzleloading rifles, as it provides the foundational support for all of the other parts and pieces. With that in mind, the Hawken rifles had heavier barrels than most other models. It could be that this was because Hawkens were expected to make more frequent use of heavier loads, but that explanation isn’t as probable as the brothers simply seeking a stronger foundation for their rifles.

This S. Hawken-style rifle was made in the early 1970s by Green River Rifle Works.

Gunmaker Dave Dolliver shoots a flintlock Hawken he built for the author in 2002.

The locks and triggers used in the Hawken design were also the finest available at that time, and were another reason that they were the finest shooters in the world. Finally, the Hawken shop was one of the first to embrace the percussion ignition system, and while many historians believe the Hawken brothers also manufactured flintlocks, none of these have ever been located.

Some believe the role of the Hawken rifle in western history has been exaggerated, or that the Hawken brothers are being given more credit today than they deserve. But This if nothing else, the Hawken rifles were clearly recognized as being the gun to have if you could afford one. That is not just because they were more expensive than most other rifles at the time, but also because – in the diaries, ledgers and account books of the time – Hawken rifles were frequently the only rifles that were mentioned by name.

The percussion Hawken the author uses the most currently is Three Aces. Also built by Dave Dolliver, it is a .54 caliber with a 35-inch barrel.

Three Aces is shown with a group fired offhand at a recent competitive shoot.

For example, in the inventory listings of what the American Fur Company shipped to Fort Union, in what would become North Dakota, in 1834, a notation indicates “4 rifles, Hawkins.” Another early reference appears in a list of goods taken west by French Canadian trader and fur trapper Etienne Provost in 1829: “2 rifles, Hawkins ($25.00 each).” Those are just two examples (both notations appear in the book Supply and Demand: The Ledgers and Gear of the Western Fur Trade by Olsen and McCloskey). Other rifles were not generally named to this level of detail, but Hawken rifles (and some pistols) always seem to be mentioned by name. In other words, if it wasn’t a Hawken, it was just another rifle.

The upper rifle is a full-stock Hawken-style big game rifle in .58 caliber, while the lower is a lightweight Hawken designed for use by sportsmen.

Although their popularity was not as widespread as their rifle siblings, many Hawken pistols were carried west to the mountains.

For comparison, the price of a “trade rifle” (a rifle made for the fur trade, to be sold or traded to trappers, red or white) as made by Henry, Leman, Tryon or others could be purchased for around $12. At more than twice that amount, Hawken rifles were truly expensive guns.

Details like these serve to remind us how respected and desirable the old Hawken rifles were. Those reminders emphasize the fact that Hawken rifles were certainly on the “roll call” at rendezvouses of the period. At today’s, the caplock Hawken is just as much at home on the good list, and much in demand. There just isn’t anything that spells “mountain doin’s” like an authentically made classic Hawken.

The author’s father made this half-stock Hawken in the mid-1970s, and nicknamed it “Ol’ Horsefeathers.”

HAWKEN RIFLES EVOLVED OVER TIME, starting with the early J&S Hawkens firearms and ending with the S. Hawken rifles, which continued to be manufactured for nearly 20 years after Jacob Hawken’s 1849 death. The differences between the early and late rifles are primarily minor details, such as the use of a single pin to hold the entry pipe for the ramrod on the S. Hawken rifles in place instead of two as used on the J&S Hawken models. But the truth is that each original Hawken rifle was a unique, handmade creation, with no two being exactly alike.

In my 40-plus-year quest to acquire as much Hawken information and experience as I can, I’ve handled – and admired – several original Hawken rifles. But believe it or not, I have never fired one. All of my shooting with Hawken-style rifles has been accomplished with more recent duplicates of these famous guns, many of which have been very exacting copies and that performed in an amazing fashion.

However, Art Ressel, long-time proprietor of the original Hawken Shop in St. Louis, once showed me six Hawken rifles, all laying on a bed. He let me handle them all I wanted, for as long as I needed, and asked me if I could find the one rifle in that group that was not a real Hawken. Although it took me over an hour – a very treasured hour – I’m proud to say that I finally identified the imposter. What finally gave it away? The reproduction had eight-groove rifling while all of the others had seven grooves in their barrels.

The author fires one of his many Hawken-style rifles. (JERRY MAYO)

In short, the Hawken rifle was a highly desired and reliable firearm of the iconic mountain men who blazed trails and helped settle the American West, and it deserves its place in the historical saga of that important period in our nation’s growth, expansion and development. ASJ

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , ,

February 15th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

The Norma Oryx is designed to provide a perfect blend of expansion and penetration, and is available in calibers both popular and rare.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO

The 180-grain, .30-caliber Oryx, in original form and expanded

Three does jogged across the little valley below me, pausing only to look over their shoulders. It wasn’t long – a matter of seconds – before I heard the telltale grunting.

He wasn’t the biggest buck I’d ever seen, but he had eight points and a big body, and at that stage of the season he was a shooter. Head down, searching side to side, neck swollen, he cruised along giving the does’ scent the utmost attention.

At 90 yards, he stopped and gave me a quartering-toward shot, and I placed the crosshairs of the 6.5-284 Norma just inside his foreleg, gently breaking the trigger. At the shot, the buck flipped backward onto his back, legs in the air, and stayed in that position. The 156-grain Oryx had taken him through the heart and lungs, and proceeded to exit just behind the offside ribs, killing him instantly.

Norma also provides premium-grade, quality brass cartridges, including these for the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, available as factory ammunition (shown) or as component parts.

THE ORYX IS A PREMIUM BULLET, designed for a perfect blend of expansion – to create a large wound channel – and penetration – to ensure that the wound channel reaches the vital organs. Usually designed in a semispitzer profile, the bullet’s copper jacket is engineered to be thinner at the nose, to initiate expansion, yet gets thicker toward the flat base of the bullet.

In addition to getting thicker, the rear portion of the jacket is chemically bonded to the lead core to make sure that things stay together. Chemical bonding, resulting in what we call a “bonded core” bullet, prevents bullet breakup, and slows the expansion process down to allow the bullet to penetrate deeply. It is one of several methods used to resist overexpansion, a problem common to standard cup-and-core bullets at high-impact velocities, and the Norma Oryx does this well.

Norma loads the Oryx in some rare calibers, such as the .308 Norma magnum.

Being a semispitzer, the Oryx may not possess the high ballistic coefficient (BC) figures that some of the sleek, polymer-tipped hunting bullets may have, but at normal hunting distances that doesn’t pose a huge problem. Inside of 400 yards, shots can be made with a bullet in this conformation, and the additional terminal performance can make a big difference when it really counts; should tough shoulder bones, thick hide, or gristle plates need to be penetrated, the Oryx will definitely hold together for you.

Norma loads the Oryx in their factory ammunition, in calibers from .224 inches all the way up to .375 inches. The smallest are a good choice for those who wish to use a .22 centerfire on deer and other similar game. The standard big game calibers, say from 6.5mm up to 8mm, can be used with an additional level of confidence, should the shot angle be less than desirable.

The .375 300-grain Oryx.

The heavier calibers, from .338 inches up to the .375 inches, will take full advantage of the Oryx’s stature, as these calibers are often used to pursue the largest animals that can be effectively hunted with a soft-point bullet. Norma offers the Oryx in mid- to heavyweight projectiles for caliber, at standard muzzle velocities. Retained weight is often high – above 90 percent in most instances – with expansion usually doubling the original diameter.
THE ORYX IS AVAILABLE IN MOST of the popular calibers, such as the .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .375 Holland & Holland and .300 Winchester Magnum, but also has embraced some of the rarities, like the .308 and .358 Norma Magnums, as well as the Weatherby and Blaser Magnums. Hailing from Sweden, Norma loads many of the metric calibers, like the classic 7×57 Mauser, 9.3x63mm, 8×57 and 9.3x74R, as well as some of those lesser-known calibers here in the States like the 7×64 Brenneke and the 7x65R.

The American PH line includes the 6.5-284 Norma, with the 156-grain Oryx bullet.

Norma also offers the Oryx as a component bullet for the handloader, so for those of you who like to hunt with your own ammunition, the Oryx remains a viable option.

In the field, I like the Oryx for any situation where a difficult shot angle may be the only shot you get, or in an instance where stopping an animal may be necessary. The Oryx would make a very good choice for a hunter who wanted to use his or her .270 Winchester for elk; at 150 grains, the heavy-for-caliber bonded core slug will definitely hold together well enough to reach the vitals. I also like the Oryx for many of the African species, as well as for our North American bears. Thinking lion and leopard, as well as eland and wildebeest, the Oryx – in a suitable caliber – will provide enough expansion to shred the vital organs, yet will break those tough shoulder bones that guard the vitals.

I also think that a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H Magnum, loaded with a heavy-for-caliber Oryx, would make an excellent brown bear combination, and would certainly handle any black bear that ever walked. For a hunter who wants to pursue bears with his standard deer rifle, the Oryx will handle the shoulder bones and put that bear down quickly. For those who hunt deer with the popular .243 Winchester, the Oryx will surely get the job done, at just about any angle.

The classic .30-06 Springfield is even better when mated with the Oryx.

Is it accurate? My 6.5-284 Norma will print three of those 156-grain Oryx bullets into ½ MOA groups, as will my .300 Winchester Magnum with 180-grainers. My .375 H&H puts three 300-grain Oryx bullets into exactly 1 inch at 100 yards. For a trio of hunting rifles that will handle most all of the big game scenarios across the globe, that’s more than enough accuracy. ASJ

In the .375 H&H, the Oryx bullet makes a good choice for truly large game.

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , , , ,

November 26th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Lyman has reintroduced their popular #2 for the Uberti 1873 and other lever-actions.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

The current sustained popularity of the guns of the Old West convinced Lyman to reintroduce some of the fine accessories they used to manufacture in the 1800s. That’s a general statement, but it also leads us right into this short conversation about their #2 Tang Sight, which is made especially for the 1873 lever action as manufactured by Uberti.

After installing Lyman’s #2 Tang Sight on his Uberti 1873, the author shot a nice five-shot group.

After installing Lyman’s #2 Tang Sight on his Uberti 1873, the author shot a nice five-shot group.

Lyman patented their #1 Tang Sight in 1879. The #2 followed either very shortly after if not at the same time. The only difference between those two types of sights is that the #1 had the combination apertures, with the fold-down small aperture, and the #2 came with removable discs, a feature that came to be favored by target shooters.

Putting one of these sights on an Uberti copy of the 1873 Winchester will usually require drilling and tapping for the forward sight hole, and Lyman includes directions on how to do that, including tapping the hole for 10-32 threads. I needed that to be done on my Stoeger/Uberti rifle, but that was the only modification I had to make before the sight was installed. Then it was lined up with the open sight before the open sight was removed.

Let me give one tiny warning: be sure the very small Allen screw on the lower part of the upright is good and tight. That’s what holds the sight stem in place.

Shooting with the new tang sight was a blast! I used loads with 200-grain cast bullets over 33 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F black powder. My first group was a bit high, so the sight was lowered. The next group is what you see pictured, five shots in a very tight group. I was aiming at 6 o’clock so the sights were left as is, to hit with a dead-on hold.

Lyman’s list price for one of its #2 Tang Sights is $99.95 and they are available directly from Lyman or most sporting goods stores. The sights are also made for the 1866, 1886, 1894 models, and the Marlins.

For more on the entire Lyman line, visit lymanproducts.com. ASJphoto-1

Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

August 10th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

For Half A Century, This Unassuming Rifle Has Made It Easy For Owners To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY TOM CLAYCOMB

I’m convinced that the Ruger 10/22 is the most popular .22 rifle of all time. Not only is it a great little rifle right out of the box, but there are probably a million aftermarket items available that enhance its functionality even further, making it the most “trick-out-able” gun on the market.

Now, your vote may be swayed by the current AR platform rage, but that involves multiple calibers and brands. I’m talking about the most popular single gun, and the Ruger 10/22 owns that honor, hands down.

Not bad for a rifle that first hit the market in 1964.

The 10/22 became my go-to rifle pretty quickly. How could I not love it? It’s extremely dependable, accurate and, as I mentioned, you can trick it out as much as you want. But it was my quest to hunt the elusive whistle pig (which in southern Idaho, where I shoot, refers to a Townsend’s ground squirrel) that led me to desire a higher level of accuracy, which in turn led to this article.

I love hunting varmints in the spring, and on good days I’ll shoot 400 to 500 rounds at these ornery targets. But if you’re like me when shooting hundreds of rounds using a gun with a small capacity clip, you’ll get frustrated, and I mean fast. In fact, it’s easy enough to get frustrated if you don’t have two or three fully stocked 25-shot banana clips on hand.

As my experience progressed, it got to be fun to see how far out I could hit whistle pigs. I hit one a year or so ago at 197 yards, and then another at 207 yards. If they hold still and let you get three shots to zero in, you can hit them out there. Of course, the gale-like winds we encounter regularly out on the high plains here in Idaho don’t help with long-range shooting.

To determine which item helped my accuracy and how much, I shot first with the plain 10/22 and economical scope, then I added the VX2 Leupold and shot it again, added the Timney trigger and shot, and then the Brownells barrel and Boyd stock. At each step I measured groups.

I noticed that while sighting in with a new scope, I’d have one or two fliers out of a 10-round group. Then, when I listened good, I observed that there’d be a difference in the loudness or volume of the report, which meant it had a little less powder than the previous shot.

I then begin to doubt the ammo more than my shooting ability, a conclusion that was confirmed when my buddy told me that even with good ammo, match shooters weigh their bullets and kick out those with the highest and lowest weights. I also shot his tricked-out 10/22, and although I thought he might have gone a little overboard with his, it got me thinking about which steps I should take with mine to achieve a higher level of accuracy.

In other words, which items helped me and which ones did not?

TRICKY, TRICKY

Hunting whistle pigs requires a scope because they’re small targets. You may have to take head shots when they pop out of their holes, so I didn’t begin this test using open sights. In fact, with a cheap scope and Remington ammo I was already getting between .65-inch and 1.0-inch groups at 25 yards. Then I shot some Eley ammo and got my groups
down to .4 inches.

Installing a Timney trigger is very easy. Remove the one screw holding on the stock and remove the stock. Many times the pins holding in the trigger will fall out, but if not, push them out. Install the trigger, replace the pins and remount the stock. That’s it.

The first thing I did was install a Leupold VX2 4-12 AO CDS scope that I’d had painted in the company’s Custom Shop to match my new Boyd stock. Now I could really focus in and I was able to get my shooting down to groups of .6 inches with the Remington ammo and .4 with the Eley.

My original trigger had a pull of 5.5 pounds but it had a rough spot and some drag, which hurt my accuracy. So after adding the scope I installed a Timney trigger with a 2¾-pound pull. This lighter setting aided my squeeze immensely.

Installing a Timney 10/22 trigger was super simple. In fact, my son-in-law located a YouTube video that showed everything we needed to do, so we did the first one together. The video said to remove the stock and pull the pins. Well, we removed the stock and two pins fell out, so I looked at him and said, “I assume those are the two pins we’re supposed to take out.” They had been held in place by the stock, so the process couldn’t have been simpler.

Despite the wind being pretty bad, with the new scope and trigger I was able to shoot groups between .5 inches and 1.0 inch using Remington ammo, and with the Eley I was consistently getting .5-inch groups. I now felt as if I had a good shooting rifle.

The next step was to put on a Brownells barrel and a Boyd Stock. Removing the barrel was also pretty simple. First you remove the stock, and then there are two Allen bolts holding a block that pins in the barrel. Remove them. My barrel was tight, so I ran home and used a wooden dowel rod to tap it off. To mount it again, just reverse the
order of steps. Then I slid on the Boyd stock and tightened it down with the one screw. What a sweet-looking rifle!

The following day I had to teach some seminars at Sportsman’s Warehouse, but as soon as I was done I took off for the plains. Now, I didn’t measure it, but I’ll estimate that the wind was blowing around 15 miles per hour. The next day there was a little less, probably 8 to 10 mph, so that helped. But with my new, tricked-out 10/22, I was able to achieve .4- to .6-inch groups with the Remington ammo, and .2- to .3-inch groups with the Eley. I now had a shooter.

If you believe different brands of ammo vary in your bigger caliber rifles (and I do), the variance is even more so with a .22. So on the final day, just for the sake of this article, I shot four brands. Here were the best groups that I obtained with each brand.

Federal Target Grade Performance: 1.3-inch group

Winchester M22: .9-inch group

Remington Golden Bullet: .4-inch group

Eley Force: .2-inch group
TEST PARAMETERS:

Tests were performed at 25 yards off a stable bench with Altus shooting bags;

Distances were set using a Leupold RS-1200iTBR/W Digital Laser Rangefinder;

Five-shot groups were fired;

Shooting was done out on the prairie, so wind was a factor. For example, using Eley ammo indoors, I believe I could have obtained .1-inch groups.

The Leupold Custom Shop matched the pattern of this Boyd stock.

SUMMARY:

Here is how I would rank (from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important) which item most affected and/or improved accuracy besides choice of ammunition:

1. Scope You must be able to pinpoint one spot or you just aren’t going to be accurate.

2. Trigger If you can’t get a good squeeze, you just aren’t going to be able to tighten up your groups.

3. Boyd stock My stock is super comfortable and I feel like I have a good grasp of my rifle. Does that really help the accuracy? I think it does, if only minutely. Your mind will not drift off thinking how awkward or uncomfortable it is to hold. And although it is not a factor on a .22, Boyd claims that they help reduce recoil on larger caliber rifles.

4. Bull barrel I think this add-on would play a bigger factor on hot days when you’re pouring out the ammo. A lighter barrel would get warm.

The famed Ruger 10/22 was already a great little rifle before author Tom Claycomb tricked it out using parts shown here.

5. Cool factor If you want to have a rifle that takes people’s breath away, a scope out of the Leupold Custom Shop and a Boyd stock will surely help. Tell Leupold what type of stock you’re buying and they’ll paint your scope to match it. What’s cooler than that? In addition, both companies have options too numerous to mention. ASJ

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July 31st, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Magpul Expands Into Traditional Rifle Stock Offerings, Including A Model For The Remington 700

REVIEW AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD SHARRER

Magpul Industries has long been known for manufacturing superior rifle (and now pistol) magazines, as well as improved stocks for ARs. The company is now expanding into more traditional rifle stocks and is taking them to new levels.

I was recently sent a Magpul “Hunter” stock for the Remington 700 series rifles to test. Now, admittedly, I’m not much of a hunter. I choose to spend my shooting time a bit more tactically, but with that said, I really do like this stock.

The version I received was in basic black, but other available colors include flat dark earth, stealth gray and olive drab green. This stock features reinforced polymer construction, and includes such unique features as a spacer adjustable length of pull with a range of adjustment from 13 to 15 inches in half-inch increments. That is a wonderful addition to any stock, in my opinion. I think of myself as an average-sized guy (5-foot-9, 170 pounds), but I’ve yet to find a stock that fits me out of the box. The ability to simply add or remove spacers to get the gun to fit me the way I like it is an excellent improvement over a “standard” stock.

Another unique addition is the ability to adjust the height of the cheek piece. A high cheek riser kit is available that enables users to modify the height of the stock comb and allow a proper cheek weld behind a scope. Most “hunter” stocks seem to be set for iron sight use, and adding even a low mounted scope forces the shooter to compromise a good cheek weld to use the scope. This leads to less accuracy and a slower shot, as the shooter has to find the eye box behind the scope. Not with this set-up. Simply mount the gun to your shoulder, get a solid cheek weld and the crosshairs are right in front of your eye. Nice!

The stock comes out of the box it set up to use both the OEM bottom metal and the blind magazine standard on the Remington 700 series rifles. There is, however, an option to replace that with detachable AICS-pattern magazines. A section of M-LOK compatible slots in the forend make attaching accessories easy and fast. This is a “drop-in” product. No fitting or inletting is required.

The Magpul Hunter stock makes an excellent after-market addition to a Remington 700 short-action series rifle.

Here’s some sentiments on the Magpul Hunter 700 stock from Reddit and AR15 Forum:
heathenyak: picked up an older 700 bdl the other day in .338 win mag because why not. The action is smooth as glass. I’ll be taking it out to the range next weekend or the following

nomadicbohunk: It shoots sub moa no problem. We’re actually pretty impressed with it. The only work I’ve done to it was to stiffen the stock and bed it. He wishes he’d have bought a few of them.

tomj762: Yeah I thought it was the Remington 770 that gets a lot of hate. The 700 gets accreditation for being a rifle you can buy for under $1,000 and get out of the box 1,000 yard precision.

Chowley_1: Or spend $650 for a Tikka and have a vastly superior rifle.

wags_01: Bolt gun mags aren’t cheap. AICS .308 mags run ~$70 too.

Isenwod: Considering it’s been the platform for every military sniper rifle since the 70s, I would say not.

morehousemusicplease: grip angle is excessive for my liking price isnt bad at 260 which puts it in line with the b&c.

The_Eternal_Badger: Admittedly no one has really handled or used the Magpul stock yet, but if it’s up to their current standards I can’t see how it wouldn’t be a better deal with equal or better performance out of the box.

THellURider: Honestly – I’ve wondered why they hadn’t released this many years ago. And then I remember that they’re more a marketing and design company than a manufacturer of anything with more than 1 moving part.

Hunting rifle: Going to be tough to beat a B&C Alaskan (I or II) or if you’re going to go spendy, McMillan Edge.

KC45: I’ve never been much of an aftermarket stock guy. I bet for 99% of shooters here a decent factory stock will do just as well and the money they save would be better spent getting some good precision shooting training/instructions and on ammo (or components). It’s the indian…not the arrow

JohnBurns: Mid-priced platform for bench shooting? Sure. That style of hunting, that guy’s set up is all wrong. Ultra light hunters want small, light, compact rifles with small, light scopes. Leupold VX6 2.5-10, McMillan Edge, on a light profile 260 rem – yes.

Lost_River: Great video quality. However it pretty much showed nothing in regards to technical information.

Bubbatheredneck: What does it offer vs the AICS? And no mountain hunter is gonna lug that beast around very long if it is as heavy as it looks..

Dash_ISpy: I like my Magpul 870 stock. Id probably get one of these as well. I wonder if itll be easier to integrate a mag. Im not excited to spend $300 extra just for a mag.

bulldog1967: it doesn’t do anything my Tikka T3 in .270 WSM doesn’t do.

Foxtrot08: That set up will be my next rifle. My current rifle is an older M700 long action, in 300WM on a B&C Alaskan II stock. Barrel has been blue printed, and bolt has been fitted. Not 100% light weight, but I haven’t needed it yet, as I only do day hunts on the western slope of Colorado.

LuvBUSHmaster: My .300 WinMag 700 BDL could use some MAGpul love but I need specs and a Long Action Model.

RePp: I don’t need another stock but for that price it will be very hard to beat. Now those magazines I will buy a shitload of. A polymer AICS mag like that will be a huge hit.

If you are looking to upgrade your Remington 700 stock, be that of your favorite deer rifle in .308 Win, a suppressed 700 SD in 300 Blackout or any other short- or long-action 700, you should give this option a good long look. ASJ

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July 22nd, 2016 by Sam Morstan

INTERVIEW BY AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL  PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LEGENDARY ARMS WORKS

Recently, we had a conversation with Legendary Arms Works’ sales and marketing executive Walter Hasser, who filled us in on the Reinholds, Pa.-based (717335-8555; legendaryarmsworks.com) company’s back story and its exciting future plans.
American Shooting Journal How did cofounders Mark Bansner and David Dunn team up to get LAW started?

Walter Hasser David and Mark go back a few years, as Mark worked on a few of David’s guns when he was operating Bansner’s Ultimate Rifles. After David had been operating a firearms retail store and indoor range in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, he began noticing the trend of American-manufactured firearms decreasing in quality and sending products offshore to be produced. He wanted very badly to do something about it and believed, as we all believe today, that a firearm is something greater than the sum of its parts and deserving of the attention of craftsmen.

Furthermore, a larger portion of the American shooting population should have access to a higher level of quality versus just a handful who can afford a full custom rifle. David’s first step in realizing his dream was purchasing the M704 design and rights to manufacture from Ed Brown. His second was to form a partnership with the best custom gun builder and share his vision with the country.

Part and parcel to LAW rifles is the company’s unique controlled round-feed system.

Part and parcel to LAW rifles is the company’s unique controlled round-feed system.

ASJ How much did Mark’s passion for hunting inspire him to have his own firearms company?

WH Mark is an extremely passionate hunter and the type of guy you want in your camp. His ideals and character set him apart, both afield and in the shop. He likes getting his hands dirty, solving problems, working with people, growing and affecting those around him. And he holds a deep respect for the sport and the industry as a whole. Mark understands the emotional and spiritual experience of hunting big game. As an artisan he holds a heightened sense of how that experience is amplified when undertaken with a fine instrument. I believe he takes great pride in contributing to that experience for our customers.

ASJ In terms of hunting rifles, can you describe some features of your guns and how they can be effective?Legendary Arms 3

WH Our M704 Action design is completely unique. A true controlled round-feed system that also has the luxury of single feeding without first depressing a round on the magazine follower is a great advantage in many scenarios. The fixed ejector blade is ruggedly simple and eliminates the common user error of “short stroking” during the cycle of operation, as the spent case will not eject until the bolt is fully cycled. The action is the perfect foundation for the perfect hunting rifle – not to mention the precision CNC machining quality and one-piece bolt.

ASJ What is your favorite LAW model and why?

WH “The Professional” is our flagship rifle and best seller, and it’s easy to see why once you have it in your hands. The balance is perfect and craftsmanship is unlike any other product in its price bracket. You have the luxury of a fully custom mountain rifle in a package for one-third of the price.

ASJ How has LAW evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the future?

WH A very significant development you’ll see from us this year is stepping into the realm of tactical and longrange precision rifles. To date our product line has been based around hunting rifles, but we are not just a hunting rifle company. We are a manufacturing company – a small, veteran-owned business with a large veteran workforce committed to bringing great rifles and great customer service to a bigger portion of the market than before. We have some very talented folks on our product development team, with backgrounds in law enforcement and the military, along with competitive shooting. This year we’ll be bringing a chassis system to market that I think you’ll love!

Legendary Arms Works is proud of their line of hunting rifles, and the company will soon move into the tactical and long-range fields too.

Legendary Arms Works is proud of their line of hunting rifles, and the company will soon move into the tactical and long-range fields too.

ASJ Is there anything else you want to say about the LAW brand?

WH We’re very grateful for our customers and the opportunity to manufacture and sell these products into this market and this industry that we all care so deeply for. ASJ 

Editor’s note: For more on Legendary Arms Works, like them at facebook.com/ LegendaryArmsWorks.

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July 13th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Seven-shot Rifle Comes In Sporter, Classic, Varmint Models

Review And Photographs By Oleg Volk

Keystone Arms has long been known for single-shot .22-caliber bolt-actions for kids. Last year, they introduced a very unique repeater bolt action, which was released during the rimfire-ammunition shortage that happened not long ago. This gun came out with no fanfare and made very little impression in the gun industry. The Model 722, named for its seven-shot capacity and caliber, comes in three variants: the simple $262 Sporter, the more refined $315 Classic and the $340 heavy-barreled Varmint. They share all parts except the barrel and stock.

The bolt has a locking lug opposite the handle, which acts as a second lug, and the short length of the action permits a 20-inch barrel.

THE SEVEN-SHOT MAGAZINE is genius. The thick stainless-steel lips are smooth to the touch, and all seven rounds can be loaded quickly and effortlessly. Since all of the external edges are smoothly radiused, a handful of these mags can be carried in a pocket with no worry of them scratching each other.

You won’t find a magazine catch on this gun. The magazine is retained on both sides by a springy mag well. The magazine locks in solidly until the shooter pulls down on the magazine with moderate effort, and they cost around $22 each. Even though I have several, I found myself just reloading the same one in the field because the process was so quick and effortless.

The action is smooth and easy to run, and the symmetrical design operates with only a 50-degree throw, easily clearing even the largest scopes.

The seven-shot capacity is dictated by the curve of the ammunition stack. If there were more than seven, the cartridge would have to curve forward even more, requiring a more complex magazine body shape.

ALL VARIANTS OF the Model 722 come with a crisp 2-pound trigger with an overtravel adjustment. The bolt has a locking lug opposite the handle, which acts as a second lug. The action is smooth and easy to run. The symmetrical design operates with only a 50-degree throw, easily clearing even the largest scopes. The short 1.5-inch cycle distance makes for very quick loading. The short length of the action permits a 20-inch barrel on a very light and compact gun. The 13.25-inch length of pull makes it feel even smaller. The safety is a lever – forward for fire, back for safe. It clicks very positively, but the angle of throw is fairly small, so it’s sometimes hard to tell at a glance if it’s on. On the left side of the receiver there is a spring-loaded bolt retainer. The bolt does have to be cycled briskly for reliable ejection.

There isn’t a magazine release on this rifle. The magazine is retained by a springy magwell.

KEYSTONE ARMS’ SISTER company is Revolution Stocks, a premier aftermarket manufacturer. It’s no surprise that the stock quality for all three variants is superb, with a tight wood-to-metal finish. The decades of metalworking experience behind the Crickett brand also make for excellent action fit. Keystone didn’t skimp on the manufacturing process – even the trigger guard is a nicely machined part.

Just push the magazine in until it locks solidly into place, and pull down with moderate effort to remove.

THE CLASSIC IS lightweight at just 4.6 pounds, and feels even lighter, thanks to the good balance. The Varmint is a couple of pounds more, but the sculpted thumbhole stock makes

steadying it off-hand quite easy. The Classic comes standard with Williams Firesights, fiber optic front post and semibuckhorn rear that adjusts for windage and elevation. Picking up the front is very easy in any kind of light, but the bright fiber optic pipe on the front sight obscured at least 2.75 inches of the bull’s-eye, making precise alignment difficult. At best, my groups were 2 inches at 25 yards. After trying several kinds of ammunition, I gave up and scoped it with the dedicated Primary Arms 6x rimfire BDC scope in low rings and tried again. The results improved greatly: From prone at 80 yards, the CCI Green Tag ammo grouped at 1.25 inches, or about 1.5 minute of angle. Ammunition quality matters. Bulk .22 gave me 3MOA at best. Even with bulk Federal ammo, the BDC reticle made hits on pop cans placed 50 yards downrange routine. Shooting off of a lead sled indoors, without wind, produced 1.25MOA with Aguila Match, 1MOA with Aguila Super Extra subsonic and 2MOA with Federal 550-round bulk pack. I am guessing Green Tag would have come in at about 1.25MOA as well.

THE REAL ACCURACY testing was with the Varmint version. Prone at 25 yards produced a single seven-shot hole scarcely larger than the bullet diameter. Topped with the superb 6-24x Weaver with an adjustable objective, this rifle made extreme accuracy the default result. The slim 1-inch tube with a 40mm objective permitted low rings and thus minimal sight height over bore. The mildot reticle provided for drop compensation, and the focusable objective made for a crystal-clear view of the bull’s-eye obliterated by precision fire. Both CCI Green Tag and Aguila Rifle Match grouped near 0.6MOA, and Eley Match was right at 0.5MOA at 50 yards – a great performance for any rifle, and even more so for the budget-priced 722.

The Classic comes standard with Williams FireSights, fiber optic front post and semibuckhorn rear that adjusts for windage and elevation.

One exception to the versatility of the Varmint model comes from its match chamber incompatibility with the CCI Stinger hypervelocity round often used by actual varmint shooters. The Aguila equivalent works fine, as does the Winchester, but neither hypervelocity load equals the standard velocity loads in outright accuracy under controlled range conditions. In the real world with wind drift and imperfect range estimation, the faster loads perform almost as well as the match bullets.

Twin forend studs allow for simultaneous installation of a bipod and a shooting sling. Despite the greater weight, I consider the Varmint version the best of the three models not only for rested shooting but also for field hunting. The exception would be left-handed shooters, who would have to stick with the ambidextrous Classic stock design.

All variants of the Model 722 come with a crisp 2-pound trigger with an overtravel adjustment.

OTHER THAN THE QUICK but imprecise iron sights, Classic is a strong competitor to CZ455 Military Trainer. With optics, the 722 Varmint gives up nothing at all to the competition. Overall, the rifle is just fun to use. Its operation is so transparent that it feels like a natural extension of the marksman. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more info, go to keystonesportingarmsllc.com.

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June 1st, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The Legacy Of British Gun Maker Giles Whittome

Story by Jim Dickson * Photographs by Giles Whittome

When we think of the leaders among quality gun makers of the British Isles we tend to think of names like Purdey and Holland and Holland, but these men have been dead for over a hundred years. Only their firms survive. For innovative leadership we must look to individuals in the trade today, and certainly no one has been a more innovative gunmaker than Giles Whittome.

Giles whittome is famous for creating giant 2-gauge single-shot rifles. His 26-pound, 2-bore rifles are the largest and most powerful sporting rifles ever made.

Giles is famous for his giant 2-gauge single-shot rifles. His 26-pound, 2-bore rifles are the largest and most powerful sporting rifles ever made. They are capable of shooting a half pound of lead backed by a 24-dram powder charge. That is eight times the bullet weight and eight times the powder weight of a standard Brenneke 12-bore torpedo slug. This gun is capable of shooting a heavier charge than a shooter can actually handle so every customer has to work up to their maximum load capabilities.
Giles stands 6-foot, 5 inches, and is quite accustomed to shooting big-bore guns. He remains the only man to have ever fired a 24-dram load through this gun. He pronounced it lethal at both ends.
The 2-bore has a frontal area of 1.05-inch in diameter and greater power than five .600-caliber nitro express bullets hitting at once. It gives a new meaning to the term stopping power. Technically, this is actually a cannon. Swivel cannons were usually 4-bore because anything heavier tended to rip them out of their mounting on a ship’s rail. The recoil of a 4-bore is 295 foot pounds. This gun is twice that size, but no one has ever computed the recoil of a 2-bore. Suffice it to say that the a 4-core recoil is pleasant by comparison.
Proof firing shook the entire London Proof House building, and even with the smoke extractors running, visibility in the room was only one foot 20 minutes after the test. It was truly a moment to remember for everyone present.
The huge action was copied from an old Alexander Henry harpoon gun. The standard two-bore is a rifle Whittome would be glad to make a smoothbore version of for anyone who wants the option of firing harpoons; he can also supply any sort of harpoon or bomb lance required for it. A smoothbore 2-bore would be quite a deck sweeper when loaded with buckshot, and would lose very little practical hunting accuracy, because large dangerous game is not shot at long ranges.

photos of Giles Whittome shooting an original Maxim silencer on a Walther .22 rifle originally designed for use with silencers. While normally a semi-auto this gun readily converts to manual operation for maximum silencing.

In other arenas and as one of the last experts on the Paradox ball-and-shot guns, Whittome has made new headway in increasing the accuracy of an already accurate and useful weapon. The old accuracy standard was 2½ minute of angle at 50 yards and a handspan at 100. Whittome has managed to shrink that to 4½ MOA at 110 yards. He is one of the few men in the gun trade who understands the rifling subtleties a Paradox gun requires and the secret of regulating its barrels, which is so different from a double rifle. This is still considered a trade secret, and I am not at liberty to divulge it.
Whittome often traveled to Africa for large game, and has had to fight off hyenas. A hyena can take a prize away from any hunter, and keeping them at bay is a lot harder than folks might imagine.
He has had the pleasure of hunting with a dog and a cheetah that had been raised together, and were inseparable. If the cheetah didn’t come when Whittome called for him, he would command the dog to “Kamata duma,” which means catch cheetah in Swahilli. The dog would then go sit on the cheetah until Whittome arrived. Cheetahs are prone to rickets, so Whittome would give it a calcium tablet and a spoonful of cod-liver oil every day to keep it in perfect health and subsequently gave it a shiny coat.

In England using a silencer is considered just good manners so as not to upset the neighbors. A trait many Americans would appreciate.

This trio kept the jackals off of the local golf course, and brought many hares to bag. Catching a hare is easy for a cheetah.
Whittome once saw a Swedish missionary and his wife on a motorcycle running at top speed — over 60 miles per hour — trying to get away from the Cheetah, which was easily running beside them having a good time. The riders just didn’t know what a big pussycat it was, and probably imagined a meaneater was after them.
The famous African snake man, Ionides, was a friend and Whittome often helped him gather poisonous snakes such as black mambas and gaboon vipers to get their venom, which was sold to drug companies for anti-venom. He was a gifted linguist capable of communicating in English, French, Swahili, Italian, German, Swedish and some Danish, Norwegian, Greek and Latin. He served as a second lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry where he saw combat during the Cypris Rebellion and hunted Greek Cypriot terrorists, and for many years he taught the British military how to use exotic machineguns.

The Paragon, a Whittome creation, is one of the most 12-gauge sidelock double ever made. It features a unique double front and rear trigger system. The front trigger fires the right then left barrel in with successive pulls, and the rear trigger fires the left barrel only.

In terms of guns Whittome is responsible for The Paragon, perhaps the most elaborate and best quality12-gauge sidelock double ever made. It has every bell and whistle the gun trade can put on a gun:
– The barrels are nitro proofed Damascus steel, and the gold inlays and embellishments are the maximum allowed by good taste.
– There is a rare and desirable disappearing flush-lock detaching, lever which is flipped up by a thumb, and then unscrewed to remove the sidelocks, as opposed to the protruding projection on the lock screw normally found. They can snag on brush and begin unscrewing at the wrong times.
– The pinless locks have blind holes on the inside instead of being drilled all the way through where they can interfere with the artwork of the engraver.

The Paragon, a Whittome creation, is one of the most 12-gauge sidelock double ever made. It features a unique double front and rear trigger system. The front trigger fires the right then left barrel in with successive pulls, and the rear trigger fires the left barrel only.

– The self-opening action operates whether or not a barrel has been fired, and the strikers are made of stainless steel.
– The double triggers are unique. They function as both single and double triggers. The front trigger will fire the right then the left barrel in turn with successive pulls, while the rear trigger fires the left barrel only.
– The grip and forend have borderless checkering, and the skeleton buttplate is blued and gold inlaid. The frontsight is a solid gold Labrador retriever’s head with faceted diamond eyes.
– The snap caps are made of Damascus steel.
– The velvet-lined rosewood case is quite airtight and emits an audible “whoosh,” as air is expelled when it closes. It has its own velvet-lined canvas to protect it, and embeded inside the case are the Damascus steel snap caps, a horn-snapping block, three fitted screwdrivers and an ivory-handled chamber cleaning brush along with a three-section hardwood cleaning rod with engraved ferrules. There is a circular patch box carved with a high-relief elephant’s head and a ruby for its eye. Also included is a striker box, two glass bottles — one for gun oil and the other for stock oil — an extractor, a gauge and sundries.
All in all this is perhaps the single most elaborate example of the gunmaker’s art produced in the 20th century.

Today, Whittome hunts mostly in his native England normally using a silencer on his rifles because they are not only legal in England, but it is just considered good manners not to disturb the peace with a rifle’s report when good silencers are readily available. To the English a rifle without a silencer is like an automobile without a muffler.

Whittome’s 2-bore rifles are capable of shooting a half pound of lead backed by a 24-dram powder charge.

His interests are varied. He has flown state-of-the-art fighter jets in Russia just outside of Moscow, and made his own horn to play in an orchestra. He is currently preparing to make his own bronze-age sword under the tutelege of one of the last sword masters in England.
If you buy a gun from Giles Whittome you are not only getting one of the finest guns made in the British Isles, you are also dealing with perhaps the most colorful gunmaker that the gun trade has ever known. ASJ

Author’s note: If you would like to contact Giles Whittome, you can call him in England at 011 (441) 76-324-8708.

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April 30th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Petite vz. 58 Bridges The Gap Between Submachine Gun And Rifle

Review and photographs by Oleg Volk

The Samopal vzor 58, or Automatic weapon model 58, was put into Czechoslovak military service in the late 1950s. A very lightweight 7.62×39 carbine with a short-stroke piston action, it was one of the first Czech arms to use the Soviet cartridge instead of the longer native round. Lighter than the AK-47 by 1.3 pounds, it also used alloy magazines that weighed half of the steel AK-47 mags. Although similar in overall size to the AK, the slimmer pistol grip and stock gave it a more dainty look. Besides Czechoslovak army use, the rifle was exported to about 20 countries, mainly in the Third World. With the 15.4-inch barrel extended to 16 inches with a shroud and automatic capability removed, it is now available in the US through Czechpoint USA of Knoxville, Tenn.

The action design is a short-stroke piston that acts on a locking block, which is separate from the bolt and carrier but attaches to both. It’s almost like a rifle version of the Walther P38 or Beretta M9.

SINCE THE FIRST 1915 Fedorov’s Avtomat chambered for the 6.5mm Arisaka cartridge, Russian, then Soviet and later Eastern Bloc countries made little terminological distinction between submachine guns and light automatic rifles. What they termed automatic rifles were full power 7.62mm types, while the PPSh41 and AK-47 were both commonly termed avtomat. A technical term for submachine gun existed, but it wasn’t in common use. The doctrinal niche for the early automatic rifles was almost the same as for the pistol-caliber SMGs. To that end, the Czechoslovak vz58 was designed more along the lines of an MP5 or XM177 than an M16 or a Sig550. It’s handy in close quarters and usable further out, a more defense-oriented design than the rifleman’s ideal rifle of certain military branches that is only usable up close as an afterthought.

The action design is quite unusual: a short-stroke piston acts on a locking block that is separate from the bolt and the carrier, but it attaches to both. It’s almost like a rifle version of the Walther P38 or Beretta M9 in that regard. The lugs of the locking block engage with the steel rails inside the machined aluminum receiver.

The lightweight magazine, externally similar to the AK mag, holds 30 rounds and rocks in the same way, though with far less effort required for proper alignment with the receiver. With the action locked open after the last round or manually with the plunger near the trigger guard, the magazine may be topped off with stripper clips. Ten-round magazines are also available for bench shooting or in restricted states. The magazine may be safely used as a hand-hold, and there is absolutely no play in the lockup.

THE RIFLE IS AVAILABLE in three variants: with a fixed resin-impregnated wood stock, a folding-wire stock and a collapsible stock with railed forend. I mainly use the fixed wood stock by preference. Because of the short length of pull and relatively light weight, the carbine can be effectively run by 10-year-old kids. Felt recoil is very mild, even below that of the heavier AK-47, and the rotary safety is easy to reach, at least for right-handed shooters. While manual bolt hold-open is provided, bolt release requires operating the charging handle integral to the bolt carrier. All major action components, including the bore and the gas piston, are chrome-plated for better corrosion resistance.

The lightweight magazine holds 30 rounds, and 10-round magazines are available for bench shooting or for restricted states. The magazine can also be topped off with stripper clips.

RELIABILITY IN MY USE has been 100 percent over about 1,000 rounds without cleaning. The rifle runs extremely cleanly, and the receiver contains minimal carbon residue even now. However, the lightweight barrel and the operating system does impose tactical limitations, the most obvious being accuracy and heat endurance. The rifle can fire about 60 rounds in a row before the forend gets uncomfortably hot. For military use, that can be an issue, while for personal defense less likely. With the stock iron sights, I and other shooters got groups around 5 minute of angle with Comblock military surplus and Russian commercial ammunition, and about 4MOA with premium US and European brands, like Federal and Fiocchi. The constraint is almost certainly the sighting. The railed forend on the tactical version proved too unsteady for the red dot. Other forend options exist for this rifle, but I have not upgraded it yet. Neither of my carbines have side rails for optics. People who set up their vz58 rifles with magnified optics and raised cheek rests report 3MOA dispersion.

That makes sense: The 5.56mm version of vz58 with a red dot yields about 2MOA, thanks to the relatively heavier barrel – the outer diameter is the same and the bore is smaller. I left my 7.62 carbines unscoped, but replaced the front sight post with a Hi-Viz fiber optic for quicker acquisition. The rear-sight leaf marked from 100 meters to 800 meters is an exercise in optimism for single shots, but reflects the old military doctrine of creating beaten zones at long range using small arms.

In my mind, the best niche for this carbine is self-defense. It’s reliable, handy and may be fired with one hand if necessary. I have yet to find a record of a nonmilitary self-defense situation in which 4MOA or the two magazine rapid-fire heat endurance would have been deal-breakers. Using the tactical version with a vertical foregrip extends the heat endurance to about 100 rounds the barrel can take more heat than the shooter’s support hand. The 2011 tactical version I have was not a success overall: the current Czechpoint offering uses a modified Magpul forend instead for much better ergonomics.

The rifle runs extremely cleanly, and the receiver contains minimal carbon residue even after 1,000 rounds. The lightweight barrel and the operating system seems better suited for personal-defense.

Czechpoint USA’s vz. 58 Carbine in 7.62×39 is the equivalent of the Czech automatic weapon model 58 with a few modifications: an extended 16-inch barrel with shroud and the automatic capability removed.

THE RIFLE FEEDS SOFT-POINT and hollow-point ammunition reliably. So far, the best defensive loads I found are Corbon DPX, G2 Trident Ripout and Federal Powershock. All give substantial expansion – up to 0.9 inches with Trident – and 16 to 20 inches of gel penetration. While the vz58 classic has no flash hider, it produces minimal illumination with these loads. The tactical model comes with a needlessly concussive pinned-and-welded muzzle brake best replaced with a flash hider by a gunsmith. Vz58 is very suppressor friendly, despite the gas system without a manual regulator. One of the demo rifles used by Czechpoint is a short-barreled suppressed version that they run very hot during range events.
Vz58 appears to be what the Ruger Mini-30 was supposed to become, a light and handy .30-caliber carbine for short-range use. It fills the same niche as the M1 carbine, providing a little less accuracy but more power. The vz58 handles out of proportion to its specifications and proved reliable with a wide variety of ammunition. It’s one of the most pleasant intermediate cartridge rifles in range use, and I recommend it as one of the basic choices for self-defense. ASJ

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