My understanding is that there’s a 416R stainless steel match barrel underneath there that is covered with CF. However…95% of the CF doesn’t even touch the steel (only 4 contact points: chamber, before/after the gas block, and near the muzzle).
This creates air gaps that cool the barrel through the perforations.
I was lucky enough to try this out in a new build thanks to Rainier Arms who sent me a barrel for testing.
Fit & Feel
The barrel was a sight to behold. Even the wife said it was cool…and by now all the barrels and uppers around the house look the same to her.
I tried out the 16.5″ .223 Wylde in 1:8 twist which clocks in at 26.9 oz. Compare that to a standard M4 profile 16″ barrel at 28 oz. If you want to go bull barrel stainless…it can reach 3 lbs (48 oz). I couldn’t find exact numbers since I could only find 18″ bull barrels that are over 3.5 lbs.
It is a little more difficult to install since there’s no barrel shoulder to gauge where to put the gas block. But if you have an electronic caliper…you should be good.
My go-to Superlative Arms block (this time in .936 for the bull barrel) went on easily after I made a small etch marking on the stainless section of the barrel.
Otherwise with my combo of the Brigand Arms CF handguard…I found that it rubbed the top of the gas block. Which technically makes it no longer free-floating…but I wanted to see how it would shoot still.
If these were my regular groups with some cool-down and a slow steady shooting pace…I’d be a little disappointed. But I wanted to test how the heat dissipation worked and how it would perform in a little more competitive arena.
In that regard…I’m pretty impressed. It was pretty happy with Wolf Gold (the cheapest ammo) and very happy with Gold Match ($$$).
I also shot 30 rounds as fast as I could at the range and held the barrel. Only warm!
In my second round of tests on another range day, I used the Midwest Handguard and Aero upper. And a new Triggertech trigger which I actually like the most now.
And the results were on par…
All in all…pretty happy about the groups when I was shooting as fast as I could get on target with no cool down.
I’m sure if I started hand-loading I could really close up the groups. But it’s a pain to prep .223/5.56 brass so I stopped doing that. But even with this I was ringing steel at 300-400 pretty easily on a 1-6x scope.
Lightest .936 bull barrel
Chambered in .223 Wylde
Twist Rate 1:8
Drilled to vent heat-fastest cooling carbon fiber barrel
Carbon sleeved space between the carbon and stainless barrel- there are air gaps in between the stainless and the carbon
Can be held without burning hand after 60 consecutive shots
Match grade double stress relieved
Roll wrapped carbon is 3 times stronger than stainless steel
By the Numbers
No failures of any kind in the ~400 rounds I shot through.
Great groups when you consider shooting with no cool down and as fast as I could get back on target. A 5 would be consisten sub-moa even at high speed.
I’d make it a 10 if I could. But it really stands out…especially with the sweet carbon fiber drilled holes.
Bang for the Buck: 3.5/5
It’s $500…would I count it as double a really high quality 16″ Wylde barrel? Probably not. But if you’re at the top of your game or want an unfair advantage in relation to your groups opening up due to heat…this could be it. However…the most affordable out of other CF options.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
I believe the hype of carbon fiber barrels now.
Take a lightweight bull barrel profile with great groups at speed…and you have a winner. If you have the coin for a sweet new build…check out BSF. It’s definitely my new competition rifle.
Ringing steel at 100 was easy standing up and with a 1x. The rifle was well balanced and once I got the Superlative Arms gas block tuned in…it felt like a pea shooter.
I’ll be reporting back as I get more rounds and comps through it.
Deer seasons in most of the USA doesn’t start until September – but if you’re looking to harvest some whitetail this year you’re probably already planning your hunt now.
Hopefully, you’re planning on shooting and developing your loads for upcoming hunts and maybe spending some time hiking, working out and getting ready for long days in the field and packing that hard-earned venison back to the trailhead. If you haven’t started yet, get going.
This fall some 10 million hunters will go afield in search of the whitetail buck of their dreams. On average, about 6 million deer will be harvested.
Though the numbers seem astronomical, consider this. In 1900 it is estimated that less than 500,000 whitetail deer remained in the US. As of 2013, there were an estimated 32,000,000 whitetails.
A true conservation success story and one that points to the hunter as the true conservationist.
The whitetail deer is the most popular big-game species to hunt. Partly because of the sheer numbers, but also because the whitetail can be found from as far north as the Arctic Circle in Canada to Brazil and Peru in South America.
From the east coast to the west coast whitetails can be found in every state in the Lower 48.
Whitetails live in vastly different habitats. You may find them in the edges around agricultural operations such as beans, corn, and alfalfa. Some you find at high elevation in the aspens in Colorado and Wyoming. Others prefer the tight, close confines of the river bottoms.
Because of the adaptability of whitetails, where you hunt will largely determine the rifle and ammo combination needed to be successful.
The whitetail is the smallest of the deer species in North America. On average a mature buck will weigh about 150 pounds, and a doe about 100 pounds. They are thin-skinned and have a relatively dainty bone structure.
So cleanly killing a whitetail does not take a specialized or heavy rifle and cartridge. A well-placed bullet from nearly any centerfire rifle will allow you to ethically take whitetail deer.
What About The Guns?
There are a lot of options when it comes to rifle and cartridges, let’s take a look at some good choices for whitetail hunting to get you started down the path to a whitetail hunting career.
You’re kidding, right? With all the fast new and sexy cartridges out there, why do I list the .30-30 first?
In all likelihood, the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire has taken more whitetail than any other cartridge. Often packaged in a compact, light and easy to carry lever-action rifle, the .30-30 makes a lot of sense.
There are a lot of whitetail in the river bottoms and thick forest and swamps. Shots will be short. You’ll likely be on a stand or stalk hunting and catch a glimpse of a whitetail sneaking through the woods.
Traditional open sights or a peep sight are quick to acquire and quite accurate for 50-100 yard shots.
Any good bullet designed for tubular magazines will be fine. My Winchester Model 94’s prefer 150-grain flat-points.
Normally you need to use round nose or flat nose bullets in a tube magazine for safety reasons, however, Hornady now offers a tube magazine safe spitzer cartridge using their FTX bullets. Although these cost a bit more than standard .30-30 rounds, they offer better penetration, better accuracy, longer range, and more reliable feeding.
The .308 was originally designed as a military cartridge. Sportsmen quickly realized that the .308 cartridge design was very accurate and could be housed in short action rifles, making them quite handy in the field.
The .308 gives up very little performance as far as velocity and energy compared to the 30-06. What it doesn’t do is recoil very much. A .308 with good 165 – 180-grain bullets will easily handle all your whitetail hunting from very close cover to 300+ yards with good optics.
I know, ‘who hunts deer with an AR?’. Truth be told, lots of folks do.
The AR is one of, if not the fastest selling rifle platform available today. The simple fact is the AR is today’s modern sporting rifle.
Light, handy, ammo is stocked in every gun store in the nation and in all different loads, and priced so an AR-15 is within reach of nearly anyone.
However, several states require deer hunting to be done with a cartridge larger than .23cal and/or have magazine restrictions for what can be used in a hunting rifle – check your regulations before deciding on your rifle!
If it is legal and you do choose standard .223/5.56mm as your cartridge you should be aware that although possible, these cartridges limit you greatly. Choose heavy grain, soft tip ammo and keep your range within 150 yards and a standard AR-15 will serve you well.
While the above cartridges will likely serve the vast majority of whitetails hunters just fine, there are those who may wish to stretch the yardage a bit or pursue bigger game. If you want to stay in the AR platform look closely at the AR-10 platform and move into the .308 Winchester with 150 or 165-grain bullets.
Now you have a powerful cartridge in a semi-auto package capable of taking game cleanly at extended ranges. You will pay a penalty in weight and cost, but it is a viable option if you plan to hunt in areas where shots may be long.
These are the only 2 bullets I’ve recovered from game shot with a Nosler Partition.
While not at all an exhaustive list, I believe anyone looking to start big game hunting with whitetails will be well served with the above choices.
As for what rifle to buy, you have to decide. My personal experience has been mostly with bolt actions; Remington Model 700, Tikka T3 Lite, Ruger Mod 77, Ruger American Predator and semi-custom Mauser 98’s. All work well. All are accurate. All kill whitetail deer just fine if you place your shots correctly.
Now that you have a rifle in hand, what else do you need to have to be able to spend the entire day in the field hunting?
I’m a little over-the-top in what I carry. I grew in the Scouting program and I am a firm believer in Being Prepared.
Also, being from the Northwest I carry more gear than the average hunter because we have wide temperature swings, it will most likely be raining and/or snowing and I want to be sure I am 100% able to function on my own and not be a burden on my partners.
Let’s take a quick look at the very minimum I would have in my pack for a day of whitetail hunting in northeast Washington. I will not go too much into clothing since that is a regional and seasonal variable that everyone needs to deal with on hunt-by-hunt basis.
In the photo below is my gear:
Here’s a quick run-down of what you see and why. Starting in the upper left of the photo:
Space Blanket: Use it as a tarp, a ground cover or a sleeping bag.
Rangefinder and binoculars. I like the compact models. The ones shown are both Leupold brand products. You need to be able to glass at distance and in thick cover. The rangefinder is handy if you are in a more open area or are shooting cartridges or a muzzleloader with less range.
A headlamp and a flashlight. Ever boned out a deer trying to hold a flashlight with one hand? I like the Zebra Light for my headlamp. A single AA battery gives me 200 lumens at the top end and multiple lower settings. A great tool for traveling early morning and at night. I like Surefire flashlights because they always work. I use the G2 series. Relatively inexpensive and very bright and durable.
50 feet of paracord. Get real, made in the USA cord. It has a multitude of uses and always comes in handy.
The little bottle is a Nalgene with a flip-top filled with cornstarch. I use it as my wind-puffer. An easy way to keep track of the breeze and thermals as you move during the day.
Stoney Point shooting sticks. This size is perfect for sitting or kneeling shots. Any rest in the field will help make your shots more accurate.
Map and compass. Yep, I have a GPS. I never use it for navigation. The GPS will crap out at the most inopportune time. Heavy snow and thick timber will not allow a signal. Carry a topographic map of the area you are in. Get a good quality compass. LEARN HOW TO USE THEM TOGETHER! A compass does not tell you where you are. It only points North.
Meat care: the long white bag like the Kifaru Meat Baggie. These 1 ozs. bags will hold 75 pounds of boned meat. You can usually get an average whitetail in one bag. The bag holds the meat in a vertical tube to make it easier to pack out in your backpack. I use two bags for my deer hunting. All the meat that will be ground goes in one. The big cuts go in the other.
Meat Knife – Havalon Piranta: A changeable blade knife. You should be able to easily skin, bone, and process a deer with two blades. I also carry a couple pairs of nitrile gloves to keep my hands dry and a bit warmer. The nitrile also provides a better grip.
Again, this is what I have found works for me. Every area and every hunt is different, so adjust your gear accordingly. But you will find after a few trips there are some things that always get used and will go in your pack every time you go hunting.
A note on meat care: I mentioned boning your deer. I am a big proponent of quick and quality field care. I will go out on a limb here and say that most ‘gamey’ meat results from poor care of the animal in the field.
With any animal the number one enemy is heat. Get the animal broken down and cooling immediately. That means skin off, and meat off the bones. There is a tremendous amount of internal heat and the quicker the meat is separated from the bones, better.
Because nearly all of our hunting is done in the backcountry we bone our animals on spot using the ‘gutless method’. Check the link and do some research on your own. I think you will find it’s a quick, clean and easy way to care for deer.
They even have videos taking you step by step as they clean a Bull Elk!
Tips and Tactics
Because whitetails live in such vastly different habitats, tactics must be adjusted depending on the location. However, there are a few things that remain constant that will help you tag a whitetail this year.
Whitetails are creatures of habit. They stay pretty close to one area and tend to use the same trails and routes. My preferred method of hunting is to find an intersection of two or more trails in the timber or edges of food crops. I’ll then find a good place to sit, usually on the ground with a tree or log to my back.
Then I get comfortable and wait. Be sure to situate yourself so you are downwind of the prevailing winds in the area. If you have too much scent blowing across or down the trail you may alert the deer.
Stay out all day
Take another look at my pack list. Once I leave camp I intend to stay out until dark. I have my lunch, a closed-cell foam pad to sit on and appropriate clothing. Yes, I get cold. Yes, I get bored. Yes, I have sat in the pouring rain and wet snow all day.
But here’s the deal. Most hunters go back to camp in early or mid-morning. Most go back when the weather sucks. I have found that whitetails, especially in cold weather tend to get up and mosey around about 11 in the morning. They get stiff and cold too.
They will get up, eat a little, take a leak and maybe look for an area in the open if the sun is out. I have killed the majority of my whitetails mid-morning.
Use your binoculars
Whitetails like thick stuff. Human eyes are good, but not great. For the most part, we detect motion.
So if a whitetail is moving through heavy timber or brush you may notice the movement, not necessarily the deer. With binoculars, you can pick apart the timber. You see more color. You see shapes.
One of my PH’s in South Africa taught me a lot about thick cover hunting. He always said, “look through the bush.” Meaning, look beyond the stuff on the edges.
Look through the screen. Change the focus on your binoculars so you see through different layers of the cover. You will be surprised how much more is out there than if you just sit and watch.
Whitetail bucks are solitary creatures. However, if you can hunt a late season, your odds go up.
In general terms, the rut begins to crank up in mid to late-November and will run through December and January in many parts of the country. As the rut approaches, the bucks begin to wander more in search of ladies.
As such, they spend more time on the move and are a lot less wary. They are intent on breeding. Not necessarily paying attention. That said, if you are hunting a late season and you have some does or youngsters walk past your stand, get ready.
Often a buck will be following behind to determine if a suitable mate is ahead of him. Be sure you are dressed for the weather this time of year. It will be cold and often wet.
While in your sitting spot keep your rifle across your lap and at the ready.
You will often only have a couple of shooting lanes and even if the deer are just walking you only have a few seconds to make your shot.
If you have to reach for your gun and make noise or sudden movements, you will very likely not get a shot. You must be ready to quickly identify if your buck or deer is legal and then make a very quick decision to either shoot or not shoot the deer.
I shot this buck on cold November day after I had built a fire to warm up and have some coffee. It was 11 am.
How can you not? You are hunting. You are in the woods, with a rifle in your hands, a tag in your pocket and a whitetail somewhere in the neighborhood.
Yeah, you may walk miles. You may freeze on stand. You may get wet.
So what? You’ll likely be in camp or home sometime tonight. You can get dry, warm and fed when you get back.
Take a camera and shoot photos of your gear, your stand, your rifle. Shoot a pic of that pesky squirrel telling the whole basin you are under his tree.
Hunting is about making memories and enjoying your outdoor heritage. Tying your tag on a whitetail and enjoying the pure organic protein the venison provides is a bonus.
What deer have you harvested? Planning your first trip? Let us know in the comments!
Without going too much into everything…why would you even want a holographic sight compared to a red dot?
Red dots (or reflex sights) operate by having an LED project a dot towards a lens, which is specially coated so that it bounces back towards your eye. Check out our Best Red Dots Under $200 article.
Holographic sights use a laser transmitted hologram of a reticle through a series of lenses back to your eye.
Since it’s laser based instead of LED, the battery life is significantly less. But it allows for more specialized reticles (the big difference in my mind) and also does not need a specially coated lens.
You also tend to get a bigger view window with holographic sights.
Now onto our favorites…
1. EOTech EXPS2-0
EOTech is the giant in the holographic sight game.
Sure, they had a little snafu a few years back about thermal drift (where the reticle doesn’t return to zero if subjected to extreme temperatures). But they are back and better than ever.
If you’re still worried about the thermal drift (all sights, red dot or holo, have them)…check out EOTech’s response for their new sights. When put through temperatures of -4 to 122 degrees F, there is a max drift of 3.5 MOA.
My favorite is their new EXPS2-0 which is shorter than the most popular previous model…the 512.
It has a big rectangular window that is very clear. And the famous 68 MOA circle with a 1 MOA dot in the center.
The perfect blend of quick acquisition and fine-tuned accuracy. Note that the above is 3x magnified using a Vortex 3x to show the reticle (Best 3x Magnifiers).
Here it is at the range. I had trouble getting clear shots of the reticle in high brightness. But it works great even in the sunniest of days in the desert.
And a better image of it inside.
The shorter EOTech’s have a couple variants…but I like the EXPS2-0 compared to the regular XPS line since it is 1/3 co-witness which doesn’t get in the way as much if you have irons or backup irons (Best AR-15 Backup Irons).
It also has a robust quick detach (QD) rail system and the buttons on the side (essential if you’re going to run magnifiers).
The 2-0 designates that it is the 68 MOA circle with 1 MOA center. A must if you ask me. If you’re running night vision, opt for the EXPS3-0 which has some settings for NVGs.
Here’s a video of it in action with a little simulated head movement to show how it’s devoid of almost all parallax.
The AMG UH-1 is a newish sight from Vortex and is the only real holographic contender to EOTech. It’s affectionately known as the “Huey” because of the UH-1 designation.
Built like a tank…it looks like it’s much bigger than the EXPS but it’s about the same length. It’s the extra hood that protects everything that makes it seem that way.
Since it’s new, it doesn’t have the military track record of the EOTech but so far no major complaints besides a first initial batch that had some reticle flaring that is now fixed. Plus it’s Vortex so it has a lifetime transferable warranty.
Speaking of reticles…the Huey’s reticle is my favorite out of the bunch. Still has the large circle for CQB but also has a nice chevron at the bottom for shorter engagements.
I set my zero at 25 yards for the shorter PCC competitions…but if you zero at the standard 100 yards…the triangle will really help. Also has a great integrated QD mount that maintained zero between testing.
One thing I gotta knock it down for is…the greenish tint. It’s a lot more apparent than the EOTech which if it has one…is nearly imperceptible.
It didn’t matter too much during actual shooting…but looking at it by itself it bugs me a little.
It’s crisp and nearly parallax free like its brethren.
AND with a 50,000 hour battery life since it runs off LED and not lasers. PLUS it has solar capability that switches in the sun so you aren’t running off batteries. Finally, it’s lighter and has a smaller profile.
Buttons are on the side for easy access and also has a QD attachment system that also maintains zero. Has NVG capabilities but is less waterproof than the others.
My pick for the best worth-it “holographic-esque” sight.
So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper but aren’t sure of the upper receiver?
We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to mil-spec receiver and also a couple of unique options that will turn heads.
If you haven’t read my AR-15 Guide that goes over all the components of an AR, I’d suggest starting there first. Otherwise, I’ll suppose that you’re well-versed in everything AR and ready to just see what’s the best upper receiver.
*Updated 2018*: More lightweight uppers.
Here’s a sneak peek of our best uppers list if you can’t wait:
I’ve built almost a dozen AR-15 uppers for myself and friends and have almost exclusively gone with Aero Precision. They got their start manufacturing for the aerospace industry (name checks out) and moved into AR-15 parts. Now they are really gunning with complete AR-15’s and even barrels too.
Upper Receiver Forge Marks
You might have heard about forge marks, which are above the forward assist. This just designates which metal forging company created the upper blank. The end company (such as Aero) is the one that actually machines the upper.
So the forge mark by itself means nothing since the quality really comes from the final company (and there are differences). As far as I know, Aero uses several forges but mostly the “broken A” which comes from Anchor Harvey Aluminum.
The gold standard ($80) in my mind that lets you choose your own forward assist and port door. Comes with M4 feedramps, laser engraved T-marks for the rails, and also available in several colors for a little bit more.
I’ve had no problems with any of my builds and if you do any searches you’ll see that it’s almost exclusively positive comments. Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit ($17)
No need to scrape anything when installing…or go nuts on the port door.
3. Blemished Aero Uppers
And if you’re balling on a budget, you can get a “blemished” version (~25% off) of the stripped or assembled upper (depending on their stock). “Blemished” just means there’s some cosmetic abnormalities that will not affect actual function.
The last two builds I’ve done have been with Aero blem uppers and I had to really look to find the cosmetic problem. And of course they’ve all worked fine.
Here’s the latest one…looks like there’s a scuff & a dimple. I put more scuffs on mine during a match! If you want to save a couple bucks I’d go this route.
Bad thing is that they are usually snatched up as soon as they become available.
Probably as light as you can go…and geared towards turning heads at rifle competitions (not home-defense). If you’re in a dusty environment I’d keep it covered…but otherwise initial reports say that the large cuts don’t affect function even with tons of rounds downrange.
I have one on the way for my new competition gun so I’ll report back soon.
Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receiver (both stripped and assembled), you’re one step closer to your build. Check out the rest of our AR- 15 Guides to continue your parts selection and overall education. And if you’re ready to build…here’s our AR-15 Upper Assembly Visual Guide.
[su_heading size=”30″]Despite the continuing impact of inﬂation, you can still ﬁnd some excellent hunting riﬂes that won’t break the bank.[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON
[su_dropcap style=”light”]P[/su_dropcap]rogress and the march of time can be very hard on the wallet, especially when it comes to hunting riﬂes. Consider, if you will, the classic Big Three of American hunting riﬂes. According to a 2004 gun-value reference in my collection, you could at that time buy a new Remington 700 BDL riﬂe for about $500, and the ADL model went for even less. A new Ruger Model 77 All-Weather riﬂe could also be found for less than $500, and the same could be said for a Winchester Model 70 Black Shadow.
In testing, the Mossberg Patriot in .25-06 Rem. produced sub-minute-of-angle best groups with five factory loads.
Today, the latest incarnations of these ﬂagship models of American hunting riﬂes all have a suggested retail price of close to $1,000. In little more than a decade, these iconic American riﬂes have essentially doubled in price.
Not everyone can afford to lay out that kind of change for a hunting riﬂe. The Even fewer can afford semicustom or custom riﬂes, and if you have to ask the price of, say, a ﬁne European double riﬂe, you may want to be sitting down when you hear the answer.
Of course, gun makers are well aware of this economic reality and have scrambled in recent years to produce more affordable guns for the masses. Many of these guns won’t win any beauty contests. Some may be described as downright ugly. Actions may be less than silky smooth, and stocks may bend in a stiff breeze. They’re often described rather euphemistically as “budget-friendly” or “entry-level” riﬂes. These are, of course, handy phrases when you’re trying to avoid using the word “cheap.”
Another look at Mossberg’s Patriot shows why it is one of the most feature-rich and aesthetically pleasing offerings among budget-priced hunting rifles.
Have the manufacturers cut corners on these guns? You bet they have, but they had to in order to make the guns less expensive to produce and offer them at what are, by today’s standards, crazy-cheap prices. TODAY, VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR mass-manufacturer of hunting riﬂes has added an inexpensive riﬂe to their product lineup. While some have derisively called this a race to the bottom, I don’t exactly see it that way. Sure, I’m fond of guns that have richly ﬁgured walnut stocks, elegantly engraved receivers, and ﬁt and ﬁnish reﬂective of old world craftsmanship, but those guns won’t smack deer into the freezer any more effectively than most of today’s more affordable riﬂes. Advances in manufacturing processes and materials now enable gun makers to offer inexpensive riﬂes that resist the elements, work reliably and shoot tight groups – and that’s all many buyers, especially ﬁrst-time buyers, are looking for in a hunting riﬂe.
Browning’s affordable AB3 rifle offers features like a button-rifled barrel, Inflex recoil pad, tang safety and bolt unlock button. (BROWNING)
Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more popular inexpensive riﬂes currently on dealers’ shelves. Since there must, I suppose, be rules to the game, I’ll limit this discussion to riﬂes that you can buy at a real-world price of $500 or less.
Remington’s entry in the bargain hunting rifle category is the Model 783, which has a free-floated, button-rifled barrel and pillar bedding. (REMINGTON)
Consider, for example, the Thompson Center Venture riﬂe, with which I’ve had a fair amount of experience. These riﬂes feature a free-ﬂoated barrel with 5R riﬂing and pillar-bedded action. I used the Venture Compact model chambered in .308 Win. on a memorable Texas deer hunt, dropping two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots guns over two days of hunting. Several other outdoor writers did the same. I didn’t subject that riﬂe to accuracy testing, but I did test an identical gun chambered in .22-250 Rem. Five of six factory loads shot sub-minute-of-angle best groups, easily living up the riﬂe’s MOA accuracy guarantee. I was impressed enough that I bought a Venture Predator riﬂe, chambered in .204 Ruger, and it regularly shoots half-inch groups with its preferred load. That’s more than can be said of many more expensive riﬂes. You can ﬁnd the Venture for less than $500, but if that’s too rich for your blood, you can look for the no-frills TC Compass riﬂe for less than $400.
The TC Venture is one of the author’s top choices in bargain-priced hunting rifles.
Another $500 riﬂe I’ve had some experience with is the Winchester XPR riﬂe. The one I tested, chambered in .30-06 Springﬁeld, put six different factory loads into groups averaging 1.3 inches, but that’s only part of the story. It dropped a 165-grain Federal load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets into average groups of 0.58 inch and a best group of just 0.31 inch. This gun is quite similar to the Browning AB3 riﬂe. Both have decent triggers, a boltunlock button, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazines. Both are offered in a variety of conﬁgurations and calibers, and if you shop around, you can ﬁnd either one on sale for about $500.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing and feature-rich offerings among the bargain-priced riﬂes is the Mossberg Patriot. This riﬂe’s lines are very much in a classic conﬁguration, and you can get it with stocks that are walnut, laminate, black synthetic or synthetic Kryptek Highlander camo. Standard features include drop-box magazines, ﬂuted barrels with recessed crowns, a spiral-ﬂuted bolt and adjustable trigger system. I tested one in .25-06 Rem., and ﬁve different factory loads turned in sub-MOA best groups. Surprisingly, I’ve seen the basic black synthetic model retail for less than $300.
The Winchester XPR rifle in .30-06 shot tight groups for the author using a Federal Premium 165-grain load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets.
ANOTHER POPULAR ENTRYin the value-priced category is the Ruger American Riﬂe. I haven’t tested one yet, but have just received the Predator model, chambered in – wonder of wonders – 6mm Creedmoor. I plan to give this one a thorough workout as soon as I can obtain enough ammo to put it through its paces. Available in several conﬁgurations, this riﬂe has an adjustable trigger, cold hammer-forged barrel and a tang safety. It utilizes an integral bedding block system to free-ﬂoat the barrel and has a removable rotary magazine. The one-piece bolt has three locking lugs and a 70-degree throw to allow ample room for mounting scopes on the bases supplied with the riﬂe.
According to Big Green, also known as Remington, the bargain-priced Remington 783 is “not dressed to impress, it’s dressed for work.” With a MSRP of $399, the 783 has freeﬂoated, button-riﬂed barrels mated to receivers that are pillar-bedded to a high-nylon-content synthetic stock. The riﬂe is equipped with an adjustable trigger and, notably, detachable steel magazines. The bolt has two locking lugs and a 90-degree lift.
The author reports that the Winchester XPR rifle has a decent trigger, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazine.
The main thing going for the Savage Axis riﬂe is the fact that it is, well, a Savage. That usually means you can expect good out-of-the-box accuracy. With an MSRP of around $368 and a real-world price of around $330 for the basic model with a black synthetic stock, you’ll get a riﬂe that uses the classic Savage locknut approach to set headspace set to minimum. This has always driven some purists mildly nuts, but it signiﬁcantly contributes to the accuracy Savage riﬂes are known for. Barrels on the Axis are button-riﬂed. The two locking-lug bolt is unusual in that it uses a ﬂoating bolt head design, which theoretically also contributes to accuracy. Detachable box magazines are part metal, part plastic, with metal feed lips. Triggers on the Axis models I’ve seen aren’t overly impressive, but at a cost of about $450, you can step up to the Axis II riﬂe and get the Savage Accutrigger and a Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 scope.
The Ruger American Rifle has quickly become one of the most popular of the economy hunting rifles. (RUGER)
Savage rifles, including the budget-friendly Axis and Axis II (shown) models, are known for their outof-the-box accuracy. (SAVAGE)
These riﬂes and others like them may not be your ﬁrearms cup of tea, but taken as a group, they ﬁll an important gap in the marketplace. They give people who might not
otherwise be able to afford a decent riﬂe an affordable entry point into hunting. If we’re going to preserve our cherished hunting traditions in this country, we’re going to need their participation – and their votes – in the years ahead. That’s worth thinking about the next time you bypass the bargain-riﬂe section of your local gun store. ASJ
The author used a Thompson Center Venture Compact rifle to take two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots over a two-day hunt in Texas.
[su_heading size=”30″]The new Savage A22 impresses with its accuracy and volume. [/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]D[/su_dropcap]otzie was telling me to hurry. Treed at the base of a big white oak, my little mountain cur barked impatiently to inform me there was a squirrel up above that required my undivided attention. Out of breath from hurrying to her side, it took me several minutes to spot the gray squirrel pinned to a limb. Still a little shaky, I pulled a miss on my first shot and the squirrel darted through the upper limbs to begin his high-wire act.
I settled down by the third shot, and after I squeezed the AccuTrigger on the Savage A22, the bushytail tumbled out of the tree. I was happy, and more importantly, Dotzie was happy.
The new Savage A22 is an accurate shooter, with a solid proficiency of putting rounds down range.
IN MY MISSPENT YOUTH,I knew an old codger who I thought of as my mentor when it came to rifles. He had survived Korea and a battle that took place in a location now called the Frozen Chozin. He had a house full of guns, and was always shooting, reloading, or doing something with a rifle. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, while staying out of his way at the same time.
“Boy,” he told me, “everyone needs a good .22 rifle, if for nothing else than just to shoot.” By “just to shoot” he meant target practice, can plinking, hunting small game, pest control, and anything else a body would need a rifle for in a caliber below a .3030. To him, a dependable .22 was a tool much like an axe or a wrench; and when you needed one, it had to work and work well.
The author tested the A22 with a Bushnell 3.5-10X A22 Rimfire Optics scope.
Long known for their brand of no-nonsense firearms, Savage Arms (savagearms.com) has returned to the forefront in recent years with high-quality rifles that work well when you need them to. Savage wowed the rimfire world a couple of years ago with the introduction of the A17, the first high-performance semiautomatic rimfire specifically designed for the .17 HMR cartridge. They followed that success up with the A22 in .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum rimfire). Now, Savage is adding another new model to the A series: the A22 in (you guessed it) .22 Long Rifle. Here are some thoughts on this nifty little rifle, and why I think my old long gun mentor would approve.
Like the A17 and A22 Magnum, this rifle features a thread-in barrel with zero-tolerance head space, much like Savage builds their centerfire rifles. The barrel is “button” rifled and recessed on the business end, which is going to save on accuracy over time by protecting it. This is important if you are as hard on guns as I am, hauling them around in vehicles, getting knocked around while carrying them and the like.
The A22 comes equipped with a Savage AccuTrigger that outdoes many triggers in the centerfire line. No pulling the trigger housing or disassembly required. A small, simple tool, supplied by Savage, is inserted through the trigger guard and turned one direction to lighten the trigger pull, and the other to make it heavier. This could easily be done in the field if necessary. The trigger is the most important element of any rifle and the AccuTrigger is a good one.
The A22 is equally at home on the range. (SAVAGE)
The A22 has a smooth-cycling, straight-blowback action that reliably feeds a variety of .22-caliber ammunition from the magazine to the chamber. This little rifle ate every kind of .22 ammo that I fed it, including CCI Mini Mag, Federal Hunter Match, Aguila Sub Sonic and Super Extra, and Remington Gold Bullet and Target rounds. The A22 chewed them all up and spit them out without fail. That in itself is no small feat for any rimfire autoloader.
With a weight of just over 5.5 pounds, the A22 is an easy-carrying rifle for all manner of small game.
COMPANY LITERATURE TELLS US that Savage engineers did some exhaustive factory testing, and it appears they were successful across the board. The 10-round rotary magazine reliably fed the rounds every time the trigger was pulled. The magazine is flush mounted, and two other hunters besides myself who carried the A22 liked this feature.
For those times when you may want more ammo on hand, Savage also partnered with shooting accessories supplier Butler Creek (butlercreek.com) to increase the rifle’s ammo capacity by creating a 25-round, spring-fed aftermarket magazine. I haven’t got my hands on one of these magazines yet, but that is definitely my plan.
At the risk of sounding like the typical prattling gun writer, I must say I was very impressed with the A22’s accuracy. Holetouching groups did not seem to be a problem out to 50 yards, which I deemed far enough for squirrel shooting. The rifle comes equipped with adjustable open steel sights, so it’s ready to shoot right out of the box, but it is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts, allowing shooters to easily add their favorite optic.
The ten-round, flush-mounted rotary magazine is another fully functional design feature on the A22.(SAVAGE)
The rifle I tested had a Bushnell 3.5-10x A22 Rimfire Optics scope mounted on it, and at first I thought this was too much scope for a .22 rifle. But after shooting this rig for a few days I really began to like it. This optic has a turret calibrated for high-velocity .22 ammo, and you can have a lot of fun with this system out to 125 yards. You can check out more info on this particular scope and many others by visiting bushnell.com.
Dotzie taking a well deserved break from squirrel searching with the author’s friend Ritchie Miller.
I do herby proclaim the A22 to be a shooter, both in accuracy and proficiency of putting rounds down range. At a suggested retail of 281 American dollars, I doubt you can find a .22 rifle that is this much gun for less money. I think my old rifle guru would approve. ASJ
Dotzie the mountain cur spent a fair part of the author’s hunt barking up the right tree.
[su_heading size=”30″]Gamo’s annual Squirrel Master Classic continues to remain on target with kids and adults alike.[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]M[/su_dropcap]any of us started out shooting a BB or pellet gun at a target and graduated to small game like rabbits and squirrels. Some of us did the other way around. But it seems that in these times of shrinking hunter numbers fewer and fewer of our young people are going down that path. Four years ago Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters fame decided to do something about that and created the Squirrel Master Classic. The event is held every year at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge west of Montgomery in Alabama’s legendarily rich-soiled “Black Belt” region.
Bone Collector cameraman Hunter Rollins captures footage of outdoor TV’s Kenneth Lancaster.
Kenneth Lancaster with a squirrel and his Gamo gun.
The Squirrel Master Classic could be classiﬁed as a friendly competition, as it pairs up teams consisting of an outdoor TV personality, a young person involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and a squirrel dog handler. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. This year, the range was supervised by world champion shooter Doug Koening, whose most recent major win (as of this writing) came at the 2016 NRA Bianchi Cup.
Vicki Cianciarulo of Archer’s Choice and Travis “T-Bone” Turner of Bone Collector sight in their air rifles before the competition.
Scoring is simple. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. In order to qualify to take part in the event, the six 4H shooters in this year’s classic had to compete with other 4H’ers for the privilege. The lone girl in that half dozen, Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.
Six 4H shooters qualified to join the competition: (left to right) Joseph McFarland, Jeremy McFarland, Luke Christian, Dawson Kissik, Jackson Umlauf and Moriah Christian.
ALL HUNTING AND COMPETITIVE shooting is done using Gamo air riﬂes, the event’s sponsor. Each hunter this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22-caliber pellet riﬂe (see sidebar), which features a 10-shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.
While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year – Jackie Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler – along with Gamo president Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.
Host Jackie Bushman (left), Kenneth Lancaster and ‘T-Bone’ Turner at the noon squirrel weigh-in.
Despite an influx of new shooters to the squad, T-Bone’s Team Bone Collector took the competition honors for the third consecutive year.
The coveted Gamo Squirrel Master competition trophy.
In the end, Turner’s team (which I was fortunate enough to be a member of) took the trophy, and while we were very pleased I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters. They had a day in the beautiful Alabama woodlands following some feisty squirrel dogs, shooting air riﬂes, and spending time with some of their media heroes. It was a day they will not forget anytime soon – nor will I, for that matter – and that, my friends, is whole idea of the Squirrel Master Classic. ASJ
The first squirrel of the day brings smiles to everyone at this year’s Squirrel Master Classic, including Luke Christian (left), Mo the squirrel dog, and Butch Morton.