Rules for Rifles

They say a Rifle is only as good as its Scope

But my father never used a scope, did fine and still does fine after all these years. So perhaps choosing a rifle for big game in Alaska, or anywhere else, is really a just matter of choice.
I don’t pretend to be a rifle expert and don’t want to be. I just know that after spending 20-plus years in the Arctic and successfully hunting pretty much everything that walks the tundra up here, I know what works and has worked for me. So take my observations for what they’re worth.

First of all, it isn’t so much about the rifle brand itself, even though that has a lot to do with quality of any gun. More specifically, it’s about the round or caliber you choose to hunt with.
I know many guys and gals who hunt with a variety of calibers and have had tremendous success. I know hunters who take a .375 on every trip, as well as many who hunt with the newer 6.5 Creedmores. If you live in the Arctic, the .223 is the standard. All are different and all have their strong points. As long as you can shoot it well and it performs to your specifications and requirements, then all the better.

When I first came to Alaska, I bought a .300 Winchester Model 70. It was the rifle to have, all the locals told me, and overall it is probably the best caliber for anything that Alaska can throw at you.
I took a lot of great animals with that rifle, but eventually, like all gun enthusiasts, I wanted something new. I soon found the Sako brand to my liking, but only after a mule deer hunt in Montana, where I used a friend’s rifle to take a great buck.
I had to have one, so I bought a Sako 75 Finnlite in 7mm. It was the rifle for me. It was light, and had an easy trigger and a detachable box, which I liked even more. The 7mm round performed flawlessly on every hunt, and for the next 15 years it was the only rifle I used.
Eventually I put it away in favor of a new caliber but with an old, familiar name.
I picked up a .300 WSM in Model 70. I topped it with a Swarovski scope
and it has been my choice since. It is a bit heavier than the Sako and even my .300, but I shoot it well and hit where I’m aiming. So maybe a scope does make the difference.

My advice for choosing a rifle is based on:

  • What are you planning to do with it? If you’re solely hunting big game, then pick a caliber that will get the job done. One shot, one kill.
  • Choose a rifle that can handle the environment you’re hunting in. I hunt near saltwater and it plays heck on rifle barrels. That’s why I like stainless. Also, if it’s going to get banged around, then maybe a cheaper version might be best.
  • Choose a rifle/caliber that you can shoot accurately. Nothing is worse than not hitting what you’re aiming at.
  • Choose a rifle that is fun for you to shoot. I have a friend who believes that bigger is better, even if it gives him a bruised shoulder afterwards.

Like I said, when choosing a rifle or any piece of hunting gear, find what works best for you, the hunter, and for what you plan to do with it. Stay safe and good shooting! AmSJ

Editor’s note: Follow Paul Atkins on Twitter (@AkTrophyHunter).