Friday, October 21, 2011

Pick a Dependable Rifle and a Common Caliber

As the 2011 Texas deer season is just around the corner I have been covering topics to help you have a better season. The following pearls of wisdom come from years of hunting, guiding others and being in hunting camps all over the country. When it comes to rifles, step up to the plate and buy quality. I am not talking about some exotic brand and caliber that cost a fortune just so everyone can "Ooh" and "Ahh" over it when you take it out of the case. I mean buy a top of the line rifle from a tried and proven company that you can carry to hell and back and it will shoot every time you pull the trigger. Don’t go out and buy the first ever released new special model for your depend-on-every-shot rifle. On the other hand don’t go out and buy some cheap rifle put out by a company that makes bargain firearms for your primary hunting rifle. I am talking about buying rifles like Remington, Savage, Winchester and Weatherby that are solid proven designs. I only mention Weatherby for those that have them in normal calibers and not the special Weatherby designed cartridges. I know lots of you have this or that rifle made by so and so that is great, so do I, but when the rifle has to perform every time without a hiccup I carry a rifle I can depend on to fire when needed. If it is a rifle based on one of the solid designs and major companies, if that rifle has been slicked up by some custom gunsmith, so much the better, if you believe in the smith’s work. I have seen several shots-of-a-lifetime fumbled because some fancy rifle failed to feed properly or jammed in the heat of the moment. I have seen outstanding trophies missed because of flinching, caused by fear of magnum cartridge recoil. Both of these things are so easy to prevent and it is sad they occur at all, but it happens to people every season.

I have a Remington model 700 ADL in .243 that my father bought for me at Gibson’s Discount Center in Abilene, Texas when I was nine years old. That rifle has been carried all over Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and you would amazed at the game that little rifle has accounted for through those years. I carried it often as a guide rifle when backing other hunters and it has put down game wounded by much more exotic and magnum calibers. I have traded it off for a shot to many a hunter that could not hit their game with a magnum rifle but made the shot with that little .243. That rifle has never failed to work and I shoot it still today. It has never been in the shop, nothing has ever broken and I will pass it on to one of my daughters to use and treasure. I can walk into any country store, box store or any place ammo is sold, and purchase ammo for that rifle. Try to buy ammo for some of the exotic magnum calibers in No-where, Texas or a country feed store in the mountains of Colorado or New Mexico. If you never had someone show up in camp without their ammo you have not hunted very long. If they have a common caliber someone can usually loan them some ammo or a trip to the nearest town solves the problem. Some of the Weatherby cartridges are great rounds but I never recommend them as they can be impossible to find and the expense of a box of ammo unreal.

I have a model 70 Winchester.270 that my grandfather shot all his life and passed to my father who passed it to me. I am proud that it continues on with no problems. My father shot a Remington model 700 in .264 Winchester Magnum most of his life and I still shoot it today while my brother shoots its twin, but ammo is now getting hard to find and very expensive to boot. I know some people need to have the latest, greatest magnum to validate their man card, but I can assure you it is much more important to be able to precisely place a bullet than to be able to stand recoil. Someone in camp will always make the point of quoting one of the old big game hunters or authorities on caliber and power. Some will point out all the tests done by writers and ammo companies back in the early twentieth century. What they fail to realize is that these guys lived in a time where the modern bullets and powders we now have were not available. The optics for precision bullet placement were also not near as developed as the current optics we have today. I will take bullet placement with a sufficient caliber over misses or bad hits with a monster magnum any day. I will be hunting later this year and I will be carrying a Remington 700 tactical in .308. It has very little recoil and sufficient power to do the job with proper bullet placement on most any game in the lower forty eight. My wife will be hunting with my little .243 this year. Shoot whatever you do well with and feel comfortable shooting. Be honest with yourself about recoil. If your mind tells you this is going to hurt when you sit down at the bench to sight your rifle in each season; you need to get something that recoils less. If recoil prevents you from properly sighting in a rifle or shooting a good group, you need to get something that recoils less. If you are thinking about how bad this rifle is going to kick while trying to hold the crosshair steady on a big buck you have a real recoil problem. Get a rifle you can shoot well and that will not beat you up with recoil. You can validate you man card with game you hang on the meat pole. None of my hunting buddies laugh at my little rifles any more. Have a great season, Wild Ed


Tim Covington said...

I just wanted to let you know that I completely agree with this. I have a Stevens 200 (in reality, a Savage model 10 with their older trigger) in 308. This is plenty of rifle for any game in the lower 48 states.
Think about it. If it can be taken down with a compound bow, do you really need a 350 super-duper magnum?

Anonymous said...

Ed, your post makes a lot of sense. But, you also have to take into account your finances to. I only have one rifle and fortunately for me it was given to me as a product review.
The CVA Apex chambered in .243, although it has not gone to hell and back like yours I have trust in the manufacturer and so far the rifle has exceeded my expectations.

Wild Ed said...

Rick we all have made do with what we have at the time. I am saying if you are on a rare draw hunt or a once in a lifetime trophy hunt don't show up with a rifle you can not depend on. In my area the big box stores have had Savage rifles on for less or very comparable prices to the CVA Apex. Academy sports has run the Remington 700 ADL for as little at $349.00
I often hunt with a revolver, flintlock or old lever action, but it doesn't matter if I make a shot or not. If I am on an important hunt I will carry something I have faith in and I know will work. It all boils down to what you have faith in as you only have to please yourself. The Apex may become one of those dependable firearms to you and your kids. You are a step ahead because you got it in a very shootable caliber. Have a great season, Ed

Anonymous said...


I also have a Rem 700 ADL .243. My dad bought it at the local hardware store
when I was 6. It's fired fewer rounds per deer killed than any other rifle
I've ever heard of. Once, on an orphan's hunt in Mason County, 8 deer were
shot in one day, 6 of them with that rifle, with 6 different shooters.

A friend has been trying to buy that rifle from me for 20 years.
Kendal Hemphill

Paul Coffeen said...

Ed - You're right, reliable is best. I'll put a plug in for my Sako A7 .270. With a synthetic stock and stainless steel barrel, I don't mind getting it dirty. It was reasonably priced. Only drawback is that it is not usa made. Also less $ on the rifle leaves more to spend on the optics.

Wild Ed said...

Doc I have seen some great Sako rifles that were very dependable. The .270 is another one of the calibers that you can carry for most any game. I have never owned a Sako but have seen some I would be proud to have in my collection in the right calibers. I hope you guys have a great season. Ed

BabyWild said...

Good article and dead on as usual! As you know I have been shooting our Dad's old .257 Roberts for nearly 40 years now. It is one of the guns I have great confidence in and has killed many deer, hogs and turkey over the years. Wouldn't trade it for anything else, although ammo is costing more and getting harder to find.

Ian Nance said...

Just promoting the good ol' Savage 110. It is my go-to for tough hunts, though there are much more expensive rifles in the locker

Wild Ed said...

Ian I am often amazed at the accuracy I have seen right out of the box on Savage rifles. I am a real die hard Remington fan but am thinking real hard about a Savage in .243 Plus I like the way the barrel could be changed out to another caliber much easier than other makes. I just need to get used to that bolt. Ed