Monday, September 30, 2013

Pick a Common Caliber and a Dependable Rifle

As the 2013/2014 Texas deer season is just around the corner I wanted to cover some 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 of rifle and an exotic 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, Ruger and Weatherby that are solid proven designs.  Your depend-on-hunting rifle is a tool and must be a tool that will perform as needed no matter the conditions.  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.  When the shot of a lifetime occurs you must be able to depend on your rifle, your ammo and your ability to place the bullet where it will be the most efficient. 

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 be amazed at the game that little rifle has accounted for through all 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 ammo can be impossible to find and the expense of a box of cartridges 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 the 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 completely agree. I have a Savage in 308. For most large game in North America that is all you need.

I've talked with people at the range shooting some sort of magnum or super magnum. I generally ask all of them what they plan on using it for. The vast majority say deer hunting with the hopes of an elk hunting trip sometime in the future (which they will probably never go on). Most of them are wearing some sort of extra padding and still flinching by the end of their range trip. I do not understand buying a rifle you can't enjoy shooting.

Stephen Olner said...

im looking to buy my first rifle. I have been looking at the Remington 700 range. I think im going to go with the Remington 700 SPS in a 308.

Wild Ed said...

Great choice in rifle and caliber. It will last you a lifetime and more. Ed