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In anticipation of upgrading the Real Guns web site and  developing new site features, I converted my local system to an NT server. For now, I  write articles with Front Page 98 on my local IIS web server, then publish to the Real  Guns site. None of this is of any real consequence to the substance of this site, however  the impact of this change on my NT system device drivers does go to the author's state of  mind.

Ever since the upgrade (upgrade  ?)† my e-mail alert has changed, on its own, from a a couple of musical notes to the  loud simulated ring of a telephone. So for most of the day I alternate between picking up  the phone to answer my e-mail, and opening my e-mail box to make a call.†It is truly  a tragic situation.

Looking for a great small gun
By Joseph D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com

I've been looking for a new gun for  months; both large and small shops, scoured the Internet, and picked my way through any  information I could find on factory, limited production or custom rifles. I needed to  select a new hunting rifle for deer size game in the Northeast. As the effort expanded, I  decided to use this project as an entry point to a new series of articles. The objective  is not to write a "how to select a new gun" story, I have no information to lend  to that task. Since I buy guns only because I like them, and hardly ever because I  actually need one for a specific purpose, my choices are never very  practical and probably not suitable for anyone else.

Background

70compct.jpg (13827 bytes) Funny thing about kids growing up and  starting their own families, as† they leave home the available pool of guns begins to  dwindle. One day you start picking through the selection, and find you're all set for cape  buffalo at† 500 yards, or ground squirrels at 20 feet, but not much in between. What  I was missing was a good, moderate range deer rifle. A rifle that would be light and easy  to haul around, but solid enough to shoot accurately. I think this year they are called  "ultralights", a change from the year before when they were called  "mountain rifles", although I understand there may be a shift back to  "mountain rifles" when chambered in longer range cartridges.

On the lighter side of the ballistics scale, there  have been two cartridges that have worked well for me over the years; the 100 grain .243  Winchester and the 117-120 grain .25-06. I haven't been able to note much difference in  effectiveness on deer, antelope or boar size animals out to a couple hundred yards or so,  but beyond that range, the .25-06 seems to build a significant edge.

Some time ago, I brought down a deer at over 350  yards with a .25-06, my longest shot at a deer. At an elevation about 50 ft above me, I  caught it in the front of the chest at the base of the neck. The deer collapsed without  taking another step. The bullet made it's way through the chest cavity, back behind the  ribs and lodged in the upper left hind quarter. The gun was a inexpensive custom model '98  Mauser with a 24" barrel, sighted in for 200 yards. I had held on the deer's nose and  the bullet hit about 6" below point of aim. The bullet would have been traveling  about 2300 fps when it got to the target, with maybe 1400 ft-lbs. of energy.

Buried somewhere in this scenario is the primary  drawback of the .25-06. The large case powder capacity, and relatively small bore,  requires a barrel long enough to insure complete powder burn. The .30-06 parent case  requires a long action behind that long barrel. The result is a comparatively large, heavy  rifle.

I've had good luck with the .243. I've used this  small cartridge for hunting deer, antelope and boar almost as effectively as the .25-06.  "Almost" because of the the one exception of a mule deer I shot at about 300  yards. Two solid shots in the chest and the deer walked 20 yards before falling over.  There was a lot of internal damage, but not the explosive type of hits that make for quick  one shot kills. At 300 yards, the .243 bullet velocity would have been about the same as  the .25-06 at 350 yards, but with about 30% less retained energy. From that point on, I  went with a self imposed limit of 250 yards for the .243, and I never encountered similar  problems. The .25-06 has longer range potential, but as noted earlier it comes in a heavy  package. My hunting is changing from the West to the Northeast, I didn't need the longer  reach, and clearly didn't want a physically heavier firearm.

Most of the .243's I had used in the distant past  weren't optimized for the small cartridge and, consequently, weren't all that much smaller  than the .25-06 I described. Mauser barreled actions, bolted together with parts from mail  order catalogs were cheap. Weaver and Tasco were making inexpensive high magnification  optics, and we were all running around with long distance "sporters". I can  remember, several times, walk up on something at 30 yards, try to aim with a narrow field  of view 6X scope, and only able to see a nondescript patch of fur.

A buddy of mine who always seemed to have rifles  that were just a little bit nicer than the rest of us, must have done the ballistics math  on the .243. He put together a rifle with an 18" barrel and a Mannlicher stock, not  much different than the current Ruger International. It was probably close to perfect for  what I had in mind, but I think the 18" barrel was maybe a little shorter than  necessary. I figured with all of the production rifles out there, I was bound to find  something just right.

Ruger

rugrif.gif (20209 bytes)I believe in the genius of Bill Ruger and the  talent and innovation he brought to firearms manufacturing. Ruger offers at least two  rifles that come very close to acceptable specs; 6-7 lb. range, 18"-20" barrel  and compact action.

I own Ruger single action revolvers and I like them  a lot. They are a value in that market, reliable, accurate and close to indestructible. I  have held several Ruger rifles in my hands, a second or two away from making a buy  decision, but I always hand them back over the counter and go off to look at something  else. The greatest and most recent Ruger temptation came from a .375 H&H express  model, there just always seems to be something missing. The stocks are too plain and too  straight grained. The investment casting parts are too smooth and the finish looks like  paint. If I ever needed a survival rifle I'd probably buy a Ruger, but as long as I'm  buying for fun, probably not.

Remington

In mainstream calibers I almost always end up with a  Remington. I think guns are a lot like cars and trucks, there is a certain degree of brand  loyalty. Remingtons are accurate, trouble free, reasonable in cost, and backed by a  quality organization. I have an old BDL 7mm Mag that is extremely accurate, even after  being pounded by many, many heavy handloads. About a dozen years after purchase, it went  back to the factory for a headspace check and went through Remington service at no charge.  They have a custom shop you can actually call and speak with a human about custom work.  Nice people.

remboth.jpg (10838 bytes)If I had decided on the .25-06 rather than  the .243, my choice would have been the Remington Mountain Rifle (top) with detachable  magazine.

Remington manages to get a 22" barrel and an  action long enough to handle a .30-06 length round in a rifle that weighs in the mid 6 lb.  range. I liked the detachable magazine and the satin stock finish, rather than the BDL  dipped in plastic look. The stock shape and proportions are good, but I'm not looking for  a .25-06 and the 22" barrel brings the rifle up to greater than desired overall  length. I had to pass this time, but I suspect I'll revisit this in the future for another  project.

The Model 7 is small, but I don't particularly like  it's overall appearance. The barrel is too short, 18.5" and the receiver seems  oversize with a really sharply tapered barrel. Whenever I see one I'm reminded of†  the old 6.5 and 350 Remington mag short barreled carbines. So the Model 7 and Remington  were pretty much eliminated.

Weatherby

lw_deluxe.gif (7430 bytes)Ever since I started shooting a .338-378  Accumark, I've had a renewed interest and appreciation for Weatherbys. They make a very  nice walnut stocked lightweight in standard caliber and the .240 WM. Too much gun for t he  .243 with it's 24" barrel and big $1,100 price tag.They have a very compact synthetic  ultralight in .240 Weatherby Magnum that I am sure will eventually find a reason for  getting added to my collection. But not in .243 and not today.

Custom or limited production  companies

There are custom build companies like Rifles Inc . with their 4 3/4 lb. Lightweight Strata,  or DGS Inc. for a finesse lightweight, or Prairie Gun Works with their 5 lb. wonders. In  fact there are probably more lightweight rifle producers than I could ever work my way  through, but most have one thing in common, a price tag 5X to 10X more than a production  rifle. So for a custom or limited ? Not at this time and probably not in the future. I  wouldn't know what to do with, or why I'd be doing it with, a 5 1/4 lb. gun chambered for  the .340 WM.

Winchester

I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the world who  has never owned a Winchester. In the beginning of my participation in firearms sports, I  selected A Marlin 336 over the Winchester 94. When I did have a chance to use several  Model 70's, all post '64 production, they didn't leave a good impression. The last, a very  straight stocked .375 H&H, was probably the most unpleasant gun I've ever fired, and  the .375 isn't that much of a cartridge. I think the round of production  that hung BOSS muzzle brake/accuracy tuning devices on the front of standard caliber  featherweights didn't do much to change my view of Winchester. Then I ran across a current  production Super Grade.

70supgrd.jpg (9491 bytes)

There is something very nice about the newer  generation Model 70 Super Grades. The metal work is cleaner and the overall feel of the  gun is quite different than earlier models. The stocks fit well, and the grain and finish  are outstanding for a volume production gun. I think I was ready to buy until I caught  myself looking at a 7mm STW, 8 lbs. without scope, and the exact opposite of the new gun I  was searching for. But I was impressed enough with the Super Grade to spend a little more  time on Winchester and see if they had something else to offer that was closer to the gun  I was looking for.

70fthwgt.jpg (8430 bytes)

I'm not sure what happened to the Featherweight,  maybe it just didn't age gracefully, or maybe it didn't start off right in the first  place. The wood is plain, the checkering looks like it was squeezed into the wood and it's  not the most natural gun to point. It's a long gun, and the CG seems too far back to make  it a gun that holds steady on target. Good concept, poor execution.

Buried under Model 70 product line listings was the  Model 70 Classic Compact, and I liked it. This is truly a proportionally small gun. It is  only 39 1/2 inches long and weighs 6 1/2 lbs. The pull is 13", only half an inch  shorter than a Super Grade Model 70, or 3/8" shorter than a Remington 700 BDL, but it  is 3" - 6" shorter in overall length then these full size models.

7lightwt2.jpg (10501 bytes)
 

Rifle Caliber Mag.  Cap. Barrel Length Overall  Length Length
of Pull
Weight  (lbs.)
Winchester Model 70
Classic Compact
243 Win. 4 20" 39 1/2" 13" 6 1/2
Remington
Model 7
243 Win 4 18 1/2" 37 3/4 13 3/16" 6 1/4
Remington
Mountain DM
243 Win 4 22" 41 5/8" 13 3/8" 6 1/2
Winchester Model 70
Super Grade
270 Win 5 24" 44 3/4" 13 1/2" 7 3/4
Remington
Model 700 BDL
243 Win 5 22" 41 5/8" 13 3/8" 7 1/4
Ruger
International
243 Win 5 18" 38 1/2" 13 1/2" 7
Ruger
Ultra Light
243 Win 4 20" 40 1/2" 13 1/2" 6
Weatherby
Ultra Lightweight
243 5 24" 44" 13 5/8" 5 3/4

So I made a decision to buy a  Winchester Model 70 Classic Compact in .243 Winchester, with the commitment that it would  be the gun I wanted, or it would be worked until it was. Only problem, it apparently isn't  that easy to get one.

Trips to five area gun stores, none that had the gun  in stock and none that couple locate one within distribution. It's getting tough to locate  relatively standard guns. I get the impression the anti-gun scare is driving up gun sales,  just as it did several years ago. Either some models are getting a little scarce, or  popular defense firearms are taking away production capacity from other areas within  manufacturers' product lines. The search continued.

I asked my Dad to check in NJ. He hit a few places  and of course, was able to locate one, and at a good price. Unfortunately, NJ gun laws  have changed considerably since I last made a purchase as a resident. My Dad would have  had to get a firearms permit issued by the local police department to buy any rifle, and  permit approval would take between a week and several months. Sounds like a pro gun kind  of place. And if he did get the permit and picked up the gun, we still had to deal with  the issue of how I would take possession of the gun.

I do not hold an Federal Firearms License, so the  gun could not be shipped to me. Guns cannot be shipped between two non-FFL licensed  individuals via services like UPS or Fed-X. The gun could not be sent counter to counter  through an airline, the person picking it up at the destination must be the same person  who shipped it, which I assume would accommodate most out of state hunting situations.

As a non-resident, I could not buy from the NJ  dealer and, even if I could, the dealer could not ship directly to me because I am not an  FFL holder. The typical solution, when you locate a gun out of state you wish to purchase,  is to locate a local deal who is willing to handle the transaction. In general terms, the  guns move between two licensed dealers, with the dealer on the receiving end responsible  for making sure all local firearms laws are followed when the gun is delivered to the end  customer. In my case, after FFL info and transaction paper work in completed, the gun will  ship to my local dealer, and I will still have the 10 day California waiting period to  deal with.

If I were a felon, say a drug dealer or bank robber,  I wouldn't have to deal with any of these inconveniences. I could have just gotten in the  foreign import express lane to gun ownership federal and local government helped build,  and robbed a bunch of honest citizens who were still waiting for a gun permit. Sorry, just  pops out every once in a while.

If you ever find yourself trying to arrange a  transaction of this type, the purchase - not the robbery, check several dealers. You may  find some of the friendly guys who sell you guns and supplies everyday, want to charge you  20% of retail for handling what amounts to paperwork. I located a large retailer in the  area that had a flat rate of $66, of which a significant portion goes to tax. In either  case, you're paying for someone to take legal responsibility for a gun sale. In this day  and age it's an admirable service being provided and difficult to put a price on.

So now all that's left is for me to wait and grumble  until the gun shows up. Then I can go to work on ringing out the new gun, getting it  scoped and working up some handloads to find out if 2" less barrel means more than 40  fps of muzzle velocity.

More "Looking for a great small gun"
Looking for a great small gun
Looking for a great small gun II
Winchester  Model 70 Scope selection /  installation
A gripping story to catch you off guard
Handload Data 243 Winchester

Thanks,
Joe

 
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