Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bullet Launchers

Dave Petzal talks bout buying a rifle, from the inexpensive entry-level rifles to the expensive custom jobs costing upwards of the multi-thousand dollar range.

Like most guys, I like a fine firearm, one where it appears that the metal grew to the wood and both the steel and the stock are executed flawlessly. Blueprinted actions, trued to the barrel, barrels by custom barrel makers of National Match quality, all of these things make a fine rife.

I love rifles (and shotguns) like that, but I have to admit that my taste in rifles was tainted by a young captain of infantry, one of my commanders way back in the Great When. He considered all firearms "bullet launchers", designed only to poke holes in an adversary. He wore both Airborne wings and an Army Ranger tab, along with two tours in Southeast Asia, I had to admit that he had more military acumen than I did at the time. And it's true. A rifle is designed to poke holes in things, whether they be paper, game animals, or an armed adversary.

I've got to admit that Petzal is right, that when you're spending big money for a rifle, some of what you buy is intangible. It's your money, spend it on fancy rifles or art, it matters to me not. However, with today's modern manufacturing methods, the rifles we buy today are by-and-large much better at poking holes in things than they were fifty years ago.

Take for example, my Savage rifle. With a new stock to replace the one I bought and a halfway decent scope, I've got less than $600.00 tied up in the rifle. And it gives me three-shot groups like this:

Or, this other Savage, in .243 Winchester. With the scope and mounts, it's another $600.00 rifle. It's bone stock, except for tightening the screws and floating the tang.

Petzal is right that there is plenty to consider when buying a rifle. As good as the rifle makers have gotten, there is a lot to consider. It's your money, but I'm hard pressed to find anything wrong with my rifles. They launch bullets just fine.


Old NFO said...

And pretty damn tight groups too! :-)

Justin said...

I have learned my lessons with custom guns. I have over $5K tied up in a precision .308, scope and accessories, made by one of the more reputable smiths in the country. If I had to do it over, I would have stuck with my Remington 700. For what I have used it for over the last 2 years, there is nothing that a modern off the rack rifle would not have sufficed for, and been lighter to carry to boot!

I have thought about selling it, especially as the smith has drastically downgraded his workload. My rifle took 7 months to finish, and the current wait time is approaching 2 years, so the demand is high, but I just can't do it. It has come to represent more than the sum of its parts now it seems. My wife put in a lot of time and effort coordinating the order while I was deployed. She actually had tears in her eyes the one time I mentioned selling it. My son has come to equate that rifle to me. Even though I have a safe full of weapons, to him, that is "Daddy's Rifle."

While there is quite a bit that I could do with $5k...I think that I will keep this one. If anything, it is a piece of master craftsmanship that can be enjoyed for generations to come. In the meantime, my family will use it to make memories together.

For me, I do not think I would ever go the custom route again. I love the craftsmanship, but in the end, it is like the difference between an original oil painting and a high quality print. In the end, they both look good when they are hanging on your wall.

Anonymous said...

I own over forty rifles. Four are .22's, of which two are commercial, the other two are Romanian M69's. Those can be generously described as POS's. My commercial .22's are a 10-22 and a really beat up Marlin M60. All 4 function flawlessly and are sufficiently accurate that I will never let any of them go. Of my centerfire rifles, five are commercial, the remainder are all milsurp, some "sported", most as issued. All of my rifles are capable of at least 6" ten shot groups at 100 yards, several will do ten shot groups of an inch. The milsurps that will do that are my M1892 Krag sporter, my M38 Swedish short rifle, and my Rem. 03-A3. My favorite hunting rifle is the Ruger #1 in .308 Win. given to me for Christmas, 1968, the first Christmas my wife and I had together. It will place its first shot exactly in the center of a bullseye every time. Subsequent shots climb about 1/4" each shot. That rifle is as comfortable to me as my own hands, I trust it explicitly. My second favorite hunting rifle is my Remington M700 Classic in 6.5x55mm. It will also place its first shot exactly at point of aim at 100 yards. Every. Time. Subsequent shots, if needed, will be within 1" of that shot. All the other rifles in my battery are "good enough" to be trusted to convert critters from scenery to meat if I can get them to within about 150 yards. I'm not good enough to shoot from further away. I wounded and lost one animal doing that and never will again. I still feel the shame of that intemperate shot.

My favorite camp is at a road washout on the Stilliguamish River near Granite Falls, WA. It's an old hunter's camp that's been there for fifty years I can attest to. The camp is thirty feet above and a quarter mile from a large bend the Stilly. I like to stand there in the gathering twilight in the Fall and shoot rocks at the river's shores. I can see if I am hitting where I'm aiming and don't need to walk to check the targets. It is satisfying to be able to hit rocks the size and intellect of a Democrat's head off hand at more or less unknown distances with old mustered out army rifles. My non electric range finder says it's about 225 yards. I have no compunction at shooting rocks; if I make a foul hit they neither bleed nor feel pain. It's also good to know that I would be a lethal adversary should the need arise.

Other than my self loading .22's, I have two self loading milsurps, a Yugo SKS and an M1 Carbine. Both are surprisingly accurate at the same 225 yards I shoot my bolt rifles at. Very comforting.

Gerry N.

J said...

>It is satisfying to be able to hit rocks the size and intellect of a Democrat's head. . . .

Rhetoric like that is exactly why a lot of Democrats and many Republicans are anti-gun and actually afraid of gun owners. You, Gerry N, are a danger to the 2nd Amendment.

Paul said...

I am rifle shopping at the moment -- something for deer, mainly. I have been thinking a lot about the difference between economic utility (a used 30/30 with some scars, or an H&R single shot) vs. adding a little romance to that (a Ruger #1 or a Hi-Wall, maybe -- I like single shots).

I won't own something that isn't an effective bullet launcher. But a little good looks with it? Just because my wife is good looking doesn't mean she can't cook....

Pawpaw said...

I understand the feeling, Paul and can identify with it. I'm not saying that we should spurn fine firearms. Just realize that bargain-basement rifles have gotten a lot better over the years.

One of my fondest "wants" is a Ruger #1. I'll find it in the pawn shop racks one of these days.

Rivrdog said...

My .243 Winchester load is 43.5gr IMR 4831 behind that same 100-gr bullet. Very good out to 500 yards.

J., get off Jerry's case: if we hide our guns, pretend they're just inoffensive objects to collect, those same (D) gun-grabbers see us as ripe for the plucking. It's only when they're occasionally reminded that guns are for killing things, including TYRANTS, that they pause to reflect on their foolishness.

Some reading of (D) remarks from the past election campaign ought to bear me out on this.