Thursday, May 05, 2005

Building the "All Rounder"

Wow.. it's been almost two weeks since I wrote anything about guns or shooting, and I'm having withdrawal pains. The only solution is to dive back in to my drug of choice...

NOTE: Just an aside, my readership PLUNGES when I don't write anything about guns for a few days. On a gun day I see 350-500 hits, on a non-gun day I see 250-350; notwithstanding my carnival submissions.

So now that I am once again gainfully employed; my fancy has turned back to acquiring more guns (as any young mans should).

Of course I have a few people I need to pay back first; a few bills to pay, and I want to sock away at least three months worth of rent and bills (about 5 grand) before I start buying anything; and doncha know, that leads me right up into the run up to deer season.


I mentioned before; I don't really have a hunting rifle right now; In fact I haven't been hunting in something like 8 years (since I started my wild startup to startup migration cycle through the northeast, California, new york, Ireland, etc...).

I dunno about you guys; but a little dish of venison tips and wild rice, maybe some smoked venison sausage... oh and venison jerky... well that all sounds pretty damned good to me about now.

Hell I even like venison burgers; the trick is to mix them up with a beaten egg and some black pepper, then wrap them in bacon like you would a fillet.

Hmm, bacon wrapped Venison fillet...

Okay yeah; I'ma goin huntin this year.

Of course that means I need to build myself a rifle; and I'm not looking for some deer specialty gun. You know me; if it aint versatile, I'm not really all that enthusiastic.

I want an all'rounder. A gun that will reach out for medium game to say... 400 yards or thereabouts, and punch pretty little holes in paper to 600 yards or so.

It can't break the bank, even with accessories; and it has to be light and packable, even with optics, and a bipod.

NOTE: I used to hate built in bipods on rifles; but the Harrises made me a convert. A stable platform, light enough, flexible enough but rigid enough, and I can always take it off quickly if I want to.

Okay so I mentioned in my "logic of chambering selection" posts that I wanted this in my mountain rifle, and at the risk (well, the certainty really) of repeating myself; I've identified some prospects.

No-one loves a 700 more than I do (and a LOT of people really don't like them at all); and the more I look at that 700 titanium, the more I drool...

Only 5.5lbs for the LONG action model (the short is a few oz lighter), pillar bedded composite stock, weather resistant.. it's exactly what I'm looking for. I love a good piece of wood and a deep blue finish on a gun as much as any man; but not if I'm going to be carrying it up the side of a mountain in god knows what kind of weather.

The only problem is, it's $350-$450 more than my other choices, just to save 2 lbs. Yes I know, on a long hike 2lbs is quite a bit, but is it worth $400 ? Not only that, but titanium is a bitch to work with, so if I ever need any work done on the gun...

I dunno...

I'm leaning more and more to the Weatherby. I've always loved the Weatherby look; and even though the vanguard line are made in Japan, they SubMOA line is guaranteed to do just that, shoot sub-MOA groups.

Honestly, I think this gun is damned gorgeous:

And it's got all the feature out of the box that I would take any of the other rifles to the smith for. I love the Weatherby bolts, triggers... I just love the guns period.

I'm not sure if I want the stainless, or the matte black; but either way, I love the rifles.

If I could choose any factory bolt action rifle (not including factory customs like Jarret etc...), it would almost certainly be a Weatherby Mark V Deluxe :

They even make it in a lightweight version here:

The only problem being the fine wood example above is around $2500 and even the lightweight composite starts at $1700, and they go up from there; add in the price of the glass....

Yeah, that aint hapnin any time soon.

If you really want to fantasize a little, Weatherby has a "Build your own Weatherby custom shop rifle" feature. It's fun, and guaranteed to tempt you into emptying your wallet - my dream rifle ended up over 8 grand, and that was without engraving.

So that brings us to chambering, and here's where things get fuzzy. My wallet says .308, my heart says .270 (my favorite all'round chambering), and my head says "7mm will hurt and cost more, but give you more options on game and range".

You can see more of my ramblings about cartridge selection in "Magnum Opus" and "More on the Logic of Chambering Selection"; but at the moment I'm still thinking .308 because I have another .308 already, and I'll be reloading for it.

For glass I'm thinking Leupold; but Burris also offers some strong options. I'd love to buy a Zeiss or a Swarovski, but the scopes I'm looking at run $2000 and more from them, so it's American made for me. That's not to say Leupold and Burris don't make some great scopes, they certainly do; but the clarity and brightness of the Swarovskis is really something else.

Leupolds full hunting line
is pretty extensive; they really cover any kind of glass you could conceivably need.

Now lets remember my priorities here; I want to take game at 400 or so yards, and I want to do it in uneven lighting and weather conditions. Also, my eyes aren't the greatest.

To me that means a 40mm or larger objective (light gathering) and say a 3-9 variable or something similar. I know a lot of folks like a 6x through 9x fixed, because it's simpler, more rugged, and brighter; but I like the variables.

My first thought was something like the Rifleman 3-9x50:

But I was flipping through the product line and noticed this:

It's a VX-III 3.5-10x50 illuminated reticle, with range estimation - $730

Let me tell you, if you are ever shooting in near dark conditions, or at darkened targets (especially if they have bright surroundings), an illuminated reticle is amazing. Yes it's an additional level of complexity for things to break, but the extra capability it provides is, I think, worth the risk (and the not inconsiderable extra cost - about $200 more than the plain model).

Okay so, $920 for the rifle, and $730 for the scope; at least at MSRP anyway. I know the Weatherby is selling around $700, and the scope is actually selling around $650 on the street.

That's still $1350, and toss in a Harris bipod and a decent sling for another $150 or thereabouts, and that's a fairly hefty sum; but for that money I get a rifle that's going to do exactly what I want, and look damn good doing it.

Now... what did I do with my dehydrator and my jerky marinade recipes.....