In search of a new rifle ...
An experiment ...
I have scoured many a forum and manufacturers website in search of my next "perfect" gun. I now have too much information and need to narrow this down just a wee bit.
I thought that another approach might be to have the forum members help me "build" the rifle based on certain criteria. (Hopefully this doesn't start any holy wars ...)
So, the general req's are ...
- gun is medicine for big critters, hunt and defense
- Materials: weatherproof as can be; stainless parts and synthetic stocks, etc.
- Action: Bolt w/ at least 2+1 capacity
- Barrel: stainless (coated and fluted maybe) w/ length approx. 18"
- Caliber: .338 or .35 or .375 or .45 w/ max range of ~ 250 yds
- Stock: Thumbhole
- Weight: lightest it can be and not dislocate my shoulder and/or still hit something with the intention of running me over
- off the shelf ammo to start because I dont reload yet; might be a few years
- hopefully less than $2500
So what say the forum think tank???
I like the way you put this, the requirements, that's a good way to start and makes it easier for us old self-proclaimed-know-it-alls.
Part of this is very easy. Over the counter....available to us with a short wait, is the perfect action for this project. I have given up on scrounging old FN Mausers for their action, and given up on trying to save enough money just so somebody can be bribed into taking it for an old pre-64 rifle just for the action. We have the Montana model 99. It is long magnum, short magnum, standard rifle, or short standard (308) length. Available just action or barreled action. There are many good Synthetic stocks, MPI, McMillan, and many others, or Montana Rifleman will send a barreled action down the road to their stock guy and he makes a great stock, to your specifications, bedded just the way you like it. I am a very critical guy and of the dozen or so I have seen of these, like this (complete rifles), I have no complaints about them. You can get just action, barreled action or lock, stock and barrel (complete rifle). Prices are about $500, $1000 or $1500, in that order.
It can be had in stainless steel and then I would have it coated with a thin candy shell of preference, Black-T, Artic-Kote, Rogard, etc. I would prefer the new Arctic-Kote of hard durable ceramic-Kote, or what ever Gary is calling it. This would add another $225-$300. It comes in black, grey or green, for that personalized touch. Sights, scope mounts and barrel band could add another $500, all coated to match, of course.
Montana Rifleman will chamber to any standard or wildcat caliber, (there is a caveat there of course, but generally anything goes). They have done the 376 Steyr, I have had two of them in my hands and they shoot very well.
Your requirement for 250 yards, big critters and defense of or from same, will narrow down the selection of calibers. I do not consider the merits of 45 caliber rifles to include 250 yard shots, though many have been used successfully at that distance. That will eliminate our highly tauted 450 Marlin bolt gun. The array of calibers that could be used must be narrrowed down to the perfect one or two. The requirement for factory ammo limits it a bit more. I hinted to what would be my suggestion earlier and I do think that would fulfill all requirements, there are others, of course.
A short list would include, 338 WM, 350 RM, 358 NM, 375H&H, this would be about the limit if you want light weight and shootability. In an eight pound package these calibers can be stimulating to shoot. Also on the non-magnum list would be maybe the 338-06, 35 Whelen and the 9.3x62.
I would suggest two things.
1. Abandon the thumbhole concept completely. The stock would be an abomination in close cover and is difficult to carry effectively.
2. Keep the barrel no shorter than 20" and heavy enough for good balance and recoil abatement, no flutes or flats.
Nice project, good shootin'.
(How'd you like that Abandon, Abomination and Abatement?)
custom rifle and caliber recommendations
Stainless Steel Montana Rifle Action was also my recommendation, in standard length long action w/magnum bolt face. Chambered for 358 Norma Magnum with a #4 contour barrel with 1-12" twist, minimum barrel length of 22 inches. Bedded in a McMillan fiberglass stock w/ Pachmayr Decelerator Recoil pad.
Cabelas sells 358 NM 250 gr. TXP (Swift A-Frame) ammo for $ 72.99 /box. Many custom ammunition suppliers also have it available.
If you don't reload, want ammo from the shelf, and live in Alaska, then your choices are limited to the following calibers: .30-06, .338WM, and maybe a lightweight .375 H&H.
If you reload, then the perfect caliber would be a .338WM/.375H&H combination called the ".375 Taylor." Why? Because it shoots much like a .375 H&H, but can be over a pound lighter. This wildcat uses a .338WM case, topped with .375-caliber bullets, and you can find it at the ".416 Taylor page."
OR, if you don't want to spend a chunk and can accept an off the rack gun, why not a new Remington Model 7 in 35 Whelen. I believe the barrel is either 20" or 22". Has open sights, too. Put a 1.5-5 or 2-7 Leupold scope on it and you're all set. Just my 2 cents.
If you want a model 7 you have to settle for 350 Rem mag, they don't make the 7 in 35 whelen, and I didn't see any sights on the model 7s either. THe 700 CDL comes in the whelen but I don't think it has open sights either.
That's a lovely little rifle, who made the stock? A very nice set up you have there. Shoot it good.
Go with Montana, you will not regret the decision.
I got all the work done at Extreme rifle works in palmer, including the stock. I'm not sure what brand they use but it is a 9oz kevlar stock. Its really a nice stock. The rifle turned out really well. I can't wait to hunt with it this year.
Sako 338WM or 375H&H
I would either go with the Sako 338WM or 375. I have both, with the 375 Syn/SS. I plan on hunting next fall 2007 Alaska and the following year a plains Africa trip.
I personally LOVE the 338, but I want to hunt everywhere so I am giving the 375 a chance. I have seen a quote for the 375H&H of which I believe there to be truth, "One rifle, one planet".
Although these guys here have help me develop a bad habit of collecting several nice rifles, all the years I have hunted, I tend to hunt one rifle that I know and trust tremendously. It used to be a Remmy 308, but now I will try the 375.
There is nothing like the sensation of firing the bigger bores. And I noticed there is really no difference in tearing up a deer between a 308 and say a 338WM. I am hoping the same for the 375.
I would buy a Sako either blued or stainless. If it were blue I would see if there is a rust problem on extended trips. Their bluing looks so good, I don't think it would. If it does, I simply coat as mentioned above, no big deal. In fact, you may get many seasons out of the harsh conditions on the blue. Then when you have used you bluing up and it needs replacing, put a really neat coating on it. Same goes for the stock.
I am more into a rifle for its quality action, pointibility and reliability more than the finish. I can always customize which makes it seem even more like my personal firearm. The longer I use a rifle, the more it becomes a part of me.
I would say using a value vs. quality mix:
3. Winchecter M70
Ideally, Sako 375 with 20-22 inch barrel. Mine came with a 24 inch barrel so I will leave it until I actually experience a situation where I need a 20 inch barrel. I know there really isn't much to loose as far as fps goes on a 20 inch, but no need spending money if I don't need or prefer it yet.
Remember, you will likely customize any rifle over time, so choose the quality and over time make to your tastes.
Thanks for the info and advice everyone ... keep it coming.
Right now I'm having something made up with similiar characteristics. Basically its a no frills 338wm built on a turkish mauser action. 20"bbl, timney trigger, I opted with a boyds laminate stock and I'm gonna throw on a leupold 1.5x5. It probably wont be the purtiest but as long as its reliable, thats all I care about. I know I'm adding some weight with the laminate and I might throw it in a kevlar, wont know till I get it, in about 3 short months.
Faced with the same problem recently and being left handed gave me even fewer options. The rifle I am having built is machined from a solid block and it copies to some extent the W70 action. I had it built around this action with a syn stock and it will hold four 375H&H in the magazine. The action and magazine is built around the cartridge to insure perfect feeding. It will carry a Kreiger barrel. It will also be Roguard coated which is more resistant to rust than stainless is. Galling will be a non issue and the coating is self lubricating. The same company does all the metal work and the stock work. Rifle comes with Talley QD mounts and bases and will attach to the receiver with 8-40 screws. I plan on adding a Leupold 1.5 x 5 or 2.5 x 8. The price is slightly above the range you are seeking ($3,200). But most folks who handle these actions agree they are in the top 3 as far as quality in the world. Finished weight will be 7 pounds 8 ounces with no scope.
The other choice I suggest is MRC. They built me a ss 458 Lott leftie for $900 and I added a McMillan ( if it ever comes in!) stock to it. Total invested was $1,350 and change. But, the MRC's are heavy. Not a problem if you are building up a real brute but they shouldnt be considered for a light weight rifle.